Summary: Destiny works in twos. It wasn't only Regina who missed her chance at true love.
Author Disclaimer: "Once Upon a Time," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, Kitsis/Horowitz, and ABC Studios. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with "Once Upon a Time," ABC, or any representatives of the actors.
Robin fiddles with the bow in his lap as the carriage jostles across uneven ground. He has been ordered to meet the daughter of Lady Cora and across from him his father, nothing but a feudal Lord owner of vast swatches of land in the East at the edge of the Sherwood Forest, practically salivates at the opportunity. To join their families would mean to join the ranks of royalty and for a greedy man such as he it matters not that the girl is two years younger then his son or, more importantly, that his son has little interest in marrying for wealth and glory.
Lady Cora is known as a mean woman to her underlings and, her husband, the unfortunate soul tied to her. Little is known of her daughter, a girl protected from the cruelties of society like a frightened child which irks Robin; but one thing that has been heard is that the child is a disappointment - Cora never satisfied with her. None of these attributes are things he aspires to have in a wife. His father is wealthy and willing to take the disappointment if it means a title.
Robin is not.
"I hear she is a remarkable beauty," simpers his father dressed in overly ornate robes, robes bought on the heavy taxes of his vassals. Robin scoffs lowly that is just what the wealthy say to obscure the fact that these "fine" ladies are nothing more then horse-faced shrews, unwedable but for their wealth and lineage. "Her mother could spin straw into gold. Why if she becomes your betrothed think…think of possibilities if she possesses such a talent." Robin is even less impressed - if that were possible. Magic. The word makes his stomach churn with displeasure.
Where is magic to help the poor? Where was magic to help his poor sick mother? The last Locksley who had died after marrying a greedy man who forsook his family's poisoned name of Gisbourne for her beloved one.
No. Robin was completely unimpressed with the prospect of being married off to this…this witch. Nothing could entice him. He gripped his bow more firmly. He'd meet the lass, be an utter ass, and hopefully that would dissuade any romantic attachment on her part and any monetary attachment on her mother's. He was not going to be a tool for his father's cruel aspirations. He lives with honor, valor, and hope in the goodness of others. So he desires a bridge with kindness, sweetness, patience, and intelligence.
It is in this carriage on the way to meet his potential betrothed, as he watches the barren land around the carriage and beggars on the road, that he decides he is done with this future. The lion, the crest emblazoned on his skin as a right of passage at fourteen, winks beneath his stuffy cotton shirt - the mark of the Family of Locksley that has come to mean poverty and cruelty. He will leave this life and rebuild his name one act at a time until he can wear the lion proudly.
He never does end up meeting the reclusive daughter of Lady Cora for a footman meets them on their journey and informs them they need not bother for the child has been betrothed to King Leopold. His father spits profanities on the way home, offended, red, and seething, but Robin thinks on other things barely sparing a thought for the obviously greedy, spoiled girl who would not even honor their tentative engagement.
A king, he mentally scoffs meanly, let her be happy with her wealth.
The rest of the journey he spends plotting how he will escape his father. How he will begin returning wealth to the unfortunate. And he doesn't spare another thought to the girl opportunity had fastened as his partner.
The ale flows, sloshing in his cup as he and his men give a raunchy cheer, another successful heist: another successful mission. This one is particularly satisfying for he has returned all the taxes stolen by his father to his tenants and Robin cannot be more proud, if for nothing else the expression on his father's face when he, the useless son, was the one to rob the cruel lord blind. He can still hear the gluttonous man's shock at coming face to face with the son he had accused of forsaking his duty.
"You are Robin Hood!"
"I am father and now I shall rob you blind and restore the name of Locksley." His father had denounced him, and stripped him of his honor, but this will restore it. "And I always do my duty to the people."
Yes, the smile cannot be wiped from his face as he downs his glass with a long pull and leans back laughing as his cup is immediately filled again and the men call for more.
"To the man with nimblest fingers in all the land."
"Able to claim any bounty."
"Or booty!" roars another. That man is promptly shoved from the bench but continues to drink himself silly beneath the table. He takes a moment to pause in the merriment and revelry to reflect on his life. He does not regret his decision to leave a life of luxury and he barely spares a thought for his now royal never fiance, but the thought of marriage is a pleasing one. His men may see no reason to stop their way of life but he wishes for family and the pleasing company of a female companion but he has yet to meet such a woman. One who is his equal. One who understands the trails of excess and barred choices.
One of the men in front of him whistles lowly as something catches his eye at the door to the tavern but even Robin's quick reflexes are not fast enough to catch a glimpse of whatever has caught the man's eyes for he is only greeted with a slamming door and swish of white fabric and long black hair as whoever it was fades into the night.
