A Dying Capital: 2013.
At 5am, the gentle alarm app on Emma's phone sounds in the darkened bedroom. She can doze through parts of it—letting herself adjust to the growing light, the soothing sounds of an ocean far from her landlocked urban hole of an apartment. After a few more minutes, the birdsong and crashing waves end and a woman's voice, low and dangerous, says:
"Get. Up. Now!"
Grinning now, Emma rolls out of bed. Her apartment is small, sparsely furnished, but contains Emma's only treasured possessions—a set of high-end pots and pans, and a king size bed. She pads into the kitchen wearing only the red boy briefs she slept in. Before the shower, a coffee maker automatically turns on, but Emma always double-checks. On her way to the shower, she scarfs down a croissant.
The rhythm of Emma Swan's daily work life is fairly simple. Eat, fetch food, eat some more, spy on corporate rivals, fetch lunch, sort files, eat out—and basically ensure that all of her boss's needs are satiated.
Which can be difficult at times.
It is 7am when Emma arrives at the office with the quadruple-shot cappuccino, protein shake, and berry compote slathered yogurt and granola thing that Regina loves from the organic grocery chain next to Emma's apartment. Not that Regina has ever seen Emma's apartment, it's just that Emma surprised her one day with the container of food and Regina has demanded it ever since.
The secretary isn't due for another hour. The marketing team, lab technicians, and business development analysts will not arrive for an hour and a half. Regina likes to work in an empty office for part of the morning, because she never could stand the fatigue and lethargy that filled the office when everyone had to show by 6am. Regina also trusts Emma more than she trusts the rest of her staff.
Besides all of that, the tightly wound boss needs some of Emma's 'extra duties' to be fulfilled before she can work well herself.
It might be anger that causes Regina's chest to flush, but either way, Emma will have her work cut out for her. Emma's dark slacks are a bit tight, but she knows that she'll have to make due. They only have an hour.
"On the phone with MirorTech," Regina whispers, then she gestures toward Emma and shifts her chair back a little. Glancing down at the bags of food in Emma's hands, Regina nods toward a spot on the desk.
"Of course we won't sell you the technology itself, just the finished product." Regina is shouting now. Emma decides to get down to business.
Twenty minutes later, Regina's free hand is playing absently within her own blouse, while Emma's head moves between her thighs.
"Ugh." Regina shakes her head and grimaces, suddenly nudging Emma's head away. She holds up a finger to indicate the need to pause. "Sidney, I'm calling you later. There is nothing more to discuss for now." She rolls her eyes and leans forward, effectively shoving Emma back onto her ass on the dark oak flooring.
"Ouch!" Emma growls.
"Sorry." Looking genuinely contrite, Regina tugs Emma upright and then rubs her hips soothingly. Regina is a lot of things, but she isn't really rough with Emma, nor does she make demands that Emma can't reject.
They've been doing this since Emma stumbled into Regina's office at midnight during her third week there, and caught Regina touching herself—her skirt hitched but hunched over her desk so no one would see. Regina isn't a sex addict, she just needs the release when she gets stressed—which is often. That night, Emma had been so turned on at the sight that she decided to lend a hand. Regina never returns the favor. She has tried, but Emma always keeps her at a distance.
There are things that Emma Swan tells no one, and there are reasons that she wanders from city to city, leaving the moment she gets close to anybody.
Emma buries herself in work to avoid dealing with her own secrets. The morning is spent in the lab ensuring that Regina's unique invention rooted in something called nanotechnology and formulated while Regina was a grad student at Harvard, is being kept completely confidential. Emma scours computer hard drives, checks that USB keys are locked away, and triple checks the communication and research processes which are designed to ensure that each employee has only one small piece of the project in their knowledge base. No one person knows how the whole thing fits together.
Emma gets their lunch from a Korean restaurant down the block. They eat in silence together, in Regina's office, while Emma re-reads a journal article Regina is trying to submit.
The mundane work of organizing files that Regina will not allow anyone else to look at is one thing. All night stake-outs in front of the company's rivals' homes is another. Regina is abrupt and demanding and because she is such a perfectionist herself, she freaks when others make mistakes. It is oddly soothing, in a way, because Emma is able to bury herself in work, bury herself in pleasing Regina, and avoid any challenge to her privacy by somebody 'wanting more'.
