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For the First Time In Forever

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Marian. Out of all the people in all the realms, Emma Swan had to find Marian and bring her back to Storybrooke. To Granny's.

Her heart in her throat, refusing to allow Emma to see her tears, Regina managed two steps out of the diner before she could no longer blink back the haze of moisture clouding her vision. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks, dripping to the collar of her leather jacket. She felt a hand on her elbow and hurriedly brushed at her cheeks with the back of her hand. She whirled to face the one person who had dared come after her. "What do you want, Pirate?"

"Merely to inquire about your well being." Hook replied.

"I'm fine."

His only answer was a raised eyebrow."Obviously not, Your Majesty." He let his hand drop from her arm. "I would implore you not to do anything rash, if not for your own sake, for Henry's."

She glared at him. "You can relax Hook. I've no plans to flatten the town, or your girlfriend. Or myself. Even if I wanted to. You have my word. My son would never forgive me for it."

"I didn't think you would." He reached into his pocket and offered her his flask. "Looks like you could use this."

She took it, knocked back a healthy swallow and moved to hand it back. He waved it away. "I've plenty more where that came from. I think you can use it more than I can at the moment." She nodded and slipped it into her pocket. "Shall I ask Emma to bring Henry by this evening?"

She shook her head. "No. I'd rather be alone tonight." Her voice sounded hollow even to her.

"Very well. May I escort you home?" He offered.

"No. I'll be fine." Hook looked skeptical. "Really. I'm going to get myself a pint of chocolate ice cream, a sappy movie, and a glass of wine and attempt to forget these last few days ever happened for a while."

"I think you'll require more than a glass of wine to accomplish that." Hook observed.

"Well, perhaps more like a bottle." She conceded.

"Goodnight, then." As she'd apparently managing to convince him that she wasn't homicidal, he turned to go, leaving her standing alone on the path. She raised her hand and disappeared in her signature cloud of smoke.

She rematerialized in her crypt, walking swiftly through the door to the dimly lit workroom in the back as the few candles lit themselves in response to her presence. She rested both hands on her desk, desperately trying to hold on to something solid as she resisted the urge to rip her heart from her chest, wanting nothing more than to lessen the anguish. For her plan to succeed, she needed her heart in her chest or the pain would be for nothing.

Taking a deep breath, she withdrew a box from the shelf, opening it to reveal parchment, a silver pen and inkwell, and a small knife. Setting pen and parchment aside, she raised the knife to her arm and began to cut.

Blood ran warmly down her forearm, slow at first, and then faster. She held the inkwell to her arm, filling it. She dipped the pen in the inkwell and set it to parchment, beginning to write and ignoring the blood pooling on the desk beneath her arm. The page glowed with the purple of Regina's magical energy, fading to the dark red glow of blood magic with the completion of each word. The only sound in the dark crypt was the scratching of the pen and her ragged breath catching in her throat.

 




Robin began to look for Regina the moment he'd gotten over his shock. He had no idea what he was going to say to her, but he looked all the same.

"She's gone home, mate." Hook's voice came from behind him. "She wanted some space. Said something about having ice cream and wine. She's safe. Gave me her word."

He nodded. "Understood. Thank you."

"Robin, who's gone?" Marian asked, confused.

"I will explain it all to you later, Marian. It's a rather long story."

She nodded, trusting that he would. The party ended rather quickly after, and Robin, Marian and Roland walked to the camp of the Merry Men. He showed her the tent and ducked out for a moment for more sleeping furs, leaving her to settle Roland.

When he returned, he found her holding a parchment sealed with the wax seal of a crown and heart. The seal glowed slightly in the dim light. "Robin, what is this?"

"I have no idea." Seeing his name on the front in Regina's meticulous handwriting, he took it from her and felt a small rush of magic as he broke the seal. He quickly read the few lines of text with Marian curiously reading over his shoulder.

"Robin~

Please know I wish nothing but the best for you and your family. I will not approach you, not attempt to harm you or your family in any way by any means. Be happy.

By my hand and blood,

Regina"

"Robin?" Marian questioned. "She really won't hurt us?"

He shook his head. "She can't. But even if she could, she wouldn't."

"But she's the Evil Queen."

He shook his head. "She's not evil. I don't think she ever really was."

Marian took the note from him, rereading it and examining the dark crimson ink. "Is this...blood?"

"I think so." Robin nodded. "If it's her blood, it's binding. She's cursed herself."

"But why?"

"It's quite a long story." He motioned for her to sit. "Let me tell you." And he did. He told her of the curse, of the thirty years she'd been gone, of missing her, and of moving on. All of it except Regina's confession about Tinkerbell, as he felt he'd be breaking a confidence. It simply wasn't his story to tell.

"You...and the Queen?" Marian questioned when he finished. He nodded. "Do you love her?"

"We'd only been together a few days." He replied, evading the question. "Marian, you've nothing to worry about. You are my wife. My vows are to you and I intend to keep them."

She nodded. "Thank you for confiding in me. I know it can't have been easy." She kissed his cheek. "This will be an adjustment for us both. We will get through it together." She offered her hand to him. "Come to bed. It's late."

He nodded and they settled down to sleep. Marian quickly dozed off against him, while he stared at the roof of the tent attempting to make sense of the whirl of emotions spinning through his mind.


It was done. She sealed the parchment with her personal seal and sent it away in a puff of purple smoke, quickly healed the cut on her arm and incinerated the rags she'd used to sop up the blood with a wave of her hand. Technically, she didn't have to send the parchment to Robin; the spell was complete as soon as she'd signed her name, but she genuinely wanted him to know that as much as she was hurting, she would not stand in the way of their happiness. Roland deserved his mother, and she cared for Robin too much to put herself between him and his happy ending.

Her hands shook as she replaced the rest of the parchment in the box. Though the damage had healed with no trace of a scar, her arm still ached, throbbing from her wrist to her shoulder. The cut had been deep. It had to be, as part of the price the spell demanded. Magic always came with a price, and this was a small one to pay. She couldn't trust herself not to lash out at Marian, at Robin, given her past inability to channel grief in anything remotely resembling a healthy manner. She had done so much to prove to herself, to prove to Henry, that she wasn't the evil queen anymore that this cost in pain and magical energy was minute in comparison to the relief she felt at the assurance that she now not only would not, but could not walk that path of destruction again.

