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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.

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

Hope you enjoyed! Please leave a review! :)

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.

Damn.

"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.

"Well…"

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.

END.

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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! :)

Chapter Text

Prompt: "My dad was a popular high school athlete and my mom was a nerd, so they'd never met until one day my dad accidentally hit my mom with his car. He felt so bad that he pledged to visit her in the hospital every afternoon until she got better. They've been together ever since."

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

Struck by Love

"Oh, fuck!" Robin cries, throwing his forest green truck into park and rushing out and around to the front of it. Kneeling down, he runs his thumb softly across the forehead of a girl with long, raven hair. Her tresses are splayed around her face, so he pushes it out of her eyes, revealing a pair of black rimmed glasses.

Her eyes are closed, and he panics, full on freak-out mode as his head spins and ears feel clogged, fearing that he's killed a classmate in the parking lot. Robin is the quarterback of Storybrooke High's football team, the most popular guy in school according to others–a title he just rolls his eyes at, he's never thought of himself that way; he just likes the sport–and he's just received a full scholarship to Princeton. He'd glanced down at his phone as he pulled out of his parking spot, just checking his text from John to see where they were meeting up after school. As he went to reply, he'd felt a sickening bump, and immediately looked up to see her falling. He'd been going slow, knows he wasn't speeding in the parking lot, but he's still hit her hard enough to knock her down and out. Logically he knows it wasn't enough to kill someone, but, well, he's panicking, and he can't help what his brain automatically assumes.

He hears a groan that pulls him from his thoughts. "Oh, thank Christ!" he exclaims, looking around at the other students who have gathered around his truck. He sees Will, another player on the team and one of his closest friends, and shouts for him to call 911. Will jumps into action, placing a hand to his forehead as he tells the operator what's just happened.

Robin looks back to this girl, a girl he's never seen before, and tells her she's going to be okay. It's all going to be alright, he keeps repeating to her‒and himself‒as he strokes her cheek gently.

She groans again, opening her chocolate eyes slightly. She squints, the rays of the afternoon sun clearly blinding her momentarily. "Wha'happened?" she slurs, bringing a hand to her forehead. She tries to sit up, but Robin places his hand on her shoulder, encouraging her to stay down until the ambulance gets there.

Robin can hear sirens in the distance already, for once thankful they live in such a small town, as the girl nods and murmurs an okay out of her plump lips.

Half an hour later, Robin is in the waiting room, nervously tapping his leg up and down. His phone is cradled between his hands where it keeps going off, his friends sending him pictures other students had snapped of him in the parking lot today or checking in to see when he'd be able to hang out tonight. He rolls his eyes, frustrated with how flippant his friends can be. He's not leaving this hospital until he knows this girl is okay, no matter how much pressure he's getting to come join their gang at Granny's.

Just then, Dr. Whale comes out, searching for the girl's family. They haven't arrived yet, which he finds odd, but he stands anyway, asking the doctor for an update. Whale smiles, telling Robin he can't give him too many details since he isn't family, but since he knows him, he'll let him sneak back to see for himself (another advantage to growing up in a small town, everyone knows and trusts you).

He's taken back to room twenty-three, and when he walks in, he stops in the doorway, suddenly realizing how weird this is. He doesn't know this girl, so he doubts she knows him. He's barely spoken a handful of words to her ever, yet he feels a need to make sure she's alright.

"Hi," Robin greets, stepping further into the room. He tries to smile, though it feels more like a grimace when he catches sight of her casted arm and bandaged head.

She looks up, big, brown eyes catching his blue ones. "Hi…"

He sighs, stuffing his hands into his pockets and nodding toward the chair beside her bed. "Can I come in?"

Her brow furrows slightly, and he feels that sense of awkwardness again, but trudges on, making his way to the chair. He sits on the edge, the pleather squeaking beneath his jeans. He doesn't want to make himself too comfortable, that seems unfair after what he's done to her, but breathes out an, "Are you okay?"

The girl adjusts the glasses on her face, shrugging as she tuts her tongue to the back of her teeth and lets out an, "I've been better." He notices the makings of a tiny smirk on her face, and he grins a bit, relief flooding him at the thought that she might not completely hate him. Though he isn't sure why that would matter to him.

"I'm Robin, by the way. Robin Locksley."

She scrunches her nose up, looking over at him. "Yeah," she snickers dryly, "I'm aware."

He looks at her questioningly, and she explains that he's one of the most popular guys in school, a football player. "Everyone knows who you are."

Robin looks down, embarrassed. He's aware that he's well known around campus, but he's never gotten used to that fact. He's not this big hot shot like everyone thinks, not the womanizer rumors would make him out to be. He's just a guy who loves football and has played since he was a kid. He didn't realize his passion in life would lead to giving him such a reputation with other teenagers.

He studies her face for a moment, trying to place her. Storybrooke isn't a big town by any means, so he's sure he's seen her before. He feels guilty for not knowing her and makes a mental note to get to know more people at school starting tomorrow.

Closing his eyes, he racks his mind. Then, like a jolt of lightning to his nervous system, he recalls who she is–not her name, just her face. He's heard his friends about her before, about the nerdy girl who'd stand a marginal chance of being popular if she'd take off the glasses and not be such a royal bitch to everyone around her.

"The Evil Queen," he breathes, more to himself, but his blue eyes widen, realizing he'd just said those words aloud. Robin's eyes snap to hers, his mouth falling agape, then closing again like a fish out of water. "I, I," he stammers, a hand reaching up to rub at the back of his neck. "That's not what I call you, you know, just, uh," he sighs, closing his eyes and sinking into the chair. His shoulders slump before looking back to her. "I'm so sorry."

