The wind had stopped howling the next morning. It wasn’t exactly sunshine and bird chirps, but at least it had stopped raining.
Still, Emma was relieved that she didn’t have work today. She had laid awake for hours and speculated last night. She hadn’t been able to banish Regina from her thoughts, and neither had she been able to stop thinking about all the things Regina had written in her letter. Emma have had such terrible dreams all night, and she had been awake several times. And every time, she’d had to fight the urge to run outside, jump into her car and drive over to Regina’s place.
She wouldn’t be able to keep the promise she’d made to Sheriff Graham. To hell with her safety, she had to see Regina again. There were so many things Emma wanted to say to her. Things that couldn’t be said via text.
And she missed Regina. Terribly so. Not being with her was like having a very physical ache in her chest. A constant, physical ache that seemed to gnaw away at her.
Liam could take his threats and shove them! All of them.
At least that was what Emma boldly had thought when she woke up this morning and remembered everything that had happened during the past two days. She had to see Regina. She needed to see Regina!
But would Regina even be in any state to see Emma? Suppose this had left her unable to see anyone? What if she had suffered a breakdown? What if she had ended up at that psychiatric ward again? Was she getting the proper help? Was she seeing someone? A professional? A therapist. Yes. She had to be. Of course she was seeing a therapist, right? Right?
Emma once again felt as though she was going crazy. Not knowing what was going on with Regina was maddening. It was the kind of thing that drove people to do crazy stuff.
Like driving to her place despite the fact that there was a crazy stalker out there.
A shift had happened. Emma wasn’t nearly as afraid as she was angry. Now that she knew who the stalker was, and why he was doing this, there wasn’t much fear left within her. Instead she just felt enraged. Pure and simple. She wasn’t sure what she hoped for the most. That Graham would catch him, or that she herself would end up backing him up in some corner and giving him a piece of her mind.
She would enjoy doing that. Oh, how she would enjoy it!
Emma wasn’t normally a violent person, but for Liam she could make an exception.
She definitely could. And she would do it happily.
The blonde clenched her jaw slightly.
To hell with him. To hell with him and his crazy belief that Regina had ruined his brother’s life. It was insane. He had to be fucked up. He should be locked up. Exactly like his miserable bastard of a brother.
And so, while brushing her teeth, Emma made a plan. She was gonna get dressed, go downstairs and have breakfast, then she would return to her room and find a beanie to “disguise” herself. She would either borrow Ruby or Elsa’s car (or possibly Leroy’s like he had promised) and then she would be driving to Regina’s house. Hopefully the road wasn’t gonna be too bad. And hopefully, Regina wouldn’t be angry with her. Emma couldn’t help it. She had to see Regina, and she had to see her today. She couldn’t just stay away from her. It was impossible. Liam could go and fuck himself for all Emma cared. He was probably not even here. The storm had to have driven him away, right? He was probably huddling away somewhere. Like the coward he was.
Emma spit out toothpaste and gave her hair a quick but throughout brushing. Then she went back inside the bedroom and got dressed, but on this particular morning, she avoided wearing her trademark leather jacket. If Liam really was driving around like a goddamn mania, why draw attention to herself?
And besides, it was too cold to wear her leather jacket today anyway. It seemed like a good idea to “christen” her new parka coat.
Emma was quick to get dressed, and then she went downstairs to have some breakfast. Ruby smiled at her and almost seemed relieved when Emma ordered a bear claw for breakfast.
“A clear sign that you’re feeling better,” the waitress quipped.
Emma smiled, but she wasn’t completely sure that she was feeling better. Maybe she was simply feeling more determined, and maybe it was the thought of seeing Regina today that somehow kept her sane.
Emma got her bear claw and cup of hot cocoa with cinnamon, and for whatever reason, food seemed to agree better with her today. She wouldn’t go as far and say that she had an enormous appetite, but she definitely felt more “up” for eating.
Emma chewed on the bear claw and flushed the bite down with another mouthful of cocoa. She refused to accept that some crazy ass stalker should rule her life and decide who she could and couldn’t see. Emma had always taken pride in being in charge over her own life. And she’d had to endure Mary Margaret’s controlling regime of terror for seventeen years. There was no way in hell she was gonna let someone else control her. She had come to Steveston to get a fresh start, to finally take control of things far, far away from Mary Margaret’s clutches, and that was exactly what Emma was planning on doing. If she didn’t fight back, she was giving the stalker all the power. It was time to turn the tables. It was time to reclaim some of that power.
So Emma followed the plan. She texted Elsa and asked if she could borrow her car sometimes after breakfast. Elsa quickly texted back and said yes, of course Emma could borrow her car.
