~"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."~

Regina's heart was racing, pounding in her chest as she stepped into the seemingly empty room. However, looking around she had a feeling it was anything but. Even before magic, all those years ago when she was just a young woman she could sense when Daniel was near. Every nerve in her body would tingle and a delightful shiver would run up her spine and she'd turn around and there he'd be, waiting for and smiling at her. She had that same feeling now, the tingling under her skin, the not-so-delightful shiver up her spine...

She closed the door behind her and a gasp escaped her lips as she was met face to face with a man she thought she'd never see again. For what seemed like a very long second, he stared back at her. His blue eyes were so very alive but so very dead and lacking the warmth she associated with her Daniel.

Then in a flash, those dead eyes flickered with hate and rage and he lunged forward, grabbing her and pinning her to the wall. An animal-like growl escaped his throat as he sneered and his large hand wrapped around her throat.

Her mouth flew open, gasping for what little breath she could find under the pressure of his hand and her wide eyes stayed locked on his, no matter how badly the hate in his eyes chilled her to the core.

"Daniel." She chocked out, fully aware that the man chocking her now, even though he wore Daniel's face, was not the man she loved.

His face showed no recognition at the name, his teeth only gritted together and then his lips pressed together tightly, his brow knitting together as his grip around her throat increased.

Although Regina was now finding it even harder to breathe and she could feel the very start of oxygen deprivation eating away at her brain she refused to give up. She may have lost all sense of hope over the years but the one thing she held onto was Daniel and however the situation presented itself she would not give up on him now. And she certainly refused to die at the hands of this hate filled shell of the man she once loved.

As she gasped for breath she knew it was near impossible to speak and she certainly wouldn't be able to get out sentences. Instead she gasped out a few simple words, keeping her eyes focused on his. "Regina...Regina...Daniel...it's...me...Regina."

However hard she tried, how ever many times she repeated those words, there was no reaction from the man who was slowly killing her.

The world around her was beginning to fade and she knew she wouldn't last much longer. Her muscles were growing weak at the lack of oxygen but she would not give up, she could try one more thing.

With the last bit of strength she could muster and using what magic she could control in this state, she slowly lifted her hands up. It took everything within her to not let them fall back to her sides as she grew weaker and weaker with every passing second but with one last final act of strength and defiance she thrusted her hand out, her palm landing flesh against his chest, directly over his heart. The new, strange heart beat strong and fast against her palm and for a terrifyingly long second, nothing happened.

Then he froze, his grip loosened and a strangled gasp escaped his throat and a moment later he completely released her.

Her eyes fluttered closed only for a second as she drew in a long, deep breath. When she reopened her eyes, she immediately searched for Daniel and found him pressed up against the opposite wall, his hand over his heart, staring at the ground with wide eyes, his brow furrowed in deep concentration, and panting almost as hard as she was.

For a few long seconds the room was filled with nothing but the sound of labored breathing and thick tension. Regina found herself unable to move, her body still weak and now trembling as her body tried to recover from its attack. She stared wide eyed and curious at the man across the way, trying to decide if it was safe enough to stay in the same room as him.

Her eyes widened even further as he suddenly straightened up, his hand lowering to his sides and slowly lifted his head.

Even at their distance she could see the change from the man who previously had her pinned against the wall to the man who stood there now. There was no more hate, no more rage, no more coldness in his stare, instead his bright blue eyes were warm with kindness and dared she hoped...recognition.

He pushed himself off the wall and slowly took a few steps toward her and she tensed every muscle in her body, getting ready to fight him off just incase he attacked her again but there was something, some deep part of her that was telling her that wouldn't be necessary.

And then he froze again, almost halfway across the room, his eyes flickering over her and then he spoke, his voice sweet and melodic, just as she always remembered it, with the warmth, love and comfort only her Daniel could posses, "Regina?"

Regina suddenly found it hard to breathe again but now for a completely different reason. Her worst nightmare had suddenly turned into her only hope. Her muscles relaxed and she slowly pushed herself off the wall, taking a few slow steps toward him, still cautious of the man.

Their eyes locked from across the way and in those beautiful blue eyes she saw nothing but the man she lost so very long ago. A sob like gasp escaped her throat and before she knew it she was in his arms, her arms wound tightly around his neck.

His arms quickly surrounded her, pulling her tighter into the embrace. To her, there was no question whether the man she was pressed up against now was the same one she lost all those years ago, his hold was way too familiar and one that she never could forget and one she longed for every night since. Still, she desired more, not just the warmth of his body, his familiar scent and his overwhelming presence to confirm he was real.

