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In the Most Peculiar Ways

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This first one shot was written for OQ Advent 2019! But this whole story ("In the Most Peculiar Ways") will feature different, unrelated one shots of random meetings of OutlawQueen…. It was inspired by an article I saw almost two years ago about weird ways people's parents met/fell in love, and I wanted to turn them all into OQ because… why not? Lol I hope you enjoy them! Please leave a review :)

{**************************}

Snowball Effect

The winter air whips around Regina Mills, causing her hair to blow into her face. Rolling her eyes, she reaches up, pulling it back into a large, messy bun. Her oversized blanket scarf is thick enough to cover her neck, so the warmth from her long hair isn't missed.

She tugs her black gloves more securely to her hands, walking quickly to catch up with her friend, Tink. "Wait up!" she shouts, jogging the last few steps.

Tink turns around, blonde curls bouncing around her shoulders as she smiles brightly at Regina. "Hurry up, slow poke!"

She rolls her eyes again, linking her arm through her friends. They walk through the small, sleepy town, each store front lit up with Christmas lights and an assortment of decorations for the holiday.

Storybrooke is a sweet town, Regina has to admit. She'd moved here three years ago for college with Teegan, whom everyone has called Tink since they were kids–a nickname that formed when her younger brother couldn't pronounce her name correctly but found Tink was easier to say.

The girls have been best friends since middle school, moving here together for college after graduating high school. It was an odd choice to everyone else, Storybrooke, but it housed a university that provided an amazing psychology program, which Regina was proud to be accepted into. Tink didn't care one way or another, majoring in Biology she could go to any college, but getting away from her drunk father was a must, and living with Regina had seemed like the most exciting choice back then.

They make their way to the small downtown where the annual Merry Marketplace is taking place. This town loves the wintery holiday, she'll give them that, and she loves it. It's the week before Christmas now, but as soon as the first snow falls each year, Storybrooke begins setting up for the season.

There are rows and rows of booths set up each weekend, every store owner and merchant selling handcrafted Christmas accessories and holiday goodies for people to choose from. There are ornaments, door hangers, clothing, apple cider, as well as any and every kind of holiday snack imaginable. Everything is overly decorated for Christmas, and multicolored Christmas lights adorn the tops of each booth. There is fake snow blowing around certain parts of the market to bulk up the real snow that has fallen, people dressed as elves directing traffic throughout the busier parts of the streets, and Christmas trees line the paths.

"Hey, look at this," Tink says, walking over to one of the vendors. She gives the merchant a smile, thanking the older woman as she hands her a lime green flyer with the words Snowball Palooza emblazoned at the top above a cartoon illustration of people tossing snowballs at one another. "There's a group snowball fight!"

Regina scoffs, wondering, "And why would we do that?"

Tink's head flies back dramatically, eyes looking toward the sky before finding her best friend's again. "Because," she says, skipping merrily back to Regina, taking her arm again, "Killian just broke up with me two weeks ago for that blonde bitch, Emma, and I'm still mad. Let me get my aggression out!"

Regina laughs, knowing her friend had taken the break up harder than they both expected. Killian never seemed like the long-term type of guy, and Tink knew that, but she'd fallen harder for him more than she thought she would. "Fair enough," Regina says, tugging her friend further into the Merry Marketplace. She wants to help Tink out however she can, and if a snowball fight is what will do it, then so be it.

They flit from booth to booth, Tink picking up every piece of jewelry she sees. There's a booth with wooden, beaded bracelets, and Regina looks at a few, deciding she might as well get some Christmas shopping done while they're here.

She picks one up, planning to gift it to her half-sister, Zelena. She peruses some of the necklaces, but decides her mother would turn her nose up at wooden jewelry. She snorts to herself, thinking of her snooty mother back in New York. Regina decides to keep looking, perhaps her mother would like a glass ornament or something instead.

Regina walks to the next booth, calling Tink over as she spies hand-stitched hats, knowing her friend would love them.

Tink gasps at the quirky things, placing one on her head. It's in the shape of an elephant head, the large ears flopping around the sides of Tink's face. There are gloves attached by long, gray fabric, acting as the trunk, she assumes. It's an odd hat, ridiculous and hideous, and Regina isn't sure why anyone would ever make it, let alone buy it, but Tink finds it hilarious. She sticks her hands in the attached gloves, raising one to her nose, making it the trunk and letting out an elephant trumpet sound.

Laughing, Regina shakes her head at how silly her friend truly is. Regina has always been the more serious one out of the duo, but she's thankful for her friendship. She brings out the best in Regina, and she can't imagine life without her. She reminds Regina often to let loose and enjoy life, a lesson Regina has learned to do more freely now that she lives away from home.

Thinking of that, Regina makes a mental note to come back to this market without Tink to find the perfect gift for her. It won't be this hat, Regina refuses to be seen in public with her wearing it, but maybe she can find something else for the blonde.

Making her way to another booth which houses rustic holiday decorations, Regina spots a guy across the way. He's handsome, his dimples are easy to spot as he laughs at something his friend has just said.

