On the Outside, Looking Inside

[SwanQueen] Companion piece to First Time Caller. Various residents of Storybrooke find out about the relationship between Regina and Emma.

AU. No reset, no Zelena. Fluff.

* * * * *

01. Longing

The very first person to notice anything was Graham Humbert, the Sheriff, but it was not long before he died, and the knowledge died with him.

He was running late to meet his Deputy, Emma Swan, at Granny’s Diner. He was more than a little hungover, having spent his recent free time thinking and drinking, trying to make sense of the dream-like fragments—memories, he was fairly certain—which were coming to him in dribs and drabs. Stolen hearts, Enchanted Forests, Evil Queens: none of it made sense, and yet all of it did. Emma was the key to unlocking the jumbled images in his mind, he knew, but he didn’t understand why. He thought he might be falling in love with her, but he wasn’t sure he could fall in love. All he had was an emptiness in his chest where his heart should have been. But something told him that Emma was the answer, or at least the way to get his answers.

As he looked through the diner’s window, he felt lighter in spirits for seeing Emma at the counter. She was fending off questions from Eugenia Lucas, a woman who could sense gossip the way he could track a roe deer through acres of dense forest. Then he spotted Regina Mills, his lover, sitting at a table for two, seemingly engrossed in the cup before her.

On a good day, Regina was a capricious woman, as quick to anger as she was to turn passionate, but she had always been skilled at hiding her extremes behind a mask of indifference. Recently, though, she had been softer with him in a strange, desperate way. She had been changing in other ways, too, almost unravelling, and he suspected that it was to do with his visions. Her strange behaviour manifested itself most around Emma, and that made him even more certain that she was the Evil Queen of his nightmares, intent on destroying others’ happiness.

But, then, if he was wrong about everything, if Regina really was just the Mayor and Storybrooke only a regular town, then it would be unwise to make an enemy of her. She was already enraged by his interest in Emma, and could probably have both their jobs.

As he lifted his hand to push the door open, he only just caught it, the way Regina’s eyes darted around her before they settled on Emma. Her gaze traced over the Deputy, lingering on every detail, her mouth falling open as she did so. Her tongue flicked out to lick her lower lip and her eyes narrowed. But what made him really pause was that there was something in her look which he had never seen before. His hand stayed on the door, not moving, as he tried to process it. There was an intensity which could have been down to simple hatred—not that hatred was ever simple with Regina—except that he couldn’t help feeling it was something else, something more.

And then she stiffened, although her gaze remained on Emma. She shut her eyes momentarily and shook her head. Worried that she would turn his way and find him staring, he gathered himself, entered the diner, and headed over to her.

“Regina.”

Her head jerked back in his direction and her eyes were unmistakably dark. The woman thrived on rage and, seeing it directed towards him, he knew that it wasn’t the same look he’d just witnessed.

“Sheriff Humbert.” She patted a paper napkin against her lips and stood abruptly. “I take it that your budget reports will be submitted by close of business today?”

She scooped up her purse and slung it over her shoulder. To anyone else, she might have appeared her normal self, but Graham was not fooled. She was being far too casual. His hunter’s senses told him that Regina was scared into full fight or flight mode and obviously choosing flight. He glanced over towards the counter, where Emma was watching the scene between them covertly.

“I’ll send Deputy Swan over with them by lunchtime.”

Regina didn’t even glance in the other woman’s direction, but he saw the upturn of her mouth and the flaring of her nostrils at the mention of Emma’s name.

“Excellent.” Regina threw down a couple of dollars as a tip and walked out of the diner, never looking back.

He shook his head and turned towards Emma. But she wasn’t looking at him; her eyes were trained on Regina’s retreating figure. In fact, she could barely keep the smirk from her lips as she admired the other woman. And her expression perfectly matched the one he had seen on Regina’s face scant minutes before.

If his heart had still been in his chest, it would surely have stopped as the realisation hit him.

Longing.

Emma and Regina looked at each other with deep longing. For all he now seemed to have two sets of memories which confused him, he was certain that no-one had ever looked at him with such stark emotion in either reality.

Suddenly, the events in the days surrounding the mine incident seemed so obvious to him: Regina’s jealousy over his friendship with Emma; Regina stepping into Emma’s personal space, almost with concern; Emma’s own glances back at Regina’s lips; Emma’s hurt at finding him tumbling from Regina’s bedroom, which he had assumed to be all about him. But it hadn’t been. She had been hurt that he was still Regina’s lover.

As he looked at Emma, and then quickly over his shoulder at Regina, he knew, with almost blinding clarity, that his dream-memories were real and that the prophecies were true. Emma was the Saviour and Regina was the Evil Queen, and their destinies were tied to each other.

Moreover, the two women he was caught between had fucked. Were still fucking. He was nothing more than a bit player in something so much larger than him, and he had no role in either woman’s future.

And, without a heart, he didn’t even have the capacity to feel sad for himself.


02. Scratches

The first person to see actual, tangible proof of what was happening—although she didn’t truly understand what she had seen until months later, after she remembered that she was Abigail, and that she loved Frederick, and she had enough distance from everything to think back on her time as Regina’s friend with something approaching objectivity—was Kathryn Nolan.

Kathryn entered the diner at lunchtime, expecting to see Regina at their usual table, but the other woman was nowhere to be found. Regina had asked to meet her, so it was strange that she was not there first. It was strange that she was late under any circumstances because, in the time that they had been friends, Regina Mills had never been late for anything, not even a casual coffee date at the diner.

She went over to the counter to give her order to Ruby Lucas. “I’ll have a skinny latte.”

“And Regina?”

“Oh, I’ll wait till she gets here.”

