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They spent nearly a month in the Underworld, and didn’t really make any decisions. Par for the course, she thinks, considering after The Long Ride up from New York (during which they decided that they would, in fact, not be breaking up, that they would handle this together, that Regina would liaise primarily with Zelena on Robin’s behalf, and that they would figure out the rest of the details once they had some space to breathe), they had avoided the subject of what life would be like after the baby as if their Happy Endings depended on it (maybe they do?).

After she was born, they’d sat in Snow and David’s loft, Robin cradling the tiny pink bundle, Regina watching and aching, and decided how exactly to handle the immediacy of custody issues - something she had hoped might not be such a contentious issue six months from now (why she thought pregnancy and incarceration would mellow her sister, she’s not sure, but she’d thought maybe, somehow, with enough time, she’d be able to get through to Zelena, to at least start her on the long path to self-awareness and maybe recovery).

But they haven’t talked about them, about how this all works, about where the baby will live, or how involved he wants Regina to be in her life. It had come up, they had tiptoed around it, but every time, she had felt the words catch in her throat, and he had looked guilty (something that pains her, because what Zelena did to him is not his fault - something she reminds herself of every time that traitorous voice inside her whispers anger and betrayal over the fact that he’d slept with anyone at all while she was still here in Storybrooke nursing her broken heart), and they had always decided they still had more time before they needed to really hash things out.

And then they hadn’t. She’d been here. All six-pounds-three-ounces of her, with her ten fingers and ten toes and good lungs. So much for having more time.

The Underworld, with its precious little privacy, and its constant danger, hadn’t afforded many opportunities for long, emotional talks, so the only decision they had really made (and it had been his to make, really, not hers at all no matter how much he’d asked for her opinions) had been the baby’s name. Imogen. She’s Imogen Maeve, a name that fits perfectly well in the land they came from, but seems a little heavy-handed here in Storybrooke. But then, Robin had spent most of his years in the Enchanted Forest, and they’re family names, both of them. Maeve for Robin’s mother, and Imogen for the sister she hadn’t even known he’d had until he’d suggested the name in hushed, somehow penitent tones.

And now they’re here, they’re back, and things are… well, they’re heartbreaking.

Robin had taken the baby - Imogen, her name is Imogen - and Roland back to the Charmings’ of all places, saying it was easier to stay there, at the loft, where there’s already a bottle warmer, and Neal’s old newborn-sized clothes. Regina had pointed out that she could easily buy a bottle warmer, that they could get Imogen new clothes that weren’t all sky blue and printed with baseballs and sailboats. To which he’d reminded her with a half-smile that he can’t buy anything, he has no job and no income (that will have to change soon, she thinks - thievery is no way to make a living when you’re sleeping with the Mayor), and wondered why little girls should be excluded from the joys of sailing and blue skies (he’d had her there). Her offer to pay for the things herself had simply gotten her another smile, a squeeze of his fingers against hers, and a regretful, “You’ve done more than enough for me, and for her. Go home, my love. Have some peace and quiet.”

And so she had. She had gone home, with Henry, to her too-big house, and her too-empty bed. And ever since things have just been… wrong.

She sees him, them, often. Several times a week if not more. They go to the park, or they go to Granny’s, or Robin brings the kids to the mansion. Brings Roland, anyway. He has this habit of leaving Imogen with Snow and David, insists they’ve offered to take her so he can enjoy an afternoon picnic with Regina and their boys, free of burp cloths and soiled diapers. But she still wonders how this works, the two of them, their families. How does it all work when he always brings his son, but leaves his daughter behind as often as not?

When it’s been several months since New York, and ten weeks since Ginny was born, and Regina can still count on her hands the number of times she’s cradled that tiny body that smells like Downy and spit-up and New Baby Smell.

How does it all work when they’re never truly alone? Ten weeks since she was born, and ten weeks since Robin has spent a night at the mansion. He goes home after dinner, tucks his children into bed in the loft he shares with Snow, and David, and Neal. She wonders why he never just packs a few extra diapers, but she doesn’t ask. Her bed is empty, her heart is hollow, but her lips stay silent, because what if the answers to her questions only lead to more heartache?

Instead, she takes Roland for ice cream - a special treat for the newly minted big brother (he’s an old pro by now, knows how to hold bottles and shush-shush-shush when the baby cries). As she sits with him and Henry and nurses a slowly melting cherry-chocolate-chip, the little boy complains that Ginny cries too much, and I can’t sleep. And if she’s not crying, baby Neal is crying. Or sometimes even they’re both crying. I miss sleeping on Henry’s floor in the blue sleeping bag.

