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Mother, Mine

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Roland has never been to a wedding before, but he thinks it’s a lot like a birthday. The first part was a little boring -- he doesn’t like sitting still for too long most of the time -- but everyone seemed pretty happy even though some of them were crying, which was kind of confusing. And it was nice, really, to listen to Mulan and Miss Aurora talk about how much they loved each other, so it wasn’t all that bad.

Now, though. Now it’s kind of like a big party where everyone is celebrating them being married, and Roland loves parties. He’s always been more comfortable in bigger groups, likes to see people laugh and smile and play, and while there aren’t any toys and he doesn’t get any presents, there’s music and dancing and cake that he does get to have. Plus, none of the other kids in his class or at the reading circle got to come to the wedding of a princess, so, yeah, weddings are pretty great.

Everyone’s dressed up real nice for it, too. Miss Aurora’s dress is poofy and soft and a pretty pale pink, and even Mulan had worn a dress today, which Roland hasn’t seen her in before. It’s long and white and clean, and he doesn’t know how she’s kept it from getting dirty all day. Mama had made him wear his nice pants and the shirt with the buttons today, and she’s been chasing him around at the party with a napkin and some stuff to clean his hands, making sure he doesn’t get crumbs all over himself or drop stuff on his shirt. Mama looks nice today, too, in her short little dress as bright as the sun, and she’d even let Roland help her put the daisies in her hair this morning.

Mama’s close by now, long after the cake’s been eaten and the music has been playing for a while, but she’s talking to Uncle Will at the table next to them, making jokes and telling stories. Roland loves Uncle Will, he does -- he has so much fun with him -- but he’s getting kind of bored sitting here mostly by himself. He’s not sure where Henry is -- maybe with Miss Emma -- and while Roland loves his little sister so, so much that his heart feels too big for his body sometimes, she’s also still so, so little, only a few months old. Liara can only play with him so much, and right now she’s asleep, anyway, napping in one of the rooms inside with the other babies, Neal and Philip and Alexandra.

So Roland sighs, kicks his feet a little in the air and squirms in his seat as he looks out at the rest of the party, smiling a little as he watches Miss Aurora spin Mulan in circles while they dance, making her dizzy. Mama danced with him a little, earlier, and he’s sure if he asked her, she’d do it again, but he doesn’t want to interrupt her, especially when she’s smiling and laughing so much. Seeing Mama this happy doesn’t happen as much as Roland thinks it should -- at least with people other than him -- so he wants it to last as long as it can.

He’s not left bored for too much longer though before someone comes up and kneels down next to him, and he smiles big and wide when he looks over and sees Regina smiling back at him. “You look like you want to join the party,” she laughs, tapping his nose. He nods and then stops, glancing over at Mama for a second. Regina looks, too, and rests her hand on his knee before speaking again. “Marian,” she says, getting Mama to look at her, “would you mind terribly if I stole your date for a dance or two?”

Mama’s still smiling when he looks back at her, but it’s different now, soft and warm like the ones she gives him when she’s tucking him in at night. “Of course not,” she says, ducking down to kiss his cheek. “Go show Her Majesty how it’s done.” He giggles, shakes his head and protests, Mama!, but Regina doesn’t seem to mind, and with his worry gone, Roland happily takes her hand and lets her lead him out onto the dance floor they’ve set up in Granny’s garden.

The band is taking a break when they get out there, but somebody’s put music on the magical sound makers -- speakers, he’ll remember all of this someday, he will -- so everyone can keep dancing. And he knows the new song they start to play, it’s one of his favorites from this land -- the one about the dancing queen -- and Regina knows that, smiles big and bright and guides him through some of the moves he’s been trying to learn. Her laugh is high and pretty and clear when she spins him in place like Aurora had done with Mulan earlier, and when he looks up at her and insists you too now!, she releases his hands and twirls a few times on the spot, the bottom of her dress lifting and swirling in the air as she moves.

The song changes again, still upbeat and fun but it sounds different, smooth and old and catchy. He doesn’t know this one, isn’t really sure why anyone would sing a song about a bug because that seems silly, but Regina seems to know it and tells him there’s a special dance for it. So she tries to teach him, guides his feet this way and that and shows him how to wave his hands, but there are lots of parts to remember and he can’t quite get his feet to move the right way, his movements too slow and clumsy. It makes him upset, has him frowning and starting to pout a little, his chin trembling in frustration, but he only feels that way for a minute before Regina stops and reaches for him, swinging him up into her arms with a quiet oomph and settling him on her hip. He’s bigger in her arms than he used to be -- Daddy must be right, Roland must be growing a lot -- but she doesn’t complain or try to keep teaching him or even try to get him to talk about why he was upset. All she does is rock him against her in time with the music, spinning around every once in awhile and singing quietly along with the words.

Regina is happier today, too.

