A/N: Thank you for taking this funky journey with me. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Much appreciation!
It's about three weeks before Kyra Helena (when they're discussing middle names, they go through dozens and she finally asks him what his mother - the woman he's still never forgiven himself for failing to protect - was named and when he tells her that her name was Helena, the conversation is over and for once she's the one kissing someone's tears away) is finally released from the NICU so that she can go home and sleep in her own crib for the first time.
Thankfully, much of the time that Kyra had spent at the hospital had been strictly precautionary and not because of any actual worries over her.
The simple undeniable truth is that Kyra is a small but strong little warrior even at only three weeks of age. She's a constant ball of intensity , her eyes when they're open always tracking the fuzzy movements around her, her tiny little hands always clutching out for anyone who might come close to her. It's like she's seeing (even if not quite yet) everything around and is in her own not quite developed way, absorbing everything and learning everyone.
On the day Kyra leaves the hospital, she and her mother get a full family escort out to the new black BMW that Regina had purchased a few days earlier (the Mercedes is a two-seater and as much as Regina loves it and will never give it up, it simply doesn't work for the purposes of transporting her family around). It's a bit embarassing for Regina really, and more than a little overwhelming to have so many people there and caring about her. But they do and when she catches Emma grinning at her as if to say "see?" all she can manage in response is a tired roll of her eyes that makes the blonde laugh.
It's the first night home - Roland is staying with Marian for a few extra days (she's been gracious and even very kind about all of this, but when Robin tries to talk to her like there is more than just Roland between them now, she shuts him down and he thinks that he really did lose his best friend through his own dishonor) and Henry is out fishing with his grandfather and Leroy.
So it's just the three of them for this first nght: mom, dad and little girl.
"Is she out?" Robin asks as he comes into the nursery where Regina is rocking their baby in her arms, attempting to lull her to sleep after a recent feeding.
"Not yet," Regina murmurs, looking down at the baby. Then, "I did this."
She seems amazed, her voice full of awe and disbelief. She's been like this since the first moment that she'd gotten to hold her child, and she wonders if there will ever be a moment when she isn't as amazed. She can still quite distinctly recall thinking of Henry in this way and now here it is again.
Amazement that something in her arms can truly be so perfect.
And amazement that such a perfection had come from within her.
"I didn't hurt her." Still so much disbelief - and so much guilt over the fact that her raw emotions had endangered her daughter. Over the last few weeks, everyone from Snow to Archie has tried to convince her otherwise, but it had taken signing release papers for Kyra to truly calm her worries down.
"No," Robin tells her. "And she adores you as much as her father does." His hand tangles with hers, beneath the blanket that Kyra is in. "I almost lost all of this," he notes. "I believed in my code of honor so much that I almost lost the chance to be sitting here with the two of you right now, watching all of this."
"You're here now," she says quietly.
"Is that all that matters?"
She thinks for a moment, thinks about the guilt and then looks down at the child resting against her breast. "I've spent a lot of time living in the past, Robin; I want to live in the now. Our little girl, she's got this empathy magic running through her and that means that there are going to be times in her life when she's going to feel so much. I want her to feel like she can always look around and find happiness and not worry about what she can't change."
"Are you worried? About the magic?" Weeks ago she'd asked him much the same thing and he'd admitted some concerns, but now seeing Kyra so safe and protected against her mother, he finds it difficult to think of bad things.
Regina looks down at the baby, nestled in her arms, surely able to feel the emotions flowing of her mother, but calm because she's safe right here.
"A little. But there's a lot that's been written about those born with this kind of magic and Belle had assured me that Kyra has an instinctive protective ability and knows how to guard herself. She'll need help, of course, but -"
"She has us."
"I just want her happy. I want her to be so happy."
"Are you happy?"
She looks up at him and smiles, a bit of devilish humor in it as she lifts her free hand up and runs it gently across his bearded cheek. "I'm working on it."
