When she'd been ten and a child in King Xavier III's court, she'd heard whispers of his youngest brother, Prince Henry, who'd disgraced the family in some way that she hadn't quite understood. Her mother had scowled and said it had been Xavier II's fault, that they should cast blame where blame was due, but the other nobles had all murmured with displeasure when his name had come up- or that of his daughter, a princess no one had ever met.

Marian hadn't been a royal, only a second cousin thrice removed from the king's wife on her mother's side, but she'd been a frequent visitor to the court, her mother a close friend of the king's from childhood and her father a respected knight. She'd heard the whispers and seen the sneers when Prince Henry and his wife had come to the palace for the wedding of King Xavier's eldest son, and it had been then that she'd first seen the princess Regina.

Regina had been fifteen and she'd walked with regal grace and disdain, staring down all the silent glares with her chin tipped up and her gait steady. Marian had been fascinated at her pride, at how she'd carried herself with no shame- same as her mother, though her father shuffled and stared down- and then Regina had caught her admiring gaze. She'd flushed darkly and Regina had rolled her eyes and offered her a grin in response, and she'd known at once that this girl had been only human, no witch or disgrace or danger to the throne.

The next time she sees Regina, she's being dragged before her and Regina's eyes sweep over her with no recognition of a week a decade and a half before. She'd been caught riding out of the kingdom that evening, hurrying back to her son and husband, and she's silent and terrified when the queen casts her gaze over her.

This isn't the girl she'd met for a single week, dancing eyes and fierce protectiveness and an easy laugh, but she still sees Regina in the way she lifts her chin as she eyes her new prisoner. "Who are you protecting?" the queen barks out, and Marian knows that this is the Evil Queen now, not a cousin she'd barely known. The whispers and shame once directed at her have become terror and obeisance, and Marian would never be so foolish to trust her.

She thinks of her husband's image etched onto wanted posters in the forest, right beside another enemy of the kingdom, and she quakes with fear at what might happen to Robin and Roland if she were to tell the truth. "Snow White," she says instead, and she knows it's the wrong answer the moment Regina's eyes darken.

And now here she is, in another land and another time, her baby son grown five years and her husband pushing open the door to the tavern- no, diner- they'd reunited in a week ago, and there she is again- not Princess Regina, not Queen Regina, but this new Regina, who watches her in silence and with pain that she doesn't understand.

She's sitting at the head of a table including- of all the unlikely companions- Snow White on one side, and the young boy Emma Swan had introduced to her as their son on the other, picking at a salad and determinedly avoiding anyone's gaze. Her chin is still up but when she does glance up, it's only to speak to Snow or the boy or Snow's husband, beside his wife, and she doesn't acknowledge the last woman at the table.

It wouldn't be so noticeable if Emma hadn't been intent on her, eyes weary and sad, and when she doesn't get a response she looks down again. Emma is uncomfortable around Marian these days, on edge like she'd been after they'd broken out of the dungeons in the past. On edge like there's something she's afraid to tell Marian, and Marian doesn't like it at all.

She says something else, a half-smile forcing its way onto her face, and Regina glowers and stabs into her lettuce until Emma's face falls again. Marian's eyes are on them, still drawn to understand this new Regina who'd apologized stiltedly to her that first night and told her she had nothing to fear while Robin kept his hand on hers in a vice grip and had been openmouthed and shaken by something he wouldn't explain to Marian. It's nothing worth worrying about anymore, he'd murmured, and cast one last glance behind them as they'd gone back to his new home in Storybrooke.

He presses a kiss to her temple as they sit down, Marian's eyes still on the table across the room. Regina has caught sight of them and she's sneaking glances at their table while Emma sneaks glances at her, and it's suddenly too claustrophobic in the room with the weight of secrets she hasn't been told and emotions she can't understand.

She stands, frustrated, and says, "I'll order for us. Robin, what do you–"

She stops, eyes wide as the fork Regina is stabbing into her salad flips out of her hand and straight toward Marian, metal tines pointed at her neck and she's frozen in place, unable to dodge or duck the implement as it picks up speed and hurtles toward her. She struggles to raise her hand to catch it, to stop its movements, but she's rooted in place by a force beyond her control.

