Disclaimer in Chapter One
A/N: I'm sorry for the wait! My third year of college was really putting a strain on my free time. However, now I'm on break and plan to update regularly! :3 Enjoy.
The Bug hummed quietly as they sat in the parking lot early Thursday morning. Sitting and watching children burst into the doors of Storybrooke Elementary was part of their routine now. The two would chat and make up any forgotten homework until the warning bell sounded.
"Glad to see this place wasn't washed away," Emma exclaimed as her thoughts ran back to the flood that had washed through the area a few days prior.
"Mom?" Henry asked as his fingers trailed down his newly purchased white button up shirt.
"Miss Mills gave me a packet to fill out on my first day. When I turned it in she didn't look too happy."
"At least from what people tell me, that woman never seems happ-" Emma began before she was cut off by her phone blaring Bad Boys from her pants pocket.
A small smile pierced both of the Swan's lips. "That's the ringtone you picked out for my work number? Well now, duty calls."
With a ruffle of hair and a kiss to the cheek, her son popped out of her car and sprinted to the school with a wave.
Emma pushed up, straining her body to be straight, as she pulled the device from her skin tight jeans. Adrenaline poured through her veins as she examined the unfamiliar number.
She cleared her throat, not wanting to sound overzealous for her first call, "Sheriff Swan."
There was a crackle and a pause before the person began speaking, "Uh yes, hello Sheriff, my name is Doctor Archie Hopper. I was wondering if you could be of assistance."
Ah, Hopper, the town psychiatrist. The blonde clasped her jaw in thought. What could it be? Maybe it was a robbery, but at this time in the morning? Who would want to steal from the town psychiatrist? Maybe it was vandalism? Oh my God...What if it was a murder mystery?
"Yes?" Emma cleared her throat once more as a small blush covered her cheeks.
There's a sigh of relief before the man explained, "My dog, Pongo, escaped this morning and with flood debris in some parts of town, I'm worried he could get hurt. I believe he maybe after Granny's orange tabby again."
The excitement that filled the blonde's stomach quickly evaporated as her forehead slowly rested on her torn up steering wheel. "You want me to play dog catcher?"
"Precisely, he shouldn't be too hard to find. You can even drop Pongo off at my work when you find him."
"Yeah, alright, I'll be in touch Dr. Hopper." With a touch of her finger the call was ended.
"Pongo!" Emma hollered as she rounded the giant oak tree in the middle of Storybrooke Park.
For hours now the blonde had chased that damned Dalmatian up and down the town, and lucky her, the beast had finally stopped right in the middle of the mud-riddened park.
Pongo barked wildly, tail thrashing, as he propped his front paws on the base of the tree.
"What are you doing pup?" she breathed heavily, finally reaching for his leash and pulling the dog from the wood.
A sudden hiss sounded from a branch to her right. "So Hopper was right, you were chasing this little guy."
The blonde looped the leash around her right forearm a few times before she leaned on her toes and yanked the small bundle of orange fur off the branch. After struggling for a few seconds the cat calmed and rested it's pudgy belly against the Sheriff's left arm.
"So the name's Simba, huh?" She questioned, her eyes fixated on the little heart shaped tag around the orange neck. "God, Granny should have named you Garfield. You've gotta weigh a half a fucking ton and I bet she feeds you lasagna."
The cat's dark eyes glared at her, tail furiously twitching back and forth. Pongo sat obediently, eyes trained on what seemed to be his arch nemesis.
"Alright, let's get you both home," Emma said as she tugged on the Dalmatian's leash to get him to stand.
Before she could even take her first step a sharp ringing sounded from her pocket. It was her regular ringtone, and so far only three people in town had her number. Her heart dropped fearing the worst. What if it was Henry's school? What if he was sick or worse?
"Shit," she grumbled as she attempted to maneuver the fat cat in order to get into her pocket.
Simba reeled and hissed, pushing against the Sheriff's arm before wiggling free. With a hop and a skip the fuzz ball sprinted off.
It took less than a fraction of a second for both Emma's and Pongo's eyes to widen.
"Oh fuck m-" she screeched as Pongo bolted off, dragging her a few feet before the leash gave way, snapping and sending the blonde head first into a mud puddle.
