The horse stable boy Daniel and a woman named Regina fell deeply in love with each other but are forced to keep it a secret due to their differences in social rank. Regina knows their relationship will displease her mother Cora in knowing her only daughter was in love with a stable boy and not someone who was of higher rank. Daniel is in disbelief that Cora cares so much about status difference when she, too, had humble beginnings as a miller's daughter before marrying Regina's father, Henry. Cora seeks out an opportunity to have her daughter noticed by a king of a neighboring country that is passing through their lands. So, she comes up with a plan in suggesting the king's daughter, Snow White, to take a ride on one of their stable horses. Cora ends up startling the horse purposely and sending the animal running amok with a terrified Snow White helpless to do anything. She is aware Regina will hear Snow White's cries for help and save the young girl.
Thus, Snow White's father King Leopold hears of Regina's heroic deed in rescuing his precious daughter and comes the next day to formally propose to her in the hopes of Regina becoming Snow White's stepmother. Regina is flabbergasted and looks to her father for help, but he says nothing, and Cora accepts the proposal for her.
Horrified, she runs to Daniel and is in tears over the arranged marriage. Regina begs Daniel to run away with her and get married. He accepts and gives her a ring to symbolize their future marriage. During a passionate embrace, they are interrupted by Snow White, who, in her confusion and hurt, runs away. Regina catches up with her, and tries to reason with Snow White why she cannot marry her father. She explains what she and Daniel have is true love, and that he makes her very happy. After prompted by Regina, Snow White promises to keep Regina's secret.
However, Snow White is moved by Cora, who says she will do anything to make Regina happy, and is manipulated by her into believing it is alright to talk about Regina's love for Daniel.
That night, Regina and Daniel plan to run away together, but Cora is already waiting outside the barn for them. She traps them in and is enraged that Regina would give up everything for a stable boy.
After some tension and Regina's adamant reasoning with her mother, Cora appears to relent in her stubbornness. They make up by hugging, and Cora walks over to Daniel. He exchanges kind and understanding words with her in which he is sympathetic to her role as Regina's mother, and how she only ever wants what was best for Regina. Cora agrees and makes a sudden move at Daniel by ripping his heart out of his chest. Unmoved by her daughter's sobs as Regina holds an unresponsive Daniel in her arms, Cora crushes the heart to dust.
The death of Daniel changes Regina's personality completely, especially when she learns Snow White told Cora about Daniel. Snow White guiltily admits she couldn't withhold the information, because she was worried about Regina losing her mother. Regina appears be understanding, but it is only a mask of emotions to hide the anger she is feeling underneath.
Afterwards, Regina asks her mother if she had purposely caused the horse Snow White was on to go wild in order for her to save the girl, thereby getting Regina the marriage proposal from the king. Cora denies having anything to do with it, and Regina's fury at Daniel's death misdirects itself at Snow White, and hatred towards her begins to fester.
After she becomes Queen, Regina preserves Daniel's body with an enchantment spell and keeps him at her family's mausoleum. Eventually, Regina tries to learn magic from Rumplestiltskin to find out how to bring him back from the dead. Through Jefferson, they are able to enlist Doctor Victor Frankenstein's help to bring him back, although because of a deal he had made with Rumplestiltskin, he pretends to try and fail at reviving Daniel.
After Emma Swan breaks the Dark Curse, Dr. Whale (Dr. Frankenstein in Storybrooke) revives Daniel, but Daniel becomes violent and attacks the doctor, ripping his arm off in the process. He leaves for the stables because it was the last place he remembers being. Daniel encounters Henry Mills and has a flashback of Cora ripping out his heart. The memory gives him a bad reaction, and he attacks Henry until Regina and David Nolan arrive to stop him. Regina convinces David to let her talk to him. At first, Daniel attacks and chokes Regina until she gasps and says, "I love you." This causes Daniel to regain his senses and let go of Regina. They briefly reunite. However, due to the pain that was somehow the result of his monstrous behavior or revival, Daniel attempts to attack Regina again. Regina is forced to stop him with her magic and turn him to dust, but not before Daniel tells Regina to let go of their love and learn to love again.
During the heroes trip to the Underworld, Regina searches for Daniel, hoping she can see him again. After getting information from Cruella, Regina and Snow search for Daniel's grave in the cemetery. They discover it has been tipped over, meaning he is not in the Underworld, but rather has moved on to a better place.
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