If anyone asks, it was a set-up.
Granny is fully aware that if Ruby tried that line on her, she’d get her hide handed to her. But this is a unique situation, involving family honor and sophisticated traps and the Formerly Evil Queen. Clearly a set up. Why else would Regina have even mentioned the lasagna? Trap.
She’s getting old, damn it, her resistance isn’t what it used to be.
Henry’s been upstairs reading for an hour, despite lights out being at eleven, but that’s standard and Granny learned with Ruby; if a kid is eager to read, let ‘em read. Or, kind of learned with Ruby. Fake-remembers learning with Ruby.
Anyway, he’s been upstairs and settled and quiet and finished his dinner a little after eight, and the stupid tupperware with layered noodles and beef and sauce has been calling to her since Regina left at seven, and it’s a matter of honor. After all, it isn’t right for Granny to advertise best lasagna in town if it’s a lie. And if Leroy’s alcohol-dulled taste buds are to be believed, it’s a lie.
So she had to try some.
And as soon as she’d taken the reheated piece from the microwave, she’d heard the particular click-click-hum of Emma’s Bug coming up the street.
So now she’s standing in the middle of the Formerly Evil Queen’s kitchen with a forkful of the most decadently delicious lasagna she’s ever had stuck in her mouth and she doesn’t know what to do, because there’s no way she can finish it quickly when it’s this rich but throwing it out is just… wrong. So, so wrong.
When a full minute goes by before she hears the car put in park, she calms down a little. Enough to swallow the current bite and take another, and two more in quick succession. And then she listens carefully again, and almost chokes on lasagna and laughter. From the sound of it, she’ll definitely have enough time to finish her serving and rinse off the plate.
She ends up with enough time to properly wash the plate and set it in the dish rack, takes her time packing up her knitting supplies and putting her shoes on. And yes, she’s quiet about opening the front door, but from the looks of things, she could do everything short of take it off its hinges without being noticed.
Suffice it to say, when she knocks on the passenger window of the Bug, Regina gets so startled that her sudden scramble to push Emma away is basically equivalent to punching her in the tit. Emma howls in pain and Granny laughs so hard she has to sit down on the curb.
It is maybe the best thirty seconds of her whole week.
“Granny—oh, my God, Granny,” Regina scrambles out of the car, adjusting clothing and her hair and getting absolutely nowhere with it. Behind her, Emma’s still whimpering. “I’m so—whatever you saw—it wasn’t—I’m not—“
This foolish girl, stuttering away like this with moon-eyed Emma staring at her like the whole world might come crashing down if Regina ever manages to finish a sentence. Although, hell, with the way these two avoid their issues, she might be doing them a favor.
Finally, Regina takes a deep breath, wrings her hands together and manages to look Granny in the eye. “I’m so sorry, it was completely inappropriate behavior and you should have never had to see that and—“
Granny holds up a hand, shaking her head. “Didn’t see much, but even that piece of crap engine can’t cover up sounds. Heard you crystal clear from the time you passed that stop sign.”
Regina blanches, and Emma pinches her eyes shut, sinks down in her seat.
“Well, don’t let me keep you from it, girls. Henry’s still awake but I doubt he will be for much longer.” She says it as breezily as possible and starts strolling over to her pickup, then pauses, turns back to where Regina is gaping after her. “And Regina? I’ll be needing your lasagna recipe.”
Regina nods faintly, gripping the edge of the car door like it’s the only thing holding her up.
When she’s settled on the bench of her truck with her knitting supplies tucked safely beside her crossbow, Granny gives herself one quick self-congratulatory moment. She might not have the resistance she used to, but she’s damn sure still got the wiles.
When he gets his hands on this little rugrat Jack, Vincent Melora is going to wring his scrawny little—
He stops, takes a deep breath, settles himself. No, no he’s not going to do anything rash. He will have stern words with Jack for dawdling on a quick errand, but there will be no violence. Even if the boy is far more trouble than he’s worth as an employee. Far, far more trouble.
What is the point of a stock boy if the stock boy can never be found?
