"I need your help."
Helena closed her eyes. The voice on the other end was still as dangerously low and unconsciously seductive as the first time she’d heard it. Maybe even more so without the devastating beauty of the woman distracting her from the richness of it.
She already knew she would help, no matter what. "What can I do for you?" H.G. wasn't sure she heard correctly, but she could have sworn she heard a sigh of relief.
"I'm being framed for murder."
"Really?" Helena's raised an eyebrow. "What happened?"
There was a growl at the other end and H.G. could practically see how the woman pulled herself together and bit back a snarky comment. "A lot has happened since the last time you were here." The rich voice was quiet. "The curse was broken, Henry has left me to live with … Emma, and everything I've built is falling to pieces."
"Oh Regina, I'm so sorry about Henry." Helena focused on the important part. "I have a good idea of what that must feel like."
"I know you do," Regina said. "You always understood me quite well."
"Well, we do share a tendency to want to destroy the world when we're lost in grief ..." H.G. marveled at the fact that they could actually talk about their past acts like this. "So, who are you supposed to have killed, and how can I help?"
"Sheriff Swan and those idiots, the Charmings, think I killed Archie Hopper and --"
"They think you killed the cricket?" Helena couldn't believe it. "But you almost sort of liked him."
"Yes," Regina ground out. "However, they don't know that and apparently they somehow saw that I did it."
"But you definitely didn't?" H.G. felt she should at least ask.
"Fair question," Regina conceded, "and the answer is no, I did not kill the bug. Which is why I need you and one of your wondrous artifacts that can prove that I'm not lying." There was a pause. "I couldn't care less what the Charmings think, but I need to prove my innocence to Henry ... and--"
"To Emma?" H.G. asked gently. "How are things between you two? The last time we spoke things were just getting complicated."
Regina actually laughed. "Things between me and Sheriff Swan have always been complicated, and I'm afraid they always will be."
H.G. listened closely to her friend's voice. "But you would still like them to be less complicated, don't you? Have you ever gotten around to telling her how you feel about her?"
"Have you told Myka?" came the quick and biting retort.
"You know things are c--"
"Complicated, yes," Regina interrupted. "I know, believe me." She swallowed. "Will you help me?"
"I’ll be there as soon as possible," Helena replied, then hesitated "I might bring Myka."
"Good." This time H.G. knew what she heard was relief. "I'll be at home or in the vault."
"See you tonight."
H.G. spent the next hour at the computer in the Warehouse office looking for a lie-detecting artifact. There were a few possibilities, but ever since the “reset” of the Warehouse by way of the Astrolabe the artifacts had started to move to different places on the shelves. Her plan was to make a list of possible objects and then go to the Warehouse floor and try to find them.
“What are you doing?” Artie snarled from the door.
Helena rolled her eyes. Even after everything they had gone through, Artie couldn’t shake the suspicion from his voice. She turned around to face him and saw that he had been followed into the office by Myka, Pete, Steve, and Claudia.
“Hello, Artie,” she greeted him with a genial smile. She had promised the Regents she would behave, and behave she would. “I’m looking for an artifact." She saw Artie take a breath and continued before he could interrupt. "A friend of mine is in a bit of a pickle and asked for my help and I need--"
"You will not check out an artifact for personal use," Artie exploded. "That's not how we do things here! No matter how you did things in Warehouse 12! Wait, you have friends?"
Myka walked over to H.G. and stood slightly in front of her as if to shield her from Artie’s wrath and insensitivity. "Maybe you should let H.G. explain before you start yelling, Artie," she said calmly.
"I don't need an explanation!" Artie bellowed. "She will not take an artifact to do who knows what with it!"
H.G. looked at the ground. "I wish I knew what else I could do to prove to you that I would never do anything to hurt the Warehouse, Artie." She looked up, but he avoided her gaze. "If you don't know that by now, I fear there's not much I can do." She walked around Myka and closer to Artie. “And yes, I have a friend out there in the world. This friend is in trouble and I'm going to go and help her, with or without an artifact. Having a lie-detecting artifact would just ensure that I can help her quicker and could come back to work faster. But make no mistake, I will leave today to help my friend."
