“Emma, can I talk to you for a moment?”
Emma turned and found Graham smiling at her tentatively. He raised a hand to ruffle it through his hair and his eyes briefly strayed to something behind her. Emma knew without having to turn around that he was checking where Regina was.
Over the course of the afternoon she’d realized that many citizens of Storybrooke seemed to move around the fair while either keeping their distance to Regina or trying to be as close to her as possible without being obvious about it. Like that newspaper creep. Emma was pretty sure he was taking pictures of Regina whenever she wasn’t looking and Emma shuddered at the thought what he might do with them during his off time. Why Regina didn’t just fire him puzzled her.
“Sure,” Emma eventually answered and followed Graham as he led her to a park bench beside a large oak. They sat down and Emma crossed her arms in front of her chest. It was getting noticeably chilly as the sun was slowly descending on the horizon.
“First of all, how are you? I heard that Leroy got you pretty bad.”
“That he did, but I’m okay, really.”
“Okay good, so I can tell you the good news.”
“There’s good news?”
“Yes, after Leroy woke up the next morning, fairly sober, he remembered only parts of what happened but he knew that he’d actually hurt someone, a woman no less. He hasn’t had a drop since I let him out and I saw him throwing empty bottles into the trash today.”
Emma raised her eyebrows and cocked her head to the side. “So he felt bad about it? That’s at least something.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’ll apologize eventually, when he’s gotten over his embarrassment. I’m pretty sure he’s more ashamed of himself than ever before, and I hope that it will be enough encouragement to get back on track.”
Emma took a quiet breath and released it. “They really are good news, I guess.”
“But there’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.”
Graham looked around again and turned to face Emma fully, arm resting on the back of the bench. He looked serious and Emma gave him her full attention. What now?
“After Ruby told me how you handled Leroy I’m more than impressed by your skills. I don’t know what you did before, but I want to offer you a job.”
“The position as deputy has been vacant for quite a while now, and I know that it’s not the most exciting thing, especially in a town like Storybrooke, but if you’re sticking around you probably need work sooner or later. So I thought I’d just let you know that the offer is on the table.”
“That’s nice of you, really, but I don’t think…”
Graham raised his hand to interrupt Emma and smiled. “You don’t have to give me an answer right away, I’m just throwing it out there so you know you could have the job if you wanted. That’s all.”
Emma nodded slowly. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Graham said still smiling. He slapped his thighs and got up. “Back to patrolling. Never know what atrocious crimes might occur at a small town fair. You should definitely do the Haunted Trail later, completely scared me spitless the first time I did it.”
Emma swallowed and watched Graham nod toward her before walking off. The Haunted Trail had scared him? Then how was she supposed to deal?
She sat on the bench a little while longer until she saw Henry approaching in the semi-darkness. The first streetlamps were flickering to life and Emma sighed. This was not going to be fun. Not at all.
“Hey, are you ready? The trail starts behind Granny’s diner,” Henry said as he took Emma’s hand and pulled her off the bench. She smiled down at him and squeezed his hand.
Something in her chest constricted as well but the feeling was smothered by fear that was creeping up her spine at his words. “Why there?”
“Because it leads straight into the forest.”
Emma was trying to control her breathing. In and out, a perfect rhythm. They were just badly dressed zombie people, like Regina said, nothing more.
Children Henry’s age were lining up for the Haunted Trail and if they could do it, so could she. She nodded to herself and let Henry lead her to where Regina was talking to a blonde woman Emma had seen Regina with earlier in the day. She smiled at Henry and then scrutinized Emma with curious eyes as they approached.
Regina immediately stiffened and inclined her head as Henry let go of Emma’s hand and burrowed into her side as she rested her palm on his shoulder, fingers curling protectively inward.
“I’m Kathryn,” the blonde introduced herself and held her hand out to Emma who shook it with a smile.
“Emma, nice to meet you.”
“So Emma, how do you know Henry and Regina?”
Kathryn raised an inquisitive eyebrow and only regarded Regina with a sideways glance as she glowered at her.
“Mom gave Emma a ride when her car was broken,” Henry chimed in and all three of them looked at him.
“That’s right.” Regina forced a smile onto her lips and glared at Emma through her lashes.