All Vincent had sent him to do was bring the bag of groceries Mayor Mills accidentally left out to her car. She’d left not thirty seconds before, there was no way she’d left the parking lot, so where Jack has been for the last five minutes is just beyond him. Why Jack would disappear on Halloween when half the town is coming in for last minute candy runs is—
Vincent takes another calming breath, and another. Maybe the boy fell. Maybe the boy was injured. Maybe Mayor Mills had used magic to get home and Jack, being very literal, had chosen to walk over to her house to deliver her groceries.
Maybe he’s going to wring his scrawny neck. Because there’s Jack, standing stock-still between the delivery van and some beat-up SUV, gawking like a fool at—
Oh, good Lord, doesn’t the boy have any sense of decency?
Vincent quietly walks up behind Jack and grabs the bag from his hands with one hand and his collar with the other. “One instruction I give to you, one—!“
To his credit, Jack yelps in a mostly quiet fashion. “They were like that when I came out! She has magic! I wasn’t about to interrupt for a grocery bag!”
Vincent glances over again, quickly, to confirm that, yes, that is the Sheriff sitting on the lip of the open trunk of her Beetle, and yes, that is his Mayor and Queen kissing her with—well, enthusiasm might be the word.
There’s a sound, something between a moan and a sigh, and yes, enthusiasm would be the word.
Jack is looking at him in part terror, part amusement—and kids these days, no sense of decency, don’t even blush to see something they shouldn’t be seeing—and with a grumble about more trouble than you’re worth, Vincent lets him go. “Get back inside and clean up the candy aisle. Go on, move.” Jack scampers away and Vincent realizes that he’s left literally holding the bag.
He keeps his eyes down while he shuffles forward, hoping that he’s scuffling loudly enough on the asphalt to grab their attention before he speaks. “Ah—ahem. Madam Mayor?”
There’s a squeak and a dull thud and when he lifts his eyes, the Sheriff is sprawled in the trunk on top of the grocery bags and his Queen is facing him with a bright red face and wide, wild eyes. “Mr. Melora,” she says, and her voice is shaky and weak.
He drops his eyes again so that he can only see the Sheriff kicking awkwardly as she attempts to get back on her feet. It is a genuine struggle not to laugh. “You left a bag, madam.” He holds it out for her to take and makes the mistake of actually looking at the thin white plastic, of actually looking through it to the items inside.
Two cans of Reddi Wip and a bottle of caramel sauce.
He’s not sure who’s more mortified when his Queen takes the bag. He’s really, truly not.
Parent-teacher conference night is always the worst, but tonight’s was a particular brand of the worst. Starting with the Mad Magic Moms was bad enough, but then Sherri had the Barretts halfway through, and it shouldn’t have taken thirty minutes to talk about how Teddy was failing because he never came to class. It’s not a complex problem. Kid does not come to class, kid fails.
Leave it to the Barretts to turn it into a huge, semi-investigative deal.
And, as if that wasn’t more than she ever wanted to deal with in one night, Jenny Park went home halfway through, claiming nausea (that lying sneak, it’s Shondaland night, she’s fooling no one) and the vice principal asked Sherri to stay to help close up in her place.
Tonight is absolutely the worst.
Which is why, when everyone is finally out of the building and the doors are locked and the vice principal has gotten in her car and driven away, Sherri pretty much loses her shit when she rounds the corner of the building to see her own little white Cabriolet off to one side of the empty parking lot and a particularly obnoxious yellow Beetle on the other side.
Not that the mere presence of the car is what does it. No, it’s the fact that it’s ever so slightly shaking.
She reaches for the cross at her neck and counts to ten four times and calls on the strength of her grandmother’s grandmother and she even tries some of that weird Lamaze breathing that Aunt Rachel said is supposed to help, but yep, Aunt Rachel was right, it’s all useless.
Say what you mean, Sherri.
It’s all useless shit.
She hitches her bag higher on her shoulder and stomps across the lot to the Beetle, bangs on the driver’s window three times. In the backseat, there’s a lot of cursing and somewhat violent scrambling around and shuffling of clothing, but she doesn’t see skin.
Not that that means anything.
Swan pokes her head through the gap between the front seats with a sheepish grin that disappears as soon as she sees Sherri’s face. “Oh, shit.”