"What?" Emma growled angrily as she planting her hands on the mahogany furniture, the brunette keeping her head bowed, collected papers on her desk and tapped them into a neat stack.
Regina smoothed the bent edge of the first paper on top of the pile. She tracked her finger over the red mark she had made just hours ago. "I suggest that Henry receives tutoring."
Emma pushed herself from the desk and ran a hand through her mud splattered hair. She had raced over the second she answered the call. Of course it was Regina and of course it was about Henry. The educator asked for a meeting, and it just so happened that the kids would be on recess for the next twenty minutes.
The brunette arched her brow, finally taking in the sight before her. "Having fun in the mud Miss Swan?"
The Sheriff scoffed and folded her arms over her chest with a sigh, "Duty calls."
A small smile was painted on the educator's lips for a second before she yanked open her top drawer and pulled out a packet of papers. From her spot at her desk she extended her hand, offering Mother Swan to see her son's work.
"Whenever we get a new admission we give them a pack of past material. We test their knowledge and see where they rank in our system. If we feel they are lacking, then we suggest tutoring," Regina explained a she stood from her seat.
Emma tilted her head slightly as she paged through the packet, red marks filled its pages sporadically until the very end, where the whole sheet was nearly covered in red.
"He has trouble spelling and correctly forming sentences."
"Henry can speak just fine."
The brunette shook her head, arms folding her over chest as she explained in further detail, "Speaking and writing are two different things Miss Swan. Storybrooke Elementary prides itself as being one of the best schools in Maine. We only want our students to excel."
A sigh passed through the Sheriff's lips, "Who would be tutoring him?"
Regina extended her hand to the Mac in the back of the room.
Emma arched a brow of her own. "A computer is going to teach my son how to write?"
"We have specialized software that can read back what your son writes. His spelling will need some work and I'll be sure to handle that with the entire class."
A sigh escaped the blonde's lips, "What's the price? Cause I haven't even gotten my first payche-"
"It's free," Regina quickly interjected, "We don't want any child left behind. I'll be sure to send Henry home with a copy at the end of class so he can practice over Thanksgiving break."
The blonde's brows furrowed. "Break? When's that, in like two weeks or so?"
A clacking noise engulfed the room as Regina's heels marched back over to her desk. After fumbling with some papers she yanked out a calendar and handed it to the Sheriff. "It was in the packet you left in Boston."
Emma nodded as she bit her lip, gulping back the small blush that wanted to dust her cheeks. With a flick of her wrist she flipped through the pages of the calendar. The images were filled with the teachers.
September's picture was a familiar woman with a pixie haircut she had met a few months back when she had applied for Henry's school transfer. Under her opened arms it read, "Welcome back students – Principal Blanchard". October had the image of Mr. Jefferson dressed as the Mad Hatter, and Emma had to admit he looked the part. Next was November and an image of a woman she had yet to meet filled the page, surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. Probably the librarian, Emma ruled out.
"The students receive an eleven day break, that's including weekends. You are aware that Thanksgiving is this tomorrow, correct? I hope you purchased a turkey because I'm fairly certain Storybrooke Grocery has run out and the next grocery store is about fifty minutes away."
The blonde's jaw hung opened slightly. Before she could respond a handful of screams and laughs filled her ears. Children piled into the classroom, each one eyeing the mud covered Sheriff.
Henry quietly he took his seat before waving at her and called, "Mom!"
She shot her son a small smile before nodding her head at Regina and taking her leave. Once she had reached her car she hightailed it to Granny's Diner.
Turning onto Main Street she was greeted with an unsuspected sight. There stood Ruby, just outside of the Diner, Pongo's collar in hand and Simbra cradled in her arms.
"No fucking way," Emma breathed as she parked into the first available spot. With a slam of her door and a point of her finger she exclaimed, "There's no way you caught them in the twenty minutes I was gone!"
Ruby laughed loudly, the fat cat's body bouncing along with hers, "If you ever have a problem with Pongo again let me know. I seem to have a way with dogs, and Simba..well Simba always manages to make his way back home."
