Emma let out a frustrated whine and tossed the dried out pen in the trash. It was her last Pilot pen, and now she’d have to write with some piece of shit BIC. She always brought in her own pens because of how much she preferred them to the cheap ones that David bought for the department, but in the aftermath of the break-up, she’d forgotten she was down to her last one.
It was like she was a different person now, and she hated that. Ever since Neal, she’d made it a point to avoid relationships, knowing just how much she’d get hurt when they ended. She should have known better than to get more involved than a one-night stand. Granted, this time, she was the one who’d ended things, and she thought she’d been handling it pretty well. Apparently, she hadn’t been.
That was what had prompted David to change her shift. His reason hadn’t been bullshit—Mulan had gotten engaged, and it was taking a huge toll on her having to work a shift opposite Aurora. Still, Emma knew why David had really asked her to switch: because she couldn’t act cool around Graham.
It wasn’t that she was mean to him or anything. She just didn’t want to look at him or talk to him. It was just so awkward, and she knew that he was desperate to get her to change her mind. Every time she tried to be friendly to him, she could just see the hope in his eyes, and the one time she’d gotten him coffee, he’d called her later that night asking her to reconsider, since you know deep down that you’re just scared of being loved, but it’s not scary, I promise, Emma.
So, no more coffee for him. No more smiles. No more jokes. And apparently, that made her difficult for everyone else to work with, which meant that she was getting moved to the night shift.
The reason why everyone hated the night shift wasn’t the loneliness from being the only one on shift barring an emergency. It wasn’t the paranoia, wondering whether or not a call would come in or a disaster would happen. It wasn’t even the strange schedule or the occasional annoying drunk who needed to dry out in a cell overnight.
It was the crushing boredom.
The department computers were too ancient to use to surf the internet for pleasure, and Emma’s data plan wasn’t substantial enough for her to use her phone instead. There was always some paperwork to complete, which she did at the start of the shift, and there was the odd call every few nights, though those rarely warranted anything more than a reassurance. Yes, Mrs. Lucas, we will be alerted immediately if someone trips the alarm at the diner. No, sir, we cannot arrest someone for opening and closing their garage door when they get home, even if it’s midnight and it’s noisy.
Emma had only had to go out on patrol twice in the last month, once to pick up a very, very drunk Leroy and bring him back to the station to dry out, and once to act as animal control and return Pongo home after he’d been caught digging up some old lady’s garden (the woman had been ranting and raving about all the various award-winning vegetables the dog had endangered).
And that was as exciting as Storybrooke ever got.
She started bringing books and magazines with her, so when she was done with her paperwork, she’d stick in her earbuds and listen to music while she read. Which is what she planned to do tonight, except that she’d been on her last page of the last report when her pen had died.
She hated being in such a bad mood all of the time. It was hard when she knew she was on this shift because of Graham and his inability to be cool, so that she could also be cool. It was even harder to forget about the situation when she was working that very ten-hour night shift as what felt a lot like a punishment.
Grabbing a crappy pen from August’s desk, she finished the report, filed it, entered the necessary information into the ancient desktop, and then grabbed her book, earbuds, and phone.
Only to find that she’d left her phone at home. How the hell had she done that? It was definitely at home; the twenty minutes she spent anxiously waiting for the “find your phone” website to load confirmed that it was at her address, and now that she thought about it, she had no memory of unplugging it and sticking it in her pocket, like she did on her way out the door every night.
Of course she’d leave her phone at home. Could her mood get any worse? She grabbed her book anyway and hunkered down in her chair. Maybe there would be a thrilling car chase or something tonight, as though that sort of thing ever happened in Storybrooke. It would definitely keep her from dying of boredom.
After ten minutes, she gave up on reading in silence; it was just too quiet, and she was starting to feel some sleep nods coming on. Feeling incredibly awkward, since she’d teased August so often about it, she reached for the dilapidated, prehistoric radio that he kept on his desk (“What can I say? I’m just a sucker for retro technology ”), switched it on, and began fiddling with knobs until she hit a song that was both recognizable and clear. Sure, it was “Someday” by Sugar Ray, but hey, just like being in high school again, right? And more importantly, it was something to listen to while she read.
A couple songs later, just as she finished a chapter, the DJ came on for station identification. “That was ‘How You Remind Me’ by Nickelback, as requested by Walter.” She perked up when she heard the DJ start talking—she told herself that it was just her surprise at hearing a British accent in the middle of Maine, and that it had nothing to do with how smooth and low and sexy—nope, never mind, not going there.
The DJ continued talking. “Thanks for the request, mate, and I hope you enjoyed your song. This is DJ Jones, getting you through the early morning hours here on Pop 94.7 WSBK, Storybrooke’s one and only station bringing you hits from today and yesterday. If you’re up and there’s something you want to hear, I’m just a phone call away.”
People were actually up and making requests? Emma snorted; she hadn’t made a radio request since she was fifteen. She still remembered freshman year, calling up the local station, hoping that the boy she was crushing on was listening, and requesting “Baby One More Time.” She’d blushed furiously around him for weeks after that, until it became clear that he hadn’t heard the song at all. When she admitted to a friend why she had been acting so awkwardly all week, the friend had laughed and said that no one made radio requests like that, and what did she think would happen?