She looks away, running her hand over the multicolored wooden Christmas trees and wreaths, thinking one of the small trees might look cute in her apartment. There's ornaments made of twine and burlap, a much more country chic look than she normally goes for, but one or two might not look so bad on her tree.

Glancing up again, Regina catches the eye of the cute guy, and she suddenly feels shy, biting her lip as she waves at the man. Her eyes flick down, then back up, noticing he's still staring back at her. Her stomach flips, growing nervous. She's usually not one to connect with strangers, but there's something about this guy that draws her in.

He smiles more brightly at her a second time, and the butterflies in her stomach feel as if they've just been released and are swarming all around her. She's lost in his blue eyes and dimples until Tink bumps her butt into her hip, nodding toward a Christmas decoration and asking her opinion.

Blinking rapidly, Regina inhales sharply, looking away from the guy and focusing back on her friend.

{*****************************}

"Come on, man," Robin says, pulling his friend, John, away from the buffet of Christmas cookies.

John stuffs another gingerbread one into his mouth, eyebrows raising as he shrugs like a thief who's just been caught red handed in a candy store, joining Robin at the next booth.

Robin loves this town, it's small and quaint, but there's still plenty to do. It's his first year experiencing their love of the Christmas season, and he's enamored already. He'd moved here a few months ago to complete his senior year at Storybrooke University. He had done his first three years at a college in Vermont near his parents' house, but Storybrooke's Wildlife Management Department was a stronger one, and the wildlife in the surrounding forests were much more diverse for him to study.

"Did you get one of those cookies? They're delicious!"

Robin laughs at his burly friend. They'd met in July when Robin moved here. He'd been attending a neighborhood block party to celebrate the summer coming to an end. John had been doing cannonballs in the pool, splashing all the kids and making them giggle.

The guys bonded over their love of the trees found in Storybrooke, Robin happy to have found another nature nerd like him. As it turned out, John had the same major, and they were in most of the same classes.

"No," Robin says, shaking his head with a grin, "I didn't get one yet."

John grunts, telling him he needs to. "Christmas is the best and worst holiday," he jokes, adding that all the sweets are not helping his diet. John rubs his round belly, chuckling as he bites into another treat.

The two walk from booth to booth, Robin trying to find the perfect gift for his mum. He's stopped at a table full of homemade ornaments, gazing upon them when he hears a beautiful giggle from somewhere behind him.

His eyes roam from the table over to a few booths down. He spies the most gorgeous woman he's ever laid eyes upon, laughing at her friend who is trying on silly hand-stitched hats, making funny faces at her. The brunette shakes her head at her blonde friend, tilting her head as she appears to be giving the blonde advice on which hat to purchase. Her nose scrunches up adorably as she points from the hat on her friend's head to the table, making Robin chuckle.

God, she's stunning.

Her deep, brown eyes look around the market, eyes scanning up to the sky as a few light snowflakes begin to fall.

"Oh, yeah!" John exclaims from behind him, pumping his fist in the air. "It's starting to snow. It'll be perfect for this." His friend shoves a flyer into his hands. Pulling it back, Robin reads that there is an annual snowball fight that will take place in an hour, just before the sun begins to set.

"We have to do it," John exclaims, his long, curly hair swaying in his excitement.

Robin laughs, head falling back in amusement at his friend's elation. He's a big kid at heart, and Robin loves the guy for it. He makes even the most mundane tasks seem like a ball of fun.

"Alright, alright," he laughs, clasping John on the shoulder, dragging him to the next booth.

His eyes land back on the mysterious girl, watching as she makes her way to another booth with her friend.

He looks away, glancing at the beaded jewelry on the table and smiling at the old man who tells him and John how he'd whittled each bead into its size and put the bracelets and necklaces together himself.

Robin attempts to listen, but he can't stop thinking of that girl, his eyes roving back in her direction.

He feels John's elbow nudge into his ribs as his friend makes a jab at him, saying, "Hey, ya know the gifts for your mom are over here," his head bobs in the direction of the booth, "not over there with her."

Robin chuckles lightly, head ducking down, knowing he's been caught. He grins, shrugging a shoulder up.

His blue eyes go back to her, and they widen when he realizes she's now looking at him as well. Their eyes connect, and it's as if he can see into her soul. She's mesmerizing to look at, and more than that, he wants to know everything about this girl.

Robin smiles in her direction, a hand coming up to give her a shy wave. She bites her lip, looks as if she's trying to contain an elusive smile beneath that giant scarf as she waves back at him. Her eyes blink down, a pink tint to her cheeks, before they flick back up to his, smiling more brightly this time.

And with that look, he knows he's a goner for her already.

{***************************}

She can hear Tink laughing maniacally, evilly planning all the ways to hit people with snowballs and win the fight when the horn blows, signaling the start of the game.

With a roll of her eyes, Regina turns around, that one loose strand of hair that will never stay tied up in her bun falling in her face. She tucks it behind her ear, smiling to herself as she rolls snow together, creating a small pile of snowballs. She can't stop thinking about that guy from earlier; his eyes had connected with hers in a way she's never felt before… which is stupid. Those kinds of feelings only belong in cheesy movies.

