Sequestered – Chapter One
Rockport, Maine . . . Two Months Ago:
The night is dark and freezing. The man crouches in the bushes, adding another cigarette butt to the growing mound at his feet. He checks his phone with shaking fingers and fumbles, dropping it in the dirt for the third time. He retrieves it quickly, cursing softly to himself, groping at the buttons. Dammit! Still no messages. No missed calls. No unread texts. His anger and confusion threaten to boil over inside him.
"Why won't you just speak to me?!" he whines, glaring at the phone and willing it to ring. Nothing happens.
"Please!" He cries, bits of saliva flying out of his mouth.
"I just need to talk to you," He begs, banging the phone against his forehead, sobbing. Sweat soaks his body under his black hooded sweatshirt. He wipes the snot from his semi-frozen face on the back of his leather glove. The autumn night is unseasonably cold. It provides perfect contrast to the dark, sweltering rage and emotional turmoil turning and heaving inside him.
"I . . ." He chokes out another wail of tears. "I just need to understand," he cries out into the night, his head thrown back in supplication to any higher power that might be listening.
Aside from his own raspy breaths and mutterings, the night is dead silent. When the electronic gate at the bottom of the long, winding driveway roars to life, the man almost jumps out of his skin. His nerves are shot. Too many sleepless nights have been shoved between him and sanity, and the waiting has made it infinitely worse. If he would just talk me! A few moments pass before light from the vehicle's headlights illuminate the bottom of the driveway as well as the bushes that conceal him. The man steels himself for what's coming. He can hear the car engine and estimates that it will cross the threshold of the gate in less than twenty seconds. This is it. He flings himself out of his hiding place and right in front of the oncoming car.
"Wait!" The man yells, slamming his palms and outstretched fingers on the hood of the antique Aston Martin. The car shrieks to a halt, stopping just short of the man's legs. Within moments, the driver jumps angrily from the car.
"What are you doing?!" the driver asks, immediately looking around to see if they are alone.
"I just need to talk to you, Blake. Please," he pleads, moving towards the driver.
"Stay away from me," the other man warns, and turns to get back into his car. It's too late.
"Blake, please, I just need you to listen," the man begs, shaking from head to toe, speaking in a jumbled mess. There are screams and pleas that follow, all seeming to go unheard, and before the man understands what has happened, he is covered in blood. The man named Blake is now slumped over in a lifeless heap on the asphalt.
More emotional torment and terror grip the black-clothed man. He hears the distant sound of sirens, and panic sets in. "No, no, no!" He mutters, hysterical, as he rifles through the dead man's body for something. He grabs something and takes off in a blind run down the hill and into the woods where he hid his car.
Storybrooke, Maine . . . Present:
"Sydney, I am not going to tell you again! I do not care who Blake Peterson is or was, I am not doing this!" Regina throws the newspaper back at Sydney's face. It lands face up on the floor, the headline: "BELOVED ACTOR BEATEN TO DEATH OUTSIDE ROCKPORT MANSION" plastered on top of a picture of a handsome man.
"Madam Mayor, I understand–" Sydney begins, imploring the dark-haired woman to see reason, but is cut off by the death glare she shoots in his direction.
"You obviously do not understand. You are doing just about everything but understanding!" Regina responds, livid, her pulse beating a staccato rhythm in her neck.
"Mayor, I have done everything in my power, but there is no way around it," Sydney explains, holding his breath and preparing for a new slew of insults.
"You are utterly useless!" Regina sneers.
"It's this reporter. He somehow found out that you are trying to get out of reporting for duty. He wants to run some story about how politicians don't have to play by the rules. He is obsessed." Sydney throws his hands up in the air to emphasize his point.
"There must be something you can do to change his mind, Sydney." Regina says, changing her tact, lowering her voice, speaking in code. Sydney reads between the lines without hesitation.
"He's as clean as a whistle . . . I can't blackmail him. He won't take any bribe. Unless you want me to kill him," Sydney says in hyperbole. Regina glares at him, and then briefly considers the latter option. Sydney swallows hard, "Mayor, I can't kill him." He whispers, his eyes bouncing around the room anxiously.