It’s different with Regina than it is with Mama, the ways they get sad or upset or frustrated, but it still makes Roland’s heart hurt in all the same places. And Regina wasn’t happy a lot earlier this year: she was always busy reading or making potions, didn’t smile as much and always seemed worried that something bad was going to happen. She was so upset when Miss Astrid got hurt, looked sad all the time and touched her belly a lot where his sister was growing. The weeks he stayed with them instead of Mama were hard for a while because she kept having bad dreams, like she did before, kept waking up in the middle of the night shouting and crying like she was afraid. Daddy couldn’t make them stop, but he held her a lot and kissed her and talked to her until she fell asleep again, and that always seemed to help. He’s always been good at comforting people, Daddy -- Roland knows, he remembers the nights he woke up scared in the Enchanted Forest after that flying monkey tried to hurt him.

But taking care of Regina meant that if Roland was worried about her -- if his heart hurt and he couldn’t go back to sleep -- he wasn’t sure if he should go to Daddy to feel better. Those were the nights Roland tiptoed into Henry’s room, stuffed monkey under his arm, and Henry made room for him on the bed, pulling the covers over them both and settling in with a story to make Roland fall asleep again.

The nights Regina had been sick in the hospital were the worst: Roland cried and cried until he didn’t have any more tears left and his head felt too fuzzy to stay awake.

But Regina is okay, now, and so is his sister, and even though he can tell the grown-ups are still worried sometimes, the past few months have been quiet and calm and good.

(Her name means ‘light for me’, Daddy had explained, and once Liara was born, Roland thinks, she made the whole world brighter.)

The song changes again, this time to something slower, and Regina changes the way she moves to match it, taking his hand in hers and swaying in circles. She doesn’t sing this time but she hums, brushes her nose against his and tells him he looks very handsome, and he ducks his head, feels his cheeks warm up. “You look nice today, too,” he mumbles against her neck. “Extra beautiful. Daddy said you looked stunning.”

She laughs, just a little in that way she does whenever Daddy does something silly, and he thinks she says something like well he ought to but Roland can’t really tell. He pulls back a little and looks down at the top of her dress, his fingers reaching out to sweep over the silky soft material before he follows the sparkly pattern closer to her neck. “What color is this?” he asks, scrunching his face a little as he thinks about it. “I thought it was pink in the sun when we were all sitting down before, but now it looks different with the candles, like a weird purple or something.” He stops for a second, a thought popping into his head before he brightens a little and looks back up at her hopefully. “Is it magic?” he whispers, excitement growing. “Did you enchant it to change colors?”

Another laugh comes out of her like bubbles, and even though she shakes her head no, she’s still smiling at him like Mama was earlier. “Not magic,” she says, “though maybe I’ll do something like that for you one day. This dress is sort of a little bit of both of those colors, like somewhere in the middle. It’s called magenta.”

“Magenta,” he repeats, the word feeling funny on his tongue. He hmms a little, fingers running over the fabric again while he tries to make his mind remember the difference for later. “You should wear this color more,” he says. “You look real pretty in it. It makes your face look all shiny like a star.”

Her cheeks are a little pink when he looks back up at her, but she seems happy with him, presses a kiss to his forehead and curls him close against her, goes back to swaying with the music. “Well thank you,” she murmurs. “That’s very kind. I feel very pretty today. I haven’t gotten to dress up in a while.”

“Maybe we should have more parties,” he mumbles against her neck, suddenly a little sleepy at the sound of the song. He wraps his arms around her neck and clings to her tight, slumping against her a little as he tries not to yawn. “You and Daddy are still getting married someday, right?”

She’s quiet for a minute before she rubs a hand along his back like she always does when they cuddle and he’s trying to fall asleep. “We are,” she promises. “We wanted to wait until after the baby was born, remember?”

“Mmhmm,” he yawns, blinking slowly as he fights to keep his eyes open. “But she’s here now, so you can have a wedding like Mulan and Miss Aurora. And I can eat her piece of cake for her since she’s too little for real food, and I promise I won’t get it on my nice clothes.”

She makes a noise like she wants to laugh but she doesn’t, and he squirms a little as her hand gently tickles his side. “I don’t know about an extra slice of cake,” she says, and her voice changes to the way she talks when she is being Mom and he has to do what she says. “But I promise we’ll have a wedding, and everyone will dress up and we’ll dance and have a good time, okay?”

“Mmmkay,” he mumbles sleepily into her skin, eyes drooping a little more. “Henry ‘n I are already the same anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“We both have two mamas,” he says, eyes finally falling all the way shut.

She’s quiet for a minute, long enough that the music starts to fade as Roland’s mind and ears become fuzzy the closer he gets to sleep, and he almost doesn’t hear her when she speaks again. “You do, sweetheart,” she murmurs, pressing a kiss to his head and holding him a little tighter. “You do. You don’t need a wedding for that to be true.”

“I know. Daddy still really wants to marry you, though,” he sighs, snuggling a little closer.

“And marry me he will,” Regina says softly, moving a hand up and back to reach for one of his and link their pinkies together in the way he knows that it’s an extra, extra special promise to keep.

Roland’s mouth softens into a smile, the rest of the music fading away, and the only thing left keeping him from sleep is the sound of Mommy’s voice in answer to the question he seeks. “Soon?”

“Soon.”