At that, the younger woman looked around in confusion. “She was right here not five minutes ago.” She looked over Kathryn’s shoulder as if Regina might still be there. “Maybe she forgot something and had to go back to her office?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” She shrugged. “Well, I’ll be—”

“At your usual table?” Ruby finished for her, giving a polite smile. “You still want that latte while you wait?”

She nodded, wondering if Regina had indeed been called away. Surely she would have texted or called, if that were the case? She sat down and waited patiently. She sent a text, but there was no reply. By the time she was nearly finished her coffee and there was still no sign of her friend, Kathryn was starting to worry.

“Kathryn,” Regina said from behind her, “I do apologise. I was unavoidably detained.” She sounded annoyed with herself.

“No, no, it’s quite all right. I guessed that was the case. I sent you a text.”

“Oh.” Regina looked both flushed and flustered as she sat down, as if she might have run the whole way from the mayor’s office. “My apologies again then for not replying. I left my phone on silent. Let me get us some fresh coffees.” She raised her hand in a beckoning motion towards Ruby. The young woman bounded over to take their order, and disappeared again just as quickly.

“Was it important?”

“What?”

“Whatever called you away. Ruby said you were here before.”

“No, I, well, yes.” She shook her head and took a slight breath, “I remembered that I had something else to do, and I’m afraid it couldn’t wait. I really am very sorry for not letting you know.”

“No, honestly, it’s okay.” Kathryn felt bad, because she seemed to be putting Regina further on edge and she was already more agitated than she could ever remember her being. Apologising repeatedly was not normal behaviour. There was an odd look on Regina’s face. If Kathryn hadn’t known better, it was almost as if she were guilty about something. Also, she kept glancing over towards the counter. Regina’s dislike of Ruby Lucas was not well-hidden at the best of times, but surely the girl could make their regular coffee order without constant checking?

Then Kathryn realised that Regina had approached their table from the same direction she was now facing, which meant she had not entered by the front door. She must have been in the diner all along, either through in the back room or in the bathroom. Which meant that she had lied to her.

Ruby arriving with fresh coffee seemed to ease the tension for a moment, as Regina sipped at her drink and exhaled slowly, tilting her head back, rolling her neck to relieve the kinks in it. It was then that Kathryn noticed the marks. Regina had four scratches stretching in a line from just below her ear and disappearing beneath the collar of her dress, and a small bruise forming on the opposite side. Her first thought was that someone must have grabbed her by the throat, but even the idea of Regina’s having been in a physical altercation was ridiculous, so she pushed it aside.

“How did you hurt yourself?”

“Excuse me?”

She gestured with her free hand. “You’ve scratched your neck.”

Regina muttered something incomprehensible and opened her purse, retrieving her compact and angling it so that she could see the reddening scratches. She bared her teeth slightly in a show of distaste, and then snapped the compact shut.

“I must have scraped myself against a tree branch or something.” She gave her best mayor’s smile, the one which Kathryn knew to be false.

Suddenly there was a clattering noise as Sheriff Emma Swan appeared from the bathroom, getting inadvertently tangled in some cleaning equipment stowed in the hallway. The blonde was in her usual boots and jeans, but there was something familiar about the shirt she was wearing open over a white tank top.

“Isn’t that your shirt, the one she was wearing the day that David woke up?” Kathryn asked.

“Mmmm.” Regina was watching Emma, her head tilted to one side to get a better view. “It’s a dominance thing. About ownership.”

“Pardon?” Kathryn couldn’t understand Regina today at all. She was most certainly not her usual self. Her tone was somewhere between fond and proud, which made no sense, because everyone knew that the two women were nemeses, and Regina rarely spoke of the Sheriff with anything other than scorn.

Regina made a dismissive hand gesture. “She’s trying to show that she can take things of mine.”

Even though she lived with that home-wrecking little harlot, Mary Margaret Blanchard, Kathryn liked the Sheriff, although she wasn’t really sure why. Emma seemed like a good person, albeit one often in the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter what life threw at her, she kept battling away, fighting her own corner. In that sense, she was like Regina. Maybe in another world, the two women could have been friends, rather than enemies. Now that Kathryn was thinking about it, they had a lot in common, beyond their love for Henry.

“Mayor Mills.” Emma walked up to their table, her thumbs hooked into the front pockets of her jeans.

“Sheriff.” Regina rubbed her fingers against her forehead and pointedly avoided looking up at the other woman. “What may I do for you that’s so urgent it necessitates your interrupting my lunch?”

“I need to see you later. I think we have further things to discuss.”

“Then make an appointment. That’s why I have a personal assistant.”

“You want me to come to the office? You’re sure that’s what you want me to do?” Emma placed her hands on her lower back and arched her spine, giving a moan of displeasure as she rotated her hips a little. She gave Kathryn an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that. I think I might have put my back out lifting something heavy just now. You know what it’s like when you’re carrying a dead weight. You don’t realise how much it hurts until you put it down again.”

“You should see a doctor,” Kathryn offered.

“Yeah, I was thinking maybe Whale could help me out. What do you think, Regina?”

Kathryn and the Sheriff both looked at Regina, who was obviously seething about something. Her mouth was pressed in a very firm line.

“Sheriff, no-one cares about your minor injuries in the line of duty. Perhaps if you put a little more effort into your work, you wouldn’t suffer so.”

“A little more effort? Right.” Emma laughed to herself. “I’ll bear that one in mind.”

“And I have a very busy afternoon; however, I may be able to make some time for you this evening, if you were to come to the house. After Henry has gone to bed, of course.”

“Of course.” The blonde grinned and nodded. Kathryn wondered how Emma could still seem so amused, given Regina’s dismissive tone with her. Emma stepped back and shrugged. “Well, it was nice to see you, Kathryn. And I’ll see you later, Madam Mayor.”