She picks a snowball up, tossing it in her friend's direction. It hits Tink square in the shoulders, and the blonde turns around with a flabbergasted expression on her face. "Hey!" she shouts, throwing one at Regina, which breaks apart when it hits her leg, "You're on my team!"

Regina laughs, shrugging her shoulders and apologizing. "I was just getting a test shot in."

Tink chortles, conceding with a, "That's fair!" as she rolls up another ball, tossing it toward a man that runs by, thwarting snowballs at what she assumes is his wife.

Everyone is laughing like little kids, and Regina thinks this is the weirdest, but one of the most fun, traditions this little town has.

"Watch out!" she hears a British accent call from behind her. Without turning, she and Tink duck down out of instinct, their arms wrapping around each other's shoulders and their heads meeting together in the middle. She can hear the faint thud of a heavy snowball hit the tree closest to them and children laughing as their footsteps hurry away.

Looking up, Regina spots the guy from the market earlier. His hand is outstretched toward her, a smile on his face as he greets her with, "M'lady."

Grinning, she places her hand in his, allowing him to help her up. She takes a glimpse behind her to check on Tink, noting that cute guy's friend is helping her stand. The two are chatting amicably as if they know each other, so Regina takes a few steps toward them, making sure the mysterious man beside her follows.

He does, thankfully, and Tink smiles when she notices them. "Regina, this is my friend, John."

Regina reaches out, shaking the large guy's hand. "John and I have Biology together this semester," the blonde explains.

Regina nods, looking toward Robin who stands beside her. "Oh, shit, yeah," John stumbles, pushing his friend up a step closer to the girls as the cute guy gives her a sheepish look, his dimples popping out as he grins over at her. "This is my buddy Robin."

Robin shakes Tink's hand, then Regina's, his seeming to linger just a touch longer on hers. As she shakes her hand, their eyes lock with one another's again, and she feels that overwhelming sense of I could stare at him forever taking over once more.

"Nice to meet you," she says, tucking that strand of hair behind her ear again, shyly this time. She's normally so confident around guys, isn't sure what it is about this one that makes her feel nervous, but she kind of likes it.

The four stand around, chatting about classes and making small talk. Robin is nice, and easy to talk to, and she finds she's not the least bit concerned with the snowball fight happening all around them as she gets to know the blue eyed man.

John keeps looking toward her and Robin, though she's not sure why. The curly haired man pulls Tink aside, both of them gathering up snowballs and planning how to get more people they see running around.

While the children plan their schemes, Regina turns back to Robin. "So, Wildlife Management, huh?"

He smiles, a proud little one that makes her happy. It's nice to see people who love their majors. "Yeah," he proclaims, the lilt of his accent making her stomach feel jittery. She could listen to him read the phone book and find it sexy. "I've always loved animals and forests, was always lost in the woods growing up," he laughs, causing her to smile back at him. "So this was the only logical thing for me to do with my life."

She tells him that's great, admirable that he wants to work to maintain animals in their environment. "And what about you?" he asks, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jacket as the wind blows around them. "What's your major?"

"Psychology," she tells him, the corners of her lips turning up when he makes a joke about her being able to read people better than anyone else. "More like… trying to understand why they do the things they do."

They both chuckle, Regina looking around to make sure Tink hasn't gone too far. She sees her and John a few feet away, laughing together as they hide behind a large rock, tossing snowballs at children and their parents as they run past them. "Tink and John seem to get along well," she observes, head nodding in their direction.

Robin snorts, saying, "John loves this stuff. I've only known him a few months, but he's a lot of fun."

"You just moved here, right?"

He nods, stating, "Yeah, yeah. I moved from Vermont. SU had a better wildlife department, better wildlife in general, so I knew it'd be a great fit for my senior thesis." He asks how she met Tink, then, and she shakes her head in amusement.

"I've been stuck with that one since we were twelve." Robin laughs at that, telling her how awesome that is.

"Having friends you've known since childhood is great. What brought you two to Storybrooke?"

She twirls her foot in the snow, making a little path back and forth where her foot drags as they talk aimlessly. "The Psychology department here offered a great program… plus I didn't want to stay in New York with my mom any longer than need be."

Guffawing, Robin nods, saying he understands that. "My parents were driving me crazy; I was honestly glad Storybrooke was six hours away from them."

He bends down, picking up a snowball and tossing it toward another college age looking guy. The guy spins around, laughing and shouting a, You're a dick, Locksley!, as he runs off, throwing a ball of snow at the girl he'd been chasing. Robin laughs, and she smiles at the sound. It's cute–deep and from the depth of his belly, but it's one of those laughs that warms your heart and makes everyone around want to join in even if they don't understand what's so funny.

"Well, I, for one, am glad you ended up in Storybrooke," he tells her flirtatiously, boldly, making her bite her lip. Oh, she likes that. She'd been nervous earlier, but quickly warmed up as they talked. She welcomes the flirtation with open arms, hoping he isn't one of those playboys just trying to get into her pants, but is actually, genuinely interested in her.