And then the fork dissolves into purple rose petals, dropping to the floor in front of her, and Robin is gaping and Snow looks guilty and Regina lowers her hand from where she'd managed to transform the fork as her mouth tightens, looking just as stunned as the rest of them.

Emma hurries over to their table a moment later, practically wringing her hands in apology. "That was an accident. I'm so sorry."

"You didn't do it," Robin says coolly, and his arm is tense around her waist. "If the queen could refrain from attempting to kill my wife again–"

Emma shakes her head, looking irritated. "You know she's not that person anymore." It sounds almost accusing to Marian's ears, and she frowns between them. There is something she's not being told, and she can feel it like a physical thing, permeating the room with distrust and regret and sorrow. "It was an honest mistake. You know Regina, she's not going to kill someone with a fork. Maybe a full-sized dishwasher."

She tries for a grin but instead a cold voice behind her says, "I can manage my own defense without you, Miss Swan. As I can everything else in my life." It's like ice, harsh and unyielding, and Emma slumps and stalks back to her parents, head down like a kicked puppy.

Regina nods to them both and then exits the diner, and Marian sees from the window the way she punches a hole into the gate outside the outdoor seating area. She repairs it with a wave of her hand and walks on.

No, Regina isn't one to kill someone with a fork.

A thought occurs to her later that evening, and she turns to Robin as they walk home and asks, "Do you?"

"Hm?" He smiles down at her as he always does now, fondness with a tinge of wonder, and she's frustrated and relieved by it at once. He's different now, more patient, less of a risk-taker. A father. A leader. Not the young man she'd met in the woods, chasing villains and double-crossing lords with not a care in the world. And she feels as though she doesn't know him anymore, that he isn't quite the man she'd left behind, but he laughs off her concerns and reminds her that they're together and it's all that matters.

She doesn't want to be a miracle, she wants to be a woman, a mother, to catch up with him when he'd grown up so quickly, and she doesn't want to deny this gap in who they are as he does. She wants… (She's afraid to want, to come up short when he finally faces who she is now, and she bites her tongue and struggles to be happy in a void.)

Instead she returns to her original query. "Know the Queen? As Emma had said."

She doesn't know what she's asking for except that she knows that Regina is a part of the story Robin won't tell her, and she sees it in how he pales and murmurs, "She was an ally. I hadn't known then what she'd done to you, or I'd have never- have never-" He sighs, long and sorrowful, and the animosity from earlier had felt more forced than this long sigh wrought with emotion.

"You couldn't have known," she says soothingly, and it's getting more and more difficult every day to remember the Evil Queen mocking her screams of terror when she sees the woman walking down the street, a hand tight in her son's and her eyes sweeping over the passersby and then straight ahead, looking more like Princess Regina who'd dared the nobles' shaming and refused to accept it. "I only asked because I knew her too," she admits.

But Robin doesn't understand, just tucks his chin over her hair, and his embrace is a little tighter now, a little more firm, and she doesn't mind the change at all.

She seeks out Mulan, the woman who had joined the Merry Men in her absence. She's different than Marian had been when she'd done the same, more skilled with a sword than a bow and slow to smile with those she distrusts.

Marian had been younger and brasher, riding bareback past the hooded man robber and daring him to follow her, laughing as they'd chased each other through the woods of Locksley and Nottingham. She'd been a noble dissatisfied with her own way of living, unimpressed with the opulence of the rich couple with the desolation of the poor, and she'd taken on Robin's noble mission with gravity and a touch of teenaged defiance.

Mulan has the gravity and nobility and none of the defiance, but she does smile when she sees Marian now. Robin has always spoken highly of you, she'd said when they'd first met, inclining her head.

And that had been enough for them to reach camaraderie, and Marian ventures now, "Can you tell me about the Queen?" They're walking down one of the main streets in Storybrooke's marketplace. Mulan had offered to help her purchase a crossbow, a more effective sort of bow that's now favored by the Merry Men, and she's holding the box on her shoulder as she points out Storybrooke's sights.