Regina didn’t reply, just tightened her grip on her coffee cup and fumed silently. After a couple of seconds, the Sheriff sighed and turned away.

After a few more silent moments, Kathryn said, “You really don’t like her, do you?”

For the first time, Regina’s face softened, and she shook her head. “It’s not, I mean, it’s just—” She gave a long exhale and stared out of the window thoughtfully. “She gets under my skin. And I let her. And I hate that I let her, but I can’t seem to stop myself.” Then she shut her eyes and schooled her features into something approaching concern. “But, enough of Miss Swan. How are you?”

And Kathryn couldn’t help but think that she had just seen a glimpse of the real Regina Mills, a woman who was sad and fragile but somehow even more beautiful than the Mayor everyone else saw.


03. Leather and vanilla

The first person to know for certain, after the curse was broken and people’s memories and previous abilities started returning to them, was Ruby Lucas. It was not long after Emma and Mary Margaret had been returned to Storybrooke, and Regina was the diner’s sole occupant, cutting a very lonely figure indeed.

The Mayor—former Mayor, possibly, as Ruby wasn’t exactly sure how everything worked since, well, the shit hit the fan—was sitting in a corner booth, nursing a cold cup of coffee. And Ruby felt bad because she had heard from Emma that Regina had swallowed an entire death curse to bring them back, which was a pretty big deal, however you looked at it, and yet everyone had excluded her at the party they’d held in the diner. Ruby had snuck a few glances in her direction that night, and she had felt guilty about not approaching Regina. If anyone knew what it was like to be ostracised for who you were, to be hated for what you had done in the past, it was certainly Ruby.

She knew why Regina was there, of course. She was there because Emma would soon walk by with Henry on his way to school, at which point Regina would slink down into her chair, trying to make herself invisible, just so that she could catch a glimpse of her estranged son.

Lifting the coffee pot and a fresh cup, Ruby made her way over to Regina’s table. Deftly replacing Regina’s cup with the one in her hand, she poured the coffee and waited.

“Miss Lucas, may I help you in some way?” The statement had none of Regina’s usual bite. Like the woman herself, it was small and tired.

“What you did,” she said, biting her lip, “saving Emma and Snow, I know how big a deal it was.”

“It was really nothing.” Regina stared out of the window, her gaze fixed on the street where Henry would appear.

“No, it wasn’t. I know what a death curse means. It could have killed you.”

“Well, sadly for all of you, that wasn’t the case because here I am, still very much alive.” She was trying for sarcastic, Ruby knew, but she could hear the hurt in there, the fact that she genuinely believed everyone in Storybrooke wished her dead.

“That’s not what I meant.” Ruby shook her head and sat down facing Regina, ignoring the look of horror on the other woman’s face that she was joining her. “They’re my best friends, and you risked your life to save them, and that’s a big deal. And I wanted to say thank you, you know, because somebody should, and I get the feeling that people aren’t exactly falling over themselves to tell you that.”

The other woman grimaced. “So, now you have, and I thank you for your concern, but you don’t have to bother. I did it for Henry, no-one else. No other reason but my own ulterior motives to make my son believe that I am capable of doing good things occasionally. Not that it made any difference.” Regina turned her face further away, but not before Ruby saw the glistening in her eyes. And Ruby didn’t know what to do with that, because Regina was a woman who didn’t want comforting. Or, maybe she did, but didn’t know where to begin to ask. And she certainly wouldn’t want comforting from her, anyway.

“How about some pie? We’ve got maple pecan today, and it’s probably our best seller.”

Regina chuckled mirthlessly, surreptitiously trying to wipe away her tears, still refusing to take her eyes from the street. “So I hear from both Emma and Henry.”

And it was both her use of Emma’s first name and the definite fondness in the statement which tipped Ruby off. As she stood up, she inhaled as deeply as she thought she could without tipping the other woman off to what she was doing. And the scent was unmistakable. Underneath the rich smells of Regina’s expensive moisturiser and perfume, and the faint tang of spice which Ruby suspected came from her magic having returned, she caught it: leather and vanilla. The smell of leather and vanilla hung to Regina’s skin, along with the far headier musk of sex.

“Right, well, I’m going to bring you a piece of pecan pie, on the house.” She forced herself away from the table, her head spinning.

Regina Mills and Emma Swan were having sex. It was almost mind-boggling and inconceivable, except that it wasn’t. Because something had been tugging at the back of Ruby’s mind for months, even before the curse was broken, about how they interacted, how they were constantly up in each other’s space, predatory and raw.

As she cut a slice of pie, she wondered if it was hate sex. That was possible. From what she knew of both women, they weren’t beyond a little empty physical activity. And it would certainly explain why they felt the need to hide it. But, that didn’t seem quite right. And it didn’t explain why she had then risked her own life to bring Emma back. Ruby didn’t believe for a second that Regina would save Mary Margaret and Emma just to make Henry happy. She could have pretended to try but fail, leaving her two supposed enemies trapped in another realm and Henry with her alone. But, she hadn’t.

She was going to take the pie over to Regina when she noticed the older woman slouch lower in her seat. Outside on the street, Emma and Henry had appeared, Emma’s hand resting on the boy’s shoulder while he chatted away animatedly about something. She pulled up, forcing him to stop and turn to her.

Ruby looked over at Regina, whose expression was so very far from hate and not only directed at Henry. It was pain and happiness in equal measure, as if everything she wanted was just outwith her grasp. And, in a way, Ruby supposed it was.

She watched as the two women locked eyes and she realised that this wasn’t a chance occurrence. Emma had known that Regina would be there; she probably brought Henry by that way every morning so that Regina could see him. Regina nodded in thanks, the tiniest of smiles appearing on her face, while Emma winked in response. There was no mistaking their interaction as anything other than affectionate, possibly even much more than that. So, definitely not hate sex, then.

