Work Header

In the Most Peculiar Ways

Chapter Text

What Are The Odds?

The bell above the door jingles, alerting Regina Mills to a new customer. "Just pick a table," she calls, wiping down the counter, "I'll be with you in a second."

"Oh," she hears a deep accent reply, a British lilt to his voice when he claims, "I actually don't need a table." He slides onto the bar stool directly in front of her, causing Regina to finally look up from that damn spot she'd been trying in vain to scrub off the linoleum countertop. As popular of a diner as this is, you'd think Eugenia could put some cash into updating the decor, but alas…

Her brown eyes scan up, a smile edging onto her lips. But as she catches the gaze of the man in front of her, her stomach flips over itself, and she can feel her eyes widen slightly before she rights herself. Well, damn. He's handsome, and those eyes… and oh, fuck, he's smirking at her. Clearly she's been caught by this handsome stranger.

She chuckles a bit, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Sorry," she stammers, "Were you waiting on someone, or…" she trails off, waving her hand in the direction of the rest of the patrons.

Silverware clanks against porcelain plates, a distant sound to her now that she's learned to drown out the humdrum dissonance of the restaurant. The stranger smiles, a single dimple popping out on his left cheek. Regina tilts her head to the side, trailing her eyes from the dimple to his dark blue eyes, thinking she could get lost in those if he'd let her. "I'm actually waiting for my girlfriend to get off work," he claims, the smile on her face falling.


"Oh," she says politely, picking up that dish towel again and continuing her attempt to clean the decades old counter. There's a chip in it just two seats down from where she stands, all thanks to Leroy and his slew of children he brings in every Saturday morning, clambering onto bar stools and dropping silverware and plates with no care in the world. She rolls her eyes at the memory, thinking back to how one of his little sidekicks had steadied himself on his knees, lifting a knife into the air and dropping it onto the counter, sharp end down, before Leroy even noticed, chipping away at the diner's surface just for fun.

The handsome stranger clears his throat, bringing her back from her memories. "Sorry," she laughs, turning around to toss the towel into a bin.

"What did that chip ever do to you, anyway?" he asks, a small chuckle falling from his lips.

Turning back around, she grins, shrugging and telling him of the gaggle of hellians that come in each Saturday. "Ah, yes," he snickers, "Belle's told me about them plenty of times."

Ah, so he's Belle's boyfriend. Makes sense.

She breathes out a laugh, nodding. "I can go get her if you need me to."

Before he can respond, Belle comes bouncing out from the kitchen, a tray of food in her hands. "Seems that won't be necessary," he smiles, watching as his girlfriend delivers food to her table.

The auburn haired beauty spins on her heel then, making eye contact with the pair. "Ryan!" she squeals, making her way over to them.

Belle makes the introductions, Regina sheepishly shaking his hand as she tries not to turn red at the way she'd checked him out earlier.

"What are you doing here, babe?" Belle asks, looping her arm over Ryan's shoulder. She nuzzles into his cheek, kissing it before pulling back, and Regina fights the urge to not roll her eyes. People who display their affection in public can be so annoying sometimes, especially when it's accompanied by a high pitched giggle that Belle is letting float through the air.

Ryan smiles up at his girlfriend as if he can see nothing and no one else besides her, and okay, Regina can admit that they're kind of cute together. She's happy for Belle after the awful relationship she'd just gotten out of last year. She'd been dating a guy much older than her ever since Regina met her six years ago, but she never truly seemed happy. Regina was shocked when Belle came over one night, crying and saying she'd finally left Gaston... she couldn't take his self-centered ways any longer.

"I just came to drop off this," he says, handing Belle her cellphone. "You rushed out so quickly this morning that you forgot it."

The younger girl giggles again, taking the phone from him with a breathy, "Oops," falling from her lips. She thanks her boyfriend, pressing her lips to his. The smooch lasts longer than Regina thinks is necessary, so she turns away, busying herself with making coffee for the old man at the end of the bar. "Here you go, Marco," she says, sliding his new mug over to him.

"Ah, grazie, mi amor," he drawls in his most Italian accent he can muster. Silly old man, always in here each morning, spending hours upon hours perched on his stool. He sips on his coffee, eventually orders some breakfast, has another cup (or two) of the joe before settling in with a piece of apple pie just before the lunch crowd starts piling in.

Regina smiles, knowing he comes every day just to catch a glimpse of Eugenia, Granny to all of them, their diner's namesake. They're adorable; they flirt with each other, but Granny swears up and down that she's too old for another love, to which Regina always just rolls her eyes, informing the old woman that she's never too old for that.