"What kind of trouble is your friend in?" Claudia asked.
"She's being framed for murder," H.G. explained. "And since she has a very ... complicated relationship with the local sheriff ..." Her eyes wandered to Myka's for a moment. "Let's just say the authorities are disinclined to believe her because of her past, a situation I'm intimately familiar with."
"She's a criminal?" Pete asked.
Helena shook her head. "It’s complicated. She has done things she's not proud of, but it's not my story to tell and I won't betray her trust."
"You will if you want to use an artifact from the Warehouse," Artie grumbled.
H.G. looked back at him. "Then I won't use an artifact. I will not betray confidences, Artie."
Steve cleared his throat. “I might not be an artifact, but I am a lie detector. You could take me.” He shrugged. "Wherever it is you're going."
"Maine," Helena said with a smile. "My friend lives in Maine."
"I've always wanted to go to Maine in winter," Myka added. "I've heard it's supposed to be really cold there this time of the year."
H.G. smiled, knowing what Myka was trying to do, and by the horrified looks on Pete's and Claudia's faces she was successful. "Yes, it can get quite chilly there."
Artie, who had been quiet for a surprisingly long time, cleared his throat. "Well then," he said. "Since it looks like you are hell-bent on going, I won't stop you." He looked at Myka and Steve. "Myka, you're going with her." He had the decency to blush at sending Myka along as a watchdog. "I will not let you take an artifact, but you can take Steve with you." He made shooing motions with his hands. "Now, go."
"I want to go too," Pete and Claudia shouted predictably and simultaneously.
"Sure, leave the Warehouse alone," Artie muttered darkly. "You can't go, you have work to do. We have a ping in Honolulu and you're leaving tonight."
Pete and Claudia did a little happy dance. "Hawaii, yeah!"
Steve gave a Artie a long look, but decided not to call him on the fact that his lie detector had just gone off. Instead he was happy for Claudia and Pete and he knew that Artie probably had some old artifact in mind for them to find there.
Myka smiled tightly. Things between her and Helena had been somewhat complicated lately and she was determined to use this opportunity to find out what was going on. She loved H.G. and for the longest time she had been certain that H.G. had felt something for her too, that they were just taking things at a glacial pace. And then ... H.G. had withdrawn, had stopped her flirting and Myka had been left confused and increasingly frustrated.
She just had to figure out a way to ditch Steve long enough to actually have a chance.
The purple smoke settled slowly as Regina Mills appeared in her bedroom. She hoped that two hours in the vault had been long enough to get the Charmings and the Blue Fairy off her front lawn and away from the house, but just to be on the safe side she had decided against materializing in the foyer.
She stayed still for a long moment, just listening to the familiar sounds of her house until she was certain that there was nothing out of the ordinary there. Only then did she straighten her jacket and open the door.
The house was indeed empty, just as she had hoped. She might have been able to deal with Emma Swan’s presence and, of course, Henry’s, but she was in no mood to deal with the other idiots more than she had to. Unfortunately, with the Sheriff now convinced that she had actually killed Archie, there was no chance of talking to her to clear things up, to try and find out what was going on.
Because, frankly, Regina had no idea and that was a scary feeling. She hated not being in control and she couldn’t wait for Helena to get here, hopefully with some way to help prove that for once she was actually innocent.
The sound of her phone wrenched her from her thoughts. She pulled it from her pocket, curious who it might be, torn between hoping to hear her son’s voice and expecting it to be Helena.
Huh. She had not expected it to be Emma Swan. “What do you want?”
“Where are you, Regina?” The Sheriff sounded harried.
“Do you really think I’d tell you?” Regina scoffed. “So you and your ... parents can come and arrest me?”
Emma didn’t say anything for a few seconds, but Regina could hear the sounds of someone walking and a door opening and closing. Then a deep breath. “Listen, Regina,” Emma said after what seemed like minutes. “I don’t know why you killed Archie, I just know what I saw.”