She misses that, too, the patter of little feet on her stairs in the morning, the warm comfort of his father in bed beside her late at night. But when she proposes a family sleepover, something that would at least put a closed door between the sleep deprived preschooler and his sister’s middle-of-the-night feedings, Robin insists that Roland ought to have the excitement of another outing for him and him alone. Regina aches, her eyes burning and damp as she grips her cell phone tightly, but she blinks and she swallows, and she tells him that’s fine, too.

So Roland gets his blue sleeping bag, and his morning waffles, and his bright eyes and winking dimples, and Regina gets another restless night, and another pair of dimples on her doorstep in the morning.

Two more, in fact, because little Ginny, she has her father’s DNA, and it comes with cheeks that dip in just so when she grimaces or gives a gassy smile.

Robin is a good father, an attentive father. It makes her ache and ache to watch him with Imogen. Regina had found him handsome at first meeting, had been struck by blue eyes and that smile that warms her right to the backbone, but loving Robin had come when she saw him with Roland. The ease with which he parented, the effortless love he poured out over his son, the playfulness, the protection. They had bulldozed her, had made her think Yes, and This one, and filled her head far too early on with ridiculous fantasies of raising a child with a man who gave so much to his children.

Regina’s father had loved her, but he had never been like that. He had never been a strong man.

Robin is an exceptionally strong man.

Robin has a child with a woman he despises, a child he never planned for, was not prepared for. A child with hair that had been practically nonexistent at birth but had been starting to show in soft ginger wisps by the time they returned from the Underworld. Her eyes are blue, but not the cobalt of Robin’s. They’re the icy hue of her mother’s. He supplied the dimples, maybe, but this is undeniably Zelena’s child, and Regina watches from the other side of her kitchen island as Robin plucks Imogen from her carrier and brings her to his shoulder for a rock and shush with a tenderness that simply oozes security and safety. He was tricked into a child with a woman he despises, and he loves that baby just the same. He protects her just the same. He levels all judgmental eyes they pass in town with the ferocity of any father, daring someone to speak to her conception, to her parentage.

Whatever Zelena may have done to him, this baby, she has brought him nothing but joy, it seems. Has filled his heart to bursting.

Sometimes Regina thinks he loves his daughter so much that there’s no room left. It sounds selfish, and needy; she never voices it because who is jealous of a child? She isn’t jealous of a child. And she’s not, she really isn’t, it’s just that We’re in this together has suddenly become Don’t worry, lovely, I’ll take her at the slightest squeak or squawk, and Regina doesn’t understand why.

They stood in stasis from New York through the Underworld, they did not talk, they made no decisions. But Imogen’s arrival had flipped a switch, and just like that the decisions were made. But without her.

It has been ten weeks of loneliness, ten weeks of confusion, and she stands there this morning in socked feet and her grey robe, Roland syrupy on his stool as Henry yawns his way into the kitchen, and she thinks of how bereft the idea of this child had made her. How angry she had been, how guilty she had felt, of the gnawing, gnashing emptiness of her own poisoned womb. Of every dark thought, every I don’t want this, every What if I can’t love this child?, every time she had berated herself for thinking she might blame the blameless for crimes committed against her.

She stands here and she thinks of all the times she told herself that they would work it out, that one day they would all be in her kitchen on a cozy Saturday morning, Roland with sticky cheeks, Henry blinking blearily beside him as he pours a tall glass of orange juice, Robin coaxing new smiles from his daughter with tickles and coos. She never dreamed, in all her imaginings of pain and hopes for healing, that she’d stand in that tableau and feel rejected. That she would somehow want so badly a chance to love this child, to wake with her in the night and to rock her in the evenings, to earn her new smiles and soothe her cries, that there would come a point she would ache for those things - and be denied them.

That she would look at this man and feel a seething, scorching anger at his sudden about-face, at his relying on her for weeks and months, his apologies for putting her through all this, at his loving her so much, taking up so much of her heart, at his promises of together dashed to the curb. She had wrestled with her heart for months, had told herself that she was strong enough to live with this life, this child, this man, that he was worth it, that they were worth it, and it has been six weeks since they returned from the Underworld and their relationship has become a series of fucking playdates, how dare he?