"The Queen. Regina?" Mulan asks, and there's a guarded look in her eyes, same as Emma's and Robin's.

"Yes. You must have spent some time with her in the past year. And I don't…I don't understand how she is so different now." She doesn't know if she trusts the change or if she's seeing a long-gone princess where she no longer exists, and she stares at her bow and waits for Mulan to respond.

The other woman sighs. "I am not…I did not know her well. We stayed in her castle after those who were cursed returned, but she was rarely seen. Here I know she…" She hesitates. "She worked with the Merry Men to defeat Zelena," she says finally. "I cannot say more, but I don't believe she bears any malice toward you."

"I see." She does see, but it's in the hesitation in Mulan's voice, the stiffness in her gait, and the way she can't quite look at Marian when she's lying.

Or at the very least, omitting the truth.

"I did know her mother, though," Mulan says abruptly. "That was enough for me."

"Enough for you to what?"

Mulan shrugs, the box on her shoulder shifting with the movement. "Understand, I suppose. How someone could be so corrupted."

"I met her mother, too," Marian says, and she doesn't respond to Mulan's curious gaze. She'd seen her only once when they'd returned from a ride that day, berating her daughter for their association. Filth, she'd called Marian, common, and she'd swelled up with indignation but Regina had put a hand on her arm and apologized, so meek that Marian had been frightened at the change. She hadn't come back to see Regina again before the wedding celebrations, and she'd only sought her out at the party itself. Regina had been approached by only few men in the room, her mother's face growing darker and darker with each snub. Their eyes had caught once and Regina had looked away. "I don't think it's enough, though. To forgive her atrocities."

"No," Mulan agrees. "Certainly not forgiveness."

And when Regina looks at her, aloof and cool and hard, she seems to know better than to seek it.

Roland favors Mulan still, and he's unsure around the woman sharing his house about whom he's been told only stories. She swallows her pride and accepts it, doesn't stare too long when Roland shuffles beside Mulan with his hands dangling at his side just as hers do and a toy light-sword- a lightsaber, he corrects her when she asks about it, his tiny face screwing up with annoyance- proudly hanging from a leather holster Arthur a Bland had cut for him.

But she offers him a stick of candy from one of the local shops and he takes it carefully, grave as though it's a precious gem, and he says, "Thank you, Mama," and walks between them after that.

A car roars past them on the street, and Marian flinches by instinct. Mulan snickers and Marian glares at her as she struggles unsuccessfully to school her face into something less amused. "Don't tell me you were accustomed to those war machines when you first got here."

"Not quite," Mulan admits. "The curse was sound but it must erode with each use. When we got here, we didn't have predetermined roles in the town as they did with the first curse, but I had…awareness, I suppose. I knew how to drive a car and what a phone was and the story of my own fairytale, but I didn't have a home here or false memories. It was…overwhelming."

"Did you know?" Marian wonders at the dissatisfaction on Mulan's face as she glances away from Marian at the street, at the discomfort she's seen on the faces of many of the Merry Men when they speak about this world. "That the curse was coming?"

Mulan shakes her head. "I would have fled it if I could. There are advantages to this realm, of course, but…"

"Everyone's running from something among the Merry Men," Marian recites, remembering the old song they'd had. Thieves and traitors and repented killers had found a new home with Robin, safe away in the woods with a new family and life. The Sheriff of Nottingham had unsuccessfully sought more than one ransom from their circle. "What were you running from?"

Mulan blushes and Marian's eyes widen at the wistfulness on her face. "Was it love? Did you fall in love with of the Men? Who was it?" Roland giggles at her enthusiasm and she grins down at him, pleased. "You must tell me your love story, Mulan. Are there songs about it?"

"I did fall in love," Mulan allows. "The object of my affections…felt differently." Marian's mouth snaps closed and Mulan peers across the street again to a young couple, pushing along a baby carriage and speaking animatedly. "I had joined Robin with the hope that I might escape my feelings and move on, but Storybrooke is so small." She sighs heavily.