Sherri lifts an eyebrow and waits with her arms crossed.
“Oh, fuck me.” Swan lets her forehead hit the armrest.
Sherri looks behind her to glare at Mills, who’s still straightening her blouse and freezes when she makes eye contact. “Shit.”
Still holding onto her cross, Sherri takes a slow breath. This absolutely was not on her list of Things to Be Concerned About Now That Henry Mills Is In Her Class. “Out of the car, both of you.”
With something that sounds like a whimper, Swan reaches forward and lowers the driver’s seat, opens the door and waits for Sherri to step aside before scrambling out. Her shirt is untucked in the front and her hair is a hot mess, but Mills—who takes Swan’s offered hand while getting out of the car—is just classic. Shirt misbuttoned, skirt wrinkled, and staring at the ground.
Swan’s still holding her hand and even if that’s cute, it’s totally inappropriate. “You realize this is a school parking lot.”
“Yes, Miss Sanders,” Swan mumbles. Mills says nothing, but nods.
“You realize that your behavior is completely inappropriate for school grounds.”
“Yes, Miss Sanders.”
“You realize that I could file a report with the school that would go over both of your heads and kill both of your reputations.”
“Yes, Miss Sanders.”
“You realize that you are both grown ass women who have your own homes to do this in?” She can’t help that she gets a little… intense on that question, because honestly. Backseat of a shitty car in a parking lot, come on.
But apparently that intensity is what gets through to Mills, who looks up suddenly, and then slowly smiles. “Yes, Miss Sanders,” she says quietly, but she’s grinning or smirking or something, and shooting this look at Swan like she might jump her, and Sherri’s not sure whether she’d kill her or… other jumping.
Either way, she doesn’t want to see it. “Go home, ladies. Please.”
“We’re sorry, Miss Sanders,” Swan offers.
“No, you’re not,” she sighs.
“No, we’re not,” Mills agrees, and Swan starts to laugh.
Sherri gives up.
She’s not being one of Those Mothers.
It’s just that it’s late, and dark, and cold, and Storybrooke isn’t exactly the safest town in America. There are other species walking around with them.
Not that there’s anything wrong with other species. Her best friend is a hybrid. Other species are great. But some of them are dangerous. It’s just in their nature, and being responsible in an environment with other species means keeping that in mind.
Bottom line: Emma is late, and Snow is worried.
She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t also significantly worried because David mentioned seeing Regina stop to talk to Emma at the diner, and that was when he came in an hour ago. And if Regina’s out and about, Storybrooke’s danger factor is guaranteed to double. Not that she’s not… something to them, now. But she’s unpredictable and that’s the only predictable thing about her.
And sure, Regina and Emma worked out some weird type of custody agreement—leading to Henry calling Emma his weekend dad (which Snow doesn’t understand at all because Emma is his mother)and Emma giving him noogies in retaliation—but ever since Henry went to that writing retreat, they’ve just been in each other’s faces a lot more than they used to—almost like they’re back at the beginning—and—there’s just no way Emma’s safe right now.
She gives herself fifteen more minutes—and David telling her, “Relax, she’s Emma, she’s fine,” twice—before she puts on her Uggs and her coat and heads down the stairs.
Emma’s car is parked right across the street, and it’s running, but Snow can’t see anyone in it, and she’s instantly in a panic, running towards the car and crying out, “Emma!”
And then, all of a sudden, she can see Regina, sitting up with alarm on her face, and oh, gods, is she strangling Emma?
And then Snow gets the car door open and no, no, that’s not strangling, oh, good gods, that is not strangling at all.
“Jesus fucking Christ—Snow?” Emma yelps.
Regina starts to laugh.
“Regina, don’t you dare—fuck, where’s my shirt?”
Oh, gods, her baby girl doesn’t have a shirt on, and Regina—
Regina, still laughing, lowers her torso again to reach into the backseat and grab what is definitely Emma’s green sweater. “Here,” she says, and pushes Emma’s bra strap back onto her shoulder. “I told you to just drive me home.”
Regina is still on top of her daughter.