The room spun a little, but she ignored the dizzy feeling from the blood loss and replaced the pen and knife in the box and put them back on the shelf, snuffing the candles with a thought as she left the room and closed the door. She closed her eyes and in an instant was standing in the security of her living room, leaning against the wall for a moment, pushing away the anguish of her broken, aching heart for a few more moments. Casting a quick shield on the house to discourage unwanted company, she headed upstairs, kicking off her shoes and stripping her clothes off on her way to the shower, leaving them uncharacteristically strewn about the room.

She turned on the shower and stepped in, not bothering to check the temperature. It scalded her skin, but she was beyond caring. She reached a shaking hand toward the soap, letting it fall back to her side as her breath caught in her throat and the tears began. Slowly, she sank to the floor of the shower, sobs wracking her body. For the first time in forever, she'd let herself believe that she could have it all, her family, true love, but fate had to intervene in the form of Emma Swan to remind her of what she never should've forgotten: Villains don't get happy endings.

She couldn't even blame Emma for the mess. If Regina hadn't ordered Marian's execution, Emma never would have felt compelled to bring Marian back to Storybrooke, and none of this would've happened. It would be so easy to blast Emma out of existence, but for Henry's sake, she couldn't, and it wouldn't help anything anyway. Making her son hate her was not going to improve the situation any. Robin and Marian would still be living their happily ever after, and Regina would still be alone. Always alone.

She had no idea how long she sat there, the shower water hiding her tears, until finally the water turned freezing cold, shocking her back to reality. She turned off the water and pulled herself to her feet. Her skin felt tight and slightly sunburned as she toweled off and wrapped herself in a soft robe and headed downstairs, not nearly ready to face the night alone in an empty bed.

True to her word to Hook, she grabbed a pint of ice cream and a spoon from the kitchen and poured herself a generous glass of wine. Sitting down in front of the television, she downed half the wine in one gulp and began flipping channels in search of a distraction, eating the ice cream straight from the carton even though Henry would've been in trouble for doing exactly that. Three hours later, she'd finished slightly more than half the bottle of wine and slightly less than half the pint of ice cream and found herself watching inane cartoons on late night cable, the wine going straight to her head due to both blood loss and skipping dinner. Four hours later, the wine was almost gone, the remains of the pint of ice cream was sitting mostly melted on the table, and Regina was sound asleep on the couch, the television still flickering in the dark, the light from an old black and white cartoon reflected in the tracks of the tears on her cheeks.


Robin had been lying on his back unable to sleep for so long that he felt he knew every stitch in the canvas of the tent above his head. Finally losing patience with himself, he sat up and threw back the covers, climbing up out of bed.

"Robin?" Marian stirred. "What's going on?"

"Nothing. I can't sleep. I'm going for a walk." He threw his jacket over his shoulders. "I need to clear my head."

"Are you going to see her?" Marian asked softly.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. "I'm worried for her. She's had as much of a shock as I have today. I'm hoping she's gone to sleep, but if her lights are on, I would feel better if I checked on her."

Marian nodded. "Go."

He stood and took two steps toward the door, then turned back. "Marian, I assure you, I intend to check on her welfare, to see her as a friend only-"

She cut him off with a wave of her hand. "Robin, you have always been an honest man. You have said you intend to keep to our vows, and I have no reason to doubt you. If it will ease your mind to check on the Ev-" She hesitated. "The queen, then do so. Roland and I will be here when you return."

He caught her hand and kissed it softly. "Thank you for understanding."

"Now go." She urged, shooing him toward the door.

He grabbed his bow and quiver from where they lay by the door and was quickly away into the darkness. The moon was dark tonight, but his foot did not falter on the path. The trail between camp and the woods behind Regina's home was well hidden, but he knew every step.

He approached Regina's house softly, his footfalls barely audible on the soft, wet grass. He saw that the house was dark; the only light was the soft flickering of the television through the living room window. Avoiding the streetlights by habit, he slipped into the shadows next to her window, sighing in relief when he saw her asleep on the couch, the wine and ice cream sitting on the coffee table.

He allowed his eyes to drink in the sight of her for a few moments, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, her robe gaping slightly and displaying the curve of her breast, though not enough to be indecent. He saw the faint traces of tears on her cheeks and hated himself in that moment, knowing that he was certainly the cause. He had vowed to them both that he would never hurt her, that she could trust him with her heart, and he felt sick knowing that he may as well have crushed it to dust and ground it under his heel with the way he had treated her tonight.

More than anything, he wanted to slip in the window, pull her into his arms, kiss away her tears and swear to a thousand gods that he would never hurt her again, and only his vow to Marian and his honor kept him rooted to his spot in the garden while everything he ever wanted slept unknowingly on the other side of a thin pane of glass. He rested his arms on the windowpane, his fingers lightly touching the glass, watching her sleep as the moon rose higher in the sky, a chill in the air uncharacteristic for the usual warm May nights. Not knowing if he'd been standing there for minutes or hours, it took every last ounce of his willpower to draw himself away from the window and disappear into the darkness of the forest.

The early morning sun streaming through the open curtains woke Regina an hour or so later. She sat up slowly, her head pounding from the wine and her neck aching from sleeping on the sofa. Supporting herself on the arm of the couch, she gingerly drew herself to her feet, unsure if her dizziness was from dehydration or the remnants of last night's bottle of wine. Squinting in the bright morning light, she made her way into the kitchen and got a glass of water, downing it in one gulp and refilling it at the sink. She took the water upstairs with her, setting it on her nightstand before falling into a restless sleep on the still-made bed.

 


 

Robin crept back to his tent, silently slipping into bed next to Marian and finding comfort in hearing Roland's soft breathing as he slept nearby. Having assured himself that Regina was as all right as could be reasonably expected under the circumstances, he was able to find a few hours of rest himself before the dawn. He woke a few hours after dawn, dressing quickly and slipping out of the tent in search of some much needed breakfast, and looked down, startled as his boots crunched on snow.

Settling next to the fire with Tuck and Little John, he looked around and found that the world had become a winter wonderland, covered with ice and snow as if it were midwinter rather than early summer. He wrapped his cloak tighter around himself to ward off the chill as the wind swirled the snow in the air. "When did this happen?"

"Sometime last night." Little John answered. "Freak storm or something. Didn't hear a thing, but woke up to this."

"I am still not overly familiar with this world, but I am guessing this is unusual weather for June?" Robin questioned.