She watches the couple, the girl suffused with happiness and the boy solicitous to her, and she murmurs, "Which was it? Him or her?"

"It doesn't matter anymore." But the girl turns toward them and her face lights up as she spots Mulan, and Marian aches with the smile that Mulan returns to her, empty and pained. The girl frowns, looking devastated. Whatever had happened there does indeed matter to both of them, even if Mulan won't acknowledge it, and Marian wonders at it.

"Do you think–" Another car roars toward them, sleek and dark, but this one is swerving from side to side and jerking toward the sidewalk. "Mulan! Is that normal?" She tries to move aside to block Roland, to pull him away, but she's rooted in place. "Mulan!"

The car twists across a lane of traffic and she sees the familiar face in the front window before it turns even further, twisting at an angle so sharp that it's lifting from the ground on the other side, flipping over in the center of the street as pedestrians gape and Marian finds her feet finally working again.

"Marian, don't!" Mulan calls, but she's already racing into the street, yanking at the handle beside the driver's seat until the door opens, the window crashing into dozens of pieces of glass as she does. Regina is unconscious within, a slash of red on her face and her body still buckled into the vehicle, and she reaches to shake her shoulders tentatively.

Common sense tells her to stay away from the Queen but she can't turn away like so many others are when they see who's in the car, whispering among themselves but not daring to come any closer, and it's only Mulan and the girl from across the street who join her at the wreck. Regina like this is no threat, only a victim, and the girl says quietly, "I called Emma. How do we get her out?"

Mulan casts an eye over the broken glass on the street and worries her lip. "No roll bar. The roof is caving in. It'd be better if she wakes up, but I don't know what harm it might do to force it if she has a concussion."

Regina groans, and Marian shakes her shoulders again. She doesn't know much about this realm and concussions, but they'd never worried about them in her world until the danger had passed. There had been the odd Merry Man who'd never been the same after a fall from a horse or an impact from an axe, but safety had always been their priority. "Is there a physician here?"

Regina twitches again and her eyes pop open. She looks dazed, uncertain, and she blinks at Marian's face twice before she realizes where she is. "What is this? What have you done to me?" she demands, every bit the queen.

Marian opens her mouth to respond but then she's nearly shoved aside, Emma Swan at the scene at last. "Regina! Regina!" She takes in the car, wide-eyed. "What did you do?"

Regina waves her hand and a cloud of smoke envelops the car. It disappears and reappears again on the right side of the street, upright with the window repaired and rolled halfway down. "It's fine, Miss Swan," she snarls out. "Your services are no longer required here."

"Like hell they aren't," Emma says, charging right back for the car. She reaches out to touch the blood on Regina's face. "You're hurt. You're going to the hospital."

"It's a scratch." Regina is glaring past Emma now at Marian and Mulan and Mulan's friend as though they're the ones to blame. "Go back to your station. I'm sure Sparkles the Cat is mewling up a tree for you as we speak."

"Regina–" Emma's hand is still on Regina's face and Regina hasn't pulled away, even if she's directing that fury on her face at Emma through it. "Come on. You can't keep getting hurt like this and doing nothing about it. I'm calling an ambulance." Her voice is even, a note too drawn out to be anything but pleading, and she pauses and murmurs, "Henry would never forgive me if something happened to you."

"Henry would forgive you anything," Regina says, a touch of resentment in her voice, but then she snaps, "I'm driving," and Emma's in the passenger seat in an instant, the three of them in the center of the street forgotten as they drive off.

Roland clings to Marian's hand on the way home, and she considers the day a victory, odd near-car collision or not.

There's a pond and a grassy area near the center of town that's rather beautiful, calming in its simplicity in a world where she's still adjusting, and she likes to walk along the water alone some afternoons, taking in the people around her and the intrusive sounds of mechanical chariots and beeping communication devices and letting it all wash over her.

But today Emma is with her, breaking up the peace with questions about how she's adjusting and deftly avoiding any of Marian's own questions. If there's one thing Emma appears to be skilled at, it's dodging any reciprocal conversation in favor of firing new queries at Marian with every step.

