A/N (07.03.2014): As explained in my end note for this fic, I'm going through the entire thing to try and sort out any grammar/ spelling mistakes. I will keep some of the relevant A/Ns, but will spare you all the frequent apologies for lateness and asking you to bear with me! I know this is now a finished piece, but if anyone did want to leave a review or two still, that'd be hugely appreciated :) For those of you for whom this is your first time reading this, I really hope you enjoy!

All A/Ns from now on were written at the time of writing those specific chapters.

A/N: This is probably a bit of an odd starting point for a Once fic, given that the second season has just started, but this has been sitting unfinished on my computer for a while now and I prefer (at the moment) writing in the 'real world'.

Set during the storm.

Contains some scenes of rough play/ moderate violence, but I will put a warning in an A/N for these chapters.

"What the..."

Regina squints through the sheet of rain hammering down on the Mercedes' windshield, trying to discern the flicker of movement she's positive she'd glimpsed up ahead through the gray haze. The potential sign of life is quick to spark her curiosity, as only this morning the Sheriff's department had released a firm warning to Storybrooke's inhabitants to remain inside unless absolutely necessary; the weather report predicting the oncoming storm to be the worst in Maine's recent history.

The fact that she herself cruises through the deserted streets- at a pace no faster than if she'd been walking- is predominantly down to her increasing suspicions concerning the town's new 'stranger'; already showing promise of being just as irritating and leather-clad as their previous arrival. Driving around in the storm, she hopes to catch him at whatever his master plan may be while he is under the impression that his movements will go unnoticed. She recognises that her suspicions perhaps border a little on paranoia, but her caution has served her well in life up until now.

Deep down she supposes an additional bonus to being out in the storm is the fact that it goes expressly against said Miss Leather-Clad Annoyance's express request not to do so.

Slowing down further- despite the warning stutter the engine gives off- the Mayor leans over her steering wheel intently; dark eyes searching for the movement that originally caught her attention. A flash of lightening shocks the world silver and throws a figure up ahead into stark relief. Frowning, the Mayor coaxes the car forward in curious pursuit, rolling down the window at her side.

"What on earth are you doing, Miss Swan?"

She pulls up alongside the blonde, bathing the drenched Sheriff in the glow of her headlights. Emma slows her running; doubting that determination alone will allow her to out-sprint the stately vehicle. Shielding her face from the onslaught of rain, she frowns as Regina's lips form words inaudible over the downpour. She leans forward into the warmth of the Mercedes' interior; pale face glistening with icy moisture.


Regina rolls her eyes and resists the urge to snap at the blonde that 'pardon' is the socially appropriate response.

"I was enquiring as to your sanity, but then realized that would constitute a wasted question. What on earth are you doing galavanting around in this weather?"

Green eyes roll irritably back at her, and the Mayor finds herself momentarily transfixed by the liquid beads of rain perilously suspended on Emma's lashes.

"I'm not out here for the hell of it, Regina! My car broke down a mile or so down the road. I was making sure no one was stupid enough to go driving around in this bitch of a storm when they needn't be..."

Emma glares at her pointedly, but the darker woman bares this blatant accusation no mind.

"Clearly this backfired on you quite spectacularly, if you will allow for the small pun. I would hazard a guess that the wreckage you call a car is not the best mode of transport to be out in this 'bitch of a storm' in."

"Yeah? Well if someone hadn't cut the brakes in the cruiser..."

"I'm sure I have no idea what you are insinuating, dear."

The brunette smirks, and Emma huffs irritably in response, rubbing her hands together in an attempt to warm them. Her breath is misty in the frigid air and Regina delightedly concludes she looks a very sorry state indeed.

"What are you doing out here, anyway?"

"I had some business to attend to, but I believe I will head home to warm up now. Good day, Miss Swan."

Despite her farewell, the Mayor only goes so far as to begin rolling up her window, knowing full well that Emma has no choice but to beg her for help; the nearest residence being her own, and still only a little less than a mile away.

"Regina- Madame Mayor, wait!... Look... Do you think maybe you could drive me to a phone?"

"My dear, I'm afraid your expectations of our little town are foolishly grand if you believe the phone lines will still be operational in this weather- I trust your cell is receiving no signal?- And besides, who are you planning to call? You yourself administered the warning that everyone should stay inside..."

"Well, do you think you could give me a lift home, then... Please?"

"Oh, I don't think so Miss Swan, it's very much out of my way, and, as I seem to have to keep reminding you, the storm could be treacherous; I don't imagine Henry would be best pleased should we both die in a car crash because you were too dimwitted to rethink driving your ridiculous bug around town."

"Oh, come on! You've managed fine so far!"

Regina smirks as the younger woman growls in frustration, before Emma shoves her fists violently into her pockets and storms off down the path. Her normally bottle-blonde hair gleams sodden gold, and little wisps of fog dance above her as she puffs with cold and anger. Waiting until the younger woman has trudged a considerable distance, the Mayor slowly cruises back beside her once more, happily ignoring her murderous expression.

"Oh alright, Sheriff, get in... But do so quickly; you're getting water all over the inside of my window."

"I'm getting water all over...?!"

She turns to glare at the infuriating woman, but a clap of thunder forces her to swallow her pride and run swiftly around the car to the passenger side.

"Ah! There's a towel on the back seat, use it to cover the leather, please."