The Saviour and the Evil Queen. It had a nice symmetry, Ruby thought. Blonde and brunette, light and dark.

Out on the street, Emma and Henry started off towards the school house again, and Emma reached behind her head to give a quick waggle of her fingers in goodbye to Regina.

Ruby waited a few more moments for Regina to compose herself again, to sit back up in her chair and hide the emotion on her face, because Regina wouldn’t want Ruby seeing her at her most vulnerable. And she definitely wouldn’t want Ruby knowing that she and Emma were doing whatever it was they were doing. Which, to Ruby, looked a lot like a relationship of some sort.

She pretended to be doing something at the counter, so that when Regina looked over to her, her back was turned. And when she finally went over with the pecan pie, placing it carefully in front of Regina, she didn’t give any indication that she’d seen what happened, or that she could smell Emma’s signature scent of leather and vanilla, even though it was so strong to her now that she couldn’t understand how she had ever missed it before.

“It’ll be cherry tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll make sure I keep you a piece.”

Regina didn’t look up, but the corners of her mouth twitched all the same. “I’d like that. A lot.”

And Ruby laughed a little because, damn, Emma had certainly picked herself a challenge.


04. Possession and protection

This first person to see that Emma was in love was her father, who had started his morning expecting nothing more than a quick bite to eat with his daughter.

“Sheriff,” David said with a grin as Emma slid into the booth facing him.

“Deputy,” Emma greeted him.

It was their thing, this manner of greeting, so much easier and more playful than acknowledging their other relationship.

Emma picked up the menu, even though she was going to order coffee and a bear claw, like she did every time they had breakfast together like this. He knew that it was her way of pretending that everything was normal, after the curse and Cora and Neverland. But their lives were not normal and would probably never be normal. They would never just be the small-town Sheriff and her Deputy, having breakfast and kicking back. They would never just be dad and daughter.

He watched as Emma went to the counter and gave her order, coffee and a bear claw, and took the good-natured teasing from Granny that Regina would object to her stuffing herself with empty calories. That made him chuckle, and Emma shot him a warning glare with no malice behind it because everyone knew that Regina monitored Emma’s junk food intake almost as closely as Henry’s.

“How are things with you anyway?” he asked as she sat back down. It was a weak opening, but what else could he say? He wanted to be a real father to her, but she was not someone who trusted or opened up easily, and, besides, she was still coming to terms with Snow’s pregnancy. Things were difficult between them.

“Okay, I guess.” But her shoulders were tight and her smile even more so. He wasn’t much of a talker himself, but his strength was in reading non-verbal cues. And his little girl was hurting.

“Is it Henry or something else?” He hoped it wasn’t the baby. He had told her already that they weren’t trying to replace her, because she was his first-born, more precious than rubies to him, and that he could never replace his beautiful, smart daughter. She hadn’t really believed him, and he didn’t know what to do about that, other than reassure her as often as he could without crowding her.

“Henry.” She picked out a napkin from the chrome dispenser on the table and started shredding it.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Emma scratched her neck. “I don’t know if there’s anything anyone can do. Archie says he needs time and love and structure, so that’s what we’re giving him. But it’s been months now and I just want things to be good, you know? And Regina’s having a really hard time with it, and I don’t know what to do about that, either.”

She was with Regina a lot these days, he knew, because Neverland had taken its toll on Henry. David was proud of the way his daughter had stepped up to the responsibility, agreeing joint custody, working with Regina to ensure Henry came first before everything. At times, the two of them were so in sync, it was easy to forget that they’d been anything other than friends. His grandson was lucky to have two such strong women in his corner.

“Well, your mother and I are here if you need us, even if it’s just to take him so you two can have a night off.”

“I appreciate that, Da-David.”

He nodded. Emma rarely called him ‘Dad’, but the fact that she thought about it was enough. So he steered the conversation to things she was more comfortable with, like sports and work and general chit-chat. It was just nice to talk to her about the stupid things, like the giant phallus one of the Lost Boys had spray-painted onto the water tower or the fact that Ashley and Sean’s daughter had started riding a tricycle.

They were talking about Snow’s latest mishap with the laundry—dyeing all of David’s underwear a faded grey because she left his black socks in the white wash again—when Regina rushed into the diner, her face distraught. Emma immediately tensed and got to her feet, fear and worry on her face.

“What is it? Is it Henry?”

“Yes, but I didn’t realise you wouldn’t be alone,” she said to Emma. “I apologise.” Regina looked at him. “Hello, David.”

“Please, join us,” he said. It was evident from her demeanour that something had upset her. And David didn’t mind her joining them, because he actually liked Regina, or the woman Regina had become, at any rate. She was funny and self-deprecating and a little bit reserved, but also—and he would pull his own toenails out with pliers before admitting this to his wife—a natural mother, effortlessly knowing what was best for Henry. She looked out for Emma, too, and that’s what he wanted for his daughter, for her to have people who cared about her and made her feel part of something, because he knew she struggled with that.

“I’m probably overreacting, I know. I don’t wish to disturb your breakfast.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Emma said, ushering Regina to sit down. “Of course you should always come to me with anything about Henry. Doing this together means that you never have to cope alone.”

Emma’s hand instinctively moved to the small of Regina’s back, and David noticed the way Regina’s whole body both relaxed at the touch and arched into it. Emma stroked in circles, tracing a path up Regina’s spine and then easing her arm around the other woman’s shoulders. It may have started as a comfort gesture, but Emma’s whole body shifted until she was shielding Regina between the corner of the booth and herself, her other hand resting just above Regina’s knee.

Possession and protection.