She's about to ask some pointed questions about the witch who'd cast the time travel spell when she pauses, startled to see Robin sitting on a bench ahead of them. He's speaking in low tones to a short brunette as he sits uncomfortably, and then the woman shifts and somehow Marian isn't surprised at all when she recognizes Regina. Regina's equally uncomfortable, arms wrapped around herself as she speaks, and Marian walks closer, listening to her halting words as Emma's brow furrows. "I can't erase the past–"

"There are some things I wish I could," Robin murmurs, and he's angry and hurt and Regina shakes her head, her face unperturbed even as her hands tighten.

"You know who I was. I never pretended otherwise. I didn't know…I never knew she was your wife. Does it matter anymore?"

This feels private in a way that she can't quite pin down, a conversation that shouldn't include even its object. From Robin Regina seeks the forgiveness she won't ask Marian for, and before him she seems small and vulnerable, laid open before him in ways Marian's never seen before. It's all building up to something she isn't certain she's ready for, and Marian clears her throat, suddenly uneasy. Regina stands up so quickly that the bench shifts.

No, it moves, throwing Robin off of it as it crashes toward Marian, and she's flung backward so swiftly that she can't stop- can't stop at all, beyond windmilling her arms and struggling to move, and she sees is Emma hurtling toward her but trapped in place, and Robin is shouting her name but isn't moving either when she's thrown into the water.

She sinks below, deeper and deeper in the shallow pond, her head pressed to the bottom of it as she fights to keep herself from breathing.

She can't die. Not again. Not knowing what she's lost, knowing what they'll lose again. Roland, a growing child now who's just beginning to know her. Robin someone else entirely, someone she's desperate to understand again when she feels as though there are more than physical worlds between them. She's been given a second chance and it's gone already, drifting away with every moment she's paralyzed beneath the water.

And then slender arms wrap around her waist, tugging her up as though there's nothing weighing her down anymore, and she turns in her grasp and gapes at the woman holding onto her, feet somewhere behind her and eyes determined even though she won't quite meet Marian's.

She chokes when they reach the surface, spurting out water from her mouth, and Regina still holds her upright, her face unreadable as she supports her. They're both soaking, hair flat to their faces and Marian shivering in the cold, and Regina says, "Breathe. You need to breathe."

"I'm-" She coughs out more water. "Trying."

"Something is very wrong," Regina mutters, looking disturbed. "I need you to come with me."

"She's not going anywhere with you," Robin growls, and he's pulling himself to his feet now, finally capable of moving. And Marian is inclined to agree with Regina that something is very wrong. "There's your dishwasher, Emma," he says as Emma shifts closer, holding a hand out to Regina as Robin does the same for Marian.

Regina shrugs off Emma's touch and vanishes and reappears in a puff of smoke on the ground, dry as though she'd never been in the water. "Don't be ridiculous, I'm not trying to kill your wife," she nearly growls.

His jaw works under his skin. "Again."

"Again." She grits her teeth. "I've been…this is an enchantment. Come with me," she orders Marian again. "We need to investigate this."

"I will not leave you alone with her," Robin says stubbornly.

Marian flares up, more aware than ever of their newly drastic age difference. Robin had been older than her to begin with, and with five more years between them, she feels like a child being coddled. "I can make my own decisions," she snaps out. Regina quirks an eyebrow, curiosity superseding resentment, and Robin looks…embarrassed.

It's Emma who speaks, as quick as always to try and diffuse the tension in the moment. "Why don't I come with you guys?"

"Why don't you leave me alone?" Regina says in the exact same tone as Robin had spoken to her. They glare at each other, the air heavy with regrets and hurt and too much left unsaid, and Marian sighs.

"Both of you. Please." She feels as though she's scrabbling for purchase in a world sliding away from her with every moment she remains within it, and she can't cope with all the stories that intersect with hers and remain elusive.

Thankfully, they don't argue with her, just trail side-by-side behind her until Emma catches up and stands between them protectively. Regina sighs and walks on.