"Can I help?" he asks, and now he's playing with her as much as he's serious, wondering if there's more that he should be doing, but desperately pleased that she's not pulling away from the forward progress that they've made.
Regina lifts Kyra up to him. "You can change her."
"Always the pleasant tasks."
"I am a Queen," she reminds him and it's truly a joke because she'd changed Henry numerous times a day for years and she's done the same with Kyra, but it's enough to make them fall back into the humor of their old roles.
Not titles - she's not the Evil Queen and he's not Robin Hood.
But she is the Queen and he is the Thief.
He mock bows to her and takes Kyra from her; immediately, his little girl stirs in her father's arms and makes what almost sounds like a purring noise.
Regina rolls her eyes and stands, still tired and a bit ginger even many weeks later. "Enjoy changing her; I'm going to bed." She steps past him, leans up and steals a quick kiss and then slides over to the door. And for a moment, all she does is watch as Robin rocks Kyra in his arm and talks so softly to her.
Regina wonders if she's happy.
And thinks that yeah, she's getting there.
A little more every day.
The weeks pass and routine sets in easily for the whole family. After a few starts and stops, she and Robin are sharing a bed full-time now and some evenings it's so very strange because it's just so comfortable and even normal (as much as such a thing could ever be normal for a woman with her past) and she has to convince herself that this is actually real and not just some desperate fantasy that her damaged mind had created to help her survive.
It's still so hard to accept this is real when she has Kyra pressed against her breast and she's thinking about how she'd never imagined this possible.
But it is possible.
It is happening.
It is real.
All of this.
Henry and Emma are her work-out team. Every morning once she's feeling well enough again to be up and moving, the two of them join her for a run down the path that leads through the woods. It's a good jog and it's helping her to get back to feeling like she's in control of her own physicality again.
"You're doing that thinking thing again," Emma notes as they come to a stop in front of one of the big trees. She reaches down to her hip and pulls out a water bottle that she takes a quick swig from before offering over to Henry.
"She's right," Henry nods. "What about?"
"Operation Runt," Regina admits.
"Which was a fantastic success," Henry notes.
"It was," she allows. "I just...I never would..." she shakes her head.
"Pretty sure Porky Pig served me lunch yesterday," Emma notes.
"Porky is a cartoon," Henry sighs. "That was Ellis. The second of the three little pigs. He's the one that lived in the wood shack. Remember, missing an ear?"
"Right. My point is, we live in a town full of crazy. Stop being surprised when something unbelievable happens." She shrugs then. "Or even believable."
"You mean like you becoming as bad as your idiot parents are about the word hope?" Regina retorts as she accepts the water bottle from Henry.
"I was thinking about getting it tattooed on my ass," Emma grins.
Henry groans. "Gross."
"Inappropriate, Miss Swan," Regina notes, but she's smiling.
"Yeah, I suppose so. Where did you get it tatooed on you?"
Regina rolls her eyes at that and it will never fail to amaze her just how much of her relationship with Emma involves doing exactly that. "If you're done scandalizing our son, then perhaps you're ready to continue our run?"
"Of course," Emma says, recovering the water bottle and putting it away. "But only because I don't think the Kid needs to know that you have a -"
"Nope, don't want to hear this," Henry says quickly and then he's frantically racing away down the path, leaving his mothers chuckling behind him.
"That was mean," Regina notes.
"It was. A little. But it's really not such a bad word after all. Hope, I mean."
Regina thinks for a moment and then says, "No, I suppose it's not."
She sees Marian about three months after Kyra's birth. Considering how Roland has been half living with Marian in the apartment that she's rented for herself (she took a job working at the animal shelter, and though it's perhaps not what she would have preferred to do for a living, her gentle calm works for the animals in the same way that David Nolan's had) and half living with Robin and Regina at the mansion, it's rather amazing how much they've been able to avoid running into each other or interacting at all. But they're both standing outside of Granny's now and Marian has a box full of doughnuts.
Most likely powdered ones because those are the ones Roland likes best.