She supposed that maybe making radio requests as an adult was a bit different. People didn’t have to use music to send a secret love message to a crush; they could just be bored and want to hear a particular song.
When the music started up again, this time playing something from this decade, she shrugged to herself, picked up her desk phone, and dialed.
“94.7, WSBK.” It was the DJ, his voice—no, his accent unmistakable.
“Hi, uh …” She was a little thrown off. “You answer your own calls?”
He chuckled. “Aye, this isn’t a very busy shift.”
“Oh, I hear you there,” she said sympathetically. “Same boat.”
“Something I can help you with, love?”
“Um, yeah, can I request a song?”
“Absolutely. What would you like to hear?”
She paused for a moment; she had been brainstorming a few songs to request but hadn’t really settled on one before the guy had answered the phone. Thinking about her frustration with herself for getting on this shitty shift in the first place, she asked, “How about ‘My Own Worst Enemy?’ Lit—you know the song, right?”
Another laugh. “I certainly do. And just for whom am I playing this angsty classic?”
“Well, Emma, I’ll queue it up. Should be the song after the next one.”
“My thanks as well. Have a pleasant night.”
Maybe she’d seen too many episodes of Frasier, but she really hadn’t been expecting to hear the DJ himself on the phone. She’d been totally thrown off. Not because his voice was incredibly sexy—lots of radio DJs had great voices, since it was probably a hiring condition. She just thought his producer would answer, or some other operator. But it was almost four o’clock in the morning, so he had a point: not a busy shift. Probably not a lot of calls.
Sure enough, after the current song and the one following it finished, the opening guitar riff of “My Own Worst Enemy” started playing. She was mostly focused on reading her book, but it was kind of fun to listen to a song she knew was playing because she’d asked for it. She bobbed her head along with the beat throughout the duration of it, and when it wrapped up, she felt an odd wave of what she couldn’t decide was disappointment or satisfaction.
“That was the late 90s classic ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ by Lit, a song I admit to listening to quite often in my youth. Thank you, Emma, for your request, and I hope the rest of your shift goes by quickly.”
It was weird hearing him talk to her through the radio. Weird, but not bad. And, well, the rest of her shift did go by much more quickly.
Two nights later, Emma paused as she was putting in her earbuds. So far, forgetting her phone had been a one-time thing, and last night, she’d gone back to reading while enjoying her own playlists. But it had been a little … boring.
After years of listening to playlists she’d created, she’d forgotten something she’d always really enjoyed about the radio: she kind of liked having someone else pick the songs. Not enough to relinquish all control on long road trips or anything, but enough to make her quickly Google how much data does Pandora use on her phone.
The answer was basically “Too much. Nice try, Emma.”
But it was just a little boring knowing what songs were going to come up next on her playlist. Even when she hit shuffle, it didn’t add all that much suspense. And just letting her phone shuffle through her entire library didn’t sound all that attractive as an option; she wasn’t really interested in hearing country and gangsta rap back to back.
She sighed and set down her phone before grabbing the old radio again; when she switched it on, Adele’s vocals filled the room. Either August hadn’t used it at all since she’d surreptitiously borrowed it, or he liked the station she’d found. She leaned back in her chair and picked up her book again. This was kind of nice. She hadn’t downloaded Adele’s new album, but she still got to listen to this great song—this was why radio was so great.
The song wrapped up a couple minutes later. “That was Adele’s latest, ‘Send My Love To Your New Lover.’” It was the same DJ as before. She winced; of course it was the same DJ as before. This was his shift, too, obviously! “This is DJ Jones, and 94.7 WSBK will be back with an oldie but a goodie after a few messages.”
A few messages later brought “Good Riddance,” which Emma personally felt was a little too melancholy for a night shift. After “Unsteady” and “Paparazzi,” she picked up the phone again.
“94.7 WSBK.” This time, she was expecting the DJ himself to pick up.
“Hi, can I make a request.”
“Of course. What can I play for you tonight?”
“How about some Bon Jovi?”
“Excellent choice. Any particular song?”
“How about you surprise me?” she asked, with a shrug.
He laughed. “And who am I surprising?”
“Ah, I thought I recognized your voice.”
“Really?” Oh god, she sounded like an excited fangirl or something. Shouldn’t she be creeped out instead of flattered?
“Well, love, I do spend a lot of time taking calls. You learn to recognize voices a little more easily, I think.”
She felt a little deflated. “Oh, I guess that makes sense.” And it did make sense.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to lecture you.”
“Oh, no, I just hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Sorry, Emma, I have to go—we’re about to go to commercial.”
“Okay, bye.” That had been a little abrupt. But almost immediately after she hung up, she heard DJ Jones’ voice through the radio.
“Thanks for joining us on this quiet Thursday night. We’ll be back after a few messages with a special request from Emma.”
