Beside the Fire
Through the eyes of a four year old, the villages of the Enchanted Forest were full of bustling excitement. He hadn't been down to the one closest to his house in about a month, but every time he went, Roland couldn't help but look around in curiosity towards all the wonderful surroundings around him.
After a quick conversation with Emma and the rest of the Charmings, they had shipped both Henry and Roland off with Neal for the rest of the day. The four year old was in no place to protest, but he couldn't help but feel a bit out of place- he didn't know Henry's dad very well. But he was proving himself to be nice so far, the man bought him and Henry some cotton candy as they traveled around from place to place.
"Are we gonna miss them?" Henry asked Neal impatiently, "they might be gone already!"
Neal gave his son a look. "It's not like they're zoo animals."
"Yeah, but it's on my list of things to do while I'm here!"
"Well if it's on your list, then it has to be done," Neal smiled, patting the twelve year old on the back. Things with Emma were going okay, but the area he really wanted to be better in was his relationship with his son.
"Are giants scary?" Roland asked, sounding extremely young compared to the other two.
"Nah, they've pretty friendly ever since Anton fixed their bad relationship with humans. They're pretty interested in things we do."
Still, Roland seemed skeptical. Henry grabbed the little boy's hand as he stuffed another piece of cotton candy into his mouth, dragging him down the cobblestone street alongside Neal.
"Well, how far away are they away from us?"
"If I remember right, they're camping on the far side of the village, right by the edge of the forest. I passed them while I was out hunting yesterday." Neal replied, trying to keep up with Henry's fast pace.
"Robin promised me he would teach me how to use a bow and arrow," Henry told him, a smile sneaking it's way onto his face.
There it was, that name again. He knew Regina had been hanging out with him fairly often, but heck, he barely knew who she was, let alone this mystery man. Neal could care less who she hooked up with; it surprised him slightly that Henry had taken such a liking to a man he just met. And now he was stuck babysitting his son.
"You know, I could teach you how to shoot, Henry." Neal said cautiously, "I'm pretty good at it."
Henry paused for a moment, not wanting to upset his father. "Yeah... I know. But he's Robin Hood, that's kinda his thing."
Neal didn't want to say anything bad in front of the man's kid, so he chose his words carefully. "Did you only agree to let him teach you so Regina would be happy?"
They turned the corner and exited the main section of the village, getting closer to were the giants were. Shifting his weight slightly, Henry looked up at his dad.
"Umm... Sort of, but I really do want to learn from him. He's a really nice guy, he has a lot of stories to tell."
"What... What does he and Regina do together?" He immediately knew he struck a sour cord in his son; his face scrunched up in a perplexed notion.
"I dunno, stuff. It's not like they're dating though, because she would tell me if they were."
"Daddy doesn't tell me what they do, I even asked him for you Henry." Roland said encouragingly, swinging his arm back and forth.
Neal knew he shouldn't have asked him that- he would have to do some researching later. Surely Emma knew something about it all. The relationship he had with the evil queen want a strong one at all; actually, they had only shared small, unimportant conversations between one another in the past. If he took away everything his father knew about Regina Mills, Neal knew just about nothing.
"Okay Robbie, you're going to be on your best behavior right?"
The four year old scowled. "My name is Roland!" He accented each syllable distinctly towards him.
"Oh yeah, right. You two Henry, I don't need your mom mad at me again."
Henry nodded, noticing how close they were to the giants camp. "Hey dad, if we're looking for giants, shouldn't they be... I don't know, giant?"
Letting out a laugh, Neal ruffled his son's hair. "They can make themselves smaller so they're not stepping on people."
Both Roland and Henry giggled as they got closer to the three figures in the nearing distance, presumably them.
"Now these guys are from a different place Anton came from," Neal told them, "all of Anton's family were killed because of David's twin, James. So maybe not mentioning you're related to him would be a good idea."
Henry thought about what he had said. Why would Prince James want to destroy them?
"Hey guys, would you mind taking a second to answer some questions?" Neal asked towards the three giants, who were conversing with one another, "I have some boys here that really want to meet a giant."
They turned to face the two boys, taking a second before smiling at them. Henry let out a relieved sigh, for a second he was nervous they wouldn't like him.
"Sure, ask whatever you want."
Neal backed up to give his son the center stage, Roland shrinking closer to him with a nervous look on his face. Henry took a deep breath.
"Hi, I'm Henry. I'm not really from here, but I know a lot about this place. I have a storybook back at home; you guys are all in it."
His fingers laced around hers as they walked across the bright green field. It was starting to get late in the afternoon; the sun was still beating high in the sky.
"Thanks for taking me out there again." Regina told him, really meaning what she was saying.
"We'll have to do it again with the boys sometime. The lake is pretty fun to swim in."
Regina looked back at him. "That would be fun. I guess I'll have to pay you back on of these days, you're too nice to me, Robin."
"Easy, pay me back by cooking for me." He grinned, "it's not like I'm gonna get any better at it."
Rolling her eyes, she couldn't help but smile.
"And you should smile more," he told her, grabbing her by the waist with one hand and her legs with the other. Regina soon let out a surprised yelp as he lifted her off the ground, holding her arms right around his neck.
