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Open Your Heart

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He wasn’t a stalker.

Yet.

But August couldn’t help but be drawn to wherever Sheriff Swan was in town. She didn’t always follow the same route everyday; she mostly divided her time between the Sheriff’s office and breaks in Granny’s café.

He did enjoy their daily banter though; whenever she happened upon him. He tried getting her to talk more about herself, but she was so guarded he couldn’t understand why. Finally, he realized instead of asking her, the best thing he could do was ask her friends.

It also gave him a chance to interact more with the people of Storybrooke; no doubt, most of them already had ‘ideas’ and theories about his purpose in town.

His first stop was her roommate, Mary Margaret Blanchard.

He found her act at the school, grading some papers, sitting on a bench in the playground. August smiled, striding confidently towards her. She glanced once up at him and then did a double-take.

“It’s you,” she exclaimed.

“And I am here,” he finished, “If you have a moment, Ms. Blanchard, there’s something I want to discuss with you,”

“Well,” Mary Margaret started, surprised as he sat down opposite her. “What was it that you wanted to discuss?”

“Your roommate, Emma Swan,” he said.

Mary Margaret blinked. “What about her?”

“I was wondering if there was a reason why she’s so ‘closed off’. Did something happen to her to make that way?”

Mary Margaret hesitated. Emma was her friend and confident; she didn’t want to betray her trust.

August leaned forward, “I’m not here to hurt her,” he added, “I’m only concerned, Ms. Blanchard. Miss Swan interests me but I’m not…”

“You’re not?”

He stopped himself. “I just want to know how I can ‘reach her,’” he said.

“Emma wasn’t always the sheriff of Storybrooke; there was someone else. He and Emma, they had a special connection but he was also tied to Regina, things got complicated and Graham died suddenly. That closed off feeling is probably because Emma wants to protect herself from getting hurt again,”

“She was close to Graham,” August observed.

“She cared about him; Emma barely speaks about Graham now but I know his death affected her,” Mary Margaret continued, “She doesn’t let too many people get close to her but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a heart, and hearts can be broken,”

“I’m not here to hurt Emma,” he reminded her.

Mary Margaret smiled, putting her grade book away and shuffling her papers. “I know that but you still have a mysterious agenda none of us know about,” she said, “but I warn you, if Emma gets hurts in the process, I hope you get out of town quick,”

~~

Doctor Hopper’s office was his next stop. “Doctor Hopper, I was hoping I would catch you before your lunch break. I wanted to get your professional insight on a personal subject,” he said.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Hopper inquired.

August smiled. “Are you seriously the only person in town who hasn’t heard about my arrival? The man with the box? I came to town on a motorcycle,” he said, honestly bewildered that even the town psychologist didn’t know about his presence in Storybrooke.

“The stranger,” he said finally, “What was it that you wanted my personal insight on? If it’s a patient I’m seeing, I can’t talk to you about that,”

“She’s not a patient,” August said quickly, “but you have interacted with her and I was wondering if maybe you can clear up a few things for me,”

“Who?”

“Our dear Sheriff Swan,” he said, “I just came from talking with Miss Blanchard at the school about her roommate. She said that Emma has most likely been traumatized by the death of the town’s previous sheriff,”

Archie shrugged. “What do you want to know sir?” he asked, suddenly getting annoyed by this interrogative dance.

“Emma won’t talk to me about why she’s closed off; I thought I would take it upon myself to figure out what I can do to fix her -- ‘connecting with people problem,’” he said.

Archie smiled, removing his glasses. “You think Emma has a ‘people’ problem?” he laughed.

“What else would it be?” he wondered.

“If anyone has a people problem, it’s Regina. Not Emma,” Archie mused, “What did miss Blanchard say about her?”

August shrugged. “She mentioned Graham,” he said.

“Graham,” Archie whispered, “He had been Storybrooke’s Sheriff for as long as anyone could remember. He also, apparently, had been sleeping with Regina,”

“Is that why she doesn’t talk about him? Because he was sleeping with the enemy?”

“That, I can’t say for sure,” Archie continued, “Emma never really talked to anyone after Graham died. She was the last person with him before he died, though,”

August smiled, extending his hand to Archie. “Thank you Doctor Hopper, your insight on this matter has been most helpful,” he said, turning to walk away.

“So, I suppose you’re going to see Henry next,” he said, “He is her son after all,”

~~

Lucky for the stranger, Regina’s car was not parked up front of the Mills’ house when he arrived there. But he saw Henry’s bike in the drive way, prompting him to knock on the front door.

“Hello?” Henry said, the 10-year-old clearly confused about why the stranger was there. “Can I help you with something?”

“I was wondering if I could talk to you about your mom,” August started.

“Regina?”

“Your other mom, Emma,”

Henry sighed, glancing outside to see if anyone was watching them before stepping outside. “I’d let you inside but no strangers allowed inside the house,” he said, and August smiled at the irony. “What do you want to know about Emma?”