She tried to focus on her book during the commercials—had commercials gotten more irritating lately, or was that just her? Each time a commercial ended, she’d eagerly anticipate the little station identification clip that signaled the return of music. Finally, after what seemed like twenty minutes (but had only been two), the little ditty announcing 94.7 WSBK! played, followed by …
“It’s My Life.” She laughed, pleased with the choice. She was expecting “Living on a Prayer,” not that she would have minded either way, but she liked that he’d surprised her.
The next night, her last shift of the week, she didn’t even bother with her phone when she finished her paperwork. She just immediately flipped on the radio, in time to catch “Cheap Thrills” midway; she bobbed her head along as she flipped open her book. The song ended, and then …
“That was Sia with some ‘Cheap Thrills’ for ya on this happening Friday night!” Emma sat up abruptly at the unfamiliar voice. “This is DJ Ruby, coming at you all night long with non-stop party hits to keep your weekend going strong! Stay tuned for more after the commercial break!”
Emma privately thought that if this peppy DJ thought this was a “happening” Friday night, she must be in some kind of parallel universe where Storybrooke wasn’t a tiny town where nothing ever, ever happened. But she wasn’t about to say no to some party songs to keep her awake and alert throughout her shift.
She was a little relieved when six o’clock rolled around and the DJ signed off, passing the reins to a gentler-sounding woman. Two hours later, Emma’s own shift ended; she put the radio back on August’s desk, clocked out, and went home feeling a little less excited for her weekend than she usually was. She wasn’t really sure why.
On her Monday night shift, when she finished her paperwork, she felt a little apprehensive as she grabbed the radio and switched it on. There was a song already playing, so she patiently waited for “Style” to end.
“That was Taylor Swift’s ‘Style,’ here on 94.7 WSBK,” DJ Jones said, and she grinned. “We’ll be back with some of your requests after this commercial break.”
She picked up her phone.
“Hey, there, I’d like to make a request.”
This time, she was expecting that he’d recognize her. “Yup.”
“Lovely to hear from you.” She rolled her eyes, but she was still grinning. “What can I play for you tonight?”
“How about ‘If I Had a Million Dollars?’”
“I will absolutely play that for you, though I can’t guarantee I won’t be singing along.”
She laughed. “Is it possible to listen to it and not sing along?”
“Honestly? I doubt it.”
“Any time.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll queue that up for you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your shift tonight.”
As she sang along, after the commercial break, she wondered if he was really singing along, too, or if he’d just said so to be friendly.
“Hey, there, DJ Jones.”
“Emma! How are you?”
“I’m fine. You?”
“Better now. You know, no one’s called tonight?”
“Really?” She found that hard to believe, given that she called nearly every night.
“Really. You’re usually my second or third request of the night, and you usually call in earlier, too.”
“Yeah, unusually busy night for me.” There had been a slew of burglaries lately, and the backed-up filing had fallen to her. “Well, how about I give you two requests then?”
“Let’s have it, love.”
“Can I get ‘Bye Bye Bye’ and ‘Genie in a Bottle?’”
He laughed. “Aye, although I’m not sure I can play them back to back. Although with how quiet things have been, who knows if anyone except you is even listening?”
“Hey,” she said, frowning. “I’m sure that’s not true.”
“I appreciate the reassurance.”
“People are probably just still hungover from their wild weekends,” she joked, and he laughed again.
“Wild weekend in Storybrooke?”
“Yeah, it was a stretch,” she admitted. “Well, I should let you go.”
“Of course, and I’m sure you’ve got your work to get back to. I’ll play both of your requests as soon as I can.”
The rest of the shift passed quickly. DJ Jones didn’t manage to play her requests back to back, but he nearly did, slipping in one current hit in between the two before going to commercial. And there were a few other songs before six o’clock hit that were requests from other people. Emma felt a bit smug; she’d told him other people were listening, and she really liked being right.
“You guys don’t get caller ID at the radio station?”
“Well, good evening to you, too, love. And alas, we don’t.”
“So you just have to hope it’s me every time you pick up?”
“That I do.” She blushed; thank god he couldn’t see. “But I didn’t expect you so early tonight.”
“Yeah, tonight’s been pretty dead. I don’t usually have time to call till three.”
“I’ve noticed. So what’ll it be tonight? Some tween pop from the days of yore? A little bit of old angsty punk rock?”
“How would you classify ‘Under the Bridge?’”
“Ah, a nineties alternative classic. That’ll be up next. Anything else for tonight?”
She shrugged, as if he could see her. “I dunno, honestly. Maybe I’ll call back.”
He chuckled. “I look forward to it.”
She hung up before she realized that he’d admitted to memorizing the time she usually called. Huh.
“So how did you get into radio in the first place?”
“College, to be honest. My mate convinced me to do it, insisting I—well, he convinced me, anyway. I enjoyed the challenge of selecting the right music, and since college stations aren’t all that different from your average independent station, I felt as though I were an adult, as odd as that sounds.”
“It doesn’t sound odd.” Emma grabbed her nail file and leaned back in her chair. “I was an EMT in college—like, we had our own EMS run by the university.”
“Yeah, brilliant, except my shifts involved lots of alcohol poisoning. Oh, and injuries that resulted from people thinking they were sober enough to do stuff like climb stairs.”