Then Emma finished her breakfast and went upstairs to grab her things. She had every intention of taking off right then and there, but before she could get the chance to even leave her room, there was a knock on her door. It turned out to be Graham and a couple of officers. They had come to check her old room for cameras. Emma was more than happy to assist them in the search, and after a while, they did indeed discover a very small and very professional camera. Small and discreet and hiding in plain sight in the unopened tissue box on the nightstand. And what’s more, they actually found a microphone. That one had been carefully placed underneath the windowsill.
Graham looked less than pleased when he said that both the microphone and camera had been placed very professionally, and it lead Emma to wonder exactly what Liam’s occupation was. Apart from fulltime stalker. Maybe he was in the computer business or something like that.
Either way, Emma thanked Graham for the help, and Graham reminded her to record the conversation if Liam called again, and then he asked if Emma had any plans for today. Emma’s conscience was black as night when she told him that she wasn’t planning on doing much today. Just staying in and taking care of some work. Maybe read for a bit and watch some Netflix.
Graham looked pleased and most likely because he thought that Emma was sticking to the plan.
Emma was not sticking to the plan. She wasn’t even considering to stick to the plan. Because this wasn’t just Graham’s plan. It was also Liam’s plan. By staying away from Regina, Emma was doing exactly what Liam wanted her to do. She was giving him the upper hand.
Emma kept the smile plastered to her face as she thanked Graham and his officers and then said goodbye to them. She heard them walk down the hallway, and she watched and waited by the window as they climbed into their cars and drove away from the diner.
“Sorry, Graham,” Emma mumbled and released the blinds, so they flittered back against the window. “I can’t stick to the plan.” Right now, making sure that Regina was okay was far more important than anything else.
Emma waited another twenty minutes just to make sure the coast was clear, and then she more or less “snuck out” of her room. Tiptoed down the hall, down the stairs and then back into the restaurant itself. She didn’t cross paths with anyone and was able to escape outside where Elsa’s car was waiting for her.
She elegantly climbed inside the car, started the engine and then maneuvered the car out of the parking lot. Soon she was driving down the road. The road was in better condition than what Emma had expected. There were no trees blocking the road or anything. Maybe the storm had miraculously skipped Steveston. Maybe the damages were worse other places. Emma didn’t hope so. She didn’t hope that anyone had gotten hurt during the storm. Except for maybe Liam. Emma wouldn’t be the first one to weep if a tree had fallen onto his stupid fucking grey station car.
Speaking of grey station cars.... As Emma made it out of Steveston, she nervously checked the rearview mirror, but she couldn’t see no grey station car. There was no one following her. At least not that she knew of.
Emma chose to believe that there wasn’t anyone following her. She chose to believe that the storm had forced Liam to take a break.
In an attempt to trick herself into believing that this was just a casual drive, Emma switched on the radio. More classical music. Emma was immediately reminded of a red dress and tears glistening on Regina’s cheeks as she cried because of the song. Emma swallowed something. Maybe she shouldn’t think about that. That would probably be enough to make her cry. Tears came far, far too easily to her these days. In fact, Emma couldn’t remember the last time she had cried so much. She hadn’t even cried this much when Lily had dumped her. She had mostly just been angry over having wasted two years of her life by someone like Lily.
Emma looked in the rearview mirror again. Still no grey station car behind her. She was still safe. She took a deep breath. Good. She felt pretty guilty for breaking the promise she had made to Graham, but she’d had no other choice. She hadn’t seen Regina in three weeks. Plus a few days. It was hellish. And especially after the texts Zelena had sent her yesterday. Knowing that Regina was suffering was hellish. Emma had to see her.
She rounded a corner. It wouldn’t be long before she would be at Regina’s place. Her belly clenched. She was afraid that Regina would ask her to leave. She was afraid that Regina wouldn’t see her, didn’t even want to let her inside the house. Emma was afraid that she would end up knocking on a locked door like she had done that night when she had been drunk. She was afraid that she would end up crying in front of Regina’s house again, begging for the brunette to communicate with her again.
Emma cringed and gripped the wheel a little tighter. She really hoped that it wouldn’t be like that today. She hoped that Regina would let her in. Emma wasn’t sure she could bear not seeing Regina for another day. She would go insane if she didn’t see Regina today.
Soon the blonde reached her destination. She saw the familiar white house on the quiet street come into view. And she quickly spotted the Mercedes as well. It was parked in front of the house. So Regina was home. Emma’s heart thudded a little faster in her chest. Home. Yes. But that didn’t automatically mean that she’d want to see Emma. Maybe Regina wasn’t even fit to see Emma today. Maybe she was so unwell she had to stay in bed.