“I’m making the rounds today, trying to figure out how I can help Emma break out of her shell. Doctor Hopper mentioned you,”

“I brought her to Storybrooke,” the boy piped, “My adopted mom, Regina, is kind of a witch,”

August smiled. “All little boys say that their mothers are too strict,” he teased, “What makes yours different?”

Henry stared blankly at him. “Have you met my mother?” he cried. August shook his head. “Well, be glad you haven’t incurred her wrath. She’s the reason why Graham died; she killed him,”

“I’m sorry, your mother, the mayor killed the sheriff?” August questioned.

Henry hesitated before continuing. “Graham was getting close,” he whispered.

“Close to Emma?”

“No, close to remembering his past life,” he said, looking around once again to make sure no one was watching. “I shouldn’t be talking to you long; my mom has eyes everywhere,”

Before August could thank him, Henry stepped inside the house and shut the door behind him.

~~

Mr. Gold’s shop was his last stop. He wasn’t a friend of Emma’s but he wasn’t exactly her enemy either. From what he understood of their relationship, it wasn’t anything. She came to him when she needed something and apparently, she owed him some kind of favor.

“Hello?” he inquired, walking into the shop, filled with different trinkets and peculiar antiques.

Gold emerged from the back, surprised to see him but quickly regained his composure. “What can I do for you?”

“My sources tell me you are a very enigmatic fellow, Mr. Gold,” August started.

“Apparently, so are you,”

“I heard about your ‘unusual’ relationship with Sheriff Swan and I was wondering if I maybe I could ask your advice about how to solve her ---“ August stopped himself, trying to think of a different way to phrase Emma’s problem. “Getting close to people, problem,”

Gold laughed. “Emma Swan is a complicated woman, as most women often are,” he said, “Sheriff Swan and mine’s ‘unusual’ relationship as you call it, doesn’t necessarily make us close friends. I think Emma would run to Doctor Hopper’s office first before admitting that we’re friends,”

August smiled. “So what do you think her problem is?” he wondered.

“From what I understand, she’s had a hard life. Her parents abandoned her, which probably resulted in her inability to get close to anyone; the one time she almost…allowed herself to feel anything didn’t happen until Henry brought her town,” he surmised, “but I’m not a doctor. That’s only my own view of the woman,”

“What about Graham?”

“Our dearly departed Sheriff Graham had a crush on Miss Swan. It was apparent to Regina, Graham and everyone else but Emma, who refused to allow herself to fall for him,” Gold said, “which is probably why Emma doesn’t talk about him that much,”

“Thank you Mr. Gold for your insight,” he offered, walking out of the store.

~~

Deconstructing Emma’s ‘people’ problem was very educational; August learned more about what made Emma tick than in the moments he spent with her during his stay in town. He wasn’t being stalkerish, merely curious.

He was still pleasantly surprised to see Emma pull up just behind him at The Well. She looked somewhat annoyed as she got out of her car and stared coldly at him.

“Sheriff Swan, what do I owe this pleasure?” he asked. “Are you stalking me now?”

She smiled bitterly, “No, but it seems like you’re stalking me,” she retorted, taking out her cell phone. “After you left the school, Mary Margaret sent me an interesting text message, saying you were there asking about me. Then, I got an interesting voice mail from Archie, saying the same thing. Not too soon after, Henry calls me on my walkie talkie and tells me that you showed up at his house, wanting to speak with him about me?”

August raised an eyebrow. “Did Mr. Gold leave you a message too? Because I just came from his shop,” he joked.

“I didn’t,” she seethed, crossing her arms, “So am I to understand that you’ll talk to my friends about – how did you phrase it with Archie? – my connecting with people problem—but you won’t speak directly to me about it?”

August removed his gloves. “Well, you are a difficult person to talk to when it comes to talking about yourself,” he observed.

“Maybe that’s because I don’t entirely trust you, or am wary of your purpose here in town,” she defended.

He smiled, walking closer towards her, raising a finger. “See, there’s that word again – trust. You know what I learned today, while I was going around talking to your friends, Emma? You have a trust problem,” he said,

“I have a trust problem?” she retorted, “I don’t have trust issues, but I think you might have a stalker problem!”

“That varies depending on your point of view,” he observed.

“My point of view is that you are a stalker and the next time you come around Henry, unannounced, I will make sure your access to places in town is restricted,”

August frowned but was slightly amused by Emma’s defensiveness; he also observed that she was very pretty when she was angry.

Emma didn’t say anything further, stalking back towards her car.

“Is it Graham?” he asked, making her freeze in place, her hand inches away from the door handle. “It is, Graham, isn’t it?

She turned to him. “How do you know about Graham?”