Like the Monday after Regina's argument with Sidney Glass, the Executive Director of MirorTech, when she finds out that they have been conspiring to take her company over. Regina sends everybody home for the day and orders Emma to cover the front desk, act as her own admin assistant, and redirect all calls to the company cell phone so that Emma can run after Regina like she's on speed. They don't stop working until 9pm when hunger finally gets the best of both women.
"Everything ok?" Emma's voice is quiet in the office abuzz with electronics and harsh lighting. She had just spent an hour shuffling through the minutes of the company's last Board meeting and there is nothing in the document to indicate anything more than the ongoing concern that MillsCorp's approach to nanotechnology already has so much global competition that their marketing window is dangerously narrow. Regina nods and looks her thoughtfully over.
"Tomorrow evening, I need you to watch Sidney for me…"
So after a day spent with MillsCorp's internet security company to sort through employee emails, which is awful enough, Emma ends up stuck in the company car, the divider up, tinted windows down, a camera in hand, following Sidney from home to work to lunch to work again and then back home. The best she can do, for now, is to obtain a photograph of Sidney speaking to what looks like Kathryn Midas, the daughter of one of MirorTech's board members.
At 8pm, Emma fetches dinner from a grocery store that makes really good minestrone soup. On her way into Regina's office, she is taken by the elbow and led to the executive washroom. There, Regina complains about her employees while Emma sticks a hand up her skirt.
"No underwear." Emma smiles in a smug sort of way. She doesn't know why this false confidence overtakes her when it remains so obvious that Regina is in control of every aspect of their interaction. She doesn't care. Not yet.
Her smugness earns a small reward. Regina scowls at her and attempts to jam a thigh between Emma's legs.
"Nope. I'm fine. Tell me more about your afternoon." Emma buries her nose in Regina's neck, because the lights are bright and sometimes Regina doesn't want to be seen making strange faces when she's trying to get off.
"I want to touch you. I like touching women." Regina pulls Emma's head back with both hands and tries to kiss her. Another thing Emma won't allow. Regina finally gives up, sighing wistfully as Emma's fingers gently and rhythmically stroke her.
Painfully turned on, from having just had Regina come all over her hand, Emma tries to listen while her boss complains some more. She adjusts herself as discretely as she can.
That afternoon, Emma is sent back out to spy on Sidney. The day after that is a repeat of the most boring assignment Emma has ever been given. A full week of 6-9 work days leaves Emma too exhausted to do more than sleep when she gets home.
It isn't until a week later, when Regina gives Emma the actual day off so that she can spend her evening following the man around, that Emma learns anything about him.
The club she follows Sidney into is a far cry from the coffee houses and pubs she had to watch him have his business lunches at.
This club is mainly for men, so Emma has never come here before. Still, it's open to women and to couples, and Emma knows that as many things as one can imagine do happen in the back of the club. It is dark and the walls are painted black, and there is a backroom where people get to have sex while others watch anonymously.
It is really far too easy.
It takes all of five minutes for Sidney to wander into the backroom and only a minute longer for Emma to follow. She sits at a booth which is divided from others by a flimsy curtain. Within a short time, Emma watches Sidney getting serviced by another man. Three pictures are quickly taken, then Emma leaps from her seat and rushes away.
The next night is a repeat of the first. This time, Emma obtains photos of Sidney with his hands down the shorts of a scruffy faced guy with a wooden prosthetic leg. Emma wonders if the leg gets the fetishists hot, or if the guy just likes how awesomely old school it is. While Emma takes the pictures using a small digital camera hidden in her red leather jacket, the wooden-legged dude looks at her and smiles. Then Sidney unzips his shorts and Emma leaves before she can think to torture herself by comparing what she has with what he has.
The truth is this: Emma Swan has never been intimate to the point of letting anybody see her body. What she has between her legs is her clit, not a dick, but with the length and girth of her she has always been too afraid to be seen. Emma doesn't want to be questioned and she's afraid of rejection almost as much as she's afraid that someone will accuse her of tricking them, freak out, and then maybe hurt her.
It's better in this life to just keep her head down and work hard. Then leave when the time is right.
On this night, the time starts to seem perfectly right. She is all mixed up between arousal and disgust. It occurs to Emma shortly after rushing out into the chilly night air, that while she had had one hand in her shirt just taking photos, to a casual onlooker, it looked as though she might be touching herself. The scruffy faced guy was obviously cool with it.
