“Oh… Alright,” she nodded. She could deal with walking in circles to figure out where she was going. At least the castle wasn’t a hall of mazes. She could just imagine herself getting lost and disappearing into one of the unused rooms only for someone to notice her missing once the odd smell started permeating around the castle. Tinkerbell shuddered in disgust at the morbid thought, and while that could have certainly been a possibility, she somehow reckoned that Regina would’ve noticed the blonde missing long before anything terrible would’ve happened to her. But as quickly as that thought entered her mind, she shoved it away. She didn’t know that was a certainty, but she did hate how quick her mind rationalized that Regina would somehow save her. Probably because the woman was technically saving her right now by letting her live in the castle, but it was still going to take a lot for Tink to not take these generosities as nothing more than a shallow apology.
Instead she would focus on redecorating that dreary room of hers. The first thing that the room needed was a good cleaning. It hadn’t looked like it had been used in years and she was not about to sneeze from all the dust. The second thing she needed to do was throw out all the dark colors and replace it with something livelier. Color was her thing and it always brought a smile onto her face to see just about all the colors in a rainbow in a room. And last but not least, the former fairy needed plant life in the room. It would be a poor excuse for the home she once lived in, but being surrounded by flowers and greenery would still be a small comfort if anything. But she knew that getting new sheets and things would take her a while to get her hands on for now, so Tinkerbell decided she would at least clean up the place and then walk around to look for some plants to freshen up the room. And just like that, she suddenly had a couple days worth of plans, and it was certainly enough to keep her out of Regina’s hair for a bit.
Tinkerbell threw a glance at Regina at her sudden fumble over her words, but still didn’t say anything. From what the blonde could tell, Regina enjoyed the horse, but she couldn’t understand why the woman wanted to hide that from her. Either way, it was none of her business though. Regina would do her thing and Tink would do her own things, and that was just the way things were for them now. “I don’t want to be a bother,” she replied, referring to dinner. “If you eat in a couple of hours, I don’t mind eating then. I wouldn’t want to be a bother to your cook and make them cook two separate meals at two separate times,” Tinkerbell reasoned. Surely she could eat dinner, quietly, with Regina. She did want to avoid the woman, but it was Regina’s castle, so she didn’t want to be too much of a nuisance.
She was about to insist that it was fine if they ate separately and she had two different meals prepared, but she also didn’t want it to sound as if she wanted that either in order to avoid the other woman as that wasn’t her intent. She didn’t mind the prospect of eating with Tinkerbell although she guessed dinner would be, at the very least for the most part, silent. Regina wasn’t about to force the blonde to have a conversation that she didn’t feel inclined to have and make the woman’s stay more uncomfortable than it likely already was. She knew this couldn’t have been easy in the slightest for the former fairy and she didn’t want to make it any more difficult than it was.
"Alright then. I can send a guard to let you know then when dinner’s ready or I can tell you myself if you’d prefer." She wasn’t going to say it, but her guards put her on edge. It was silly to think given that she’d always had them around since the castle first became hers, but they did. Their silence and hidden faces didn’t help ease the eerie factor about them, in fact that might’ve been the whole reason Regina wasn’t keen on them in the first place. Maybe it was because she knew they weren’t human but rather creatures summoned by magic, maybe it was an all-of-the-above combination of possibilities. Yes, that must’ve been it. But with a large castle and there only being one of herself having them around was a necessity. Especially when she went out and needed them to keep an eye on the place in her place as she couldn’t guard the entire castle on her own. But the fact she felt uneasy around her own guards wasn’t something she was about to share with anyone either. It would’ve sounded absolutely preposterous.
Regina strode off to her room first to change out of what she was wearing now and into more stable-appropriate clothes as trying to feed horses and clean out their stalls in the kinds of elaborate dresses she wore was simply an impossible task and they were impractical for such a thing anyhow. When she was satisfied with her new choice in clothing, she made her way down to the stables where she was greeted first by the smell of hay and then by the whinnies of the animals as they pawed at the wood flooring. Regina’s demeanor instantly changed as she beamed at the horses, making sure to give each one a friendly pat and a kiss on their noses while she held out half a carrot with her other hand going from horse to horse like that while they all munched on the food contently. She got to work with removing the old hay and replacing it with new hay in their stalls, wiping her brow when she’d finished, and gave them fresh food and water. The process took a couple hours, but to Regina who did it twice a day, it was worth it — it was the best parts of her day and not a task she was about to be willing to hand over to her guards. For one thing they’d probably only focus on the task she’d assigned them and not pay the horses any mind which led to the second reason that she didn’t want the animals to become lonely even if they did have one another.
By the time she’d finished, Regina had bits of hay sticking out of her hair and some smears of dirt on her face here and there. She made her rounds of giving them each the second half of the carrots she hadn’t fed them when she’d arrived before leaving for the night to wash up and change back into the dress she’d been wearing earlier then get started on fixing dinner. When she’d finished, she went up to Tinkerbell’s room and knocked on the door a few times. “Dinner’s ready for whenever you’d like,” she announced and disappeared again to return to the dining hall.
The blonde fell silent as Regina continued to talk. It was all rather weird for her. If things weren’t the way things were, she would have been bursting with questions about the castle. Even now, she had a few, but she just couldn’t bring herself to actually voice them. Why would you want so many rooms if you don’t use them? Why is the castle so dark and gloomy? Why don’t you find uses for the other rooms you don’t use? It was difficult not to just blurt all the words she had in her head, but she stopped herself before she could. She just felt like she couldn’t let her guard down yet around Regina. Not this time around. Says the girl that’s living in the castle with the Queen, the voice in her head said. Shush, she thought back to it.
As they walked through the castle, Tinkerbell couldn’t help but observe the guards that were at their posts. She wondered what their stories were. Were they happy being guards? Were they evil? More evil? Or did they cringe and shut their hearts away when it was their turn to commit atrocities in the name of the queen? Maybe, just maybe, one day she’d ask one of them, but for now, she was perfectly fine with keeping away from them. So she tried her hardest to commit to memory the locations of the places she needed to get to. “Oh, alright,” she squeaked out as she tried to remember if it was a right turn or a left turn they had taken to get here. The former fairy was so preoccupied with memorizing the locations of places, she hadn’t even realized Regina still had a smile on her lips. If she had, well, she wouldn’t exactly be sure what to make of it all, but it most likely would have put her at ease (or at least as much ease a smile from Regina could give her under the circumstances).
