We Can Love Again

Just Regina

Even though Roland had finished going through every item in his room, his father was still talking with the other man. Regina wondered what they were talking about. She stood up from his bed and walked towards the window, glancing at her wrist for the time. An hour and a half had passed since she arrived- it certainly didn't feel that way.

Then, something caught her eye outside the window. A small horse was grazing in the backyard, its coat a shiny black color. Regina let out an excited grin when she saw it.

"What is it?" Roland asked innocently, seeing her sudden burst of happiness.

"Do you want to know a secret?" She asked, raising an eyebrow and causing a surge of curiosity to radiate from the child.

"Yes!"

"Horses are my favorite animals,"

She could've sworn she heard Roland gasp with excitement. "Really?! We have horses!" He put his hands on the windowsill and hoisted himself up, crawling on it and pointing towards the black mare. "That's Nightshade. Daddy got her for me," he grinned from ear to ear, "daddy's horse is over there. He won't let me ride him."

Regina caught sight of the other horse on the far side of the yard; this one, unlike the other one, was big and sturdy, seeming like one used for military purposes.

"I named him Weston," came Robin's voice, causing her to spin around, "he's not the friendliest horse, but he's great with hauling loads to the village." He paused for a moment, suddenly unsure of his next words. "Do you... Want to ride them?"

Regina's eyes widened slightly. "Oh no, I was just-"

"I wanna ride!" Roland talked excitedly before she could finish her protest. "Please Regina?"

She was so weak to his pleads- which wasn't a good thing at all. "...sure. It's been a long time since I've ridden."

Once they got outside, Regina approached Nightshade cautiously, seeing his ears perk up when he heard her footsteps. The black horse came to her and allowed her to run her hands along the sides of his face. "You're lucky to have such a nice horse," she smiled, letting the horse lick over her fingers.

"You know a lot about horses Regina," Robin said, observing the glow that seemed to be around her as she interacted with the horse.

"I... I learned from an old friend."

Robin then called his own horse, stroking his neck affectionately before grabbing a saddle that lay nearby. Eventually they got both horses properly saddled and ready; Regina finishing Nightshade's in no time flat.

"Roland, you want to ride with me?" Robin asked his son.

Immediately, the boy shook his head, causing his hair to flop around as he did so. "I want to ride with Regina."

"Well okay then," Regina said, "but I have to warn you- I go fast."

Robin picked up Roland and watched Regina place her hands on the black horses back and take three light bounces before swinging her leg over his body- quite gracefully, he noted. He then walked over and carefully placed the boy behind her, giving him a stern look.

"Now you hold on tight and listen to Regina, okay?"

Roland nodded.

" You're sure you can handle him?" Robin asked Regina cautiously, placing his hand her leg without even realizing it. She felt a rush of something she couldn't quite understand when he touched her; she has no idea what it was, but it made her heart flutter, making her forget where she was.

"Yeah. It's fine- we'll be fine." She fumbled with her words, causing him to realize what he was doing. Robin quickly retracted his hand and threw her a small smile before going off towards his chestnut horse.

Regina felt Roland's skinny arms wrap around her middle securely. They both watched Robin mount Weston; the horse gave an irritated whiny in response. Regina gave Nightshade a firm kick in the flank, starting off in a slow canter, Robin following closely behind and eventually pulling in front of them, leading the way faster and faster into the trees that lay behind his small cottage house.

"Where do you want to go?" He had to yell over the thumping hoofbeats.

Regina shook her head, a bright smile on her face. "Let's just ride," she replied back, "we'll see where the horses take us."

And they did. Both horses got faster and faster on their feet and soon, the leaves on the trees turned into a green blur. The azure sky burned a radiant blue above them, air smelling telltale signs of heavy forest.

Regina felt like she was eighteen again. She became the girl who wore braids in her hair, the girl who didn't care about status, money, or power- all that mattered was the cool breeze, the thundering hoofbeats, and the pounding of her heart.

She presumed Roland had never been on a horse that went as fast as they were going before, for he was gripping her tightly, looking around in awe in the new perspective of the world around him.

They eventually broke through the realm of trees and into the fields, tearing through the short green grassland like birds racing through the sky. The sun was letting off intense heat, but Regina didn't care- the sweat on her face and the strain on her muscles was pure excitement for her- it was absolutely exhilarating.

She pushed the jet black horse harder, aching to pass Robin who was obviously trying to hold his position as the leader.