Swatting her notepad at the old man's hand, she chuckles, walking back to check on another customer at the bar. She watches as Belle walks Ryan to the door, pecking his cheek once more before their hands linger, linked together as they slowly break apart while Ryan walks backwards through the door.

They're ridiculous, but… cute.

Belle floats back to the bar, plopping down onto the stool previously occupied by her boyfriend and lets out a sigh. She leans her elbows onto the counter, her cheek coming to rest in the palm of one as she looks up to Regina in a lovesick daze. "I miss him already," she whines, head dropping to the counter top dramatically.

Scoffing, Regina rolls her eyes, trying not to smirk. "He just left," she deadpans, swatting at Belle's head. "And you have customers, go work."

Belle sits up, looking over her shoulder at the four occupied booths, then back to Regina. She shrugs, saying they all have their food and she'll check on them in a minute. "I need to rest my feet."

"You've only been here for four hours," she claims, shaking her head. "You know, since you overslept and missed the first hour of work, conveniently missing the busiest part of our morning rush."

Her eyebrows lift, mouth falling agape at Regina's words as if she's going to defend herself. Before she can, though, her shoulders drop, and she lets out a defeated, yet not too incredibly guilty, Sorry. She gives Regina a wink, hopping down from the bar stool and going over to her tables, checking on each one.

Chuckling under her breath, Regina goes to the far end of the bar, scooping out a piece of the apple pie. She walks it over to the microwave, popping it in for a few seconds, before delivering it over to Marco.

She makes her way to the register, cashing out the husband and wife that have been there for the past hour. Smiling, she thanks them for their business as they exit the diner.

"What did you think of Ryan?" Belle asks, slinking back over to the bar with a grin on her face.

"I think he's going to be the reason Granny fires both of us if you don't stop talking about him."

Waving her off, Belle makes a pshh sound, looking around. "She's in the back, and hardly anyone is in here right now."

Regina looks around, noting two of Belle's tables have left, leaving only one booth currently occupied in the whole diner, along with Marco on his stool, and a mother with her son at one of the tables in the middle.

The breakfast rush is through, and now it's the down time she craves after a busy morning each day. It's just now nearing 11:00, so she knows they have about an hour before the lunch crowd comes bustling through, demanding quick service from a place they know only has two cooks, three waitresses, and Granny. Regina sighs, leaning her hip against the counter as Belle sits down again on a barstool, looking at her expectantly.

"He was nice," she shrugs, busying herself again wiping down the counters. "... Cute, even." She glances up, a smirk on her face, one that grows when she sees Belle's eyes light up.

"Isn't he, though?!"

Regina chuckles, nodding her agreement. "Yeah, he doesn't have a twin, does he?" she snickers at her own joke, slinging the dish towel over her shoulder.

"He does, actually!" Belle exclaims, perking up on her seat.

Fuck, what?

"Oh my gosh!" The girl gushes, "I need to tell Ryan to bring him in. You two would be so cute together! Oh my, oh my gosh, yes, this is… this is perfect!"

"Breathe, Belle," Regina laughs, shaking her head. "He probably wouldn't be attracted to me anyway."

Belle's head tips to the side as she questions her friend, "What? Of course he would… look at you!"

Rolling her eyes, Regina turns away, tending to Marco and making sure he has enough coffee still.

As the day goes on, however, Regina can't help but to daydream and wonder what this twin brother is like. She clearly knows what he looks like, but… no, she can't let herself get too carried away. She has a job to do, bills to pay, a son to take care of at home… he'd never be interested in all of that.


A week later, the door jingles, just like it does every day, over and over and over again. She's learned to just about tune it out, can hear it in her ears even when she's not at work, and she swears it haunts her dreams from time to time.

Today, however, when she looks up, about to tell the new patron to pick a booth, she stops, smiling at the man. "Hey, Ryan," she greets.

She pats Granny on the hip, letting her know she's behind her, and scooches past where the older woman is leaned against the countertop, talking with Marco as she refills his coffee.

Regina grins knowingly, winking at Marco when he catches her eye before looking back to Granny.

She walks to the other end of the bar, sliding a napkin in front of Ryan and placing a mug down. She begins pouring his coffee that he's come to get almost every morning since they met last week, and she tells him, "I'll go get Belle, hang on."

He chuckles, tapping a rhythm on the old counter. "That won't be necessary."