She's so hard in her jeans that she has to hold her jacket in front of her on her way down the sidewalk and toward her car. She rushes home and can only think of one thing. A shower. Because maybe then she won't feel ashamed or unclean when she thinks about what she really wants to do with her body.
When she strokes herself, one arm against the shower wall, her eyes tightly closed, she doesn't imagine the men at the club—they were just a reflection of her own need, her own shameful desires, and she feels a wave of sympathy toward the man she is about to expose. When she concentrates on her arousal, all she imagines is Regina. And with a rush of shame, Emma leans against the shower wall, letting water wash away her tears as she imagines herself engulfed by Regina, immersed in her perfume and tangled in her limbs.
"Shit. Dammit…." Emma says the curses aloud though they are so obvious she wishes she hadn't.
There aren't many clothes in Emma's closet, but she keeps a large suitcase under her bed just in case she wants to pack in a hurry. Of course she can't afford to leave, not really, not with the price of rent in this city and the retainer she had to pay to get her place. Besides all of that…Emma has a job to do. She washes herself in soapy, scalding water, dresses, and calls her boss.
It is 11pm when Emma hands the pictures over. They meet at the office, though Regina sounds sleepy on the phone.
"Sometimes it is terrible, being right." Regina peers over her reading glasses at the picture and speaks coldly. "Go home." She leans back and takes off her glasses, seemingly disinterested in using Emma's services any longer. "Tomorrow I have lunch with three board members from MirorTech. You'll accompany me. In the meantime, take tomorrow morning off."
There is a hard thud in Emma's chest as she turns on her heel and walks out. The realization that she can now walk away—that she has an entire morning to prepare her things and then bolt before Regina figures her out—makes her so sad she can't even say goodbye.
Still, for some reason Emma doesn't pack. She numbs herself out with late night talk shows and a container of chocolate ice cream and when she shows up at the lunch, the following day, her suitcase remains unpacked.
"You look refreshed." Are Regina's first words for her as she scans Emma up and down. Regina wears a red jacket and dark dress, and her lipstick is way brighter than usual. Emma arches an eyebrow. Her own slacks and shirt are dark and somber—which is fitting, because she spends her lunch alone and glowering while Regina wanders off to have drinks and appetizers with three men in casual business wear with stupid looking cell phone cases clipped to their belts. They were supposed to have been plotting a takeover of Regina's company, but now they seem to be firmly on Regina's side.
For an entire hour, Emma is forced to watch them touch her boss—casual touches, brushing against her arm, her cheek. It becomes too much when Regina finally rebukes a tall tanned silver-haired guy with piercing blue eyes who looks like he just arrived from Miami. She instantly hates his pink fucking shirt and his thousand dollar silver leather loafers (which…fuck loafers) and she hates that she sees red when his hand touches Regina's thigh, just inside the spot that Emma knows—knows—will make those legs spread automatically. His eyes are curious as he takes in Emma's response and even as Regina places his hand back onto his own lap, he leans and asks her something and she laughs softly as they both look at Emma. She would storm out, or do something embarrassing like burst out through the door and then burst right back in (since she's still worried for Regina's safety) but she sees the man mouth the word 'bodyguard' to the other men before raising his class and tilting his head at her.
"What the fuck was that?" Are the first words out of Emma's mouth when she and Regina settle back into the limo.
"Hush. I need five minutes." Regina pats her hand and leans back against the seat. "They told me a great deal. Sidney is, apparently, sending his company down the tubes by misappropriating funds, drinking on the job, and having what appears to be a long, drawn out nervous breakdown."
"Poor guy." Emma grimaces.
"Indeed." Her cold eyes scan Emma's expression. "And when I buy him out, he'll go to a rehab facility, he'll sort himself out, and then he'll live the life he has always wanted with an enormous influx of funds into his bank account."
"Paying him off makes this all better?" Emma shifts and crosses her legs so that her feet are no longer pointing right at Regina.
Noting the distance Emma puts between them, Regina turns on her and spits out, "I have to fight to keep what I built. There are larger problems than even you know about." She adjusts her jacket, tries to shift close, but then seems to give up and stares out the window instead.
There is a moment, when Emma looks at Regina, of some strange déjà vu. Emma stares and stares: at the nervous way Regina licks her lips, the way she tries to make herself small. Regina catches her looking and frowns in confusion. A second more and the power shifts again—Regina smirks and Emma turns red and looks away.