"Come on, just a little further..." She coaxed the tired horse, which seemed to reach him because not too long after she had said those words, Nightshade bursted into a last minute sprint. Regina and Roland glided past Robin triumphantly, leaving the man with a surprised expression on his face.

They continued on their surge of energy until there was a large gap between the two horses, both of them nearing a slight hill in the field. Regina pushed Nightshade up the hill, finally clearing it and slowing down.

When they rose to the top, though, something made Regina's breath catch in her throat- a castle, with dark, uninviting spires lining the top filled her view, causing all the exhilaration to fade away like smoke into the air.

"Regina why'd we slow down?" She heard Roland whine behind her, though she didn't have the voice to give a reply.

There it was, her castle, the place she was ashamed to call home for many years, the hell that consumed her, the place that made her hate her utter existence...

"Regina!" She heard Robin call him, louder this time, making her snap her attention towards him. "Do you want to head back now?"

Regina realized there were tears in her eyes. She gave a weak smile, trying to get rid of the horrid vision of her castle and everything that came with it.

They turned their horses back around without another spoken word; Robin knew better than to press her when she was already clearly stressed out. Their exhausted horses both gave into a debilitated walk, a demeanor about them that was completely different from their arrival.

They put the horses back in their pen and reentered the house, all three of them feeling exhausted, not really saying much.

"Roland, you have to go take your nap now," Robin told the boy, who was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

"No!" he protested, though he was picked up anyways and carried off to his room in a screaming mess.

Regina was still by the door, examining her jeans that were now coated with dirt. She was incredibly sore; the last time she had ridden for fun seemed forever ago. There was a pang in her heart when she thought about her old horse, Ricontante, and how stupid she was for killing him- she missed that horse. Besides Daniel, Ricontante was the only one who listened to her.

Robin emerged from his son's room a few minutes later. "You sure tired him out," he said, "poor boy fell asleep as soon as I put him down."

Regina smiled. "My son Henry was horrible with naps when he was four- I'm afraid he gets most of his stubbornness from me."

"You have a son?" He asked, taken aback for a second.

"Well, adopted son," Regina said reassuringly, "I kind of share him with Emma- long story."

Robin laughed, looking somewhat released. "I'll have to meet him sometime," he glanced towards the battered couch that lay in the disarrayed living room, "you want to sit down?"

She nodded, and they both went over to the couch; Regina took the opportunity to glance around the room again, still fond of the small house.

Robin watched her, a slightly nervous expression on his face as he debated his next question.

"So," he approached his next words carefully, "what exactly happened on our ride today?"

She looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Why'd you get so worked up when you saw the castle?"

Regina knew that one was coming. She wasn't sure if she should lie or not.

"Was it because you used to live there?"

She certainly wasn't expecting that reply. Her eyes widened with shock.

"How- how did you know?"

Robin gave a roll of his eyes. "I'm not stupid, I know you used to be the queen in this part of the Enchanted Forest."

Regina simply stared at him, completely at blank. "You know what all I've done then." She muttered, shutting her eyes for a second, "then why; why would you invite me over, why would you let me ride your horses and why would you let me be near your son?!"

"Regina," he said softly, "look- I'll be honest, I had my suspicions when I saw you were the one holding my son when Neal and I first met you. But then... Then I saw the way you were looking at him." He paused for moment, his eyes filled with sadness. "Nobody has ever looked at him like that before, not since my wife... She only got to hold him once but... She had the same look in her eyes as you do every time you're with him."

Regina didn't know how to respond to that. Everything happened so fast... She wasn't sure if she should be mad, sad, or relieved.

"So you know who I am, but you're giving me a chance?"

Robin nodded slowly. "And... About today... I had fun with you."

She could feel tears begin to creep into her eyes. "I- Had fun to."

There were very few people that have ever given her a chance- there was Emma, who she was grateful for, despite their past, Snow, but that was... Complicated, and Henry, who seemed to be enjoying her company again. When people found out who she really was, they always ended whatever was between them without another word. This man in front of her knew she was the evil queen once, yet he didn't show any signs of distrust or uncertainty in his eyes.

Regina brushed away a tear that made its way down her face, looking up at him with a weak smile. "So you'll let me be with Roland?"

"Of course," he replied, "I wouldn't take you away from him. He's really fond of you... Taking you away from him would break him."

"And you... You'll give me a chance to be... Just Regina?"

Robin smiled. "As long as you do the same with me," he said, "I have my own baggage as well."

"I highly doubt they're worse than mine." Regina concurred, feeling happier than she had ever been before.

Just Regina. She hadn't been just Regina in a very long time.

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