“You say that as though none of us had our college experiences colored by the drunken antics of others. You wouldn’t believe the crank calls I used to get at the station from intoxicated classmates.”
“Oh man, that reminds me, there was—oh, shit, the commercial’s ending. Uh, and sorry for swearing.”
“I’m not recording you, so it’s hardly worth apologizing for. Actually, mind holding on a moment?”
“Uh, sure?” Why was he asking?
There was the familiar silence that she recognized as being on hold. And then through the radio:
“Welcome back to 94.7 WSBK, where we’re playing pop hits from today and yesterday. This is DJ Jones, keeping you company throughout the small hours, so if there’s anything you’d like to hear, give me a call. In the meantime, here’s the latest from Justin Timberlake.”
As the song began to play, she heard him take her off of hold. “Sorry about that, love. We were saying?”
It took her a moment to remember, but then everything went back to normal and the conversation continued.
“You wouldn’t believe the day I had.”
“What happened, love?”
“A bunch of kids vandalized the high school. I got called in early to help clean up. You’ve gotta keep me awake, Jones.”
“I’ll do my best, love. Let’s see how much hard rock I can get away with, shall we?”
“Thanks.” And she really, really meant it. It was just what she needed.
“Everything okay, Jones?”
“Aye.” He was less convincing than Leroy insisting he hadn’t been drinking.
“Yeah right. What’s wrong?”
“You know I’m a cop, right? I can tell when perps are lying, and I know you’re lying, too.”
He sighed. “It’s the anniversary of my brother’s death.”
“Oh. Well, shit, Jones, I’m an asshole.” Now he wasn’t going to want to talk to her ever again, and it was because she couldn’t just drop the subject.
“It’s really all right. It’s been a very long time; I’m simply a bit … I get like this today, that’s all. I’m glad for the company, to be honest.”
She felt a little relieved, although still mostly sorry she’d forced him to tell her what was bothering him. “Well, glad I could help a little.”
“As am I. And if you’d like to be more helpful, tell me what song to play next.”
“Of course. Any preferences?”
“Something particularly whiney.”
“‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams,’ baby.”
“You’re going to get fired for this.”
“I will not. Come on, love.”
“You really will.”
“How on earth will I get fired? Now come on, don’t keep a man waiting.”
“Fine! Fine. Okay. “Call Me Maybe,’ ‘All About That Bass,’ and ‘Baby.’”
“Bloody hell, love, are you trying to get me fired?”
“You’re the one—goddamnit, Jones!”
He was laughing. “I’m joking, I’m joking! All right, I’ve got to return from the break and get these songs playing. Back in a jif.”
“What’s your favorite song?”
“That’s like asking someone for their favorite star in the sky.”
“Should have figured a DJ would avoid answering that question.” So much for trying to get to know him better.
“Why, what’s your favorite song?”
“I guess I have a few. Depends on my mood.”
“Yeah, like … when I was growing up, one of my foster parents would listen to Elvis pretty much all the time. So when I’m feeling nostalgic, that’s what I want to listen to.”
“Any particular songs?”
“‘Burning Love’ for sure. Sometimes when I’m feeling kind of sad, I’ll … well, never mind.”
“‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’”
“That’s a beautiful song.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “Yeah, it is.”
“I grew up with classic rock, so working at a pop station has taken some adjusting.”
“I can imagine. Well, so, what’s a song you’ve had to play a lot that you like?”
“That’s a good question.” He paused, clearly thinking. “Well, I’m about to return from commercial. Let me answer it for you then.”
He put her on hold, and a minute later, she could hear him through the radio. “Welcome back to 94.7 WSBK, playing you hits from today and yesterday. If there’s anything you’d like to hear, just give us a call. And now, here’s a personal favorite of mine.”
And the opening riff of ‘I Will Wait’ filled the room.
“I’m back, love.”
“Backstreet Boys or NSYNC?”
“Oh, definitely Backstreet Boys.”
“Britney or Christina?”
“Yeah, well, not as interesting as my obsession with Linkin Park.”
“I’m not all that surprised, love.”
“Well, boy bands and pop stars don’t often satisfy the teenaged need for some solid angst. You had to get it from somewhere else.”
“Fair enough. How about you?”
He laughed. “Which boy bands and pop stars did I prefer?”
“Darling, I’m from Britain. Spice Girls all the way.”
Emma wiped her tears away once again as she waited for two o’clock. God damn this whole day. Damn Neal. Damn him to hell.
“This is DJ Jones, ready to keep you company throughout the long hours of the night. Give us a call if you have any requests, and in the meantime, here’s the latest from Vance Joy.”
She grabbed her phone and hit speed-dial.
“Good evening, love.”
“Can you play ‘Jar of Hearts?’”
“Of course—Emma, is everything alright?”
“Are you crying, love?”
“I’m fine, Jones.”
“You’re obviously not. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Why wouldn’t he just drop this? She regretted pressuring him to talk about his brother; now he was going to do the same to her and get her sob story.
“Please, Emma. Please tell me.”