"Ah, Miss Lucas, thank you!"A familiar voice called as a man raced down the street with a new leash in hand. "Thank you so much, I thought maybe the Sheriff had him and had forgotten to call."
"Nah, Emma was too busy playing in the mud for poor old Pongo here."
The blonde rolled her eyes at the tease, a giant grin painted on her lips.
"Oh..oh my, I'm so sorry Sheriff."
"Emma," the Sheriff quickly corrected him.
"E-Emma. Please, if you need your clothes dry cleaned or anything, don't hesitate to send me the bill. I feel that my conscious wouldn't be able to handle it if you didn't," Doctor Archie Hopper said as he connected the leash to the pup's collar.
The blonde shook her hands and dismissed it with a grin. "It's all in a day's work. No problem at all. You can pay for my lunch bill if you feel that bad."
Ruby burst into a laugh as she headed back into the diner. "If you're expecting a turkey lunch you better hurry fast. Granny's famous Thanksgiving lunch is flying off the counter this time of year."
Emma groaned as she followed the waitress into the restaurant, "Oh shit, that's right."
"What's that Emma?" Archie questioned as he took the stool next to her, Pongo laying at his feet.
A small blush roared from her cheeks, "I didn't realize it was so close to the holidays."
"You forgot a turkey didn't you?" Granny questioned as she made her way over from the griddle, sliding Archie his usual warm salad lunch.
Emma's head slowly fell to the counter. "Is it that obvious?"
"No sweat Swan, Granny holds an annual Thanksgiving dinner. We can get you guys signed up, can't we Granny?" Ruby asked tossing a loving arm over the white haired woman's shoulders.
"Absolutely! We'll be packed full with our regulars, but we can make room for our new Sheriff," Granny called from her usual spot.
"I'd like to pay for you two. As well as your lunch," the Doctor announced after swallowing his first bite.
The blonde shook her head. "No way, I can pay for my family. There's no need for you to."
"We'll cover the fee. You guys are new in and town and your job is to protect us. Consider it a gift," Ruby spoke up, handing Emma a cup of hot chocolate.
The Sheriff smiled and nodded in appreciation. It was settled. The Swan family would be dining at Granny's for Thanksgiving this year. She brought the warm mug to her lips and took a small swig. Yeah, now she was sure, this town would grow on them.
"So what'll it be?" Granny asked slipping a menu toward the Sheriff.
"Well, how about a small plate of lasagna? You certain feed Garfield his fair share."
Ruby smiled a toothy grin. "The only food he gets is the left overs. And if it's lasagna you're craving I'd hold out for Regina's."
"I have heard she makes the best," Archie piped up, nibbling on a piece of arugula.
"Speaking of her, she called me in today to say that Henry needs tutoring," Emma sighed, pointing to an item on the menu for Ruby's eyes to see.
The brunette nodded her head and wrote down the double cheeseburger before answering, "And your point?"
"I always thought Henry was a genius. I never figured he'd need it. Do you think she's just picking on him or something?"
Doctor Hopper cleared his throat, "If I may, Regina is an excellent teacher. If she is suggesting tutoring for your son, she is only looking to make him the best."
"I heard Ms. Mills was the only teacher to offer free tutoring," a passerby mentioned walking up to the counter to grab a container of syrup. "My little girl had Mr. Glass as a teacher and he charged us a fee per session."
The blonde opened her mouth, ready to shoot off a round of questions when Granny leaned over and gripped her shoulder. "Don't question it. Everyone here seems to have taken a liking to you and maybe it's her holiday spirit."
"That and her mom is loaded!" Ruby called as she flipped Emma's burger.
"Cora Mills," Dr. Hopper informed.
Emma's eyebrows arched at the information. So that's why the Mills had the largest house in Storybrooke. Who exactly was Regina's mother and what was the Mills' story?
"I'm surprised she didn't have a say in your hiring. Her mother is the Governor of Maine, that's why Regina is running for Mayor when David's term is over," Ruby continued as she topped Emma's burger with all the fixings.
"That's enough of that," Granny stated. She snatched the bun top from her granddaughter and placed it onto the steaming hot burger and placed it before Emma on a small plate. "Eat up or you won't be picking little Henry up on time."