Tuck and Little John nodded. "I would think so." Tuck replied.

Robin finished his coffee. "I'm going to go in to town and speak with Snow White. Perhaps this is simply an odd weather pattern, but perhaps it's not. Please see to anything Marian and Roland may require while I'm gone, and I will update everyone when I return."

The men nodded, and Robin slipped away into the trees.

When he arrived in town, there was already a crowd gathering at the town hall. Snow and Granny ushered everyone inside, trying to calm them. "Everyone, quiet down. This may just be a freak storm!"

"I don't think so, Sister!" Grumpy shouted from the back. "It hasn't snowed in June in this part of Maine since 1816! Ruby looked it up!"

"And the snow ends at the town line!" Emma added. "I drove out there this morning on patrol. This is not natural. It's a bright summer day on the other side of the line."

"Regina's cursed the town again!" Someone in the back shouted.

"I think not, dearie." Rumplestiltskin stepped forward. "It would be a tremendous use of magical energy, and to what purpose? So the town's children can build snowmen? And Regina's affinity is fire, not ice."

"Very true." The entire town turned to see Regina standing in the open doorway, poised, well dressed, not a hair out of place, and every bit the queen. Her makeup was impeccable, the dark circles under her eyes that showed slightly through the careful concealer were the only hint as to her inner anguish and apparent only to those who knew to look for them and looked carefully. She casually flicked a small fireball to life in her hand. "If I were behind this, the town would be ash, not snow." She snuffed the flame with a wave of her hand. "Now that we've established this isn't my doing, perhaps we can focus on the actual problem at hand? Unless, of course, hypothermia is on your agenda for the day. The temperature is below freezing and it's only getting colder."

 


 

The meeting had concluded with no solutions as to the cold, but arrangements were made to distribute warm clothes and house those currently camped in the forest or otherwise without heat at Granny's, the school, or the convent. Regina threw herself into the organization and planning, silencing anyone who dared to ask about her well-being or personal life with an icy stare rivaling the chill outside. She didn't want to talk about what had happened the prior day, didn't want to think about it, and the current crisis was providing a much needed distraction from both the pain in her heart and the pounding headache left over from too much wine the prior evening. Robin attempted to approach her at one point, offering a bottle of water as she sorted through the heavy boxes of donated clothing. She nodded her thanks without a word and turned away, unable to look at him for more than a moment.

"Regina-" He reached for her shoulder.

She shrugged free of his touch, refusing to turn back to look at him, afraid that meeting his gaze would crack right through the fragile composure she'd been clinging to all day, and she knew once it was gone she wouldn't be able to get it back anytime soon. "Not now, Robin."

He sighed. "As you wish."

She turned back to the task at hand, watching through the window at the children laughing and building snowmen on the town hall lawn.  She rested her hand on the window of the town hall as Henry, Grace, Roland, and the other children finished their snowman and began construction on snow forts. Henry tossed a snowball at Ruby, who was heading up the walkway into the hall, and Regina watched as the werewolf turned, a feral gleam in her eye, and began scooping up snow and making some ammunition of her own. Soon, there was a full on snow war involving all the children and whichever unlucky adult happened to be passing by on the walkway or street. Jefferson, Marian, and Kathryn joined in, picking sides enthusiastically.

Regina's eyes narrowed as she watched a woman in a blue gown pass by the edge of the square. She couldn't see her face, but it was odd that someone would be out in this weather in formal wear without a coat. She saw the ice spreading under the woman's feet and felt the pull of her magic in the same moment she saw Roland launch a snowball at the woman's back with a giggle.

In less than a heartbeat and without a thought for her own safety, Regina disappeared in a cloud of smoke and reappeared between Roland and the mysterious woman, shielding him with her body. A bright flash of blue light came from the woman's hands as she turned, striking Regina in the chest. She collapsed onto the snow as everyone rushed out of the town hall to Roland's panicked cry of "Gina!"

The woman in blue gasped in horror. "I'm so sorry... I didn't mean to..." and disappeared in a cloud of pale blue smoke before anyone had the chance to question her further.

Ruby and Henry were at Regina's side in an instant and quickly joined by Kathryn, David, Rumplestiltskin, and Robin, who clutched Roland tightly to his chest. "Mom!" Henry hugged Regina tightly. "Please be okay!"

Regina's breathing was labored and she returned Henry's hug weakly, her arms heavy. "Is Roland all right?"

"He's fine. He's safe." Robin spoke up as he released a struggling Roland, who ran to Regina's side, joining Henry in embracing her.

Regina shivered as ice crystal streaks began appearing in her hair. "So cold..."

Her eyes rolled up and she collapsed, unconscious into the snow, Henry trying to hold her up out of the cold as best he could. "Someone help her!"

Rumple stepped forward and held his hand above her, his fingers glowing dimly in the bright sunlight reflecting off the snow. "The ice hit her heart. If it was her head... that I could fix... but a frozen heart..." He shook his head. "You need an act of true love to fix that."

Henry immediately kissed his mother's forehead. "Mom, please wake up!" He began to cry as Regina remained still and unconscious.

Rumple shook his head. "I'm afraid that won't be enough, lad. Magic of the heart is...complex."

David scooped Regina up out of the snow. "Let's get her to Whale. Maybe there's something medicine can do, if magic can't fix this."

Roland ran back into his father's arms. "Papa, is Gina going to be okay?"

Robin clutched Roland to his chest. "I hope so."

 


 

Henry and Emma sat in Regina's hospital room, watching as Dr. Whale examined her. "I've got her under warming blankets, and we're running warm saline, but she's freezing from within. At this point, I feel we're only buying time."

"How long does she have?" Emma asked.

"At this rate, a day, maybe two and she'll be solid ice." Whale shook his head. "I'm sorry I can't do more, but there's only so much medicine can do against magic."

"Maybe we can find that woman, get her to reverse this." Emma suggested.

"It's worth a try." Whale shrugged. "I'm out of options."

Henry clutched Regina's hand tightly, tears streaming down his face. "Please help her!" He hugged Regina as best he could around the IV lines and cords. "Mom, please don't die!"

Emma placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Henry, I need you to stay at Granny's for a while while your grandparents and I go look for the ice witch."

"I want to stay here!" He protested.

"You can't stay by yourself, and we need to find the snow witch if there's going to be any chance of undoing this." She gently pulled him away. "We'll come back later, I promise."