Catching his eye, she notices there's a sparkle there that she's never noticed before. And his eyes are… well, about two shades lighter than they've ever been before. Her eyes scan over his face quickly, noting the lighter color to his hair as well. His eyes are soft, almost welcoming, and she finds herself drawn to them as if she could gaze into them forever.

Oh, shit… Regina's breath catches in her throat realizing that this isn't Ryan at all. Damn, the twin is even more handsome than she'd imagined.

"You must be Ryan's twin," she says on the tail end of a breathless chuckle.

He smiles, his dimples on full display. He has two of them, she notices, whereas Ryan only has the one… another delightful difference between the brothers. "What gave me away?" He smirks, extending his hand out to shake hers. "Robin Locksley, at your service."

Giggling, she shakes his hand. It's firm, and strong, he must work with his hands. Biting down on her bottom lip, Regina tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, asking if he wants anything to eat.

He nods, saying, "Yeah, I'll have something small. I already ate once this morning," he laughs, "but my brother told me this was a great place for breakfast, so I figured I'd give it a try."

She smiles, then subtly tries to glance a the clock on the wall as she nods and walks toward the bakery display case and grabs an apple cinnamon muffin to bring him.

9:30… kind of late for someone to be coming in for breakfast that isn't a retiree or someone who is unemployed. Now she's curious what this guy does. Ryan is in a band, apparently, so his schedule is more laid back, ya know?, but for some reason, this brother doesn't seem that type. He looks nice. He's in dark jeans and a green button up… casual, but professional. Handsome…

Her gaze at the clock must give her away because as she makes her way back to him with his food, he chuckles, a deep sort of thing that makes her toes tingle and a smile grow on her lips. "You're probably wondering what a poor sod like me is doing in here at this hour," he laughs, shifting on the stool, looking over his shoulder at the other customers.

It's a Wednesday morning, and only the regulars are here at this time. Marco at the end of the bar, of course, still talking with Granny, and the booth in the back is occupied by Astrid and her sisters from the convent. They come in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for tea and scones, sitting there while they conduct a little bible study. They're sweet, really, and don't bother anyone, so Granny lets them stay as long as they need.

She flicks her eyes to the front of the diner, smiling when she sees Archie at the table by the window. He's reading a book, probably one of his psychology ones, his umbrella propped against the side of the table. He's a nice man, a tad older than Regina, but he's genuine, and someone she's come to enjoy the company of. He's a therapist, owns his own office a few blocks from here, and often shows her and Belle pictures of his dog, Pongo, on his phone.

"Not many people this time of day, it seems."

She snorts, shaking her head. "At 9:30 in the morning? No. Just wait until almost noon, that's when the real fun begins."

He smirks, and damn it, he needs to not do that. Those dimples are like little weapons right there on his face, weakening her with each passing glance.

He takes out his phone from his back pocket, placing it on the counter next to his mug. "I'm sure my brother has come in at all points in the day with his musician schedule." She hints a bit of disapproval in his voice, and she tries her best not to laugh. She likes this guy already, she muses.

Shrugging, not wanting to pry too much, she simply raises a brow, offering a, "I take it you're not a musician then like Ryan."

"God, no," he chortles, slapping his hand to the countertop. "I could never."

She laughs then, too, asking him why not.

"My brother got all the musical talent in the family, I'm afraid," he admits, a pink color tingeing his cheeks as he chews a bite of the muffin. "I've always been rather shit at any instrument I picked up."

Smiling, she asks him, "What are you good at then? Has to be something."

"Archery," he grins proudly, clicking the screen of his phone. He scrolls through, then turns the phone in her direction.

Settling her hip against the bar, she peers at the screen. It's a picture of him, a bearded, burly man, and a little boy with brown curly hair. They're standing in the middle of a clearing in the woods with two arrows planted firmly near a bullseye. "Impressive," she says, looking back to him.

Their eyes lock, a moment of silent adoration passing between them both before he smiles, clearing his throat and explaining that he and his best mate, John, the man in the picture, run a sporting good store together. "We started about ten years ago, but it's just now gaining momentum."

She nods, trying to do the math. Belle is only twenty-four, so she'd assumed Ryan was around the same age. If Robin started his business ten years ago, then… "How old are you?" she inquires without thinking, probably a bit (a lot) more bluntly than she meant for it to come out.

