Hey guys, I just wanted to tell you that this may be the last chapter of OP for a while. I'm not saying I'll never come back to it, but it definitely won't be any time soon. I've taken so long to update because I have really struggled with enjoying this fic, and I have no motivation to write it, so for now, it's on hiatus.

It makes me sad to put this fic aside, since so many people reacted so well to it, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

This is a really long chapter because I wanted to fit in a lot of different scenes, so I hope you guys enjoy it, and please let me know what you think! It means the world to me.

"Robin! Please!"

He should have turned around. He couldn't leave her crying like that, curled in on herself as she fell to the chilled floor. Each step further away from her cracked his heart more and more, until his sorrow was bleeding from his very soul.

He could not take her dagger; he would not let her think that she didn't have control over her own life. She could control herself, he knew that, and if he were to take her dagger she would be trapped, he would be taking away her freedom, something he knew was far too precious to someone as caged as she.

But he was just so angry. There had been too many mistakes made, too many hearts crushed into dust, but he certainly wasn't remedying that in that moment now was he? He could not have her dagger, but he also could not have her, not like this.

If he were to stay, he would be betraying his own heart, and in the end, betraying her yet again. All he could see was red, and to pretend otherwise, to act as though everything was forgiven, that would not be fair to either of them.

So he had left. He left her crying alone in the hall like the biggest idiot in the entire realm.

Robin rounded the corner, stopped as soon as he was sure Regina couldn't see him, and pressed his back to the cool wall as he listened to her weep. His eyes flooded with tears, and he bit his bottom lip, hard enough to taste blood, to keep her from hearing him.

The sudden creaking of a door surprised him, and he pushed himself further against the wall, cowering from whoever might find him.


Shit. Henry.

He had to leave; he couldn't possibly stand on the other side of the wall and listen to Henry comforting Regina when that's what he should be doing. God, he was an absolute ass.

Robin held his breath as he slipped silently down the hall, the sound of his footsteps overpowered by the echo of Regina's cries, and he pushed into his room where Roland lay sprawled across their bed. The sound of the door as he pushed it shut felt final as he locked himself away from the sounds of Regina's pain that were tearing at his soul.

He pressed his forehead and palms to the cool wood and took a long, shaky breath. He felt like he was going to burst, the air in his lungs was heavy and burning, the tears flooding his eyes too much to see through, though he held it in, as fear of waking his son overpowered the weight in his chest. Still, his knees bent as he fell to the floor, and he pressed his side flat against the door while he pulled his knees to his chest.

There, curled against the door, Robin let himself fall apart, and sobbed as quietly as he could manage, all while wishing he could reach out to Regina. He wanted to bury his face in her neck, to breathe in the apple and vanilla scent of her hair, to feel the softness of her skin beneath his palms, to hold her impossibly close in hopes of her mending the tears in his heart.

But he had ruined everything - he was the reason she was the Dark One, he was the reason she was in pain now, he was the reason they were falling apart - so he was stuck there, on the dusty floor, curled into a ball, while he whispered to himself over and over, in hopes that she might hear him, "I'm sorry."


Henry looked infinitely younger when he slept, and Regina had always indulged in watching him when he was curled up in a mound of pillows and blankets, snoozing peacefully while he grew up. She had often stood in his doorway and just looked at him, drinking in every piece of him from his small nose to his curled up toes.

These days, he was surprising her every day with just how much he'd grown; when he'd stand next to her while she wasn't wearing her high heels, she'd notice that she had to look up to him to meet his eye; when he'd speak, his voice would come out so much deeper than before, occasionally cracking when he was excited about something; when he'd look at her, his eyes could see through so much more than they used to, could understand more than she wished upon him.

Her baby wasn't so little anymore, and it broke a small piece of her heart, but as she watched him sleep now, laying in bed with her, curled into her chest and softly snoring, Regina found that maybe a piece of him would always be her baby, and that might just be enough for her.

She ran her fingers through his hair, ghosts of a touch, not enough to pull him from his sleep, and hoped that, if she could have one good thing from this hell she was living, she could spend more nights like this, blissfully enjoying the mere sight of her little prince; let him be the light to drown out her darkness.


Robin had had enough wallowing, had certainly cried himself dry, and had taken no time to decide that it was time for action. He needed help, and only one person in this whole realm could possibly understand the dangerous waters he was wading into.

After knocking on three different doors with no response, he finally found the right room, down a hall adjacent to the kitchen, and was greeted by a groggy "come in" when he rapped his knuckles on the door. This room was similar to his own, smaller and not nearly as lavish, but had a familiar layout, which he imagined every other guest room in the castle had. A wardrobe was tucked into one corner, a small table and chairs beside a tall window, and a bed pushed against the far wall with heavy tapestry hanging around it. He saw her sitting beside the bed, back hunched and head supported on her hands as she watched Rumple sleep.

"Belle!" Robin yelled as he shut the door behind him, and Belle's head popped up, looking sleepy but alert. She must have been trying desperately not to fall asleep, afraid to miss anything that might happen to her love, if the dark circles under her eyes were any indicator. For a second he wondered when the young girl had last slept.

"Robin? What are you doing? It's the middle of the night."

"I know, I know." He waved his hands in front of him dismissively. "But I need your help, and I figured you'd be awake."

Belle rubbed her palms on her eyes sleepily and nodded before gesturing to a chair across the room for Robin to take. He thanked her, hurried across the room, and slid the chair to face hers.

"What's going on? Why aren't you sleeping?" she asked.

"Why aren't you?" He countered with a quirk of his lips. "Dark Ones keeping us up at night, hey?"

She chuckled softly, as if she was too exhausted to actually laugh, and returned his smile. "So something happened with Regina?"

"That's the understatement of the century," Robin groaned, rubbing his brow in his frustration.

"Alright…" Belle straightened her spine and nodded sleepily. "What's happened?"

Robin had never spoken so quickly in his life; he felt like his words were right at the back of his throat, begging to be spilled, and he poured everything out at lightning speed. Belle soaked everything in, nodding when appropriate and humming occasionally when he paused to breathe. It wasn't until he reached that night's events that he felt his chest tighten rather than loosen, and a lick of shame filled him when he explained how he had ended their momentary conflict.

"She tried to give me her dagger but… I couldn't take it."

"Well I don't blame you," Belle admitted with a shrug, "I can't imagine controlling her is the best choice here."

Robin nodded as he nervously twiddled his thumbs. "Yeah… so I left."

"Wait – what? She offered you her dagger and you left?" Belle's face fell, and Robin's guts twisted harshly.

"Yeah? What was I supposed to do?"

"Maybe try telling her 'I don't want to control you', something a little less brutal?" She pinched her brow and shook her head at him, and he felt a flare of anger mix with his shame.

"I tried that, she wouldn't listen!"

"Of course not. She's Regina." Belle rolled her eyes and sighed.

"I didn't want to hurt her, but I can't take her freedom from her like that," Robin tried to explain, but he found no solace in Belle's gaze.

"It's a little different when she offers you her dagger. She's asking for help. Regina can't do this alone, Robin, I've seen what happens when you try." She looked over to Rumple, sadness and defeat clear as her eyes fell on him. "The darkness digs its claws in, its grip is too strong. And on someone like Regina, who already has so much darkness in her heart… It's not that she's not strong, or that she hasn't changed, but this… darkness feeds off of darkness. And the longer you leave her alone, the more she'll succumb to it, the more she'll want it. And once she wants it… Not even Henry could save her."

"So what do I do?" Robin asked, scooting closer to her in his seat. "I don't want to take her choice away from her, but I don't want to leave her alone."

"Then don't," She replied with a soft lift of her shoulders. "Let her keep her dagger, but stay by her side. Remind her that she has you."

"That's all you've got? Stay by her side?" Robin cocked a brow at her.

"Well, it's more than you're doing now, isn't it?"

She wasn't wrong, and it burned him the wrong way to admit it. He was being a right ass, and he knew it, but until he knew exactly how to fix things, how to sort out his own feelings and Regina's, there wasn't much for him to do, not yet.

He groaned in frustration, dropping his face to his palms for a moment before scrubbing at his face.

"She'll never want to see me," Robin muttered, and Belle's face fell into something closer to sympathy before she reached over and took his hand in her own, squeezing gently.