“Mom?”

Henry says her name with a curious sort of caution, and she blinks, realizes she’s white-knuckling the countertop, shoulders tense, face set as she stares at her soulmate. He’s looking back now, too, had looked up at the sound of Henry’s question, and she watches his expression shift to anxious concern at the same time as she shifts her own to something carefully neutral.

“Hey, Roland, let’s go show Ginny those new comics I promised to read to you,” Henry invites, her perfect, precious son, so perceptive, too perceptive, but as Roland scrambles excitedly from his chair, and Henry reaches with purpose and persistence for where Imogen rests in Robin’s arms, Regina finds herself grateful.

Robin’s hands, now unburdened, drop down to his lap. She cannot see them below the countertop but can see the way he rubs them up and down his thighs once before stilling, both of them listening intently as their children ascend the stairs, Roland talking animatedly to his baby sister about The Hulk until Henry’s door closes behind them.

The sudden silence in the kitchen is deafening.

“I’d ask if something’s wrong, but-”

“Why did you say you wanted to do this together if you don’t want me around your child?” Her words are like arrows, sharp-tipped and swiftly sailing.

Robin blinks, his brows furrowing. “What?”

“The minute we got back here, you shut me out.” She feels the burn of building tears and curses herself, but doesn’t let it halt her confession. “We agreed to get through this together, we said we would work everything out together, that what we had was worth working through, but as soon as we got back from the Underworld, you packed up your children and you left me. I told you that I would stand by you, that I loved you-” Her voice breaks, goddamnit, “And that I would love her, but you haven’t even given me the chance. You leave her with the Charmings more often than not, you won’t spend the night, you could be halfway across the room when she wakes from a nap in that carrier and you will rush to fetch her before I so much as stand, even though you know damn well I can handle a child, the proof of it is right upstairs!”

“Regina-” he starts, reaching across the granite toward her, but she balls her fists, and shakes her head. She’s not done.

“I wasn’t sure we could make this work back in New York, I wasn’t sure we could ever have a future with this child between us, and you were so certain, you promised, you said we could get through anything if we just relied on each other, and then you shut me out, Robin. You talked me into this, into staying, into accepting all of this and making room in my life for - for -”

“Regina,” he tries again, standing this time, and rounding the island, headed for her, looking guilty and insistent, but no, she is speaking, she has things to say and she will damn well say them.

She backs up two steps, shaking her head. “Snow White has done more bonding with my lover’s child than I have - although calling you my lover at this point is probably generous - and I know that what you have gone through during all this far outweighs what I have, but right now you have a child you adore, a child that for some reason you don’t want me around, and I have nothing but pain and empty promises from a man I thought loved me.”

“I do love you,” he finally interrupts, forcefully, in the scant second it takes her to suck in a breath to fuel the rest of her rapidfire word vomit.

“Well, you have a funny way of-”

“Will you let me speak, please?” he asks her, annoyed and he has no fucking right to be. She is the angry one today, she gets to have the anger, he just gets to explain himself. Which would admittedly be easier to do if she would let him get a word in edgewise, she realizes, swallowing thickly and giving him a short nod to proceed. His voice is calmer, softer, when he says, “I was trying to spare you more pain.”

Regina scoffs, “A swing and a miss on that one,” crossing her arms tightly in front of her and wishing she wasn’t having this argument in her pajamas and socked feet. Pantsuits and heels are so much better for this sort of thing.

“Clearly,” he says carefully, taking another step closer to her, one more when she doesn’t retreat. He’s approaching her like a spooked horse, or an angry badger - with no small bit of caution, palms up and open before he asks, “Is it alright if I touch you?”

The question cools a tiny part of her, the one that had spent so long in a world where nobody ever cared what her answer to that question would be, where disagreements would see the vice grip of grasping hands, or worse. But it’s a tiny part, and the rest of her is burning, so she tests his resolve, his respect (it will hold, she knows that, but damnit, no, he doesn’t get this right now) and says, “Not yet.”

Robin nods and stuffs his hands in his pockets, close to her now, close enough to touch if he wanted.

“We’ve never had a chance to talk how we wanted our life together to look-”

“Well, when would we?” she bites. “You never stay past bedtime!”