There were just so many doors. Tink just knew that she was going to get lost for the first days, maybe even the first few weeks. When they stopped in front of what her room would be, Tinkerbell was more than curious as to what the room would be like. Of course with only the moonlight and the few candles scattered across the room, she couldn’t tell too much about the room itself, but from what she could see, it was at least more than she was used to. It was large and it felt rather grand to her, but it also felt rather empty. The room, nor did the castle, scream homey to her. There was no heart or soul in the walls and to her, it just felt like the whole place hadn’t had a touch of life in years. So when Regina said things could be changed around, her face instantly lit up. A project was a project in her mind, and this would help her keep her mind off of other things for the time being.
At the talk of the stables and of the horses, something in Regina’s voice changed. It sounded lighter, happier even, and it caused Tinkerbell to turn to look at the woman. Seeing the brunette’s smile gave the blonde a fluttering of feelings, feelings that she wasn’t entirely sure as to what they meant, but they were there nonetheless. Regardless of that though, Tink just liked seeing Regina smile. That smile of hers was the reason Tink had wanted to help her gain her happiness. A smile like that just wasn’t meant to be hidden away, but then like a switch her smile was gone and so was the fluttering in Tinkerbell’s chest. “Yeah, I guess that is it…” she murmured out as she found her voice once more. Clearing her throat, the blonde continued this time with a stronger, more formal tone, “Thank you, Regina. For letting me stay. I’ll try not to get in the way around here while you’re doing… Well whatever it is you do as queen.”
"Don’t worry about getting lost. It might happen but if you’re in one of the towers then just remember it all goes in a circle. As for the rest, if you’re on the west side then to your left if you were facing the entrance would be the rooms in the west tower and to your right you’d eventually come to the bridge that crosses to the east side," she nodded trying to visualize the layout of the castle in her head as she explained it to Tinkerbell. "I got lost myself as well when I first got here several times. Ended up walking right into a closet and then proceeded to get stuck in there because I’d shut the door without realizing there was no candle inside to light and find my way out again," her lips curled into a brief smile once more as she recounted the memory. It’d been completely unintentional and she hadn’t expected a closet to be that large inside although it had been a closet for storage, furniture that wasn’t in use and other such things.
From the way Tinkerbell had reacted to the mention of being allowed to change things around to suit her tastes more, Regina suspected the woman already had an idea of what to do in mind. She wasn’t sure what the former fairy was thinking of and wondered if she’d regret her words later on. But she brushed the thought off telling herself she wouldn’t. She was trying to make amends or at least reach some kind of middle ground with Tinkerbell, not chastise the smaller blonde for something she’d given her permission to do. Besides that would’ve been counter-intuitive when she wanted to try and make Tinkerbell happy or at least as happy as the woman could be given their current situation.
"Of course," she smiled politely at the blonde. "I doubt you could, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much." It wasn’t like she did all too much anyway other than make sure her stretch of the woods hadn’t had some kind of disaster befall it or that someone was going to try and storm the palace with the hopes of riding off to whence they came with her head. All she really did was paperwork, take care of any errands and chores that had to be done, tend to the horses, and go out for walks. Life as a queen wasn’t nearly as glamorous as some might’ve thought. She knew that financially it meant she was far more well off than others, had a grandiose place to stay in, and could afford the finer things in life. But socially there weren’t any perks to it. Of course that also could’ve been because she’d ruined every relationship she’d ever had with others by becoming the Evil Queen, but even before then she hadn’t spoken to many people.
She’d never wanted to be queen in the first place, it was a life her mother had thrust upon her by force and when Regina had tried to run away, her attempt had failed. “Well then I suppose I’ll go spend time with- feed the horses. I meant to say feed them,” she muttered. “I’m going to go feed the horses,” Regina sighed, trying not to let it show she’d managed to just make herself a tad bit flustered. “Dinner can be whenever you want, I usually eat in a couple hours just so you know so you can avoid the dining room then if you don’t want to bump into each other,” the brunette gave a small nod and turned to go. That was one chore she didn’t leave to her guards, she liked to feed the horses herself and clean out their stables early in the morning or before dinner. Although now that there was a guest in the palace she’d have to be more discrete about it. She didn’t know why but there was something comforting about not having anyone else know about her daily routine of cleaning the stables herself and caring for the horses, almost like having a guilty pleasure, and it was one of the few things she genuinely enjoyed doing.
Tinkerbell only nodded her head at the new living arrangements. She hated that she was mad at Regina and yet was now feeling grateful towards her for the generosity. There was just no controlling her emotions and she really needed to since she felt like she hadn’t even fully sorted through them all yet. She just had to wonder if she was going to be able to do that when she was living in the castle under the same roof as Regina. And what about everyone else? Was Snow living there or had she found someplace new with that Charming fellow that she was sure she had heard of around town. Oh, no, the town, she thought. She had to wonder what word would be like if they knew she was living at the castle with Regina. Even if she wasn’t a fairy anymore, she could hear Blue in her ear tutting at her decision.
During the walk back, Tink kept quiet, only mumbling her ‘okay’s when Regina said the walk would be long. It was weird to be here of all places with Regina or to even think about where she was heading with Regina. Her world had certainly flipped upside down and it was beginning to look like this was going to be her new normal. Whether or not she would get used to the new normal was still questionable, but really, what choice did she have in the matter?
Once they reached the castle, Tink had to look at in awe. It wasn’t nearly as impressive looking as it had been when she had flied to the castle under the cover of night, but it was still remarkable nonetheless. She tried to think of it as her new home for the moment, but all she could really see when she looked at the castle was Regina’s betrayal towards her. There was definitely no way she could step into that area of the castle anytime soon, although she might not even want to spend that much time within the castle with how dark and ominous it was. Besides sleeping in the room given to her, Tink figured that she would spend much more time outside the castle walls than in it.