"I prefer Regina," she tells him flatly. He has the good sense to look guilty about not knowing her name and apologizes. She waves him off, telling him it's fine. "No one knows me." She shifts in the bed as best she can, a ghost of a smirk playing on her lips as she says, "Well, I guess they do, just not my actual name."

His head tilts, thinking to himself how that can't be true. Surely there's a group of friends at school, probably all sitting at Granny's or at one of their houses worried about her. There's bound to be a boyfriend worried sick, waiting for an update on how she's doing. Now that he's gotten a good look at her, he knows she's too gorgeous not to have one.

Robin sits back, smiling and making small talk to make her feel better. "Can I get you anything? Some dinner, maybe?"

Her eyes cut to him, looking at him in a way that's reprimanding but he finds amusing. "It's not dinner time." She shifts in the bed, grimacing as she tries not to meddle with her arm that's now broken. "I don't eat dinner at five in the afternoon."

Shrugging, he chuckles, rubbing the back of his neck as he explains that it's almost dinner time… in an hour or so. "Perhaps some other time, then," he announces with a gentle smile, clearing his throat awkwardly as his eyes grow wide when he realizes it sounded like he was asking her on a date.

Heat creeps onto his cheeks, and he looks away, glancing at the television, then his cell phone, trying not to look at her face that he's come to realize is far more beautiful than any other girl at their school.

"If you have to go, you can," she states, giving him an unimpressed shrug of one shoulder. She motions with her hand toward his phone, and he shakes his head, assuring her he has nowhere to be. "Don't let me keep you."

His friends are waiting for him, sure, and he has a few texts from John, but they can wait. He feels guilty, wants to make amends, but also, oddly, he's finding he quite enjoys her company thus far.

He makes himself comfortable, bringing a knee up into the chair with him and giving her a smug smirk. "I'm good right here."

Regina takes a deep breath and glances away, and he's pretty sure he spies her rolling her eyes but also grinning, but again, he finds it more amusing than offensive so he simply brings a hand to his mouth, covering his own smile.

He spends the next half hour getting to know her more, and he asks how she's feeling, to which she promises him that she's just sore. She'd broken her arm and cut her forehead; there's a few scrapes and bruises, but overall she's fine. "You're lucky you weren't going any faster."

He chuckles softly, nodding and agreeing. Before he can say anything else, a woman in a sharp dress suit comes rushing in, Dr. Whale hot on her heels. The woman, which he now recognizes as their town's mayor, makes a big show of it all, running to Regina's bedside to check her over, kissing her forehead and running her fingers through her hair. "Mom," Regina groans into the woman's shoulder with an eyeroll, "I'm fine."

Her mother stands up straight, turning to look at Robin. Dr. Whale explains that Robin was driving the car that hit her and had come in the ambulance with her to make sure she was okay.

"Well," the older woman huffs, straightening her spine. "Your parents will be hearing from my lawyer very soon."

"Mom!" Regina chastises, looking to Robin in embarrassment. He looks down at her and assures her it's fine. He'd been expecting something like this, some type of punishment for what he's done. Especially now knowing who her mother is; Mayor Mills was scary on a good day, he doesn't want to see what she's like in court suing the shit outta him for knocking her daughter down with his car, crushing all of his post-graduation dreams with it.

Regina and her mother debate the topic for a few more minutes before she excuses herself, saying she needs to make a phone call out in the hallway.

Regina rolls her eyes, looking over to Robin as he settles back into the chair. "She didn't scare you off, did she?"

"Who her? Nah," he laughs, shaking his head. "My dad is the same way."

And it's true. She has nothing to worry about. His father spends more time at the office than at home, leaving his mom to do all the work. He helps out as much as he can, works part time at the grocery store which is convenient when his mom needs groceries for the week. Plus he gets a discount, so that's always helpful. He's not sure where all of his father's "hard earned money" goes, but it certainly doesn't seem to go to his family. He won't tell Regina all of that, though, they've only just met.

She gives him a knowing look, one that makes him feel as if she can read his deepest, darkest thoughts, so he smiles shyly, glancing away.

After another hour, Robin notices the time (and the fact that her mother never came back in). It's now well past dinner time, and he knows his mom will worry. He shoots her a text, then stands, pocketing the phone as he announces that he needs to go, but promises to come back tomorrow after school to check on her. Regina tells him it's not necessary, but he won't hear it. "I'll go by your teacher's rooms tomorrow and get any work you might miss over the next few days, Your Majesty."

He makes a dramatic bow, hoping she finds humor in his use of the title now that they've established what the entire school calls her. As he rights himself, he has a flash of fear that he could have insulted her with the quip, but when he looks her way, Regina is giggling and shaking her head at him.

She smiles brightly, thanking him, and he feels as if he's just won the lottery. With another nod in her direction, he slings his book bag onto one shoulder, waves goodbye and leaves her for the night, promising himself to get up early enough tomorrow that he can pay a visit to her teachers before school starts. It's the least he can do after what he's done.

"Oh, and Regina?" he says hesitantly, turning from his spot in the doorway to glance back at her.

Her head raises from her cellphone, silently giving him permission to continue.

His breath hitches in his throat at the sight because damn, she really is pretty… and really actually very nice.

"What is it?" she laughs softly, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

Shaking his head, he scoffs at what an idiot he's acting like, so he huffs, his shoulders slumping. "I promise you, I will come by tomorrow." She smiles and nods, her mouth opening to speak but he cuts her off with, "And every afternoon after that until you're released."

He thinks her brown eyes gloss over with tears, maybe, but he can't be too sure. She worries her lips together, her eyes blink down, then quickly back up to his as she inhales sharply. "Okay," she whispers, giving him a soft smile that makes her whole face look as if she's touched by his words.

And as he turns the leave once more, he can't help the fluttering in his chest at the way that smile lit her entire face up.