"I'm sorry Robin feels as though he must be cruel with you," she says. Emma is still between them as they approach the pawn shop, and it's easier to say it when she can't look directly at Regina.

"I would have killed his wife if you hadn't been rescued," Regina retorts. "Of course he hates me. I'd expect nothing less." But she's trembling, her steps faltering, and Emma puts a hand on Regina's wrist. Regina yanks it away. "What do you care, anyway?"

Marian swallows. This is the anger of the Evil Queen, the woman who'd terrorized her for weeks to make an example of her, and it's difficult to be magnanimous with her. But she's grown up with noble thieves and cruel sheriffs and residing in shades of grey for so long have her uncertain at Regina's obvious pain. She doesn't look evil like this, she doesn't even look like a queen. She looks weary and tangible in ways she'd only been as a girl.

"I don't think he hates you. I think he feels as though he must be cruel to you." It's a fine difference, perhaps, but she can see from Regina's chin- up again, always raised around her- that it's stricken something within her.

"He should stop holding her accountable for things that aren't her anymore," Emma says loyally, and Regina laughs bitterly.

"You know nothing of who I am."

"I know a hell of a lot more than you like to pretend," Emma returns, fierce and unintimidated. "You used to appreciate that."

Regina's eyes narrow. "I used to trust you. I've learned my lesson." She's moving quickly again, taking the lead, and she pushes the door to the shop open before Emma can say anything more.

Destiny. That's what the Dark One tells them, an odd strain on his face whenever he speaks to Regina. That's what they're facing here. An inevitable ending. Regina has orchestrated her death once, and she'll do it again, because that's the only way this story can end. No one can interfere, not even Marian herself, and only Regina can control whether or not that moment is the one that decides her fate.

Marian's dazed, helpless, the world around her slipping away. She isn't a victim. She isn't going to sit back and wait for the woman rigid beside her to murder her, let her fade away into nothingness again. She's seen the world without her and it staggers her, how simple it's been for her family to endure. How she doesn't fit at all with these changed people, and perhaps she should surrender to that now, but it only firms her resolution to live.

"I can't believe that," she says, shaking her head. "I can't…I can't be on the execution block again. Haven't I lost enough?"

Emma's fingers touch her shoulder, soft and regretful, and Regina turns on her heel and stalks toward the door before the Dark One says, "Ah-ah-ah, Regina. There's a little snag in this that you're not considering right now." He points a long, slender finger at Marian. "You don't want to lose the dead weight?"

"Of course she doesn't," Emma says immediately, and Regina's lip curls but she says nothing either way. Marian stands still, somewhere between terrified and furious at the phrasing.

"Remember that it's not as simple as just staying away." The Dark One wiggles his fingers. "Magic, dearie. Beyond even your control if you're not careful."

Regina's spine straightens. "What do you recommend?" She bites it out with bitterness, as though just asking for help is too much for her. Emma's eyebrow quirks as though she's had the same thought, and they share a knowing glance.

"Contact. All the contact you can spare. You walk out of your house in the morning? You tell each other where you are. You meet up as often as you can when she isn't surrounded by others and is vulnerable. No surprises, no unexpected murders. And the girl lives a few more days until you slip up."

Regina storms out the door halfway through the Dark One's last sentence. She's angry, stiff with fury and still shaking, and it strikes Marian as wholly unfair that Regina is acting as though this is her burden, as though she's the one being personally victimized by fate today.

She's felt like she's been walking on eggshells for weeks since she'd been brought back from the past, like anything she might do to disturb the peace would be an intrusion. She focuses on fading into the background, on not interfering in the lives of those who don't want her around, to be…acceptable. She's aware she's been given a second lease on life and that she doesn't belong, and her reaction to that has been instinctive. Retreat, retreat, retreat.

And she's tired of it, now that she knows she has nothing to lose. That it's only a matter of time before she's killed properly, so what does it matter if she irritates the woman who will kill her anyway? "Wait!"

Regina doesn't turn, and Marian pulls away from Emma to hurry after her. "I said, wait!"