“A tour would be nice,” she uttered out without thinking. The castle was large and the blonde was sure she would get lost, but she wasn’t sure spending more time with Regina was the best idea in her state. On the other hand though, if she didn’t have Regina showing her around, she would have to ask one of her guards and they didn’t look all that friendly—neither did Regina sometimes, but at least Tink already knew Regina. “I at least figure I should know where my room is and the kitchens so I don’t get lost in the middle of the night and find myself in a room I’m not supposed to be in.”
"I don’t think there’re any rooms you absolutely shouldn’t wander off into?" She did her best to remember the more important of the rooms while she’d made her response which came out more like a question. "Although that might be awkward for the both of us if you happened into my room in the middle of the night while trying to look for a different one. Anyway, a tour it is," her lips curved into a smile as she moved on from the previous thought. "Though in all honesty I don’t remember what’s in half the rooms here — I can’t say I’ve even used that many." Regina had no idea what one person was meant to do with them all. When she’d been married to Leopold she’d sometimes stroll down the bleak corridors and open the doors as she went along to see what was behind them, but more often than not she didn’t find much.
She didn’t question why the castle was so large or why only a few people needed such a large place to live, but she had to admit she did like the balconies that overlooked the Enchanted Forest, that was always a lovely sight. The Queen led them first to the back of the castle, still on the first floor, where there were two double doors and pushed them open. Inside was a large kitchen with a door to the pantry in the back of the room. “Should you find yourself wanting a midnight snack, the kitchen’s always open though by that hour you’ll have to find something for yourself, but feel free to help yourself,” Regina remarked, the pleasant smile still resting on her lips. From there she brought them to the west tower where Tinkerbell would be staying and passed several doors until they reached the end of the hallway to a set of stairs. Regina finally stopped at a door towards the middle of the hallway and turned to face the blonde. “This is your room,” she stated, opening the door. Inside was spacious and there was a balcony and like her own in her room, this one also overlooked part of the Enchanted Forest. “Although if you want to change you’re more than welcome to. I personally think this one has the best view on this side of the castle. As for the rooms we passed, most are empty aside from some extra furniture. If you find you ever want more space for anything you’re free to use them or if you need more of anything all you have to do is ask and I’m sure something can be arranged.”
Regina let Tinkerbell look around before moving on to the next room. “Here is where all the linens for the room are kept should you need more and the door next to that is to the washroom,” she pointed to the rooms before opening the doors to reveal everything. “I’m honestly not sure what’s in the other rooms since I don’t venture to this side of the castle that often, but my guess would probably be lots of books amongst other odds and ends. If you go out back, the stables are there should you ever have the desire to go out on horseback. They’re all friendly and docile and they love carrots a lot.” A genuine smile rippled across her lips while she spoke of the horses until she remembered she was in the presence of someone else and quickly replaced it with a more polite yet distant one.
She liked to spend time in the stables when she had the time to feed the horses carrots and pet them when she was alone. Regina may not have been all that warm towards people nowadays, but she was with the horses as her love for the creatures was something that hadn’t faded over time. For as long as the brunette could remember she’d loved them having grown up with them too and that was probably the best memories she had of her childhood: the horses. Her mother didn’t understand why she preferred to spend time with them than with her family, but unlike her mother, the horses didn’t harbor the same disappointment she believed her mother’d had towards her, and if they were treated with kindness then that same kindness was returned. They were the friends she didn’t have when it came to other people. “Well then, I think that’s about it?” Regina gave a nod, regaining her composure after unintentionally let a more compassionate side of her manifest briefly. She hoped Tinkerbell hadn’t noticed it although she wasn’t certain but decided not to draw attention to it herself.
Tinkerbell still couldn’t make heads or tails of the situation. A part of her told her to go, to take what she was owed, but she didn’t want to sink to that level. She would not use Regina the way Regina had used her. She would be better that that. But being the better person didn’t solve her problem of having nowhere to go… Of not having a home. It was a tough decision that she continued to go over in her head as Regina spoke her case. And Tink did briefly at Regina’s admission of caring, but Tink hadn’t liked the laugh that had reached her ears. It sounded strangled, forced, and especially hurt. Was that what her life would be like if she turned her back on what was her only option? Her being in a constant state of hurt and feeling trapped with no way out?
When she thought of it that way, Tinkerbell’s choice seemed obvious, but the circumstances kept her at a standstill in actually making a decision. The implications of choosing either option didn’t look positive to the blonde in this moment. And although she knew Regina had said the invitation held no strings, Tink had a slight fear that one day out of the blue, Regina would go back on her word and betray her all over again. Did she want to risk that? But then that begged the question: Did she really want to attempt to seek comfort in the Enchanted Forest while she was on her own? The answer to the latter was a clear and definite no.
But the thing that finally settled it for her was ultimately Regina. The woman that the former fairy had met at that tavern? The woman that had she had shared a laugh with? That was the Regina that Tink wanted to trust so badly, not her as the ‘Evil Queen.’ And it was foolish to think of them as two different individuals, but to her that’s exactly what Regina was. There was Regina and there was the Evil Queen, and that logic was what made her call out to a retreating Queen.
"Wait," she finally called out, making strides to catch up with the older woman. Her face remained stoic and utterly calm as she spoke, "I’m still mad at you and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you… But I’m willing to try and see." At the end of her sentence, she added in a nod of her head for good measure. She really didn’t want to spend the rest of her life hating Regina, and she was afraid if she let Regina walk out of her life from here and now then that was exactly what Tinkerbell would have ended up doing. "I accept you invitation to live at the castle." Tink bit at her lower lip, unable to meet Regina’s eye. "As long as we have some space from each other," she added in softly. Being around her would take some time.
Once more Tinkerbell’s voice calling out to her caused Regina to stop in her tracks and turn around. “That’s okay, you don’t ever have to,” she assured the other woman. “But I am more than grateful that you’re willing to try,” she added with a small smile. “That can certainly be arranged. I can have you situated in the other half of the castle,” Regina nodded. She didn’t often roam far in her castle and had the tendency to only stick to a few places leaving the rest largely ignored. What was one person meant to do with that many rooms anyway? Even if she had all her things including that which Snow White and Prince Charming still had in their possession with her in the castle, they wouldn’t fill up each room there was; there’d still be rooms left empty.