Emma really hoped that she hadn’t made a mistake in coming here. Her belly clenched again as she parked the car. She took a deep, calming breath as she unbuckled her seatbelt and then exited the car.
Her footsteps seemed too loud as she crossed the street, opened the garden gate and then went up the pathway. She easily ascended the tree little steps that lead up to the porch, and then she gently knocked on the door once.
There was no answer.
Emma’s stomach dropped. She forced herself to wait patiently. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
She knocked again.
Her belly pinched. She waited once more. One.... Two.... Three... Four.... Five... Six... Seven... Eight.... Nine.... Ten.
She knocked again. Maybe she was knocking a little harsher this time.
No answer. Maybe this was gonna be exactly like when Emma had come here in her drunkenness. Maybe she would end up crying whilst knocking on a door that wouldn’t be opened.
Loosing hope was so easy. In fact Emma was an expert in loosing hope these days. Nobody was gonna open this door. Coming here had definitely been a mistake. Emma’s eyes stung as she turned around and went down the three steps that would lead her back on the pathway. I should just go home and-
The door was ripped open behind her, and Emma nearly stumbled in her eagerness to turn around.
Zelena had poked her head out of the door. Her brow was furrowed, and her mouth was drawn into a scowl. “You’re a very brave woman, Emma Swan.”
“I had to see her,” Emma mumbled.
“Yes,” Zelena said plainly and sighed.
“Does she- can I-“
“Come in,” Zelena said and waved Emma towards her. “I believe it’s gonna rain soon.”
“Thanks,” Emma said and went back up the three steps to get up on the porch. Then she stepped inside the house.
Zelena closed the door behind and encouraged Emma to take of her parka coat. Emma did that.
“You do of course realize that you’re exposing yourself to danger by coming here?” Zelena said plainly as she carefully hang Emma’s coat on the coat rack.
“I wasn’t followed,” Emma said.
Zelena sighed. “I’m sorry, Emma, but you can’t possibly know that. Liam might be switching vehicle too.”
Emma hadn’t thought of that, but she refused to admit it. “I didn’t see any cars in the rearview mirror. I don’t think he’s around today. Maybe he got hurt during the storm yesterday.”
“Yes, lets hope so,” Zelena said tightly as she lead Emma into the kitchen.
“Is Regina...?” Emma wasn’t even sure what the end of that sentence was gonna be. Was she gonna ask if Regina was okay or some shit? That would be ridiculous. Of course Regina wasn’t okay. Emma
already knew that. The brunette was so far from okay.
“She’s just woken up from her nap,” Zelena said. “But she might not be happy to see you. Do you want something to drink? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Something stronger?”
“Coffee sounds fine,” Emma said.
“Very well. I’m about to make myself a cup anyway.” Zelena started to push different buttons on the very complicated looking coffee machine. “I know I asked you to not give up on her, Emma, but I don’t condone this. You are taking an unnecessary risk. Regina would never forgive herself if something happened to you.”
“Regina didn’t ask me to come here. I made that decision on my own.”
“You are still putting yourself in danger and Regina feels responsible for that,” Zelena said shortly as she pressed another button on the coffee machine. It didn’t take long before Emma heard the sound of coffee being made.
The blonde shifted on her feet. She knew that coming here was a risk, and she also wasn’t in doubt that Zelena really thought that she was a fool for coming here, but at the same time, Emma was sure that she had heard relief seep through Zelena’s words. Regina’s sister was relieved that Emma had come back. She probably just didn’t want to show it because of how dangerous the situation was.
“Shall we head inside the living room?” Zelena suggested.
“Sure,” Emma said and glanced around. “No Henry today?” maybe the kid was upstairs with his mom.
“He’s at a friends house,” Zelena replied. “He’s been staying there since yesterday. Regina prefers that he doesn’t see her when she’s unwell.”
Emma cringed a bit at that.
They went inside the living room, and Zelena had just motioned for Emma to sit down while she fetched the coffee when they heard movements from upstairs.
Zelena turned her eyes towards the ceiling, and Emma’s heart started thudding too loudly in her chest. Now she could creaks as though someone was coming down the stairs. Regina was coming downstairs. God, what was she gonna do when she came in here and found Emma?
Emma felt sick. She couldn’t bear if Regina would be angry with her.
The footsteps got louder.
“I should have made more coffee,” Zelena mused. “She’ll probably want a cup as well.”