"I think you're underestimating how much she loves you." Belle spoke so confidently, as she always did, and it sparked something in Robin's heart.

He loved Regina, and she loved him, and damn it all, he was going to fix this. He had promised himself long ago that she would never be alone again, not as long as he was alive, and he was done breaking promises.

He thanked Belle, several times, and she smiled sweetly as he pushed off the chair and headed for the door.

"Robin!" She called after him, stopping him just as he pulled the door open. "Just… be careful. It's far easier to hate a Dark One than it is to love one."

Something nervous fluttered in his chest, tightening in his throat, and he nodded

once before he left, pushing through the shaking of his insides for Regina's sake.


Darkness filtered into daylight slowly, lazily, and the sunshine danced across Henry's features, painting his brown hair in streams of gold, dusting across the freckles on his nose. Regina loathed to wake him, was completely content spending the rest of her day curled up against him, brushing her fingers along his smooth skin, but as the sunlight began to pour through the far windows, birds chirping off in the distance, she knew her time was up. They had another day to face.

"Sweetheart," She whispered, her voice slightly hoarse from so long without use, and she brushed the backs of her fingers along his cheek. "Time to wake up."

Henry groaned in response, ever a teenager, and scrunched his nose when she laughed softly. "W'time isit?" He mumbled before he buried the side of his face into his pillow farther.

"I'm not sure. After dawn," She answered, and Henry's brown knit as he processed her words. Then his eyes blew wide open, suddenly alert, and he turned to focus on Regina's face.

"We're in a castle," was all he said, and the smile spreading across his face was infectious. Regina laughed again, deeper and fuller this time, and nodded as she beamed down at her boy. He practically bounced in the bed as he exclaimed, "I didn't dream it!"

"No, you didn't," Regina assured him.

Henry's smile stretched and stretched until she was sure his cheeks would ache, before it dropped suddenly, his momentary excitement instantly extinguished.

"You were crying last night, in the hall." The pain in his eyes poked at her heart, at the still open wound left by Robin's abandonment, and Regina did everything she could to hold it in, to not let Henry see how the memory hurt her.

She shook her head and placed a hand on his cheek. "That's nothing for you to be concerned about. You've already helped more than you should."

"You didn't sleep, did you?" He asked innocently enough, and Regina shook her head as the corners of her lips dipped down. "I woke up a few times, I heard you crying."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, rubbing her thumb along his cheek. "I didn't cry all night, I promise. But I can't sleep anyways." He furrowed his brow again, and she quirked the side of her mouth up in a half smile. "Dark Ones don't sleep," she explained, and the look he gave her was almost aghast.

"That blows," he said with a huff, his disbelieve and astonishment had her laughing again before she pulled him into her, hugging him tight.

"It does blow, but what blows more is early morning council meetings, so get your butt up and dressed, you're babysitting Roland today."

"What?!" Henry half yelled when she pushed him up and out of bed with her magic, depositing him on his feet beside where she lay. "I want to go to the council meeting too!"

"No, you don't, trust me," Regina said, lifting herself up to her feet too, brushing out the wrinkles in her nightgown with her palms. "It's long, and boring, and nothing you can help with. We're discussing plans for while we're here and how to get home, you can't do much for us."

"But I want to help! And I'm thirteen, I'm old enough to join a council meeting." He puffed his chest out at her, and it reminded her of when he was a toddler, insisting that he could carry the groceries into the house for her because he was a big boy now. It made her heart ache, but in a far better way than it had lately, so she simply rolled her eyes at him.

"If I had to wait until I was eighteen, so do you." She tried to steer him towards the door, but he held his ground, narrowing his eyes at her.

"That's not fair, you were Queen when you were eighteen."

"Details, details." She bopped her finger on the end of his nose, scrunched her own to mirror him, and softly grabbed his shoulders, directing him to the door with a quick turn and a pat on the rear. "Out, I have to get dressed, too."

"Ugh, what's the point in being a prince if I can't act like one?" He stomped towards the exit, pulled the heavy door open and turned back to her with a glare that would put the Evil Queen to shame.

"You are acting like one, princes take care of the knights when the Queen commands it, now shoo."

He flashed his eyes to the ceiling and left with a huff and a pout. Regina laughed under her breath as she turned to her vanity, grabbed her hairbrush, and started working to untangle her new mane of curls.

Each brush through her locks was rhythmic, soothing, familiar, and her mind wandered as her fingers worked expertly. Robin would be at the meeting, as he always was the last time they were here, and the mere thought had her stomach twisting in anxious knots.

She did not want to see him, did not want to reopen the wounds she had spent all night weeping over, to let him see how he had affected her. But she had no choice, there were so few of them in this castle, ghosts of the last time they walked these halls, and she would surely see him everywhere. And even if there were more, if the castle was packed to the brim as it had always been, he was part of the council. He was a leader, as was she.

Her blood boiled and a familiar tingling slid up her spine, digging its claws into her heart, a mix of anxiety and fear. This was not the place for fear, for weakness. Not in this realm, filled with the ghosts of her former sins, the pain and misery that echoed off of these walls with every step she took.

She dropped her brush on her vanity and took a few quick strides over to her wardrobe, flinging the doors open with a flick of her wrist. Layers upon layers of black leather, silk, velvet, and lace poured out of every nook and cranny, and Regina grinned as she ran her fingers along the familiar, luxurious fabrics.

She would not be weak, and if there was one thing Regina Mills knew how to do, it was how to appear strong.


Robin was more than surprised when he heard a knock on his door just an hour after the sun had peaked through the night sky, couldn't imagine who was up at the crack of dawn with him, even Roland was still asleep, and was taken aback when he pulled the door open to find Henry standing on the other side, looking rather irritated. His stomach fell to his feet, and for a moment he was terribly afraid of a thirteen year old. Had Regina sent her son to tear him a new one after how he had left her? Or was he here of his own accord?

He was so lost in his panic, Robin almost missed Henry's groggy "Hey, Robin, up early too?"

"Uh – yeah…" He started awkwardly, "Always up with the sun, force of habit. W-what are you doing here so early?"

"My mom sent me," He replied with a shrug, and Robin's heart skipped a beat.

"R-Regina sent you? What? Why?" Robin shook his head quickly, and took a short breath. "I mean – it's awfully early, is something wrong?"

His gut twisted and rolled, anxiety and guilt and heartbreak knotting together by the mere presence of a child. God, get it together, Locksley.

Henry seemed to regain some of his usual pleasantness, always a beaming boy, and he shook off Robin's panic with a quick wave of his hand. "No, no, nothing's wrong. She said I'm supposed to look after Roland today, since you guys have that council meeting. The one I'm not allowed to go to," He added gloomily, rolling his eyes.

Oh thank God, he was upset about the council meeting; he wasn't there to skin Robin alive for breaking his mother's heart.

"Ah, right, the… meeting. Come in." He waved Henry inside, told him that Roland was still asleep but would probably wake up shortly and demand breakfast, and checked that Henry knew his way to the kitchens.

"Don't get lost wandering around the castle, alright? I know it's exciting, and Roland will tell you he knows where he's going, but he really doesn't, and the last thing Regina or I want is you two missing."

"Gotcha." Henry gave him one solid nod and dropped himself into a chair near the bed. He seemed far too easily convinced not to explore, for a boy who was just seeing a castle for the first time, and Robin cocked a brow at him.

"You know she'll find out if you do go exploring, right? Mums always know."

Henry smiled cheekily, caught, and tried to pull off a casual shrug. "Well I won't take Roland anywhere dangerous, responsibility and all that."

Robin chuckled softly, shaking his head, and said over his shoulder "Just don't leave the castle" before he left the room, headed towards the kitchen before making his way to the council room.

He wrung his hands nervously, occasionally sliding his sweaty palms along the smooth fabric of his pants, and willed the knots in his stomach to subside. He shouldn't be so nervous; it's just a council meeting. Hell, Regina might not even show up. It wouldn't be the first time. She frequently skipped meetings when she was particularly upset during their missing year, though she would also miss meals, and it wasn't like she would be getting any rest…

He shook his head once as he ducked into the kitchen, reminded himself to get a grip, and occupied himself with the muffin he nicked from the prep table when Granny wasn't looking.

