Thanks for reading, lovelies! This is my first piece of fanfiction, so I hope you enjoy! My plan is to update weekly, but I would probably update more quickly if people are interested!
Emma Swan's ancient yellow Bug sputtered to a stop as the gates to Storybrooke Preparatory Academy swung inward. She couldn't help the drop of her jaw as the wrought iron revealed twisting cobblestone roads, thick skyward-reaching pine trees, and an impressive castle of a private school, its shadow swallowing her Bug.
Her mouth went dry. What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Maybe she would have turned around then and there and placed a call to be relocated as a long-term substitute elsewhere. However, a school bus beeped at her from behind. Startled, her foot fell off the brake, bringing her closer to the monster of an academy. She weaved along the cobblestones, realizing that what she had originally perceived to be a single building was in fact a series of old limestone fronts with bubbled glass windows and wooden doors.
"How am I supposed to find the teacher's lot?" she grumbled. "And the principal's office."
She steered with her knee, hands fumbling with the stack of papers she'd thrown half in her briefcase before departing late from her apartment.
It is Monday, she chastised herself. She should have gotten up sooner, but this was her first substitute gig in a week, and she'd grown fond of her bed in her free time.
"Better yet, you could have looked for the map in all that paperwork before signing it," she said. "Then you could have called and asked why of all places they decided to send you into this god awful maze."
As if the school took pity on her, a sign appeared as she turned the corner, pointing her toward the faculty lot. She parked, shuffled all of the paperwork into her briefcase, aside from the crumpled map, and locked her doors behind her. She glanced at her watch and saw it was minutes until 7:15 am. With classes starting at 7:45, she was sure to be late, and if not late, frazzled in front of her first class.
But there were worse things, she supposed, like continuing to be unemployed as the money from the music she'd sold continued its descent into obscurity. She shook the thought out of her head and all of the ones that came with it. Pulling her long, blonde hair off of her sweaty neck and into a ponytail, she navigated inside the largest of the buildings and in the direction of principal's office.
The hallways smelled like wood varnish with the hint of mildew as she turned down the hallway that led her to the principal. Her hands grew sweatier as the windows shrank. She decided if she were a kid at Storybrooke Prep, she would probably do her best to keep from being sent to this dungeon.
At last, she reached the end of the hall and nudged open the surprisingly modern glass door that took her into a receptionist's space.
A woman with blonde hair swept up into a bun on the top of her head and tiny features smiled up at her. "How can I help you?"
"Uh, I'm Emma Swan, the long-term substitute for Mary Margaret Blanchard." She fumbled through her paperwork, searching for the page with her signature.
With a tinkering laugh, the woman stopped her. "Hold on. I'll let Dr. Mills know you're here. You can have her verify your paperwork."
"Thanks." Emma quirked a smile at the smaller woman who was, she couldn't help but note, quite cute.
"Dr. Mills, an Emma Swan is here to see you about Mrs. Blanchard's position," the receptionist said as she pushed the speakerphone button on her desk phone.
"Send her in."
The three words uttered were cold, harsh. Emma's heart pitter-pattered a little faster in her chest. The last principal she'd worked under at Storybrooke Middle School, Mr. Hopper, had been absent-minded and bumbling, but never unkind.
"Go on," the receptionist urged as Emma stood clutching her briefcase close to her person. "She doesn't like to wait."
That had Emma moving, tripping over her feet in her haste to make an entrance. She practically fell into the principal's office, a hair's breadth from toppling over Dr. Mills, herself. Emma straightened, started to move back into her own bubble of personal space, but suddenly forgot how to move.
Dr. Regina Mills was the finest female specimen she'd ever seen, and she smelled like apples. From thick brunette hair and striking bourbon eyes to olive skin and toned body, she left Emma's already unbalanced legs even weaker. And were those slight laugh lines she detected around the other woman's plump mouth? She wanted to lean forward and find out.
"Miss Swan, are you quite all right?" the principal asked flatly, her body stiff from Emma's intrusion.
She gave under her glare and shrunk back. "Ms. Mills, I apologize."
"It's Dr. Mills," the woman responded, frowning. "I believe you have some paperwork for me?"
"Uh, yes, of course." Emma returned to thumbing through her paperwork, cringing at every crease she saw. She could feel the principal's gaze raking over her, and her face heated under the scrutiny.
"Here." She thrust the untidy bundle in the direction of the perfectly put together woman.
Dr. Mills accepted the papers with a wrinkle of her nose. She took a half-seat on her huge and immaculate desk as she glanced through it. Emma found herself wishing she could be that desk, if even for half a second. As soon as the thought passed through her head, she banished it.
But not before she felt herself grow even redder.
What the hell is wrong with me? I don't even know this woman and worse yet, she's my boss. Get it together, Swan.
Not to mention there was an undefined but definite age difference between the two of them.
She straightened her shoulders, which served to remind her of the fact she'd dressed in khakis, a short-sleeved V-neck, and a vest that when paired with her Converse screamed, "Hey, can you tell I'm a lesbian." Meanwhile, the principal across from her wore a tight-fitting lilac dress, blazer, a thick black watch cuff on her wrist, and dark pumps that accentuated her femininity. And those long muscular legs…
Emma averted her gaze.