Emma had forgotten how to answer. The only thing she could focus on was the footsteps and the slight creaking sound coming from the staircase. The blonde shifted uncomfortably on the couch. What if
Regina wanted her to leave? What if she wouldn’t actually get the chance to even talk to Regina before Regina turned her away? Something coiled in Emma’s stomach, and she prayed that she wasn’t gonna throw up. That was not how she wanted to make her presence known to Regina. She fiddled with her hands in her lap and tried to order herself to stay calm. It wouldn’t exactly help the situation if she started to freak out. This wasn’t about her. It was about Regina.
There was one final creak, and then Emma could hear Regina’s footsteps downstairs. She was in the kitchen. Emma heard the fridge being opened, and then a cupboard was being opened. Maybe Regina was pouring herself a glass of orange juice. Hadn’t Henry mentioned that orange juice was her favorite?
There was a soft thud as the cupboard was closed again, and after a few seconds of rummaging around, Emma heard the fridge being closed as well. Footsteps approaching.
Emma tried to breathe normally.
Regina came into the living room, glass of orange juice in her hand. Her hair was a bit less-smoother than it normally was. It was curling slightly around the edges in that fashion hair tended to do when you had been sleeping, but she was dressed and done up in one of her many “pencil skirt and blouse“- outfits. To Emma, she looked absolutely perfect. She couldn’t stop looking at Regina’s face.
Regina stopped abruptly in her tracks. Her dark eyes went wide, her hands trembled slightly, and she spilled a few drops of the orange juice on the floor as one of her hands flew up to cover her throat.
At first, the gesture confused Emma, but then she noticed that Regina wasn’t wearing a scarf. Emma’s heart sank a little when she realized that Regina was trying desperately to hide the bandage the blonde already had seen faint glimpses of in the past.
Zelena immediately leapt from the couch and disappeared out in the hall. Emma heard her loud footsteps as the redhead more or less ran upstairs.
Before Emma could get the chance to wonder about it, Zelena appeared in the living room once more. Without further ado, she took the glass of orange juice from Regina and then handed her a scarf in return.
Regina promptly turned around and disappeared into the kitchen.
Emma’s stomach dropped further.
Zelena’s mouth was a thin line, and her forehead was wrinkled in concern, but she didn’t say anything as she carefully placed Regina’s glass of orange juice on the table and then sat down next to Emma on the couch.
Emma felt like she might start to weep all over again. Regina didn’t want to put on the scarf in front of her. Regina was terrified that Emma should see her without the scarf. The blonde swallowed something.
Next to her, Zelena took a deep breath.
After a moment or so, Regina came back inside the living room. With the scarf in place around her neck. Emma wasn’t sure what to say or do. Should she smile at Regina? Would she even be capable of smiling when she felt this close to tears?
As Regina approached, Zelena jumped up from the couch once more. “I think I’ll go and fetch the coffee. Do you want a cup as well, Regina?”
Regina nodded and then looked at the stains of orange juice she had left on the carpet.
“Don’t mind those, hun,” Zelena said swiftly as she passed Regina on her way into the kitchen. “I’ll get them later.” She touched the top of Regina’s shoulder lightly and then she disappeared into the kitchen.
Regina went over to the couch and sat down next to Emma. She turned her head and looked at Emma. She was frowning. Exactly like Zelena had done. Then she lifted her hands but quickly lowered them again.
Emma immediately understood. Regina had been just about to use sign language, but then remembered that Emma couldn’t understand it. And now the brunette looked a little defeated as she looked around in the living room, it was obvious that she didn’t have her phone with her right now.
Emma immediately came to her aid. The blonde had actually come prepared. She had scolded herself for it during the drive here, what chances were there that Regina wanted to see her?
But now Emma was grateful that she had come prepared. She was grateful that she was able to reach inside the little bag she had brought with her and pull out a little stack of post-its notes and a pencil.
She handed both items to Regina, and the brunette immediately tore a post-it note off the stack and began scribbling. A whoosh of breath escaped Emma. She wasn’t aware that it was possible to miss the sound of a pencil scratching against paper this much.
After a moment or so, Regina pushed a note towards Emma, and the blonde immediately bowed her head and read: ‘you shouldn’t be here.’
Emma’s belly clenched. “I know. Bu-but I had to see you.”
Regina shook her head and scribbled underneath. After another moment she removed the pencil so Emma could see the message: ‘you’re putting yourself in danger.’
“I don’t ca-“
Regina immediately held up a hand to silence her. The brunette shook her head again. Then she tore off a new post-it note, scribbled and then gave Emma the note.
Emma swallowed when she read: ‘don’t ever say that again!’