Robin found he had a surprisingly strong memory of the layout of Regina's castle, and was pushing through the council room door in a matter of minutes. He nodded to a groggy looking Emma and Hook, who were already seated around the large circular table, and an impressively more chipper Snow and David who stood just across from them, as he munched on his muffin and took his seat.

"About time you showed up, I figured you'd be up at the crack of dawn with Regina. You early risers are crazy," Emma said playfully, and Robin resisted the urge to frown when the comment twisted his gut.

Snow looked between Robin and Emma as her brow furrowed, and she asked softly, "You two haven't talked since we got here?"

Robin's throat felt tight, thick, like the words were trapped, and he shook his head as he pursed his lips.

"I just figured it might be easier now, since… with Zelena…" She was struggling with her words, either unsure of the situation or afraid to offend, but Robin waved her off.

"We talked but… I think I cocked the whole thing up," Robin admitted as he fiddled with the remainder of his muffin, pulling bits off and crumbling them between his fingers.

David moved forward to say something but was cut off by the sound of the door creaking open, and Robin's stomach swooped before he caught sight of Granny shuffling into the room behind a huge tray of muffins piled almost as tall as she was. Grumpy trudged in behind her, already biting off a piece of his own muffin when he took a seat across from Robin.

"Here's a little breakfast for us, hot off the press," Granny almost sang as she plopped the tray on the table. "But you – " she looked pointedly at Robin, or more specifically his crumbled muffin on the table before him, " - have to respect my work if you're going to steal it behind my back."

Robin gave her a sheepish smile and nodded, taking a bite out of the remainder of his picked apart breakfast.

"Everyone here?" Granny asked as she wiped her palms on her apron. Snow shook her head before she pulled out her seat at the table.

"We're waiting for Regina and – "

The door pushed open again, and Robin's stomach twisted in time with the sound of heavy wood scrappy against stone. It frustrated him, you can't be afraid of her, get yourself together.

But when he looked towards the door, it wasn't the dark hair and eyes he expected to find glaring at him, but rather a blonde with bright blues, sporting dark circles under her eyes.

"Maleficent," Emma finished for her mother, and Mal groaned as she sulked into the room.

"When Regina insisted that I come to these meetings, I didn't expect it to be at this ungodly hour. And the bitch isn't even here yet," she muttered as she practically fell into the chair next to Robin. The long ashy grey cloak she was wearing flourished around her, and Robin bit his tongue to hold back an amused chuckle at how put out she looked.

"I hear ya," Emma said before she looked across the table to Snow. "Where is Regina? She's coming, right?"

"If she's not here first, she's not here at all," Snow said with a sad lift of her brow. Robin frowned as he thought back to their past meetings, of all the times he'd slid into this very room and found Regina pacing impatiently at the head of the table, scrutinizing him for wasting everyone's time with his tardiness, and he realized that she was right. If Regina wasn't already here, she wasn't coming.

She was avoiding him, and the very thought stung more than Robin thought it would. Sure, he was dreading seeing her too, dreaded finding the betrayal and hurt in her dark irises, to see her look at him the way she had that year, as if he meant absolutely nothing to her, but he knew he had to face it if they were to ever fix this.

But she wasn't here. She wasn't willing to face him, to burn all her hatred into him. And if anything, that certainly wasn't like Regina.

Robin was frowning at his destroyed muffin when Snow cleared her throat.

"Alright, so, this is it, I suppose. I figured we could first try to figure out what everyone's going to do while we're here until Regina, Emma, and Maleficent can figure out a way out of here. David and Killian can set up a parameter with Robin and the Merry Men, try to see how the borders of the castle have held up while we were away. Granny can be in charge of the kitchen, as always, and the dwarves and I can go out into the village, see if the curse left anyone behind like it did last time. Belle is pretty occupied with Rumple, but she's willing to watch Neal whenever we need, and Henry is probably with Roland?" Snow looked to Robin, who nodded once in response.

"We need to keep Henry occupied," David cut in. "I'm sure he's rather excited about being in a castle and the last thing we need is him bumping into anything he shouldn't."

"We'll just keep him with one of us." Snow smiled brightly as she took David's hand that rested on the table. "We can show him around, make sure he doesn't get into any trouble, teach him to be royalty."

"I think we could all use a lesson there," Emma said wryly, lips tugging into a subtle smirk.

Snow shook her head, a smile dancing along her own lips, and opened her mouth to retort, but snapped it shut when the doors to the council room blew open in a cloud of billowing purple smoke, bouncing off the adjacent walls with a loud crack. Everyone around the table jumped, and Robin's fingers itched to grab his bow on instinct, but only gripped the table when he remembered that it was not with him.

"Sorry I'm late." Regina's voice was detached and empty as she strut into the room, but Robin didn't miss the way Snow stifled a gasp when her eyes fell on the Queen.

She was covered in black, head to toe, except for the red feathers that ran down her cape. Her hair was pulled tight, piled on top of her head to fall down one side, long and loose waves hanging just past her breasts, which were also pushed as high as possible. It looked like she was wearing a corset atop her leather pants, but it was hard for Robin to tell as she marched past him, darkness swirling with darkness.

"Oh no," Mal breathed beside him, a sad and defeated thing, and it sent a flutter of fear up his spine.

Regina marched past the table, to her usual place at the front of the room - where she would often pace circles throughout their missing year – and turned to face the group, hands on her hips and a flicker of something irritable behind her eyes.

"What did I miss?" She asked, voice cool and low. It frightened Robin, more than he ever remembered being afraid of her. He had never been afraid of her, he always saw through her bluster and her fire, could find the sadness and fear buried deep inside. But this, this was the strongest of her masquerades, this was the Evil Queen, void of any emotion but anger, with darkness that fed off of her pain. This is what he was supposed to protect her from, and his failure made him fear for her, for what she was giving into.

"Jesus, Regina." Emma's voice cut through Robin's inner torment. "What are you wearing?"

"Oh this," Regina said as she looked down and played with her cape, flourishing it at her sides. "Just a little something I dug out of my wardrobe. It has… sentimental value," She finished with a smirk.

Robin caught sight of Snow out of the corner of his eye, her jaw clenched and her eyes sparkling with unshed tears, and Robin's thoughts drifted to Regina's story in Henry's book, the one he'd read a dozen times over, and recalled a particular image of Regina, wearing this very outfit, while Charming and Snow stood across from her, sword drawn, on their wedding day.

"You're going to scare the crap out of Henry," Said Emma, oblivious to her mother's discomfort. "Don't you have something a bit less… evil?"

Regina didn't respond, simply locked eyes with the blonde and cocked a dark brow at her, before she took a few steps, pacing a small circle. "What were we talking about?"

Snow shook her head, snapping herself out of whatever thoughts were holding her frozen as she glared at Regina, and regained her previous peppiness, even if it was a little forced. She quickly summed up the first few minutes of the meeting for Regina, and Robin took the moment to turn to Maleficent, who looked rigid and uncomfortable in her seat, intently watching Regina pacing while Snow talked.

"What did you mean?" Robin whispered, low enough that only the hearing of a dragon could catch it. "About Regina."

"This isn't good," Mal whispered back, "I've only seen her like this once before. When she came to get the Dark Curse from me."

Robin's stomach dropped, and he made a point of looking away from Mal, to pretend he was listening to Snow and Regina bounce ideas back and forth about security measures. "Didn't you know her before all that?" Robin asked, and he noticed Mal's fingers clench around the arm of her chair.

"I've known her as long as she's been the Queen. But this… this came later. This was how she protected herself from the world, when she threw herself into darkness. She used to be so small, so full of hope, and then the light in her eyes dwindled, until it was swallowed by the darkness. I hadn't seen her for a few years, after she'd killed the King, and then the next time I saw her was… this. I…" Mal's voice caught, and Robin darted his eyes over to her, caught her swallowing thickly and blinking her eyes quickly before continuing. "I didn't recognize her. She was all power and games, this mask she wore, and I – "

Mal was interrupted when Regina snapped at Grumpy, yelling some obscenity at him (a retort to a snarky comment, Robin was sure) and Robin felt a weight of defeat, of loss, on his chest while Mal finished.

"I lost her."

Robin frowned, and turned to look back at Mal, finding the same pain mirrored on her face, before looking back at Regina, who was standing at the head of the table, palms on the wooden surface while she stared into the dwarf at the other end.