She had many dreams where he came back to life, none of them ever had him chocking her to near death before their inevitable reunion but there was a first time for everything. She needed to know this wasn't just some dream.

"Daniel." Her voice shook as she whispered his name against his ear.

His arms tightened even further around her and she felt his nose brush against her neck and his hair tickle the shell of her ear. His lips left a whisper of a kiss against the skin of her neck, followed by a puff of his hot breath and then his mouth was at her ear. "Regina."

In the last few decades her name has been said with nothing but hate, anger, and scorn. But the way Daniel said her name, the way he always said her name, with such tenderness and such devotion and love...it caused a feeling she hadn't felt in a long time start to well up inside her.

Her arms tightened around his neck, clinging to him for one more long moment before reluctantly releasing her hold. Her hands slid down to his chest to stay near to him and to her delight his arms stayed wrapped around her waist, holding them together.

She gazed up into his blue eyes, those captivating blue eyes who stole her soul every time they looked back into hers. There was never so much clarity in her dreams. There were times when she almost thought it was real, could almost feel the warmth of his embrace but it could never be real. But this...this was real.

The warmness in his eyes suddenly melted into concern and still holding her with one arm he lifted his other to gently stroke her cheek. "Did I hurt you?"

Her breath was momentarily stolen by the feel of his gentle touch, his calloused hands softly caressing the soft skin of her cheek.

"Regina?" He pressed in a soft whisper.

She slid back into reality and smiled up at him, leaning into his touch. "No...of course not."

Her answer didn't convince him and he frowned, trailing his fingers down her cheek, along her jaw and down to her neck, his brow twitching as his finger pads traced the beginnings of various bruises...bruises in the shape of his fingers. His eyes widened in horror and his hand retracted quickly as he whispered her name and slowly started to pull away.

"No!" She cried, reaching out for him, grabbing his hand in hers and pulling him back desperately. "It's nothing. Daniel...it's nothing."

"Nothing?" He echoed her words skeptically. "How could you say that...Regina, I...did this to you...I hurt you..."

"Stop." Her voice lowered, the commanding voice she used as her reign as queen and mayor overtaking her tone. However instantly, her face softened and she shook her head, linking her fingers with his. "It doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that you're alive." Her voice cracked despite herself and she scoffed softly, mostly to herself as if the realization of the truth finally hit her. "You're alive..." She whispered and without even being aware, the emotions finally took its toll on her and welled up inside of her until they spilled out of her through a few salty tears.

Instantly, Daniel's hand was back to cradling her face, his thumbs swiping at the tears. "Don't cry, my love."

Regina let out a small, breathy laugh. "Sorry." She swallowed past the lump in her throat, her brow knitting together in puzzlement. "I can't seem to help it."

Their eyes met for the thousandth time it seemed and the longer she stared the longer she could feel a love building up inside of her that was both new and old. She couldn't help the smile that pulled at the corners of her lips.

At first when she learned what Dr. Whale had been doing, experimenting on Daniel's body the way he had tried (and failed) those many years ago, she was furious, terrified, even a bit curious and just that bit hopeful. Whatever fears she had about what Daniel might have been if and when he arose again were quelled upon seeing him now. It didn't matter what he was made out of, as long as he was alive.

Daniel smiled in return, the corners of his eyes crinkling up in the way she loved so much. That was one of the first things she noticed about the cute, young stable boy who her parents hired and one of the first things that made her fall in love with him.

Standing there, wrapped in the arms of the man she loved, she didn't feel like she was in Storybrooke, she didn't feel like she had lived at least 50 years without him, she didn't feel like the Evil Queen, hell bent on revenge and power...she was just simply Regina, a woman in love, spending time with the one person she desired more than anything.

She let out a soft sigh. "I've missed you." She swallowed again and a few more tears trickled down her cheeks which he was once again quick to wipe away. "So much."

"Oh Regina..." He whispered and leaned forward to press a tender, loving kiss to her forehead. She let out a shaky breath, her eyes fluttering closed at the feel of his lips on her skin.

It was so surreal and she had to keep telling herself that it was truly real. Daniel was alive and here with her and God help anyone who tried to take him from her again.

She leaned forward then, tucking her head in the crook of his neck, feeling the strong beat of his heart against her cheek. She nuzzled her nose against his neck and her lips brushed over his heart as she whispered, "I love you."

She felt him smile against her hair and he gave her a gentle squeeze, his hand trailing up her back to cradle the back of her head. "And I love you."