Her cheeks flush, and she can feel the heat set in as Robin chuckles. He locks his phone, putting it back down beside his coffee. "I'm thirty-three," he replies, eyes glimpsing down to his mug before fluttering back up to meet her. "We started young on the place," he shrugs, "but after college, we didn't want to waste time working for someone else, so we went in together to build our dream."

She smiles at the way he says it. He seems to genuinely be proud of himself and what he's accomplished. It's a trait she's envious of… she's been stuck in this job ever since she got pregnant five years ago. She was working at her mother's advertisement company, Mills Marketing, trying to get a foot in the door, because Lord knows Cora Mills would never just hand her own daughter a job, even if Regina made it through college with straight A's and graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors… but no, mother still wanted her to start from the bottom like anyone else. Which would have been completely fine, if mother hadn't started her as an unpaid intern for her partner, Lachlan Gold. Hell, her (now former) best friend, Mal, who, as it turns out, wasn't even really her friend after all, even received a paid internship at Cora's business, as her mother's right hand woman. She's now working on her own campaigns and commercials, accomplishing things Regina always dreamed of.

It was humiliating, and Regina grew to hate a profession she'd always dreamt of working in. Thanks to her anger and agitation back then, she'd found herself rebelling against her mother's wishes, which in turn led her to date Graham Huntington–handsome guy, good job, but not motivated to go anywhere in his career or life. He was stuck in his ways, and when she got pregnant, her and their child clearly didn't fit with his plans for the future.

Her mother disowned her for getting pregnant out of wedlock, fired her, and Regina had to learn to fend for herself for the first time in her entire life. She stumbled into Granny's late one afternoon, after leaving another failed job interview. She'd gone on countless interviews, but not having her mother or Gold as a reference made acquiring a job extremely difficult. Cora Mills was powerful, too powerful clearly, because no one was willing to even give her a chance no matter how distinguished her college years had been. Nothing and no one could outweigh Mills Marketing and an internship with Lachlan Gold. It stung, it pissed her off, and she wasn't sure what else she would do in life if she couldn't find a company that would take her in.

It was raining that day, and having forgotten her umbrella, Regina ran into the closest diner, huffing as she sat down in a booth, miserable and wet.

"You should always carry an umbrella," a man said, handing Regina a pile of napkins. "You never know when it might start to rain."

"Yeah, thanks," she grumbled, rolling her eyes. She snatched the napkins from his hand, scoffing when he welcomed himself into her booth. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Well, I… I'm sitting in a diner," he said calmly, pushing his glasses up onto his face.

Unable to help herself, a smirk forced its way onto his lips, and she smiled, apologizing to the red headed man, thanking him for the napkins. She dried her face off, wringing out her hair as best as possible as an old woman made her way over with a fresh pot of coffee. "You look like you could use this," she crooned, pulling Regina's mug closer to her.

"Oh," she said, rubbing her belly and knowing she'd already had her daily allowance of caffeine while waiting for the job interview. They'd had free coffee, and, well, who was she to pass that up? "I can't have caffeine," she explained, smiling shyly at the woman as she placed her palm over the rim of the mug, sliding it back toward her.

The gray haired woman tilted her head down, sassing, "You think I wouldn't bring decaf to a pregnant lady, lady? I know how to take care of people. This isn't my first rodeo."

Regina looked from the gruff old woman to the napkin man, a look of skepticism on her face. "No, that's okay," she protested, knowing she didn't have enough money to spare for even a cup of coffee anyway. She'd just finished paying off her latest doctor's appointment, using up some of the last bit of her savings she had. She had to find something soon because rent was going to be due in a few weeks, along with bills, another ultrasound… it was all piling up in an overwhelming way that she'd never had to think about before in her life.

The old woman simply shook her head, her rough exterior seeming to melt as she gave her a knowing look, "This one's on me."

Regina closed her eyes, grateful for the kindness, then nodded, allowing the coffee to be poured. She inhaled the rich aroma as the steam warmed her face. Smiling up at the lady, she said sincerely, "Thank you…"

"Eugenia, but you can call me Granny," she responded, handing her a dish towel to dry off better with, "everybody does!"

Since that day, Regina has come into the diner every morning, without fail. Granny was the only person willing to give a single, pregnant, unemployed, and inexperienced woman like her a chance.

The people here–Granny, Belle, and Ruby, Granny's granddaughter that was currently traveling Europe with her boyfriend, August–have become her family, and along the way they've welcomed the regulars, Marco and Archie into their circle as well. The people here were the ones to host Henry's first birthday party, Granny making a cake twice the size needed just to make Henry (and Regina) smile when Cora cancelled at the last minute after a month of seeming like she was trying to make an effort with her daughter finally.