Regina has been single for over a year now; she ended things with Daniel at the end of their Sophomore year. She's gone on dates here and there, but she likes to keep to herself and focus on school. This Robin guy, though, he makes her want to throw all of her books out the window and listen to him talk all night long.

Arching a brow seductively, she goes to respond, red lips opening slightly when she hears, "Hey, love birds, get your heads in the game!" as two snowballs come hurtling toward them, smacking them each in the shoulder.

Robin curses at John, but laughs nonetheless, picking up a snowball and handing it to her. She lets her fingertips graze against his, lingering in the touch as he declares, "Paybacks a bitch, right?"

She giggles, taking it from him, and they both toss their snow toward where their friends are still crouched behind the large rock.

Tink and John come out from hiding, laughing as Tink loops her arm through Regina's. "Come on," she giggles, poking John's arm, "What do you say we do boys versus girls? Losers pay for drinks at the bar tonight!"

Everyone agrees, Robin eyeing Regina up as she glances toward him as well.

"Just don't get in my way," she sasses, a lift to her perfectly shaped eyebrow and a cocky tilt of her head in his direction, "I can be pretty competitive."

He chortles, holding up his hands, saying, "Oh, I wouldn't dream of it," as he shakes his head in amusement, clapping John on his shoulders, giving him an excited shake.

They smirk at one another as everyone shakes on the bet, Regina's eyes trailing quickly from his arms, which look strong even under his jacket, to his jawline, then his lips, before landing back on his eyes. When she finally finishes her perusal of his features, she notices he's grinning like a Cheshire cat. Clearly she's been caught no matter how fast her eyes scanned over his body. She smirks bewitchingly, and her eyebrow twitches up in tandem with her shoulder, making it clear she was, in fact, checking him out, and she isn't ashamed of it.

Tink pulls Regina away quickly before John can hit either one of them, and the game is on. They spread out, the girls on one end of the open area they find themselves in, boys on the other. All four take a few minutes, rolling up snowballs and making piles to throw at one another.

Regina, surprisingly, starts first. She picks up a large ball, running toward the guys as Tink yells her encouragement. Regina tosses her snowball when she's close enough, hitting John in the arm before he can duck behind a tree.

Robin laughs, throwing one at her in retaliation. It hits her in the shoulder, and she sticks her tongue to her cheek, making it pop out as she nods in amusement, saying he'll regret that.

"Whatever you say, Your Majesty," he mocks, drawing out his accent and bowing with a flair of his hand.

She rolls her eyes, amused, then jogs back to her pile of snowballs as the guys chase after her, everyone laughing at how much fun they're having. It's nice to let go of all responsibility from time to time, just to enjoy life, and she thinks, perhaps, this is one of the reasons Storybrooke implements this game each year. It allows even the surliest of adults, like grumpy Mr. Gold, the town's rudest inhabitant, to reach deep down inside and find their inner child. She spies the old man propped against a tree, chuckling to himself as his young wife throws a pile of snow at their three-year-old son.

Tink pops out from their safe territory, hurtling snowballs one after the other at both men as Regina slides into the ground, like a baseball player sliding into home, and picks up two from her dwindling pile.

She stands, running to catch up to the group, and throws a ball at Robin, hitting him in the stomach.

"Oof," he grunts out, grabbing his stomach dramatically and falling to his knees.

She laughs, head falling back. "I'll get you back, don't you worry," he chuckles.

Before she can say anything, Robin throws his snowball at her. Looking back at this moment years from now, she won't know if it was the wind speed, his lack of coordination as he ran and threw a snowball, or the perfect combination of her tilting her head back down to look at him right as he threw it, but whatever it was, Robin's solid snowball missed its intended target, hitting Regina smack dab in her nose.

She screams, hands flying up to cover her nose as she drops to her knees. She heard the crunch of her bone as soon as it hit her face, but she just prays it's not a break like she's imagining. Christmas is coming soon, and she'll die if she's bruised or has a crooked nose for Christmas photos.

"Regina!" Tink yells, holding up her hands to signal to the guys that the game is on hold, and runs toward her friend.

She squeezes her eyes tightly, trying to contain the tears that have sprung to her eyes from the pain. Opening her eyes again, she can see droplets of blood dripping into the snow beneath her.

Fuck.

{***************************}

Robin's eyes go wide when he sees Regina sink to the ground, clutching her nose. When he gets closer, he sees blood in the snow, and bloody fucking hell, he really did a number on her face. What a wanker.

"Regina," he pants, dropping to the snow next to Tink. "I'm so, so sorry. Are you okay?"

She nods, and he tries to lighten the mood, saying, "I'm usually an excellent snowball thrower and never miss my mark. I guess I was a little off my game today."

She giggles, despite herself, and rolls her eyes at him. She winces with the movement, pouting as she dejectedly lets the three of them know, "I think I broke my nose."

Oh, shit.

"Let me drive you to the hospital," he suggests quickly, standing and reaching for her hand. She nods, waving off Tink as the blonde girl says she can take her. "Please," Robin says, holding a hand to his heart, "this is my fault; let me make amends. It's the least I can do."

Regina tells her friend that it's okay. Tink nods, telling Robin that John has her number, so he can text John when they get to the hospital.