"If you have such a problem with how I run my castle, munchkin, feel free to leave!"

"It's not like I want to be here!" Grumpy fired back, pushing up from his seat to stand, though it did little to increase his height. "Especially with your newly revived evil ass in charge."

Regina's eyes blew wide and she clenched her hands on the table, but before she could raise her hand at the dwarf, Snow stood up quickly, holding both hands in the air.

"Enough! Grumpy, leave, now."

"You're kicking me out? When she threatened to skin the dwarves alive and hang them next to the portraits in the hall?" Grumpy huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Regina is the Queen and you are going to get roasted alive if you don't stop this. Now out." Snow pointed towards the door, holding her ground until Grumpy stalked out of the room, temper fuming as he spouted curse words – mostly directed at Regina – before he slammed the door behind him.

The room fell silent, a collective sigh amongst the group, before Hook spoke up. "Not 5 minutes and we're already kicking people out. Lovely."

Emma shook her head and tried to gather some focus. "What do we do if we do find more people? What will they think when they see… all of us here?"

"You mean when they see me," Regina said harshly, flourishing a hand beside her. "What will they think when the Evil Queen has come back, and she's the Dark One to boot?"

"That's not what I meant," Emma tried, lifting a hand, but Regina cut in again.

"Don't, Miss Swan, I understand." Her tone wasn't harsh, wasn't loud, but rather quiet and contained, which made it all the more frightening. "Who would want to be anywhere near the Dark One."

Robin wasn't sure if the jab from her words was intentional, but it stung nonetheless, and he dropped his gaze, focusing on the table in front of him while he tried to push aside his shame.

"Regina – " Emma tried again, but Regina simply rolled her eyes and pushed off the table to resume her pacing.

"What are we going to do about hunting parties? We can't live off of muffins and apples forever."

"The Merry Men have already volunteer to hunt for us," Charming responded, cutting off Granny's comment of at least they're damn good muffins.

"My men volunteered?" Robin asked quickly as he looked up and sat forward. "Why wasn't I informed?"

"Because you won't be joining them." Regina answered, lifting her chin as if she begged him to challenge her.

"Excuse me? I'm their leader!"

"And you have a son to take care of," Regina reminded him, not even bothering to look in his direction while she spoke. "Henry will be busy with Snow and Charming, or myself, and you can't possibly bring your son on a hunting mission."

"I thought I was to help with setting up the perimeter? Keeping watch on the grounds? Now I'm stuck here while my men are hunting and protecting the castle?"

"I won't have your carelessness in charge of the safety of this castle. Or the food, for that matter."

"What the bloody hell does that mean?" Robin was growing angry, he could feel it bubbling inside him, and he itched to push out of his seat, to stand eye to eye with her while she insulted him.

"It means you've already caused enough damage to last us all a lifetime." Regina met his eye and glared at him, as if she could burn holes in his skull, and that was it. He would not take this. He stood, kicking his chair back, and planted his hands on the table, mirroring Regina.

"I haven't done anything to hurt the people here – "

"Oh haven't you?" Regina cut in, and Robin noticed how her chin shook before she schooled her features. "You have lied to me, you have betrayed me, and you have abandoned me, and I will not have someone so untrustworthy in charge of anything important in this castle."

"Regina, for God sakes, is now the time?!" Robin half rolled his eyes, his rage growing with the need to defend himself. "You can't compare… you don't understand – "

"What I understand is that I will not have you anywhere near anything that has to do with the safety or well being of the people in this castle for as long as we are here. Do I make myself clear?"


Regina leaned back, her jaw falling open for a moment before she snapped it shut. She was fuming, her chest heaving with every breath, and the table around her hands looked like it was smoking, as if she was scorching the wood with magic that she was resisting the urge to throw at him. She looked like she wanted to kill him, and the sight of her both infuriated him and stabbed at the wound in his heart. He had hurt her; so badly that she could no longer trust him, but she was being ridiculous, couldn't she see why he did this?


"No." Robin repeated, holding his ground. "I will not be benched because of something we haven't had the chance to talk about yet. If you'd just let me explain…"

"You've done plenty to explain, and I am done listening to you."

"Regina…" Snow spoke up, trying to talk her down from her spiraling temper. "Robin is the most skilled of the Merry Men, to leave him here, to not use him – "

"I am the Queen!" Regina screamed, sending a pulse of magic through the table to rock the table and shake the walls around them. She was trembling, pushing her breath through her teeth while her eyes moved from Robin to Snow. "This is my castle, I am in charge! And if I say the thief stays in the castle, he stays in the fucking castle!"

Before she could say another word, Regina disappeared in a cloud of swirling black and purple, leaving the air electric and heavy in Robin's lungs. His anger dwindled, falling into more of a burning ember than a full on fire, and the weight of defeat was back on his chest.

He had done it, he had cocked everything up enough that not only did she want nothing to do with him, she didn't trust him at all.

He wasn't sure what was worse, the pain from truly breaking her heart, from pushing himself from her life completely, or that he allowed her to fall into this darkness alone, to let herself become a home for nothing but rage all over again.

The group sat in stunned silence, everyone still holding their breath, before Mal scoffed and let out a simple, "Well that went well."


Who did he think he was? Acting as if she was doing something wrong, when he was the one that abandoned her? She bared her soul to him, offered him everything she had, and he walked away, this was his fault. He had no right to be cross with her, or to criticize how she acted, when he was responsible for it.

Regina fumed for hours, storming laps around her chambers, stomping and muttering and occasionally grabbing something from her vanity to smash it on a wall across the room.

"Yikes, I don't think you'll find pixie marrow quite so easily again." Rumple – or rather the Rumple that tormented her mind – giggled from the corner of the room where he was sprawled across her bed.

"Go. Away." Regina growled as she slowed her pacing to grab the cup off of her vanity, taking a long pull of her wine. She'd started slowly emptying a tall bottle of red as the sun had set, had been drinking for the past hour as she stewed in her bitterness, and the warmth spreading in her belly was doing little to quell the fire in her blood.

"You're rather worked up over this thief," Rumple continued, "Considering he left you, you might want to move on."

"He didn't leave me, it's… complicated." Regina huffed and rested a hand on her hip, gripping the beads of the corset before she ruffled her large skirt in her irritation.

She had been angry, but she didn't want to be angry, and when she had returned to her chambers and looked in the mirror, she hated what she saw. The black leather and tight hair, the red feathers and the dark makeup, it only made her rage grow, made her fall further into the darkness. So she changed, in a puff of smoke she replaced the black leather with a heavy skirt and beaded corset, all in a deep blue that had shimmering specks of green and gold in the light. This dress was one of the few she owned that didn't have a high collar, though the skirts were driving her to madness as she paced around her room, each step getting clumsier with each glass of wine.

And if the colour reminded her of Robin's eyes, well, no one was there to know that, now were they?

"Didn't you sacrifice yourself for him? And now you're refusing to speak to him? Seems like a waste of time, if you ask me."

"Good thing I didn't ask you," Regina snapped and took another drink, all while Rumple giggled maniacally.

"Funny thing is…" Rumple pushed off the bed and stalked towards her, a twinkle in his eye and a bounce in his step. "Sometimes things have a way of working out in the end. You try to change the future but… well, some things just can't be stopped."

Regina swallowed thickly, the smooth wine turning to tar in her throat, and she placed the cup down with a shaky hand before she gripped the edge of the table to steady herself.

"What are you talking about?"

Now it was Rumple's turn to pace the room, and each step around Regina taunted her. He giggled relentlessly, as if he knew a secret that he was desperate to share, and he drummed his fingers together as he spoke. "You stopped your true love from dying. But who's to say he won't still die?"

Regina scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Oh please, you can't fear monger me into doing anything."

"I don't have anything I want you to do, dearie," Rumple said, almost impatiently, "Other than to embrace who you are, and to understand that you can't change it."

"I decide who I am!" Regina yelled at him and stepped closer, jabbing a finger towards his chest. "Not you!"

Rumple didn't so much as flinch, only smiled devilishly up at her as she fumed. He spoke slowly, precisely, as he stared into her eyes. "The fact remains, you plunged yourself into darkness to save your twoo love, but some things cannot be changed."

Regina held her breath, uncertain of her thoughts as they swirled around her mind slowly, as if through molasses, while Rumple continued, mirroring her as he jabbed a bony finger into her chest.