"Oh don't be such an idiot, Sydney. I'm not going to have you kill him. Although a little murder to get out of this so-called 'jury duty' would be somewhat ironic . . ." Regina's voice trails off for a moment and then she smiles wickedly. Sydney laughs nervously, hoping that Regina is indeed joking. The mayor waves a hand, dismissing his concern and moving them forward. "I still don't understand," she says. "This crime occurred in Rockport. Surely, the trial will be there. So then why would I have to attend this tribunal outside of my own town?" The brunette takes a seat behind her desk, crossing her legs and tilting back in the black leather chair.
"That's what I've been trying to explain, Madam Mayor," Sydney says as he picks up the newspaper off the floor and takes the seat across from Regina's desk. "This Peterson person, he's apparently America's most famous actor. Everyone just adored him." He hands Regina the paper. Regina rolls her eyes and takes it from his hands. Even in black and white, the man in the photo looks classically handsome, salt and pepper hair framing a well-chiseled face. He had light eyes and a square jaw. Regina has never seen him in her life.
"Apparently, Rockport has been absolutely inundated with news media and there is no way the accused can get a fair trial there. They say the jury pool is tainted. So, the pool has been expanded to the entire state. You were selected at random, along with a hundred others. I believe you must attend at least the first round of jury selection, and then maybe once you're there, you can charm your way out of it," Sydney says with a coy smile. "No one can accuse you of asking for any favors if you are simply not selected," Sydney continues conspiratorially before relaxing into the wooden chair.
Regina smiles back after a moment, thinking about how strange the people of this world are . . . how odd their concept of justice. For a moment Regina considers what would happen to the town in her absence. The same thing that has happened for 27 years and nine months. . . Nothing. Still, it is strange that her name and address in Storybrooke would even come up in the potential jury pool. Something about this is making the gears in the back of Regina's mind spin. She decides that she must see this through. It somehow feels almost necessary.
"Alright, Sydney," Regina states, resigning herself to this fate of having to partake in this little exercise. She decides that Sydney is right, she can try to get out of it when she gets there. Besides, she doesn't want any publicity for her quiet little town. . . considering it shouldn't really exist anyway. She decides that she will get herself out of it once she arrives, and be back in Storybrooke the same evening. "I will do this. When must I go?" She asks, refusing to look at the little square of paper with her name on it. She pushes passed the fact that in the Enchanted Forest she would never have had to abide by anyone else's command, and certainly not some faceless government entity.
"First thing Monday morning. Shall I accompany you?" Sydney asks, opening the notice to appear for the Rockport Courthouse.
"No," Regina says, too quickly, and Sydney looks up at her quizzically. Regina knows that he won't be able to leave town without suffering the harmful effects of the curse. She, however, can travel without incident - even though it makes her extremely uncomfortable and she has only done it once, many years ago. "I will need you here in case of an emergency," she says dryly, hoping he doesn't push the matter. Sydney nods and takes his leave. Regina immediately gets on the phone and arranges for Henry to stay with Kathryn on Monday night. She figures she'll use the weekend to figure out how she came to be selected in the first place. It simply shouldn't have happened.
Rockport, Maine . . . Present:
It is late in the afternoon on Monday and Regina is close to her boiling point. The mayor has graciously played along and endured hours of the same questions over and over again. The herd has at least been reduced to twenty-four unwilling participants, and the mayor of Storybrooke remains a candidate in spite of all her best efforts to be sent home. She has tried proclaiming herself a racist, as prejudiced against all defendants, that she herself was the victim of a crime, that she is a single mother with a minor son . . . and every other excuse she had overheard was successful. Nothing gets her relieved from duty. Regina kicks herself for having stupidly admitted to never having heard of the victim or his assailant. It was the first question that had been asked, and she had been asked first. Foolishly, she'd spoken the truth and now it seems she will never live it down.
"All right folks, this is the last round. Hopefully we'll be finished after this, and then everyone can get some dinner," the bailiff announces to all those still crammed into the small deliberation room. The group clumps at the door. All trying to filter out at the same time. All eager to get this over with.