Emma, Whale, and Henry disappeared down the hall, not noticing the silent thief who slipped into the room the moment their backs were turned.

 


 

Using every skill he'd ever learned as a thief, Robin crept undetected into Regina's room, settling himself in the chair by the bed that Henry had recently vacated. He touched the back of her hand lightly, wincing at the IV line running into her vein near his fingers. "Regina..." He shook his head, laughing at himself. "Since last night I've wanted nothing more than to talk to you, and now that I can, and you've no choice but to listen...If you can hear me, that is. Can you? If you can, now that you have to listen, I honestly haven't a clue what to say to you."

He slipped his hand into hers, clasping her small hand in both of his, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the bed, his forehead on his hands. His eyes closed, unable to look at her in the state she was in, but underneath the antiseptic smell of the hospital, there was that soft scent that was uniquely Regina. "I am so sorry." He shook his head. "I promised I'd keep your heart safe, and at the first opportunity, I broke it. You were crying because of me." His hand reached out and touched her cheek lightly. "You don't know that I saw, but I did. I came to check on you. I had to know you were okay. You'd have been so angry with me if you'd known I was looking through your window. You're probably angry with me for being here now, but I can't seem to be anywhere else." He took a slow breath. "I break your heart, and in the next moment, you're willing to sacrifice your life to save my son." His tears fell warm onto her ice cold hand. "What we had, what I feel for you was real... is real. Tinkerbell was right, you know; you are my soulmate. But Marian is my wife. I've made vows. I never thought I'd see her again. I thought she was dead. You have to believe me, Regina. I'd never have pursued you if I'd known it would turn out this way. If I hadn't, maybe we could at least be friends, but you probably never want to see me again, do you?" He brushed her hair away from her forehead. "Even if you never speak to me again, I don't think I could bear to live in a world without you in it. You need to live. Please don't die, Gina. Please." Unable to stop himself, he leaned forward and quickly brushed his lips to hers.

He jumped back from her bedside with a start as he felt the undeniable spark of True Love's Kiss arc through his body, knocking the chair over in his haste. He glanced around the room quickly and, finding no witnesses, fled the hospital as quickly as he could, not noticing the pair of dark eyes that watched from the window.

 


 

Moments later, Regina opened her eyes and looked around in confusion, still shivering with cold. Finding a nurse's call button near her right hand, she pressed it. A nurse bustled into her room moments later, looking up in surprise. "Madam Mayor! You're awake!"

"What happened?" She choked, her lungs still crackling with ice.

"Let me get Dr. Whale." The nurse ducked out and was back in a moment with the doctor.

"Regina!" He raised the head of the bed to help her breathe. Turning to the nurse, he asked "Get her some warm water to soothe her throat." Turning back to his patient, he spoke softly. "Slow, deep breaths. Do you remember what happened?"

"Not really. I remember the snow. An ice witch. And then I woke up here." Her eyes widened. "Roland! Is Roland okay?"

"He's fine. You took the brunt of the attack, I'm afraid. Gold says the ice witch's spell froze your heart."

Regina accepted the warm water from the nurse, who helped her sip at it slowly. "But there's only one cure for a frozen heart." She thought for a moment. "Henry?"

Whale shook his head. "He kissed you hours ago. Things kept getting worse, though. Your hair was turning white, your fingers froze, and there was ice forming in your lungs. We thought...it was only a matter of time. I have no explanation for this. Maybe something affected the ice witch's power somehow?" He pulled the stethoscope from around his neck and listened to her breathing. "The ice is gone from your lungs, but there's still some chest sounds I don't like. I'm going to have the nurse hang some antibiotics to ward off any infection. The last thing you need is pneumonia. We still need to raise your core temperature, so try to stay under the warming blanket, okay?"

She nodded. "Henry?"

"He's at Granny's. Emma and the others are looking for the ice witch. Would you like me to have someone fetch him?"

"Yes. Please."

"Okay, I'll send Ellie over." He placed the call button back onto the bed. "If you need anything in the meantime, push that and a nurse will be right in."  

Regina rolled to her side as Whale left the room, staring at the wall as time crawled by slowly.

"Mom!" Henry rushed in from the doorway and flung his arms around her neck. "You're awake! You're okay!" He pulled back for a moment to look at her. "You are okay, right?"

She nodded. "I'm still cold, and I can't quite breathe properly, but Dr. Whale thinks I should be fine."

"There's less white in your hair, too."

She reached up and touched her hair. "Does it look bad?"

"No! It's going away, I promise." He sat on the edge of the bed, hugging her again. "The doctor, Mr. Gold, they all said you were going to die! I tried kissing your forehead but it didn't work! Mom-"

She held him tightly, feeling his tears on her cheek, and he curled up on the bed next to her, snuggling into her side. "I'm okay, Henry. I'm not going anywhere."

Emma, Snow, and David found the two of them sound asleep on the bed, Henry on top of the blankets, his head pillowed on his mother's shoulder, his boots leaving muddy streaks at the foot of the bed. Feeling herself being watched, Regina slowly opened her eyes and glanced at her visitors.

"Regina!" Emma began, and Regina held a finger to her lips, her eyes going to Henry, who was still sound asleep. "Regina." Emma whispered. "You're okay? How?"

Regina shrugged. "I have no idea, and neither does Whale."

"All that matters is that you're going to be fine." Snow commented. "We found the ice witch. Elsa. She fell through a portal and didn't mean any harm, but her powers are completely out of control. Gold thinks he can contain her long enough to train her, so he's with her now. She built some kind of ice castle in the woods. They're both there, and they're going to stay there until she's no longer dangerous."

Regina nodded. "That's good. She seemed scared. I didn't think she did it on purpose. Roland is okay?" Whale had already told her he was, but she needed to verify it for her own peace of mind.

"He's fine. You totally shielded him from the blast." Snow smiled. "Dr. Whale says that barring any signs of pneumonia or frostbite, you can go home tomorrow."

Henry stirred against her shoulder and sat up sleepily. "I'm staying here."

"Henry, no." Regina said firmly. "You need to go home with your grandparents and Emma and sleep in your own real bed. You can come back and see me in the morning."

"Promise?"

"I promise. And you can call me before you go to sleep if you want to."

"I want to." He declared, rising from the bed. "I'm glad you're okay. I love you, Mom."