"You have always been dark, you can not change that, and you've only made it worse by trying to stop something that will happen regardless."

"Robin will not die," Regina said firmly as she finally turned away from Rumple, pressing a shaking hand to her stomach.

"And you suddenly care about his well being?" He asked with his usual dramatic flare. "Anything can happen, dearie. It's a shame you'll never know."

Something clicked in her mind, something sharp and vivid through her slow churning thoughts, and her heart skipped in her chest.

If only you could see the future.

Regina bolted out the door, but not before she could grab her dagger and slid it into the ties at the back of her waist, and made it halfway down the hall before she paused, rethinking her actions. It was late now; everyone was probably finishing up their meals in the dining hall, which was directly beside Rumple's room. She didn't want to be interrupted, was far too focused on proving the voice in her head wrong, and couldn't risk running into Snow, Emma, or, worst of all, Robin.

So she enveloped herself in a purple cloud, dropping herself softly just inside Rumple's room. Besides his unconscious form lying on the bed, his chambers were empty, dark and frigidly cold. Belle must have left several hours ago, and she could return any moment. Regina had to be quick about this.

She approached his body, inched forward at slug's pace, afraid that even the click of her heels might stir him. Once she stood over Rumple, her eyes fell on his face, on his closed lids, and a wicked grin slid across her lips.

"You have something that I need, dearie." She spoke softly, barely there, and yet her throat felt raw and tight. "I need to keep my family safe, and to do that…"

Regina leaned forward, running her palms down his arms until she could pull both of his hands up in her own, squeezing tight.

"I need to see the future."

She closed her eyes as she pushed her magic into her fingertips with all her strength, and she gasped when something electric shot out of Rumple's hands into her own, shooting up her arms and into her chest. She felt a sharp burning against her back, her dagger pulsing heat and magic into her spine, and her eyes snapped open when she let out a pained shriek.

An unnatural brightness flooded Regina's vision, and she became unsteady on her feet as the darkness of Rumple's chambers swirled into something else, something familiar and yet different. Rumple's hands slipped from hers as she tipped over, and she felt her shoulder crack against the hardness of the floor beneath her, though in her mind she kept falling, tumbling further and further until she was dropped into the chaos of what could be, and what will be.


She's standing in her office in Storybrooke, red light tinting the blacks and whites that make up the décor. She's not alone, and she's afraid. A flash of white light, brighter than any she'd ever seen, erupts before her, slicing through the air directly for her heart, and she throws her hands up to shield herself.

But then Robin is there, throwing himself in front of her, arms outstretched as the light pierces through his chest before it is absorbed into him. He sputters as he turns to face her, one moment he is there, and then a flash of white blinds her before a silver slice of a sword cuts through the air where Robin had stood.

Regina looks down at her hands as they drip blood, pouring a pool of red to the tiles at her feet. It's not her blood, she has no wounds, and yet it drips and drips, sliding down her arms until there is no light-coloured skin left, only a deep blackish red.

Another flash, and there is a baby before her, nestled in a basket and swaddled in pink.

Her sister's voice echoes in her mind, "I can only think of one name that's fitting – Robin."

Robin stands before her again, though he also lays at her feet, crumpled and lifeless. This Robin is light, pure and clear, and he stretches out an arm, moving to brush his fingers along her cheek before he slowly trickles away, turning to dust before her eyes.

"Regina, you are my future."

And then he is gone, only the Robin at her feet remains. She drops to her knees, takes his face in her hands, and rocks back and forth, pulling him as close as she can manage as she whispers to him, "please no, come back to me, don't leave me."

Darkness flashes through her surroundings, and suddenly she is standing in a clearing, green grass soaked with rain, grey clouds glooming overhead, threatening to pour down on her.

She feels a slice through her chest, white hot as it sucks the air from her lungs, and she looks down to find the blade of a sword protruding from her chest. There is someone behind her, holding her in place as they shove the blade in further, all while whispering in her ear, "long live the queen."

Then the sword is gone, and her chest is clear, covered in black velvet over black cotton. There is a coffin before her, elegant dark wood adorn with rose-covered arrows.

Robin appears before her, bow drawn and arrow pulled tight to his nose, but is replaced in a flash by Roland, his own arrow tucked in his little glove, a rose tied to the very tip.

She's holding Roland's hand, telling him that he will always be hers, but he slips away from her, his tiny fingers tugged out of her own as she reaches for him, tries to hold him closer.

Henry replaces Roland, though he is so much smaller than he should be, and he's screaming at her. She's a monster, she's not his mother, and he hates her. He shifts, one moment he's the little boy who called her mommy, the next he's the teenager who pulled her off of the castle floor, but he never stops screaming, never stops tearing into her heart.

A menacing laugh cuts through her thoughts, deep and throaty, as if from death itself. The Evil Queen laughs and laughs while Henry shrieks.

Her chest feels tight, and starts to burn. There's no room, it's too full, too many pieces, too many thoughts in her head, and she claws at her chest, trying to release the pressure. There's so much pressure. She digs her fingers into her chest, her neck, her face, digging and pulling, until something snaps and tears free, setting her nerves on fire. She screams, strangled and agonizing, as she is sliced in half.

The pain comes to an abrupt halt, and she feels light, as if she might float away, while darkness swirls through her vision, voices bouncing through her mind as the world tips, dropping her, letting her fall into nothingness.

"Did you really think it would be that easy?"


She didn't want to see this, but she had realized it too late.

Everything was a jumble, one image flashed before her eyes just long enough for her to try to grasp it before it switched to something else. Moment after moment blended together, incoherent and messy as it blurred across her vision, blinding her.

She couldn't see anything, not from the real world at least, her eyes were blocked by visions of what could have happened and what was yet to be.

Rumple had been right. Robin could still die.

She had to get to him, right now, he could be dead for all she knew, but she couldn't see anything. The walls were swirling, grey and black stone tilting and spinning as she stumbled down the corridor, tripping over her own long dress and high heels. Her breathing was shallow and burned in her chest, her vision blurred with the tears that stuck to her eyelashes.

He's not dead, he's not dead, he's not going to die…

Regina gasped for air as her legs pushed her forward, heels clicking loudly, echoing through the empty castle with each heavy step. Everything was blurry lights and spinning darkness, and she tipped into wall, cracking her shoulder against it before she gathered her strength and pushed herself further. Her knees felt shaky as she approached his door, and she dropped her weight on the handle, swinging it open with her whole body. It was too much, and the door fell open and bounced off of the wall with a loud bang.

She couldn't make out anything in the room, could only feel the bending of her knees, the drooping of her eyes, and something warm trickling down from her nose, as she forced his name out through the burning in her lungs.


The ground came up from under her, and her head smacked against the hard surface, plunging her into darkness.


He was sprinting, or at least trying to – he was moving as fast as he could, slipping around every sharp corner and swaying when Regina's weight pulled him down - and all he could think about was how much he hated her dress.

Robin had forgotten just exactly how ungodly the outfits of this land were, with their extravagant beading and layers of tulle and silk and velvet and God knows what else, all pulled tight with a vice of a corset. It was a marvel women could even breathe, let alone move in the damned things. But he had become quickly reminded of that particular pain when he scooped Regina into his arms, pressing her head into the crook of his neck, and rushed out of his room as quickly as he could with her layers upon layers of dress weighing him down.

Despite the pools of fabric that she was swimming in, she felt incredibly small in his arms. Her hair had fallen out of its tight pins when her head had connected with the hard ground and was now hanging loose over his elbow, her hands dangled lifelessly at her sides, and her knees felt boney as they hung over his other arm. She was too small, too fragile, and the sound of her head cracking against the floor echoed in his mind, his fear only made worse by the trickling red trail from her nose that was slipping down her cheek and staining his collar.

Robin couldn't imagine what had happened, what she had done to herself to have her sprinting into his room as she collapsed, but any anger left inside him had been snuffed out by the sound of her skull bouncing off of stone.

He was running mindlessly, letting his memory guide him through the endless halls as he clung to Regina, his grip on her so hard he would have sworn she'd wince, or at least flinch as his fingers dug into her shoulder and knee. He just needed to find someone, anyone, to help her.