"Watch where you're going!" Regina yells, turning around, ready to behead whoever has just shoved her from behind.
"I am sorry ma'am, I guess I slipped," a tall man says from behind a blonde woman who is still extricating herself from being pushed into Regina's back. "Sorry, miss," he apologizes, blushing profusely. "You all right?" he adds to the blonde, who is busy regaining her composure and straightening her clothes.
"Yeah, no worries," the blonde says, offering him an easy smile. Regina is immediately irritated by both of them. She had expected the blonde to let the clumsy moron have it. Judging by the sleeve of tattoos on her left arm, which Regina can just barely make out through the tight, almost transparent material of her shirt, this is a tough girl. Interesting, Regina thinks just as the bottleneck breaks and she walks through the doorway. Regina rolls her eyes when the blonde takes the seat next to her and Twinkle Toes takes the seat right behind her.
Several more hours of just sitting and waiting pass before Regina is asked any further questions.
"Miss Mills, I just have a single question for you," the young female prosecutor states with confidence. "Is there any reason you feel you cannot serve on this jury?" she asks, and the clump of consultants at her table look up simultaneously in surprise, as if that was not an "approved" question.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there are several of them. . ." Regina then begins a twenty-minute tirade about being the mayor of a small town, and how there is no one else to do her job. That she is a single mother and there is no other parent to care for her son. The list went on and on, but she could tell the girl was unmoved. She had sealed her fate with her initial honesty, and nothing was going to change that. The mayor gave up, deciding it was pointless to argue with these people. She would simply have Sydney contrive an emergency when she returned to Storybrooke tonight, and that that should be sufficient to keep her from having to come back here ever again. Regina relaxed into the uncomfortably hard wooden chair. She was thankful that she wouldn't have to sit in it for months like these losers around her. Regina almost snickered to herself.
"Thank you, Ms. Mills," the young woman responds as she writes something on her legal pad and moves on the blonde next to Regina. "How about you, Ms. Sampson? Any reason you cannot serve?" The lawyer blushes slightly when she addresses her. The mayor turns her head to observe the two.
"Nope," the blonde says with a smoldering look. Did she just really wink? Regina wonders, looking back and forth between the two women. The prosecutor is so obviously and instantly attracted to this woman. Regina rolls her eyes at the exchange.
"No child . . . or significant other to care for?" the prosecutor asks cautiously, her blush deepening.
"Nope. It's just me. No attachments or commitments of any kind," the blonde responds, her eyebrow raised and a sly grin on her lips. Charming, Regina's thinks, rolling get eyes again.
"Thank you, Ms. Sampson," the girl adds, jotting something down and walking back to her table.
"Just one thing," the blonde says, leaning back in her chair obnoxiously. "My name isn't Sampson. It's Swan. Emma Swan." She smiles, and the prosecutor makes a note.
There are apparently an endless amount of procedures and formalities that must be followed before the selection process can be considered officially over. Regina is fidgeting in her seat, now feeling an uncomfortable amount of pain developing in her lower back. Finally, after all the attorneys return from another room, one of them starts handing out letter-sized manila envelopes to certain prospective jurors. Regina counts twelve of them. She receives one. So does the blonde and Twinkle Toes.
"Ok, if you are holding an envelope, congratulations. You have been selected to serve on this jury." A collective groan echoes around the empty courtroom. Regina leads the chorus of protestation. "Now," the judge continues un-phased by the complaints. "Due to the nature of this trial, and the overwhelming amount of information in the media, you all will be sequestered." The judge continues speaking, but can't be heard over the dissent coming from the jury box.
"Your honor, this is completely unacceptable. I am the mayor of a town, for Christ's sake. I have a son! I can't be held captive here!" Regina starts to panic, and she can hear her heart beating in her ears.
"I understand, Ms. Mills, but you have a civic duty that you must complete. Everyone here has important lives and loved ones to attend to. I can't make a special exception just for you," the judge states simply. Regina feels like she is going to hyperventilate. She wishes with all her might that they were in her realm for just one moment. . . that she could summon just one fireball and show this prick exactly who was boss. The judge becomes visibly uncomfortable under Regina's glare and clears his throat to break the connection. "Here's what I'll do. For security reasons, since you are a political figure, you will have your own room to yourself," he says with an awkward smile.