She loves it here, even if it's not what she ever pictured for her life. She could be doing so much more, be making so much more, but then, she thinks, her son wouldn't have these wonderful people surrounding him, and that was more than she could have ever asked for. It's an aspect of life she never had growing up in her house, surrounded by housekeepers, nannies and cooks. She only saw her mother when Cora hosted dinner parties or needed Regina around to seem like she was a family oriented woman. Her father had passed away when Regina was eight, leaving her to mourn alone and wonder why she couldn't have been in the car with him when it crashed. So it was good for Henry, despite not having a dad, to be loved by so many people. It was what Regina needed as well.

"That's great," she finally says, blinking rapidly as she comes out of her reverie. "Is your business closed today?"

Chuckling, Robin shakes his head. "No, no," he grins, taking a sip of coffee. "John opened today since I did it yesterday."

Must be nice, she muses. She has to get here by 7:00 every morning, and that includes dropping Henry off at daycare on her way over. Luckily for her, however, his day care is run by her best friend Mary Margaret. She and Mary met when Regina moved into her current building when she was pregnant. Mary and her husband, David, had seen her moving things in, one box at a time, slow as ever with her growing baby bump in the way. They'd immediately jumped in, introducing themselves and offering to help. She'd been beyond thankful, offering to cook dinner for them one night. She'd invited them over the next week once she and Belle spent a few days setting things up, but an hour before they arrived, she realized growing up with chefs, she'd never learned how to cook anything. She'd taught herself the basics in college–mac n' cheese, grilled cheese, spaghetti–but nothing too fancy, she mainly ate out during college or went home on the weekends and stocked up on the food her mother's chef had prepared.

Mary had come over twenty minutes before David got off work and was greeted by a teary eyed Regina. She was rubbing her bump, trying to calm herself down, as she admitted to Mary that she'd never really done this before. She showed her the pathetic red sauce and noodles she'd made, but then opened the oven door to reveal burnt garlic bread. She'd burst into tears at that, apologizing and saying she could order them chinese food.

Mary had simply smiled, rubbed Regina's back and taught her how to cook the garlic bread that night. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, and the Nolans had been a blessing since that night forward. David was a veterinarian, and Mary ran the daycare. She'd promised Regina later on in her pregnancy, when Regina was struggling to pay her doctor bills on top of everything else on her waitress salary, that Henry could attend the daycare for free. "As long as you promise to always be our friend and make us spaghetti," were Mary's terms and conditions, causing Regina, who was highly emotional during her pregnancy, to start crying, thanking the woman and saying she didn't know what she'd done to deserve a friend like her.

She never really had friends until her mother disowned her, so in a way, everything that happened was a blessing in disguise.

"That's nice that you two can switch off like that," she states, holding up a finger, signaling for Robin to wait to continue their conversation until she got back.

She takes his now empty plate and walks a few seats down, taking the order of a woman who has just come in. Smiling, she grabs a cup, filling it with the ordered water and handing her a mug of coffee as well. Regina scoots by Granny, running into the kitchen to drop off Robin's dirty dish and grab a fresh pie for the display case next to where Marco sits.

When she comes out, she sees a group of four college kids have come in, occupying one of Ruby's tables. "Belle!" she hollers, "table six."

Sighing, she hustles back to Robin, apologizing. "Ruby is out of the country for another two weeks, so Belle and I are having to split her section."

"Not a problem," Robin dismisses, smiling as he finishes his coffee. Noticing, Regina turns to grab the pot off the burner, filling his mug up once more. "But yes," he snickers, "It was nice of John to do that today. Doesn't happen often," he grins, "But it gave me a chance to come in late so I could spend the morning with my boy."

"You have a son?"

Nodding, Robin beams like any proud parent would do. He opens his phone again, showing her the picture from earlier. "That little guy is mine," he gushes. "Roland."

He's precious. All curly haired and big, brown eyes. Robin flips through a few more pictures, making Regina smile at each one. Her grin spreads even wider when she notes there doesn't appear to be a girlfriend in any of the pictures. Good.

He stops on one of Roland by the Christmas tree, footie pajamas with reindeer on them, hair messy from sleep with a big stuffed monkey tucked under his arm. "He's adorable!" she compliments with a beaming smile. "How old is he?"

"Thank you," Robin accepts, locking his phone again. "He just turned three back in October."

"Ah," she nods. "The oh so fun threes."