"Regina," Marian greets quietly and without much emotion and Regina's struck again by just how much kinder this woman is; she herself wouldn't have given Marian the time of day had their situations been reversed.
"Marian," Regina answers and for a long moment, neither woman says anything because any small talk would feel forced and unnecessary. But neither moves, either. They just stand there awkwardly, looking at each other.
Finally, Marian says, "May I see a picture?"
"Of your daughter."
"You want to see -"
"She's Roland's sister and though this isn't what I would have ever wanted to happen, this is how things are. You, your daughter, Roland, all of us have to learn to co-exist and I imagine eventually I will meet…her name is Kyra, yes?"
"I would like to…I would like to see her."
Regina reaches into her pocket and extracts her phone and in this moment, she has never felt further from the Evil Queen that she once was. She simply feels small and vulnerable and incredibly nervous. About a normal woman.
About her lover's ex-wife.
She turns the screen on and shows Marian a picture of Henry and Kyra.
And then waits, her body tensing as if to defend her daughter.
But Marian smiles, a mothers' simple appreciation. "She's beautiful."
"Thank…thank you." Regina re-pockets the phone and wonders if she's supposed to say something here, to give something in return for the odd kindness and almost acceptance that Marian is showing her at the moment.
But Marian saves her from such worries by nodding at her gratitude and then saying in an almost thoughtful tone, "Robin informed me that you chose to give her the middle name of Helena. I presume that he's told you just how much his mother means to him. How much she's driven his need for honor?"
"Have you forgiven him?" Marian asks. "For that honor?"
"I…have. Have you?"
"I will eventually. Because I loved him as a friend before I loved him as my husband. Can you handle me forgiving him? Can you handle me in his life?"
"You mean can she handle it. The Evil Queen."
"I suppose that's what I mean. Can she?"
"I'm not…she's part of me, but I'm not her, anymore," Regina insists. And though she thinks she shouldn't feel the need to defend herself to this woman, she finds that she has the desire to even if it doesn't mean much.
"I know; I even believe that to be the truth because…Roland adores you," Marian says. "But I don't think that I will ever be able to forgive you. For taking me away from family three decades ago...and...I wish I could, but I can't."
This time, it's Regina who replies with a very quiet, "I know."
She then watches as Marian walks away, down the street, box in hand.
When she enters the diner, she sees Snow and Emma standing up, both of them watching with worried looks. "Everything good there?" Emma asks.
Regina sighs in response and its as much sarcasm as she can manage because frankly there's a lump in her throat. The truth is good, but it still hurts.
It can still hurt a whole lot.
The boys are truly amazing with their little sister.
Henry is the constant caretaker, still his mothers' protector even when she doesn't need it (sometimes it's too much and she has to remind him that she's not fragile and doesn't need to rest at all times and that he's still a kid and it's not his job to watch his little sister). Roland is the one who never fails to be fascinated and amazed by the inherent weirdness of his baby sister. As for Kyra herself, well she seems to be absolutely smitten by her older brothers, cooing whenever Henry is around and giggling whenever Roland is.
This is family, she thinks one night as she's watching Henry walking around with Kyra tucked in his arms, humming to her as he bottle-feeds her.
This is everything that she has ever wanted.
When Henry looks over at her and grins, she realizes that finally, she has it.
She goes to see Rumple around the time that Kyra has hit six months of age.
Her own magic is slowly returning to her and though she's in no hurry for it to come back, Regina is curious why it's doing so at such a slow pace. And why it seems to be awakening at the most inopportune of times (Robin is still teasing her about the blast of fire that had erupted from her hands during one of their recent kissing sessions after the baby had fallen asleep).
She also wants to know when Rumple's going to make her pay off the favor.
But he just smiles when she asks and says, "Eventually."
"Do you know what you'll ask for?" she sighs.
"I do. And it's something you will hate me for."
"I already hate you."
"Perhaps, but a deal is a deal and even if every part of you wants to refuse to come to the terms of it...well, now how is little Kyra doing?"