"How gracious," Regina responds through gritted teeth.
"Sydney, this is a fucking disaster!" Emma hears Regina screaming from the other side of the adjoining door. She wonders who the uptight mayor is yelling at, since they were all supposed to hand over their cell phones. Emma kept hers, too, of course, but she hadn't taken the brunette for a rule breaker like herself.
The blonde removes her boots and throws herself back onto the king-sized bed. It's the only thing in her small room apart from an empty dresser and a TV. Emma is thankful that she brought a suitcase full of clothes. Since she had no idea how long she'd be staying in Rockport, she'd brought a ton of stuff. She actually had been living in Boston for months when she'd returned to the Portland apartment she had once shared shared with her now ex-girlfriend. Emma had gone there to collect the rest of her things and move on. If the jury duty notice hadn't been left under her door instead of in her mailbox with the rest of the correspondence she hadn't picked up, she wouldn't even be here now enjoying the show.
"God damn it!" Regina screams when her cell phone dies and she realizes that she didn't bring the charger. The mayor feels like she's losing her mind. How did this even happen?! She wonders for the upteenth time, completely exasperated. This is ridiculous. This must be some kind of violation of my rights. Regina calls the front desk for a toothbrush and other toiletries. Then she starts to pace the room, plotting how to get herself out of this mess.
There is a quick knock at her door. Finally! She thinks before crossing the large room and opening the door.
"What do you want?" Regina says with a sneer, irritated to see the blonde from the courtroom instead of housekeeping with the toiletries she'd requested.
"Well, I couldn't help but overhear the nervous breakdown you were having. Thought I would come over and see if there was anything I could help you with." Emma smiles and points to the locked door in Regina's suite that connects her own room. "Plus, I should thank you. If it weren't for your very important position as a political figure, I wouldn't have gotten my own room." Emma smiles again and wags her eyebrows. Regina gives her a quizzical look. "When they gave you your own room it left the rest of us with an odd number, and I guess someone liked me and I happened to be the lucky one selected to get the other solo," Emma explains with a wicked grin.
"I can't imagine who would have taken such a liking to you," Regina says sarcastically, thinking of the redheaded prosecutor that had been so obviously taken with the blonde.
"My room isn't as nice as this though," Emma says poking her head in to look at the huge suite. "Anyways, why are you so pissed?" Emma asks, leaning against the doorframe.
"If you must know, my phone has run out of battery and I need to call my son." Regina says, crossing her arms, not intending to let this stranger into her room. Emma looks at the iPhone in Regina's hands.
"Gimme a sec," Emma says before disappearing into the room next door. Regina stands in the doorway, unsure of herself, until the blonde returns with a white cable and a little square plug at the end. "Here," she says, offering the charger to the brunette. Regina hesitates.
"Thank you. I know we were meant to turn over our phones, but—" Regina starts to explain even as she takes the item Emma offers.
"I don't care about that," Emma says simply and starts to turn around to walk back to her room.
"Thank you," Regina repeats after a beat, feeling totally caught off guard by this woman's generosity. She watches the blonde walk away, and her eyes drift over her body, which was delightfully showcased by impossibly tight skinny jeans. Emma smirks, walking slowly on purpose to let the brunette get an eye full. She glances to the side as she finally opens the door to her room. Regina feels her mouth go dry, and her pulse jump in her neck.
"Any time." Emma says with a small smile and a little wink before disappearing into her room.
"Henry, this is serious. It's not like an extended sleep over," Regina argues with her nine-year-old son.
"I know mom! But Mr. Nolan got a Wii for me! Can't I stay, pleeease?" Henry does his cutest voice that he knows his mom can't resist. Regina shuts her eyes and brings her fingers to pinch the bridge of her nose in exasperation. She had expected her son to throw a tantrum or at least shed a few tears at the news that she wouldn't be back for a few weeks at the earliest. Instead, the little traitor is thrilled that he gets to stay with the Nolan's.