The pleading in his voice was just too much, and she started crying again. “Fine, you want to know? My sleazeball of an ex, who ditched me a decade ago after getting me pregnant, hired a fucking PI to track me down, and he showed up at my house today. Are you happy now?”
“Are you joking? Emma, that’s—why on earth did he show up at your house?”
“He wants to get back together—I told him to leave and that I’d get a restraining order if he kept bothering me.”
“Emma, I’m so sorry.”
“I’m fine,” she said emphatically, hyper-aware that she was still crying and it was obvious that she wasn’t fine.
“You’re not. Emma, you’re not fine. Hold on.” He put her on hold again, but this time, it wasn’t so he could go back on air. She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. Soon, he was back. “All right, you’re just at the local police station, right?”
She was about to answer that she was, but she stopped. “Why?”
“My colleague owes me a favor. He can’t get here for another half hour or so, but I can come by after that.”
“Wait, what?” Her heart started pounding. What was he talking about?
“I can come to the station,” he said. “I just have to wait for my coworker to get here to take over for me for the rest of the shift.”
She started to scan her desk like there was a pause button hidden underneath the paperwork somewhere. This was—this was too much. Couldn’t he tell? “Hold on, I didn’t ask you to do that.”
“I—I know that,” he said. “I’m sorry, I should have asked first.”
“Yes, you should have,” she said, more angrily than she’d meant. “You don’t even know me. We’ve never even met before. And suddenly you think you’re my friend, and you can just drop by my workplace like this?”
“Emma, I’m sorry, I—”
She hung up abruptly. What the hell had just happened?
He was a radio DJ. He was the guy she would chat with because they were bored and both working the night shift. He was not her friend or her confidante. What the hell had he been thinking, deciding to just show up at her workplace like that?
She was distracted from her thoughts by “Jar of Hearts” starting to play on the radio, and she nearly knocked over the antique piece of equipment trying to shut it off.
The next night, Emma took her time with her paperwork, but for once, the damn chore took almost no time at all. By midnight, she was done, with nothing to do for eight hours unless someone called in with a problem for her to solve.
She stubbornly jammed her earbuds in and listened to the angsty, angry playlist she’d made that evening before her shift had started. It felt like the old radio on August’s desk was glaring at her, maybe even judging her, but she ignored it.
She continued to ignore it until half past two, when her playlists were boring her, and she just felt …
She didn’t have to call or anything.
When she turned on the radio, it was in the middle of a commercial. Of course.
Her heartbeat started to quicken as the commercial ended. And then when the next one ended, and then—
“This is 94.7 WSBK, playing the hits from today and yesterday to get you through the long hours of the night. I’m DJ Jones, and if there’s anything you’d like to hear, please give me a call.”
He sounded totally normal, like nothing had happened. That was kind of … annoying, actually. Shouldn’t he sound upset? Not like it would change anything, but still. She was upset, so shouldn’t he be, too? After all, he’d been the one insisting on showing up at her work and stuff. She sighed and pouted, angry at herself for even caring.
But then he played “Please Don’t Leave Me,” followed by “My Own Worst Enemy” and “I Want You Back.” After the next commercial break, he played, “It’s My Life,” “Little Lion Man,” and “Purple Rain.” She switched the radio off after that, her hand trembling slightly as she did so.
So, unless she was super reading into things, he was sorry. And somehow, that just left her feeling shaken and unsure.
The next night, she couldn’t resist turning on the radio again, reasoning that he must have figured out that she wasn’t going to call in any more (right? She couldn’t call anymore, now that things had become … something else). But after “Somewhere Only We Know,” “All Apologies,” and, “Hold Back the River,” she had to turn it off again.
The next night, everything was mostly normal. He played a few songs that made her wonder if he was thinking about her, like “I Want It That Way,” but for the most part, it just felt like a regular night listening to the radio. She felt … well, she wanted to say she felt relieved, but instead, she just felt disappointed.
That is, until six o’clock rolled around. “Thanks for listening tonight, folks. This is DJ Jones, and I’ll be back on your radios Sunday night. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend, and here’s one more song to send you off.”
She was gripping her book so hard that her knuckles turned white, but somehow she made it through the entirety of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” without crying.
She drove home that night rehearsing what she would say to him when she called Monday night.
Hey, look, I’m sorry I overreacted, I just—
Are we okay? I just want things to go back to normal, can we do that?
Are you mad at me?
She shook her head at herself. Maybe she’d just let him do the talking.
To her surprise, David was waiting for her at the station when she showed up on Friday night for her last shift of the week. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Don’t you have, like, a wife or a baby or something?”
He rolled his eyes. “I do, in fact, have both a wife and a baby, both of whom I’ll be going back home to in a bit.”
She felt herself tensing up; he wasn’t the type to stay late to get work done. And if there had been something big going on at the station, she would have been called in earlier. In all likelihood, he was here to talk to her about something important. “Okay, so … what’s up?”
“Well,” he said, sounding like he was unsure of how she would react, “It’s been a couple months since you switched to this shift. I think maybe things have cooled off enough between you and Graham that you can come back to eight am.”