Robin sucks in a breath, lets it out, venting his frustration in air and the clench of his jaw. “Regina, please,” he says softly, and she wants to snarl and snap, but fine, alright, fine. She grips her biceps tightly and bites her tongue. “We never had a chance to talk things through before the baby came, and then there was the Underworld, and I know how hard that was on you, on all of us. I thought… I thought it would be better to relieve you of the pressure of having to deal with all of this for a little while.”

He’s not lying. She can tell that he’s not lying, that he’s telling her the truth. Can see it in the set of his brow, the sincere blue of his gaze. Can hear it in his voice, steady and calm as he can manage.

It doesn’t do much to quell her ire – if anything, the knowledge that this was some sort of misguided attempt to spare her makes her feel even worse.

“But you still had to deal with all of it,” she points out, reminding, “We said we’d do this together. I said that I would be there for you.”

“I know what we said,” he tells her, hands slipping from his pockets but then halting, as if he’s just remembered he can’t do anything with them, before they slide into the denim again. “But we thought we’d have more time. I wanted to give you time.”

“I didn’t ask you for time. That wasn’t your decision to make for me; you should have asked me.”

His face falls just slightly, flickering with an undercurrent of guilt and self-loathing she’s far too familiar with the shades and shadows of. He glances down, away from her face for a moment, just long enough to tell her, “I didn’t want you to feel as though you had to say yes.”

Regina’s heart breaks a little, for him, for both of them, for their splintered relationship and the burdens under whose weight it groans. But the pain doesn’t dissipate the anger, isn’t enough to swallow it all down.

“So you decided the answer was no?” she questions, shaking her head again and pressing her fingers into grey cotton until she thinks they might bruise, before fisting the fabric loosely. “I wanted you here, when we got back. I told you that you could stay here, that we would get Imogen everything she needed–”

“Because you were ready for this to be our lives?” he interrupts, hands leaving pockets and balling loosely at his sides. “Or because you had agreed to this when you thought we had nearly a year to plan and now you felt you had to stick it out?”

What an idiot. What a complete and utter idiot.

“Because I love you, and I would rather be with you and work through whatever difficulties come with that than be without you and have it easy,” she tells him tartly, irked at the idea that she would stay in a situation she hated just because she’d promised to (she would, she thinks, she might, for him). She stands there, drawn tight as a bowstring, Robin a foot in front of her, close enough for her to smell the familiar notes of pine and coffee. And suddenly her heart just aches, she aches, so much, her cells calling out to his from such a small distance away. It makes tears prickle along her lashes again, has her confessing quietly, “I miss you. You have a child, with Zelena. And she’s beautiful and sweet and I am angry that she isn’t mine, and I am angry that she did this to you because of me, and I am hurt that you slept with Marian in the first place, and I have to feel all of that alone because the man who said we’d get through all of this together isn’t here.”

His shoulders deflate, his face a mask of apology and guilt as he tells her, “I’m sorry. That’s not what I wanted; I’m sorry.”

She’s cooling now, too, but there’s just enough spite left in her to bite out a bitter, “Good.”

He lets that land, absorbs it, and Regina feels guilt twist in her chest at adding even more hurt feelings to the jagged pile of emotions between them.

When he asks, “Can I touch you now?” she can’t find it in herself to say no. Her rage is fizzling, leaving behind hollow exhaustion in its wake, and all she wants is to right this, to feel right again.

“Yes,” she says, and he closes the gap between them in seconds, one arm wrapping around her waist, the other weaving into the hair at the base of her skull. She leans in the rest of the way, presses her front against his, her nose to his shoulder. His shirt smells a bit like stale spit-up there, and she wrinkles her nose, turning it away.

For a minute, they just stand there and hug it out, rocking back and forth gently, breath steadying, hearts slowing. She’s angry, but he’s… he was… This was all a misunderstanding. A stupid stalemate brought on by lack of communication, and maybe, she thinks, they were both hurting. He hasn’t said a word about what he wanted, only what he thought she did, and she silently curses that honor of his for once again pulling them away from each other. It’s rare to wish a person was more selfish, but in this case… Well, it might have helped if he hadn’t thought so much of her needs.

When he speaks again, his voice is muffled against her hair, his breath warm on her scalp.

“I’m sorry you felt shut out. That was never my intention; I wanted to give you space, and time.”

Regina sighs and lifts her head, leans back just enough to look at him but not enough to end their embrace. “But I didn’t ask for space,” she insists. “You can’t just make decisions for me, Robin–”

“I know. I’m sorry.” His thumb coasts her cheekbone, fingertips tucked behind her ear now. “I’m sorry. I was in the wrong.” He looks at her then, really looks at her, as if she’s a puzzle he can’t quite solve, and asks, “You truly want this?”