The walk back to the castle was quiet for the most part, Regina only speaking up to apologize that it might be a bit of a walk. She hadn’t wanted to say anything that might further upset Tinkerbell or make her reconsider her decision as she was silently glad that the blonde had accepted the offer. Although it was unlikely the two would cross paths, she still liked knowing there was someone else there even if they were there begrudgingly so. She wasn’t entirely certain why she was putting so much effort into trying to redeem herself with the former fairy of all people. It might’ve made more sense for her to try and fix things between herself and Snow White when she’d caused the most damage there or anyone else. The only person she didn’t care to try and be on good terms with was Rumplestiltskin. He was the reason she’d gotten into using magic, enticing her with what she could do if only she possessed it, his winning words being that she could finally be free from her mother if she gave in and let him teach her how to use it to her advantage.
Maybe if she hadn’t tried to use magic at all her life would be greatly different from how it was now. Yes, she was certain it would be, but would it have been the life she’d wanted? Had she never learned how to wield magic her mother would still have power over her, she would probably still be married to King Leopold, and living unhappily ever after. Although unhappily ever after seemed to be the direction she was headed in anyway or rather she was already there, but it was the lesser of the two evils so to speak. Regina was unhappy now, but she knew she’d have been far more miserable if she’d never let Rumplestiltskin coerce her into becoming his apprentice.
When the two women had reached the castle, the guards stepped aside to let her in with her companion. “Go fix a room for our guest on the other side of the castle. She’ll be staying here for as long as she wishes and I expect her to be treated with the same respect as you would me.” She turned to Tinkerbell with a smile, “You’re free to explore, do whatever you wish. I don’t know when you like to eat so I’ll leave it to you to tell one of the guards when you want food or show to you the kitchen if you like to cook, and don’t worry we’ll be eating separately. Hm, let’s see, am I forgetting anything,” she trailed off and tapped her chin trying to think. “I suppose if you wanted a tour I could give you one or one of the guards could unless you’d rather figure out where things are yourself which is perfectly fine. I think that’s about it? If you need anything you can always come find me or ask a guard,” Regina gave a small nod.
Tinkerbell didn’t know if she should laugh at Regina’s words or burst into tears because of it. It was hard to believe that out of the Evil Queen’s life, Tink would even make a blip on the woman’s mind. How could ruining a fairy’s life make any difference to her when Regina had ended people’s lives? Ruined villages to the ground? Struck fear into everyone’s heart around the Enchanted Forest? It seemed all ridiculous to the ex-fairy when she was really nothing more than a woman that had shown the Queen some kindness when she probably shouldn’t have. For her, it made more sense for Regina to stick out in her mind more than anything else. Everything was gone for her and thinking about that would always lead her back to thinking about Regina.
That was her world now though. Most of her thoughts would end up leading back to Regina at this point on and Tink honestly hated that. It wasn’t to say that she hated Regina, but the feeling was close. Or it would have been closer if she had been allowed to simmer in her feelings without the woman in mind tracking her down to apologize. And that in itself was another thing that just baffled the former fairy. It was still hard to believe that the Evil Queen wanted to apologize and make amends with her. She just couldn’t see the point in doing that. It wasn’t as if Tink had any abilities to make Regina’s life hell. She was just a human now and no amount of anger would make her seek out revenge on a woman that had magic on her side. The only reason she would ever even consider doing something as rash as that would be because she just wanted her life to be done with, but she was too selfish to take away her own life. No, she couldn’t even contemplate doing such a thing, no matter how far she had fallen.
She wished the woman before her wasn’t being so kind, so apologetic. It made everything all the more difficult for her. After all the times she had screwed up and Blue had forgiven her, it was hard for Tinkerbell to not do the same. But then logic kicked in and she knew these two things were completely different. It would be rash for her to just amend things with the woman that had cost her the life she had once led. There was just no going back from that even with profuse apologies. At least in Tink’s mind that was the case for the moment. How could anyone forgive such a thing? Even Regina hadn’t been able to forgive Snow, and Snow had been a child when Daniel had died… Did that mean Tink was fated to just never be able to look Regina in the eye without feeling hurt and betrayed? Tink wanted to scoff though, because why would it even matter. Regina would go back to her castle and forget all about the blonde fairy that had tried to give her another shot at happiness. At least that was what she had thought.
The last thing she had expected to hear from Regina was that she could stay at the castle. The sadness she had felt quickly disappeared only to be replaced with complete and utter shock. “You can’t be serious,” she said with a shaky voice. “Me? At the castle?” Her head could barely wrap around it. A part of her wanted to decline the offer and stalk off, but another part of her wanted to accept it. She had nowhere else to go and she didn’t have money to afford a room to stay in for the night. “I… I ca—Why are you even offering me this Regina?” Her mind was spinning with the possibilities—none of which were good. “Are you trying to buy my forgiveness? Why are you offering me this when you’ve never even offered the same courtesy to the people that you’ve ruined in the past?”
She arched an eyebrow at the former fairy, the corner of her lips tugging into a small smile. “Why would I not be serious? Didn’t you just say you had no where else to go?” She could see the sheer confusion her offer had caused written all over Tinkerbell’s face from the way she faltered with her words to the way her voice shook as if her words alone weren’t already a huge indicator. Regina wasn’t entirely certain either though as to why exactly she was extending the offer to the blonde to stay at her castle when she knew she never would’ve given such an invitation to anyone else. Although actually admitting to that wasn’t exactly some planned to do as it’d only lead to her stumbling over her own words, most likely. “No no, nothing like that,” the Queen gave a wave of her hand. “I’m not trying to do anything with the hopes you’ll forgive me,” she added coolly. “Whether you decide to forgive me or not is entirely up to you,” her shoulders rose in a small shrug. Of course she’d like if Tinkerbell would eventually forgive her, but she knew what she’d done was irreversible as far as she knew and there was no way she could really expect the other woman to do so.