“You also wore those pants—not the point right now. Shit—Snow, are you breathing? Fuck, Regina, she’s—“
“She’s fine, Emma.”
“She looks kind of blue.”
“Emma?” Snow finally gets out. Regina is still on top of her daughter. “Oh, gods.”
Emma finally sits up, with her shirt on. “Snow, this… yeah, okay, it’s exactly what it looks like.”
All that comes out of her is this helpless, keening sound. Regina starts laughing again, buries her face in Emma’s neck, and Emma—oh, gods, Emma wraps an arm around her and holds her.
“This isn’t funny,” Emma hisses.
“Oh, yes, it is,” Regina laughs, and—oh, gods, she’s crying. Why is Regina crying? Snow’s the one whose daughter is under her.
“Snow, say something,” Emma says, and there’s a little bit of gentleness in her voice but there’s more gentleness in her hand on Regina’s waist and Regina is still on top of her daughter.
Snow points at them, at their—oh, gods, their pelvises are touching, there is pelvis contact—and keens again.
“Yeah, okay, this is… actually, better than we expected,” Emma says, and then—oh, gods, she pats Regina’s butt. “Babe, shift over?”
Regina, still laughing, shifts her weight and somehow ends up in the passenger seat, with Emma’s hand trailing along her leg for an extra second and why are they touching, why are they touching, why why why. But then Emma’s raising the seat back and rebuttoning—oh, gods, she’s rebuttoning her jeans as she gets out of the car.
“In a car, Emma?” she finally sputters out. “On the street?”
Emma has the decency to blush at that; Regina seems to have doubled over with laughter. “I—um—yeah, not my smartest move, but it’s not like it would be the first time—you know what, never mind, we don’t need to go into that.”
“Never. We never need to go into that.”
“Okay. Agreed. Yeah.”
Emma frowns, cocks her head. “Okay, apparently we might need to go into some of that, because, have you seen how hot my girlfriend is?”
“Girlfriend?” Regina echoes.
“You got a better word?” Emma shoots over her shoulder, and Regina makes a face.
“No, but God, that’s an asinine term.”
“Can we go back to the part about your girlfriend?” Snow shrieks.
“What about lover?” Regina offers.
Snow can’t help the wail that comes out.
“I’m also partial to boo.”
And Emma starts to laugh, and suddenly her whole body language changes, opens up, and Snow doesn’t understand anything that’s happening in front of her eyes. “No, you’re so definitely not,” Emma laughs, half turning and bending slightly to look at Regina, and the smile on Emma’s face—the smile on Regina’s face—
Snow is going to lock Emma in a tower until the end of time. It’s the only solution.
The first day after spring break is supposed to be a light day. A light day. School is supposed to ease back into things.
Begrudgingly, Henry acknowledges that maybe if he’d done any of the reading over break, he wouldn’t be so completely fucked right now.
He’s got a grocery bag full of Faulkner novels and something like thirty six hours to come up with a topic for his term paper and he’s like, super fucked.
Emma texted him something like twenty minutes ago to tell him that they’re waiting in the car, and he would’ve been out of the building fifteen minutes ago if three things hadn’t happened. One, Miss Sanders came in through the main doors of the library, so he had to duck and weave out the narrow side door with his already full backpack and his arms full of Faulkner. Two, he’s got all the grace of a disoriented ostrich, so ducking and weaving ended up being more of a series of convulsions that happened to get him out the door but also happened to send him sprawling in the middle of the hallway.
Three, The Sound and the Fury ended up at Paige’s locker. Paige, who basically has the answers to life, all the time. Paige, who told Henry to read Faulkner in the first place. Paige, who blew him off all break to read Winterson but that’s cool, even if Winterson did send her into existential rambling texts at two in the morning, because it meant Paige could totally bail him out.
Paige’s version of bailing him out was to give him a brown bag and help him put the five novels back in it with a pat on the head like he’s a puppy and a sympathetic “Good luck, Mills.”
He’s totally going to boo for her at her next meet.
By the time he gets downstairs and out the main doors, the only people still hanging around are the skaters, stoners, and some band kids loading equipment into someone’s car. The Bug is all the way at the far end of the block, and he totally could just walk over there, but Emma could also just pull forward.