"I love you too, Henry." He gave her another quick hug and allowed Emma and the Charmings to usher him from the room. After they left, she found herself alone with the beeping of the machines. Alone. Again.

 




Regina was released from the hospital the following afternoon. Her chest still ached, she was dizzy, and it hurt to breathe deeply, but Dr. Whale was certain she would be fine, sending her home with instructions to drink plenty of fluids and continue taking antibiotics. Always stubborn, she refused the offered wheelchair and insisted on walking out of the hospital in the suit and heels she'd been wearing the previous day, an arm around Henry for support, with Snow and Charming hovering around her just in case. David wrapped a warm blanket around her and helped her into the back of his car, Henry climbing in next to her. "Kathryn's volunteered to stay with you tonight in case you need anything."

"I don't need any help." Regina protested weakly. "Just take me home; I'll be fine."

Snow turned around from the front seat and gave her a skeptical look. "Dr. Whale says you aren't to be left alone. So, either Kathryn helps you, I help you, or you go back to the hospital for another day."

Regina sighed, not having the strength to argue and sensing she wasn't going to win even if she did. "Kathryn's fine."

"I can help too, Mom!" Henry volunteered enthusiastically.

"Henry, you should stay with your grandparents or Emma. I can't look after you properly right now."

"Mom, I'm thirteen. I don't need much looking after." Henry folded his arms and glared. "It's my house, too. I'm staying at home."

She held her hand up to forestall further protest. "Okay."

When they arrived at her home on Mifflin Street, Kathryn met them outside. David helped Regina from the car as Henry unlocked the front door and let everyone in. There was still a sharp chill in the air and snow on the ground, and the cold air irritated her throat, sending her into a coughing fit. She leaned against the wall as the room started to spin.

"Okay, upstairs and back to bed for you." Snow motioned to the staircase. "Dr. Whale wants you resting. I'll make you some licorice tea to soothe your throat and help with the cough."

Regina looked at the staircase and sighed. It seemed more like climbing a mountain than a simple flight of stairs in her own home. She squeaked in surprise as David scooped her up and started to carry her up the stairs. "Put me down this instant!"

"No can do." David chuckled. "If I do and you fall, my wife will have my head on a platter, and right now my wife is a lot scarier than you are, Regina."

Regina glowered at him.

Henry and Kathryn followed behind, and Henry opened the door to Regina's bedroom. David set her down gently on the bed and turned to Henry. "Let's go help your grandmother in the kitchen. Your mom probably wants to change her clothes." Kathryn stayed behind to help at Regina's confirming nod, while David ushered Henry out the door. Shortly thereafter, Regina found herself snugly tucked into bed with a cup of tea, Henry sitting by her side until she fell asleep.

 


 

After Regina fell asleep, Henry and Kathryn were watching a movie in the living room when there was a knock on the door.

"Are you expecting anyone?" Kathryn asked.

Henry shook his head. "No. Grandma and Grandpa weren't going to come back until tomorrow, and Emma would call first." He shrugged. "Only one way to find out."

He stood and opened the front door, finding a very nervous looking Marian and an enthusiastic Roland, who was bouncing up and down holding a piece of paper. "Henry! Is Gina here? Little John said she was okay!"

Henry got down on one knee to bring himself to Roland's height. "She's here, and she's going to be okay, but right now she's very tired and a little sick. The ice got into her chest and it makes it hard for her to breathe. She's sleeping right now."

"But she's going to be okay, right?" Roland looked worried.

"She's going to be fine. She just needs to rest for a while." Henry confirmed.

Roland held out the paper he clutched in his hands. "I made her a picture."

"If you want to give it to me, I'll make sure she sees it as soon as she wakes up."

Roland nodded. "Thanks, Henry."

Henry took the drawing from Roland, smiling.

"Roland, we should go. We don't want to wake the qu- Regina." Marian stumbled over her name, a hand on Roland's shoulder to guide him away.

"Thanks for stopping by, Roland, Marian." Henry smiled. "I'll tell her you were here."

Marian nodded, hustling Roland down the path as though she couldn't get off the property quickly enough.

Regina woke around dinnertime, sitting up in bed quickly due to another coughing fit. She reached for the water glass that was normally on her night table and found a piece of paper there. Picking it up curiously, she saw a child's drawing of the snowball fight, Elsa, and Regina standing between her and Roland. Scrawled on the bottom in crayon was "Tank u for saveing me, Gina! Roland" She smiled at the childish spelling and the occasional backwards letter, tucking the drawing away carefully in the bedside drawer.

 


 

After a week or so of convalescing at home and sharing entirely too much wine and ice cream with Kathryn, Regina was feeling somewhat close to normal and shooed Kathryn off to her own home. She had been surprised at the number of visitors that had stopped by during the week, many bearing gifts of meals that could be easily reheated so she and Henry wouldn't have to worry about cooking while she was healing. Even Grumpy and the other dwarfs had stopped by with a wonderful tray of cheese enchiladas, and Tinkerbell and Blue had brought a chicken casserole and a get well card signed by all the fairies. Regina had been torn between being annoyed by the constant interruptions and overwhelmed that the people of Storybrooke would take the time to stop by to check on her and wish her well.

She'd sent Henry off to spend some time with Emma, as Henry could see Regina was doing better. He'd been at her side almost constantly for the first few days, hovering close as if he was afraid something would happen to her, but as she slowly recovered, his hovering became less and less, to the point where their interactions were close to normal, or whatever normal was for the two of them. She'd assured him that she would be fine if he left for the day, and encouraged him to stay the weekend with Emma, since the two hadn't had much time together and their regular visitation schedule had been disrupted by Regina's illness. As much as she wanted Henry with her always, she knew he valued his relationship with Emma as well and saw her as a second parent, particularly after their year in New York.

Sick of looking at nothing but the walls of her home, she decided to take a walk to Granny's for lunch, and then over to her office to make sure that nobody had managed to somehow blow up the town's budget while she was away. As there was still snow on the ground and it was a Saturday, she dressed simply in jeans, a red sweater and a black scarf, with warm black leather boots and coat completing the look, and took a leisurely stroll the few blocks to Granny's. She found herself a corner booth where she could look out the window and watch the children tossing snowballs, picked at her salad, and on a whim, instead of her usual coffee, ordered Henry's signature hot chocolate with whipped cream and cinnamon.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been sitting there lost in her thoughts when Robin and Marian walked in, but Ruby had long since taken away the remains of the salad and had refilled her hot chocolate twice. The warm liquid felt soothing on her still raw throat, and she'd finished the first two cups and half of the third. She looked up in surprise as Marian tugged Robin over by the hand, asking softly "May we join you?"