Regina thought for a moment, her gaze shifting to the trees off to the side then turned back to face Tinkerbell. She considered coming up with some reason behind her offer, but there was little point in lying her way out of it and it’d only do her more harm than good. ” I don’t know, she finally responded. “Because I care,” the brunette finally confessed. “Laugh all you want, but it’s the truth.” Just because she was the Evil Queen didn’t mean she was completely heartless, she’d merely learned to use her heart less. “You’re right though, I haven’t shown an ounce of forgiveness nor any sign of wanting to make amends with others. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it would make a difference anymore, maybe I don’t know what I’d say or where to begin and I’ve been meaning to yet instead have held it off,” Regina shrugged again. But if it’d mean having a chance to be herself again, the Regina Mills that she once was before she became Regina the Evil Queen or even Regina the Queen, though that might really be too far out of her reach anymore, then she knew she should at least seriously consider the idea of attempting to apologize somehow whether or not others would forgive or even accept her apology.
"But you don’t have to accept the invitation if you don’t wish to either. It was only just that — an offer — no strings attached, no offense on my part if you’d rather decline," the older woman mentioned. "And if you want some time to think about it then that’s fine too. You know where I live if you choose to accept and I can let the guards know that if you come by to let you in," she nodded. "Whatever’s most convenient for you," Regina finished with a smile. "And besides, it’s a big enough place and there’s no way I could put to use every single room in there anyway. Although like I said, entirely up to you. I should start heading back though to have dinner made later which you’re welcome to join or not as well." She turned to go but only made it a few paces before stopping. Regina turned her head to the side though otherwise not completely around to say one more thing to the former fairy. "Remember the Regina you met that night who smiled and laughed with you? I hope you know that was real. I was happy then if only for a moment, so I should be thanking you really for that." She wasn’t sure why she’d decided to say that yet she had and there was no way to take her words back now though she wouldn’t have even if she could. "Well, that’s all. I’ll let you finally have some peace from me," she chuckled softly and turned once more to go.
It was difficult not to be angry or upset, it really was, but how could she not be when Regina was making it sound all so nonchalant. “I didn’t just put in some effort, Regina. I went against everything to help you! I went against Blue’s word to help you and you threw everything back into my face!” She hadn’t meant to scream at the woman, but she couldn’t help herself. Now she was sure she was slightly red in the face and as much as it embarrassed her, it at least felt nice to yell about it to her. There was just so many things she wanted to say and she hated that while she had lost everything, Regina was still some queen in some palace. And of course she knew Regina wasn’t happy where she was, but at least she had something. Because what did Tinkerbell have now that she wasn’t a fairy? Nothing. She didn’t have a home and she definitely didn’t have friends or a family; she had nothing. She wasn’t even sure who she was without being a fairy.
“I can’t forgive you,” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Not anytime soon anyway.” She wasn’t too keen on holding grudges; or rather she was never given reason to anyway. There was always the off chance that she might have held one against Regina, but it was easier to feel less angry about it all now that she had the Evil Queen apologizing to her. That in itself seemed like some kind of miracle since she was sure that Blue had told her that Regina wouldn’t feel bad about anything, but clearly that wasn’t the case. And as much as she would have liked to give Regina the benefit of the doubt, Tinkerbell had simply lost too much to just let this go without another thought. It’s what made it hard for her to even look at Regina. Right now when she looked at her, all Tink could see was the woman that had ruined her life and she hated that that was all she saw when only days before she had saw so much when it came to the Queen.
She should have just been allowed to be mad, but now she felt like even that was being ruined because Regina was here to try and comfort her. Or something along those lines anyway. If she thought she had a sea of emotions to swim through before, she definitely felt like she was drowning in some ocean now. All of the feelings she had in her in that moment though, scared her. It scared her that she couldn’t figure out the thoughts that were flittering through her head and all it made her really want to do was fly away from all of this. Away from her problems and away from Regina, but she couldn’t do that, not anymore. It just made her wish that Regina had just gone into the bar and talked to the man with the lion tattoo. Then Tinkerbell wouldn’t even be in this and she’d probably be off trying to help some other lost soul.
There was some relief when Regina said she was going to leave just then. In a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons she wanted Regina to leave, but for just as many reasons she didn’t want her to either. Regina may have been the last person she wanted to see, but the woman was also the only person she could think of that would want to even see her. Somehow that thought just then brought tears to her eyes. She was really all alone now and she didn’t know what was next for her. Looking off into the forest only made it worse since she knew she didn’t have a home waiting for her somewhere in the Enchanted Forest. “I don’t have anywhere to go,” she murmured softly.
She turned around when Tinkerbell began to speak again and clenched her jaw to keep herself from snapping and saying something she’d regret later. “I know,” Regina murmured, “I ruined everything for you and I know I could try to apologize to you in a hundred different ways, but you might never forgive me for it and I wouldn’t expect you to — I wouldn’t blame you at all if you didn’t. I’d be furious and it’ll be something I’ll regret being the cause of for the rest of my life.” Even if Tinkerbell didn’t forgive her, maybe she’d at least get some kind of pleasure from seeing the Evil Queen, the person who was too prideful to ever show compassion or guilt, and god forbid she ever apologize for her actions regardless of whether or not she regretted them. But here she was apologizing with the utmost sincerity to the other woman. She didn’t know why she felt so compelled to try and somehow right her wrongdoing or at least make it known she was sorry for it, more sorry than she’d ever be able to say, yet she was. Tinkerbell could’ve been just another person’s life she ruined, just another person who’s happiness she’d taken away, however that clearly wasn’t the case and Regina wished she knew why.
Part of her wanted to go find Blue and twist the fairy’s wings for what she’d done to Tinkerbell, although not only would that not bring back the blonde’s wings, but it’d only make the situation far more worse than it already was. Having another person despise her wasn’t something Regina was worried about, every person in the Enchanted Forest probably hated her for one reason or another and would love to see her plunged into absolute misery which she already was not that they’d be able to tell nor would she ever confess to, however she didn’t want to make things more difficult for the smaller woman before her. The thought of causing harm to the Blue Fairy because of what she’d done to Tinkerbell led the Queen to wonder why she even cared in the first place and why did it make her so upset. That was the most perplexing part about the whole situation: why she was upset with herself for what she’d done when she’d caused pain to others before, why she was so angry with the Blue Fairy when what she’d done to Tinkerbell didn’t directly affect her, and why she cared as much as she did about it all.