Yeah, he’s gonna be that kid.
He drops his backpack, sets the bag of books down gently and sits on the curb, pulls out his cellphone and taps until the little round icon of Emma making a piggy face pops up with the call menu. It rings, and rings, and goes to voicemail.
He squints at the Bug, and frowns, and redials. He can’t really see into the car because of the reflection off the windshield, but he’s pretty sure it’s occupied. Emma’s voicemail greeting starts again and he ends the call, tries his mom’s number.
When the shadows behind the reflection on the windshield suddenly split and he understands that those weren’t shadows, those were his moms, he kind of wants to hurl. “Henry!” his mom says, and her voice is—oh, dude, he totally wants to hurl.
“I’m outside,” he mumbles, and covers his eyes with one hand. He needs bleach for his brain. Immediately.
“We see you,” his mom says, and the Bug starts with that signature kick, creeps forward.
He hangs up and watches the car come forward, stares at it for a few seconds before picking up his backpack again. When he stands up, his mom opens the passenger door and gets out, pulls the seat forward and smiles at him. “Hi, sweetheart.”
“Hey, Mom,” he says, and goes to hug her, then hesitates. Glancing over at Emma shows her unsubtly checking the mirror as she wipes her mouth. Gross. “Uh. Do I need to wipe down the seat or something?”
His mom’s no-nonsense voice is still pretty badass, even if she’s all in love now, and he ducks his head. “I mean, your prerogative, true love and all that,” and he waves his hand as he loads the bag of books into the back first. “But seriously? Right when I’m about to get in the car?”
And then he grins, because his mom is blushing a little bit but not a lot, not nearly as much as she did the first time he interrupted them (by throwing open the front door and demanding do you have any idea what time it is, young lady). And that’s a good thing.
“You’re lucky we spare you as often as we do,” Emma teases, and reaches back to ruffle his hair.
“You’re talking about my mom,” he groans, and covers his eyes. “Also, neglecting your child in favor of macking on his mom is just messed up, Emma.”
His mom puts the seat back in place and then gets back in herself, turns to scrutinize him. “Neglecting?” she asks, and her voice is way past badass and straight into dangerous territory.
“I called her, like, six times before I called you. Went to voicemail every time.”
So it is a slight exaggeration. It is completely worth it for the way Emma trembles at the way his mom glares at her. “Okay, so, maybe I felt my phone vibrating, but I couldn’t be sure—“
One thing Jim wants to make very clear: he loves his job. He really, truly does. Because one, anything is better than being Jim the Gym Teacher. Seriously. Anything. And two, being a deputy sheriff in a town where he gets to carry both an H&K .45 and a broadsword is basically the best possible upgrade.
He loves his job, okay? He has somewhat regular hours and benefits and a pension plan and he’s not a joke anymore and that’s important. That he not be a joke. Because—well, it is.
He has goals, okay?
There is just one, teeny, tiny, minuscule problem with being the deputy sheriff: actual sheriff Emma Swan.
Don’t get him wrong—Emma’s great. Great sense of humor, pretty easy-going, likes to bring donuts twice a week. Not unpleasant to look at—not that he’s looking, but, aesthetics, right? All logic says that working for her should be great.
Except he’s pretty damn sure that Emma Swan has never once cracked open a single manual related to the job, because there’s not a law or ordinance in effect that she hasn’t willfully broken. And then, to top that all off, she just laughs and shrugs it off because she knows it’s all irrelevant.
It is really damn difficult to enforce alternate side of the street parking when the sheriff herself parks wherever she damn well pleases.
He’s been talking to Kathryn about it—because they can do that now, they can talk about their jobs, he has a real job he can talk about—and she keeps saying to just call Swan out on it, that she’s doing it on purpose to see where his limits are, but that—he’s just a deputy. How is he going to step up to the Sheriff better known as the Savior and say, “Hey, so, could you stop being a delinquent maybe?”
If he gets an ulcer from thinking about this, it’s okay; he has health insurance now.