"Tell me about it," he laughs, shaking his head. "Just the other night, he threw himself on the floor, crying and screaming, because I put cheese on his taco… after he told me at least six times that he wanted cheese on his taco."

A bark of laughter emerges from Regina, her head flying back as she grips her stomach. "Oh, don't get me started," she snorts. "My son is almost five, and still acts like that sometimes. He hid under his bed last week because I wouldn't take him to the park… it was pouring down rain."

His shoulders shake with laughter as he regales her with other ridiculous stories of his son. "Kids are great, aren't they?"

She smiles, saying, "They really are. No matter how many little temper tantrums they may throw."

"Will they ever grow out of that?" he wonders, making her grin.

"They will," Marco responds from six seats down. She turns her head, giving him a bemused expression. Her eyebrows raise and one hand goes to her hip, silently asking him why he's being so nosy.

Marco's hand raises in surrender. "Don't look at me like that, young lady," he rasps, "you're the ones flirting so loudly I can hear you down here."

Eyes widening, Regina straightens her posture and stuffs her hands into her apron, ducking her head in embarrassment. Her cheeks flush, but she turns to look at Robin anyway. His eyes are on her, a sheepish expression on his face that she finds all too adorable. "Sorry about that," he murmurs, causing her to giggle. "Anyway," he says, clearing his throat. "I had just dropped Roland off after a lazy morning of cartoon and pancakes to his daycare, and thought I'd stop in to introduce myself. My brother and Belle have been talking about you all week."

Smiling, her teeth sink into her bottom lip, hoping Belle has only told him good things. She likes this guy, conversation has been so easy with him, and she wouldn't mind getting to know him outside of the diner… if he even wants that. He's a successful man, owns his own business, what would he want with a waitress like her?

"What daycare does he go to?" she asks, knowing there's only a few close by Granny's.

"Mary's Little Lambs... it's right around the corner."

Nodding, she smiles, "I know the place. It's where Henry goes, too."

"Huh," he puffs in wonderment, "Small world."

She snorts softly, smiling. "Wonder if we've ever crossed paths there before."

Robin shakes his head with a grin, "Oh, I doubt I'd ever forget seeing you."

She blushes, can feel the heat of it lick up from somewhere down below all the way to her cheeks.

They both smile at each other, their eyes lingering as if they're sharing an unspoken message. She can't quite decipher it, but she could stand here all day trying to depict the message if it meant she could look into those dreamy blue eyes.

They talk for a bit longer, Belle coming by to greet Robin with a kiss to his cheek. She spends a few moments with them, telling the pair about Ryan's gig he has this weekend and asking if either one of them will be there. They glance at each other awkwardly, both mumbling something about their sons and not having a babysitter.

Belle rolls her eyes with a smirk, shaking her head. "You two are just alike," she mumbles as she walks away to tend to another table.

Regina sighs, looking over the end of the bar toward Archie's table, asking if he needs anything. He assures her that he's fine and goes back to his book. She smiles knowingly, excusing herself for a minute from Robin. She walks to the other end of the bar, plating two blueberry scones, grabbing a fresh napkin to go along with them. She rounds the countertop, a breeze of air hitting her in the face. She forgets how much cooler it is out on the floor when she stands behind the counter for too long, the heat from the kitchen always keeping her area a few degrees warmer.

She makes her way to Archie's little nook, setting the plate down. He smiles gently over his glasses, pushing them up on his face as he thanks her, saying she always knows exactly what he needs even when he doesn't. She pats him on the shoulder, walking back to her spot behind the bar, catching Robin's eyes as she goes.

"Sorry about that," she says. "Gotta keep the customers happy."

He smiles, agreeing. He brings up Belle's invite again, saying he might go if John can watch Roland. "I like to support my brother whenever I can, you know?"

"That's nice," she says softly, refilling his coffee again. She motions to the display case at the other end of the bar, silently asking if he wants anything else. He shakes his head, rubbing his stomach to signal that he's full.

"You should come!" Belle interjects, hopping up on the barstool beside him.

They both laugh, Regina declining the offer. "Oh, come on, Regina," the younger girl begs. "Ask Mary to watch Henry!"

Rolling her eyes, she says she'll think about it. Belle bobs her head once in satisfaction, whipping out her phone to take a selfie with Robin. He seems thrown off at first, but chuckles when she snaps the picture, claiming she needed to document that he actually came in so Ryan would believe her.

She hops down from the stool, tightening the string on her apron as she goes to pick up the order from the window.