"Too bad. What a lass," breathes the man appreciatively. Robin raises an eyebrow skeptically. The Merry Men have tried to convince him before that beauties have entered these rather unsavory establishments, he has yet to see evidence - it seems more likely the departed maiden was ugly and they merely want to send him on a goose chase after a maiden who can not rub two words together. "You should have seen her. She was a vision."
Robin shakes his head at the man before him. "You will not convince me. It is late. All honorable woman folk are at home not searching for the company of unbathed men." Snickers circle the table but those who have seen her appear to be in consensus that whomever she was she had been nothing short of stunning.
He buys them another round of drinks and does not dwell on the woman he never saw.
It is no use chasing fantasies.
Snow White and her associates enter the tavern with care, she is light and goodness and everyone immediately cheers to her arrival - screw the Evil Queen. She is hope embodied and Robin considers throwing something at her head because he has no use for hope.
His wife is dead. His beloved Marian stripped from the mortal realm in childbirth.
He has not borne the news well. He's been coming here night after night indulging in any meaningless distraction and dalliance he can to deflect from the agonizing pain he feels at her loss. He watches the group with growing malice, tossing back more alcohol. Two of his men, Arthur and Tom, watch him from another table - he is too volatile to approach and their attempts at caring are suffocating him.
The princess immediately gravitates to her prince hidden at the table farthest in the back. He mentally swears the word like a cuss; Marian had called him her beloved a prince, The Prince of Thieves. Really who are the couple fooling their little meetings are clearly obvious and their overtly sweet nature makes him ill.
But this time he watches curiously as a woman he has never seen before follows Snow White. She is a mule in comparison to the beauty of the other girl - hair matted with leaves and dirt and wearing the brown terry clothes of little more then a beggar - but she looks as lost and desperate as he feels and she will do for tonight. He is not seeking for sweet and loving embrace but a figure that will take him and his guilt to the hilt and this rather homely woman will do. He flicks the foam and grit from his bread and steadies his stance, pointedly ignoring the looks his men send him.
She jumps away as his hand brushes her hip staring at him with thin lips. Up close the peasant lacks any redeemable or memorable features and again that suits him he does not need a pretty face, just a mouth or hand to help his release. But he is tactful and quiet as he leans forward, "would you like to go outside?"
She blinks at him shrewdly before looking to Snow White who is engrossed in a deep lip lock with the prince, her companion left alone. Forgotten. "Alright." His gloved fingers close around hers and he guides her out into the alley, where he proceeds to roughly push her against the stone wall hands dropping to her hips to tug away offending layers.
"What are you doing?" she asks, no fear in her voice or indication for him to stop, but the question catches him off guard regardless.
"Were my intentions not obvious?" It could almost pass as a joke but there is nothing funny about where his hands are wandering or how accepting she is of this situation. She has not even discussed payment.
She chuckles lowly. "But you're crying," to prove her point she lifts a hand and pulls away wet fingertips. "Whatever it is you're feeling this won't take it away. I know." He suddenly feels incredibly vulnerable and raw. These were the people he had sworn to protect, to protect from not being taken advantage of and here he is no different then any other greedy man. Marian would be ashamed of him.
"You can continue," she points out gesturing to the leg that had been wedged between her thighs at one point. "But I have no intention of going near Snow White and her prince after their little display in there so I can stay out here and listen instead."
It spills forth in gasping cries of woe. Every single bit of anger and sadness is released uttered on the wind for who will she tell? This woman is a stranger and there is comfort in knowing that she has no one to divulge his agony with anyone nor will her pity filled eyes ever rest on him again.
"So you are here getting drunk and cavorting with women while your two week old babe lays alone in its cradle?" She spews indignantly, anger flashing in her eyes. None of his men have been angry with him and its a pleasant change to not being looked on with sympathy.
"Would you believe I am a good man?" He laughs in genuine good humor.
"Then do yourself a favor and be one." She contemplates her words, brows furrowed. "It is too late for me, nobody likes me, but you have time to be the man worthy of your wife's memory and son's love."
"Snow White appears to like you." The woman barks a chilling laugh.
"Yes, she's a bit of a fool at that, but she will hate me all the same. Give it time." He decides not to delve further because clearly this is something she is not willing to discuss with him or anyone for that matter if the way she crosses her arms and shrinks inside herself is any indication.
"I'm sorry for the advances. I was in a very dark place."
"I suspect you will be in that place for a while," she intones, "but if you start making different choices," again her eyebrows furrow, "the right choices perhaps people will not burn effigies to your misdeeds."
"A supporter of the Queen?" he queries. It is a constant blessing that he has mercifully avoided being married off to such a nightmare. He will never forget the moment when he had realized that dreadful woman had been the one all those years ago his father had aspired to join him with, what a relief it is know the union had failed.
"Do you not acknowledge that such action is wrong?"