“I’m sorry,” the blonde quickly amended. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Regina nodded in agreement.
Emma couldn’t stop herself as she spoke again: “Regina, I am so, so sorry! And not just about coming here even though I’m not supposed to, I’m sorry for everything, god, I’m sorr-“
Regina interrupted her frantic babbling by holding up her hand again. She shook her head again. Then she tore off another post-it note, and the pencil scratched against it as she scribbled for a moment.
Emma forced herself to wait patiently while Regina wrote. After a moment, another message was slid towards her, and Emma quickly read it: ‘my doctors are sorry for me. My sister is sorry for me. My friends are sorry for me. And what does that help? Nothing. I do not need your pity, Emma.’
“I’m s-“ Emma stopped herself and shook her head. “You’re right. Of course you don’t.”
Regina shifted a bit on the couch, fiddled with the edges of her scarf. Her dark eyes became a bit unfocused, as though she was miles away.
Emma carefully scanned her face and then whispered: “are you angry with me for coming here?”
Regina turned her head and her eyes became focused once more as she looked at Emma. After a moment or so, she grabbed another post-it note and began scribbling on it. It didn’t take long before
Emma was presented with yet another note: ‘you are putting yourself in danger because of me.’
Emma nodded to acknowledge that, but right now there were things she was more afraid of than Liam and his terror. “I don’t want to lose you,” she whispered and felt completely raw and vulnerable. “Which is probably really selfish of me, but....” the words died on her tongue when she saw Regina shake her head again.
Emma looked down at her hands. Her stomach was clenching more than ever, and to her horror she felt how her eyes started to burn in that telltale manner. She tried to force herself to stop, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t prevent the tears from falling. Nor could she prevent herself from saying the things that needed to be said: “that night at the... at the concert,” she whispered. “I...I k-kissed you. I shouldn’t have d-done that.”
Regina promptly tore off another post-it note and scribbled for a moment. Then she gently pushed the note towards Emma.
Emma’s vision was completely blurred, and she had to blink away the tears before she grabbed the note and read it: ‘you haven’t done anything wrong, Emma.’
Obviously, that only made things worse, and Emma couldn’t prevent a teeny tiny sob from forcing its way out of her mouth. She immediately felt terrible for crying, though. She wasn’t supposed to sit here and weep when Regina was... When Regina was the one who had....
Another sob forced its way out of her mouth. Emma hated herself for it.
A soft, warm and was put lightly over hers, and Emma looked up to meet Regina’s concerned gaze.
“This is all wrong,” Emma said and shook her head slightly. “You shouldn’t be the one consoling me. That’s fucked up.”
Regina just offered a light shrug. She hadn’t moved her hand away from Emma’s yet, and Emma sat and wished that she never would. She didn’t dare turning her palm upwards so she could intertwine her fingers with Regina’s. She was terrified to accidentally overstep Regina’s boundaries.
After a moment or so, Regina moved her hand away from Emma’s and reached for her glass of orange juice. She brought the glass up to her lips and Emma saw how she winced slightly as she swallowed a mouthful of the orange juice. Emma immediately wanted to ask if she was okay, or if there was something she could do, but she didn’t quite dare to ask either.
Regina sat the glass of orange juice down once more, and her dark eyes became unfocused again. It was obvious that she was thinking about something, and Emma was terrified that she would ask her to leave at any moment.
But then the brunette turned her head and looked at Emma again. She even smiled a little. A teeny, tiny smile, and Emma’s insides completely melted because she was seeing a glimpse of that woman, she had enjoyed coffee with. The woman she’d had dinner with. The less concerned and troubled version of Regina.
Emma hesitantly returned the smile. Was she allowed to feel hopeful? Just a little bit? She knew that seeing Regina smile didn’t magically fix everything, but damn, seeing that smile felt like a healing balm being poured onto Emma’s battered heart.
There was a slight creak and then Zelena came into the living room once more. With three cups of coffee on a little tray. Out of the corner of her eye, Emma saw how the redhead observed Regina for just a moment, and then her shoulders seemed to uncurl as she saw Regina smile. She walked over to the couch and put the tray down on the coffee table. “There we go. Coffee machine took a bit longer today.”
Regina looked up and shook her head. Then she lifted her hands and signed something.
“It did,” Zelena claimed.
Regina shook her head but didn’t sign anything else.
Zelena sat down next to them, and Emma quickly grabbed one of the coffee cups. She took a sip and was immediately impressed. She didn’t know what kind of brand this was, but it was definitely better than the coffee she had at Eugenia’s Inn. Not that she would ever dream of telling Eugenia that.