He might not know his daughter as well as he wanted to, but he knew body language and Emma’s instinctive positioning showed the world that Regina was hers, and that she would do anything to keep her safe. And Regina not only allowed it, she turned into it, letting herself be gathered against Emma, trusting her to take care of her. This was more than friendship; this was true intimacy.

“He’s having nightmares again, and I know he’s scared of going to sleep, but he won’t talk to me about it at all.” Regina shook her head. “And last night was really bad. He was lashing out so much, he cut his hand open on the headboard, and it took so long for me to wake him, and I didn’t know what to do.”

“I thought the nightmares had stopped.”

“They had,” Regina sighed. “I thought we were past this.”

“Is he at school today?”

“Yes. I mean, he obviously didn’t want to make a big deal of it, so I could hardly tell him that he needed to stay home just because I’m worried about him, but I was scared, Emma. What if he really hurts himself?”

“We won’t let that happen to him. Have you spoken to Archie about it?”

“Not yet. I was hoping that Henry might talk to you first.”

“Are you sure I’m the right person? Wouldn’t he be better talking to a professional?”

Regina sighed. “I don’t want him to think that we consider him to be broken in some way. I think we should handle it between us, but he wouldn’t even admit he’d had a nightmare when he was lying in my arms, bleeding. But he’ll open up to you. He always opens up to you first.” Regina didn’t sound hurt or resentful that Henry would choose Emma over her. She was merely stating a fact, and with no small amount of fondness.

“You want me to come by after school lets out and talk to him then?”

Regina pulled back, but not so far that she wasn’t still in Emma’s loose embrace. “I was thinking more if you were there when it happened, if you were the one who woke him, then he might tell you himself, rather than us sitting him down and making him feel worse by interrogating him.”

“Sure, that makes sense. How about I stay over until we get to the bottom of this, starting tonight?”

“I, well, that would be ideal, if it’s not putting you out.”

“Obviously, it would be easier if I came home for dinner every night, seeing as I’m going to be staying anyway.”

Home. Such a simple word, and said so casually by the girl who struggled so hard with the concepts of family and belonging. And David knew that it was his daughter’s truth: that Regina and Henry were her home.

“Yes, because the important thing here is that you get fed.” Regina huffed, but it was affectionate, and her eyes were smiling. And Emma’s face lit up like she’d been given the greatest gift in just that tiny gesture.

“I’m glad we agree.” Emma patted Regina’s shoulder. With her other hand, she tipped Regina’s chin up with gentle care. And, oh, the love and tenderness that David could see on his daughter’s face was breathtaking, as if there were nothing she wouldn’t do for this woman. “And how about you? How are you doing?”

“Fine.”

“Yeah, and I don’t buy that for a second. How did you get here?”

David had never heard that warmth in her voice before, and he tried to remember if she always spoke that way to Regina, because it sounded very much like the tone he reserved for Snow.

“Walked.” Regina rolled her eyes at Emma’s disbelieving look. “Okay, I ran.”

“Well, my shift’s over, so I’m gonna take you home and we’ll talk about what we need to do.” Emma turned to him. “You don’t mind, do you, Dad?”

“No, on you go. Henry’s the important thing.” David could not restrain his broad grin because this was what his daughter looked like when she was in love.

From the day Snow had told him she was pregnant, all he had wanted was a happy, healthy child, one who would grow up and find her own place in the world. He never thought that world would be Maine, or that his daughter would be his own age, or that her place would be beside the woman who had cursed him on his wedding day, but he was okay with all of it, because his daughter had found love. And, although she was beautiful to him every moment of every day, he had never seen her quite so lovely as she looked right then, returning the shy smile which Regina had just given her, their eyes wordlessly communicating love and support and probably a whole lot of other things he didn’t want to think about his little girl getting up to with anyone.

“I’ll call you later,” Emma said, as she escorted Regina from the diner, her hand reaching instinctively again for the small of the older woman’s back, supportive and protective and possessive.

“Sure.”

And then he realised that he would have to tell his wife about this development at some point, and his face fell just a little because that was not a conversation he wanted to have.


05. Foodstuffs

The first person to catch them in the act was Michael Tillman, who didn’t even understand why he was spending his one day off in the back of Granny’s Diner fixing the dishwasher, other than the fact that Eugenia Lucas was cheap. He wasn’t even a plumber. He was a car mechanic, and a damn fine one at that.

“It’s a machine, Michael,” Eugenia had said, “and what do mechanics fix, if not machines?”

And he had let himself be talked into it, into being there on a late summer’s day when he should be outside in the open air, pretending to work on his boat but really just enjoying the sunshine and a cold beer, maybe shooting the shit with some of his friends. But, no, he had given in like some candy-assed punk because Eugenia scared him a little bit with her talk of crossbows. He remembered when she’d run the tavern and she’d never been afraid to ban him from her premises back them for drunkenness or belligerence or any of another seemingly endless list of minor infractions which took her fancy.

He wiped the sweat from his brow as yet another puddle of water started forming on the floor, soaking his knees through his overalls and seeping in through his boots to make his feet wet. He hated having wet feet. It made him miserable and he was feeling sorry enough for himself, what with only being able to see the sun through the window and having to put up with whatever so-called music Eugenia was forcing everyone to listen to. It sounded to him like rhinos fornicating, but he didn’t like music. He preferred to work in silence, so that he could hear the squeaks and the creaks and the other signs that told him what was wrong with whatever he was working on.

He was interrupted from his sulking by the sounds of someone else entering the back room.

“We can’t,” they said, and the voice was low and mumbled, but sounded a lot like the Mayor.

“We can. Do you even have any idea how much I want you right now?” That was the Sheriff.

He froze in place, wondering whether he should stand and announce his presence, or stay as still as possible and hope that they left.

“Emma, someone will see.”