"Wrong it may be but it is justified."
There is a long moment where she just stares at the opposite wall as if it holds all the answers to her own anguished soul. Robin can tell this woman is a kindred soul, she knows of pain and heartbreak and clearly also the crushing bitterness of watching those you care for die and being helpless to stop it. "Go home to your son good man - the proof of you and wife's love. Show him that love, tell him of his mother so he knows of her love, and be a good man still. Anger and grief gnaw at your soul until their cruel clutches feast upon it and turn you dark."
"Is that what happened to you?" She sneers standing and brushing herself off and walking away. Conversation over. Robin considers going after her but thinks the better of it - some people prefer to wallow alone. But he is not alone he has a son, proof that Marian lived and loved.
He has a son. He is a father. He is not alone.
So he rushes, stumbles, into his camp amongst the trees and Tuck is there trying to calm the crying infant who has done nothing but cry since the moment of his birth. He waves his rosary above the child's head but to no avail.
"Let me," he whispers and the men nod slinking away to give the man who has barely cast a glance or held the babe for more then five minutes time to properly greet his son.
Roland wails in the hamper that serves as his cradle, red faced and snotty. Fists violently shaking even as Robin picks him up and holds him like porcelain in his arms. "My son, my beautiful, beautiful Roland, I love you. I'll be better. Always." The baby stops brown eyes opening to stare up at the father he has never seen but instantly his hand shoots upwards to grip his dirty ring finger, teary brown eyes looking into his and Robin decides he will do better. He peppers his son's crown with kisses and the child let's out its first peel of laughter and Robin cries with relief.
"You have worked a miracle," utters Tuck joining him with a bottle of warmed milk and spoon to help feed the infant which Robin gratefully takes.
"It is good to have you back," adds Little John patting him on the back and finally the camp can rejoice in the birth of its littlest Merry Man.
He approaches Snow White later to inquire about the kind, albeit troubled, woman who listened to his woes and set him right again but the Princess gets defensive and becomes angry at the question swearing it is better for all concerned he never find that particular woman.
He never does thank her.
It's so daring that it's almost suicide. The men are half convinced he has gone mad but her people are suffering and poor - and he will not stand for that. So they venture out of Sherwood Forest into the lands of the Evil Queen with a devilish plan that is as cunning as it is insane; their objective are to steal the crown jewels.
And it all goes surprisingly well he's inside the massive vault within an hour and merely walking through the rows and rows of jewellery is enough to convince him that the Evil Queen lives a life of insurmountable wealth that she has unjustly held from her people.
What he doesn't expect to find is a long raven haired woman wearing a white slip and polishing the articles tiredly. He cocks his bow and checks that his hood is secure - there is no reason this woman need see his face - and approaches the figure who sits on the cold stone floor with a taut expression.
"What are you doing?" the woman turns soulful chestnut eyes to his and it very nearly takes his breath away but if she feels threatened by his arrow she doesn't show it as she adopts a look of indifference.
"Polishing. It is fairly obvious." She says before turning back to her work.
"It's the middle of the night. The Queen makes you polish her jewels in the moonlight?"
"There's no time during the day." She squints at her misshapen reflection in the crown. "These aren't even hers really."
"What?" The tautness on his arrow loosens marginally.
"They are Queen Ava's the Queen does not care for these pieces. The King used to dress her up in them so he could celebrate and copulate with the memory of his dead wife."
"Then why are you polishing them?"
Her face darkens and a scowl settles cruel and twisted on her visage. "Because mother makes me. She would be so disappointed if these valuable objects weren't shone to perfection and upon the Queen's pretty little head."
Everything the girl, no woman he observes, says is confusing and it makes less and less sense. Her head snaps up eyes searching his, and he feels heat creep across his cheeks under her scrutiny. Gods, she really is a haunting beauty. "I suppose you are here to steal these?" A look of almost happy satisfaction crosses her face briefly. She throws the crown at his feet, where it rolls till it reflects his shrouded features. "Take them. Take them all."
"No," she commands, "take them away. You're a hero, right? Heroes are good at doing the right thing. Take them and help the people." He opens his mouth wordlessly, nothing falling from his lips but silence.
"She won't miss them I can promise you. There won't be a price on your head." He is like a statue, he cannot tell if this is a trap or the perfect crime. She grows frustrated at his apparent inaction throwing her dirty rag at his feet. "Well?"
"You're very bossy." Her brows pinch in a surprisingly familiar way as she turns away from him.
"Take what you want and leave."
"What will happen to you?"
She laughs and it's a surprisingly dark sound to come from a woman who looks rather innocent. "Nothing I don't deserve."
"Come with me." She laughs standing and beginning to throw more priceless objects at his feet, passing over each one with loathsome indifference letting them clatter to the ground.
"No. I have things to do here."