Regina too took a sip of her coffee, but this time she didn’t wince. Instead she immediately started coughing. Emma immediately looked panicked at Zelena. Shouldn’t they be doing something?
But Zelena just discreetly shook her head once, and Emma understood that this wasn’t something they should do something about.
And after a few moments Regina stopped coughing again. Now she winced and rubbed her silk covered throat slightly. Then she took another sip of her coffee. This time she didn’t cough. Or wince.
“Anyway, what time do you want Henry home?” Zelena asked as though nothing had happened.
Regina sat her cup of coffee down and wiggled her fingers in the air.
“Okay,” Zelena said. “Do you want me to call Nick’s parents and tell them that you’ll be there in an hour?”
Regina nodded once.
“Alright. I’ll do that then,” Zelena said briskly and rose from the couch once more. Emma doubted that she had managed to get more than two or three mouthfuls of coffee.
Regina took another sip of her coffee and then reached for the stack of post-its. She tore off another note and grabbed the pencil. She began scribbling, and Emma took the opportunity to take another gulp of her coffee. It felt like it had been a very long time since she had enjoyed a cup of coffee this much. But she doubted it had anything to do with the coffee. It was because of the company.
A new message was pushed towards her, and Emma quickly read the message: ‘Henry’s been staying at a friends house since yesterday. I always feel so guilty when I have to send him away. He prefers to be around me.’
“You shouldn’t be feeling guilty,” Emma said immediately.
Regina found a new note and began scribbling. For a longer period of time. Emma took another mouthful of coffee while the brunette scribbled. After exactly five mouthfuls of coffee, another note was pushed towards her, and Emma read that message too: ‘I’m afraid that’s easier said than done. I can’t help it. I gave him the fright of a lifetime when I was unconscious for a week, and once I woke up, he cried every time it was time for him to go home. He keeps thinking that I’ll disappear again. My therapist keeps saying that it is alright for me to send him away once in a while, that he has to see his friends and get the chance to be a normal little boy, and I understand what he means, but it’s still hard.’
“You’re seeing a therapist,” Emma said, relief seeping through her voice.
Regina nodded, quickly scribbled underneath the first long message and then removed her pencil so Emma could read the message: ‘yes, twice a week.’
“Good,” Emma said plainly. Regina was seeing a therapist. She was getting professional help to cope with what she had been through.
Regina nodded again and reached for her coffee cup. She took a small sip of the hot beverage. Without wincing.
Emma looked at the brunette. She still had so many things she wanted to say to Regina. She wanted to tell her that she wasn’t broken. She wanted the brunette to know that she was planning on sticking around for a very, very long time. But she couldn’t quite bring herself to say any of it. Regina looked so tired. There were dark circles underneath her beautiful, dark eyes. The last few days had undoubtedly been hard on her. Or the past few weeks. Or months. Or the past year. Emma’s stomach clenched again. She desperately wanted to reach out and take Regina’s hand. She wanted her to know that she was there. That she wasn’t planning on going anywhere.
But she didn’t reach out and take Regina’s hand. She didn’t want Regina to flinch and feel afraid.
And then Regina reached for the stack of post-its. The pencil scratched against the paper as she wrote another message. It didn’t take long before she tore the message off the stack of post-its and then handed it to Emma.
The blonde’s stomach dropped a little as she read the message: ‘I think it’s best if you leave now.’
“Okay,” Emma whispered, and it felt as though an invisible fist was squeezing her heart.
Regina nodded a little.
Emma wanted to ask if she could come back, if she was allowed to text Regina, but she had a feeling that now was not the time to ask. She had seen Regina today. That had to be good enough. And
Regina was doing relatively okay. That was more than enough.
Emma emptied her cup of coffee and then rose from the couch. Regina did the same thing, and together they walked into the hall. Emma saw Zelena watch them from the kitchen.
The blonde grabbed her parka and fumbled a bit as she shrugged it on and zipped it. Then she looked up at Regina again. “Thank you for.... wanting to see me.”
Regina’s mouth twisted and Emma saw her eyes cloud with sadness for a moment. Emma reached behind her, and without turning around she opened the door. She wanted to keep looking at Regina for as long as possible.
But once the door was open, Emma didn’t exactly have a valid excuse to keep hovering. She was supposed to leave now. Regina looked tired. She probably needed a moment to rest before she had to pick up her son. Come on, Swan. It’s time to leave. You can’t just keep standing here like an-
Emma’s internal scolding of herself was suddenly cut short when she saw Regina raise a hand. The brunette looked so conflicted, and Emma was just about to ask about it, but whatever question she was about to ask died on her lips when Regina suddenly cupped her cheek very, very lightly. It was barely a touch, really, and yet Emma still felt like she could die on the spot. She wanted to cry, and she wasn’t completely sure why. She also wanted to put her hand over Regina’s again, but she wasn’t that stupid. Instead she managed to flash Regina a rather wobbly smile. She could feel how her chin trembled. And maybe she was taking a stupid risk as she leaned into the touch.
