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One Year of Love to Last a Lifetime

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Regina groans softly at the sound of knocking on the bedroom door, shifting to curl deeper into the warm body next to her…

Only there's no warm body there. Just sheets that are losing the lingering heat. Frowning, she turns to reach for the much warmer body of her other partner behind her, but comes up just as empty. Her frown deepens when she finds herself completely alone in the bedroom. And then that knocking comes at the door again.

"Come in," she calls out softly, grateful for the covers pulled up to her armpits when Roland steps into the room. He carries her favorite travel mug in both hands and walks slowly and carefully, the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth. "Roland?"

"Papa and Sprinkles sent me with your coffee," he says as he stops next to the bed and presents the mug to her. "They're making breakfast. They said to give this to you and tell you that you can open your present now."

Regina accepts the cup and pats the mattress next to her. She shouldn't do this, not when completely naked beneath the covers, but she misses snuggling with him suddenly. Roland bites his bottom lip, pausing for a handful of heartbeats before clambering up to sit with her. She stretches just enough to put the mug on the nightstand, noticing the wrapped package in the process, then kisses the top of Roland's head.

"Thank you for bringing my coffee, handsome. You're becoming such a big boy."

His chest puffs out at her praise. "Papa says I can learn how to use a bow and arrow on my next birthday."

"I know. Are you excited?"

"Uh-huh!" he says with an enthusiastic nod. He sobers suddenly and leans against Regina's side. "I'll still be your little knight though, right?"

She offers a one-armed hug, keeping the covers over her nakedness. "No matter how big you get, you will always be my brave little knight, Roland, just as Henry will always be my little prince." Before she can say anything more, they both hear Robin's Roland? coming from downstairs.

"Uh-oh, Papa needs my help," Roland says with a shy smile. "He said I can help with the pancakes today." He leans up to sloppily kiss her cheek before scooting off the bed. "Open your present and drink your coffee." He squints and scrunches his nose as if trying to remember something. "Papa said if you're not done by breakfast, he and Mal will come check on you."

"Tell them thank you for me, all right?" When he nods, she repeats the gesture. "See you in a while, handsome."

And then he's out the door with a happy Love you, Gina that makes her heart clench tightly in her chest. She waits to hear his feet on the stairs before reaching for her coffee. Taking a sip, she groans softly as the peppermint mocha creamer glides over her tongue, only barely mellowing the dark roast. Maleficent made the coffee this morning, dark and strong and smoky, just like she likes it. And after the night they had last night, it's clear that she's not the only one nursing a bit of a hangover.

Taking another sip, longer this time, she lets her eyes flutter shut as the warmth suffuses her body. She knows it'll take a little time for the caffeine to actually hit her system, but she likes to believe that it kicks in far sooner than it does. The placebo effect is more than enough to soothe her.

"All right," she murmurs, setting the mug aside to pick up the package. "Time to finally see the gift I've been waiting for."

The box is wrapped in deep purple paper with a two-toned green ribbon that matches both Robin's favorite scarf and Mal's belly scutes. She carefully removes the ribbon and paper from the box before opening it. Inside, just like with her Christmas Eve gift, is a cream-colored envelope with her name on it in Robin's distinctive script atop a bed of tissue paper. She resists the urge to roll her eyes, picking up the envelope to pull out the sheet of vellum within.

My darling Regina,

This is it. You can finally have your gift that you've been chomping at the bit over this past week since you learned of its existence. I was up well into the wee hours of the morning yesterday, putting the finishing touches on the final poem so that Mal and Henry could finish it up for you without losing too much sleep.

We have all worked diligently and lovingly to create this book of poetry for you, my love. You deserve each and every word and sentiment within its pages. You deserve the world, and this was our way of giving it to you.

Read today's poem, meditate on it if you wish. At Maleficent's request, I have included a lovely journal, quill, and ink for you to record your own thoughts on each poem if you choose. When the journal is full, there will be others to replace it, have no fear. Write as you wish.

We love you more than words can ever truly express.