Regina quickens her step, but Marian's spent enough of her life running through thorny underbrush to be fleet-footed with no effort, catching up to the other woman with ease. Regina's face hardens. "I want nothing to do with you. Begone, little girl."

She narrows her eyes. "I apologize that my living has inconvenienced you so deeply."

"Oh, you have no idea," Regina snaps back. Her fingers are pressed against her thumbs, Marian notices, too loose to be a fist but enough that she's holding something frightening back. "I don't want to be shackledto you. To your damned destiny."

She notices the spark out of the corner of her eyes, shooting from Regina's fingers so quickly, messy and unpredictable, that she knows it isn't intentional. And then she tries to move and can't and she knows that this is another attack, another moment out of her control. "Regina!" she says desperately, eyes following the purple spark of magic as it races toward one of the tall wooden poles at the edge of the sidewalk.

Regina spins toward her, eyes flicking up to the pole, and she mutters an expletive. "I am—" But she's hurling a fireball at it, then another and another and another as her face darkens, and Marian's caught by the seething fury that slides over the stiffness in her eyes to arm her, to have her standing and pitching fire at the wood until the flames are climbing up toward the wiring at the top of the pole. "Finished," Regina grits out as the pole breaks and falls away from them. Marian can move again, can hurry back out of the path of the fire and toward the awning of the closest shop. "With fucking destiny."

She hurls fireball after fireball of an inexhaustible supply until she's shaking and snapping out half-finished sentences with rage and frustration, all contained within her tiny frame and palpable like heat and fire itself. And yet there's no malice, none of that purring mockery that Marian had become so familiar with when imprisoned. This is a woman trapped, and Marian's fairly certain that had she been capable of magic, she'd be unleashing the same fury on that post.

There's a strange catharsis to it, to being a part of it; and she jolts when a red-clad figure runs forward to restrain Regina, hands seizing her at the bicep and spinning her around to face her. "Regina, cut it out. You're going to start an electrical fire."

Regina shudders, the frustration gone as quickly as Emma Swan touches her. "This town could do with an electrical fire," she mutters, but the flames are gone an instant later, the wooden post returned to its former glory with a wave of her hand. She presses a hand to her forehead, suddenly looking very, very old. "You."

"Yeah?" Emma looks hopeful, like a child earning a sought-for gift of approval, and Regina almost smiles before she startles- remembering herself, undoubtedly, and the odd quarrel she has with Emma that has Marian even more uncomfortable around her- and turns away, her lips hardening into a scowl.

"No, not you. Her." It's tired and without her usual aloofness, and Marian doesn't realize that they're talking about her until she glances back at Regina and catches her gaze. "Rumple is inventing new annoyances. Stay away from me and you'll live, I suppose. I'm not interested in being anywhere around you, either."

She nods. There's an air to Regina when she issues commands that allows no dissent, that leaves her bobbing her head like a fool as the woman stalks off like she's been scorned for just being in their presence, and Emma rolls her neck and sighs, "Why do I even bother?" But she's staring after Regina, lips pressed together and eyes seeking something even from the haughty gait that Marian doesn't understand.

And does, somehow.

This story went from "Hey, wouldn't it be great to write a Swan Queen oneshot from an outsider POV?" to a determination to give Marian a voice so quickly that I don't even know how it happened. There will be plenty of shippiness still, no worries!

And somehow it also ballooned into an enormous fic (25k and I still have a few bits to write in!) but it is pretty much finished and should be posted in about five parts, unless something changes. I'll update weekly or probably even more often if I get bored, lol. Please do let me know if you're enjoying! This chapter was more about setting the scene than anything, but we'll get into it in the next one~

Oh, and about 15k into the fic I noticed that I'd forgotten Hook existed. Let's pretend that after that final scene of the finale Emma asked him to consider changing his vest, and it brought on an existential crisis for him that has launched him on a sartorial quest away from Storybrooke, complete with swashbuckling adventure and broken eyeliner pencils. And alas, I'd rather set my keyboard on fire than write that story, so I leave it to your capable imaginations. :)