Hopefully over the next few days he'd be able to draw it out again, because he doesn't think he can go another day without seeing it.

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

The beeping of the machines are what wakes her, what's woken her everyday for the last four days. She thinks it's a bit overkill to have to stay here this long, but Dr. Whale has informed her that they were running tests to make sure she didn't have any internal bleeding. And her mom refused to send her to school with a giant gash on her forehead anyway, so she figured, as Mayor, her mother had pulled strings to have her be kept there instead of alone in their giant mansion.

Fine by her. Here she got free rein to watch television whenever she liked (and whatever she liked), she had people to talk to (they were her nurses, but still…), and best yet, Robin had stayed true to his promise and shown up every day after school.

With a sigh, she looks to her left, spotting him sitting there, nose buried in a book. She grins, knowing if anyone else from school could see this, they'd never believe it. Everyone assumes he's such a typical jock—dumb, hates school, just there to play sports… but she's actually learned quite a lot about him these past few days.

He's been by her room every afternoon after school, bringing her homework and missed assignments, and they've gotten to know one another. She'd actually consider him a friend, which is odd to her, seeing as she doesn't really have friends. Sure, there's David and Sidney from the debate team, but David is always off with his girlfriend, Mary, and Sidney, well… he's an interesting character, and not one she wants to spend time with—though, if it were up to him, they'd spend all their time together.

She talks to Tink (a nickname the girl's had since elementary school, Regina isn't actually sure what her real name is), the other biggest nerd in the school according to their peers. They have a few classes together and eat lunch with one another each day, tucked away in a more hidden corner so that they don't have to deal with the hierarchy of high school.

God, she can't wait to graduate in May and be out of here for good. Away from her mother, who barely knows she exists, and away from all these people who think the biggest accomplishment in life is winning a football game on Friday night.

Pursing her lips, she pulls herself from her thoughts, watching Robin for a few more seconds before he must feel her eyes on him. His head turns, and he sends a dimpled smile her way. God, he is cute, she'll give him that. She'd never really realized until he started spending time with her.

"Hey," she greets softly, smiling back. "How was school?"

He shrugs, closing his book and setting it on the little side table beside her bed. Bending down, Robin picks up his bookbag and places it in his lap, telling her that he picked up some more assignments from her teachers. "There's a history test coming up next week," he grimaces, and she smirks, knowing he hates the subject, but she loves it.

"It won't be so bad," she placates, reaching out to take the work.

Robin hovers for a moment, history book tucked behind his folded arms as he rocks on the balls of his feet.

Regina looks up at him through her long lashes, playing coy. "Did you need something?"

Sighing, he flops onto the end of her bed with the biggest puppy dog eyes she's ever seen. "Please help me study?"

She lets out a little chuckle, nodding and taking the book from him. She has it in mind to make him sweat, make him beg, but she knows it's his worst subject and she'll be nice just this once.

She's been helping him over the last few days to study, realizing that Robin Locksley actually cared about his education. He'd told her two days ago that he was going to Princeton to study Geology. He'd gotten a scholarship from them to play football, but he also wanted to study something that he was passionate about in case going pro didn't work out.

She was shocked, and oddly excited, seeing as she'd gotten into Princeton as well to study Economics. She'd told him as much, Robin making an off hand comment about them having to navigate the campus and freshman year together (not that he'd need it. She's positive as a football player, he'll get much the same treatment there as he does in high school: big man on campus, everyone loving him, having no problem making friends...).

If she ever said that out loud, though, he'd just wave him off, she knows he would. He was so… different… than she'd first thought. It was a pleasant surprise, however, and one she was enjoying. She felt like she'd made a true friend, and that wasn't a feeling she was very used to.

They spend the next hour studying the battle of Chancellorsville before she finally claps the textbook closed. "I think we've crammed as much about Stonewall Jackson into your brain as we possibly can today."

Robin chuckles his agreement, sighing in relief as she hands him the book back. He makes his way over to the leather chair, scooting it to the edge of her bed. They talk for a few minutes about mundane things—people at school (who she doesn't actually know, but lets him talk nonetheless), things they want to do when they go off to college in the same town (hours) away from here, and her most dreaded subject: her mother.

"Is your mum coming by today?"

She gives him a shrug, not really caring one way or another. She and Cora don't exactly see eye to eye, she doesn't much feel like a mother and never has. "She's not your conventional mother…" she drawls, looking to him with a nonchalant look. "She's never really been that involved with my life." Regina tells him how she grew up spending all her time with her father, but he'd passed away last year, and ever since, she's just been at home, counting down the days until graduation.

"I'm sorry," he says sympathetically, but she just shrugs.

She's used to it, never really known anything different. "All my mother cares about is that I'm passing school and I got into an Ivy league college." Sighing, she asks after a beat of silence, "What's it like having a good mom?"

Robin smiles, and she does too, knowing that he loves his mother. It was one of the things she'd come to learn about him (and his lack of a father) over the many hours he'd spent in her hospital room. He babbles on adorably about his mom baking cookies, and, "Oh! I'll have to bring you some; they're amazing!", and how she'd make his and his brother's Halloween costumes every year growing up.

"And what are you going as this year?" she jests, waggling her eyebrows. "What costume is Mommy making next week?"

"Ha, ha," he deadpans, swatting at her arm. "But… probably Robin Hood," he admits sheepishly.

Her eyebrow arches up, a questioning gaze sent his way. "The thief."

"A thief with honor," he defends, puffing out his chest.

They giggle together over that, munching on the chips he'd snuck inside in his book bag as she flips through the channels on the television.

"There is a party, though," he declares a bit hesitantly, "at Granny's."