“I think we should head for the Haunted Trail now, I’ll see you later Kathryn.”
“You’re not coming?” Emma asked, turning to Kathryn who shook her head.
“Oh no, I don’t really enjoy the Haunted Trail that much, it’s a little creepy and I’m already scared when a cat wriggles out of a bush and I’m walking by.”
“Well maybe I shouldn’t…,” Emma began but Henry was back at her side, pushing her toward Regina and the entrance.
Kathryn chuckled quietly and waved her hand at them.
Emma joined Regina as they walked toward the entrance of the Haunted Trail, a mere wooden gate around a small trail that led into the dark forest behind it. Emma swallowed hard. Only complete idiots went alone into a forest when it was dark. But she wasn’t alone. She glanced over at Regina and saw the corner of her mouth curling upward.
“Afraid, are we Miss Swan?”
“Not at all.”
“I’m not either,” Henry said from where he was walking in front of them. Regina smiled and briefly dragged a hand through his hair.
“As you shouldn’t be, there’s nothing here that can hurt you or is real, so no reason to be scared.”
Emma nodded at Regina’s words and earned herself another smirk from the mayor. She attempted to let no signs of her fear show on her face and followed Henry further into the forest.
A couple of nightly creatures like crickets were accompanying her every step and she was pretty sure she could hear an owl hooting somewhere in the distance. Something rustled in a bush beside them and Henry yelled excitedly as a man completely dressed in black with some fake vampire teeth and a cape stepped out from behind a tree. Emma sucked in a breath and took several involuntary steps back. Her heart was beating faster in her chest and it took her a moment to get over the surprise.
Regina tilted her head in Emma’s direction but kept an eye on the man who returned to his place behind the tree.
“Are you coming Miss Swan?”
“I’m right behind you,” Emma answered. She was halfway convinced that walking behind Regina would protect her from almost anything that could be jumping out at her. People
probably wouldn’t want to scare the mayor and her son too badly because what she could to do them in return was very likely much more frightening.
By the time the next creature attempted to scare them Henry was laughing loudly. He wasn’t afraid at all and seemed to have the time of his life. Emma however had to fight very hard to keep the scream that was clawing its way up her throat inside. The girl that walked toward them had long black hair that fell forward and prevented Emma from seeing her face. She was wearing a white dress and looked all the way like she’d just crawled out of a horror movie. Emma hated it.
The girl kept coming toward them and Emma broke out in cold sweat at the thought of having to walk past her on the small trail. She was thinking about just turning around hightailing it the hell out of here but then remembered the guy behind the tree and decided to stick with Regina and Henry. Regina seemed completely unfazed by everything and simply watched Henry laugh and squeal with a smile on her face. She looked incredibly young and beautiful like that and in no time Emma found herself holding on to Regina’s arm.
Surprised brown eyes turned to her.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… but just… for a moment, okay?”
Emma squeezed her eyes shut as the girl was moving past her in that half stumbling half staggering kind of way and buried her face against Regina’s shoulder. She felt it rising and falling as Regina chuckled darkly.
“You have no problem with facing a physical quarrel with a drunken man but a girl in a dress reduces you to a quivering mess? I must say I’m disappointed,” Regina said quietly but made no move to pry Emma away from her arm.
“I’m sorry I can’t live up to your expectations but this just creeps me out,” Emma replied and glanced over her shoulder to make sure the girl was gone. Unfortunately she found herself staring into a pale face and dark eyes. The girl was right there behind her. Emma shrieked loudly and basically clung to Regina, one hand grasping the lapel of her jacket while she hid her face against the warm skin of her throat.
Regina snorted quietly but rested hand on Emma’s shoulder and led her away from the girl and further down the trail.
Emma took a deep breath and inhaled a familiar scent that she had almost forgotten. Even though she was still having trouble getting her heart rate back to normal she enjoyed the feeling of being so close to Regina. It not only reminded her of their night together but sadly enough made her realize how much she’d missed something she’d only known for a couple of hours.
“Is she okay?” Henry asked and Emma reluctantly raised her head.
“Yeah I’m good, I just… got surprised, is all.”
Emma didn’t have to see Regina’s raised eyebrow to know it was there. She slowly let go of her and straightened so that she could walk beside Regina without being curled into her in the most inappropriate way.