Robin, Maleficent, Lily, Henry, and Roland

Regina sniffles and reaches for a tissue to wipe away her tears before returning the vellum to its envelope and setting it aside. She eases open the tissue to find the smaller journal, quill, and ink vial resting atop a larger book. The book itself is bound in brown leather, much like Henry's storybook, but it bears her family crest in gold leaf instead of the familiar phrasing. She takes a deep, shuddering breath and pulls out the smaller items, stroking each lovingly before setting them aside to remove the book. With the smaller items moved, she can now see the words beneath her family crest: One Year of Love to Last a Lifetime. A sob breaks past her lips at the words and their meaning.

"Damn you, Robin," she murmurs and lifts the book out of the box. It's big, though not as big as Henry's storybook, and heavy. She can smell the paper and leather, and it reminds her of the books in her father's study when she was growing up. That brings up even more tears, but she doesn't fight them, hugging the book to her chest instead.

A moment or two passes before she wipes her cheeks again and settles the book in her lap. Stroking her fingers across the leather, she opens it, delighted to hear the crackle of leather and paper. The frontispiece is a picture from Christmas Morning, the five of them in front of the tree and fireplace. Each of their signatures is placed around the picture. She smiles broadly at the memory of their picture, and looks at the title page that bears the same words as on the cover, under which reads the following:

A book of poetry celebrating the beauty that is loving Regina Mills
Written 1 January - 31 December 2015
By her loving family and friends

You are worthy of the love bestowed upon you.

She huffs out another breath and turns the page to a table of contents that is not completely filled in. She chuckles at that, remembering Mal's promise of a spell to keep her from reading ahead, and assumes that each day's entry will be revealed in the listing as it occurs.

The first entry reads 1 January 2015, Robin, followed by its page number.

Regina licks her lips and turns the pages that are clearly earmarked for said table of contents until she finally reaches the first poem. It's written in Robin's hand, and she realizes that each page will bear its owner's particular script, making this gift even more special to her than she could have imagined.

My darling Regina,
This isn't going to be
Your usual poetic fare.
This is an introduction
To what is to come.

Maleficent and I have been talking
Ever since Christmas Eve
When she gave you a book of poetry
From the early days of your relationship.
The look on your face
When you opened it
And realized what it was?
That look has haunted me ever since.

I'd planned this book as a solo piece,
But our beloved Dragon wanted in.
And who am I to deny either of my loves anything?
And then Henry overheard us talking,
Wanted to join in on the book.
Roland and Lily soon followed suit.

And thus the family project of love was born.

Every day of this year
Will be immortalized with a poem
Written especially for you
With love from us.

Even now, as I write this poem,
I can but look up to see you and Mal
Curled into each other in the throes of slumber.
I am overwhelmed with the love I feel
For you, for her, for our children.
We are connected on a deeper level
And I am grateful for it.

I love you.
We love you.
You deserve this.

Regina lets out a soft sob, remembering that day a year ago…

~*~*~*~

"Robin?" she mumbles, feeling the bed shift behind her.

"Shh, milady," he whispers, spooning up behind her. "Go back to sleep. I just needed to get up for a moment. All is well again and it's far too early to be awake just yet."

Regina starts to reply, but Maleficent's hand reaches across her to grab Robin's arm and tug him closer with it. She giggles softly, loving the sensation of being sandwiched between them. She always feels safest when she's with her loves.

"I believe Mal agrees with me, love," Robin murmurs in her ear with a soft chuckle. His scruff tickles her skin, but she doesn't want him to stop. "Close your eyes and rest now. When the sun rises, so will the boys, and they'll want breakfast. Until then, we can be completely hedonistic and stay abed, warm and cozy."

"That sounds lovely," Regina replies, the final word getting cut off by a yawn.

"See? Even your body agrees with me."

"If you two don't shut up, I'm going to magically remove your voices," Mal grumbles in a sleepy voice that makes them both laugh.

Regina shifts enough to kiss the side of her jaw. "Sorry, my darling. Sleep now, coffee and food later."

Both Mal and Robin moan appreciatively at that, and then they all drift off to sleep, one by one.

~*~*~*~

Regina reaches for the vial of ink, unstopping it to dip her quill before taking and opening the journal to the first page. She begins to write out her memory from the previous year, wanting to preserve it while both memory and poem are fresh in her mind.

This is definitely the best gift that her family has ever given her, outside of the love they freely give daily.

This will definitely be a year to remember.