She looks to him, biting on her lip. She's well aware of the Halloween party at Granny's; it's a Storybrooke tradition. But she hasn't been since middle school, the last time she remembers having an actual friend (Kathryn, but she'd moved to California with her family the summer after eighth grade). "O-oh," she stammers, shaking her head, "I probably won't go." She lets out an awkward little laugh, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I haven't been to that since middle school."

"Perfect reason to go then!" His eyes light up in obvious over-excitement as he proclaims, "You could dress up like the Evil Queen!"

Rolling her eyes, she tilts her head over to him, giving him a look like a mother scolding a child. She tells him that she can't go, and he knows why. She's an outcast at their school, a nobody. "People would just make fun of me if I showed up. Especially wearing that costume."

He takes her hand, scotting closer to her. She gives him a confused look, brows furrowed at the contact, but it quickly melts away when he says, "If they do, you just point them in my direction. I'll be happy to have more than a conversation with them."

It's sweet, and she can feel the blush creeping up her neck and onto her cheeks. She's not sure why though. Why would Robin Locksley be protective of her? He barely knows her. Sure, they've become fast friends over the last few days, but to defend her in front of other teenagers? In front of his friends?

"You're such a brute," she declares in her hoitiest voice with a good-natured roll of her eyes, followed by a smirk, and all Robin can do is chuckle as he leans down, pressing a chaste kiss to her knuckles.

"Be that as it may," he states, looking up at her, "we're friends, Regina, and I wouldn't tolerate anyone talking about you like that."

Biting her lip, she looks away, trying to distract herself with the mindless game show they'd settled on. She faintly realizes that he's still holding her hand, and she can't help the way her heart flutters in her chest, though she does her best to look unaffected by it.

She's not used to attention, from anyone, let alone the cutest boy in school. The only time she gets attention is when she wins a match for their schools debate team—and even then, it's just the teachers or fellow club members celebrating the win.

"Besides," he says, giving her hand a gentle squeeze and bringing her back to reality. She looks back at him as he adds, "I'd like it if we were… more… than friends."

Regina's head tilts to the side, knowing what he's implying but not comprehending the words. She blinks forcefully, shaking her head as she stutters a, "wh-what?"

He smirks, those damn dimples that she finds oh so cute popping onto his cheeks. "I'd like to take you out… once you're released from the hospital, of course, if… if that's alright with you."

She stares into his blue eyes, getting lost in their clarity for a moment. She hasn't been asked to do anything with a boy since Jefferson Hatterton in fifth grade when he asked her to be his partner for a game at recess.

"Robin, I," she starts, then stops, unsure how to answer. She doesn't really have a reason to say no, right? Except the fear gnawing and twisting her gut.

He smiles at her knowingly, and she can feel her resolve melt away like ice cream on a hot summer day as he reassures, "We can just… take it slow, be friends and see where it goes from there, if that's what you want. How about dinner this weekend?"

She chews at her bottom lip again and swallows thickly. Taking a deep breath, she squeezes his hand back, intertwining their fingers. "Well, dinner does sound lovely… and besides," she adds, scrunching her nose, "you owe me after running me over."

His head falls back with a laugh, one that makes even her snicker, and he nods, agreeing he'll owe her for the rest of their lives.

And as he says it, though she knows it's a joke, she can't help but think how nice forever sounds with Robin Locksley by her side.

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

Thoughts? Please review!

Chapter Text

Ten Out of Ten:

Regina lackadaisically flips through the slick pages of a magazine, eyes rolling each time a customer leaves after hitting on Ruby while she rings up their items or charges their card for the gas they're going to pump.

She doesn't mind though, the girl practically brings it on herself by starting the flirtation with the men, and sometimes women.

"I give that one a seven," Ruby whistles, flopping down onto the wooden stool beside Regina. It's a game Ruby plays with each attractive customer that leaves the store, rating their asses on a scale that Ruby created.

They're behind the counter, business slow at the gas station today. It's the middle of the afternoon, her free day from classes at Clemson University, and while she'd rather be laying by a pool working on her tan, she's trying to work as much as possible to save money.

She wants to go to Europe this summer with her friends, Mary Blanchard and Haley Tinkerton (Tink, for short), but her mother refuses to help out in any way. Cora, who she refuses to call mother now that she's old enough to get away with it, is rolling in money, has been for Regina's entire life—some large sum she inherited from Regina's grandfather—but has cut Regina off completely since she came to college. She's not entirely sure why, but she assumes it was because of her decision to study graphic design instead of business like Cora wanted her to.

"Yo," Ruby snaps her fingers in Regina's face, bringing her back to reality. "What's your score on that one?" She points to the man in the parking lot that had just left their store. Regina sighs, rolling her eyes once more.

"You know I don't like playing this game, Rubes."

With a snort, the girl with long brown hair and bright red streaks in it tells her, "Too bad! I'm bored, and we're slow, so therefore, you have to play."

Regina tilts her head to the side, cutting her eyes to Ruby dramatically as she huffs in resignation, "Fine…" Her eyes scan to the man who is climbing into his truck, eyes taking a perusal over his physique and landing on his rear. "I guess a seven, like you said."

The other girl scoffs, murmuring something about being a cop out before hopping from the stool and meandering to the back room to do some inventory.

Regina continues to flip through the pages of the magazine, skimming articles about celebrities and their newest love interests. Growing bored of the monotonous gossip, she pushes it aside, reaching into her bag that's tucked under the counter and grabs her sketchbook.

Slipping the pencil from the spiraled spine, Regina opens to the next blank page, sketching out a design for her upcoming assignment in school. They have to envision a beach house, and as she begins adding in details of the open concept and doodling the furniture into its rightful place, she gets lost in her own little world.

She looks up every few minutes to check the store, but as the ceiling fan blows a blessedly cool gust of air onto her heated skin, and the radio scratches in the background, she dreams of being anywhere but here. It's only the beginning of April, but South Carolina is already hot, scorching by mid-afternoon some days, and she can't wait to get away this summer.