“No-one’s gonna see. Have you missed me?”

There was no immediate answer, because the smacking and slurping sounds which followed somewhat implied that their mouths were busy with something else. Then he heard the sound of rustling and a zipper being pulled down and, Holy Mother of God, the Sheriff and the Mayor were actually about to fuck not twenty feet from where he was kneeling on the ground, hidden from their view by the large island between them. And he could have really done without hearing the whimper that he knew came from that bitch, the Mayor.

He should’ve been on his boat, drinking that beer and not having to listen to this. He wished he could still hear Eugenia’s god-awful rhino music or even that heavy metal crap she liked so much. Anything, anything at all but the unmistakeable noise of those two women going at it.

He looked towards the door and wondered if he could crawl out on his hands and knees, undetected. He doubted it, but he started to lean forward, placing his hands on the wet tile floor. Immediately, his left hand slipped in the puddle of rusty, greasy water and the squeaking noise it made sounded louder than an explosion to him, but it didn’t register with the women, who hadn’t stopped with the kissing and the moaning and the shuffling around.

He could feel the sweat pooling on his forehead and he shut his eyes because he didn’t want to have to lift his hand again to wipe them, not when he was trying so hard to stay still and, goddamn, how long could they keep kissing like that? More to the point, why did they feel the need to sneak into the back room to do it when half the town knew they were knocking boots anyway? They were the two best-looking women in town, and they were always together, and most people weren’t blind or stupid. Notwithstanding the fact that one of them was an evil bitch, who wasn’t remotely good enough for the Saviour, they were hot together.

Finally, the noises stopped, and there was a long pause before the Sheriff said, “I really have missed you, you know.”

“You’re the one who chose to move back in with her mother to help with the baby.”

“I didn’t move back in. He has colic and she’s bone tired, so I said I’d stay over on the nights when David’s on night shift and—” There was a sigh of frustration and then a tearing sound. “Fuck, woman, do you wear this shit just to annoy me?”

“I know you appreciate the challenge. And don’t rip anything because there is no way I am having sex with you in here. It’s unsanitary.”

Yeah, that figured, Michael groused. The Evil Queen was probably too high and mighty to let herself be fucked anywhere but a bed.

“I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had sex in the bathrooms here. I’m surprised they don’t put up some kind of commemorative plaque.”

“That’s different.”

“The alleyway behind the pawn shop?”

Seriously? The Mayor let someone take her in an alleyway? Clearly he had underestimated how low she would stoop to have her itch scratched by the Saviour. Oh, but now he wished he hadn’t thought about itching because of course he felt the sudden need to scratch his nose, and there was a tickling in the back of his throat. He squeezed his eyes tighter, and prayed for the feeling to pass.

“Different.”

“And the Interrogation Room at the Station?”

“Different.”

“The forest?”

“Different, Emma.”

“Okay, I don’t get it. How are those all different?”

“Because foodstuffs weren’t involved.”

And then the Sheriff laughed, a real, proper laugh, and it was kind of a beautiful sound, because, now that he was thinking on it, she didn’t do that very much. In fact, the only times he ever heard it were when she was with the boy or his mother.

“Foodstuffs? Jesus, I love you. You are—” The Sheriff gasped, and then they were moving against each other again, making some other noises best described as wet and sticky. Emma moaned loud enough that they could probably hear her out on Main Street. “Mmmm, babe, you gotta stop with the hickeys. You know I’m gonna have to explain that to my mother.”

“Tell her you were bitten by a very large mosquito.” The Mayor sounded pleased with herself, and Michael had to admit that her comment was pretty funny.

“In Maine?”

“You’d be surprised what she’ll fall for.” There was more rustling of clothes followed by a light slap.

“Hey, I am trying to take that off you!”

“We are not doing this here when your apartment is only five minutes away. Head there and I’ll follow you in a little while.”

“All right,” Emma grumbled.

Michael wanted to sigh with relief, because his knees were starting to cramp up and that tickle in his throat wasn’t going anywhere and, God, how he wanted to scratch his nose. The stagnant water had seeped into the jeans under his overalls and he knew he’d have to throw them away because the grease and rust would never come out of them, and the damp sensation was making him need to pee as well. If anyone had ever told him that being in the same room as two hot women making out would be one of the most miserable and uncomfortable experiences of his life, he’d have laughed in their face, but he just wanted it to be over.

There was a clattering sound, which made him think that one of them had been up on the counter, and some more rustling of clothes.

“So, you’ll be right there?”

“I’ll be right behind you, I promise.”

He heard the scuff of boots on tile, before the Mayor spoke quietly.

“Emma?”

“Yeah?”

“I always miss you.”

There was a small grunt of amusement, and then footsteps fading away.

And, with the Sheriff gone, only Michael was there to hear Regina whisper to herself, “And I love you so, so much.”

And damn if he didn’t hate her just a little bit less than normal because no-one should sound so sad about being in love.


06. Foul shot

The first person to see Regina with her heart broken was Leroy, and he wished he hadn’t seen it because he wasn’t good with emotional things.

All he wanted to do was drop by the diner to pick up something for his dinner, because Astrid had something on that evening and he wanted to surprise her with dinner, only he didn’t know how to cook anything except stew. His plan was to order two portions of chicken pot pie with a bunch of sides and keep it warm in the oven for her to get home. It was a good plan.

When he arrived at the diner, he spotted the mayor’s beloved Mercedes parked up the street, which made sense because it was Tuesday evening and everyone in town knew that Regina and Emma had dinner with Henry at Granny’s on Tuesdays.