“I don’t know what you think you saw, Ms. Swan,” Regina interrupted icily, “but I can assure you that I did not kill Archie. Why would I? He was about the only person in this town still willing to talk to me and see my side of things.”
Emma barked out a sharp laugh. “Your side of things?”
Regina swallowed. “My side of things, yes,” she ground out. “You don’t actually think I cursed an entire land just because your mother was supposedly fairer than me or because I got bored one Friday afternoon, did you?”
“You’re right,” Emma admitted. “I don’t know everything about what made you who you are --”
“Were,” Regina muttered.
“... who you are,” Emma barked, ignoring Regina. “But I doubt anything that’s happened to you is even remotely bad enough to make what you did okay.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Regina was dismayed to realize that her voice was shaky, and not necessarily from rage. “No idea.”
“How can I?” Emma sounded almost resigned. “Nobody ever tells me anything because they all think I should have some innate knowledge of everything that happened back there. But all I know I’ve pieced together from Henry’s book, which I doubt tells the whole story, and bits and pieced Snow told me. You certainly never gave me a chance to see your side since you were too busy trying to chase me out of town or killing me.”
“I never tried to kill you,” Regina corrected quietly.
“Fine,” Emma growled. “Put me to sleep for eternity, as if that’s any better. God, this is all so fucked up.” She paused and Regina could almost see the expression on the sheriff’s face in her mind. “I really believed you, you know,” she said. “Until I saw you kill him with my own eyes I really believed you were innocent. Why did you do it?”
Emma actually sounded a little broken now, which had the effect of calming Regina down. “I have no idea who killed Archie,” although I’m beginning to have a terrible feeling about this, “but it wasn’t me.” For a second she wondered if what she was planning to say next was a good idea, but then she forged on. “If you meet me at my house tonight, alone, I’ll be able to prove it to you.” I hope.
Emma laughed bitterly. “You actually think I’ll meet you at your house alone?” She snorted again. “You actually believe my overprotective parents will let me out of their sight for more than ten minutes to visit a murder suspect?”
Regina raised an eyebrow at Emma’s caustic tone. It seemed not all was happy at Casa Charming. “You could behave like the adult you are and just do what you want. You are the sheriff still, are you not? Or has your mother managed to smother all your gumption yet?”
“Look it up.,” Regina snarled. “Really, Ms. Swan, your vocabulary is deplorable. I despair for my son’s future if that’s what he has to aspire to now.”
“He’s our son, Regina,” Emma reminded her. “And his vocabulary is just fine.”
“Anyway, in case you were actually afraid of me ... rest assured, we won’t be alone,” Regina said. “A friend of mine will be there and I’m sure you and your parents will be relieved to hear that she’s a government agent. You will be perfectly safe.” There was more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “As you would be if it were just me.”
“You have a friend who’s a government agent?” Emma was audibly surprised. “Like what? IRS or something?”
Regina chuckled, knowing the Warehouse cover story from Helena. “No. Secret Service, actually.”
“You know I won’t trust them either if they’re your friend, right?” Emma asked, although she sounded slightly impressed.
“I know,” Regina said. “But if you’re actually interested in finding out whether or not I’m guilty, you’ll show up anyway. My friend is bringing something that can detect lies.”
“I can detect lies,” Emma protested, although she didn’t sound fully convinced.
“Then your inherent ability should tell you that I was telling you the truth when you asked me about Archie, until you saw whatever it was you saw.”
“When do you want to meet?”
Regina closed her eyes in relief and breathed out, hoping that Emma couldn’t actually tell over the line. “How about 9? My friend should be here by then.”
“I’ll try,” Emma agreed. “And I’ll try to come alone, but I can’t guarantee it. You know them ...”
“I understand,” Regina said. “See you tonight.”
“Are you going to tell us more about your friend or are Steve and I going to go in blind?” Myka carefully steered the car along the icy Maine road.
Helena was startled out of her thoughts. “Whatever I tell you about her will sound unbelievable,” she said after a moment’s thought. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“Well, I can verify whatever you’re saying,” Jinks threw in from the backseat.