But it didn’t make Regina flinch. Instead Emma saw just the faintest glimpse of a smile on the brunette’s lips.
Emma didn’t want to push it, so she reluctantly moved away from the warm hand and noted that her voice trembled just a little as she said: “bye.”
Regina offered a nod and a faint smile.
“Take care of yourself,” Emma blurted out and immediately felt incredible stupid for saying it.
But Regina moved her lips and formed a: “you, too.”
Regina’s lips moved once more, and Emma had to say the words out just to make sure she was lip-reading Regina correctly: “don’t... take...any....more....risks.”
Regina nodded in confirmation. Now she looked very serious.
“Okay,” Emma whispered. She didn’t want to stay away from Regina, but she understood why Regina wanted her to. And besides, nothing could keep her from texting.
Emma felt a teeny tiny bit uplifted when she arrived home. She had seen Regina. She had communicated with Regina. And Regina was- well, she wasn’t exactly doing WELL, but Emma had seen her smile once or twice. The blonde could probably live high on that smile for several days.
The blonde shrugged off her parka coat and unlaced her boots. She had arrived home safe and soundly, and now she was back in her room. She didn’t really have that many plans for the rest of the day.
Maybe she would write a bit. Finish those fairytales. Or maybe she would change into something that was a bit more comfortable. Emma wasn’t planning on going out more that day, and the world wouldn’t come to an end if either Ruby or Eugenia saw her in her sweatpants.
Emma chuckled a bit to herself as she grabbed her sweatpants and elegantly wiggled out of her jeans. She paused for a second with the sweatpants in her hand. Should she maybe head out on a run instead?
Nah. Emma chuckled again. She felt far too lazy to go for a run today. Maybe she could tomorrow. If she didn’t feel too lazy. Which she probably would. But seriously, she would have to start running again. Or get a membership in a fitness center or something like that. Her job mostly consisted of sitting on her ass, and Emma figured that starting to run again would be a pretty good habit to incorporate into her routine.
Or maybe she could take up swimming. There was a pretty decent pool in Steveston. Maybe she could go and check it out next week. If she had time. No, scratch that, she would find the time. All the many bear claws she had consumed lately were bound to come back and bite her in the ass sooner or later, and Emma would like to do something about it in advantage. It was no harm to be on top of things.
Emma glanced at her phone. Maybe she should call Ella before she threw herself into “Writing land”. Emma knew that it would take at least a few hours before she re-emerged, and Ella was constantly complaining and claiming that Emma didn’t call her enough. Maybe Emma should rectify that. Maybe she should call Ella right now so they could finally figure out when she could come to Steveston. Emma really wanted to show Ella this beautiful little town she now thought of as “home”. Maybe Emma could ask for a “Mary Margaret”-update. Her update seemed to have given up completely, and while Emma was relieved, she was actually a bit surprised as well. Could it be that Mary Margaret actually had dropped it? Perhaps her new baby- Neal- had finally made her think of something else than ruling Emma’s life?
It definitely seemed like it.
Emma stretched. For once, she was something representing “comfortable”. It really helped that she had seen Regina today. The blonde lifted her hand and touched her cheek where Regina had touched her. The touch had been so brief, and yet it had made Emma melt completely. And Regina was the one who had initiated the touch. That meant the world to Emma. To think that Regina had touched her so freely.......
Emma yelped and threw herself flat onto the floor, only narrowly avoiding being hit by the heavy object that suddenly broke the window! There was broken glass everywhere, and Emma cried out in pain when she felt shards of broken glass cut into her skin. Her heart thudded in her chest and she barely dared to lift her head. Her window had just been broken. Something heavy had just been thrown against her window. Emma struggled to process what the hell had just happened as she forced herself to lift her head.
A brick. There was a heavy brick lying on the floor. That was what had just been used to smash her window. Emma blinked. She had shards of glass in her hair. She had gotten one hell of a shock, but she was unharmed. Apart from a very small cut in her palm.
Before she could get the chance to really process what just had happened, her phone rang, and Emma’s heart started to hammer in her chest once more. She rose from the floor and stood on shaky legs as she went over to the bedside table and grabbed her phone. It was an unknown number calling her. Of course it was. Emma quickly switched on the app so she could record the call, and then she answered the phone.