He found it hard to think of Regina as the Evil Queen these days because her curse had given him a good life. Instead of days full of back-breaking mining and a certain early death, he was a Deputy Sheriff and he had a girlfriend who used to be a fairy. He also had a big-ass television to watch his beloved Red Sox on. Although Regina hadn’t directly made that bit happen for him, she’d approved him as a Deputy and she always gave into the Sheriff whenever Emma asked for extra to pay the overtime, so she’d been instrumental in its purchase. And, man, he did love that TV.

More than that, she made the Sheriff happy, and that made her okay in Leroy’s book, because Emma Swan was good people. The Boss had it bad for the Mayor, he knew. And, from the things he’d seen over the past year and some bit, the Mayor had it bad for the Sheriff, too. Almost every day, Regina dropped by with a brown-bag lunch or coffee and pastries from Granny’s. Donuts were the best because she always brought enough for everyone to share, although it was understood that the bear claws were for the Boss only. Donuts were enough to make him pretend not to know what was happening when they went into the interview room to ‘talk about Henry’, an activity which often involved noises that didn’t sound like any kind of talking he knew. But more than those little conjugal visits, he could see that Regina really took care of the Boss, made her feel special, the same way Astrid did for him.

As he pushed through the door, he expected to find them in their usual booth, Emma ragging on the kid and making goo-goo eyes at her woman, thinking that no-one could see them flirting like a couple of teenagers on their first date. Only, they weren’t there. In fact, there was hardly anyone in there at all. He checked his watch. It was well after seven, so they should’ve been back from Henry’s soccer practice some time ago. Emma had left work early so she could be there.

He ordered his meals to go from Ruby and then asked, “Hey, you seen the Boss and her family tonight?”

“Emma and Regina?” Ruby frowned. “No, you know, they haven’t been in. Regina must be cooking for them at home.”

Which, yeah, would have made sense if he hadn’t seen the mayor’s car outside already. He looked over his shoulder. It was still there. And Emma had been especially quiet all day. And there had been no lunch or donuts that morning, nor the day before either. And he’d won at trashcan basketball, which almost never happened because Emma had years of experience over him and took her game really seriously. He looked out at the car again. And, yes, there was someone in there. And it was none of his business.

“Hey, Ruby, how long’s that order gonna take?”

“Maybe ten minutes?”

He sighed and rolled his head, cricking his neck left then right. He could pretend he hadn’t seen her. Except that he had. And, ah, hell and dammit.

“I’ll be back in a bit. I need to go do something.”

The young woman didn’t even look up as he left the quiet diner again and made his way over to the parked vehicle, his hands in the pockets of his departmental jacket. Sure enough, Regina was sitting in the driver’s seat, tears streaming down her face. He walked around to the sidewalk and knocked on the passenger window. The Mayor made a half-assed attempt to wipe her tears away before letting the window down only a crack.

“Am I breaking some kind of city ordinance, Deputy?” she asked, doing her best to find her Head-Bitch-in-Charge voice.

“No, you’re not. I just—” What was he even thinking of, sticking his nose into Regina’s business? “I just wanted to check you were okay.”

“Is there some reason I shouldn’t be?”

He wanted to say that it was pretty self-evident from her sitting alone in her car and bawling her eyes out, right on Main Street, but what he actually said was, “I won at trashcan basketball today.”

“Pardon?” Regina might be pretending that she was fine and that she resented his intrusion, but she was intrigued enough to open the window all the way down. He squatted down and folded his arms against the doorframe, poking his head inside the car.

“I almost never win because she has this amazing wrist action, like when the pros take a foul shot. The paper rolls out of her hand, real lazy like, and then it just sails in, like it’s got no other option but to score.” It really was a thing of beauty to watch, and she could hit it from half the room away. “But today she was firing them like she was pitching beaners at A-Rod himself.” He smiled at the lack of understanding on Regina’s face. “By which I mean she was tossing them hard, like fireballs at an ogre.”

“Ah.” That analogy worked better, judging by her grimace.

“So, yeah, she’s obviously mad at the world, and, well, you’re out here alone instead of in there with her, and she’s not there at all, and you haven’t been by the station, so I figured I’d check you were okay, because, well, I just thought I should.” He rushed his words because he really didn’t want to be getting into her business, but he really hated to see a woman cry.

Regina shook her head. And then she started crying harder, the complete opposite of what he’d been aiming for, and he didn’t know what else to do but wait. And wince. And wait some more. He checked his pockets for a handkerchief, but came up empty.

“You don’t have to stay. I’ll be okay. I just, I thought she’d be here.”

He shrugged. “I’m sure whatever it is, she’ll come around. You two are, well,” he scratched at his cheek in embarrassment, “the real thing, you know.” At Regina’s shocked look, he smirked. “It’s not like your relationship’s a secret, Your Majesty.”

“No?” She sounded almost amused.

“I’m pretty sure the whole town knows about you two by now.”

She shrugged and gave a half-smile. “Next time I send us all to a land without magic to steal everyone’s happy endings, I’ll be sure to make the town bigger so you don’t have to know about my private life.”

“Nah, this place is big enough to patrol as it is.” They’d all come a long way if she could joke about the curse and he actually found it funny.

Regina looked over to the diner, to the table where her family should have been, and sighed, tears now drying on her cheeks. “She won’t take my calls, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Why don’t you come by the station?”

“I can’t bear to face her. This is all my fault, and I’m not good at facing my mistakes.”

He laughed, which made Regina frown at him. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s just that you really might want to make the next town bigger.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m saying that if you want to hide from your mistakes, this is hardly the place to start, what with everyone you cursed around you every day. But, hey, you’re brave enough to face the rest of us, and we’re not in love with you. She is.”

The watery half-smile she gave him was beautiful—sad, but beautiful. “You’re quite perceptive for a dwarf.”

“I try.” He glanced up at the diner. “Why did you come here, if you didn’t want to face her?”

“I just wanted to see her.”

