Whitaker Lapin was terribly, terribly nervous.
It had been one of those days where everything had seemed so mixed up for him, he wanted to go home and lock the doors and windows. Just crawl into his bed, in a nest of blankets, and not move until he was absolutely sure that nobody outside remembered who he was. Maybe for the rest of winter. He could reappear in the spring.
That morning, he'd gone to the hearing with Govinda, and he'd stood there for three hours while the judge told him that they didn't have a case. Which seemed silly, because Govinda had very clearly prepared an excellent case. And all of the legal evidence was in their favour.
But things like legal evidence never mattered in Storybrooke. Particularly if you were trying to make a claim against the city - something no one had ever successfully done.
In the end, there had been a kind of stalemate. Govinda requested a new judge. Whitaker was certain that whoever they got next was going to be much worse. He also didn't care if they won or not, and would not have been inclined to come back and testify at all had Govinda not made the I-will-kill-you-and-nobody-will-stop-me face at him in the courtroom.
The entire ordeal had left him feeling anxious, but it hadn't been so bad. Then he'd gone to work, and even though he'd gotten permission to miss the morning, he still had to put up with the fact that all of the easy jobs had been signed onto by the other drivers. So he had to spend the afternoon delivering incredibly heavy things to very irate people.
"Come along to the debate," Will had suggested over the phone, "I'm sure it'll make you feel better about your life. After all, things could be worse. You could be running for sheriff."
Whitaker knew that the actual reason was because none of their other friends were going to be at the Town Hall, and Will hated going to events without someone to listen to his witticisms. But the witticisms were usually amusing, and he thought that it might help to distract him from how high-strung he'd been all day.
And then, he found himself sitting right beside Mr. Gold while Deputy Swan stood at the podium and told everyone about the bomb. The one that Mr. Gold had planted to give her an edge in the local elections.
He was sitting next to a man who planted bombs.
This alone would have been enough to cause a sharp rise in panic, but the fact of the matter was that Mr. Gold owned part of his house. Sort of. Whitaker lived on the plot of land closest to the highway, on the turn into Woodedge Road. Through some error of zoning or lack of correct building clearance or some other failure of bureaucracy, it turned out that a large piece of the forest that had been purchased by Mr. Gold overlapped the area of land where Whitaker's house had been built. But because of this strange zoning quirk, it worked out that Mr. Gold had a claim only to a sliver of the property, but that sliver lined up directly with one half of Whitaker's house.
If you took a paintbrush, and painted a line right through the middle of his living room, you could choose to stand on the side that Whitaker owned or the side that Whitaker rented.
So Whitaker was actually sitting next to his landlord.
Who planted bombs.
Mr. Gold himself had always brought to his tenant's mind a curious little poem, that he could never recall the origin of:
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
It was an odd verse, but it seemed to fit.
Presumably because he was tired of being publicly accused of arson, or because he'd become bored, Mr. Gold got up and left. And neither of the candidates running for sheriff, one of whom was still held the position of deputy, attempted to detain him. Despite the highly public charges.
"Do you want to go try a citizen's arrest?" Will whispered, "I hear they're quite manageable if you outnumber the suspect…"
When Whitaker's response to the attempt at humour was to look like he was going to faint, Will reconsidered his approach.
"Or we can sit here and try not to panic-vomit," He suggested with a nod, "Yes. Let's do that."
After her revelatory speech, Deputy Swan left the podium.
It didn't look like she was planning to return.
"So… is there not going to be a debate now?" A woman in the row behind them wondered.
"I guess it's just opening statements? Nobody's going to talk about policy?"
"Should we go vote? Or… does Sidney get to give his closing statement?"
The murmurs of confusion filled the town hall, and on the stage Dr. Hopper and Sidney Glass seemed equally at a loss for what should be done. In the thick of the conversations, as he started to feel less nervous and more like himself, Whitaker had one of his little epiphanies.
"I'm going to vote for her." He announced, quite clearly, so that everyone in his vicinity shot him questioning glances.
"Yes, I suppose I am, too." Will nodded.
"Even if there is a closing statement, I've heard all I need to hear. Yes, she made a mistake, but who hasn't? And she tried to make amends. And she's not afraid of Mr. Gold because she hasn't lived here long enough to know why she should be. That could be nice. A sheriff who doesn't care about town politics, but who cares about the law? Who uses moral discretion instead of the other kinds of discretion?" Whitaker went on, a few people he didn't know listening and nodding along, "My goodness gracious, I think that sounds rather refreshing!"
