„Explain to me why I'm here again,“ Regina asked of Emma as they were walking toward the throne room of Snow and Charming’s castle. The room seemed altogether bigger to her than when she last stood in it, threatening to curse everyone, and maybe it was. The castle had been rebuilt, everything seemed bigger somehow.
“It’s Killian’s birthday,” Emma answered, smiling bemusedly.
“I still don’t understand why they had to name their son after the pirate. Your parents are the most sentimental people, no wonder everyone is taking advantage of them.”
“He saved David’s life, Regina. I think that’s a good reason to get a little sentimental.”
Henry turned toward them, grinning. He had grown a lot this last year and was now about as tall as Emma. She was now nodding at him and he started running through the dome-like room, then glided on his sneakers.
“Don’t encourage him,” Regina scolded. “And while we’re on the topic of saving lives, I have saved all your lives but no one ever named anything after me. I really don’t know why I’m here.”
“Because you don’t trust me to take Henry to the Enchanted Forest alone, like I would kidnap him and stay here with my family,” Emma reminded Regina.
Henry had meanwhile reached Snow and was hugging her, positively dwarfing her.
“It’s not you I don’t trust, Emma, it’s your parents. Every time you’re here your mother gets this glint in her eyes… she still dreams of dressing you up as her little princess and sell you to the next ridiculously handsome and incredibly dumb prince that comes along.”
"Did you just say you trust me?"
"More than your parents, less than any common pedestrian on a New York subway,” Regina said. She looked at Emma, grinning mischievously.
“Nice,” Emma complimented her as they reached Snow and Henry.
“Emma, finally.” Snow hugged Emma tightly.
“Hello Snow.” They had agreed that Emma would call her mother this after her parents had moved back to the Enchanted Forest and she had stayed in Storybrooke. It was easier to say than ‘mom’ to someone who was about the same age and lived in a different imaginative realm.
When they parted, Snow looked at Regina for a moment. “Regina,”
“Your Highness,” Regina gave back, executing a perfect curtsy.
Emma hid a grin behind her hand. Snow merely took a deep breath, ignoring Regina’s sarcasm.
“Where’s David?” Emma asked.
“He’s in the garden with Killian. They’re playing with swords, you know how your father is,” Snow said fondly.
“Can I go join them?” Henry asked.
“But no fighting with real swords,” Regina warned. They all looked at her. “Like Henry couldn’t talk David into it.”
Henry dashed through the double doors into the castle’s wide-spread gardens.
“Will he find them okay?” Emma asked Snow.
“I think so, maybe I should go after him?” Snow looked at the alternative of staying with Emma and Regina and her lack of enthusiasm showed plainly on her face.
Regina was no more willing to spend time with Snow. She knew that Snow would have liked to spend time with Emma, they saw each other very little, but Regina didn't want to wander the castle alone. She didn't want to feel even more as an outsider than she knew she was.
“We’ll be all right,” Emma told Snow.
“I brought books,” Regina said. She gave Snow her fake smile.
Emma rolled her eyes at her.
“I’ll see you both later,” Snow excused herself and followed Henry outside.
Emma turned toward Regina. “Is this how it’s going to be between you two this whole week?”
“It’s… I can’t help myself with your mother, not in this realm. There are memories here of walking into a room of cowardly peasants, everybody afraid and shaking in their badly manufactured boots. The kind of power I had. And now I’m a visitor. Do you know how aggravating that is? To reside in your mother’s castle, her being queen? I was queen, I was the Evil Queen,” she tried to explain, straightening her shoulders, lifting her chin.
Emma smiled at her.
“You’re not taking me seriously,” Regina accused.
“I remember that woman. She was the mayor of Storybrooke when I first arrived and she scared the shit out of me.”
Emma nodded. “She was pretty amazing, but…”
"But she had nothing on the woman who saved all our lives," Emma answered, smiling proudly.
Regina couldn't help but smile, too. She did that far more frequently than she used to, especially around 'the savior.' And that was the thing – besides having Henry be proud of her and loving her – she liked better about her current self than the Evil Queen she'd been.