"Is that a threat?"
"Not at all."
Her eyes narrow but grudgingly, she allows, "She seems fine."
"But you're still concerned." A statement not a question and of course, he's right and he knows it, his inquistive curious eyes regarding her carefully.
"There's a lot of books and Belle is convinced -"
"Then she's right."
"She'd better be."
"Or else you might have to continue controlling your emotions?"
"When will my own magic return fully?" she demands, changing the subject away from her daughter. She has been overall relieved that the empathy magic seems far less reactive than she had initially feared and only seems to flare when the emotions around Kyra are extreme (usually anger caused by an intense argument). Even then, the little one has shown herself to be quick to calm and allow herself to be soothed. Usually by her father or her brother.
That part has taken some getting used to - a massive part of her wants to always be the one who can offer up the most comfort - but Snow has shown her on more than one occasion how baby Neal gravitates towards his father and insists that it's more about voices than anything else. It's a point that's easily reinforced when she sees the way Kyra seems to light up when she walks into a room. Unbelievable, really, but also undeniable: her child adores her.
"Your magic will return to you soon enough," Rumple reassures her. "Tell me, are you still breastfeeding?"
She lifts an eyebrow. He just looks back at her.
"Yes," she finally sneers at him.
He just smiles at her, knowing that he's crawled under her skin.
"You really are an offensive son of a bitch."
"That I am."
She huffs at him and then turns to leave.
"But for what it's worth, you needn't worry about your little girl."
She turns to look at him. Grows serious, finds his eyes. "No?"
"No," he says softly, and this is the small part of him that always did care. "Not from me or anything else. You have my word on that."
The part of him that loved his son dearly and would have given up power for his boy. It's just a flash beneath the surface of him, but she sees it now.
She nods her head and then leaves, the bell ringing behind her.
By the time she's at the end of the street, though, and thinking about getting home to a house full of her boys and her daughter, he's already forgotten.
The first thing she does once her magic fully returns to her is combine powers with Emma so that they can speed up the rebuild of City Hall. There's not much labor in this town outside of the dwarves and so the reconstruction had been limping along, taking far longer than it should have. But a little bit of light and some quick instruction to Emma on exactly what to think about and then the walls are rising and solidifying. It takes an hour to do what months have not.
"Is it sound?" David asks, looking at the drywall skeptically. He glances at Emma who shrugs her shoulders and then back over at Regina.
"I'm working from home, what do I care if it is?" Regina asks him with a smirk. When he gives her a disbelieving look, she sighs. "Now that the work is done, have one of your little men walk around and inspect it. I'm sure they're good for that much at least, aren't they?"
"Regina," Snow scolds. Then, to her husband, "It's sound. Which means that we should throw a Grand Re-Opening of City Hall Event. For the town."
"Of course we should," Regina drawls.
Which basically says it all, anyway.
Snow hosts a family dinner a few weeks after the obnoxiously large (and annoying successful) Grand Re-Opening City Hall Event.
She host the dinner at the house of her former stepmother. Because the loft is too small.
Which really means that she's not the one hosting it, but when Regina tries to point this out to her, Snow reminds her that she brought over the wine.
She supposes that matters. After all, she's allowed to drink again.
Which - when you add in her returned magic - brings her back to pretty much how she'd been before she'd discovered that she'd been pregnant with Kyra.
Now, her discoveries are more about what Kyra enjoys - such as magic shows above her crib, bright colors shining off the glass unicorns of the mobile Snow had given her. The mobile that had once been above Emma's crib. So very long ago.
But Emma has forgiven her for the past and so has Snow and that's why her house is full of chaos and children both young and old (Henry loudly insists to everyone that will listen that he's not a kid anymore, but the moment Regina turns her back, he flips the nozzle from the sink around on Emma and then there's water everywhere and both of them are grinning and threatening Regina that if she doesn't laugh, too, they'll nail her with the water as well).
So she laughs and they spray her, anyway.