"Everything seems to be in order," Dr. Mills said. She placed the paperwork on her desk and slid it as far away from her person as possible. "But let us go through a few pieces of vital information. Miss Swan, are you aware of our dress code?"
"I-I'm not. I apologize."
"You're expected to be in business casual dress daily. Casual Fridays do not exist here at Storybooke Preparatory. If you do not have the proper attire, go out and buy it." She shifted on her desk, crossing her arms. "In addition, you are to have no visible tattoos."
Emma grabbed her left wrist subconsciously. "You saw that?"
"Your little flower?" Dr. Mills asked. "Indeed I did, dear, when you handed me your paperwork."
Emma took a moment to be impressed. Principal Mills had master skills when it came to checking someone out. She could take a note from Regina's book, instead of freezing up and drooling over the older woman as her first impression.
"You'll wear long sleeves in the future, yes? Or apply a little cover up." Dr. Mills examined her face, no doubt taking in the fact that Emma applied no make-up and had a pimple starting at her hairline.
"Of course I will."
"Excellent. Now I do assume you've briefed yourself on what you'll be teaching."
"Literature," Emma said, "6th to 9th grade. My specialty in college. I mean, I can't write for anything, but I like to read."
Regina's sculpted eyebrows rose higher and higher as Emma rambled.
"Anyhow," she said when Emma trailed off, "the lessons are prescriptive for the remainder of the semester. Mrs. Blanchard at least accomplished that much before taking her leave. Do not deviate from the lessons she left. Our learning outcomes adhere to our Board of Trustees' expectations. If you do not teach what the children are expected to learn, then we do not open our doors."
Emma nodded her understanding.
Regina reached behind herself and handed her a crisp sheet of paper. "Here is your schedule. Please…" Her eyes drifted to Emma's messy briefcase. "…Try not to lose it. I'll escort you to your classroom. We haven't much time before classes start."
She followed Principal Mills out of her office, past the smiling receptionist, and back into the dank hallway. She practically had to run after the smaller woman, Regina took such long, powerful strides.
She glanced at her watch. They had only 5 minutes until classes began. She would have no time to scope out the teacher's lounge for some much needed caffeine, no time to stow her lunch, and no time to prepare.
Dear god, don't let Regina stay and watch first period, she begged.
They turned down several hallways, the number of students thinning as time ticked by, went up a flight of steps to the stuffy second floor, and stopped at the first door on the left. Principal Mills placed a hand on the doorknob.
"I will be stopping in periodically to check on your performance," she said. "There is more we will need to cover, so you can expect me back on your planning period. Until then, I do hope you will manage."
She gave Emma a look that offered little faith in her teaching abilities before swinging the door open. She strolled inside, high heels punishing the hardwood floor. Emma shuffled in behind her.
The classroom, which was filled to capacity with boisterous sixth graders, went silent as their principal took command. Emma stood off to the side, steadying herself by touching the wooden desk that would be hers for the remainder of the semester. She noted a single empty seat right across from where she would be sitting. Aside from that, dozens of curious eyes fixed on her.
She couldn't help it. She grinned at them. Several smiled back, some more tentatively than others.
"Who's that?" one brave kid asked from the back.
"If you'll remember," Regina said, voice terse, "Mrs. Blanchard is out on maternity leave for the end of the semester. In her place, we have Miss Swan. You will give her the same respect that you would give me."
She let her words sink in as she surveyed the now silenced preteens.
"She will report any misbehavior directly to me, and I have encouraged her to send any discipline issues straight to my office. Is that understood?"
There were 19 nods from the principal's audience. Only the empty seat gave no response.
"Very well. Miss Swan, I leave them in your hands."
With a curt nod in Emma's direction, the principal crossed the classroom. Her hand fell on the door to exit when it swung open in her face. An out-of-breath boy raced into the room, his backpack bouncing behind him.
"Henry," the principal exclaimed.
The boy turned surprised eyes up to her. "Mom!"
Mom? The idea of Dr. Mills as a mother didn't mesh with the mental image Emma had created of the older woman.
"Why are you coming to class late?" Regina asked, and Emma took a moment to appreciate how stunned the principal seemed, a small fact that made her infinitely more human.
"I'm—" The bell went off. "—not late." He slid into the empty seat across from Emma's desk.
"We'll talk about this later," the principal said, eyes flicking from her son, to Emma, and back again.
When Henry didn't reply, she stalked out without another word.
"Wow," Emma said, unable to keep from chuckling. "That was a close one."
Henry beamed up at her, about as innocent as a raccoon caught in the trash. A wave of laughs made their way through the classroom, and the tension that Regina left behind dissipated.
"Okay then," Emma said, clapping her hands and moving into the space Dr. Mills had previously occupied. "I know we're supposed to be passing out Hatchet by Gary Paulsen today—and we'll get to that. But let's do a round of introductions first, shall we?"
In the back of her head, the warning the principal had given her to stay on track echoed. She ignored it as she allowed her first student, Adam Gold, to take it away.
You might own this school, Regina, she thought, but you don't own me.