Things on which this is based:
1) Marian in this story is wise and kind and has a sense of humor, because our Robin Hood definitely didn't marry a cranky little girl incapable of understanding complicated emotions, and though she may have difficulty adjusting to the idea of the Evil Queen as a more normal woman, and will be suspicious of her motives, I firmly believe she won't turn into an emotionally manipulative, weeping, screaming mess.
2) This is kind of a darker side of where Regina could go after the finale; not evil, but a bit hopeless.
3) I buy into the idea that a man who would marry his lying former fiancee's daughter who must've been no more than six or seven years older than Snow White would have to be at least emotionally if not physically abusive.
4) It's not Robin; It's what Robin represents.
5) I hate Cora. Cora is the Umbridge of Once Upon a Time.
6) I think there's at least something more to the story of Marian's death than a straightforward public execution at the hands of the Evil Queen.
This turned from a character study on Regina into a full-fledged story. So here goes.
Prelude, Part 1
She loves the smell of nature, the tang of freshly cut hay, the damp, cloying scent of dirt. She borders girlhood and womanhood, and her gowns and jewels are becoming larger, heavier. They reek of perfume, sparkle with jewels, and ruffle with lace. The brighter her jewels become, the more they weigh her down, until the glint of silver and diamond during the day makes her neck and back ache at night. She always breathes a sigh of relief when she changes them for her riding clothes, in which she can run and breathe. She takes ladylike steps until she is far enough from the windows to feel secure, and then she breaks into a run, her braids rushing behind her in the wind, and she smiles. The sun bathes her in gentle, natural light, so much more welcome than the bright court light that weighs her down, and she is warm and gentle like it, a girl who loves her mother and her daddy and believes in light and love and fairy tales.
Daniel smells like hay, dirt, grass, freedom. Their relationship does not ignite like fire, the way her magic burns in a crisis. It rises between them gently, the way the wind brushes against her skin when she steps onto the castle grounds. It should occur to her that their friendship is dangerous for him in a way that it is not for her. Her mother will marry her into royalty, and he will marry a kitchen maid and his children will look after her children's horses. But life has not yet taught her to be so suspicious, or so concerned for her future. She looks at obstacles and she sees possible ways around them, and she believes she is strong enough to try.
One night, she feigns a spell of dizziness at the ball, lets one of the men her mother has courting her escort her to a balcony, and slips away. Her father will cover for her. He is capable of helping her escape to what he believes is solitude; he wishes for it himself, and never has the courage to demand it.
She and Daniel make a dinner of the fruit from her apple tree, giggling and hiding in a stable, and the darkness that night is beautiful. It hides them.
She kisses him for the first time.
He tastes like apples and smells like sun-bleached linen, and she has to guide his hand to her neck before he will touch her.
She returns to her room hours later through the servant stairs, fighting her smile in case her mother lurks around a corner, sunlight in her heart.
Mother drags her out of bed early the next day, admonishing her for being late to the stables. Regina brightens at the prospect, but bites her tongue.
"I'm not running late, Mother," she argues, and the need for secrecy will slowly teach her to be angry to hide her joy.
When she returns from the stables, her mother is angry.
"Regina, where have you been? We have guests!" she yells.
Her snark and sass later in life didn't come out of nowhere. "I've been busy, Mother, you need not know where," she retorts. "I do things other than to please you."
Cora slaps her, her hand rough against her daughter's nose, cheek, and lips. One of her many rings catches her lip, and Regina feels her skin tear and begin to bleed. "Do not speak to me that way, disobedient child!"
Her father enters the room, sees Cora's hand poised to strike again as blood trails down his daughter's lip, and Regina cries, "Daddy!" He begins to back away. "Listen to your mother, my child."
Regina turns on her mother. "I'm not a child, Mother!"
She runs back to her room with her hand on her face. A glance in the mirror tells her it will likely scar.
She begins to drag on her ball gown angrily, then decides she will be regal, collected, show her mother it can't get to her. Cora arrives when she has almost finished, and begins to help her fasten jewelry around her neck. Regina hates this necklace; it is too bright, and too heavy, but it makes her look powerful, calm.
"I'm sorry dear," her mother says, her voice sickly sweet. "I love you. I just want what's best."
"I love you too," she whispers, the truth. As her mother begins to fuss over her hair, she stares at herself in the mirror, a different creature entirely than the one who laughs with Daniel in the stables, and she wonders, Best for whom.
She loves them both, she can't help it, but she doesn't want to be either one of them. Not her quick-to-anger mother, so hungry for power rather than happiness, but just as much, maybe even more, not her weak, foolish father.
Something inside of her is dark, a power she has unintentionally used to throw her parents and servants back when they anger her. Her mother encourages her to feel its power, to let it rise up within her until the candles in her room flicker, until the heat and darkness burns her. She hates the darkness, wants the sunlight and fields and Daniel. Her magic is dark and angry, and while sparkling bright light weighs her down, the darkness does too, the equally unnatural, hopeless darkness in her soul.
But she and Daniel, they are young, and in love, and she is happy, and she forgets about the darkness with him.
"A foolish stable boy didn't take enough care, I'm afraid," Cora had said, to explain the angry red of her daughter's upper lip to their guests.
Regina had given a polite nod, but her hands had clenched under the table. Of all the ways to explain it away, her mother would blame Daniel.
Later, years and years later, she wishes that her mother had been right. She would much prefer to look at her face and see a scar because he'd not held her waist tight enough as she leapt from the saddle, or had been too distracted by her smile to warn her about a low tree branch. She thinks about it again when she gives up his ring, the last physical reminder of him in existence, that the scar is not from him, and wonders briefly what he'd think of her now. Knows in her heart he'd be horrified.