“Next time I’ll bash in your fucking face!” that male voice hissed in the other end. “You fucking bitch! I warned you, didn’t I?! Stay. Away. From. Her!”
The next thing Emma heard was someone running down the hallway, and then frantic knocking on her locked door. “Ems?! Em, what happened? Are you okay?!”
“I’m fine!” Emma called back. “Someone’s just used a brick to smash the window!”
“Oh my god! Are you hurt?! Please let me in!”
“I’m fine,” Emma said again as she went over and unlocked the door so Ruby could see for herself. “I’m gonna call Graham. Don’t touch anything.”
Ruby stayed back while Emma quickly phoned Sheriff Graham and told him what had happened. The sheriff promised that he would be right there, and it didn’t take long before he showed up with a smaller “army” of officers who all ventured into the woods in an attempt to track down Liam.
Graham took Emma’s statement, and Emma played the recording for him. The Sheriff looked very serious when Emma “fessed up” and admitted that she had indeed been to see Regina again.
The Sheriff of Steveston took Emma to the hospital where she was checked out and tested for pretty much everything, but miraculously enough, Emma’s had only been cut by the shards of glass a few places, and Doc was quick to patch her up. She didn’t even need stitches. Just band-aid.
Graham and Doc said that she had been lucky, but Emma wasn’t so sure about that. She had a feeling that Liam had made missed deliberately. That he had aimed. This was clearly a warning. Like the three events in fairytales, Liam had given her three warnings. One: the slashed tires and threatening message there had been keyed into her car. Two: the phone call where he spoke to her the first time. And three: the brick he had thrown at her window now. Emma had a feeling that he wouldn’t be so benevolent the next time.
The rest of the day was chaotic.
Eugenia’s Inn were crawling with cops. Emma was moved out of her room. Again. Temporarily moved to another room down the hall, but Graham said that it wasn’t a long term solution. Liam was escalating, and they had to think of something else before “things went completely south”.
Eugenia was furious at the “miserable bastard” as she called Liam, and she refused to listen when Emma tried to apologize for the broken window. It was her fault, really. Eugenia brushed that off, patted Emma’s cheek in a grandmotherly fashion and said to hell with the window. That could be replaced. Emma couldn’t.
Emma was served cocoa with cinnamon and endless amounts of sympathy, and it didn’t matter that she tried to point out that no harm had come to her.
The police and several volunteers (including Leroy and his axe) searched the woods and all of Steveston to find Liam, but as it was starting to get darker, Graham returned to the diner with discouraging news. Liam was gone. Vanished. In thin air. Graham wasn’t entirely sure how the hell he had done it, but he had. There was absolutely no trace of him.
“How can he just be gone?” Eugenia demanded.
“That I have no idea of, Mrs. Wolf,” Graham said patiently. “My men will continue the search tomorrow, but-“
“He won’t be here,” Emma said bitterly as Eugenia fumingly returned to her kitchen to check on the food she had been making for the volunteers.
“Most likely not,” Graham agreed.
“God damnit!” Emma said and jumped up from her chair, shrugging off the blanket Ruby had draped over her shoulders earlier. “This is insane! He’s playing some kind of sick game of hide and seek, Graham!”
Graham nodded, and Emma proceeded to pace up and down the floor. “This is impossible! How can there even be any hope of ever catching him?! I mean, he only ever shows up when I’ve been seeing Regina!”
Graham’s head snapped up and he looked at Emma for a pretty long time before he quietly said: “yes. Exactly.”
“Exactly?” Emma echoed and blinked confused at the cryptic statement. “What do you mean exactly?”
The sheriff rose from his chair as well. “That might be the answer.”
“Okay?” Emma said. “Wanna... elaborate?”
“Yes,” Graham said. “Tomorrow morning. I want to ask both you and Regina to come to the station at eight o’clock precisely. There’s something I’d like to discuss with both of you.” He jogged towards the door. “I’ll be contacting Regina tonight. Try and get some sleep, Emma.”
With that he walked out of the inn, and Emma was left alone and completely puzzled over Graham’s cryptic statements.
“Some sleep?” she half-shouted at the closed door. “Some lunatic threw a goddamn brick through my window, and you want me to get some sleep?!”
Yeah, right. Like that was gonna happen. Maybe she would ask Ruby to mix that drink the waitress referred to as a “sleep potion”. Emma wouldn’t mind falling asleep quickly tonight. That way, it would become tomorrow sooner, and the sooner tomorrow came, the sooner she would find out exactly what Graham’s cryptic musings meant.....
To Be Continued............