"I'll call you later, Tink," Regina promises, pressing her hand back to her nose. The girl nods, giving Regina a hug, before walking over to John.

Robin wraps his arm around her shoulder, not sure if he should or is even allowed, but when he mumbles an, "Is this okay?" and she nods, he keeps it there, guiding her toward his car.

The drive to the hospital is quiet, mainly just Robin apologizing and Regina breathing deeply while she holds napkins they'd picked up at a candy apple stand on the way out of the market to her nose.

She gets herself checked in, filling out all the necessary paperwork and insurance information, and then they're finally called back to see a doctor after about an hour.

He curses this country's health care system. Even though an hour isn't quite as long a time as she'd have to wait in other places, he still hates it. The woman is sitting here, bleeding, and no one seems concerned. Preposterous.

"Do you want me to go with you?" he asks sheepishly, completely unsure of how to handle this.

She nods, giving him a small smile and a whispered, Please.

The doctor, a young man with bleached blonde hair and icy blue eyes, comes in, performing his examination. He asks them how the accident happened, and Regina recounts the snowball fight. "Ah, the famous annual Snowball Pallooza!" the doctor laughs, plopping down onto the stool in front of her with a jolly shake of his shoulders. "I was sad to miss it this year."

Robin's brows scrunch as he looks to the doctor as if he's just grown six heads. The doctor obviously sees his face, along with Regina's unamused death glare she's giving him, and he clears his throat, sitting up a bit straighter. "Well," he stumbles, "We'll need to check the bones around your nose, making sure nothing else has been affected, but," he leans in, shining a light to the now clean nose, "it doesn't appear to be that bad of an injury."

Regina nods, doing all the doctor asks as he examines her face, answering questions about what she felt when the ball of snow hit her.

He feels guilty, sitting in the chair across from her, listening as she talks about hearing a crunch sound when it hit her face. Bloody hell, he didn't mean to hit her that hard, didn't even think he threw it with much force. He was trying to flirt with her, not mame her.

After the doctor checks her over some more, he announces, "Well, it's definitely broken."

Regina deflates at the news, even though she'd known it was. He supposes hearing a doctor confirm it just really sucks, though.

Dr. Whale finishes wrapping her nose, and Robin cringes each time he sees her wince in pain. The nurse comes in, checking the bandages and telling her she'll go print out a prescription for painkillers.

While waiting, Regina's eyes trail along the walls, looking at the random posters plastered to them. She sighs, looking back to Robin awkwardly. "So…"

He smiles, just one side of his mouth turning up. He feels guilty, and isn't exactly sure what to say. He just met the girl, for God's sake, and then broke her nose all in the same evening.

Seeing as humor is his go to way to defuse tension, all he can say is, "I'm not sure who the loser is in this situation, but I do believe one of us will be buying drinks for everyone tonight."

She laughs, cringing and reaching up to her bandaged nose. She rolls her eyes in his direction, groaning for him not to make her laugh. She's smiling as she says it though, and he can tell she's thankful for the distraction. "I think it's me," she finally groans, chuckling the best she can.

They sit in silence for a few beats, before she admits, "My mother is going to murder me."

His head tilts to the side as he gives her a questioning look, "Why?"

Scoffing, she twists on the little hospital table she's perched on, pulling one leg up to sit on. "I'll look horrendous in our Christmas family photographs next week."

Robin shakes his head, informing her, "I don't think it's possible for you to look horrendous."

Her eyes go soft, matching the look he knows he's giving her as their eyes meet. "You're stunning, in every way. You'll be the most beautiful one in the photos, no matter what your nose looks like."

She smiles, thanking him. She goes to say something else, but they're interrupted by the nuse coming back with a bag of pills, gauze, and instructions on how to take care of her nose. She lets Regina know that her nose will probably swell by tomorrow, but it will go back down. "There will also be some bruising but we honestly won't know how much."

Regina nods as the older woman instructs her on how and when to take the medicine, saying it will help with the swelling, too.

She stands, thanking the nurse as she makes her exit. Robin hands Regina her purse that he's been holding, then takes her hand, looking into her eyes with a serious expression. "Truly, I am very, deeply sorry."

He tells her that he feels terrible, but she promises, "It's okay. It was just an accident."

She tugs on his hand, signaling for them to leave the exam room. He notices she doesn't let go of his hand, and he smiles. "And besides," she adds after a moment, "it might be fun to see my mom all in a tizzy over my nose for the pictures."

He laughs, chortling even harder when she confesses that she's been thinking it might be fun to not tell her mother until she shows up at their house next week.

They make their way out of the hospital, Robin walking her to the passenger side of his car. He stops, turning before opening the door for her. The hospital is illuminated with white Christmas lights, and that snow from earlier is still falling against their skin.

He reaches up, tightening her scarf around her neck, and she grins, head ducking to the side before righting it again. She inhales deeply, exhaling slowly as she looks into his blue eyes.

God, he wants to kiss her. Knows that's a crazy thought, they've only just met, but he can't help it. With the Christmas melodies playing from the hospital's outside speakers, to the snow, the lights… it all just seems like the perfect set up. But he won't. He can't.

