This story was written for tinkabelle26 (killians-tinkabelle) for the 2015 CSSV gift exchange on Tumblr. What was supposed to be a one-shot spiraled out of control into a 19-chapter story. Chapters with mature content will be indicated.

Emma returned home from another particularly stressful day at work and almost didn't notice the envelope tucked under her doormat. It was one of those novelty doormats that Walsh gently insisted "real adults" didn't have, but it had been a gift from Ruby when she'd moved in two years ago. And besides, she thought it was funny; it said, "Welcome!" in large letters, and in a smaller font underneath, it said, "I hope you brought wine."

She crouched down, which was no small feat in a pencil skirt and heels while carrying three full canvas bags of groceries, grabbed the note with the only free fingers she had, and then jammed her key in the lock.

Once inside her apartment, she put away the groceries and rifled through the mail she'd grabbed on her way up. Nothing interesting: a catalog from a company whose mailing list she was reasonably sure she'd unsubscribed from, a couple pieces of junk mail, and a reminder from her apartment complex that laundry room hours were only from eight o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night because the noise from the machines was keeping neighboring tenants awake.

Emma rolled her eyes; that was completely the complex's fault. It was a large, state-of-the-art building with almost one hundred units, with laundry rooms on the first and third floors. But for some reason, they really didn't have enough machines to accommodate everyone. She was able to keep her laundry loads relatively manageable as a single woman in her late twenties. But even with one or two loads of laundry a week, she often found herself trudging back and forth with her heavy laundry basket, trying to score a machine. And there was no use trying the laundry room downstairs; if one room was completely busy, it was a guarantee that the other would be, too. Given that she was paying a fortune to live in her miniscule luxury studio, she was a little peeved that the laundry situation seemed impossible to sort out.

However, for once she was glad for the annoying flyer from the complex; it reminded her that she needed to do laundry. She'd tried the day before, but Sundays were always a crapshoot, and she'd been out of luck. If she wanted a chance at even one of the machines tonight, she needed to get to the laundry room immediately. She began pulling off her clothes as she rushed towards her dresser, quickly changing into what she considered her "laundry outfit," and tossing most of her machine-washable work clothes in the hamper.

To her dismay, even at six o'clock on a Monday evening, most of the machines in her laundry room were in use. She groaned audibly, catching the attention of the incredibly hot guy from down the hall, who was in the process of loading a washer. He grinned shyly at her before returning to his task.

Of course Hot Guy would be here, she told herself. She never bumped into him at the pool where she could show off her toned physique. Nope—he only ever saw her in sweats while she did laundry, or in an oversized T-shirt and running tights as she sweat profusely at the fitness center on the first floor. The only people who ever saw her at the pool were Slightly Crazed Looking Lady, those Short Brothers who all lived in adjacent apartments, and Off-putting Creepy Teen.

It wasn't until she got back upstairs (mercifully, there'd been one washing machine left for her to use) that she remembered the note that had been stuck under her doormat. She examined the blank envelope as she microwaved leftovers. It was the same size as a typical mailing envelope for official documents and letters, but the ivory paper was of a heavier weight. This wasn't the kind of envelope she used at her office; it was more like the kind of envelope for important, fancy letters from important, fancy people. Inside was a short, typed message, out of place on the 8.5"x11" piece of paper of the same weight as the envelope.

It is my sincerest hope that you had a lovely Monday.

With affection,
A secret admirer


She immediately grabbed her cell phone. "Ruby, you won't believe what I found under my doormat."

"Ugh, roaches? Those are super hard to get rid of. You're better off moving."

"Ew, no," she said, making a face. "I found a note from a … from a secret admirer."

Ruby snorted with laughter. "Are you serious?"

"I am completely serious."

"Is this middle school or something?"

"Right? I don't even know what to do! It's a little creepy!"

"Do you think it's from Walsh?"

"I hope not," she admitted. "This is a terrible way to say sorry, if it is. Maybe that's why it's typed, so I wouldn't recognize his handwriting." She pulled her now heated leftovers from the microwave and started looking for a clean fork. The fight with Walsh had left her in a funk all weekend and she hadn't gotten to the dishes.

"It's better than no apology at all."

"Hey," Emma said, her voice full of warning.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. At least he apologized for the fight. That's progress, right?"

"I … I guess, although it's not really an explicit apology."

"What? What does it say?"

"It just says, 'It is my sincerest hope that you had a lovely Monday.' And it's signed 'with affection.' You know, I think I'll just call him to talk to him about this."

"No, no, " Ruby said. "Honey, let's think about this. Maybe he's trying to bring the spark back into your relationship." Emma bit her tongue to avoid reminding Ruby that she had no business saying that, but then again, she'd been complaining about the lack of spark for a few months. "So you should just play along! Leave him a note in reply and see what he does."

"Hm. Maybe. I'll think about it." She dug into her dinner. "Anyway, how was your date yesterday?"

Ruby sighed. "It was just okay."

"Just okay? Was the date itself dull, or did you have sex and the sex was bad?"

"It was the date. It was okay, but I was so not attracted to her. I spent the whole time at lunch wishing I was hanging out with you guys," she explained. "Thank god Tink sent me a text an hour into the date! I lied and said my mom had gone to the hospital and that I needed to leave."

"Did your date buy it?"

"I'm not sure, but since I don't have plans to go out with her again, it doesn't really matter if she did or not." She sighed.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I guess. I'm just getting a little tired of all this, ya know? I'm not saying that I want what Mary Margaret has with David because, let's face it, that's so not me."

Emma chuckled. David and Mary Margaret could be very stereotypically Disney when it came to their relationship. But then again, sometimes she was a little envious. And she knew Ruby was a little bit, too.

Ruby continued. "I'm just not really into the whole club scene anymore. It can't be that hard to find someone who's fun to be around and who has the ability to blow my mind in bed. But it's like, either I go on dates with people I don't want to sleep with, or I sleep with people I'd never want to hang out with."

"You'll find someone, if that's something you want," Emma reassured her. "There's just a lot of trial and error."

"Easy for you to say," Ruby grumbled. "You're in a relationship."

Which was true, but it didn't really feel true.