"Milady?"

Regina's brown eyes snap up from where she'd been staring off into the distance, dreaming of her summer in Europe.

The British accent draws her attention, and she smiles, her breath catching in her throat when she makes eye contact with the man before her.

"Y-yes," she says, standing from her stool behind the counter and clearing her throat. "How can I help you?"

He chuckles lightly, almost as if she wasn't supposed to hear it, and a smirk quirks the corner of his mouth as he looks down at his items on the counter.

Right. Shit. He's just wanting to check out.

"Oh," she laughs awkwardly, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. She'd straightened it this morning, but with the humidity coming in each time someone opens the door, it's started to curl. Looking at the guy, she flips her hair all to one side with a, "Right."

Fuck. This guy is really cute. Sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, a bit of scruff, and oh hell, dimples that could make any girl melt on the spot.

She slides her sketchbook out of the way, back behind the box of lottery tickets that stay perched on the counter for customers to choose from. The stranger's blue eyes flicker down, clearly trying to take a peek at her drawing as Regina picks up his items—an energy drink, some Reese's cups, M&M's, and a handful of granola bars—and rings them up, eyes flicking up to his between each item. "Going on a roadtrip or are you just really hungry?"

Her eyes squeeze shut and she shakes her head. Damn it, that was a stupid, and kind of rude, thing to say. Her nose scrunches as she apologizes, chuckling softly.

The man laughs, assuring her it's fine. "My mates and I are driving to Lake Hartwell for the weekend," he explains, and Regina is lost to his voice. It's so soothing, so sexy, and as she stares into his eyes, trying her damndest to listen, she can't help but float into her own little world imagining that she's the one going to the lake with him instead. "... by the lake for a few days."

"Oh," she stammers, blinking rapidly. Unsure of exactly what he said, she grins, adding, "That sounds lovely."

Standing there, she bites her lip, smiling softly at the man. He smiles back, those damn dimples drawing her attention, but before the moment can go on any longer, Ruby comes out from the back. "We need to order more—oh," she greets coyly, coming to stand beside Regina. "Hi." Regina doesn't even need to look to know Ruby is giving him her sultriest smile; she can tell just from the way the girl practically purred out her greeting.

"Hello there," the man chuckles, looking back to Regina.

Ruby bumps her shoulder to Regina's inconspicuously and gives her a wink when Regina looks over at her. "I'm Ruby." She holds out her manicured hand, and the handsome stranger obliges, looking from Regina to Ruby as he takes her hand in his.

"I'm Robin," he states, moving his hand from Ruby to Regina's. "Robin Locksley."

She stares at it, briefly, but reminds herself to snap out of it and shake his hand.

"...And this is our resident Evil Queen," Ruby tells him jokingly, smirking as she points to Regina.

It's a nickname she's acquired over the last two years of working here all because she refuses to rate customer's asses with Ruby and is a bit rude sometimes when their boss, Mr. Gold, demands she come in when she isn't scheduled. Wouldn't anyone, though? The guy is a jackass and expects her to somehow be at work at the same time she has class. It's ridiculous.

With a roll of her brown eyes, she looks to Robin from across the counter with a cock of her head. "I prefer Regina."

He smiles then, one that she thinks, somehow, is reserved just for her, and she feels as if the cold exterior she usually keeps up is slowly melting away just by looking at this guy. What the hell is wrong with her?

A beat of silence passes, Regina and Robin still gazing into one another's eyes, so Ruby clears her throat, "Uh, so," she looks down at the register, telling Robin, "your total is $10.58."

"Oh," he coughs, blinking as he draws his eyes from Regina to Ruby, smiling politely. "Of course." He hands Regina his card, and after processing his payment, she hands it back.

The tips of their fingers touch as she passes the plastic back to him, and she feels as if a jolt of electricity just whizzed through her whole body, a feeling she's unfamiliar with but wants to feel again.

He must notice it, too, because his head tilts, a shy smile growing on his lips.

"Well, ladies," he announces after another weighted moment of silence passes between them and takes his bagged items, "it was lovely to meet you."

His blue eyes, that she thinks she could get lost in forever, make contact with hers as he says it, and she beams, biting her lip as he turns to go.

"So," Ruby drawls, wapping Regina on the ass playfully, "I give it an eight."

Regina chuckles, still lost in her thoughts as her brain traitorously makes her say (in the dreamiest, love-sick school girl voice she's ever heard come out of her own body), "Definitely a nine."

Ruby's eyes widen as she looks to Regina, a smile bigger than she's ever seen on her face before as she squeals out, "Atta' girl!" and high fives Regina.

Robin spins to push the door open with his rear, and when he does, he catches Regina's eyes, a laugh bubbling out of him as he says, "Aw, and here I thought I'd at least get a ten outta ten."

He winks, and Regina's mouth falls agape, completely embarrassed that he'd heard their conversation.

"Well," she huffs, a bout of confidence bolstering up inside of her, "no one's is perfect."

He grins, and his eyes narrow, pretending to peer over the counter. "I'd bet yours is a ten, no doubt."

Robin looks to Ruby, sending her a wink as well before turning to leave.

Ruby chortles, head falling back as she pats Regina on the back. "I like him!" she exclaims, picking up her clipboard and making her way back to the stock room to finish inventory.

Regina brings a hand up to her face, covering it and groaning at what an idiot she'd been.

The one time she plays along with Ruby's stupid game, the guy hears her. And not just any guy, a cute guy. Ugh.

Her eyes are still closed when she hears someone clear their throat. Looking up, her eyes widen when she sees Robin standing before her. "Oh, uh," she looks around, making sure she hadn't forgotten to bag an item. "Did you forget something?"

