A/N: This is a five-part writing challenge. Angsty, but mostly just a SQ relationship study that I'm using to help me clear my mind between chapters of Concordance. Will eventually utilize content warnings.
Timeline For Chapter 1: Mid-season 1, pre curse breaking.
"There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong..."
-For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield
"You're late," the mayor states sharply, her dark eyes flickering up to meet the less than impressed green ones of the sheriff. The blonde woman is standing in the entrance of Regina's office, slumped against the doorframe, her hands jammed into the tight pockets of her indigo colored skinny jeans.
"Sorry," Emma shrugs, making it clear that she's not the least bit apologetic.
"Do I even want to know what kept you from being punctual this time, Miss Swan?" If there's the slightest hint of humor within her tone of voice – and there is - well then it's because she finds that she's actually looking forward to whatever ridiculous excuse the blonde might offer up now.
Last time, Emma had been thirty minutes late to a conversation about budgets and requisition forms because she'd been otherwise occupied chasing a runaway dog around town. The busy and dangerous life of a Storybrooke law enforcement officer, Regina muses, her lips curving upwards into a dangerous smile.
As if reading the mayor's mind, Emma smirks in response, "I was busy."
Regina's perfectly sculpted eyebrow lifts. "Busy? Sheriff, do I actually need to remind you that you serve at my pleasure? I am the Mayor after all."
"Mayor," Emma nods. "Not Queen. Contrary to what Henry believes."
Regina grits her teeth at this. Thirty years ago, this insubordinate and arrogant woman would have been strapped to the cold wall of a dungeon by her wrists and ankles and whipped until Regina had decided to show her benevolent mercy. Had she, of course, decided to ever show her such mercy.
"I don't have time for your childish games, Miss Swan," Regina finally manages.
"Good because I really don't have time for yours, either," Emma shoots back, sliding herself away from the doorframe. She moves deeper into the office, eventually coming to stand in front of the marble desk, her arms crossed over her chest. "Now, unless you'd prefer to keep bitching at me, Madam Mayor, perhaps we can start again and you can tell me why you needed me here so urgently."
Emma's pretty sure that she sees a muscle jump in the older woman's cheek, and it takes everything she has to bite back a smirk of amusement. It's not every day that she can manage to win even a small battle with the mayor, and while this one is absolutely tiny in scale, it's a victory she plans to celebrate.
Maybe with a couple beers later on tonight.
Assuming, of course, that Regina doesn't rip a hole in her head with the furious laser beams that seem to be shooting from her dark eyes right about now.
"I need your assistance on a Neighborhood Watch initiative that I'm launching," Regina finally states, her jaw still clenched tight. It's somewhat amusing to Emma to observe how much trouble the older woman is having getting her irritation back under control. It's nice – or maybe gratifying – to realize that she can crawl under Regina's skin just as much as the brunette can slide beneath hers.
"Do we really need one?" Emma queries. "Because there's not really a whole hell lot of crime in this town, Regina."
"Really, Sheriff? So someone didn't set City Hall on fire?"
"Someone did," Emma agrees, once again jamming her hands into her pockets.
"Someone you've never caught, I might remind you."
Emma gazes right back at Regina, meeting her eyes, and trying to let the mayor know that she sees this for the bullshit that it is; they both know that Gold had played the whole situation, and manipulated Emma into the badge.
"As I said," Regina nods after a moment, "I'm launching this initiative to ensure that the citizens of Storybrooke feel safe, and as the head of our law enforcement department, I expect you to be a major participant and voice in the rollout of it."
"Depends on what that actually means."
"On the contrary, Sheriff, regardless of what it means, I'm going to have to insist upon it being part of your everyday duties."
"All right; I'll play. What extra…fun will this add to my…duties?"
Regina shrugs noncommittally. "A few night patrols. Some mid-afternoon ones."
"Mid-afternoon. So around the time Henry gets out of school, I'm guessing."
Regina smiles faintly. "You know, I hadn't considered that."
"Like hell you didn't. Jesus, Regina, the lengths you'll go to."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Miss Swan. My entire focus is on protecting Storybrooke and everyone within –"
"Oh, fucking save it," Emma growls out, leaning over the desk and putting herself right at Regina's eye level. Though the marble surface is between them, they're within inches of each other, their eyes locked into a fierce war. "You are the worst liar I have ever met. For what it's worth, you're also the worst manipulator."