"She'll kill you." The woman makes no comment as she brushes past him and out of the room.
"As I've said. I have things to do, take what you want thief and leave." He briefly wonders if the woman he just met was insane as he hastily stuffs the most valuable objects at his feet into a sack. He hears the quiet warning signal of his men. It's time to go he can not spare another thought to the servant who just left or her fate because he has a son and people who depend on him. He does not tarry.
Hours later when they are pulling out the precious and semi-precious stones with pliers and smelting the valuable metals into even pieces he spares some thought to the girl who let him steal the Queen's jewels. He hopes that the woman at least has this mother of hers to depend upon or even friends who will help her escape the wrath and fury of the Evil Queen for he thinks she deserves a taste of happiness for the wealth she has brought to the wretched citizens of the kingdom.
They have been tracking the party for two days.
Some of the faces are easy to identify: Belle's, Neal's, Snow White's, the Prince's but others are harder. The old lady and the darker figure who lingers at the edge of group are ones he cannot place. But it doesn't take him long to realize that the woman who walks rigid and determined, only approached by the princess is the Evil Queen. Though he sees no evil in her.
She walks with heavy, slow steps, probably not helped by the massive gown she wears but it is her armor just as his bow is his. Her black clothing holds imposing power and from a distance he can see little of her features but she does patrol their makeshift camp at night, an imposing magical being that makes him keep his men at bay at the risk of being accidentally burnt if sensed as a threat.
He watches her if for nothing but plain curiosity for this is the woman he was once fated to marry. A marriage of convenience but a marriage nevertheless. It startles him how much he finds her amusing and Roland appears to share his hobby as he points out every action the woman takes.
"She's pretty isn't she papa?" he asks the second night as they watch from between the branches of a shrub.
"She is too far away to tell my boy," he chuckles. He'd always assumed she was as horse-faced as the vision he created in his youth, though the kingdom has always agreed on her beauty only matched by her cruelty.
"She's pretty," concludes Roland nodding at his assessment. "Will we talk to her tomorrow?"
Robin decides that yes, tomorrow his band shall introduce themselves because the woods are too dangerous to traverse alone - especially having seen them materialize from thin air, most likely they have not even occupied the kingdom making them even more susceptible to the peculiar threats that now roam the woods. Magic or no magic they are not safe.
He's the first to notice the next day when the Queen leaves the group sneaking into the woods, surprisingly close to where he and his men are hiding and he watches with muted dread, yet stunned shock, as she plunges a hand into her chest and pulls out the beating black organ that serves as her heart.
She holds the object before her, squeezing it in a tightening grip and wincing or wheezing with each successive squeeze until finally she slumps her shoulders in defeat and falls onto the dirty ground digging a grave for the object and he doesn't even realize he's striding forward till Little John is pulling him back pointing at the arrival of Snow White and he tries not to listen to exchange, for it is private, but years as a thief makes it impossible to miss the words and he empathizes with her agony. This woman is so much bigger then the title she has been given.
Then a winged beast attacks attempting to drag her off and he's nocked and fired an arrow even before his men can comprehend that Robin is striding towards the two women on the ground to offer his assistance.
For the first time in his life he gazes upon the face of the mighty, frightening Evil Queen, and his breath hitches imperceptibly because Gods she really is a beauty. She is quick witted too as she ignores his offer and snaps at Little John and in that moment he sees the maid from the castle the one who was polishing the jewels of a dead Queen and she's older now but, dear Lord, he stole from the real Queen. She let him live and let him take her property when she could have ripped him to shreds with a thought. Why did she do that?
He agrees to help them of course. For he is a good man and he will protect them because he may be curious about the Queen but Snow White is the heir and ruler. Him and his Merry Men intermingle easily with the group but every so often he steals furtive glances at the Queen who strides long and sure ahead of him with nary a thought for the outlaw - who secretly wishes to have her full attention for another minute more.
To think this creature might have been his wife.
Somewhere in his mind a voice whispers she still can be.
Three days later he stares at the ceiling of his tent, Roland curled between Marian and himself. The boy is too old to share a tent with his parents but Robin had insisted because he needs time to process and the mother needs time with her son.
Three days ago he was Regina's soulmate.
He technically still is. He has always been. He has come to realize that fate has been trying to push them together for years. Never quite succeeding but trying nevertheless. Their never even begun engagement, the tavern where she ran, the peasant woman who a few days ago Mary Margaret delicately told him was Regina in disguise, the vault, and his rather unneeded scrutiny of her in the Enchanted Forest. He looks at his wife, his wife it is a difficult word to swallow when days ago he saw another in her place, and thinks of what this will do to her, this knowledge that though their love is real he was designed for another.
Destiny works in twos. It wasn't only Regina who missed her chance at true love.
They've both been missing all along.