By the time Robin and Regina got to the camp that evening, word about the King's wish for Robin's head, along with his new prisoner, had already reached the Merry Men's ears. Will Scarlet's fiancée, Ana, had heard the news from a woman at the local market; as soon as the girl heard, she ran into the woods as if her dear life depended on it, hoping Will would find her. And find her he did. At first, he didn't understand what was all the fuzz about, but when Ana's breathing calmed down and she was able to pronounce all the news in one sentence, Will's face lost its colour.
The scenario that Robin had placed inside Will's head few days ago had become real. The King was going to kill Robin. And it was all his fault. When he first suggested kidnapping the Queen for ransom, he never expected the outcome to be like this. Then again, he didn't expect Robin and Regina falling in love, which was the cause of this all mess. If Robin didn't love Regina, he would have accepted the King's first offer and they would all be happier now.
'All except Robin and Regina, that is,' he thought. Will still stood by the fact that Robin had never been this happy, not since Marian, and even before that. He deserved it more than anyone. There had to be a way to fix this; or at least half of it, the half that involved Robin getting killed by the King.
They could have to sneak into the castle and free the boy, that much was sure. And regarding Regina, as much as he hated to admit it, she had to go back, otherwise both Robin and Regina would end up dead. Sadly, he knew that Robin was too stubborn to agree with this part of the plan.
Will promised Ana he would be careful and asked her to go back home. He didn't return with her, he went to the Merry Camp, where his colleagues took the news as bad as he had, just few minutes ago. Their afternoon activities were cancelled, all of them searching for a sign of their leader and the love of his life. It wasn't until almost midnight that they exhaled all the worry that had been building inside their chest for the last hours.
When Robin and Regina walked into the camp with their hands linked, no one questioned it. No one did anything. The merry men just stared at them. It didn't take long before the Thief and the Queen noticed that something was going on, but before they could ask, Little John ran towards them and wrapped them in one hug.
"When you didn't return from Regina's bath we figure you wanted some time alone," Little John started explaining, still holding them tightly, "But then we saw the arrow, and after today's news..." his voice trailed off. "We were so worried!" the man let Robin and Regina go as the rest of the Merry Men, who had surrounded their leader, the Queen and the speaker, agreed with him.
"What news?" Regina asked confused, Robin and her hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary as they walked back.
Little John took a step backwards, not wanting to be the bearer of bad news so Will Scarlet updated them with the news that Ana had heard on the market. Robin tightened his fists as he heard the story, and Regina's legs gave up on her - luckily, one merry man caught her before she hit the ground and helped her walk towards a rock that was big enough for her to sit on. Robin stood next to her, placing one of his palms on her shoulder, holding it tightly but not enough to hurt her.
It was their fault, Robin and Regina knew. They had sent a boy to convey bad news to the King, just because they had been selfish. The boy, who had easily trusted them, who had accepted their request with pride, was now lying on a cold cell inside the King's dungeon. Just imagining the shepherd surrounded by rats and cockroaches made Robin's blood boil, he felt like he could walk into the castle and kill Leopold with no remorse. First, he had made Regina's life a living hell, and now he was torturing an innocent boy. He needed to be stopped.
"Robin," he heard the pain in Regina's voice, but it snapped him out of his vengeful thoughts. Robin looked into her eyes, and he saw she felt it too: the guilt, the pain.
The Thief kneeled in front of his Queen and took her hands on his, "We will get him back," he reassured her.
"I will turn myself in,"
"No!" he almost roared, when he noticed the tone he had used with her he breathed in and repeated, this time in a lower tone, "We will make a plan, and we will get him out," Robin said, brushing one of Regina's locks behind her ear, "Right?" he added looking at the men.
Most of the men nodded.
"You don't understand it, do you?" Regina crossed her arms over her chest, "He wants me, he won't stop until he gets me," she shook her head, "If you go, he'll be waiting for you, he will torture you and kill you," her voice almost broke a little bit when she spoke those words, "I can't live with that,"
"We will figure out a way, Regina,"
"No, we won't!" Regina yelled, "He has a whole army, and I'm sure all the kings you have angered will send troops if needed, and you, you just have the Merry Men," she didn't mean it as an insult, they all knew that, but she had a point, "You wouldn't stand a chance,"
Tears started rolling down her cheeks, she hadn't cried in a long time, not since her first night with the King. Regina cleaned them off quickly, not wanting to show her weakness. If there was something her mother had taught her was how to be strong. And she needed to be strong, for Robin, for the Men, for the people who counted on the Merry Men and for herself.
"I'm not willing to risk your life, Robin. You mean something to these men, to the countrymen. You are a symbol of resistance, a light of hope," he could see the pride in her eyes as she spoke those words. She spoke with a passion that made her feel alive "And I am nothing," she said with less emotion. "Just the girl who was lucky enough to fill Queen Ava's throne," Regina added with bitterness.
"You are the Queen!"
"Only to my husband," she replied to Robin as if she didn't matter, as if anyone could replace her anytime just as she had replaced Queen Ava. It showed how repressed and lonely her life had been, it showed a side of her that Robin wanted to fix.
