Robin takes his coffee black. Black, and thick, and bitter – the kind of coffee one makes over a campfire, the kind that keeps one alert through long night watches or fuels one awake for an early morning hunt.
Regina takes her coffee like a royal, lightened with cream and sweet with sugar, the top airy with foam. He’d noticed it in the Forest, thought it frivolous and a mark of being high-born, had teased her over it in her kitchen that morning after they’d first kissed, when he’d walked her home after a night spent pressed together in the woods, trading soft words and warm kisses. He’d seen her home, and she’s set a pot of coffee to brew, gone upstairs to change her clothes, and returned to find him sipping his straight. She’d doctored her own, and he’d made remarks about her upbringing, about the delicate tastes and sensibilities of the ruling class, and she’d scoffed and he’d kissed her. She’d tasted like her drink, both bitter and sweet, her mouth warm and soft. It had felt right – the flavor of her, this tempestuous Queen with her cloaked vulnerability, her lovely smile and burning glares, her pliant mouth and sharp tongue.
Now, as the days without her stretch into weeks, Robin finds himself missing her. An ache in his chest, a palpable, heavy thing that makes breathing feel like work. He hears her words, an echo, a man she said I was destined to love. He sees her face, the elation that what they’d had was true, and the devastation that he was leaving it behind anyway. Every memory twists the knife a little sharper. Every night that he dreams of her, of her smile, of her touch, of her lips, has him waking in agony, choking on regret. But he cannot stray from his wife; he cannot betray his honor.
But he longs for her, oh, how he longs for her.
Storybrooke has grown cold, bitterly so, and he has taken refuge with Marian in one of Granny’s rooms, in exchange for whatever odd jobs she can find for him. He descends early this morning, before the morning rush, and Ruby stands behind the counter. He orders coffee, and Ruby parrots his usual, “Black and extra hot, right?”
But today Robin shakes his head, shame burning his cheeks, his heart strangling his words as he manages a quiet, weak, “No. No, make it like hers.”
He looks at her, and expects judgement, but what he gets is something surprisingly akin to sympathy. She doesn’t ask him who he means by the statement; she simply seems to know. But then, she’d been there that night in the diner, and every day after. It’s common knowledge now, their sordid tale.
The cup she hands him is pale and frothy, and when he sips the sweetness is almost cloying. But it tastes like Regina, like her kiss. Bitter, and sweet. Warm and rich with cream. Robin drinks slowly, and he savors her with every sip. Imagines her mouth, the way it feels, the way it tastes, the softness, the eagerness. His heart feels like a heavy leaden thing, and he feels shame and comfort all at once.
By the time he reaches the last drop, it is nearly cold and Robin thinks it fitting. Warmth is gone from his life just as she is, and it is only he to blame.