"You don’t have to forgive me," she added after a few minutes of silence passed between them. "I did look for you in hopes you’d forgive me or to ask for it at all. I searched for you because I wanted to tell you how sorry I was although I know my words are of no use to you, they’re just words after all." She knew that if Snow White had apologized profusely to her for what she’d done as a little girl that’d caused her downward spiral into darkness and onto the path that’d led her to becoming the Evil Queen, she’d still have trouble trying to forgive the woman. Though perhaps it was unfair to say Snow White was the cause of her bitterness and the reason she’d come to be infamous for being evil. Rather, Snow White may have been better categorized as a catalyst and Regina was doomed from the start to fall from grace, whatever grace that might’ve been. Maybe it was how she used to be, when she wasn’t so bitter and closed off, keeping up her guard of sharp words and icy glares.
Something else that the queen knew she was at fault for and caused the corner of her lips to twitch into a frown though it was quickly erased from her features and replaced with a thin smile. The solution to Tinkerbell’s problem was easy enough for Regina to think of and it was the very least she could do for the former fairy, but whether the woman would want to accept was up to her. “You can stay at the palace if you wish, you can have any room you’d like.” Space wasn’t an issue as her guards stayed primarily on the first floor and the rest of the palace was left to her to occupy, which was impossible since there was only one of Regina in a large place. “You’ll barely have to see me at all and I’ll do my best to stay out of your way,” the older queen added to be sure Tinkerbell knew that should she choose to stay with her it didn’t mean she’d have to interact or see her all that much.
Startled at the sound of a voice, she jumped. Tinkerbell would have been happy for the company—she really needed it—but then she saw who it was that was talking to her. Her face instantly fell, her shoulders drooping as well. Regina had to be the last person she wanted to see let alone talk to at the moment. Heck, even Blue would have been better to see at this moment than the Evil Queen. Her mouth was set in a firm line as she decided if she should just turn and walk in the opposite direction of the woman. There couldn’t possibly be anything that the two of them could discuss after everything that Regina had said to her the last time. Just thinking about it sent her into a whirlwind of emotions that she didn’t want to have to go through again, and yet she was frozen on the spot staring at the woman in front of her.
Tinkerbell remained silent though, not really sure about what she would say. Out of the other fairies, she was known to be more temperamental when it came to her feelings, and she wasn’t about to lose her cool and start yelling or start crying for the matter. There was no way she was going to let Regina under her skin like that again. It made her almost sick to think about how easily she had opened herself up to the woman and Tink had thought Regina had opened up to her… But now she had to wonder if it was all some act and she just wanted to see how high this fairy was willing to fly for the Evil Queen. Thoughts like that made her feel like she had been kicked in the gut and her wings were taken from her all over again, and even though her head was telling her that that was probably the case, her heart was telling her otherwise.
She hated that she was so willing to doubt all the bad things she had heard about Regina from the get go, but how could she not? The woman she had met in that small town hadn’t been someone that looked evil. She hadn’t even acted evil when they had first spoken. All Tink had seen was a woman that was heartbroken and a woman that was trapped in a loveless marriage with no hope in her future. But then she had seen Regina smile, really smile, and all Tinkerbell could think was that Regina had the most beautiful smile she had ever seen. The only thing she had wanted to do was to continue to make Regina smile and she had thought she had found a way when Tink told the woman that she could help her find her true love. “You couldn’t or you wouldn’t?” she finally said, eyes narrowing into a slight glare at her. Even if in those last seconds she hadn’t wanted Regina to go in, the fact that Regina had lied and then gotten mad at her for trying to give her happiness was what got to her the most.
Instantly she bristled at the wings comment. The last thing Tinkerbell wanted was her help. How did Regina think that she was going to possibly trust her after what had happened? “It’s none of your business. Besides, I thought you’d be happy I lost my wings since you said I was a horrible fairy,” she snapped. As the word left her mouth though, she paled slightly in worry. Although the Regina she had met before that night had been kind, she now had to fear that she wouldn’t be as nice to her after the fact. It was as if she had Blue in her ear whispering all the horrible things that Regina had done since she had been crowned queen. “I don’t want your help, Regina,” she said through her teeth. “I think you’ve already helped enough.” That was about as much as she thought she could say without completely losing her cool and Tink wasn’t about to let Regina get the best of her again.
Regina tried to fight off the sigh that threatened to escape her and instead rolled her lips together. “I wouldn’t,” she responded after a minute of letting the other woman’s words hang in the air. She didn’t see the point in being dishonest to Tinkerbell, not when she was trying to amend things without having to stoop to an even more vulnerable position than she already felt she was in by having even had the idea to look for the fairy to apologize to her. “Because I couldn’t bring myself to and I’m sorry because I know you went through the effort to try and help.” But she didn’t explain further than that. She wasn’t going to admit that she’d been scared, she wasn’t going to give Tinkerbell something to possibly jeer at her for. The queen, the evil queen of all people, scared? It was laughable really that the woman who was the most widely loathed and feared person in the Enchanted Forest would be genuinely frightened over some silly feelings. Except to Regina they weren’t all that silly and that frustrated her. She wasn’t meant to fall victim to her own feelings, she was meant to be able to control them, not have them control her, and yet here she was all because of her own emotions.
"Why would I-" She began to echo the blonde’s statement, but rather than finish her sentence the brunette closed her mouth and shook her head. It would’ve probably been expected of her that she might revel at the thought of Tinkerbell losing her wings, but… "I wouldn’t ever find joy in that," she responded keeping her even tone. "I feel more terrible about that than you’d believe and more than I could tell you," she added in a quieter voice. "I’m not asking you to forgive me, I don’t expect you to nor do I expect you to believe anything I say — why should you when I’ve given you no reason to? But I wanted to find you to apologize anyway and tell you that I am truly sorry whether you choose to believe me or not. If I could…" This time the sigh she’d fought back minutes ago escaped her as once again she let her voice trail off and leave yet another comment go unfinished as she gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "Never mind, it’s not important," she brushed it off nonchalantly. If she could, she’d have traded her magic for Tinkerbell’s wings, but that was too bold an admission. It was because of her magic that she was evil and maybe if she got rid of her magic then she could find a way to redeem herself.