He smirks, a lopsided thing that makes only one dimple pop, and he nods. "Yeah," he hands her a small piece of paper, adding, "to give you my phone number."

She does a double take, not used to anyone being so forward, but she grins as she takes it, a timid giggle bubbling up from out of her. "Oh," is all she can think to say as she peers down at the numbers in front of her.

"If you'd like," he says, tapping on the counter, "you can text me. I'll be free all weekend out at the cabin so I can talk whenever."

She worries her lips as she tries to contain the megawatt smile growing. She can feel the lick of heat making its way up her body and onto her cheeks, and she just knows they're pink by now, if not red.

His smile fades as she just looks at him, and he stumbles over a, "If-if you want to, I mean. No pressure. I was just—"

"No!" she blurts, probably a bit louder than necessary, and they both chuckle. Her eyes sink closed as she inhales, then opens again to look at him. "No," she says more calmly, exhaling sharply, "sorry, I didn't mean to not say anything."

He shrugs, assuring her it's fine. "I don't normally do this, but," his hand reaches up, rubbing at the back of his neck. She can see his skin growing redder by the moment, too, and she grins. "My buddies are in the car and encouraged me to come back in. Knew I wouldn't shut up about the gorgeous girl at the gas station all weekend if I didn't."

She blushes at the compliment, and gives him a soft smile. "I'm glad you came back, then." She glances over to his car sitting in front of the store, then back to him. "I'd hate for you to lose friends over this."

He chuckles, murmuring that he wouldn't mind, and god, she cannot stop smiling like a little school girl.

Regina folds his number, tucking it into the back pocket of her jeans, before reaching to the cash register and printing out a blank receipt. She jots her number down as well, telling him, "I get off at five. You can text me anytime after that."

Robin takes the paper, staring at it as if it's the most precious thing he's ever possessed, then places it in his pocket. "And I shall. That, I can promise you."

With one last dimpled smile, he turns, adding a quipped, "I'll open the door with my hand this time so you two can watch my ass better this go 'round."

Ruby bursts out laughing from behind her, and when did she come out from the back? Ruby waves goodbye, shouting across the store that she hopes he comes back to see them soon.

With a cheeky, "Oh, I will," and a wink, Robin finally leaves. For good this time. Until two days later, when his camping trip with his buddies is over, and they stop to fill up.

She and Robin had been texting the whole weekend, and when her shift is over that night, he picks her up from her apartment and takes her to dinner, chuckling as he breaks the ice by twirling her around and proclaiming with a whistle, "definitely a perfect score," that makes her laugh.

The evening is lovely, and she has to say, to have started out as just an ass-rating, he has completely impressed her; he's a ten out of ten in more ways that just his physical appearance, and as she lets him kiss her goodnight at her front door, she thinks, just maybe, Ruby is on to something with her game.

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

Please review! :)

Chapter Text

The Fountain

Tonight was a mistake.

That's the only thought raging through Regina Mills' mind as she treks back to her off-campus apartment.

That, and I'm going to kill Kathryn.

Her best friend and roommate, Kathryn Goldston, had been attending a party, hosted by Kathryn's boyfriend's friend. Whatever. Some guy Kathryn knows was throwing a party, and the blonde had convinced Regina to doll up for the night and go get drunk "like every other college senior."

Regina had rolled her chocolate brown eyes so far into her skull that even she was worried they'd get stuck.

It's not that Regina is a fuddy-duddy, not really. She just enjoys other ways to have fun, too. And a party with a bunch of drunk frat boys that she didn't know (other than Kathryn's boyfriend, John) wasn't how she wanted to spend one of her last weekends in college.

Graduation is next month, and finals are coming up. Regina's not a bookworm by any means, but knowing that what separates her from becoming a child psychologist is just a few measly tests, she knows she needs to do everything she can to pass them.

"I'm going to kill Kathryn," she mutters to herself, slinging her purse across her body.

Her black heels are killing her, but she's almost to the center of campus, can see the large fountain that marks it just up ahead, and right beyond that, across the street, lies her apartment building.

It was convenient, having an off-campus apartment that was so close to campus they could walk. It's easier for nights like this to get to and from each party they visit.

She really wanted to enjoy tonight, had tried her best, but she'd just been dumped by some loser she'd barely gone out with. Graham had been fun, a good fuck at the very least, but he had an eye for blondes rather than brunettes… which became painfully obvious when he would hit on Kathryn any chance he got. After six dates with Regina, he ended up breaking things off to date a mutual acquaintance, Emma, who just so happened to also have blonde hair.

Regina didn't care, not really, it's not as if she could see a future with Graham. But either way, he'd broken things off last night, so tonight Regina had planned to curl up on the couch in her pajamas and watch cheesy rom-coms just for the hell of it.

But Kathryn, bless her, wouldn't hear of it. Wouldn't let Regina get away with that to save her life. She'd come home, taken one look at Regina and hoisted her off the couch with a solid tug. She'd dragged Regina into her closet, picked out a tight red dress that landed just above her knees and the black heels that were currently hurting her feet.

Regina's done her hair in big, loose curls, donned her favorite pair of black earrings and finished off her makeup with a matte red lip.

She looked good. Damn good, if she did say so herself.

But that was hours ago, and despite having fun at the party for the first two hours, four hours in, she was annoyed. Kathryn had abandoned her, got drunk off her ass and left with John.

Regina knew the big, burly guy was going to be there, he was always the life of the party, but she didn't expect her best friend to up and leave her when she was the one that convinced Regina to come in the first place.

Oh well.

Regina readjusted her purse, moving it to the other shoulder and cursing herself for bringing the one with the golden chain as a strap. It always dug into her shoulder, especially having to walk across campus like this.