When it's over and she's changed - she makes them stay in their wet clothes because they deserve to learn a lesson about playing in the house (Henry insists that the lesson they're learning is that they should never ambush her and think that they can get away with it and she supposes that that's fairly true as well) - they all sit down at the table and it feels just so bizarrely normal in a way that should never apply to a table full of storybook characters.
But this is the normal and Robin's hand is settling lightly on her own for just a brief moment before he's leaning across and ruffling Roland's hair.
This is normal and after dinner, she sees Robin and David and Emma and Henry and Roland in the Living Room playing video games (it's the car one that Emma had sent over months earlier) and then she finds her former stepdaughter and once mortal enemy sitting on the floor with nearly two-year old Neal and almost one-year-old Kyra and she doesn't even hesitate to join them all on the ground, her heels quickly tossed away as she settles on the carpet next to Snow.
They exchange a look and then Snow lifts her wine glass up. It's their own weird toast and when they both start laughing, it's at their own joke, too.
Because this is their new normal.
Perhaps finally the right normal.
It's normal, too, when hours later after everyone is gone and it's just she and Robin and a quiet house, she slips into his strong arms and kisses his lips and thinks that this is happiness in every single way that you look at it.
She leaves Robin's arms when she wakes up, pulls a robe over her naked frame and slips down the long dark hallway, passing by Henry's room first (his door is half-open and when she looks inside, she sees him sleeping on his belly, one leg jutting out from under the blankets; she covers him back up but knows that within minutes, he'll be like this all over again) and then by Roland's room (he's curled up with that stuffed monkey and she keeps reminding herself that considering what the had discovered about what the monkeys really were before Zelena had cursed them, she should probably find a way to make that disappear, but she really doesn't have the heart to do it and so it stays in his arms) and then stepping into Kyra's nursery.
Just so she can see her.
The moment she enters the room, Kyra's honey colored eyes open and Regina chuckles because she can almost see the way her daughter humors her already. Perhaps she's imagining it, but the child is just calmly looking at her, almost like she's seeming to say, "all right, what's on your mind?"
Still, she leans in.
"Yes, I suppose you do know, don't you?" Regina murmurs and lifts the nearly year old girl up into her arms. "But for the record, I'm fine. You just spent the whole night with everyone else. It's my time for a few minutes alone with you. I get to be...I did this with Henry, too, so don't act like I'm making a big deal of you because I'm not." She chuckles. "All right, perhaps I am. But just a little bit."
She sits down on the chair next to the crib and begins to rock Kyra against her, a hand slipping through light brown curls that haven't yet fallen down.
"This still doesn't feel real," she says softly, after a few moments.
Kyra curls deeper against her.
"I think she's telling you that it doesn't get much more real than this," Robin suggests, leaning against the door-frame. His voice is soft, understanding.
She wonders if he has these moments as well and knows that he does.
"You should be sleeping."
"My electric blanket was missing," he tells her, commenting on the fact that since her magic has returned to her in full, she runs much warmer now.
"Sorry," she murmurs.
He shakes his head and steps in closer. "Her eyes are closed again."
"I know. I just -" she shrugs. "Sometimes I have to remind myself."
"Remind yourself of what?"
"That it's okay to be selfish every now and again," she murmurs, her fingers again weaving through Kyra's hair. "I spent so long being it when I was the Evil Queen and then when I became...when I wanted to be just Regina, I wanted to be anything besides her and that meant trying to always do what I thought was the right thing. And the right thing always seemed to be me losing."
"You didn't lose."
"No. And I'm allowed to be selfish, right? I'm allowed to want to keep this -" she sweeps her arm around. "And never let it go, right?"
"If that's selfish, then both of us are it," he tells her.
She smiles up at him and he thinks he sees a wet gleam in her eyes.
"Would you like me to leave you two?"
"No." She holds out her hand to him. "Never."
He doesn't hesitate; just takes it and curls closer to his two girls.
To his second chance.
For anyone interested, I can be found over on Tumblr at sgtmac7