“Can I give you some advice?”

“I’m sure you will, even if I say no.”

He nodded. “Yeah, probably.”

“Then, by all means, carry on.”

“You used to be the ballsiest woman I’ve ever known, and I never once saw you let anything get in the way of what you want, so I reckon you just need to find a bit of that old Regina. She would have made things happen. She would have commanded it to happen.”

“I’m not that woman anymore.” And, no, she really wasn’t. She looked so small and broken, nothing like the woman who had lead armies and crushed hearts.

“You’re still the Mayor. Can’t you, like,” he searched his mind for a possibility, “send her a memo or something?”

She barked with laughter. “A memo?”

“You said you didn’t want to face her, so I figured you could write it down instead.”

“It’s not a bad idea, Deputy, but I doubt she’d read anything from me right now.”

He sighed. “There’s an answer to this, which isn’t just you two avoiding each other and both being miserable.”

“Anything for a quiet life?”

He gritted his teeth, because he had been trying not to get into all the flowery stuff. “No, because you make her happy and she makes you happy and you two belong together so, you know, make her hear you out and fix this. For your own sakes. Because you both deserve to be happy.” As he said it, he realised that he meant it. He wanted her to be happy, because Regina Mills wasn’t the Evil Queen. She was just a broken-hearted woman who wanted her girlfriend back, and Storybrooke was a better place when they were together. “Look, my dinner’s almost ready, so I’m gonna head back in. You okay to get yourself home, sister?” Regina nodded. “Right, well, I’ll let you be on your way, then.” He started to pull out of the car, when she shot out her arm to stop him.

“Leroy?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t tell her I was here.” She bit her lip. “Please.”

“Tell her what? That I came by the diner tonight and decided to have a quick chat with a friend while waiting for my dinner to be ready? Hardly worth reporting that to anyone, I would have thought.”

“I hope Astrid appreciates what she has in you.”

“Me, too.” He nodded and straightened up. Regina put the car window up and pulled out of her parking space.

And, as he watched her drive away, he hoped that she would find her happy ending.


07. True Love

The first person to know about the change in their circumstances was Henry Mills, because they asked him first. And the second was Archie Hopper. The third and fourth were Emma’s parents. Everyone else found out on the Sunday, in the same way people in Storybrooke found out about anything—in Granny’s diner, with the radio playing in the background.

Being Sunday, Archie Hopper’s show was on, and people were drifting in from church, joining the regulars who were already there to catch the two-for-one lunch special. Regina, Emma and Henry arrived together, and later than usual, because the women had only just arrived back from a two-day weekend in Bar Harbor—a dirty weekend, everyone agreed—and the family took their usual booth. They ordered pancakes all round, with a fruit bowl each, milkshakes for Emma and Henry, and black coffee for Regina. No-one thought it odd that the women were holding hands under the table; in fact, most were just pleased that they were keeping their public affection to a minimum. Most of the current diners had been there when their relationship, previously the worst-kept secret in Storybrooke, had been brought out into the open, and everyone had been given quite the eyeful that day. Depending on who you spoke to, their display was somewhere between the most romantic thing ever and a hair away from real, live porn.

As their order arrived, Archie Hopper’s voice drifted out across the diner. His popular radio call-in show, ‘In Session with Dr Archie’, the regional lead in the talk-radio market for his time slot, was winding up.

‘Usually, at this point, I summarise what we’ve discussed today, but we’re going to do something a little different this week because I have an update on an unusual call we took a couple of months ago, right from my own home town of Storybrooke, Maine.’ Archie cleared his throat. ‘If you were listening then, you might recall that the initial caller, Regina, admitted that she had commitment issues about her partner, Emma.’

All eyes in the diner turned, not surreptitiously at all, to the couple in question, who had matching bashful smiles on their faces. Henry, their son, was grinning widely, enjoying their embarrassment.

‘Emma had wanted them to move in formally together and there had even been talk of marriage. Regina, however, had refused, even though she was very much in love with Emma and she also wanted them to be together permanently. What was most unusual about the call was that Emma also rang in and we heard them resolve their issues live on air. Many of our listeners who live right here in Storybrooke also got to see the couple’s reunion in person, down at Granny’s Diner, which I can tell you makes the best maple pecan pies on the eastern seaboard.’

Eugenia ‘Granny’ Lucas beamed at the customers who were at her counter, because she still believed that her coup in getting Archie his own radio show was the reason that the whole relationship was now out in the open, and she had been vindicated in her assertion that they had been a couple for a lot longer than people thought. Michael Tillman grunted into his bacon and eggs because he already knew more about those two women together than he had ever wanted to. And Leroy smiled at his girlfriend, Astrid, because, like Regina, he had learned to appreciate what he had, and not be afraid to show it.

‘Well, I’m very pleased and honoured to report that, in my official capacity as the only Notary Public in town, I married the couple on Friday morning in my office, with their son and Emma’s parents in attendance.’

And then the diner exploded in noise, drowning out Archie’s comment that the couple had honeymooned briefly at a cabin in Bar Harbor.

Ruby Lucas was the first one to reach them and force them to show their wedding rings, matching plain gold bands. Henry was pulled from his chair by Leroy, who clapped his hand on the boy’s shoulder and made him recount how he had given Regina away, while David had done the honours for Emma. Well-wishers shouted congratulations from where they sat, and Eugenia complained that she had been done out of throwing them a wedding reception, something which she vowed would be corrected at the first available opportunity. Even Michael Tillman caught Regina’s eye and gave her a gruff nod, to show that he actually was happy for her.

And, as the gathered patrons watched the Sheriff sweep her stunned wife into a deep kiss, they might have grumbled that they didn’t want a repeat of last time, but no-one could begrudge them what was obviously True Love.

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