They were interrupted by footsteps that echoed in the great room and they both turned. A man Regina didn't recognize came toward them. He was wearing simple clothes, no armor or helmet, yet his figure and stance told her that he was a warrior. The bow he had slung over his shoulder merely confirmed the first impression.
"Excuse me, m'ladies. I am looking for King James," he said as he stepped closer.
"And who might you be?" Emma asked taking advantage of her status as princess without letting the stranger know who she was.
"My name is Robin Hood," he said and bowed just as Emma reached out her hand. He straightened quickly. "You must be Emma.” He seemed glad to meet her.
"You've heard of me. Well, I guess that's only fair considering that I've heard of you too. Or read of you, rather.”
"You shouldn't believe everything you read," he said, not understanding that she had read about him in a book and not on a wanted poster.
"I don't." She grabbed his forearm in greeting. "And this is Regina.”
He looked at Regina, then he looked some more.
Regina nodded her head at him as he offered his hand like before, but it merely hung in the air. Regina wasn't the kind of woman Emma was, she wasn't a warrior, and wouldn't stoop to grabbing arms. As she looked down at the man's arm, she noticed the tattoo on it. Her smile faded, her pulse started racing. "That... is an interesting tattoo, Mr. Hood.”
"Thank you. It's the coat of arms of King Richard," he explained.
Regina looked up at Robin, looked into his eyes, tried to see whether he was indeed the man she had been supposed to love in what now seemed another lifetime. "I suspect many of his subjects wear the same tattoo?"
"Not one like this. My wife drew it," he answered proudly.
"Your wife. You are married?" She noticed a slight note of relief in her voice.
Emma turned toward her, an eyebrow arched.
"She died. I'm a widower," Robin answered, his voice serious but not grief-stricken as if he had only just lost her.
"That is unfortunate." Regina turned away. She pretended to have seen something outside and went to the double-doors, looking out. She still felt Robin's gaze on her back and could only imagine Emma's confusion.
"You were looking for my father," Emma said after a moment.
"Yes. Is he around?"
"He's in the gardens. I guess you could go find him or stay here and wait. It's almost lunch time, so they'll probably come in soon. Our son never misses a meal," Emma added.
Regina could detect the smile in her voice, but for once, didn't feel inclined to smile herself. She felt too distressed by having met Robin Hood.
"I think I'm gonna see if I can find them. Thank you, Emma," Robin said. As he walked by Regina on his way out, he made a bow. "Miss Regina.” He smiled at her.
"Mr. Hood," she answered, deliberately not smiling back. She watched him go and then felt Emma's presence in her back. She stood directly behind her, close enough that Regina could feel her warmth, even without them touching.
"Do you know him?" Emma asked.
"No, we have never met."
"You're acting weird, what is... oh, my God! Did you kill his wife?"
Regina turned. "No! I did not kill his... at least, I don't think I did. And Mr. Hood doesn't strike me as somebody who wouldn't know his wife's murderer if she stood before him."
"It could be a trick," Emma said.
"I don't think so."
"There's something you're not telling me," Emma accused.
Regina lifted a bemused eyebrow and smirked. "And since when do we tell each other all our secrets, savior?"
Emma took a step back, blushing slightly. "We don't.” She turned away from Regina and pushed her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
Regina watched her, sorry about what she'd said. But it wasn't like they were even friends. They raised Henry, most of the time not even together, it seemed. Regina said one thing, Emma said another. If Henry didn't get permission from one of them to do something he would go to the other, most likely Emma because she was more likely to give in. It was a struggle most of the time. But it wasn't only a struggle. They spent holidays together, usually quite harmoniously. Sometimes Emma came over for dinner because she couldn't cook and they would eat together. Henry would take care of the dishes and they would retire into the living room, talking. They weren't friends, they just got along somehow, sometimes.
"I think I will take a look at my room now, make sure it befits my status as former queen," Regina said.
"You do that. I think I'll take a walk." Emma stepped through the double doors outside.