A groan shot through Emma's lips, "Did she tell the entire town?"
Three sets of questioning eyes stared back at the Sheriff.
"So," Emma trailed off, a blush slowly crept onto her cheeks for the millionth time that day, "I'm guessing that's a negative."
Three heads shook in agreement. Before any of them had a chance to question the blonde buried her mouth into burger.
"Mom it's only ten and it's my day off," Henry whined as he fixed his hair in the bathroom mirror, "Why are we getting dressed up this early?"
The newly appointed Sheriff rummaged through her small closet, haphazardly tossing clothes left and right in an attempt to find an acceptable outfit. Eventually she settled on a small skin tight red dress that reached the tops of her thighs, a pair of warm black leggings and black ankle boots.
He called, drawing her name out to get her attention, "Mom?"
"We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with Ruby and her Granny, and we should at least come in and help," Emma informed as she took one last glance in the mirror, "Right after dinner we're starting on that tutoring program your teacher gave you."
"Oh? Please don't tell me you forgot the CD."
The third grader, dressed in a grey button up shirt and black suit pants, dipped his brunette head and kicked at the ground quietly.
"Aw, hey man, it's alright. We'll just practice the old fashioned way," Emma quietly reassured, running her fingers through his hair.
Henry shot her a smile and nodded, "Yeah Ms. Mills gave me some really good tips."
The mother shot back a smile of her own, "So you really like it there huh?"
A laugh popped through his lips as if his mother didn't already know the answer to that.
"Alright, alright, go put on your dress shoes and let's hurry up. I want to be there by eleven."
The two met in the bathroom and playfully battled they brushed their teeth, pushing and shoving each other out of the way for a spot at the skin. Before they left they had opted for folding the newly finished laundry so they had no tasks to complete once they came back with full bellies.
In the mist of the mundane routine Henry even attempted bargaining with his mother to have breakfast, but he was quickly shot down. She promised him it would be worth it, hell, the holiday was all about eating a hardy dinner, not a hardy breakfast.
As the small family hopped into the yellow beat up Bug and headed down Main, Henry reached for the radio, and Christmas music immediately began pouring through the old speakers.
"Why is this stuff always on before December?" He asked with a scrunched nose.
Emma shrugged at her son, "You're only eight and you picked up on that? I don't know man; there are crazy people out there. And people tell me that you're the one that need tutoring."
Her son giggled in the passenger seat, staring out the window as they drove down the quiet street.
Only two cars filled the diner's parking lot. And from what Emma could tell they had been there every time she had visited, what was easily becoming, her favorite restaurant. They were probably Granny's and Ruby's ride. But where the hell was everyone else? A giant sign was posted in the diner's window reading off the mains and sides, and at the bottom it wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving. The usual open sign was flashing red, yet no one seemed to be there.
"Uh, are we early?" Henry mumbled to his mom as the two stepped into the dead diner.
Emma's head shot around, "I thought we'd be doing these guys a favor and they aren't even here!?"
It was then that Ruby came prancing down from the Bed and Breakfast stairs. Her brows immediately squinted together as her fingers ran down her white apron. "What are you guys doing here?"
"The least we could do is help you guys out," the Sheriff offered, pulling her son's jacket from his shoulders.
There was a quick tap of someone rounding a corner on the edge of the wooden stairs. "Someone actually came to help?" Granny piped up from the top step. As she slowly made her way down a smile bounced upon her lips. "Why am I not surprised?"
A small laugh escaped the blonde's lips as she pushed her son forward and began peeling her coat off as well. "This is Henry."
Coos immediately filled the air as both women flocked over to the young boy. His face turned as red as a tomato as he turned back to his mother not knowing what to do with the women.
Again Emma laughed deeply, "What can we do for you ladies?"
"Well," Ruby began after retrieving her hand from playing with Henry's little red bow tie, "He can help me make the pies."
"And you, Sheriff, can help deliver them," Granny announced as she produced a pile of pies with written addresses on them and handed them over to Emma.
Emma bit back a groan and said, "You've got to be kidding me."
