Robin had been beating himself for what felt like days, even if it had been a few hours. He had deprived Regina from her right to go home, he had deprived the Merry Men and the countrymen from food and other necessities that the money could have bought. All because he wanted to be with Regina, because he couldn't let her go, at least not yet.
But why? Why couldn't he let her go? Will Scarlet's words came back to his mind. Did he really fancy the Queen? She is beautiful and smart, there was no point on denying that. But, was it really true that he wanted to keep her because of that? He shook the thoughts away.
Regardless of the reasons, he had done something selfish, he had put his wishes before Regina's and that made him as bad as the King. He had treated Regina as an object, and not as the person she was. A beautiful person that had the right to choose, the right to decide if she wanted to stay with him or go back to the castle.
He had to talk to her, and ask her what did she want. Because as much as it hurt him to let her go, he wanted her to be happy, and if Regina would be happy sleeping on the king-sized bed in a silk pyjama, then so be it.
"I need to tell you something," he told Regina, walking into her tent "I've done something incredible selfish."
An 'I can hardly believe that.' crossed Regina's mind, but she decided to stay quiet and hear what Robin had to say. He had a look of consternation on his face, coupled with guilt and self-loathing. As if he had done something that he regretted.
"Will Scarlet and I saw King Leopold's men today." Robin started.
"Oh." she let out, and he couldn't point out if she was relieved or worried. Regina was upset, but for different reasons than the ones that Robin had predicted. Had he decide to finally ship her off? He obviously got the money that the King offered for her and now he was taking her back home. And just like that, this new life that she was growing fond of had come to an end.
"They offered an amount of money and I refused it," the outlaw said, bringing Regina back to reality. He had almost blurted it out, not wanting to hold the truth much longer.
"I asked for more." he saw her stiffen, and he wondered if she believed that the money was the only reason behind this ransom - it had been like that at the beginning, but now everything had changed.
"Very well," she said quietly, "Please, leave me alone now." Regina almost whispered, holding the tears from rolling down her cheeks and trying to keep her heart from shredding into thousand little pieces.
Robin stood up to do as the Queen ordered, but before he said "Just so we are clear, I didn't do it for the money," he had decided to be honest with her, and honest he would be, even if that meant that she'd hate him for life, "For me, not all the gold in the kingdom makes the King worth of your presence," he explained, "I asked for more money because I realized I was not ready to let you go, and it was the only way I could think of to keep you with me."
Regina looked at him, and he saw in her eyes something he had never seen before, something he couldn't figure out. Truth was, no one had ever valued her presence so much. Sure, Daniel had loved her and she had loved him with all her soul, but he had taken her presence for granted; after all, they had spent every day of their teenager years together. But no one had ever done anything to keep her by their side, no one had fought to be with her. And here he was, Robin, who had turned down the King's offer just to be with her. She knew Leopold, he wouldn't forgive this easily, and she was sure that Robin knew that as well. Yet, he had taken the risk.
"I judged the King because he doesn't let you choose what to do with your life, and I did just as he does. I've disappointed you and I've disappointed myself too, I am too a selfish man, no better than the King is. And for that I am sorry. You must think I'm a horrible person."
The Queen stayed in quiet for a while, thinking on an appropriate response. Robin took the silence as his cue to leave, so he turned on his heels and started walking towards the tent's entrance.
"You are not a horrible person," Regina's voice stopped him from stepping outside the tent, "I appreciate that you came and told me, all of this," he turned on his heels, "And no, Robin, I'm not disappointed at you," she breathed in "If you really want to take my opinion into consideration," Regina started, "I -." the Queen trailed off, not wanting to expose her thoughts.
No one had ever let her make her own choices, no one except Daniel, that is. Her mother made her marry the King, the King had used her and dispose of disposed her as he pleased, Snow White had decided to make Regina her step-mother. No one had ever cared about what she thought or what her heart desired. Yet Robin had asked her, even if he had said that he didn't want to let her go, he had given her the option to choose, and that made her heart grow a little and pump faster.
He walked towards her and took her hands in his. The boldness of his action was greeted with a jerk, but then the Queen relaxed to his touch and let him squeeze her hands "Yes, Regina?" he asked her, encouraging her to speak her mind.
"I wish to stay here," Regina replied, studying their hands, then she raised her gaze and almost pleaded, "Please, don't send me back."
"I won't," Robin said, "I'll figure a way, Regina; if you want to stay, I'll make it happen." he added, even if he knew that that would never happen.
Regina would eventually have to go back to the King, he was her husband and as much as Robin hated it, the rules of the realm were clear: no man could steal another man's woman; specially not the King's. And he knew that Regina knew that too. But he wouldn't worry about that, not today. Today she was protected in his camp, today the King wouldn't touch her or even speak to her. Today she was safe. And, without giving her any warning, he brought Regina closer and wrapped her in a hug.
A hug. Regina hadn't been hugged in such a long time that she had almost forgotten how it felt like. The Thief could feel their hearts beating like drums under their ribcages; their speed increased when the Queen slid her arms around Robin and hugged him back. She needed this, she needed comfort and protection, and even if she knew it wouldn't last, she would enjoy it as long as she could.
"Thank you." she whispered against his shoulder,