She blinked. She hadn’t been expecting this. She’d just gotten used to the shift, and, well … once she fixed things with DJ Jones—good grief, what had her life come to if she was worried about patching things up with a radio DJ? But it was what it was. “I, uh, I mean, I guess,” she said awkwardly. “But I’m used to it by now, you know?”
“I know,” he replied, and from his tone, she knew that the decision had already been made. “But to be honest, you’re one of my better deputies, and I need you working the day shift again.”
“Who’s moving to the night shift?” she asked.
“August.” She snorted. “Look, he’s good at paperwork, and he’s been asking to switch to nights for a while. Like I said, I need you back on days anyway.”
“Okay.” Clearly, she wasn’t going to be able to argue with him. “When do I switch back?”
“Monday.” Her heart sank. “So, tonight’ll be your last night shift, and then you’ll have all day Saturday and Sunday to readjust your schedule. I’m only gonna have you working a half day on Monday, just to go easy on you, but after that, it’ll be back to normal.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, trying not to let her voice rise too much. “I mean, I can stay on for another week or so.”
“Emma, really.” He put his hand on her shoulder in what she assumed was meant to be a reassuring gesture. “I know you’re worried about Graham, but I promise: things will be fine. I’ve talked with him already, and he’s going to be on his best behavior.” He smiled. “Got it?”
“Yeah, got it, chief.”
“So, see you bright and early at eight on Monday morning!”
So now what was she supposed to do? Call the radio station and leave a message for him? How would that even go? Wouldn’t he get in trouble if anyone else found out that he’d been spending his shifts talking on the phone with someone?
She figured he probably wouldn’t be that upset at her calling to try to get in touch with him, given that he’d been ready to skip out of work to comfort her over the whole Neal fiasco. But the thought of getting him in trouble, coupled with the fact that other people would find out about their weird little association, was enough to make it a no-go.
She’d just have to get up super early Monday morning and call.
Emma Swan, one of the lightest sleepers on the planet, who only used an alarm as a backup plan, who never had any trouble getting up early, failed to wake up at 5:45am on Monday morning. She blamed it on the fact that she hadn’t officially set an alarm—since she’d never needed to before—and decided to try again the next day.
Tuesday morning, she woke up ten minutes before she had to be out the door, having slept through her alarm for the first time in her life.
Wednesday night, she tried to stay up till two. She woke up at seven in the morning, having fallen asleep at her kitchen table.
Thursday, she tried both: she tried to wake up before six, and she tried to stay up. She succeeded at neither.
Over the weekend, she thought she might be able to catch up enough on her sleep enough to try again Monday morning. She woke up feeling refreshed and reached for her phone, only to see that it was already six-thirty.
By the end of the second week back on her original shift, it was very, very clear: she was never going to manage to be awake between two and six in the morning. She’d forgotten just how exhausting her shift was, now that she was actually running around, doing active policing, as opposed to just sitting around, doing paperwork, and maybe driving over to check up on someone once every couple weeks. It was nearly impossible for her to stay up much past ten o’clock at night, and although she constantly set her alarm for quarter to six, she also kept sleeping through it.
DJ Jones would just forever believe she was still angry at him, and there was nothing she could do about it.
A month later, the coffee maker broke.
Emma had been waiting for this to happen for a while, to be fair. She’d bought one of the cheapest ones that Target sold, and while she hadn’t bothered to read the instructions, she knew she wasn’t taking care of it properly. But it was still unbelievably frustrating to wake up at six o’clock, just as DJ Jones would be signing off, only to find that she was also going to be facing her Friday morning without any coffee.
Well, no, there was coffee. It just involved leaving her apartment. So she showered, dried her hair, put on street clothes, and walked to the end of the block where the closest coffee shop had opened for the day. She could grab some coffee and bring it home, where she could spend the hour before she had to leave for work trolling Amazon for a replacement coffee maker.
The coffee shop was pretty empty, which Emma figured wasn’t too weird since it was barely even six-thirty and they opened only thirty minutes earlier. There were a couple of other people in line, but all of the couches and tables were vacant. That made sense: people would be grabbing their coffee and heading out to work. It wasn’t like it was lunch time, or time for a well-deserved late-day coffee break.
It was finally her turn to order. At least one of the benefits of getting coffee out instead of making it at home was that she had options besides regular, boring coffee. “Yeah, could I get a medium pumpkin spice latte and, uh …” She deserved a treat, given the past six weeks or so. “Could I also get a scone?”
“Sure thing,” the barista said, grabbing the appropriate paper cup and scribbling on it. “Can I get your name?”
“Yeah, it’s Emma.”
“Emma? Gotcha.” The barista finished scribbling on the cup and on a paper bag before handing them both off to other employees.
But as she began punching in the order into the register, am arm was suddenly sticking out from behind Emma. The arm had a credit card clutched in its hand.
“The lady’s with me,” a very familiar voice said from behind her. “And could I get a large Americano? And, you know, those scones look all right—I’ll have one as well.”
The barista, to her credit, seemed entirely unfazed as she grabbed another cup and bag to scribble on. “Sure thing, Killian.”