“I want you,” she tells him, intently and without hesitation. “I want us. I can handle the rest. I survived my childhood, losing Daniel, a nightmare of a marriage, and a laundry list of other hurts. I can handle a baby we didn’t plan for.” One brow lifts, her mouth slipping into a half grimace as she adds grudgingly, “Even if she is Zelena’s.”

Robin breaths in, and out, guilt shadowing his face again as his thumb gives her cheek another soft pass. His voice is full of regret and apology when he begins, “I never wanted to hurt you - ever. And I feel like that’s all I’ve done. Ever since she came back through that time portal, I feel like I’ve caused you one hurt after another, I can’t seem to stop hurting you, and I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” she insists, because she won’t have it, his guilt for things he didn’t do. He was a bystander, an unwilling pawn, a chess piece in a game he had no stake in. He owes her nothing for what Zelena has done. Nothing. If anyone owes anyone apologies for Zelena’s games, it’s her for getting him and his family drawn into this mess in the first place. “Don’t apologize for that - she did that. She manipulated us at every turn. I’m not angry at you for what happened before, I’m angry at what you’ve done since we got back from Hell.”

He nods, just slightly, drawing her in again, and burying his nose in her hair. She thinks he believes her, but she can never be sure. The guilt of everything that’s been done to them rests heavily on his shoulders, she knows that, it has since he first sat in her office and told her of his obligation to his wife.

What would things have been like for them, she wonders, if Zelena had never come back? If they hadn’t been set on this course of pain and guilt. She remembers those early days in Storybrooke like a dream, some sort of mirage, an imaginary wonder between the snark and persistent pain of the Missing Year and the misery their story has been since. Flirtation, and kisses, and smiling so much her cheeks ache. How would their story have gone if they hadn’t had this… this villain trying to defy them at every turn. Her lashes are damp with a sudden sting of tears at the thought of the easy romance they’d lost, and she feels the urge to call Snow and apologize - genuinely so, and not for her own guilt - for ripping her and Charming apart so many times when all they were trying to do was build a love together.

Harder than the fairy tales make it look, that.

His voice comes soft and warm, startling her out of her own thoughts: “Can we start over? Clean slate. Together.”

It’s all she’s wanted all this time - a clean start, together, something they can build with four loving hands and settle into. So she nods into his shoulder, blinks back the wetness from her eyes and lifts her head to tell him, “Yeah. I’d like that.”

He smiles at her, a little sad, but still his, dimples deepening at the corners and warming her chest. She loves this man, so, so much. Even more so when he swipes a thumb beneath her eye to brush away a stray tear and then threads his fingers through her hair as he asks, “What do you want our life to look like? What would make you happy?”

She knows the answer without thinking, has spent the last six weeks thinking and thinking until it became painfully clear:

“I want to spend more time with the baby. I’m not saying there are no difficult feelings involved here, but I can’t get past them if I can’t get to know her.”

“Whenever you want,” he promises, and that painfully rejected part of her settles and stills.

“And I want us to spend more time together,” she tells him, because this child isn’t the only part of their life that she’s lost. “Some of it without any of the children, if we can manage - even if that just means you spend the night and we have the time after they go to bed. I liked the way things were before she was born - when you’d spend the night, and we’d have a glass of whiskey, and talk, or…” Dark eyes go suggestive, brows lifting ever so slightly, “not talk.”

Robin’s smile spreads then, straight white teeth showing as he agrees teasingly, “I do miss not talking to you. Very, very much,” and she chuckles slightly, feels everything inside her ease and relax. They’re teasing now, they’ll be okay. This will all be okay. But his smile fades and he admits, “Although right now, without a full night’s sleep in weeks, I’m so tired I’m not entirely certain that ‘not talking’ wouldn’t become ‘sleeping soundly.’”

Regina presses a finger into his chest and warns with mock heat, “If you fall asleep on me while I’m attempting to seduce you, I’m going to be very offended.”

“Oh, I think I could stay awake for that,” he assures, the arm around her waist shifting down until his hand is more on rear than hips. “I’m just not positive that I can promise a performance on par with some of those nights in Camelot.”