Regina laughs, the sound humorless. "You really have no idea, but even if that were true, it doesn't change the facts of the situation."
"Which are that if you want to keep your job, come tomorrow afternoon at two-thirty, you'll be driving around in that shiny new squad car that you requested and I authorized purchase of. And while you're doing that, you'll be ensuring that my town is safe." She stands up and leans forward, into Emma's face, the space between them less than an inch. "Do I make myself clear, Sheriff Swan?"
"Crystal. Are we done here?"
"We are. You may go." She flips her hand dismissively as she says this, and then lowers her head back down towards the mountain of paperwork and accounting forms sitting on her desk. Normally, she wouldn't break away from a staring contest, but she has a pretty good idea that letting the sheriff know that she's no longer needed or wanted will succeed in riling the stubborn woman up.
And hopefully, it'll remind the arrogant blonde woman of her place.
"You really are a piece of work, lady," Emma growls out, shaking her head.
Regina lifts her head at this, a lazy knowing smirk playing over her red lips. "Really, Sheriff? Lady? Don't you think we're past such demeaning terms?"
"You think that's demeaning? You ought to hear what I call you when you're not around to whine about it," Emma shoots back. She's vaguely aware that she's engaging in a grammar school style face-off with the mayor, and it's more than a little insulting to both of their positions within the community, but there's something about Regina – something about going head to head with her - that brings out the side of her that wants to claw and bite until she draws blood.
"Oh, I can well imagine what someone with your education might come up with," Regina chuckles, the sound rich and condescending. "Now, enjoy your day, Miss Swan." She stands up, walks around the side of her desk, and strides towards the door, making it quite clear that she expects Emma to follow her.
So, of course, Emma doesn't move an inch, just gazes back at Regina with an almost blank expression. "You know this won't keep Henry away from me."
"I'm aware. My son seems drawn to you like…well, that comparison is about as civilized as the names you call me," Regina notes, a fake smile stretching her lips. It's large and impressive, but ultimately there's no mirth in play.
This is about power and control.
Which is why Emma steps forward, and moves right back into Regina's face. She's close enough now that she can smell the body wash that the mayor had used during her morning shower – something that smells vaguely of lavender.
"You know, Regina, none of this has to be this way," Emma tells her. "We could maybe actually act like adults and work together."
"For Henry?" Regina prompts, tilting her head as if to suggest that she's actually considering Emma's words. They're close enough still that when Regina speaks, Emma is able to smell the slight hint of peppermint on the brunette's breath.
Peppermint and lavender, Emma muses before she can stop herself, an interesting – and not at all unattractive - combination. She quickly shakes her head to pull away from these decidedly unwelcome thoughts (faking a head roll to hide the motion). "For Henry."
"Oh, Miss Swan, do I look like a charity to you?"
"No, what you look like to me is a very lonely angry woman who thinks life is all about mind games and control. Ever think about making it about things like love and happiness instead?" She knows that she's treading dangerous ground right about now, and honestly, this is an absurd conversation for the two of them to be engaging in, and yet the words spill so easily from the blonde's pale lips.
"I'm perfectly happy, Miss Swan," Regina responds, but try as she might, her dark eyes tell an entirely different story that she's unable to mask from Emma.
"You could fool the hell out of me. Happy people don't try to ruin lives. And you know what? Generally, happy people aren't quite so damned good at doing it."
"What you consider ruining lives, I regard as maintaining order."
"If you're done wasting my time, I have things I need to," Regina snaps. "And unlike you, what I do is actually important for the survival and health of this town."
"Yeah, well, you wasted my time first," Emma replies. "But sure, I'll leave you to your incredibly important paperwork." She moves to step past Regina and ends up slamming right into her frame thanks to the older woman's refusal to budge.
It's clear that she intends for Emma to go around her, not through her. Even this is a power play – a show meant to let Emma know who's in charge.
"Seriously?" the blonde demands.
"Consider me a door," Regina answers.
"That's not too hard to do," Emma shoots back. She then reaches out, grabs Regina by the bicep, and moves to push her away. The movement is awkward, though, and the mayor is so surprised by it that instead of spinning out of the way, she ends up tumbling forward and into Emma's lean body, which drives both of them to the ground in an undignified heap of arms and legs.