Henry grinned at her and turned back around to enjoy the rest of the trail. Emma hoped it was over soon. This was about all she could take. She tried to be inconspicuous about it as she lightly held onto the sleeve of Regina’s jacket with her fingertips but Regina still noticed. She looked down at the gesture and took Emma’s hand into her own with a sigh. Their fingers entwined naturally and Emma smiled. Maybe this haunted trail wasn’t so bad after all.
The next guy that jumped at them from behind a large bush had a chainsaw in his hands, cutting through the quiet night with a vengeance. Emma flinched away from him but managed to stay calm enough to walk away from it without making a sound. She didn’t know if Regina realized what she was doing but she was stroking her thumb back and forth across Emma’s skin in a soothing gesture. It helped. Emma felt better than since they’d started this haunted trail nonsense and she breathed a sigh of relief as the end came into sight not too far ahead of them.
Regina let go of her hand as they walked toward the wooden sign that read ‘Exit’ in painted red letters. Emma gazed at her profile and opened her mouth to say something when someone jumped right into her and yelled loudly. Emma staggered back several steps, this time not because she was afraid but because she was caught off guard. She almost lost her footing but arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her back up and into a warm body.
Emma looked at Ruby who was shaking with laughter. She had fake zombie skin on her face and her clothes were torn in a way that almost bordered on indecent.
“Got you pretty good I’d say,” Ruby announced with a smile and Emma smirked.
“Next time try to be scary instead of almost jumping on top of me.”
“Can’t blame me for trying,” Ruby replied with a wink and pulled her into a quick hug which Emma returned before stepping back and disappearing into her hideout. Emma
turned back to look at Regina and Henry but found that he had already skipped ahead and was talking to some kids who were standing at the exit.
Regina was slowly following him but glanced back at Emma with a grave look, not a trace of friendliness remaining. Emma cradled her hand that had been linked with Regina’s against her chest as she caught up with her.
Regina didn’t reply and Emma lightly grabbed her arm.
The mayor spun around and glared at her like she was trying to burn a hole into Emma with just her anger.
“As you can see there are children around and I believe your repeated indecent behavior is completely out of line.”
Emma’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times before the words came out.
“I think you should leave. Now.”
“Wait, what are you talking about?”
“I think it is painfully obvious that you and Miss Lucas can barely keep hands off of each other.”
Emma blinked. Where the hell was that coming from?
“You do realize that it was a kissing booth,” Emma said, gesturing vaguely with her hands.
“Exactly. So if Miss Lucas and you are continuously engaging in such an explicit display of your affair it is well within my power to tell you to do it elsewhere. Privately.”
“My… my what? Are you serious? You think that I…?”
It was as if all of the happiness she’d felt in the last twelve hours rushed out of her in one fell swoop and pooled at her feet.
Sticking around Storybrooke had been a huge mistake. If Regina believed that she would start some affair with Ruby after only two days in town then there was obviously no sense in trying to stay and get closer to Regina in any way. Given, she had slept with Regina that very first night, but that was different. She thought that whatever happened between them was somehow special. The extent of her stupidity was starting to become glaringly obvious as Emma took several steps back, still reeling from Regina’s accusation.
“You… you’re right. I shouldn’t have stayed. I’m sorry you think this way about me.”
Emma offered a small emotionless smile. “I guess I was just trying to… never mind. I’ll be out of your hair by tonight.”
With that Emma turned and walked out of the Haunted Trail and toward Henry who smiled broadly at her as she approached. Her heart cracked the tiniest bit as she returned his smile and ruffled his hair.
“Hey kid, I going to have to leave town tonight, but I’ll leave my number with Ruby and Granny so you can get a hold of me if you ever wanna call, okay?”
Henry’s face immediately fell. “You really have to leave?”
“Yeah, but it was great spending time with you. And you know what they say, people always see each other twice in life.”
Emma didn’t know why it was so hard to walk away from the kid, but somehow it hurt to leave him. She’d barely known him for a couple of days but she liked him, liked his ever so happy presence that seemed to make any day just a tad brighter.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and squeezed before she had the chance to escape. Emma returned the hug and stepped back.
She left him standing by the exit of the Haunted Trail, ignoring the empty feeling in her chest all the way back to the B&B.