It occurred to Emma that she should probably move out of the way, but it was kind of hard to move. Instead, Killian stepped around her to hand his card to the barista. She finished processing the transaction, and then grabbed the two scones from her coworker. “Here ya go!”
“Thanks, love.” And then he turned around.
Sweet Jesus. Emma had heard all about people having a face for radio, but clearly DJ Jones hadn’t been stuck with the job because his voice and his looks didn’t match up. Because the man with the smooth, sexy voice was definitely, definitely handsome as all hell.
“Um, excuse me,” said the person in line behind them. The two of them had been standing and staring at each other, holding up the line.
“Oh, god, sorry,” she replied, blushing.
He cleared his throat and gestured with the bags of scones. “Perhaps we could take advantage of the abundant seating.”
“Uh, yeah.” Yeah, she could do that. She opted for one of the sets of arm chairs that flanked a tiny little table that would be good for nothing except holding a couple of cups of coffee. He took the other seat, dropping the scones on the table as he did so. “So, uh … your name is Killian.”
“Aye. I take it you recognize my voice.”
She couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Yeah, I think it would have been hard not to. But how did you know it was me?”
He smiled. “You may recall one of the first times you called in, I already recognized your voice.” He blushed, his cheeks and ears turning slightly pink. “I, ah, wasn’t quite sure it was you, honestly, until you gave your name. And, well, you freezing into a statue when I spoke was another giveaway.”
“I was just surprised,” she said quickly. “That’s all. This was probably the last thing I would have ever expected.”
“Emma? Pumpkin spice latte for Emma?”
“Oh,” she said. “Uh, I’ll be right back.” When she got to the counter, his drink was also ready; she returned with both of them, only to find that he’d broken into the scones already. As she set the drinks down, she noticed something.
His eyes followed hers. “You can ask, you know,” he said, covering his mouth with his hand to make up for the fact that he was halfway through a bite of his scone.
“I don’t want to be rude.”
“It’s not rude.” He finished swallowing the mouthful. “I only have one hand. It’s a fact, not an insult.”
“Still,” she said, before taking a sip of her latte. “I’d have felt like a jackass if I just stared at you and said, ‘Hey, you only have one hand.’”
“Fair enough.” He drank some of his own coffee before returning to his scone.
“You must come here a lot,” she commented. “I mean, she knew your name.”
He nodded and swallowed. “Aye, I don’t come in every morning, but I’d say about half the time, I come in after my shift.”
“That I get coffee after my shift?” He shrugged. “I work strange hours, so I try to run errands and be a member of the adult world for the rest of the morning and as much of the afternoon as I can.”
“No, I mean …” It was her turn to blush. “You’re DJ Jones.”
“Ah.” He smiled. “You mean it’s strange knowing my name.”
“Well, you’ll just have to practice, I suppose.” She stared at him, and he ducked his head. “Not that I—I’m sorry, that was presumptuous. I know that my actions ended our friendship, unusual as it was, and I shouldn’t assume—”
“Killian,” she said firmly, and yeah, it was weird saying his name, but what was she going to call him here in public? It got his attention, though, and he stopped talking and looked at her expectantly. She took a deep breath. “I was going to call you. The Monday night after I … got upset. I really was. But my boss switched my shift without any warning. I keep trying to get up early or stay up late to call in, but I’m exhausted.”
“Wait, so this whole time—your shift changed?” She nodded. “So you aren’t still cross with me?”
“No,” she said emphatically. “Seriously, I’m mostly just pissed at myself for not being able to wake up early enough. I mean, I woke up at six today—six! Why the hell can’t I seem to wake up even ten minutes earlier?”
But he was laughing. She’d missed that. She’d missed all of this—talking, laughing, no expectations. She smiled and grabbed her scone.
He was still grinning. “Oh, Emma, love, that is a little sad.”
They talked for so long, she didn’t realize it was seven-thirty until David texted her asking her to bring a pair of shoes she’d promised to lend his wife. “Shit,” she said, staring at her phone. “I have to go.”
“Your shift starts at eight?”
“Yeah, and I have to run home and change first.” He raised an eyebrow. “I’m a cop, remember? Can’t wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt to work.”
“You could. Perhaps it would help you as you surprised criminals. They wouldn’t expect that the gorgeous blonde in loungewear was the very person sent to arrest them.”
“Gorgeous?” she asked with trepidation. She felt her face turn red.
“Yes, gorgeous,” he said. He leaned forward. “I will be entirely honest with you, Emma. I’ve very much missed our unconventional friendship, but once you disappeared from my life, I had to admit to myself that what I felt for you was a bit more than that.”
“I don’t do relationships,” she reminded him quietly.
“I know, I remember what you told me about why you were on the night shift in the first place.” He sighed and ran his hand over his face. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, not when we’ve managed to find each other again like this. So, please know, I’m capable of keeping things platonic. You don’t have to worry about me pressuring you, all right?”
“Yeah, okay, but … there’s still the whole shift problem,” she reminded him.