Restraining himself, however, he lets his teeth sink into his bottom lip. Releasing it, he asks, "Would you, uh, maybe like to skip the bar tonight and have dinner with me instead?"

She beams, her grip on his hand tightening as she agrees. "I was hoping you'd ask."

His smile matches her, both of them able to light the entire city without electricity at this point. With a satisfied nod, he reaches around her, opening the car door with a polite, "M'lady."

She giggles, and the sound of it lights his heart on fire. He walks around to his side, sliding into the driver's seat and texting John to let him know that they were going to dinner instead of meeting him and Tink at the bar.

John replies back with a, Atta boy. Tink and I were hoping this would happen!

Robin snorts, shaking his head as he sends another quick reply with an emoji rolling its eyes.

He starts the car, letting the heat warm their skin. Robin tells Regina they can go by the store to pick up the medicine that the hospital didn't have in house for her, and she nods, thanking him.

She buckles herself in, then unwraps the thick scarf from around her neck. She places it in her lap, sighing as she moves an air vent to blow more directly on her.

Regina rests her head against the headrest as he pulls out of the parking lot. Reaching over, she takes his hand back in hers, and he smiles. He likes that she enjoys holding hands so much already. It's a feeling he could definitely get used to.

"You know," she says with a smirk as they come to a red light. "If you wanted to ask me out, you didn't have to break my nose to do it."

A bark of laughter leaves him, and he squeezes her hand, revealing, "I've never been very good at flirting."

She grins, a little giggle coming from her once again. With a shake of her head, she points toward the green light, telling him to, Just drive, and all the way to the pharmacy, all he can think of is how much he hopes this night changes the course of his life.

{*****************************}

"We're going to be late, Robin!" Regina huffs, throwing another pair of jeans into her suitcase.

She looks toward her boyfriend, rolling her eyes when she sees he's on his phone, probably playing that word game they're both addicted to.

He looks up, smirking. "I'm already packed," he juts his chin toward the little forest green suitcase that's sitting at the entrance of her bedroom door. "Just waiting on you."

She huffs again, letting out an annoyed groan. She's not annoyed with him, she's more annoyed that she waited until the last minute to pack. "If you hadn't come over last night, I could've done this sooner."

Chuckling, Robin clicks his phone shut, standing to wrap his arms around her waist. "Relax, my love," he leans in, kissing the top of her head. "It's going to be fine."

"You kept me up all night," she glares, but it soon melts into a flirty smile as she stands on her tiptoes, bussing a kiss to his lips. He'd come over last night, the excuse being he could help her pack. But packing quickly turned into making out on the couch, hands roaming and multiple orgasms before the night was through. Suffice to say, she did not pack as much as she'd hoped to.

Robin chuckles into the embrace, pulling back to give her a saucy, "What can I say? I wanted one more good night with my girlfriend before the madness of Cora Mills took over."

She shakes her head, knowing he's right. They've been together for a year now, ever since he broke her nose at the town's snowball fight, but this is the first time he's coming home with her. He's met her family, her parents have come to visit a few times over the last year, but this is different. This is going home.

Sighing, she untangles her arms from around his neck. She walks over to her closet, grabbing a few more shirts.

"How many outfits are you planning to wear each day?"

She rolls her eyes with a smirk, coming out to glare at him again. She explains that she has the outfits she'd pre-planned for the other day, those were already packed, and now she was packing extra outfits, "Just in case I change my mind."

"Oh," he chuckles, sitting back down on the edge of her bed. "Okay…"

She blows out a scoffed laugh, rolling her eyes once again at him. He's so cute, she can't help but find everything he does or says so adorable (for the most part. He'd once taken Tink's side in an argument where they both claimed she had a touch of OCD in her. All she'd done was ask him to remake the bed properly one morning, but Tink had made a comment about it over breakfast, and Robin agreed with a smirk. In that moment, he hadn't been so cute.)

"Okay," she exhales, her eyes roaming around her bedroom, "I think I'm ready."

She closes her suitcase and sets it next to her other bag, turning to look at Robin. He smirks as he eyes the two bags, making a comment about her toiletry bag and shoe bag as well. "Oh! My toiletry bag is still on my bathroom counter. Can you grab it while I get my shoes from the closet?"

Chuckling, he walks toward her bathroom, coming out with the large bag full of her makeup, shampoo, and other beauty products she'll want over the next week.

"Why don't we walk down to the Merry Marketplace before we leave town, hm?" he suggests, placing her bag with her others. "We can go get some apple cider for the road and those apple cider donuts Granny's started selling this year."

She moans at the mention of the sweet treats, knowing she shouldn't have eaten as many as she already has this holiday season. But as soon as Granny's introduced them at the start of the month, she couldn't help it. She and Robin had gotten some for breakfast every weekend, and some weekdays, too. They were dangerously delicious.

"Do we have time?" she asks worriedly, glancing at her cell phone. "Mother wants us there by dinner time, and there might be traffic, and–"

He cuts her off, wrapping his arms around her waist before she can pace a hole into the floor. "–and we will be there on time. It's only nine AM, my love."

