Title: Never Had a Friend Like Me (2/?)
Disclaimers: Everything belongs to ABC, Disney, the creators, yada, yada. The title is of course inspired by the name of a song from Disney's "Aladdin".
Summary: Emma and Regina find it necessary to preserve the fiction that they're romantically involved. Just as long as it stays fiction – right?
Spoilers: After 1x08, "Desperate Souls". Random specific events that took place after 1x08 are also present, but the main storyline is vastly different from the final 14 episodes of Season One. Sequel to my first story, "Be Our Guest".
Regina slid the book across the desk without speaking at first.
Sidney looked down at it. "Why, Regina you shouldn't have," he said blandly.
"Come off it, Sidney," she retorted. "You always knew your leave of absence from the Mirror would be temporary."
"Of course. No one else in this town is qualified to run it. Present company excluded, naturally."
She narrowed her eyes at him. He wasn't usually this sarcastic with her. He was behaving more like the Magic Mirror than he had in a while. "Then what's your gripe?"
"My gripe is that you blamed me for losing the Sheriff's race," Sidney told her. "As if I had anything to do with the outcome of the election. The whole thing was a referendum on you and Mr. Gold, and you knew it. A vote for Emma Swan was a vote against the two of you. So you took it out on me."
He did have a point. It wasn't like anything he did or might have done would have altered the outcome. "Fine. I apologize if I was cross with you. Happy now?"
Sidney blinked. "Um, well, that is, yes – "
"Good then. The Book."
He looked down again, evidently having forgotten it was there. "What about it?"
"I need you to find out who wrote it, where it was published, everything."
"But . . . " Sidney paused. "So it's self-published? Nothing inside the front cover at all?"
"See for yourself," she said. "Without going into details about my personal life, that Book put some very destructive ideas in Henry's head. Ideas that greatly damaged my relationship with my son. And I'm relatively certain that Mr. Gold commissioned it. I do know that I've traced it as far back as when it was purchased in his pawnshop by Miss Blanchard."
"Mr. Gold?" he asked, surprised. "Why would he do such a thing?"
"Why exactly?" she echoed.
The more she'd thought about it, the more troubled she had become. The Book itself had always bothered her. The events detailed within were a very accurate portrayal of actual events in the Enchanted Forest. Simplified, yes, and conforming to a child's view that the world is neatly divided between good and evil, but still accurate. Admittedly, not long after arriving in Storybrooke, Regina had been surprised to discover that "fairy tales" about Snow, Rumplestiltskin, Cinderella, et cetera, had been long popularized in this world. Even now she didn't know how the real-life stories of the Forest had made their way into this plane's world literature, but she supposed the authors had glimpsed her world in their dreams.
Still, THOSE stories were bastardized versions that got some parts wrong and left out others altogether. That they actually suggested Regina tried to have Snow killed out of pure vanity had trivialized the real reasons. But the Book was MUCH more accurate. Which suggested it had been written by someone with firsthand knowledge of the Forest, perhaps even by someone who still had their memories. On the other hand, it could always have been written BEFORE the Curse. Many books and artifacts and trinkets crossed over with the Curse, looking exactly as they had before.
Gold's involvement, plus that final page, however, had left her disturbed. Because the ludicrous suggestion that Emma would either become her lover or her next victim had also strongly implied that Emma Swan was the daughter of Snow and Charming. Emma was the right age, she had been a foundling since birth, it had been twenty-eight years, Storybrooke had changed since her arrival, she had this annoying habit of thwarting her . . . it wasn't out of the realm of the possibility. But the sheer coincidence that Henry's biological mother would be the missing princess was astronomical!
It was astronomical until you factored in Gold's procurement of Henry ten years ago. And the fact that he'd been responsible for Henry learning about the adoption just a few short months before the 28th anniversary of the Curse. AND the fact that he had created the Curse.
It had chilled Regina when she'd realized that – if you believed in conspiracies, anyway – Gold could have chosen Henry specifically because he was Snow White's grandson, and arranged for Henry to find out both in the right year and when he was old enough to do something about it. Which of course also meant that Gold remembered being Rumplestiltskin. Why else would he seek out Emma's baby?
And that meant Emma Swan was unwittingly here to destroy Regina. Well, she'd already started, hadn't she?
All of that being said, it was still just a paranoid conspiracy dependent on an increasingly unlikely chain of events. Gold couldn't know what he'd implied with his cruel tricks.
(Still, making Emma believe they were friends took on an added dimension now. Just as a precaution. Regina wasn't prepared to have her killed. Yet.)
Sidney was looking at her oddly, and judging by the clock, she'd been off in her own world for a good two to three minutes. "Just find out whatever you can," she said, suddenly irritated. "Especially if it's a name. And don't let anyone see the Book in your possession."
His expression was dubious as he eyed the heavy, leather-bound tome. "What do you want me to do, hide it under my jacket?"
"Pretend you're pregnant for all I care, Sidney. Just do it."
"I'm sorry, this is going to give me a headache, isn't it?" Mary-Margaret says later that day before Emma is halfway finished trying to explain what she and Regina are planning.