"You are the Queen to me," Robin said, lifting her chin so her eyes would meet him, "You are my Queen,"
"And mine!" Little John added. Other Merry Men echoed Little John's words, and then they fell into silence. Regina gave them a shy smile. Her eyes, now wet from happiness and her heart even more decided to take matters into her own hands; she could not fail these men, she would not fail these men.
"We will make a plan, and we will free the boy," Robin commented after a while, "I just need some time, but we'll do it. I promise," he added, cupping her cheeks with both of his hands, "Alright?"
"Alright," she replied in a tone he didn't quite decipher.
"Lets go and get some rest," Robin proposed, "The Lord knows we didn't get much sleep in that tree yesterday," he added.
Some of the Merry Men chuckled at the innuendo, and little by little they left the scene, leaving Robin and Regina alone. Little John and Will Scarlett were the last ones to leave. Little John wished Robin and Regina good night and after giving them one last hug, he turned on his heels and left. Will lingered longer, he looked and Regina, and she looked back at him; both of them trying to have a silent conversation with their glares, after a while he nodded, and Regina hoped he understood her message. Then, without saying anything else, Will felt.
"What was all of that about?" Robin asked, sliding his arm around Regina's shoulders.
"Nothing," she replied too quickly, and he arched an eyebrow, "Can we go somewhere and talk?" the Queen then asked, trying to change topics. Especially because she wanted to tell him something before she put her plans on motion.
He didn't say anything, not even to point out that they had agreed on going to sleep few moments ago, and guided her into the woods. They didn't walk much, but it was enough for the other men to not hear them talk or even know where they were.
"I have to tell you something," Regina broke the silence, "Before it's too late,"
"Why does this feels like goodbye?" he asked, taking a step closer to her.
"It is not, not yet, anyway," the Queen played with her hands, "But I feel like I might not have another change to tell you this,"
Robin nodded, and thought about backing off a little bit to give Regina more space, but when he tried to move Regina's hand grabbed one of his wrist and stopped him from doing so. She didn't know where to start. She breathed in and tried to organise her thoughts "I told you about Daniel, and how he was taken away from my life too soon,"
The Thief nodded, and took her hand on his, knowing how the topic of losing the love of her life hurt her.
"And for a long time, I was in a dark place. I did, and thought about, some things I'm not quite proud of," she paused, wondering if Robin would ask her about that, but he didn't. And she took his silence as an encouragement to keep going, "For a long time, I only felt hate and loneliness," Regina continued, "Until I met you, and you changed me, fix pieces of me that I thought were broken beyond repair,"
Regina paused once more. This time to look into Robin's eyes, to memorize every single detail about them. She let go of the things she should and shouldn't do as a married woman, as a queen - not that she had behaved as a married queen lately - and raised her hand to caress Robin's cheek.
"And, even if you say you'll figure a way for us to be together, and even if I want to be positive about it," with her thumb she stroke his lips "Life had thought me otherwise. Life had taught me I don't get what my heart desires," tears started to build in her eyes again, "So, before I lose the chance of ever speaking my feelings out-loud, I wanted you to know, that I'm in love with you, Robin of Locksley,"
Robin kissed the thumb that was still placed above his lips as soon as he heard Regina's confession. Then, he took both of his hands in his and took a step towards her, their bodies pressed against each other. They were breathing shared air; sharing body warmth; warming their hearts with the emotion that poured from their eyes. Robin shut down all the voices in his mind, this was his moment, their moment, and he would make most of it.
"And I am, completely in love with you, Regina Mills," Robin said, his eyes shifting from her lips towards her eyes and staying her. "I love you more than the amount of stars in the sky, stronger than the midday's sun, and deeper than the sea," he confessed, "I love you so much it scares me, because you own my soul and you hold my heart in your hands,"
Regina pressed her forehead against Robin's and breathed his scent: the smell of the forest. Robin's confessions made her heart beat faster, and her mind forget about all the worries. Once again, it was just Robin and her, and nothing and no one else.
"That's why I beg of you, Regina," Robin continued, almost in a whisper, "Please, don't give up on us, don't give up on our love,"
"I'd never give up on you," she replied honestly, and he didn't seem to catch the change of words on her statement mostly because her lips were so close to his that he couldn't concentrate on anything anymore.
A wave of courage flooded his veins, and he decided to close the distance between his mouth and Regina's.
If the fireworks were part of some sort of celebration or they were all in her head, Regina never knew. And she found out she didn't care either, because the emotions that she was feeling, she had never felt before, not even with Daniel. They were so strong, and they felt so right. Soon, the passion took over, and Regina slip her hands around Robin's neck and she caressed his hair as Robin wrapped her with one of his arms and tried to unbutton her shirt with the other one.
Not once Regina tried to stop him. And not once he considered on stopping on his account.
That night, Regina made love for the first time. That night, she learned the difference between love making and loveless and forced sex. And it made all the guilt she had felt due to her feelings towards Robin go away. It made her feel light and happy, even pure again. It removed all the darkness from her heart, it made her forgive Snow White's wrongs, and it made her gather the courage she needed for what she was going to do next.
But, she wouldn't think about what would happen next at this moment, she told herself as she trailed her hand down Robin's naked chest. She would enjoy this moment. And then, before morning came, then she would think about her plan.