She closes her eyes, letting his voice soothe her worries. She's nervous for this weekend; her mother seems to like Robin well enough, not enough to sing his praises, more often blaming him for why she's still stuck in Storybrooke, but, admittedly, more than she's ever liked any other boyfriend. But Regina knows Robin is it for her, he's her forever, and going home for the holiday is a big deal for her. They'd spent Thanksgiving with his parents, his dad joking the whole time that they shouldn't even celebrate the American holiday but When in Rome…

"The fresh air and the cider might calm your nerves," he suggests, pressing a peck to the tip of her nose.

She nods, grabbing her jacket off of her mattress.

He takes his bag and two of hers, while she grabs the rest, making their way to load the car before they walk to the market.

The pair make their way downtown, Regina glad that her and Tink's apartment is only a five minute walk from it.

They stop at the apple cider stand, Robin purchasing two plastic cups of the delicious goodness for them to sip on now.

Regina glances over the assortment of apple goodies Granny is selling, picking up a half dozen container of the donuts, and she smiles when Robin picks up an apple pie, saying they can take it to her parents' house.

He's so sweet, and thoughtful, and it's just one more thing she loves about this man.

They thank Granny, then Regina loops the bag of goodies around her arm, allowing her to hold her drink and also Robin's hand with her other.

Walking hand in hand, they go to the next booth, scoping out the ornaments. She picks up one in the shape of a horse wearing a Santa hat, saying her dad would love it.

After paying for the last minute gift, Robin drags her over to the entrance of the Snowball Pallooza. "The snowball fight is tonight," he tells her, reading the sign with the times listed.

She rolls her eyes, saying that's the last place she needs to be. Regina reaches up, rubbing at her healed nose, the memories of that day last year still making her fear when anything gets too close to her face. "Especially with you around," she jokes, poking him in the side.

Robin shakes his head, his eyes rolling in mock-hurt as he grabs at his heart. "You wound me, M'lady," he says.

She giggles, but Regina knows he still feels bad about that day. She catches him from time to time, when he thinks she's asleep, tracing his finger tip along the bridge of her nose. He's apologized more times than necessary, and now it's become a joke among the two of them plus John and Tink.

Leaning in, she presses a kiss to his lips, pulling away before she can deepen it in the way she wants to.

Breaking apart, he smiles at her, his deep dimples making her knees go weak like they always do.

Robin turns and looks up at the giant Christmas tree in the center of Storybrooke's downtown. He sips on his cider, then sets it, along with the bag the treats are in, down on the wooden bench beside them.

His eyes find hers again, and he takes her cider from her hands, setting it down as well. "You seem extra nervous for this trip, my love" he murmurs, taking her hands in his.

She sighs, admitting that she is. Cora has been worse lately, knowing that Regina's graduation date is coming up in a few months. "She's been hounding me about moving back home after I graduate in May," she tells him, even though he already knows.

He's been around more than once when Cora started berating Regina's life choices, pleading with her to come home and make something of herself in a real city. "She's just getting worse and worse the closer to May we get."

Robin gives her a sympathetic look, knowing Cora partially blames him for keeping Regina in Storybrooke. He'd graduated five months after they started dating and luckily found a job with the Storybrooke Wildlife Conservation. He loved it and loved that he was able to stay in town while Regina finished school. It had been a fear of theirs the closer he got to his graduation date and was applying for jobs.

"She just keeps saying that she doesn't understand why I'm 'wasting away in that town just because that boy works there'." Regina rolls her eyes after imitating her mother's voice. "It's like my happiness isn't enough for her or something."

Robin smiles small, taking her hand in his. The air around them seems to shift, and she's not sure why. She looks closely at his eyes, they're always so telling, and he seems… nervous.

But why? She's confused and it must read on her face, because he chuckles out on an exhale.

"Let's show her just how happy you are," he says with an easy shrug.

Her brows pinch together and her head tilts. "What are you saying…?"

Without warning, Robin drops to one knee, giving the hand he still holds a loving squeeze. "Oh my god," she breathes, tears filling her eyes.

"I'm saying I've wanted to marry you since the day I broke your nose right over there," his head tilts to the left, signaling over to the wooden archway covered in garland and multi-colored Christmas ornaments marking off the entrance of the Snowball Palooza area they've been standing in front of. She giggles breathily, the fog from the cool air puffing out from her, and he beams, taking her other hand in his as well, swinging them between their bodies. "You make me so happy every day, more than I ever thought anyone could."

He sniffles, and she bites her lip, trying to quell the trembling. He lets her right hand go, reaching into his pocket. He pulls out a black, velvet box and pops it open, revealing a beautiful, sterling silver ring. It's adorned with a large diamond in the middle, surrounded by a halo of smaller ones, and the way the morning sun shines on it is perfect and picturesque, and in the midst of her mind internally freaking out, she has the thought, I wish Tink was here to capture this moment on camera!

Robin smiles up at her, lifting the box higher. "Regina, you are my future, my everything." Their smiles rival the sun as they beam at one another. He soothes his thumb over her bare ring finger, saying softly, with a voice that makes her insides turn to goo, "Will you marry me?"

