Bittersweet Destiny

Chapter 13

It had been one week since she left Robin Hood. One week since she gave up on her happy ending. It had been one week since she returned to the castle in order to protect her one true love. Their fate was to go on with life like star-crossed lovers; theirs was a beautiful story that no one will hear or read about, no one will ever pity Regina, how she had pitied Juliet when Tinkerbell told her that story.

It had been one week since she returned to the Castle, to be Snow White's stepmother and Leopold's wife. It had been one week since things went back to the way they were supposed to be. By day, she'd be with Snow, whose company was surprisingly more tolerable now, and by night she'd be Leopold's sex toy - he'd have his way with her and then sent her back to her room.

It was all the same. But at the same time, it wasn't. Because while Leopold savaged her body, Regina remembered how Robin had treasured it; and somehow it made the pain more bearable. And when the King was done, Regina didn't return to an empty room, she returned to Tinkerbell's arms, which held her as she cried and said "I've got to be strong," between sobs.

It had been one week since Leopold had laughed at Regina's request of freeing young, poor David. One week since Tinkerbell had decided to stay at her bedchamber and sleep by her side, nodding every time Regina said "It was the only thing I could do," over and over, even if the Fairy didn't agree with the statement. The Fairy never said anything, because there was no need on rubbing salt into the Queen's wounds.

But Regina kept on waking every day, and repeating the past days' actions. It was a nightmare in repeat that she kept surviving. And then, she'd go to bed and every night she would dream about Robin, and that gave her strength to continue fighting for what was right.

Another week passed, and Regina felt hope leaving her body. She had saved Robin Hood from his execution, but David was still imprisoned and Regina started to believe that his freedom was nothing but a stupid dream, a goal she'd never achieve. Realisation hit her hard at the end of the third week: she was not going to convince the King to free David. It made her want to scream from the top of the Castle's tallest tower.

She had failed everyone, she realised one night as she let her knees hit the floor. Tears ran down her cheeks, she had failed Robin. That night she didn't dream of her merry men, that night she didn't dream at all. She closed her eyes and saw black, and for the first time since she came back, she felt alone. It was as if her mind and soul had also given up on life.

"I couldn't convince your father, Princess," Regina told her stepdaughter, one day on their daily stroll, "Not even my best behaviour seem to be enough for the King," she added, in a disappointed tone.

Snow White shrugged, as if she didn't care - but they both knew that was a lie, "It's alright, Regina, you did your best," the girl replied almost in a whisper, "I wish my father would love me enough to get over his hate towards the Thief and let David go,"

Regina breathed in deeply to stop herself from lashing at Snow White for insulting Robin. She hadn't told the girl about her feelings towards the man, mostly because she didn't trust the Princess - that was a mistake she'd never make again.

"Your father loves you, Snow," Regina stated, "He just has a bad way of showing it,"

"A bad way would be better than what is he doing right now," Snow commented, "He was supposed to be a fair King!"

Regina shushed the girl with a sharp swishing, Snow White had screamed that last sentence and the King's guards were not far behind. If the King heard the Princess talking like that, he'd enrage and Regina would be the one paying for Snow's actions. It was already bad enough that the Queen was his sex toy, she didn't want to add punching ball into her list of Wifely Chores.

Apparently, Regina's tone had been too harsh, because the next thing the Queen knew what that Snow had sat on a bench and was crying. She breathed in and out twice before asking the guards to give them some space. The King's men nodded and walked four steps backwards, giving the Princess and the Queen some privacy. It was the first time Regina was outside and didn't have a knight breathing on her back and for a second, Regina let herself remember the luxury of solitude which she had enjoyed while she lived with the merry men, what would she give to go back to those happy days.

A snob brought her back to reality. This was her life now, she had chosen to come back to save Robin. She had to accept the consequences of her acts.

The Queen sat next to her stepdaughter and awkwardly pat the girl's knee "There, there," she said, trying to comfort Snow White. But it didn't come out naturally, her mother had never comfort her, so she didn't know what she was supposed to do, "Stop crying or you'll have bags under your eyes and your father will ask what is bothering you," the Queen had meant for the words to sound consoling, but they came as a scold.

And it made Snow White cry harder, and Regina's heart shrink, even if she didn't really care about the girl. She didn't hate Snow White anymore, but she didn't love her either.

"Come on, Snow," Regina said after a moment of silence, sliding her arm around the girl's shoulder and bringing the girl close to her, "Stop crying, you have to be strong for those you love,"

"I - can't," the Princess said between sobs and held on tightly to Regina's waist, "I'm just a stupid and naïve princess,"

Regina had to bit her tongue to stop herself from agreeing with Snow. "No, you are not," she said instead, "Well, naïve maybe, but not stupid,"

"You think so?" Snow asked, raising her face from Regina's lap. Her eyes shinned, and even behind the tears Regina could see excitement. As if it was enough for the Princess to be praised by her stepmother.

"I know so," Regina replied with a lopsided smile that only grew wider when she saw Snow White smile. Maybe it was not so bad to comfort someone every once in a while.

Snow White opened her mouth to say something; but before Regina could hear whatever Snow had to tell her, the castle's bells interrupted the moment they were sharing. The Princess untangled herself from her stepmother and looked at the tower where the bells were ringing before turning to face Regina.

"What do you think they are ringing the bells for?" she asked confused, cleaning the tears from her eyes.

Regina pursed her lips into a thin line and raised her eyebrows "I don't know, dear,"

"Do you think it's good news?"

'Unless they are ringing them to announce the King's death,' Regina thought, "I don't think so, Snow,"

The Princess also furrowed her eyebrows and looked at the tower again. She had only heard the bells rang three times in her life: when her mother died, when her father remarried and when Regina returned. What would be so good - or bad - that the King had ordered for the bells to be rang?

They didn't wonder much longer about the reason behind the bells ringing. Tinkerbell appeared out of one of the Royal Guarden's bushes, she flew as fast as she could towards stepmother and stepdaughter, and when she reached Regina she turned grew into a person's size, not carrying about Snow White learning about her. The Fairy looked as if she had seen someone dying, she was pale and her wings had stopped shinning.

"They caught him," Tinkerbell said in a whisper because her vocal cords had stopped working, "The King's Men caught Robin Hood,"

The King's Men caught Robin Hood.

And just like that, Regina's world crumbled into pieces.

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