"Sorry," Emma said sympathetically. "It makes my head hurt too." Almost as much as her foot, which hurt perhaps even more today than it had yesterday. Honestly, one of the little pigs could have used the Book to help build the house made of bricks.
Not that the three little pigs had made it into the Book, and the only Big Bad Wolf was the kind that ate helpless grannies and wore their flannel nightgowns.
"So Regina and I are going to make it look like Henry is trying to get us back together, and that it's working," Emma went on.
"Because you want Gold to think Henry got the Book back."
"Am I the only person who knows the truth?"
"Sidney Glass knows because Regina is giving him the Book to find out more about where it came from," Emma said. "Somebody had to have gone to all the trouble of writing it and publishing it. And right now we don't actually have any proof that it was Gold. All we know is that he sold you the Book. For all we know, Gold has one or more accomplices." She hesitated. "Kathryn knows too."
"Oh," Mary said, her cheeks coloring briefly.
Emma sighed. She would have preferred not to mention David's wife, but Regina had insisted that if Emma got to share the truth with Mary, she got to tell one of HER friends. And that could only mean Kathryn Nolan.
Mary crinkled her brow. "I realize you and Regina have been getting along better, but still, why would you want to revive all those rumors about the two of you just to make Gold think Henry has the Book again? It's not like he hasn't already memorized it."
"Someone changed the ending," Emma said darkly. "Now the Book says this can end in one of only two ways. Either the Evil Queen falls in love with me, or she murders me."
Emma's smile was grim. (Or Grimm, haha.) "I doubt Henry would be happy about me sleeping with the enemy, no pun intended, but he'd be even less happy about me with a hole in my chest where my heart used to be."
"That's gruesome," Mary said. "Although I guess a lot of real fairy tales have gruesome endings too."
"Do they?" Emma asked.
Mary nodded. "Most people are only familiar with the Disney versions, and obviously those were sanitized for children growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. They don't know what really happened to Cinderella's wicked stepmother, or the Evil Queen in Snow White, or – "
"Or Gepetto's parents," Emma added.
"Right, or . . . wait, what?"
"The puppetmaker from Pinocchio," Emma said. "I never realized that Jiminy Cricket turned his parents into wooden dolls when Gepetto was a little kid."
Mary stared at her. "Where did you hear that?"
"From the Book, where else?"
"Pinocchio is in the Book?"
Emma looked at her strangely. "Didn't you read it?"
"Not the whole thing, no, I didn't have it for very long before I gave it to Henry."
"What's wrong with Pinocchio being in the book?"
Mary shook her head. "Technically Pinocchio isn't a fairy tale."
"I'm pretty sure I remember a Blue Fairy in there somewhere."
"Okay, technically it isn't a GRIMM'S fairy tale. Pinocchio was written by an Italian author named Carlo Collodi in the nineteenth century. And Jiminy Cricket wasn't even IN the original version, Disney created him for the movie." Mary frowned. "What other fairy tale characters do you remember being in the Book?"
Emma shrugged. "I don't know, um, Snow White, Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, Maleficent – "
"Maleficent was a Disney character too," Mary-Margaret said immediately. "The evil fairy didn't have a name in Grimm's." She handed Emma a piece of paper and a pen. "Here, write down every name you can think of."
"Why?" Emma asked.
"It might be important. We're trying to learn more about the Book, aren't we?"
Emma shrugged and sat down to write.
Ten minutes later Mary was reading the list and shaking her head. "The seven dwarves didn't have names of their own. King Midas was a character in Greek mythology. The genie of the lamp was in Arabian Nights. The Mad Hatter was in Alice in Wonderland, also written in the 1800s. Emma, it sounds like the Book is one big hodgepodge of folklore, children's literature, and Disney movies. Whoever wrote this either didn't bother doing any research, or . . . "
"Emma, it's bad enough if Henry believes that the stories in the Book are real. But it's possible that every one of the stories in the Book was specifically selected, regardless of what century it was written or in what country, and then possibly twisted to give Henry a very skewed idea of the way things in Storybrooke 'ought' to be."
Emma suddenly had an idea of what Mary was saying. "You make it sound a little like . . . brainwashing."
"Didn't you say – " Mary coughed. "Didn't you say that Henry thinks David is 'supposed' to be with me and not Kathryn?"
He'd gone farther than that, he'd asked Emma if she had any information which she could use to break David and Kathryn up. "Yeah, he does."
"I know he's just a ten-year-old boy, but he believes in that Book SO strongly, Emma. There's no telling what could happen if he took it upon himself to 'fix' things."
"You mean like steal your credit card and hop on a bus to Boston?"
Mary-Margaret nodded gravely.
Suddenly the pain in her foot seemed insignificant by comparison to the pain that Book could cause Henry and a lot of other people.