Thank god it was a nice night out. It's the end of April and the weather was blessedly warm but not that hot, sticky air they get in the summer here in North Carolina.

She'd grown up in Chicago, but when college came, she chose a school far enough away that her overbearing mother would have to strategically plan trips and couldn't show up on a whim.

It has been glorious. And after four years away, Regina can't imagine ever going back to Chicago.

She huffs, not wanting thoughts of her mother to bring her mood even further down, so she shakes her head, flipping her long hair to one side.

Robin Hood and Little John walking through the forest, laughing back and forth…

What the hell? Was someone… singing?

Regina looks around, not seeing anyone on the deserted inner section of campus. There's street lights to illuminate the walk way, so she knows it's next to impossible for someone to be hiding. But curiosity gets the better of her and she follows the sound.

Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly what a day...

It's coming from the fountain.

Confusion colors her features, eye brows knitting together as she walks closer. She doesn't see anyone… oh, well then. There is a guy in the fountain.

He's on his back, kicking his leg to make a splash as the fountain rains down onto his face. It doesn't seem to bother him though as he continues with his song.

"Are you… singing the song from Robin Hood?"

He startles, flipping up onto his knees and turning to face her.

She can't help but to be amused at the stunned expression on his face, his handsome face. Her head tilts to the side, glancing over the stranger.

"Youuu'rea pretty lady," the stranger drawls, obviously intoxicated.

She scoffs, rolling her eyes. Great. Another drunk person to deal with tonight. As if all of John's frat brothers hadn't been enough. She'd made out with two, but the smell of beer on their tongues and the sloppy way their drunkenness made them kiss just completely turned her off when she'd only had two drinks tonight.

He stands up, water rushing off of him as he does. His clothes are soaking wet and sticking to, what she can already tell, is a very impressive body. So, maybe she'll stay a minute. She deserves to ogle a cute guy for a little bit longer before heading home to climb into bed and finish her movie from earlier.

Her eyebrow raises, giving the strange man a once over.

"You like what you sssee?" he asks, leaning closer, but not too close or else he'd tumble from the fountain.

"You wish," she replies in that haughty tone of hers that her friends always joked made her sound like a queen speaking to the peasants.

That must hold true, because the drunk man before her takes a step back, places his hand over his heart and does the most dramatic bow she's ever seen. His other hand lifts into the air behind him, and his (adorable) British accent thickens as he declares, "Beggin' your pardon, Your Majesty." He rights himself, one side of his mouth turning into a grin. "'Tis I, a lowly peasant, simply cooling off in the fountain." He dramatically gestures to the water fixture behind him, and when his eyes are not on hers, she grins.

"I can see that. And this was your best option for cooling off? You don't have a cold shower at home?"

He hiccups, then balls a fist over his mouth to cover a small burp, before saying, "Ah, I do… but where's the fun in that?"

He winks at her and she can't help the little laugh that bubbles out from her.

"Ahh, so Her Majesty has a sense of humor after all." He winks, adding, "Who knew a Queen hada soft spot for drunks?"

"Who knew a drunk had the lyrics to an old cartoon movie in his repertoire of music?"

"Touché."

He spins around, hands brushing through the cascading water, making it change course to splash him and mist onto her.

She wipes at her now damp cheek, and sighs, watching the odd stranger.

"I'll ask again, Milady," he jests, "do you like what you see?"

Rolling her eyes, she shifts from one foot to the other. "What? A baboon in a fountain?" She taps her chin, pretending to think. "You know, you're right. I've never seen such a sight."

He laughs at her then, mimicking a baboon by scratching at his armpits and making a monkey noise.

She chuckles, can't seem to help herself, before catching his gaze. He's got the most gorgeous, crystal blue eyes she's ever seen, and she thinks she could probably get lost in them if he'd let her.

Regina can't help it, would normally never be attracted to a man acting like this, so silly, but there's something about him. Something in his eyes, in the way he's looking back at her as if she's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.

"Care to join?" he asks, breaking their eye contact. "The water is nice. Feels good on this warm night."

She looks at him in apprehension, eyes trailing down to the hand he has extended for her.

Biting her lip, Regina glances around to make sure no one is looking. She shouldn't, she really shouldn't. But when else is she going to sit in a giant water fountain with a handsome stranger? Never, would be her best guess. So she slips her shoes off, setting them against the concrete of the fountain and places her purse on top of them before taking his hand.

His gorgeous blue eyes light up when she does, and he gives her a little tug, just enough to help her get over the ledge of the fountain.

She sits on the lip, tilting her head back and letting the mist from the fountain spray her face as the water below cools her feet off. It's just up to the middle of her calf, but she has to admit with a sigh, "This does feel nice."

"See?" he asks smugly, a smirk playing at his lips. "Not so bad after all."

She rolls her eyes, watching from the corner of her eye as he slinks up from being on his belly in the water to sit beside her, water rushing off of his clothes.

"Why are you in here, anyway? Besides cooling off," she says, imitating his accent.

The stranger shrugs, chuckling. "Bit too much to drink at my mate's party," he confesses, leaning closer to her, the stench of beer filling her senses, although not as unpleasantly as the guys at the party earlier. "But John went home with his girl and left me there all alone, bloody prick, he is, knowing I was already bladdered."

"John Little?" she asks, eyebrow quirking. "Is that what led to your singing Oo-de-lally?"

"You know John!?" he shouts, ducking his head when Regina looks around and shushes him.

Straightening her shoulders, she tells him that John's girlfriend, Kathryn, is her roommate and best friend. "I'm surprised we haven't met before."

"Hmph," he grunts, shrugging. "I doubt I'd ever forget meeting you. Guess the universe wanted us to meet this way instead."

"Why would you think that?" she asks, fighting back a smirk.