"Because you look amazing with a smile."
Even then, she couldn't wipe a smile off her face. "Are you crazy? Put me down!"
Robin simply shook his head. "This is too much fun!"
"We're never going to get back to your house if you keep on stalling!"
"That's the fun of it," Robin said, spinning himself around with her in his arms.
"Then I guess you'll just have to carry me the whole way back," she smirked, suddenly feeling completely okay with the new plan.
"Well it's not like you weigh much."
He began starting on the way back to the house, trying to keep his hands from slipping.
"I wasn't serious!" Regina exclaimed, "I'm not a child, I'm perfectly capable of walking on my own."
Robin gently put her down, looking seemingly disappointed.
"I don't doubt your manliness, if that's what you're worried about."
"Oh thank goodness," he replied sarcastically, blowing out an imaginary sigh of relief.
Regina then glanced down at her watch, noticing how late it was. "I should probably get back soon, Henry and Roland could come back from the villages any moment now."
Robin sighed as they walked side by side. "I wish you didn't have to keep leaving," he told her, quite honestly, "I mean we go through this whole routine almost every day."
"I know, but what can I do about it? Henry has a life with them, so I have to be somewhat involved."
She had already had way too much involvement with the Charmings in the past, but Regina figured he wasn't in the mood for another one of her backstories.
"Hey, here's an idea," she began, "why don't you come with me this time?"
The brunette was surprised she hasn't thought of that before. "You have to get your son too. It works out."
Shrugging, Robin couldn't think of a reason not to. He wanted to get to know Charming and Snow better- it was obvious how much Regina avoided talking about them.
Regina smiled, taking his hand in hers. "Can I use the M word now?"
Robin nodded, and almost instantly after, the scene around him changed into a billow of purple smoke.
Surprise was the facial expression of everyone back at the room. Were their eyes deceiving them, or was Regina smiling like she was the happiest person in the world? She and Robin were strolling up to the small group, engaged in a conversation with one another that seemed pretty lighthearted.
"Whoa, Regina, you look so pretty!" Snow couldn't help but blurt out as they walked up to them. For a second, she forgot she was looking at her evil stepmother, the woman who hunted her like a hound dog for way too many years.
"What, this?" Regina basked in her compliment- they didn't come very often. "It's too nice outside for anything else."
"Regina!" Came Roland's voice from behind Snow, who came bounding up to her with his usual smile. "Neal took us to meet some giants who were really nice!"
"That sounds exciting," she replied, bending down to take him in her arms, "glad you had fun."
Robin loved seeing her with his son. Seeing them together almost made everything else feel better.
"Do you want to stay here for a while?" He asked Roland, though he already knew the answer.
"Yes! All night! As long as Regina and Henry are here too."
The Charmings all let out a collective laugh. "So guys, what do you want to do then?" Emma asked the group, not really sure herself. Robin almost never actually came to spend time with anyone except Regina and Roland.
"You know what I've missed?" David said, "having a campfire out in the open fields of the Enchanted Forest."
Snow grinned. "I used to do those all the time. Remember Regina?"
She nodded. "How could I forget? You demanded one almost every week."
Henry seemed excited. "You mean a real fire, like in the movies, where you roast marshmallows and stuff?"
Regina realized how pathetic that sounded. Storybrooke had proved to probably the smallest town in Maine, not to mention the fact that none of them could leave.
"Yeah, it would be fun!" Emma sided with her father, "then you and Roland can talk about how your afternoon went with Neal."
"Actually, I was thinking about going down to the village for some drinks tonight," Neal interjected, "it's been a while... And a long day."
Emma gave him a look. "Is that really the best idea?"
"It's been a very long while!" He shot back defensively, "you can come with if you want."
"Yeah, no thanks." She then gave Hook a threatening glance, for she knew that in any second he would ask to join in. Thankfully, he got the message. Emma knew that the two of them together, while drunk, wouldn't be a good thing at all.
David, Hook, and Robin all spent about an hour gathering firewood. The sun was slowly beginning to set in the sky, giving everyone enough time to prepare everything. A short while later, they were all sitting around the fire, laughing and talking with one another about topic after topic, not a care in the world.
The fire felt amazing on their skin as it illuminated all their faces. Henry noticed very quickly how close Robin and his mom seemed to be; if he didn't know any better, he would think the three of them looked like a happy little family. The boy couldn't help but feel left out... Maybe his suspicions were right; maybe she was replacing him with Roland. He already messed up too much for her to forgive him.
"Is everything okay?" Regina asked, noticing his troubled expression.
Henry simply shrugged, exchanging glances between her and Robin.
"There's... Something I should tell you." She said, warily, "Robin and I are dating now."
The boy didn't know what to say. Everything was slipping away so quickly.
"Does he make you happy?"
"Yeah, he does."
Robin couldn't help but smile when she said that.
Henry knew she would say yes. Everything was pointing towards it- the smiles, the way she dressed, everything. Henry knew he was in for a tough ride in the days coming up.
What he really wanted to say was, do I make you happy?