Those tears she's been holding back slip onto her cheeks now as she cries an elated, "Yes! Of course I will!"

She drops to her knees, wrapping her hands around his cheeks and pressing her lips to his. He deepens the kiss, pouring all his love for her into it, before they break apart. She loves this man, her soulmate; their romance may be considered quick to some people, only a year together thus far, but she doesn't consider it any less epic–who else falls for the man that broke your nose?–yet here she is, getting engaged to the man of her dreams. He removes the ring from the box, and oh, right, shit, he hasn't even put it on her finger yet.

She giggles as he slips it onto her finger. It's a perfect fit, just like them.

She wipes the tears away, taking his hand he has offered out as they both stand. Regina dusts the snow off the kneecaps of her pants, and while she's down there, she quickly swipes one of the premade snowballs the fighting area has stacked up outside their entrance and tosses it at his shoulder.

His mouth falls agape, and he holds up his hands in surrender, chuckling, "This is an unfair advantage! I'm not allowed to throw snowballs at you ever again."

She bursts into laughter, remembering their first date, the night they met.

"You know," she says, cuddling into his arm he has wrapped around her shoulders in their booth. "If this thing works out between us," she waves her hand between their chests, "you're banned from ever throwing a snowball at me again. Ever."

He chortles, taking a sip of his beer. "I think that's only fair."

Regina giggles, nodding as she sips her water, informing him that he owes her a real drink once she's not on pain meds anymore.

"I owe you a drink, for sure," he says, leaning in to peck her cheek, careful not to bump her bandages or bruising skin.

She turns to look at him, stunned momentarily of his boldness when he's seemed so shy all night, but, she thinks, he can already tell this is going somewhere, just like she can. He's different, there's an odd familiarity between them, a comfort she's never felt with any guy in her life before.

This one is the real deal, and she makes a mental note to climb into Tink's bed in the morning and gush about the handsome British man for hours on end.

"Well," she sasses, "payback's a bitch, remember?."

He laughs, taking her hand in his. His thumb grazes over her engagement ring, and it hits her then. They are getting married.

She squeals, wrapping her arms around his neck and hopping up, wrapping her legs around his waist. It's out of character for her to show this kind of excitement or affection in public, but she doesn't care. She's engaged to Robin Locksley, the love of her life.

Pressing her lips to his, her tongue slips into her mouth, pulling a moan from the back of his throat. His hands cup her rear, hoisting her closer to his body. They stay there, making out like the giddy school kids they feel like they are until her phone rings.

"Shit," she gasps, pulling back. She pecks his lips once more before reaching out to grab it out of her back pocket. "It's my mom…"

Robin sets her down gently, picking up the treat bag and ciders as she assures Cora they are on the way. "Yes, mother," she grits out, pretending to sound pleasant, "We're already in the car." She grins over at her fiance with a wink, beaming when the word runs through her head.

Hanging up the phone, she takes her now cold cider back from him, smiling and thanking him. She tells Robin they need to call John and Tink to let them know their good news. "Oh, they already know," he laughs, telling her he'd had Tink help him pick out the perfect ring, and John knew he was going to propose since the day they met.

The big guy and her best friend had started dating a few months ago, so she knew if she just called Tink, John would be there to hear the news anyway. Deciding to send her a text, letting the blonde know they'd call them from the road and tell her the whole story, Regina puts her phone away.

She looks down at her shiny new ring, smiling brightly as she watches it glimmer in the sunlight. Her eyes then trail over to Robin's and she thinks how this Christmas has been much better already. "This trip to the Snowball Palooza ended much better," she laughs, swatting at his bicep. "Better than a broken nose and a trip to the hospital!"

He laughs, shaking his head as they near his car. "Hey," he defends playfully, "that broken nose turned out to be the best thing to happen to you."

"How so?" she scoffs, sliding into the passenger side of his car.

Robin opens the back door, setting the pie down on the floorboard. "Because," he shuts the door, jogging to the driver's side and getting in. "You got me out of it."

She snorts loudly, a bark of laughter coming from her, but she can't help but to agree.

"Hey," she says more seriously, taking his hand in hers. He intertwines their fingers as he pulls out of the parking lot, and she brings them toward her mouth, pressing a kiss to his knuckles. "I love you."

Smiling over at her before focusing back on the road, he vows, "I love you too, Regina."

"We're getting married, baby," she gushes, pulling out her phone. She pulls up her Pinterest app, telling him she's going to start looking up ideas and dresses.

Laughing, all he can do is shake his head at her excitement. At each red light, he leans over, glancing at her phone and giving opinions on color schemes and flowers, though knowing him, she knows he won't care as long as he gets to marry her. He's a sap like that, but he's her sap, and she loves him for it.

As he drives onto the highway, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree playing on the radio, she squeezes his hand that she hasn't let go of, musing in her mind the whole way to New York how she never thought she'd have this kind of happiness in her life. But she does, and it doesn't matter what she gets for Christmas this year, because Robin has already given her the best present imaginable: His love.

{*****************************}

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