"Don't know," he shrugs again, an adorable smile blossoming on his face. She notes the dimples peeking out, and she has to admit he is rather good-looking. Much better up close than her first assessment of him. "Just seems like we were meant to meet tonight. To gaze at the stars together!" he exclaims, motioning widely to the open sky above them. "Look how beautiful it all is."

"You're an idiot," she chuckles, shaking her head.

She leans back, though, looking up at the sky and takes it all in. It's a gorgeous night, and it is kind of nice sitting out here like this. There's a nice little breeze to help cool the night off. There's no one around, she can hear the music's bass coming from the frat house across the street, can hear the faint echoes of people cheering chug, chug, chug, to one another, but right here, in the center of the campus, it's just them and the crickets. It's nice, romantic even, if the circumstances were different.

"Though, I guess we technically haven't met yet," she concedes, grinning as she tilts her head back down to look at him.

His eyes are already on her, and she takes a deep, shuddering breath, willing her stomach to unknot itself. There's something about him, she can't put her finger on it, but he makes her feel like a giddy schoolgirl just from a few long glances.

"Ah, right you are," he agrees, wiping his hands on his (still wet) pants. "Robin, Robin Locksley," he announces, sticking his hand out for her to shake.

"You're joking," she says, looking side long at him. "Robin and John just happen to be best friends, and I find you singing a song from Robin Hood?"

Robin chortles, shrugging. "It's always been a running joke, actually." He tells her how he and John grew up together just a few hours from here. John moved to town when they were in third grade, and they'd been best friends ever since. "Every year, we'd have at least one teacher reference the movie," he laughs, "It kind of became what we were known for."

"Were you bandits like they were?" she jokes with a sparkle in her eye.

"We did try to steal candy from a store once, but I felt so guilty that I couldn't even make it out to his mum's car before I made him turn around and return it."

She grins at the mental image and shakes her head.

"We did steal a few hearts along the way, though."

"Oh my god," she laughs, rolling her eyes. "You're ridiculous."

Robin grins back at her, then sticks out his hand again. "I never got your name, besides 'Your Majesty'."

She watches the water drip from his hand, but takes it anyway, shaking back. "I prefer Regina… Mills."

He smiles brightly, saying he's heard her name here and there from Kathryn. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Regina."

Fuck. Just the sound of her name on his lips makes her stomach do a somersault. What is wrong with her tonight? Is she somehow second-hand drunk from his nearness?

She scoots over a hair, needing room to breathe. But the bastard scoots with her, grinning before looking up at the sky again.

"Well," he sighs, shoulder slumping, "I guess if our best mates are dating, it's only fair that we give it a shot."

"I beg your pardon?" she asks, head whipping around to look at him incredulously.

Robin chuckles, holding up his hands in surrender. "'Tis only a joke, Milady, calm down."

She ruffles a bit, situating herself again and staring at the fountain, letting the mist cool her face.

It's only been a week since Graham took her out, she doesn't think she's ready to date again, but... it would be nice to at least go to dinner… maybe.

Biting her lips, she musters up all the courage she can before asking, "What exactly would we do on this date?"

His eyes brighten in excitement as he turns to look at her, water misting onto his cheeks. "We could go to dinner, a movie, th-that carnival is in town, we could do that, a simple walk in the moonlight, or, or… Top Golf is always fun. Hell, I'd imagine with you, anything would be a good time."

He's rambling now, and she finds it adorable, his drunkenness slowly starting to wear off, and his nervousness is flattering.

She raises a brow, trying to play it cool. "Sounds tempting," she teases, smirking at the way his shoulders fall. "I suppose the carnival this weekend does sound like it could be fun."

She twists and leans back, reaching behind her to where she'd left her purse on the ground and grabs her phone from inside. "Here," she states, handing him the device. "Put your number in here, and if by the morning I'm still thinking of the drunk fountain guy, I'll give you a call."

Grinning sheepishly, Robin types in his name (with a water fountain emoji next to it) and number, handing it back to her. He stands then and reaches out his hand. "Shall we?" he asks, tilting his head behind them to where dry land awaits.

Smiling, she slips her hand into his and steps over the ledge.

Her feet are too wet to put her heels back on, she'd be safer walking barefoot than risk slipping. Her apartment isn't far anyway, just across the street from where they are, so she'll be fine.

She turns to Robin, watching as he collects his items from the ground—a wallet and phone she hadn't noticed earlier.

His jeans are tight from being wet, and she can't help but notice the way they cling to his ass when he bends over.

It's a good ass, she decides with a sinister grin.

"Well then," she says as he stands up, clearing her throat. "It was nice meeting you tonight, Robin. Strange, but… nice."

He huffs out a laugh, his cheeks growing pink, and she tries to hide her own grin at just how damn cute he is. "The same to you, Milady," he drawls in his British accent, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. "I hope to hear from you soon." He winks, and her stomach flutters once again.

Robin offers to walk her home since it's so late, but she waves him off, pointing over his shoulder. "Our place is just across the street, it'll be fine."

He turns to look at the apartment building and nods, pointing over her shoulder now. "I'm that way so…"

"So…"

They both chuckle, and she's not sure why this is so awkward but wonderful. She finds she doesn't want him to leave, but looking at the time on her phone, and the string of missed texts from Kathryn, she knows it's time to head home. "It was nice meeting you, too, Robin. Goodnight."

Before he can say anything else that will keep her there any longer, she slips past him into the dark.

When she wakes the next morning, Robin's stupid song he was singing in the fountain is stuck in her head and she chuckles, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

She sits up, checking her phone for anything she missed on social media while sleeping, and before she gets up to start her day, she opens up her text messages.

With a nervous flutter in her stomach and her teeth sunken into her bottom lip, she types out three simple words. Carnival on Saturday?

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