Regina nodded cautiously and they slid into the seat across from her. "First off," Marian began. "I want to thank you - We want to thank you for saving Roland. It almost cost you your life."

Regina shrugged, uncomfortable with the acknowledgment of the potential cost of her actions. "Others would have done the same."

"Some." Marian acknowledged. "But not many." Regina inclined her head, conceding the point. Marian stretched out her hand toward the former queen. "I believe it is time to leave the past in the past."

Startled, Regina reached for her hand, stopping when Marian spoke. "I cannot say that the past will be forgotten," She continued. "But it is forgiven."

Regina smiled in relief and accepted the offered handshake. "Thank you. That..." She stumbled over her words. "That means a lot to me." She noticed Robin looking uncomfortably back and forth between the two women and decided to end the conversation. "I really do need to be getting to my office. The backlog of paperwork from my absence this week is going to be staggering."

Marian tightened her grip on Regina's hand. "There is one more matter between us."

"What would that be?" Regina asked hesitantly, mentally steeling herself against the coming words, certain that Marian was going to ask her to stay away from Robin and Roland. She'd already intended on doing so, but hearing it spoken aloud was still going to hurt.

"The doctor is mystified over your dramatic recovery." Marian began. "I am not."

"That makes one of us." Regina replied.

"Robin kissed you."

Regina's breath caught in her throat at Marian's words, not wanting to believe their meaning. If Robin's kiss had woken her, that meant that she now had incontrovertible proof Tinkerbell had been right. Robin was her true love, her soulmate, and he was bound to another woman and intended to keep his vows. She knew that Robin would never break his marriage vows, not even for true love. It was a matter of honor for him, and the thief's honor was a large part of what drew Regina to him to begin with.

Robin began to protest. "Marian, I never meant to betray you-"

Marian held up her hand, silencing him with a look. "I know that. You did not betray me, Robin."

"You aren't angry?" Robin asked softly.

"I was, at first." Marian acknowledged. "I was upset, angry, and hurt. That's why I didn't say anything sooner." She looked at Regina and took a deep breath. "It took some time for me to come to terms with the idea that my husband has a true love..." Her voice trailed off. "And that it isn't me."

"Marian." Robin began. "I am married to you. You have to know that I would never-"

"I know you would never break your vow to me, Robin." Marian looked down, gathering her courage. "That is why I am releasing you from it. I don't want you to be with me only because you feel you must. That isn't fair to either of us. In time you will come to resent me for it, and I will come to resent you for not loving me as a husband should."

"Marian, please don't feel as if you have to do this!" Robin protested.

"But I do have to, Robin!" Marian said firmly. "What I saw in the hospital just confirmed what I already knew. Your love for me died thirty years ago. When we married, I vowed that you would come first in my life. I cannot in good conscience stand between true loves." She shook her head softly. "You were never meant to be mine." She slipped her wedding ring off her finger and placed it in his palm. "Be happy." She whispered.

She moved to slide out of the booth and paused. "Roland should remain with you. You have been his sole parent for so long, and I do not wish to disrupt his life any more than necessary. I would only ask that-"

"Anything, Marian." Robin stated, still reeling from what had just happened.

"That you allow me to see him often. I wish to get to know my son." She asked softly.

"Of course." Robin whispered.

She stood and looked at Robin and Regina. "I would imagine you two have much to discuss, so I will leave you to it. I'll collect Roland from Belle and take him to the playground. You can find us there, or we will be with the men at suppertime."

Robin nodded, sliding out of the booth after her and pulling her into a tight hug. "I do care for you, Marian."

"I know, Robin." She hugged him back. "I also know that it's been thirty years for you. It must have been like seeing a ghost."

"I am so sorry that I couldn't be who you wanted me to be." Robin hugged her tightly for a moment.

Marian pulled back, smiling through her tears. "You gave me Roland, Robin. I have no regrets."

He kissed her on the forehead and watched her walk out the door as he sat down again, meeting Regina's stunned gaze. She gathered her thoughts for a moment. "I'm not sure what just happened."

"I'm in a bit of shock myself." Robin looked at the ring still clasped in his hand. "I've never been divorced before. It's quite an odd feeling."

Regina blinked in surprise. "Divorced?"

Robin looked up at her. "In our land, all that is required to formally end a marriage is a public declaration-" He looked around the diner and the other patrons hurriedly looked down at their food, pretending as if they had not been watching raptly a moment before. "And the return of the ring. There's nothing more to it than that. We're done, it's over." His hands were shaking slightly, and he felt the eyes of everyone on himself and Regina. He knew they needed to talk, but he didn't want the whole town as an audience. "May I escort you to your office?"

Regina nodded and they left the diner, Robin offering her his arm as they passed through the door of Granny's and out into the cold. They walked in silence until they reached Regina's office door, the government building silent and deserted on a weekend. "Regina?" He asked cautiously. "May I come see you tonight? I've missed you terribly." He opened his arms to her.

She tried to step forward, but found she couldn't move. “I can't.”

His face fell as he brought his arms to his sides. “If this isn't want you want... If you can't forgive me, I understand.”

She shook her head. “No. The binding spell. I can't approach you.”

He smiled with understanding. “Then, may I?”

She nodded and he stepped forward, tugging her into his embrace. She rested her head on his shoulder, content to just be held, feeling his heart beating strong under her hand, the warmth of his arms around her. For the first time in forever, she didn't feel cold.

“Can we do something about that binding spell? I would very much like it if you could come to me whenever you wish it.”

She nodded, not lifting her head from his shoulder. “You can break it if that's what you want. That doesn't take any innate magic; the only criteria are that you just have to be the one named in the spell and truly will it to be broken. I can show you how.”

“Of course it's what I want. Thank you. I couldn't bear it if you could never come close to me. And I would very much like to hold you tonight, my love." Robin murmured into her ear. "All night, if you will allow it."

She nodded, still in shock at the current turn of events. "Henry will be at Emma's." She glanced at her desk and the stack of paperwork that waited for her. "I think that's going to take me a while, but if you'd like to come by around eight?"

He stepped away from her, catching her hand and bringing it to his lips. "I will be counting the minutes.”