The memory of those nights, sweaty bodies beneath warm sheets, and rippling orgasms that left her gasping and jelly-kneed, makes her toes curl, teeth sinking into her lower lip - that’s what she’s missed. Among other things. Feeling close to him, despite the frustrations and difficulties of their lives. But they were theoretical frustrations, then, things to be dealt with in the future. Not midnight feedings and poopy diapers and trying to sort hungry cries from pained or tired ones, so, “I won’t hold it against you, considering the circumstances. What about you? What would make you happy?”

For a moment, he just looks at her, combs his fingers through her hair, curls that hand around her rear to urge her even closer. Then he looks her dead in the eyes, blue on brown, and tells her all the things she’s been aching for these last few weeks, all the things she’d begun to doubt.

“I want to see your smile every day, and know that I’m the one who caused it. I want to raise my children with you. I want to make love with you, and laugh with you, and talk with you. I even want to fight with you, if it means we work things out together. I want all of it. As much of you in my life as you’ll allow.”

When he finishes, she’s smiling softly, her heart clenching but for once not in pain. And she nods at him, because yes, she wants those things, too. And they could have them, the mornings and the nights, and the laughter and the sex and the occasional fruitful arguments. They could have all of that, if only…

“Would you want…” she begins hesitantly, swallowing against a surge of nerves, because this is a step, and a big one, but they’ve never really done things in the right order, have they? They’d gone from not-quite-serious death threats, to animosity, to veiled affection, to backbiting, to flirtation and emotional intimacy - and then heartbreak, and then sex, and more heartbreak, and now family. They haven’t had the luxury of the usual timelines, so she soldiers ahead, saying, “I’d need to talk to Henry about it first, but… Do you think… Would you maybe want to move in? I have plenty of space, and Snow and David already have one infant in that house with no walls, is two really working out well?”

“No,” he admits, deflating slightly. “It’s bloody terrible. If I don’t catch Imogen before her fussing turns into caterwauling, she wakes Neal, and Snow’s not terribly quiet with her sweetly whispered comments to him about how she just got him to sleep through the night and now this. Roland, as you’ve learned, is not a heavy sleeper, so I have a perfectly sweet-mannered daughter and a grouchy son. Ginny seems thrilled to bits with her brother, and father, and our hosts getting no sleep. I think it charms her immensely.”

Regina chuckles, acutely aware that he hasn’t answered her question. Nerves have her joking, “Well, she is Zelena’s child.”

Robin sobers, stilling as he replies, “She’s my child. Zelena can stay where she is forever, for all I care. Ginny is mine.”

Shit.

“Right,” she agrees, wondering how she didn’t see that one coming before she stepped in it. She tries again for levity, for a new angle, reasoning, “She’s my niece…”

It works; he grins. “So you’re saying the stubbornness and delight in others’ misfortunes runs in the family, are you?”

“I did curse an entire population to a life of misery,” she reasons, relief spreading through her that she hadn’t managed to screw this all up with one misplaced comment just as they were starting to sort it all out.

“You cursed them to a life of indoor plumbing, switch lights, and medicine that can cure consumption with a shot,” Robin teases, giving her a little squeeze. “If you’d really wanted them to suffer, you’d have given them all triplets. With colic.”

The thought makes her laugh - she’d had one baby with colic, she cannot imagine the hell that would be multiples. “I hadn’t had a fussy baby yet; I had no idea.”

“And the population of this town is better off for it,” he declares, rocking her back and forth a little in his hold before growing serious again and asking, “You wouldn’t mind the inevitable sleep deprivation?”

And there he is again, worrying over her when he doesn’t need to.

She sighs, and slides a hand up from chest, to neck, to jaw, cupping there and assuring, “Robin, one of the only things that has carried me through the last few months is knowing that if we can make it through this, I get to raise a family with someone who loves me. I’ve had a baby before; I know what it takes. When I say I want to be a part of this with you, I mean it, and I know what I’m getting into. The way she came into our lives is not ideal, but raising a family with you…” Regina breathes in, breathes out. “Before I became the Queen, before magic, all I ever wanted was a man who loved me, and a house full of children. So yes, I am ready for no sleep. And colds, and ear infections, and colic, and temper tantrums, and the terrible twos, and everything else that comes with raising children. I want the life that was stolen from me,” she tells him, eyes welling, voice cracking for just a moment at a lash of old pain, “And I want it with you.”

Soft lips press to her brow, his beard tickling at the bridge of her nose, and then he asks her the question that answers hers: “When can we move in?”