She's not going to die, she's not dying…

When he saw the familiar tall door of the dining hall, Robin turned and threw his back against the wood and stumbled into the grand room, nearly tripping before he caught himself, pulling Regina even closer to protect her should he slip.


He shot his eyes around the room, but everything was blurry and swirling, and he couldn't make out a single face. He fell to his knees and cradled Regina the best he could, wrapping his arm around her waist as he let her legs drop to his lap.

"Robin!" He heard Emma shout, followed by a cluttered screeching of multiple chairs being pushed backwards.

"What – Regina?" Snow's voice sounded over several others', all confused and alarmed.

Robin pulled Regina's face into his view, pressed his palm to her cheek, and raked his eyes over her features. Her skin was ghostly white against the flare of red trailing down her face, eyes still firmly shut, though they looked like they were fluttering beneath her lids, moving rapidly but seeing nothing.

He forced his eyes away from her face when he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, and looked up to find a small group circling him. Emma was kneeling beside him, one hand on his arm, the other squeezing Regina's fingers. Snow was kneeled beside her, with Charming and Hook standing above them, and just behind the two men, a very shocked and frightened Henry stood amongst a few of the dwarves.

"Robin!" Emma shook his arm, and he darted his eyes over to her, trying to focus her face as his vision blurred again. He hadn't even realized he was crying, but his tears slipped down his cheek and fell on Regina's face, slipping along the blood still trailing down her cold skin. "What happened?!"

"I – I don't know! She practically fell into my room and just collapsed, she's freezing and she's bleeding and I don't know what happened –"

"- Robin! Breathe!" Snow almost yelled at him, and his breath caught as he nodded quickly. "Pick her up off the floor, lay her on the table."

Robin did as instructed, with a little help from Charming and Emma when his limbs proved far too shaky, and Regina was laid across a nearby empty table, Robin standing just above her head with his hands pressed to her shoulders.

"What's wrong with her?" Henry asked, and he cleared his throat when he was unable to hide the crack in his voice. He looked to Robin expectantly, his eyes shining with his fear, and Robin clenched his jaw and shook his head.

"Doc, can you get me a wet cloth?" Snow shouted to the dwarves behind her, and a few of them hurried off together, returning moments later to give Snow the cloth, who wiped at Regina's face, cleaning any trace of blood off of her. This was better, Robin thought when he lifted his chin to look at Henry, he didn't need to see his mother in such a state, but at least now she wasn't quite so terrifying.

"She's freezing," Snow said softly as she pressed the back of her fingers to Regina's cheek.

"She's… twitching," said Emma, and she pushed Regina's long lacy sleeves up, laying her hands flat on the table. They all held their breath as they watched her fingers slightly clench and unclench on the smooth surface. Emma wrapped her fingers around Regina's wrist and squeezed, lightly at first, then with a little more force and a soft shake behind it. "Regina…"

Robin followed her lead and lightly shook her shoulders, still afraid to jostle her head but desperate to wake her up. "Regina, love, wake up… please, Regina."

"Look at her eyes," Snow said suddenly, and Robin focused on Regina's lids. They still twitched as if she was moving her eyes beneath them, but far faster than before, so fast she couldn't possibly have seen anything were they open. Her breath was coming faster, too, short and quick puffs of air were pushing out of her nose, and her chest was straining on her corset with each short inhale.

"Regina…" Robin tried again with a quick shake before he moved to the side of the table. He could see her face more clearly as he pressed both palms to her cheeks. "Baby, please wake up."

Regina's lashes fluttered, and her mouth fell open just enough for Robin to see the rapid movement of her lips. She was muttering under her breath, something so hushed he couldn't make it out, and her eyes were rolling back in her head, just the whites visible under her flickering lids.

"Someone get Maleficent!" Emma yelled over her shoulder to anyone who would listen, and Robin was certain the few dwarves shuffled off together.

He looked up for a moment, panicked eyes meeting each fear-stricken face above him, as he tried to process what to do. Henry was tucked into David's side, hugging him tightly as he watched his mother helplessly, while Emma and Snow muttered to each other, each offering another absurd idea of what could be wrong with Regina. Some kind of illness, a curse, a poison of her own making. Each mumbled word left him more lost, and he dropped his forehead to Regina's, whispering against her skin, "Please come back to me, don't leave me."

He pressed his lips to her cool skin, holding there for only a moment before Regina jerked and gasped beneath him. Robin shot back up as Regina coughed and choked back to life, and the group breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone began speaking at once, words tripping over words as they each tried to ask her what happened and if she was okay.

Her breathing regulated slowly, each gasp a little smaller, a little smoother, as she focused on Robin, and Robin alone. Her eyes sparkled with tears, a few slipping down her now flushed cheeks, and the emotion he found in her gaze was a mixture of relief and fear, something he couldn't quite pinpoint. She looked relieved that he was alright, as if she was just as terrified as he had been, and she squeezed his fingers with more force than he expected, like she was terrified to ever let go again.

The chaos echoing around them only grew when the dwarves ran back into the dining hall with Maleficent and Granny close on their tail, but there was a haze around the two of them, as if they were alone amongst the frantic crowd, the sounds just a distant buzzing in their ears. For that moment, Robin could only see her, the sparkle in her eye, the relief in her smile, the pink of her cheeks.

Granny started barking orders, instructing everyone to help Regina get to her own room and a proper bed, and before they could all move to pick her up, she lifted a weak hand to run her thumb along his stubbly cheek as she breathed, "I love you."


They were fussing over her, relentlessly, and it drove Regina to madness.

It's not that she needed it, she was fine. Her brain felt like it was going a mile a minute, and her limbs felt like they were made of out lead, but she was fine. Or she would be, soon enough.

She didn't deserve this from any of them, and it left her with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Ever since she had become the Dark One, Regina had been flopping between destroying everyone's happiness and trying to rein in her darkness, to be herself, and she'd been failing miserably. She'd snapped on everyone, had locked herself away in her chambers the entire day, and then became a seer out of pure spite. She was a mess, and a royal pain in everyone's ass.

Still, they fussed over her, took the time to damn near carry her up to her chambers and deposit her in her bed, allowed her a moment to change her clothes before Henry tucked her in and tested her temperature at Granny's request, while Snow and Emma drew the curtains over her windows. Robin hovered behind David and Hook, who all seemed at a loss when it came to helping the women who were busying themselves over Regina, and Mal leaned against the far wall, arms wrapped tight over her chest while she brooded in solitude.

Eventually, Regina insisted that she was fine, and that she just needed to rest, and promised to explain everything to them in the morning if they would just leave her alone. They relented, and one by one left her in peace.

Try as she might, Regina couldn't help the sadness that tugged the corners of her lips as she watched Robin follow Snow and David from the room without so much as a second glance in her direction, and she slumped down into her bed, mussing up the blankets and pillows Henry had fluffed up for her.

"You're sure you're alright?" Henry asked her, so full of love and concern that it had Regina welling up when she nodded and insisted that he go, that she could find him later. He had dropped a kiss on her forehead and turned reluctantly to leave with Emma and Hook.

She was nearly alone, save for Maleficent, who still leaned against the wall, stiff and curled in on herself, as far away from Regina as possible.

"You're mad at me," Regina stated, eyes falling to her lap where she fiddled with the blankets under her fingers.

Mal did nothing to respond, simply stared at the floor, and Regina could have sworn she didn't hear her. Though she knew that wasn't true, Mal heard everything, whether she wanted to or not. It was the dragon in her.

"I know I should have come to you," Regina tried again, lifting herself up to sit upright on the bed and groaning when her muscles burned in protest. "I just… never know what to say."

"If you think I'm mad at you for avoiding me all day, try again." Mal huffed as she finally pushed off of the wall and moved towards the bed, where she lowered herself to sit next to Regina's outstretched feet.

"I… It can't be easy being here, with all of these people, with me, while your daughter is back in Storybrooke." Regina couldn't meet Mal's gaze, and instead focused on pulling at a loose thread in her quilt while she spoke softly, genuinely, for the first time in what felt like ages. "I've caused so much pain because I can't control the voice in my head, I've been so wrapped up in my anger, I can't bare to think about what you must be feeling… because of what I've become."

"Regina." Mal's voice was quiet but stern, and Regina's eyes lifted slowly to hers. "I'm mad at myself," she said simply, with a hint of an awkward smile, and Regina's lips parted in her surprise.