“If you're certain about the spell, meet me at the crypt. We can take care of it there.” She looked down, steeling herself for rejection yet again.

He tipped her chin up, meeting her eyes with his own. “I have never been more certain about anything in my life. I love you, Regina. Now that I am free to choose, I choose you. I will always choose you.” He brushed his lips lightly against hers and stepped away. “I will be at the crypt at eight.”

Chapter Text

Regina made certain to be at the door to the crypt promptly at seven thirty that evening, knowing Robin's habit of being annoyingly early for everything. Sure enough, he walked up ten minutes later., “You're early.” He observed.

“So are you. And if you'd gotten here first I wouldn't have been able to come.” Regina pointed out matter of factly.

“I forgot about that.” Robin paused. “Well, I didn't forget about that. That's why we're here after all, but-”

“You forgot what it meant.” Regina smiled.

“Well-” He sheepishly ran his hand through his hair. “Yes. What say we deal with it and make it no longer an issue?” She nodded and opened the crypt door, leading him down the stairs. He stopped in the heart chamber. “What's in here?”

“Hearts.”

“All of them?”

“Well, no. Some are empty. Most aren't.” Regina admitted.

“Whose?” “I wish I could remember. There were too many. It didn't occur to me to label them at the time.” She looked down, remorse washing over her shoulders. “Are... are you sure you still want this? With me? To break the binding? I'm the Evil Queen. How can you be certain I won't hurt you? Or Roland? I did this because I was so angry that I couldn't trust myself.”

She looked up in surprise as he rested his hands on her shoulders, meeting her gaze intently. “You aren't the Evil Queen anymore, Regina. You haven't been for a long time. You're my true love. My soul mate. Of course I want this.”

Seeing the certainty in his eyes, she nodded and motioned to the door to her workroom. “This way.”

Robin jumped slightly as the candles lit themselves, but followed her without missing a step. “Show me what I need to do.” He pulled out the binding spell from his pocket and set it on the desk.

She motioned to him to sit as she reached up, pulled the box from the shelf, and opened it to reveal the silver pen, inkwell, and knife. And then, she reached deep into her own chest and ripped out her heart. Sagging slightly against the desk, she placed the heart in front of him. Red glow mingled with mottled black as it sat on the desk. “Not pretty, is it?”

He picked it up. “It's yours. That's all that matters to me.” He examined the heart carefully, noticing golden flecks through the heart and a thin golden thread running from her heart to his own chest. “What's this?” He plucked at it carefully.

“I'm not completely sure.” Regina admitted. “I'm guessing it's got something to do with that kiss I don't remember. Or maybe the soulmate thing. It wasn't there last time I looked.”

He pointed to a thin, dark band that encircled the heart tightly several times, leaving an indent like a rubber band wrapped too tightly around a finger. “And this?”

“That's the binding. All you need to do is cut it.” She handed him the silver knife. He touched the knife to the heart, attempting to slide it under the binding. As he did, it made a small cut in the heart itself and Regina fell to the floor on her hands and knees in pain. Robin immediately dropped the knife and pulled her to him.

“I can't do this without cutting your heart. The binding's too tight.” “It's okay. I said it was simple, not that it would be easy on me. Just do it.” She caught her breath and sat flat on the floor, knowing if she stood she'd just fall down again next time he cut into her heart.

“Regina, I can't hurt you like this. I won't. There has to be another way.” Robin stated firmly, watching her carefully.

She looked away. “There isn't.”

He caught her chin in his hand and turned her face back to him. “There is. What aren't you telling me?”

“Nothing. There is no other way I would let you attempt.”

“Then there is another way.” He declared. “What is it?”

“Robin no.” Regina shook her head. “I will not cause you more pain. I've been the cause of enough suffering. Just cut the binding. It'll be over in a minute.”

Robin slammed the knife point down into the table, slicing his hand on the blade in the process. “Damn it, Regina! I will not do this. I can't hurt you. Tell me.” As he reached for her, his blood dripped from the cut onto the parchment. It shimmered and the band around the heart quivered slightly, but remained tightly wrapped. “That's it, isn't it. Written in your blood, cancelled in mine?”

“Robin, no.” She stood and reached for the knife.

“Regina, you may as well tell me how to do it right, or watch me mutilate myself trying to figure it out.” He pulled the knife from the desk and raised it to his palm.

“No! Not like that!” She tried to snatch the knife from him but he held it tightly.

“Then how?”

“You're really set on this? Robin, please. Don't. The other way is safer, easier.”

“Will doing it this way hurt you?” He asked directly, his eyes demanding an answer.

“No.” She admitted reluctantly.

“Then we do it this way. How?” His tone was low, anger creeping into his voice.

“Robin, please!” Regina was begging but she didn't care. “I don't want you to do this.”

“Tell me how. Let's be done with this.”

Regina knew her soulmate well enough to know this was an argument she not could win. Her shoulders slumped in defeat and she reached for his hand. She turned it palm up and pointed out a spot on his forearm. “Cut. From here to here.” She touched the knife, pointing out a spot on the blade. “This deeply.”

He did without hesitation, without even a flinch. “What now?” He asked as blood welled from the cut, dripping to the desk below.

She handed him the inkwell. “Fill it with blood.”

He held the inkwell to his arm. It filled quickly, as the cut was deep, and the blood inside shimmered with magic. “And now?”

“The pen. Dip it in the ink and draw an X across the binding.”

As the pen scratched the parchment, the dark bands fell loosely from her heart, disintegrating into the ether as they touched the desk. He lifted the pen and the page itself crumbled away. “That's it?”

“That's it. It's done.” She reached for his arm. “Healing magic isn't exactly my forte so I can't guarantee this won't scar, but I'm not going to let you bleed to death in my workroom.”

He stretched out his arm, giving her free access to the wound. She held her hand over the cut, feeling magic flow through her, the cut closing to a faint white line under the golden glow of her energy. The pain gone, Robin flexed his arm. “Good as new. And certainly not my first scar.”

“I'm sorry.”

“I'm not.” He said firmly. “If I have a choice, and one of those choices is to spare you pain, I will choose it. Always.”

She looked away again. “I've never had anyone willing to do that for me.”

“Get used to it. I'm not going anywhere.”

“Somehow, I'm starting to believe that.” She whispered softly.