There's suddenly a lot of cursing. Almost all of it coming the mayor's mouth.
Which ends up making Emma laugh.
"Have you gone mad?" Regina growls out as she tries to separate herself from Emma, who is surprisingly enough making absolutely no attempt to do the same.
"I'm working for you aren't I?" the blonde retorts, her smile still obnoxiously large. "I must be mad to be willing to put up with you day in and day out."
"Indeed. If you're done laughing like a hyena, perhaps you could move your leg?" When there's no immediate movement, Regina tilts her head, a strangely curious and almost cruel look crossing her face. "Or would you prefer to stay like this because, dear, if this is what you've been after the whole time, you simply could have said such to begin with." The words are biting, and clearly meant to throw Emma off her game and make her feel uncomfortable and uncertain.
And they do, but Emma's sure as hell not about to let Regina know such. "Someone's impressed with herself," she counters.
"Wouldn't you be if you were me?" comes the cocksure response. Problem is, Emma sees right through the bravado. Her only response is a knowing smirk.
"Whatever," Regina snaps out, then, realizing that this isn't a path that she wants to go down with the sheriff; she's perfectly comfortable with their relationship being exactly what it is: adversarial and acrimonious. "Get off me."
"Gladly," Emma nods as she moves to disentangle herself from the furious looking brunette woman. It's more complicated than it should be thanks to the way they fell together, but after a few false starts – and knee to the mayor's hip (which gets her snapped at again) - she finally manages to push herself to her feet. She extends a hand downwards to help Regina to her feet.
"I don't need your help," Regina answers crisply, though her own way of getting back up is decidedly messy and uncomfortable. Once she's back up on her feet, she levels her dark gaze, staring directly at Emma, her chin lifted defiantly.
One might almost say regally.
"You have before," Emma notes. "Some day you might again."
"Perhaps if a building is on fire again," Regina allows grudgingly, but she might as well have just said "when hell freezes over".
"Right. Well, you know where I'll be when that time comes."
"Hopefully on your mid-afternoon patrol," Regina lobs back, her calm and control once again fully recovered. She glides a hand gracefully – almost casually - over her clothing, then her hair, smoothing everything back into place.
It makes Emma think of someone putting themselves back together after a quickie. Another thought that gets shoved back and hidden behind a head roll.
Instead, the blonde opens her mouth and almost replies with something about Henry, but at the last moment, she stops herself. Because the day is getting late and even though her job consists mostly of chasing dogs and listening to perfectly content people who don't know how to allow themselves to be happy, she needs to be getting back to the office. Starting a new round of back and forth with Regina will just delay that. Weird that part of her just doesn't mind.
She sighs. "As you wish, Madam Mayor."
It sounds a lot like "Your Majesty" to Regina so she lifts her chin up once more and nods like a queen dismissing her subject. "Very well. Good day, Miss Swan."
Emma rolls her eyes. She meets Regina's eyes once more, allows for a few further seconds of staring at each other and issuing challenges, and then with a shrug of her shoulders, turns to exit. She stops briefly, cocking her head slightly to the side. "By the way, the next time you want to proposition me, you might want to try being nice first. Couldn't hurt." And with that, she turns and leaves.
"I did not –" she stops short, realizing that Emma has already gone. She growls under her breath. She briefly considers grabbing her phone and calling the blonde so as to finish her statement, but wouldn't that just prove the point?
Instead, she slowly makes her way back over to her desk, flattens her clothes down once more, and settles herself back into her chair. Emma Swan, she tells herself, is just a nuisance. She's absolutely nothing more than that. She's an enemy that will be crushed as all of her other enemies have eventually been.
That she feels a slight pang of something – be it guilt or regret or perhaps even something deeper than that – at the things that she will need to do to ensure that Emma leaves town, well that's something she buries down deep.
Emma is a threat to everything that she holds dear. That the woman at times reminds her of herself is irrelevant; the sheriff will assuredly bring about her downfall if allowed to do so. Which means that she has to be dealt with.
Permanently if need be.
And so she will be.
But not until after she's helped roll out the Neighborhood Watch Initiative.
Regina smiles at this, maybe even smirks in satisfaction.
This is a battle that she's going to win, she thinks, the smile growing into a grin. She's going to win it, and then everything will be as it should be once more.
Calm. Quiet. Serene.
And under her control.