"I honestly assumed you and Ryan were her age when I met him…" she trails off, not wanting to sound rude at the assumption.

"Because he looks the way he does?" Robin chuckles, and she grins. She didn't want to say anything, but yes, in part. Ryan had on skinny black jeans with rips in them, a black v neck and a leather vest the last time she saw him. He was on his way to a gig, had piled some rings onto his fingers as well and messed his hair up a bit, and she tried not to laugh at the persona he was trying to give off.


Robin laughs, asking what he was wearing, and as she describes it, he snorts, shaking his head. "He really is ridiculous. I keep telling him to branch out and record his own stuff without those guys." He tells her that his twin actually hates dressing like that, much prefers jeans and henleys, but his band mates had out voted him, claiming the more edgy look would get them noticed. "So far that hasn't happened."

She gives him a sympathetic look, knowing all too well what it feels like to have someone else trying to control your career. "He should definitely try to go his own route. Trust me," she rolls her eyes, "life may not be as glamorous as it is now, but doing what makes you happy is always the better option."

Robins head tilts in curiosity, and he gives her a questioning gaze. She squirms under his attention, and she flicks her eyes to check on Marco. Looking out at the tables, hers still empty, she sighs, having no way out of this moment.

He must sense her hesitation, because he smiles, his mouth closing from where it was opening to ask a question. "So how does your son, Henry, yeah? Like Mary's Little Lambs?"

She nods, affirming that Henry is her son's name. "Oh, he loves it," she beams, pulling out her phone. She opens to her camera roll, clicking on a picture Mary had taken two weeks ago of Regina and Henry on the swing together. He was sitting in her lap, her arm wrapped around his belly protectively, as she moved the swing back and forth. Henry's peels of laughter made all the adults around smile, so Mary snapped the picture to remember that little smile forever.

"Well he's just a handsome lad, isn't he?"

Beaming, she nods. "He is."

"Takes after his mum then, I see."

The air grows thick between them as she tries to contain her flattered smile. "I mean, if I may be so bold," he amends, giving her a devilish grin that makes his dimples pop on his cheeks, "you are quite stunning," his gaze flickers down to her lips so briefly she would have missed it had she not been staring so intently into his eyes, "in every way."

Inhaling deeply, Regina narrows her eyes at him. "You're shameless."

Robin gives her a smug smirk and a lift to one shoulder, "Can you blame me?"

She rolls her eyes with a grin, trying to change the subject back to the picture he still holds in his hand. She points to her phone, saying, "Mary actually took that picture."

Regina explains that Mary and her husband live next door to her, so they often spend her days off together.

"Oh, you're David's neighbor!" he chuckles, looking off in wonder. "He and I go to the same gym. We're good friends."

Huh. Small world again. "How about that," she muses.

"You know, David's been telling me for months that I need to meet his next door neighbor. I think they were even trying to plan a sneak attack on us." She gives him a questioning look so he elaborated. "You know, invite you over for dinner the same night they happen to have me over but don't tell us ahead of time type thing."

"Oh," she laughs, twisting her ponytail around her finger before letting it drop over her left shoulder. "That sounds like them alright."

Robin chuckles, rolling his eyes playfully at the thought of their friends. "I know this may be forward, but… how would you like to get dinner sometime?"

Fuck. Dinner? She hasn't been on a date since over a year ago when she tried, and failed beyond belief, to date Jefferson. He was a nice guy, had come into Granny's a few times in between his shifts at the fire station. But he apparently didn't know she had a son, and when he found out, she could see an immediate change in his demeanor. After that, she had to end things after three dates and one very heated makeout session in a firetruck, knowing she could never be with someone who didn't automatically accept Henry.

Unfortunately, that was why every guy she ever went on a date with eventually disappeared. But she'd choose her little prince over any sleazy scumbag any day of the week. He is the most important person in Regina's life, and she wouldn't trade him for anything.

"Dinner?" Belle interrupts, bouncing on her feet as she appears behind Robin. "We could go on a double date!"

He glances over his shoulder, a smirk blossoming on his features as his eyes turn back toward Regina, giving her a… look. One that makes her want to laugh because it's conveying exactly how she feels about the idea.

"Uh, y-yeah," Regina stammers, nodding toward Belle. "Maybe…"

"Maybe not," Robin mutters under his breath as he goes to take a sip of his coffee.

Twisting her lips so as to stop the grin from showing, Regina coughs, turning to pick up the coffee pot. She slinks toward the bar again, filling Robin's mug as she shoots her eyes at him from under her lashes.