Grumbling, and feeling all the dignity of a dog, Emma throws the towel over the black leather seat before huddling into the warmth of the car; cursing under her breath at the painful chill biting deep within her limbs. Regina rolls up her window and they drive on in silence; Emma fighting the urge to sniff as she has no doubt Regina will lecture her on such a lack of femininity. As the car cruises slowly past first one, and then another logical turning point, Emma fixes the darker woman with a look of confusion.

"You could have turned in that lay-by, there was plenty of room even if you'd skidded..."

"Not that I haven't been driving for a good many years, but why would I wish to do so at all?"

"Mary Margaret's is-"

"-I know well enough where you live, Miss Swan, I am the Mayor incase you'd forgotten. However, I distinctly remember telling you I had no intention to flirt with death merely so you'd be home in time for milk and cookies."

Emma shoots her a sour look and the Mayor decides her impression as to the home-life shared by the toxic woman beside her and the dopey schoolteacher is probably pretty accurate.

How sweet.

"Where are we going, then?"

Emma asks, more for confirmation than as a question; the only nearby residence in their current direction being Regina's own.

"You'll just have to wait out the worst of the storm at my house."

"Is Henry at home?"

The blonde's eyes light up and it's Regina's turn to look sour.

"He is, yes, but he has a lot of homework he needs to do, so I would appreciate it if you'd refrain from getting him unnecessarily excited."

"He's ten! How much homework can the kid have?"

"That is something to take up with Miss Blanchard, not myself, and I wish to make the situation perfectly clear, Miss Swan; just because I have decided to take pity on you for this afternoon, does not change the way I feel about you spending time with my son. I simply don't see the town Sheriff catching pneumonia being helpful in the slightest."

"Oh, come on, like you wouldn't just love the excuse to get rid of me?"

"If you'd like to get out and walk, just say the word and I'll switch the child-lock off on your side?"

The brunette snaps irritably. Emma glares at her but keeps her mouth firmly shut. With what she hopes is unseen stealth, she quietly tries the door handle; uncomfortable in the knowledge that she is currently held hostage unless Regina sees fit to release her.

Not missing the decidedly un-stealthy panicked tugging to her right, the Mayor smirks to herself.

As the stately white mansion looms closer, Regina increases the Mercedes's speed a little too hastily; the engine worn and heated from its slow battle through the water-slick town. With a loud groan, the car stutters angrily before giving out all together.


"Nice going, Regina..."

"Says the woman who's car suffered pretty much the same fate a short while ago!"

"My fifteen year old 'wreckage of a car' skidded off the road and got stuck in a mud-clogged ditch. Your Mercedes simply got tired of your shitty driving overheating the engine!"

Regina glares at her and then down at the uselessly unlit dashboard, as if her anger will scare the car into cooperating for the last couple of hundred yards. When it becomes clear the darker woman has absolutely no intention of exiting the car unless in the shelter of her garage, Emma rolls her eyes and wrestles momentarily with her door before remembering the child-lock.

"Open up."

"I am not walking through this weather, Miss Swan!"

"Oh, quit being such a fucking princess and just let me out already! Put the car in neutral and, when I say so, take off the handbrake and give it some gas; the engine should kick over and start up again."

With the child-locks deactivated, she slides out the car and slams the door- bowing her head against the instant assault of what can now only be described as sleet- and shucks on her hood as she makes her way round the back of the car. Tapping on the back windscreen she motions impatiently for Regina to roll down her window.

"Ok, take off the handbrake."

When the car doesn't budge, no matter how hard she throws her weight against it, she curses before trudging back around to Regina's window; her breath coming out in short pants from exertion and cold.

"I can't get it to move, I don't- you still have the damn handbrake on! I just told you to take it off!"

The Mayor raises a shapely brow; taking in the Sheriff's drenched scowl with aloof disconcern.

"I didn't hear you, dear!"

"Well fucking read my lips or something then!"

"Calm down, Miss Swan, there's no need to shout..."

"Easy for you to say, you're not the one who's getting frostbite!"

"Oh, don't be so dramatic! Go back there and give me a signal or something, and I'll make sure you have more success this time with all your heroic pushing and shoving. Just don't damage my car!"

"I wouldn't dream of it, your majesty!"

She grits her teeth and stalks back around to the car's trunk; bracing her hips against the bumper in case it begins to roll, before raising a hand and giving Regina a signal to go ahead. This time, when she begins working against the car it begrudgingly submits, and eventually the Mercedes rolls forwards on the slippery tarmac as Emma continues to push; arms aching and teeth chattering. There are a few angry whines and growls, and then the engine splutters with new life and the car moves of its own accord.

Reasoning that she doesn't want to risk the vehicle giving out on her again, Regina immediately cruises towards the garage, the remote sensor starting up the large, white doors in their ascent to grant her access. The blonde watches the car drive off with what can't honestly be called disbelief at this point and pulls her coat securely round herself before marching in the direction of the Mayor's front door.

By the time she reaches the marble steps, Regina is waiting impatiently in the doorway, ready to sternly remind the Sheriff to remove her hideous boots before entering. Emma complies- inwardly thanking the fact that her balance is pretty good as she battles with the laces and buckles- before gingerly placing the boots by the front door. She begins making her way through the ample hallway, when she realises that- boots or no boots- she's still tracking water; her socks completely soaked through. Quickly removing them and balling them awkwardly into her coat pocket she stands barefoot on the mercifully heated marble; droplets of water cascading from her sodden coat and jeans to form a pool around her.

"Oh my, but you do look a state, Sheriff..."