“Look at the evidence in your own heart. We are bound, Regina. You can see it.” He held up her heart, the golden thread shimmering in the candlelight. “I assume mine looks the same.”

“Probably.”

“Can I see it?” He asked curiously.

“What?” She looked at him in shock. “Robin, that's insane. I'm not taking your heart just so you can have a look at it!”

“Why not?” He stood to face her. “Because taking a heart is dark magic! And it probably wouldn't even work!”

“Why not?”

“Because dark magic requires dark emotions to work. Hatred. Anger. Resentment. What I feel for you is... not that. I'm not even mad at you for what you just did. I should be but I'm not!” Regina protested.

“If taking a heart requires hatred toward your target, it worries me that you could take your own so easily.”

She shrugged. “It is what it is. I'm well aware of who I am and what I've done.”

He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. “I will then be spending the foreseeable future convincing you that you are someone who deserves to be loved.”

She leaned into him for a moment, resting her head on his chest. “I don't deserve you, Robin.”

“Yes. You do. You deserve love and happiness and everything that goes along with it.” He whispered into her hair, holding her tightly. “But as for my own heart, if you're not taking it for a dark purpose, why would you need dark magic to do it?” He asked curiously.

“Because I don't know any other way.”

He caught her hand in his, raising it to his chest. “Yes. You do.”

“You really want to try this? Robin, getting your heart ripped from your chest isn't exactly comfortable.”

He loosened his shirt, pressing her hand to his naked chest. “Yes. I trust you.”

“You shouldn't.”

“I do.”

“You're not going to let this go, are you? Fine. I'll try, it won't work, and we'll be done with this discussion.” She snapped.

“Then try.”

“Fine.” She pressed her fingers into his chest, unsurprised when her hand failed to penetrate his skin. “See. It didn't work.”

“Are you still trying to do it the same way as before?”

“I told you. I don't know any other way. I don't hate you. I don't resent you. I love you! I can't take your heart out, Robin!” She tried to yank her hand away and he caught her by the wrist.

His hand rested on top of hers, holding it over his heart. “My heart is already yours, Regina. Think about that. Think about what you feel for me. Don't try to rip out my heart. Just reach for me using that love. You're not taking my heart, Regina. I'm giving it to you.”

She closed her eyes and reached again, gasping in shock as her fingers slipped in with no resistance whatsoever, her hand glowing with golden light. “What-”

“Go on. Grab it. It's yours anyway.” He smiled.

She reached forward, slowly curling her fingers around his heart with a feather-light touch. His breath caught in his throat. “I'm sorry.” She whispered. “I'm trying not to hurt you.”

“It doesn't hurt. Not at all. It's-” He fumbled for the words. “It's incredible. You feel incredible. Take it.”

She did. Ever so gently, she tugged forward, pulling his heart from his chest. The golden thread shining in the candlelight clearly connected their two hearts, hers still dark, his shining bright red with gold shimmers. “Robin, it's beautiful!” She held the heart in awe, gently running her fingertips over the red glow.

Robin gasped and she looked up quickly. “I'm sorry!”

“It's okay. It didn't hurt. That was not pain. Not at all. It was just-” He shook his head. “I lack the words.”

Unable to stop herself, she touched his heart again, more firmly this time, marveling at the sheer beauty of it. His eyes closed and he leaned his back against the wall, shuddering under her touch. As her fingers left his heart, he looked down at her. “I assure you. That was most definitely not pain.”

“Oh.” She paused, and then realized his meaning. “Oh!” She smirked slightly and gently touched the heart again, longer this time, watching his head fall back in ecstasy.

The moment she lifted her fingers from his heart, in two quick strides his arms were around her, pressing her close against him and pinning her between his body and her desk. “Woman, that is the most intimately erotic thing I have ever felt.” His teeth nipped at her neck and she instinctually tilted her head to give him more access,. “I had hoped that I could spend all night making love to you tonight, but if you would prefer our first time together to be hard and fast with you bent over your desk and your skirt hiked around your waist, by all means, continue.”

She trembled slightly at the image and turned in his arms, resting her head on his chest. “Then let's put this back where it belongs, and perhaps explore that thought a little later.” She pressed the heart into his chest, unable to resist giving it a final caress as she pulled her hand back, feeling his heartbeat quicken.

“You like playing with fire, don't you?” He whispered into her hair as he shivered in her arms. Reaching toward the desk, he scooped her own heart up into his hand. “Turnabout is fair play, my dear.”

She shrugged and tipped her head toward her heart. “It's not pretty, but it's yours. Do what you will with it.”

“It's beautiful.” He brushed his thumb softly over the darkly glowing heart and her knees buckled in response. He caught her and lifted her to sit on the edge of her desk. “Is this okay?”

She nodded into his neck. “Yes. I've never- Nothing has ever-” Unable to find the words to describe the sensation, she burrowed into his shoulder, her hands grasping at his back.

He chuckled softly. “I know what you mean. I couldn't describe it either.”

He reached around her to caress her heart again while still keeping her close in his arms, feeling her shiver in his arms. “My God, Robin!” She whispered, her breath heavy on his chest. “It feels like you're touching my soul.”

He leaned in to kiss her as he stroked her heart lightly, then more firmly, watching her reactions carefully. Her legs clenched around him, pulling him to her as she broke the kiss, her skirt riding up to her hips, head thrown back with pleasure, her breath ragged.

“By the stars... You're beautiful!” He breathed in awe, watching her respond to his soft touch. He leaned in and nipped at her earlobe. “You look like I could make you come right now, just by doing this.” He stroked her heart softly and her legs tightened around his hips. He pulled her closer to him, feeling the heat of her center through their clothing. “Do you want me to stop?”

She shook her head, hair brushing against his chest. “Only if you want to.”

“Oh no... I love seeing you like this. Walls down, completely open to me...” He whispered into her hair, firmly caressing her heart as she trembled in response, not stopping until he felt her shudder against him, coming apart in his arms.

He held her close as her breathing slowed, caressing her hair and back with his free hand. “Robin- That was-” She shook her head, her face streaked with tears. “I can't even begin to find words-”

“You don't need to.” His hand rubbed circles on her back as he lifted her heart into her view. “We should probably put this back where it belongs.”

“It's in your hands. That's where it belongs.”

He pressed the heart gently into her chest. “Keep it safe for me.” She nodded. “Thank you for trusting me. I love you, Regina.”

“I love you, Robin.”