Regina calls Graham, hoping to hear that the town has fallen apart with the knowledge that their mayor had taken a leave of absence. One tiny little fire, a baby down a well... something! Is that too much to ask? But no, nothing has happened. Everything is the same as it always is. Stable. Quiet. Regina throws herself on the couch and fights the desire to cry. She calls Kathryn again and asks her to send her clothes and personal items via overnight delivery. The blonde hears the weariness in Regina's voice, but doesn't ask if she wants to talk; she knows from experience Regina isn't much into sharing- especially not when it involves her feelings.
When they hang up, a generous amount of toiletries arrive. The brunette is overjoyed, immediately showering and changing out of the suit she's been wearing all day. She has nothing else to wear, though, so she opts for the thick white terrycloth robe hanging in the hotel closet. She washes her undergarments in the sink and hangs them in the bathroom to dry. She begins to calm herself, taking deep breaths, effectively ending the search for an escape - at least for tonight. She feels her frustration building once more, however, when she turns on the tv and is met with snowy images on every channel.
"Oh come on!" Regina yells irritably at the TV, shaking the remote as if that will make the cable work.
"We aren't allowed to watch TV." Regina hears the voice coming from behind her and she nearly jumps through the ceiling. She turns, stunned, toward the unexpected visitor.
"What are you doing? How did you get in here?!" Regina demands, quickly bringing a hand to the robe near her throat and closing the gap over her naked chest. She glares at the blonde standing in the open doorway where their rooms connect.
"It was . . . unlocked." Emma says with a smirk and walks over to the sliding glass door leading to the balcony outside of Regina's room. "Such a nice view," Emma comments. "But then I guess from 20 floors up anything looks cool."
"Do you usually just waltz into a stranger's hotel room?" Regina says incensed.
"Not since my early twenties, but that's a whole different story," Emma says with a smirk.
Regina is completely stunned at the blonde's nerve, her brown eyes wide, taking in the girl standing in her room. The other woman's blonde hair tumbles in waves around her shoulders and down to her chest. She has changed into a white tank top which reveals a patchwork of tattoos that travel from her left elbow, up her arm and across at least part of her shoulder blade. The other arm is mostly bare, but Regina can see something scribbled on her forearm. The inch of exposed skin at Emma's midriff from where her top ends and her gray knee-length yoga pants begin, give away a toned abdomen and a hint of more ink. Regina drags her gaze back up to Emma's eyes, which are a bright bluish green and highlighted by dark eyeliner and mascara. Regina's heart starts beating faster and she feels unexpectedly nervous. Her anger is bleeding into something else. Something even more intense and growing by the minute.
Emma senses the brunette's eyes on her, and revels in it. She had been hoping for this reaction and smirks again, internally this time. She can't help but drop her gaze over Regina's body in response, wondering what the brunette looks like under the plush white robe. She takes a step toward Regina, but the brunette takes two steps backwards, seemingly shaking away whatever she'd been feeling.
"Please, uh, Miss Swan is it? I'm very tired," Regina lies. Emma shrugs like it makes no difference to her and returns to the doorway, closing the door behind her as she enters her own room. As soon as the blonde lands on the bed, though, a huge smile lights up her entire face. This is going to be something, she thinks, feeling like fate has finally done something good for her for a change.
Regina lays in the strange hotel bed unable to sleep. She feels like her eyelids are spring-loaded. She tosses and turns. She paces and walks. She counts sheep. She counts backward from one hundred. She meditates. She takes another hot bath. Nothing. She can't silence the unsettled feeling the blonde has left her with. Regina is more than a little terrified as the completely foreign sensation continues to stir in her body. The brunette can't help but wonder what tomorrow will bring.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I feel like this story in particular is like my baby, so please be gentle? This is going to be different because our girls won't be getting off on the wrong foot as they did on the actual show, so I think that will be a fun exploration of that and I hope you agree! The actual trial isn't going to be a major part of the story. This is really about our girls and the relationship that grows between them!
Thank you to my wonderful Beta RileyGirl1 for your help!
Let me know what you think! I will certainly be eternally grateful for the encouragement! ;)