Those words coming from his mouth, said by his voice as he held her as tenderly as he used to made her realize that everything she had ever done in his absence was all for naught because no matter what she did, there could be nothing in this world or the next or any other that could make her as happy as Daniel did.

She couldn't stand it any longer, all of this time without him, as close as she was to him in that moment, she needed to be closer. She quickly pulled out of his arms and before he even had a chance to react, she grabbed either side of his face and pulled him down into a searing kiss.

She vaguely heard him squeak in surprise but it was barely a second before his arms completely surrounded her and he kissed her back with equal intensity.

The feel of his kiss and the feeling it gave her inside was stronger and greater than any magic she could ever possess.

For the longest time the thought of love made her sick. Seeing people in love, sacrificing themselves for love, doing pretty much anything for love...it fueled that angry fire within her.

But she had forgotten what love was really like. The only man she loved had died and no one truly loved her after that. But he was alive again and now she realized what was so truly magical about love. It was the greatest feeling in the world: loving and being loved in return.

They kissed until they could hardly breathe and they panted heavily, their breaths meeting together in the small gap between them, matching smiles on both of their lips.

Daniel nuzzled his nose against hers and Regina, being unable to resist the man in front of her, brushed her lips over his softly and repeatedly, wondering if she'd ever be able to stop.

It was the sound of distant clattering in the distance that eventually broke their tender reunion.

Regina gasped, her arms still wound around Daniel's neck but turning to look over her own shoulder towards the sound. And that was when she remembered why she was there in the first place and how she got there and how Daniel got there.

With her body still tightly pressed against his she could feel his heart beating soundly and suddenly remembered the man who had put it there, the man who had brought her dead love back to life, the man who claimed Daniel was a monster and who was currently lying incapacitated without an arm.

She swallowed, feeling terror race through her veins. Not because of Daniel, she knew without a doubt that the man she held now would not hurt her. Rather because of Dr. Whale and how he would react to Daniel now.

She turned back to Daniel and met his concerned gaze through the darkness. She slid her hands into his hair and smiled to reassure him but they both knew he knew her better than that.

"Regina...?" His voice was small with the fear he was no doubt feeling. Their reunion had distracted them both but Daniel surely had to remember what he had woken up as and his actions before his true memories returned.

She threw on a brave and determined face, clutching onto him desperately, her lips meeting his ear. "I won't let anyone hurt you."

She pulled back, met his eyes once more, gave him a curt nod and kissed him square on the mouth to seal her promise. She didn't give him a chance to respond before completely pulling away from him and then grabbing onto his hand and looking around for an escape.

There were no other doors other than the way she had entered and she would not risk going that way even though she doubted Dr. Whale could do much in his state. Daniel's life and safety was worth everything and more and she could and would not take that chance.

Then she spotted the large window and a smirk tugged at her lips and she knew how they'd get out of there. She squeezed his hand and motioned in that direction. "Through the window."

She started to lead him toward the window when he hesitated and she turned back to look at him curiously. Through the dim light in the room she could see the regret and pain and fear in his eyes and she felt her stomach churn at the sight.

She quickly glanced at the doorway, hearing and seeing nothing and deeming they were safe for the time being and she stepped toward him, capturing his face in her hands. "Listen to me. Daniel, you are not a monster."

"Regina..." He whispered in protest and she frowned heavily, cutting him off with a sharp shake of her head.

"No." She snapped. "There is nothing you can say or do that will convince me otherwise." She bit down on her lip softly, her thumbs brushing lightly across his cheek as she leaned in to rest her forehead against his. "Please...Daniel...don't think of yourself like that."

He let out a heavy sigh but nodded and after another long moment she pulled away. "We'll talk about this later."

The corner of his lips turned up in a half smile and he nodded again and her lips twitched in return. Her hand returned to his, their fingers intwining and she continued to lead him toward the window.

Never releasing his hand she tried to push open the window, grunting as the old windows resisted against her. She narrowed her eyes and huffed quietly before taking a step back and swiping her hand through the air, the window flying open and smacking against the wall with a loud clatter.

She smirked in triumph and looked over her shoulder at Daniel who was staring at her in awe and she lifted her brow. "A lot has changed since you've been gone." She said simply.

He pressed his lips together, clearly wanting to know more but also knowing it was not the time or place to discuss it. He cleared his throat and motioned to the window. "Shall we?"

Her smirk increased and with a boost from Daniel she climbed out of the window, hopping to the ground gracefully. Daniel followed soon after her and once they were both outside and on the ground, they once again locked hands, shared a smile and quietly and quickly made their way to Regina's car.

(to be continued...?)