All of this is racing around in the back of his mind while he does a foot patrol of the marina. It’s muggy, still, even with the breeze coming off the water, and the weight of his service belt sticks heavy around his waist. He would’ve left it in the cruiser, back in the lot, but after last summer when Swan—out of uniform and completely unarmed—accidentally tackled Jason Brightman making a money drop for a literal boatload of coke and got a little bit shot in the process, no one’s allowed to walk the marina beat without at least a nightstick.
Accidentally makes the biggest drug bust Storybrooke’s ever heardof. Who does that. Emma freakin’ Swan, that’s who. Actual Savior. And his boss. And Kathryn wants him to write her up.
A low thud and something that sounds like a yell get his attention, and Jim unclips his holster, keeps his right hand on the pistol grip and clicks his flashlight on in his left. He’s almost at the end of the boardwalk, and the docks themselves are empty, a few fishing boats creaking way down at the other end. The possible yell came from ahead of him, which doesn’t really make sense; the only thing past the last storehouse is the distribution transformer, and that’s locked up.
But there’s a thin beam of light coming from over there, and Jim presses himself against the side of the storehouse, draws his pistol and flips the safety, then slowly, slowly, peeks around the corner.
And briefly considers throwing his uniform into the water. Belt, pistol and all.
Goddamn Emma Swan. It’s her fucking car, headlights on, parked just behind the transformer. Right under the NO PARKING sign. Fifty yards past the gate that should be padlocked, but isn’t, and the posted hours for public access to the marina, clearly disregarded.
Grimacing, Jim holsters his gun and tries to take a few calming breaths. Because it’s no big deal. It’s not. Swan’s probably… doing something Sheriff-y, and just hadn’t told him. He won’t have to shoot anybody. He’s not about to get shot. It’s okay.
And then there’s another… well, it’s not a yell for help. Definitely, definitely not asking for help.
Goddamn Emma Swan.
Before he really thinks it through, he’s marching over to the car and hammering on the window, eyes completely averted. There’s the sound of a wet, wet kiss breaking, and then a growled, “Fuck off,” that is definitely his boss’s voice, and goddamn Emma Swan.
And then it sounds like more—god, he really hopes that’s kissing—and he grits his teeth and knocks on the window again.
Honestly, if goddamn Emma Swan would just look up for two seconds, everything could be okay. But instead, there’s a click-thud, and Jim is staring at the Sheriff’s badge pressed against the window.
Her goddamn badge.
Then there’s a slimmer, darker hand sliding over Swan’s, fingers lacing between Swan’s behind the badge, and then both hands are disappearing into the dark interior of the car again and Jesus, he can’t be seeing this, this is so many county lines past appropriate—
He ducks his head and takes a deep breath and says in his best deputy voice, “Sheriff Swan.”
All the movement and sound inside the car stops, and he hears a very, very soft, “Fuck.”
“I can turn him into a toad.”
“You can’t turn my deputy into a toad, Regina.”
“What about a bunny?”
“Can you please not turn me into anything?” Jim cuts in, looking up at the sky. Not clear enough to see many stars. Pity. He’d love to look at anything but what’s available. “Sheriff, you are aware that this area is closed to the public after nine.”
“Maybe we can just ignore him and he’ll go away.”
“Or I could turn him into a bunny.”
They ignore him. He knows they’re ignoring him because he can hear the kissing sounds—is kissing always so noisy? Jesus, he hopes it’s just kissing—again. Also because neither of them says anything when he threatens towing, ticketing, arrest. Not a word. Like he’s not even there.
Jim understands the sentiment. He wishes he weren’t there, either.
He wonders how long they will ignore him before the Mayor makes good on her bunny threat. Staying human is way high on his list of goals. But so is enforcing the law and protecting the safety of Storybrooke. And the marina’s closed after nine for a reason, and Emma Swan of all people should know that reason considering she got shot for it.
But also, he doesn’t want to be a bunny.
Reluctantly, he trudges away from the car, back down the boardwalk to his cruiser, and takes five minutes to really think about what he’s doing.
And then he proceeds to write up tickets for every individual misdemeanor count he can think of, fanning them out so they’ll make a particularly pretty statement on the Sheriff’s desk. He’ll fill out a separate form for threatening an officer of the law and have it delivered to the Mayor’s office in the morning.