However the thought was preposterous as there was no way anyone would ever want to consider giving her a chance to prove she wasn’t as evil as they thought she was, that beneath the darkness and magic and flaws, she was also human who happened to be scared and miss the person she used to be, wishing to be that girl again who used to go out riding for pleasure, gallop through the field and have her horse make jumps over logs, praising it after with a loving pat and the reward of an apple. She missed that girl, the old Regina, but it was far too late now to ever be her again. She’d succumbed to the temptations of magic in hopes of escaping her mother’s clutches, to get out of a marriage she couldn’t bear to be in, having to share a bed with a man who only liked her for her looks and her power but was otherwise still very much in love with and obsessed over his dead wife, Snow White’s mother. Regina was trapped in a life she didn’t want with no way out but to press onwards and live up to the name of Evil Queen.
Realizing she’d said nothing for a several minutes, she pursed her lips together, looking around as if she really cared to take in the scenery around them. “That’s all I had to say I suppose, that I am sorry Tinkerbell, and if you do change your mind about the offer or need a favor then you know where I am.” She masked the pain of the remorse she felt with a forced smile. “Well then, I’ll leave you alone as I’m sure you don’t want me around anymore,” she inhaled deeply and gave a small nod as she turned on her heel to begin her walk back to her palace. She wasn’t disappointed that Tinkerbell was still fuming, she hadn’t expected any differently and would’ve been more surprised had the smaller woman not been evidently upset with her as Regina knew she’d been in the wrong the other night, that she should’ve helped Tinkerbell somehow to prevent her from losing her wings, should’ve at least exchanged a few words with the man so that the blonde’s efforts wouldn’t have been in vain, but what was done was done. She’d apologized and there wasn’t much more she could do than that if Tinkerbell didn’t want her around.
After everything that had happened, the only thing that Tinkerbell felt was numb. It was one bad event after another, but she wasn’t sure which one was worse. Blue had taken her wings. She wasn’t a fairy anymore and she wasn’t sure if it had really settled in for her yet. How was she supposed to feel knowing that only hours ago she could fly and using pixie dust, only for that to be ripped away from her like a bandage? And all for what? To help the Evil Queen, Regina, find some small hope of happiness in that dark world of hers. The thought left her with mixed feelings. Was she angry over how Regina had so easily seen to her demise and hadn’t cared, or was she sad that the woman in front of her was choosing a life a misery over a life of love and happiness?
Tinkerbell tried to think that Regina didn’t deserve the happiness she was trying to give her, and that the man in the bar was better off, but the fairy couldn’t think such things. She didn’t think anyone deserved to be alone and miserable for their entire lives, even Regina. And yet… The moment she had shown Regina the man with the lion tattoo, Tinkerbell had a sudden urge to tell the woman that she was wrong and that the man wasn’t the man for her. It was stupid and ridiculous, but in those seconds before she walked away from Regina for her to meet her soul mate, she had hoped… Well Tink wasn’t sure what she was hoping for, but she knew that she didn’t want Regina to go into that bar and meet whoever that man was.
She had slightly dreaded heading back to the palace to see how Regina had fared, but was able to put on an enthusiastic smile as she waited to hear the news. But then Regina told her that she it hadn’t worked out and that Tinkerbell was stupid to think that he was the person right for her. Her conclusions were easy to draw: Regina hadn’t talked to him, and even though there was a part of her that was pleased by that predicament, the fairy couldn’t help but yell right back at the woman for not taking a chance on happiness. All too soon she knew her world would easily come crashing down around her. She had stolen for the Queen, and she knew Blue would punish her for it, but Regina didn’t care. All Regina did was tell her that she was a horrible fairy and for her to get out of her sights. Heartbroken, angry, and on the verge of tears, the only thing Tink could really do was fly off to await her fate with Blue—a fate that left her alone in the world without any purpose.
The now ex-fairy didn’t know where to go. She didn’t have a home anymore and the other fairies were the only family she ever really had, so to be kicked out of their world left her alone and lost as to what it was she should be doing now. The Enchanted Forest was the easiest place for her to go to since she spent a great amount of time there already, and while it gave her some small comfort, it didn’t fill the hole that was left in her heart. Even days later, Tink was still simply wandering on autopilot, lost in a haze of her emotions. So when she had started to hear her name echo through the trees, she wasn’t sure if she was hearing things correctly or she was just really starting to lose it. Of course, she went with the latter and kept up with her walking. She knew she needed to fashion herself someplace to live—sleeping in trees was definitely not comfortable—but again she was at a loss of what to do.
It was then that Tinkerbell heard her name again. She wasn’t losing it, and although that made her feel slightly better, she couldn’t understand who would be out in the forest looking for her. Not many people knew of her to begin with and if it was Blue or one of the other fairies, she was sure they would have found her already. Curiosity pulled her out of her funk and she found herself walking towards where she figured the voice was coming from. Alone with the sounds of twigs crunching under her shoes, she lost herself in her thoughts once again, playing over and over again what had happened only a couple of days ago. If she had known how events would have turned out, if she had known the consequences was losing her wings, would she have still stolen the pixie dust from Blue? Would she have continued to help Regina if she had known that the woman was going to brush her off like Tink was nothing more than a nuisance? It was questions that she didn’t know the answer to and what worried her was that she didn’t know if she would have done things differently.
Regina was about to give up and turn around to head back to her palace, the Dark Palace. Everything about her was dark, but that was no surprise when she was meant to be the embodiment of evil after all. She’d even turned around, chiding herself under her breath about how ridiculous it was to go wandering off into the forest looking for someone who probably didn’t want to be found, especially by her of all people when she was the very reason that the fairy was in whatever predicament she was in, and that she should just go home and try to forget all about it. Maybe the Blue Fairy had scolded Tinkerbell and that was it or maybe the superior fairy had done more. She wasn’t really sure how the Blue Fairy would react as she didn’t know the fairy herself. Though she had heard about how others had been helped by her, which Regina couldn’t help but feel a pang of resentment towards her as well for having been so willing to offer even a listening ear to everyone but her. It was petty though and one vexation that Regina shrugged off.