"We've been down this road before, little one. I've watched you slip into darkness before, at the hands of that little imp, and I did nothing to stop you. I lost you to the Evil Queen." Mal swallowed heavily, took a steadying breath, and continued. "When the princess told me you became the Dark One I could barely believe it because… I just got you back. But it sounded like the kind of idiotic thing a hero would do," She added with a smile, and Regina couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"I can't let you disappear again," Mal went on, leaning forward to take Regina's hand. "I don't blame you for where we ended up, I wanted to help you in my own way, but I'm watching you slip away again and…" She shook her head and inhaled a shaky breath that surprised Regina. "You just scared me, that's all. So no, I'm not mad at you for what happened with Lily. I'm mad at myself for letting you do this alone."

Regina wasn't sure whether she should smile or cry, and was about to do both before Mal leaned over and pulled her into a strong hug. It reminded her of long ago, when she was a lonely queen who sought comfort from a fierce dragon, and for a moment something flashed across her eyelids, a vision of Regina clinging to Maleficent, sobbing and screaming as she tried to hold herself up, but she pushed the sight away.

"Lily," Regina breathed into Mal's hair, lifting her fingers up to stroke the blonde curls, and she felt her shoulders bounce as she laughed.

"That's her name."

Regina chuckled, squeezing Mal's shoulders a little tighter. "I know. We haven't talked about her. It's a beautiful name, just like her." She pulled back and slid her fingers down Mal's hair, fixing the few strands she had tangled.

They were sitting closer now, Mal had scooted forward to wrap her arms around Regina, and now their hips were pressed together, hands tangled on both of their laps, and Regina welcomed the warmth and comfort that radiated off of her friend. She had been so alone, so lost, and had thought she could never find comfort in anyone but Henry again. But oh how she missed Mal, how she loved to have her near, and the warmth that spread through her chest helped release the fear that was constantly tightening in her lungs.

She trusted Mal, in her own way she loved Mal, and it was an easy decision to make when Regina finally whispered the words that were on constant repeat in her mind.

"Robin might die."

Mal narrowed her eyes, but didn't say anything, and Regina knew she had to continue.

"I took Rumple's seer powers, that's why I passed out."

"What?" Mal half shouted as she leaned back, cracking the tender moment into a thousand pieces.

"I – I made a mistake. The stupid Rumple in my head was mocking me and I wanted to prove him wrong and… Robin might die." Regina felt vulnerable and weak, and she pleaded with her eyes for Mal to understand, to not resent her as she slowly became more and more like the monster that Rumplestiltskin had become.

Maleficent leaned closer, inching her face towards Regina's, but she stiffened, clenching her jaw. "We have a visitor."

Regina furrowed her brow, she hadn't heard anyone enter, but curiosity had her lean past Mal and look towards the door. Before she could see who it was, she heard his voice, and her heart jumped in her chest.

"I suppose I can blame that on dragon hearing."

Mal snorted a low laugh, and sat straighter before lifting off of the bed entirely. "Maybe you're not as stealthy as you believe, thief."

She stepped towards Robin, so graceful she appeared to float, and stopped in front of him, taking him by surprise. She set her shoulders, and though Regina could no longer see her face, she was certain Mal was scowling at him when she practically growled, "Don't hurt her."

Robin stood his ground, unmoved by her show of defensiveness; though Regina was certain that the comment got under his skin by the way he clenched his jaw and flexed his fingers.

"Never again, I assure you."

Mal nodded in response, and turned back towards Regina, promising to see her tomorrow, and left them to their privacy.

For a moment, the air between them felt more awkward than it ever had. She knew he had tried to help her, that he had pulled her back from her fit of visions, but he still looked uncertain, uncomfortable in her presence, and she feared that perhaps he hadn't quite forgiven her, and he was just looking out for her wellbeing out of habit.

There was no use in hiding the shame, the guilt that was tearing apart her insides, and she slumped her shoulders, dropping her gaze to her lap in defeat. Let him tear a strip off of her, she deserved it.

"Don't ever do that to me again," He said suddenly, his voice stern and yet shaky, laced with fear. Her eyes flashed up at him, and he was frowning, almost grimacing, as he looked at her, the pain in his eyes was enough to dig into her guilt further.

A shaky "What?" was all she could manage, every inch of her frozen and waiting.

Robin inhaled a slow, steady breath, and let out a choked sigh before whispering, "I thought you died."

Regina's heart was pounding in her chest, thudding in her ears so hard she could barely hear him, and she hadn't realized she was holding her breath until she let out her own choked exhale.

"I thought I lost you, and I can't do that again, I can't…" He moved suddenly, quickly, too quickly for her to process, and in an instant he was on top of her, crashing his lips to hers.

The moment his skin connected with hers, her eyes blew open, and her sight was covered by a vision of Robin collapsing before her, choking and gasping as crimson stained his white shirt, oozing onto the floor, her hands, covering everything in his blood. She could feel her heart racing, the panic as she pressed on his wound with trembling hands, and she could hear herself whisper under her breath, "no, no, no, no."

Regina tore her lips from Robin's with a loud gasp, and she buried her face in her pillow as she shook her head.

"Whoa, whoa, I'm sorry," Robin said gently, rubbing his hand up and down her arm to sooth her while her whole body trembled. "Hey, it's okay, it's okay."

She couldn't find her words, couldn't possibly explain everything to him now, and took a moment to gather herself, to shake off this fear that was plaguing her every moment since she'd touched Rumple.

Robin tried to calm her, to reassure her that everything was okay, but as she continued to cower from him, his slow rubbing hands eventually stopped, and he lifted himself from the bed.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have… I can go."

"No!" She bolted upright and reached out to him, wrapping her hand around the fabric of his sleeve at his wrist. "Please, I'm sorry, I just… I can't explain it right now."

He nodded, moved closer to her, and tilted his head as he asked, "Do you want me to stay?"

Regina fell silent, her shakiness started to subside, and she slid herself back along the bed in response. He toed out of his boots and slipped into the bed beside her, instantly wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her into him. She was afraid to touch his skin again, afraid to have him too close and throw herself into that swirling jumbled world without a way out this time, but when his fingers grazed her collarbone, nothing happened, so she buried her face in his chest and breathed him in.

He was home in every sense of the word; her body fit against his seamlessly, his warmth became hers, and when she was wrapped in him she had never felt safer. She had been reckless, more than once now, and to ever deny herself his security, to be so weak when she had someone so strong beside her, seemed beyond ridiculous now. He was her home, he was her support, and she needed him to get through this.

Robin threaded his fingers in her hair, kneading and massaging at her scalp as he held her close, and she heard his breath catch before he whispered a sad "I'm so sorry."

"We've both made mistakes," she reminded him, "I think it's time we forgave each other."

"I was so scared today, it was like nothing else mattered, I just couldn't lose you." His voice shook, and his chest started to tremble against her forehead. He was crying, pressing his tears into her hair, and she couldn't bare it. She squeezed her arms around him, pulled him as flush against her as she could manage, and let him pour all of his fear and misery into her.

Regina lifted her chin slowly, careful to avoid bumping him, and looked up into his eyes, red rimmed and bloodshot, shining through his streaming tears. She cupped his cheek with her palm and pressed her nose against his, muttering a soft "I love you" before she pressed her lips to his.

He was still shaking, his breathing erratic, but he kissed her back in earnest, hot and sincere as he poured his emotion into her. She parted her lips against his, her tongue warm and welcome when it tangled with his, and they drank each other in, tenderness turning to desperation as they savoured what they had thought never possible again.

There was a normalcy between them, despite the new magic that flooded Regina's veins and the pain that ached in every muscle, they connected as they always could, and soon hands began to wander, slipping under clothing before it was removed completely, baring themselves to each other.

"I love you," Robin mumbled into her lips between kisses, "I love you no matter what." His words of adoration, the intimacy as he caressed her skin, stoked the warmth in her belly all while blooming something in her heart. His touch was insistent but gentle, as if he was trying to memorize every inch of her with his fingertips, and she felt extremely close to him, connected in more ways than she could properly describe.

His fingers danced across her belly, tickling the sensitive skin along her sides, and stopped just short of her breasts. He hesitated, afraid to push her too far, and Regina giggled before pushing his hands to cup her breast. Robin groaned as he filled his hands, plucking her nipples and pulling short gasps from her lips.