"We're a business. This place gets packed, believe me. Not everyone in town can make it and those who can't usually order my famous pumpkin pies."
"Yeah, alright," the blonde sighed giving in, "Rubes, make sure he rolls up his sleeves and give him an apron please. I don't need him looking like a fool in front of the ninety percent of the town."
The brunette swatted at the air with an eye roll. "Just go deliver pies errand girl."
With a loud and exaggerated huff she left her coat on the hanger and walked out of the diner. Her son was in good hands, she knew that much.
Fifteen pie deliveries later Emma ended up at her last destination, 108 Mifflin Street.
"Oh shit," she mumbled as she pulled into the drive way. She remembered this house right away. It was the same exact reaction she had the first night she saw it. Although, this time Henry wasn't in the back seat of her Bug giggling as Regina swatted her shoulder for cursing.
The house still had an eerie feel to it, but at least there were no old school evil lightning strikes behind it unlike earlier that week. It stood majestically, proud even, basking in its mansion-ness glory. From what Emma saw it was the only building in Storybrooke of its kind. It made sense that it would be owned by a politician and a daughter inspiring to follow Mommy's footsteps.
However, the last pie wasn't listed for Cora Mills. It had been addressed to none other than her daughter, Regina. Maybe this was a great excuse for telling her that Henry had forgotten the software at school. That wouldn't make this as awkward.
Green eyes caught sight of the time with a sigh. It was already three in the afternoon, and dinners at Granny's would be held at four. She only hoped that Ruby wasn't working her son too hard.
With a deep breath she exited her car and walked up the small brick path. Only a few lights on the first floor lit up the enormous house.
Her fingers trailed the cold white door before her knuckles rapped against the wood. The sound of familiar clicking of heels fell to her previously silent ears.
A small creak cried out as the door was opened.
"Miss Swan?" Regina questioned, fingers still clasped around her bronze door handle.
There stood the educator donned in a skin tight black dress. Silver hoops hung from her ears, glimmering in the slight light emitted from inside the house.
The blonde faltered for a second, her mind quickly drained of all thoughts school related, before clearing her throat, "Uh, hey Regina."
She opened her mouth to correct the blonde, but Emma quickly interjected, "You're off the clock."
"So it seems I am," the brunette slowly agreed, keeping the door only slightly ajar, "Delivering pies on Thanksgiving night? And with a passable outfit no less. Did they find you unfit for the Sheriff position already?"
A smirk popped on the blonde's face. "I just thought I'd help out during the holidays. Granny invited us to her Thanksgiving dinner."
Regina pursed her lips, brows slightly furrowing. "Oh."
"So uh, I guess you got a pie for you and your mom?"
The brunette reeled back, eyes slightly widened with surprise.
"Oh, someone mentioned your mom at the diner the other day. I figured you'd be sharing it with her and your family," Emma quickly said, throwing up her free hand in defense.
"It's just me and my mother," Regina dipped her eyes slightly, "Father passed years ago."
Green eyes immediately softened. "I'm sorry...I hope that your mother and you have an amazing Thanksgiving though."
"Thank you." Her response was quiet as her hands extended for the pie.
With a small frown Emma handed over the pumpkin pie.
When the brunette attempted to draw the baked good back to her chest a force stopped her from doing so. Emma Swan, with brows furrowed in thought, had yet to let of the pie.
The two of them stood there for a few moments, neither one speaking, both just gazing into each other's eyes. Regina shifted under the Sheriff's gaze. If Emma had better lighting she would have sworn she saw a blush.
"It's just the two of you right?" She questioned.
"Come on, come back with me. Granny's will be filled with a bunch of people."
Regina shifted quietly, her fingertips dancing on the pie rim.
"I mean it could be a great publicity stunt for your mom. Hell, even when you run for May-"
"She's not here," the educator immediately cut the Sheriff off before she could finish.
Emma's brows furrowed, her lip hanging in confusion. "You're alone?" She asked slowly.
Regina nibbled her lower lip for a second before nodding.
The Sheriff pulled the pie back to her chest.
"Miss Swan! Give me that this minute," the educator snapped.
"It's Emma and go put on a coat. I hope you don't have anything baking because we're leaving."