He shrugged. “His name popped up a few times today,” he said, “but I think your problem goes all the way back to your parents abandoning you,”

Emma stalked closer towards him. “Okay, we’re done here,” she snapped, starting back towards the car.

“When are you going to get it through your thick head that was out of your control?” he asked, “I don’t want to presume anything about your past but it seems to me, that is the heart of why you won’t allow yourself to get close to people. Except for Henry, who you are understandably attached to and very protective of,”

Emma turned around again, hurt written all over her face. “You know nothing about my past or what must have been going through my parents’ minds,” she cried.

August sighed. His intention wasn’t to upset her but clearly he had. “I’m sorry,” he offered.

“My personal life, whatever demons they might be, they’re mine and you have no place, trying to fix them,” she said.

“I would like to help you, Emma, if you let me,”

“You want to help me?!” she shouted, “Quit poking your nose around my life and trying to fix me!”

“You really have some serious trust issues, Emma,” he said.

Emma stepped foreword unexpectedly, slapping him hard across the face.

Instead of glaring at her and perhaps, slapping her back, August pulled her close towards him and kissed her. Emma wanted to pull away but his grip was too tight. After a moment, Emma relaxed somewhat, moaning softly in his mouth; August smiled. Only then, did she manage to get away from him.

Then, the second slap.

“You have some nerve!” she screamed, still very flustered from the kiss.

“Okay, I might have deserved that slap that time” he admitted.

What was up with random guys wanting to kiss her in the middle of arguments? she wondered.

“You intrude in my life, you won’t tell me anything more about your purpose in town, you stalk me and then you kiss me?!” she continued to yell.

“First of all,” he started, checking his lip for blood. There wasn’t any but it was very sore. “You liked that kiss; I heard you moan,”

“I didn’t moan,” she denied, “If I did, it’s because you were intruding in my personal space,”

August grinned mischievously. “No, that wasn’t ‘Oh my God, he’s invading my personal space!’ That was a “Oh my God, he’s a good kisser!’ moan,”

“So now you think you know what’s in my heart – and in my head?”

He shrugged. “The heart and the head don’t always agree,” he said, “I think you’re head is insulted that I kissed you, but your heart, enjoyed it,”

“I think you’re delusional,” she spat.

“Am I?” he continued, “In fact, I think if I kissed you again, you’d welcome it,”

“Well, you’re wrong there,” Emma retorted, “And for your information, I don’t appreciate guys randomly kissing me during an argument,”

He smiled. “Is that what happened with Graham? He kissed you while you were arguing?” he asked.

Emma rolled her eyes. “Okay now, we are seriously done here,” she said.

August’s grin widened. “Your blushing deep red right now, Miss Swan,” he observed.

“If I am it’s because you’re insufferable,” she said, “You…”

“I what?” he interrupted, walking closer towards her again. “Come on, Emma. I know you liked that kiss. Look at you, you’re so flustered right now and it isn’t because I’m right here in front of you,”

“You think I’m hot for you?” she said bluntly, “God, you are so ----“

Before she could say another word, August kissed her again. Emma wasn’t as combative as before but was certainly more responsive to the second kiss, breathing deeply, her cheeks becoming even redder. She even felt shaky in his arms.

As soon as his lips left hers, August wanted to kiss her again but thought better of it, loosening his grip around her. Emma faltered in her step and he helped steady her.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself again,” he apologized.

“Yeah, that seems to be happening a lot with you,” she shot back, still trembling.

He smiled, brushing loose strands of blonde curls away from her face. “So, do I warrant another slap?” he asked.

She studied him a moment, not wanting to admit that the second time was more pleasurable than the first. The kiss was more pleasurable, not that she didn’t enjoy slapping him twice.

“I think I need to leave, for real this time” she said, walking towards her car.

“Are you sure you should drive in that condition?” he called after her.

“What condition? You think I can’t drive straight because your kiss affected my motor skills?” she retorted.

He shrugged. “You were trembling in my arms,” he said, grabbing the extra helmet on his bike. “Come on, hop on. I’ll get you back to town; you can pick up your car later,”

“I’m not getting on that motorcycle again,” she seethed.

“Why? Because you’re afraid you’ll force me to stop somewhere and ravage me?” he teased, “Not that I wouldn’t mind if you did right now,”

Emma only glared at him.

“Okay, no more jokes and no more teasing,” he promised.

Emma hesitated, then put her key away, walking towards the bike, grabbing the extra helmet from his hands, put it on and got on the bike behind him. She leaned forward slightly. “For your information, your kiss did not affect me in that way,” she whispered, “And I swear, if you ever pull anything like that again, I’ll do more than slap you twice,”

He shrugged. “Oooh, now, I’m very intrigued about what that might be,”

“Shut up and drive,” she ordered.

August sighed, turning on the engine and as he did so, Emma felt herself flustered again and somewhat amused. To think he would go through all this trouble, just to kiss her – twice. It was actually kind of sweet.

The End