Belle, ever the lovestruck girl, just shrugs with a smile, flouncing away to tend to another booth.

Once she's gone, they both snicker, Regina shaking her head at his reaction. "You're terrible," she chuckles.

He raises one shoulder, matching the one side of his mouth that is tilted upward. "I was thinking perhaps dinner and a moonlit stroll… without my brother tagging along."

A blush creeps onto her cheeks, and she inhales deeply, a flutter of nerves skittering throughout her belly. "That… sounds lovely."

"Good." He smiles at her, those dimples making her heart hammer so deeply in her chest that she's surprised he can't see it beating. "Well," he says, checking his watch. "I've overstayed my welcome, and I think I've had more caffeine than should be legal in the state of Maine," he laughs, nodding toward the coffee cup. She realizes just how many times she'd filled it up by now and turns pink in the cheeks again as he adds, "and John might just have my head if I'm not there in the next twenty minutes."

She giggles, something she can't seem to quit doing this morning, and nods.

He stands, tucking his phone into his back pocket. Reaching out, he picks up his coffee cup, taking one last sip while raising his brows in her direction. Swallowing, he grins, saying, "It was lovely to finally meet you, Regina."

And damn it, if her name doesn't sound sexy as sin in that rich British accent of his… he is dangerous, and she's never wanted to be a rebel more in her life than right now.

He places a twenty on the counter, far too much for the muffin and coffee she'd delivered to him in the forty-five minutes he's been here. "Keep the change," he winks, looking around and giving Marco a friendly nod, then smiling at Granny as she comes out from the kitchen, settling against the counter in front of Marco. "And, uh," he starts, looking back toward her. She's wiping the counter where she'd just removed his cup from but looks up at him, her head tilting to the side when his words seem to catch in his throat. "I was wondering if I could get your number? That way I can skip the embarrassment of having to ask Ryan to ask Belle, or David to ask Mary because–"

"–Oh, god," she snorts, "Can you imagine the questions Mary will have when she finds out?"

He grins, and she smiles right back, picking up a napkin. She clicks the pen from her apron open, jotting down her number. "Text me. I'll have my phone on me, but I get off around five."

Robin glances at the number, folding it and tucking it into his pocket with, what she assumes is, a proud little smile on his face. "I will. Definitely."

She waves him goodbye, unable to contain the beaming smile as she turns from the door. Her face turns red, however, when she opens her eyes and sees Marco, Granny and Belle all staring at her with knowing looks upon their faces. Belle has made her way behind the bar with Granny, her hands on her waist.

Granny is still perched against the counter, leaning on an elbow as she looks at Regina over the rim of her glasses. And Marco, well, Marco still sits there, his belly bouncing as he chuckles and shakes his head.

"What?" she snaps, smile dropping from her lips. "Don't you two have any work to do?" She waves her hand in their direction, but the other women just share a look before laughing.

Regina rolls her eyes, huffing as she takes Robin's cash to the register, opening the drawer and entering the money.

Her head whips to the right when she hears Belle's voice, explaining to Marco that Robin is her boyfriend's twin.

"A twin, eh?" Marco questions, his brows lifting. He smirks as his head bobs to the side, adding, "I thought he looked like a cleaner version of that leather wearing one you've been bringing around."

"Marco!" all three women scoff and roll their eyes. Granny swats at his arm, telling him not to be rude as Belle shakes her head in amusement, and Regina playfully rolls her eyes again, both of them scattering throughout the diner.

"What?" Marco asks with a grin.

Regina walks over to Archie, making sure he's fine. She knows he'll wrap up his morning reading soon and leave before the lunch crowd comes in. She takes his empty plates, gliding back to the window to hand them in. And as she goes about the rest of her day, Regina can't help but silently wait for the moment her phone will buzz in her apron, alerting her to a text from an unknown number that can only belong to one Robin Locksley.

This isn't like her, things like this don't happen to Regina Mills of all people, not anymore. But as she grabs her notepad, taking the order of her first table of the lunchtime rush, she thinks that today, and this man, aren't so ordinary anyway.



Thanks for reading! This story has actually inspired a multi-chapter idea… kind of like an AU of this verse if that makes sense haha. I want to explore Regina's background and set some things up before she meets Robin (in a different way than she does in this one, so really just the diner and her background will be the same lol). Let me know if you'd be interested in reading that and what you thought of this little one! Thanks! :)