Myka nodded. “As for where to start ... why don’t you tell us her name and how you met her?”
“Her name is Regina Mills and she is the mayor of Storybrooke,” Helena began. “But that’s not all she is or was.”
“What does that mean?” Steve asked.
Helena turned in her passenger seat so she was facing both Myka and Steve. “Regina and everybody else in Storybrooke are not from this world,” she said quietly. “Everybody in that town is a fairytale character.”
The car swerved as Myka looked first to Helena and then at Steve for confirmation. Jinksy nodded. “She’s not lying.”
“But that’s not possible!” Myka exclaimed.
“Yet it’s true.”
“So how did they end up in the real world?” Jinks asked.
H.G. cleared her throat. “Regina cursed all of them to live forever in a land without magic, never to remember who they really are. She wanted to take their happy endings away.”
“She cursed everybody,” Myka repeated, sounding dumbfounded. “But why?”
“That’s a long story that’s not mine to tell,” H.G. answered calmly. “But yes, she did curse everybody and she’s done some other things in her past, which is why the people in Storybrooke now believe she killed one of them.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Myka muttered. “If they were cursed, they wouldn’t remember her as the bad guy, so what happened?”
“The curse was broken.”
“I don’t know,” H.G. admitted. “Regina just said that it was and now everybody remembers who they used to be.”
“That would make things quite awkward for her,” Steve quipped.
“That’s not all that’s awkward ...”
Myka shot her a look. “You mentioned that she has a complicated relationship with the sheriff?”
H.G. snorted. “That’s putting it mildly. You see, Regina adopted a child a good ten years ago and the sheriff is the boy’s biological mother. Henry ran away about a year ago to bring her to Storybrooke to break the curse. You see, the sheriff is also the White Knight, the savior ... and the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming."
Myka shook her head. “I’m having a very hard time wrapping my head around all of this,” she finally said.
“How come you know all this?” Steve asked. “I would assume she didn’t go around telling strange people about the curse.”
“I went to Storybrooke on the search for artifacts when I was first trying to get back into the Warehouse,” Helena explained. “The whole town pinged my artifact radar and I wanted to see what it was about. I don’t know why or how, but Regina and I soon recognized each other as ... kindred spirits and we got to know each other quite well.”
“How well?” Myka growled without taking her eyes of the road.
“Well enough,” H.G. replied gently. “Well enough to share our stories.” She refused to divulge more. “I’ve been back a few times, but this will be the first time I’ve gone back since the curse ended.”
“Is the shared son the only reason things are complicated with the sheriff?” Jinks asked suddenly.
Helena shot him a look. “No, it’s not,” she said. “There’s also the fact that the sexual tension between Regina and Sheriff Swan could power a small town.” Not unlike the tension between me and Myka.
“They’re a couple?” Myka asked.
H.G. shook her head. “They’re both too stubborn to admit that they feel anything but acrimony for each other, at least to each other. If asked, Regina will swear that she hates Emma Swan, and Ms. Swan will say the same thing about Regina. Yet they were sleeping with each other on a regular basis before the curse broke.”
“Ouch,” Steve said. “Hate-sex?”
“If that’s what you want to call it,” Helena agreed. “But I don’t think that’s all it is, at least not any longer.”
“But if hate is all there is from the sheriff’s side,” Myka said, “convincing her that Regina is innocent is going to be very difficult.”
“Which is why we need a reliable lie detector,” Helena agreed with a nod to Steve.
“Well, let’s hope that it’s enough to get through all the feelings between them, good or bad,” Myka mumbled.
“Yes.” Helena sighed “We’re almost there.” She fished her phone out of her pocket and speed-dialed a number. “It’s me,” she said. “We’ll be there in about 20 minutes.” She checked her watch. “Should we get rooms at Granny’s first? – Oh, okay, sure, that’s fine. – See you then.” She ended the call and stashed her phone. “We’re going straight to Regina’s house.”
Myka nodded, but her thoughts were still on Helena’s short phone call. She has her number on speed-dial?
Ten minutes later H.G. pointed at a sign by the side of the road.
Welcome to Storybrooke.