His want, his need, was evident as he ran his hands along her, squeezing and pinching at her, and it flipped a switch inside Regina, made her feel a little more like herself, someone sassy and bold.

"I love…" She leaned forward to suck on his bottom lip before trailing hot open-mouthed kisses down his neck. "When you touch me."

Robin shivered when her breath ran across the wet skin of his neck, and he squeezed her breast harder, twisting the nipple and making her groan into the crook of his neck.

"Do you, now?" He teased, and Regina hummed in response, kissing her way down his neck to his collarbone just to trail her tongue back up. "And where do you love to be touched?"

He trailed his palms down from her breasts, sliding along her sides until he could grab her rear and squeeze, and it pulled a rather undignified squeak from Regina.

"Here?" Robin asked, and Regina grinned into his neck as she trailed her tongue down to his shoulder, leaving a kiss there before digging her teeth into the skin when he suddenly slipped his hand around and trailed a finger through her folds. "Or here?"

"Is all of the above an option?" She replied, and he laughed softly before wrapping his hand around her again and tugging her towards him, pressing her torso flush against his as he captured her lips.

"I only have so many hands, love," He mumbled against her mouth between heated kisses, and she laughed against his lips before nipping at the bottom one.

Regina wrapped her leg around Robin's, hooking her calf behind his knee, and ground her hips into him. She could feel him beneath her leg, already hard for her, and just the thought of him aching and ready had her stomach fluttering in warm arousal that pooled between her legs.

Robin gripped Regina's hips and rolled, pulling her on top of him, and helped her settle on top of his cock, where she rocked her hips, running him through her growing wetness, and hummed her approval.

He flexed his fingers at her hips, gripping and releasing, but he looked conflicted beneath her, unsure of his touch as she rocked above him. His eyes wandered her body as if seeing it for the first time, and there was a nervous gentleness in the way he touched her, an uncertainty about her and her body, and that just wouldn't do.

"Robin," she said softly, leaning down to press a soft kiss to his lips, "We're okay."

"I know, I just…" He shook his head, closing his eyes. "I broke your trust. You were right, this morning. I lied, and I betrayed you…"

"Hey," She pressed her hands to his cheeks, pulling his gaze back up to her eyes. "I was angry, and hurt, and I was very out of line. I shouldn't have blown up on you. But please, babe, believe me. I do trust you. That's why I wanted you to take the dagger."

"I shouldn't have left you," Robin whispered as he tangled his fingers in her hair. "And I won't again, not ever. I'm with you, I promise."

Regina smiled down at him, a bright, warm, goofy smile that she feared would now be reserved for Henry alone, and for a moment, she felt light, free from the darkness that was holding her heart.

"I love you," she whispered, and God how she meant it. She loved him, truly, and deeply, and could feel it warm and bright, a steady heat inside her very soul. And she could see that he felt it too, the spread of love through every vein as he looked up at her, before he ever muttered the words I love you, too.

"Now stop being sad," Regina teased, rolling her hips and pulling a groan from Robin. "And fuck me properly."

"Yes, your majesty," He teased back, and Regina wapped him on the shoulder, light and playful, before leaning down to suck on the sensitive spot behind his ear, the one that always earned her a soft moan in response.

She reached between them and gave Robin a few hard strokes before lining him up with her entrance and sinking down slowly, taking in a little bit of him before lifting off, and repeating slowly.

"Love, you don't have to start like this," Robin pushed on her hips, lifting her off of him, and Regina made a sound in protest. "You've had a hell of a day, you certainly deserve a little foreplay."

Regina smiled but shook her head. "No, no, I'm good, I just want…" He released her hips and let her sink down on him again, taking him fully inside her before she stopped for a moment, closing her eyes at the feel of him stretching and filling her. "I just want this."

She rolled her hips, not quite lifting herself up to pull him out, but rather rocking back and forth, enjoying the friction she felt in the subtle motion. Robin bit his lip and slid a hand up her torso to squeeze her breast, pinching her nipple, and a spark of pleasure spread through her chest. She nodded at him, encouraging him, and he kneaded her breast while she rocked above him, gradually picking up speed, growing wetter with each pass of her hips over his.

"So gorgeous," he muttered, palming her breast a little more forcefully while he pushed his hips up into her, thrusting hard once, and oh yes, it was good. She let out a moan, loud and sudden, and he did it again, and she dropped her head back, lifted herself up to meet him when she came back down harder than before. "Like that?" He asked, and she nodded quickly.

Regina leaned forward, pressed her hands against the wall to get better leverage, and met Robin on every thrust, letting every moan and sigh fall freely as he pushed up into her. The angle was better, he was hitting the right spot in her, and it sent wave after wave through her as she moved faster and faster, chasing the pleasure that zinged through her core.

She focused on the feeling of Robin beneath her, on nothing but fuck yes and faster, and she pushed down into him, harder and more demanding with each thrust. Her breasts were pushed to his face, and he took the opportunity to suck a nipple between his teeth, tugging hard and making her hiss before she encouraged him, moaning a strangled "Yes, yes, just like that."

Her legs started to tremble, though it was less of a pleasured shaking and more exhaustion. Her limbs felt weak, and with every pump into her, she felt less steady, like she might collapse. Her arms began to shake, too, and her hands fell from the wall, landing on either side of Robin's head while she fell forward, gasping and too weak to lift herself up again.

Robin froze, wrapped his arms around her back, and tried to lean away and look at her face. "Regina? Are you okay?"

She couldn't respond, was too weak to do anything but grunt between her gasps for air, and Robin moved to slip out of her. She groaned her displeasure, but let Robin roll her back to her side so she was facing him.

"You're too tired for this," Robin said softly, brushing Regina's hair out of her face to look her in the eye. She shook her head, and pulled his lips to hers, trying to kiss him with enough passion to reignite the spark she had lost, but Robin laughed against her lips and pulled her off of him.

"No, no, I'm not." She tried to sound confident, but her voice was wavering and as weak as she felt, and Robin didn't miss it.

"We have the rest of our lives for this, love," He said quietly, brushing his fingers through her hair in soothing passes. "For now, just relax."

She wanted to fight, to insist that she needed this, needed the release, but every second she spent laying next to him, her body felt heavier, as if she was being pulled into the soft pillows and blankets, so she relented, and nuzzled into Robin further, pressing her nose into the crook of his neck and tangling her legs with his.

She felt his erection bump against her stomach, and she chuckled, reached down to stroke him once, and whispered, "sorry about that."

He laughed in response, and shook his head before burying his nose in her hair. "If blue balls is the worse thing you give me, I'd say we're doing just fine."

Regina laughed in earnest, pulled him tighter against her, and hummed into the warmth of his bare skin against hers.

Soon enough, Robin's breathing fell deeper, slower, and she was sure he fell asleep. She was wrapped in his arms, tucked against his body perfectly, and she found that, despite everything, she was perfectly content.

She closed her eyes and ran her hand up and down Robin's back, drawing patterns along his skin, while a bright white flashed across her eyelids. The darkness of her chambers was gone, and she saw an open field, bright greens and blues swirling around her as she watched Robin running through the tall grass, chasing a shrieking Roland. He picked his son up and spun around in circles until they collapsed together, all laughs and shrieks and pure joy. She chuckled and turned to her right, seeing Henry sitting off to the side with a young girl in his lap, no older than 2 years old, bright red curls and even brighter blue eyes shining in the sunlight as they both looked at Henry's storybook in front of them. He was reading to her, he must be, Regina could see his mouth moving, and could hear the short laughs of the little girl as she listened to Henry's story.

Off in the distance, Regina could just make out Emma and Killian, laughing together as they chased each other on horseback, while Snow and David stood behind them, next to their own horses that stopped for a drink in the spring running along the field.

There was a distinct warmth in her heart, something whole, something complete, as she looked at the people around her. Her family, the people who loved her, who would save her from this darkness forever tethered to her soul, they brought her an unending amount of joy, a love she never thought possible for her.

The vision was gone as soon as it had appeared, and Regina didn't open her eyes, but rather snuggled closer to Robin, stealing his warmth as he slept beside her while she replayed the vision in her mind, dreaming that, of all the futures she had seen, this was the one that would stick.