"Here, here, old boy!" Will stood up and straightened himself out, "To the ballot boxes! Before you change your mind!"
As Whitaker stood to go along with his friend, he looked through the crowd at the back of Regina's head. She seemed to be saying something to her son, and hadn't heard his little speech. For that, he was immensely relieved.
There was something about the woman that compelled Whitaker to fear her, in the way that he feared all imposing figures, but also to love her a tiny bit. Not in an infatuated way, or a passionate way, but in the way that comes about when you feel you understand the saddest thing about a person. He had a soft-spot for her, even when she was at her coldest, and even when he was most convinced that of all of the people who could kill him on a whim, she was the deadliest.
Of late, though, he had found himself mysteriously inclined to challenge her power. Something that was well beyond his normal comfort-zones. It was a rebellious inclination. The only one he'd ever really had.
But part of him had felt, ever since they fixed that old clock tower, that he needed to start moving. And he had also felt, with an equal suddenness, that it was his duty to help in the election of new city officials. For very strong reasons that were completely outside of his grasp. It all tied into his theories on harmless insanity, and the folie à plusieurs of the night they went to get the piece of glass from the mine.
A little madness kept a man balanced. A lot of madness, quite naturally, did the opposite.
"Remind me to tell Theodora that Dr. Hopper's joke fell completely flat," Will said as they made their way to the poling station in the next room, "She'll be pleased to hear it."
"Just because she doesn't like the man doesn't mean she'll revel in his failures…"
"Not publicly, no. But she'll get some satisfaction out of it, I'm sure."
"Are you registered?" Asked a disinterested young woman, sitting at one of the collapsible community event picnic tables. It had been covered in a table cloth that was probably from a Fourth of July a few years earlier. She had the list of voters, and next to her was the ballot box and a young man with white earphones in.
Small town politics and small town volunteers.
"William Meade. M-E-A-D-E." People had a strangely difficult time spelling his last name. They never seemed to be able to correctly guess how many E's there were or where the A might go, if it went anywhere at all.
"Whitaker Lapin. Whitaker is the first name. Lapin is the last."
"L-A-P?" The girl asked, scanning the list with her finger.
"Did Govinda vote yet? Do you know?" Will asked, recalling the last nightmare of having to stand there while Govinda spelled his name, and was asked what it meant and where he was from, only to find that the form had misspelled Jadhav to begin with. So he was forced to provide identification with proof of residency before they'd let him vote for members of the school board.
"I don't think he's bothering. Neither is Ada, of course. I suppose the one thing they can agree on right now is civic apathy," Whitaker shrugged, as he was handed his paper ballot and pointed to another table nearby. It had been separated into makeshift booths with cardboard partitions, and in between the partitions were cups with ballpoint pens in them, "Theodora voted this afternoon."
"Who for?" Will grinned.
Whitaker glanced around as other voters begin checking in at the registration table, and he lowered his voice, "Let's just say that for all of her grumbling, she isn't willing to see what a new editor-in-chief would be like."
The ballot was simple. Printed in black and blue and grey. An explanation that the vote was to determine who would hold the office of sheriff until the next election, and so on and so on. Mark an X in the box beside the name of your candidate of choice. Do not mark an X on any other portion of the ballot, or the ballot is considered invalid.
Then the two names.
Whitaker's hand trembled when he took the pen. This was it.
Will you, won't you? He asked himself. Oh, will you? Oh, won't you? Will you, won't you, will you, won't you take the chance?
He marked the X.
Then he carefully folded the piece of paper as instructed.
Without looking for Will, to see if he was still making up his mind or had gone to mingle with someone from the crowd, Whitaker took his completed ballot to the box. He showed it to the boy who was listening to music, as he was required to do, and submitted it.
It was done.
He had successfully cast his vote for Emma Swan, and he smiled as he walked away. It was the small battles, the things that were done by everyday people, that helped to win the wars.
"Stick to your guns?" Will asked, walking alongside him with his hands in his pockets.
"First time I've ever had any guns to stick to." Whitaker laughed, because he felt very light of heart.
"Not speaking strictly as your friend, just as an observer, there are times when it's very encouraging to know you."