When she heard a second set of footsteps a few yards away from her, she turned around. No one was in sight right away causing the queen to glare and ready herself if she should need the use of her magic to defend herself. When she saw Tinkerbell emerge from behind one of the trees, the fairy, or rather ex-fairy it looked from the lack of wings, was lost in her thoughts, and Regina relaxed a little knowing that at least it wasn’t someone else. In a world where everyone wanted her head on a silver platter and would probably celebrate her death, she couldn’t be too careful. “Oh good, it’s you,” she commented quietly with a hint of relief, but quickly straightened her posture to regain her more cool composure and not bear the appearance that she’d spent all morning and would’ve spent all afternoon as well looking for her. “I was wondering if I’d come across you,” she spoke up nonchalantly to the other fairy. Woman? Could Tinkerbell be called a fairy anymore? But she wasn’t about to ask, knowing that if the blonde couldn’t be considered a fairy anymore then it’d be because of her.
She looked around as if there might be anyone else, but when there were no signs of anyone else being there but the two of them she turned her attention back to the former fairy. She opened her mouth to speak, but wasn’t entirely sure of what she wanted to say. Sorry that you lost your wings? That sounded too impersonal. Sorry for..? Regina wasn’t used to being genuinely sorry or at least not acting on it by trying to apologize to the other person and she mentally kicked herself for not having planned out what she’d wanted to say before she’d embarked on her search. “I’m sorry,” she finally spoke up after a few minutes of silence had passed between them. Her lips twitched into a frown at her own words so she tried again. ”I’m sorry I didn’t go speak with the man. I just…” She trailed off again. How uncharacteristic for her and something she noticed which she didn’t like, but she couldn’t very well say she couldn’t speak to the man because she wasn’t so certain that he was meant to be her true love, that she was scared of driving him away because it’d been so long since she’d been in a real relationship herself, scared that he might not like her because she was Regina, the Queen, but not just any queen, the evil queen. Scared because she wasn’t sure if was starting to have feelings for someone else instead, not that she was ever going to admit to that and she was still deciding if that was an idea she wanted to yet acknowledge herself or completely brush off and deny as a silly contemplation, but held no truth. “Couldn’t,” she finally settled with without offering any further explanation.
"And I’m sorry about your wings," Regina added. Maybe there was some way to get them back for Tinkerbell. She might not be able to grant her a new pair of wings with her own magic, but maybe there was something she could do to help with the ex-fairy getting them back? Maybe she was hoping for too much and this was one situation she couldn’t help fix, as if she’d ever been of much help to anyone other than to cause them misery. "If I can do something to help get them back for you though, I will," she added, trying to not let it show how out of her element she felt in the current situation because she wasn’t the one in control and she was the one trying to amend things.
Regina had to admit, she did feel guilty for having snapped at Tinkerbell like that a couple days prior. The woman had only been trying to help her find her true love, but when she saw the man, all the words left her brain and she was left with having no idea of what to say. There was just something about the whole situation of being set up to be with someone else that felt odd to her. Wrong, even. That wasn’t how true love was supposed to work, but now Regina wasn’t so sure she knew anymore either. Her first love, Daniel, had been taken from her years ago when she was younger and Snow White was still barely more than a little girl. When Snow had found her kissing Daniel, her stable boy, the girl was appalled. Regina was betrothed to King Leopold and no matter how much she told her father she didn’t want to marry the man, her father supported her mother’s decision in marrying her off. She planned to run away with Daniel, but Snow had told her mother about him and the woman ripped out his heart, crushing it in her hand and thus killing him. Though she’d learned to move on, the betrayal from Snow was a wound that still stung and her resentment with the woman festered inside of her.
Now she was meant to be finding her new true love. Tinkerbell had told her the man she was meant to speak with the other night was him, but she couldn’t do it and so she left without having approached him at all. When the blonde had found out and confronted her about it, Regina had lashed out at her telling the woman she was a bad fairy. Tinkerbell had told her she’d get into trouble since she’d stolen the pixie dust, but instead of apologizing and trying to help the fairy, the queen sent her away.
She sighed as she stood on her balcony overlooking the Enchanted Forest. Guilt wasn’t something Regina liked the feeling of and usually she’d been able to make herself push the pang of remorse away and eventually forget about it. But not this time. This time the feeling wouldn’t stop nagging at her and it’d caused her to wake up in a foul mood. Frowning, she turned from her balcony and decided to change into something a bit more practical for walking around in. She opted for her black pants with knee-high boots to go along with a black vest that was worn beneath a deep, royal purple overcoat of sorts that looked more like a dress. Dark colors were what she was best known for. She was the queen after all, or rather evil queen, as everyone else in the realm had deemed her. She couldn’t deny having a dark heart to match the color of her wardrobe, but she hadn’t been born evil. It was a case of like mother, like daughter after beginning to use magic for the first time, she started to follow the same path her mother did and over time had become evil.
She refused to allow any of her guards to accompany her into the Enchanted Forest as she wanted to be able to speak with Tinkerbell alone. That was, if she even managed to find the woman. The forest was vast and she wasn’t sure where the fairy was so she could end up spending her whole day looking for the woman and not find her at all before being forced to turn back when it began to get too dark to continue forward. She trudged through the forest, twigs snapping under her feet as she tried to find any sign of where the blonde had disappeared to. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it must’ve at least been a few hours since the sun was high above the forest though beneath the canopy of leaves, it was still a bit dim. “Tinkerbell?” She called out, trying not to sound as if she were desperate to see the fairy. She was still a queen who was expected to bear at least somewhat of a regal appearance. When she was only answered with the sound of the rustling leaves and her own footsteps, Regina let out an irked sigh. She wasn’t sure why she was going through all this effort to find one person, but she’d already started out on the quest of hers and wasn’t about to turn back now. “Tinkerbell?” Regina’s voice pierced the tranquil atmosphere yet again a few minutes later. This was hopeless, she wasn’t going to find the fairy and should just turn back, and yet her feet kept walking. Maybe she’d get lucky and happen across Tinkerbell by chance. Unlikely, but that was really her only way of ever finding the fairy at this point.