Regardless of Emma and Regina's worries and fears about the resurfaced Book and all the unpleasant possibilities it created, the fact remained that they needed to get this scheme of theirs rolling. Firing up the rumor mill would be simple enough – all they needed was to be seen together, in public, by Ruby. The gossipy waitress would do the rest. The tricky part would be to create the impression that Henry had some kind of hand in their "reunion", so that word would filter back to Gold. This would be complicated further by the fact that neither Emma nor Regina was enlisting him in their conspiracy.
Eventually, however, they thought of something.
"Hey, Sheriff," Ruby said brightly as Emma walked into the diner. It was largely deserted, being three P.M. on a Saturday. "Counter, table or booth?"
"Booth," Emma replied, pointing to the back corner by the window. "Henry sent me a text message. He wants to meet me, said he'd be at that table. Is he here yet?"
"Sorry, no," Ruby told her.
Emma shrugged. "Well, send him back when he gets here. I hate having to go through this cloak and dagger rigmarole to see him, but – "
"But it gets a little harder when his mother is your ex." Ruby grinned apologetically when Emma frowned at her. "Sorry, I know, it never happened."
"Yeah, yeah," Emma muttered as she went to her table.
Three minutes later, Regina came in.
"Madame Mayor," Ruby said, suddenly proper and formal. "Coffee?"
"No," Regina told her, looking puzzled. "Is Henry here?"
Ruby froze. "Henry?"
"My son," Regina reminded her irritably. "He's been running around, God only knows where, for hours, and when I tried to reach him to tell him to come home, he tells me to meet him here." She scowled at Ruby. "And you haven't seen him?"
"No," Ruby said slowly, "but I'm pretty sure he'll be here."
"I have it on good authority that he's meeting someone in back any minute now," Ruby explain, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder.
Regina looked around the waitress and her eyes widened. Then she pushed past Ruby without another word. "What are you doing here?!" she asked Emma angrily as she approached her booth.
Emma rolled her eyes. "Ordering something. You know, food, sustenance?"
"Henry told me to find him here. Instead I find YOU."
"And what's so . . . Henry told you he was here?"
"Did I not make myself clear? I realize everything I say goes right out the other ear of that empty head of yours – "
"Henry told me to meet him here too."
Regina paused. "You're saying he told us both to come here?"
"Didn't I make myself clear?"
"You think you're so clever, don't you?" Regina said, glaring at her.
Emma just smiled. "You might as well sit down, Mayor. He might still show up."
Regina snorted. "This is a ruse, Sheriff," she pointed out. "He got us both here together so he could . . . "
"So he could what?"
"I don't know," Regina admitted. "But I assure you, I will find out – when he gets here."
And then she hung up her coat and sat across from Emma.
"What is she doing now?" the mayor murmured after a few seconds passed.
Emma gave Ruby a sidelong glance. The waitress was looking at them both intently, with an avid gleam in her eyes and a downturned mouth. "Looks like her mind is headed in the direction we want it to go," she said quietly. "She looks like she just got the scoop of the century." Not to mention disappointed that Emma might no longer be on the market, she suspected.
Regina nodded. "Luring us both here so that we'd meet. It's not a very original plan, but then Henry's just a boy. It's the kind of trick a child would learn from watching enough television."
"The fact that we're suddenly trying not to be overheard now isn't hurting either," Emma said.
"Mm," Regina said.
"She's coming," Emma warned her.
Ruby appeared next to their table a few seconds later. "Sheriff, Mayor, can I get you anything?"
"Coffee," Regina said quickly. "For both of us."
Emma scowled. "You're not allowed to order for me anymore, Regina."
Regina shot her a dirty look. "Any more?" she asked.
The sheriff started coughing, while casting a furtive glance in Ruby's direction. Her smile now bore a trace of smugness. Perfect. "I didn't say 'any more', I said 'ever'," she claimed.
"I wasn't ordering FOR you," Regina retorted. "I was just trying to save time. You're a police officer, after all. Isn't coffee your 'thing'? And doughnuts. Yes, Ruby, she'll have a doughnut too," she added wickedly. "It's not like it can hurt, her ass is already too big for those jeans."
"Since when have YOU looked at my ass in ANYTHING?"
"Let me just get the mayor's coffee while you decide on something, Sheriff," Ruby said casually before she hurried off.
"Nice touch," Emma muttered after Ruby had gone. "I can totally believe you'd admit to staring at my ass just to score a point off me."
Regina shrugged. "Well, I thought I may have pushed it a little. Anyone can see it isn't true."
Emma stared at her. "What?"
"I mean, what are those jeans, a size 12?" Regina asked with an evil smile.
"You know, I wasn't going to bring up the fact that only someone with a huge stick up their ass would dress for work on their day off, but just for that? Would you know a pair of sneakers if it bit you on YOUR big ass?"
Regina looked outraged. Emma looked triumphant. And Ruby texted every last detail. Remma lives! Hatesex inevitable.
To be continued . . .
Author's Note – This story was 90% mapped out in the middle of Season 1. So don't be surprised if major plot points from S1 and S2 are ignored completely. The outline predates a lot of them, and I'm not inclined to start the whole thing from scratch, especially since "Be Our Guest" picked up soon after the election.
And sorry, it's a short chapter, I wanted to get it out there.