“Aye, there’s that.” He looked around him. “Well, how about this? I’m usually here weekday mornings around six-thirty. If you just happen to be here at the same time, we can enjoy coffee, have a nice chat, and then you can head off to work. And if you don’t happen to be here, then my day will proceed as it typically does, since I come here anyway.”
“Emma,” he replied, a little teasingly. He grinned. “Now, quit arguing with me. You’ll be late for work.”
She didn’t go back the next day. She told herself it was because she couldn’t afford to splurge on take-out coffee on a regular basis. But when David gently scolded her for being out of it, and Amazon couldn’t get her new coffee maker delivered until the end of the week, she knew she couldn’t hold out for long.
She meant to show up to the coffee shop as early as possible and then get out, since the point of going was to get her caffeine fix. And sure enough, when she showed up, Killian wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She waited in the short line, got her latte (and a muffin this time), and turned around to leave.
The end of their impromptu, accidental meet-up had been rushed, but he’d been clear about not wanting to lose her friendship. And she’d given Graham a chance to be cool about things. She could give Killian a chance to be cool, too.
And even more than that, she’d been stressing out over the past six weeks, trying to get in touch with him. Sure, she’d mainly just wanted him to know the real reason she’d stopped calling in during his shift. But she had to be honest with herself: she missed him.
So she sat down at the same tiny table they’d shared on Monday. Sure enough, five minutes later, the man himself stepped into the coffee shop. He looked a little worried as his eyes swept the scene in front of him, and when they landed on her, he smiled widely.
The feelings she had in response to that smile were a combination of happiness and oh shit. It would have to do for now.
It turned into a thing, even after her coffee maker arrived. Almost every weekday morning, they’d meet at after his shift and hang out for an hour or so before she had to leave for work. Sometimes he paid, sometimes she paid, and sometimes one of them would arrive before the other and they’d pay separately. He’d tried to argue with her during the first week, something about being a gentleman, but after she reminded him that they were friends, and friends didn’t default to just one person paying all the time, he relented.
Unlike Graham, he managed to be cool. They never talked about anything romantic, and he never once mentioned anything about her changing her mind.
Instead, they talked about the stuff they’d talked about before. They talked about music, about their interests, about hilarious or annoying things that happened at work. Although she wasn’t around to hear his show, he still insisted on her making requests; sometimes he’d ask for intentionally inane suggestions and report back the next day on how well or poorly the music had been received.
It was nice.
No, it was better than nice.
And that was starting to become a problem.
Emma knew she was in deep when she found herself in David’s office, six weeks later. “You’re asking to go back on the night shift?” he asked skeptically.
“Yeah,” she said firmly. “Yeah, I want the night shift again.”
“Emma,” he said, shaking his head, “we’ve been over this. I need you on this shift. And August wanted the night shift, too.”
“Well, I want it more,” she said. “Besides, you know the real reason he wanted that shift.”
“David, he’s working on a novel and he’s using that time to write!”
“And just what did you do when you were done with your paperwork?”
“That’s—I’m just saying—”
“Emma, I don’t know why you want to switch so badly, but I make these decisions based on what’s best for us as cops. For a while, that meant having you and Graham on separate shifts, and now, it means having August on the night shift.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Sorry, Emma, but no.”
She was almost shaking when she walked into the coffee shop the next morning. Killian grinned when she walked in, but that smile disappeared when she strode over to where he was sitting, instead of going up to the counter to order. “Love, what’s wrong?”
“This isn’t going to work,” she said, dropping down into her seat. “It’s just not going to work. We can’t keep doing this, you know?”
“What are you talking about?”
“This!” she said, waving her arms, as if that explained everything. “You work two to six, and I work eight to six, so this can’t ever be a thing, okay?”
“Hold on, hold on.” He reached over and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Emma, I’m very confused. Are you saying we can’t be friends because we work such opposite hours? I know we only get a few hours a week together, but I don’t want to lose our friendship just because we can’t have more.”
“Yeah?” she asked, a little breathlessly.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Now, you sit here and relax, all right? I’ll go get you some coffee.”
“Oh, no, come on, you paid last time.”
“And a snack,” he called back over his shoulder as he jogged up to the counter.
He was right, she figured. It wasn’t worth losing what they had just because they couldn’t have more. Even now that she might want more.
The following week, though, she could tell something was off. He was quieter, more subdued, and halfway through the week, he even seemed angry. “What’s up with you?” she asked on Friday.
“Don’t lie to me,” she reminded him. “I’m a cop.”
He sighed. “I can’t talk about it. But nothing’s wrong. Honestly, things are fine, better than fine, just not exactly what I wanted.”
Her heart sank. He meant her. He was starting to regret his promise to keep things platonic. He wanted more and he didn’t think he was going to get it.
She wasn’t sure what to do or say. Yes, maybe she could admit that she wanted more, too. But with their work hours, it was never going to work, no matter what either of them wanted.
She spent the weekend rehearsing what she would say to him on Monday. Would she admit that she wanted more, too? That she’d tried to get her shift switched back? Would she demand that he tell the truth, or would she just end things?
She was still practicing what she’d say when she walked into the coffee shop. She kept practicing as she ordered her drink and waited for it to be brewed. She kept rehearsing as she waited.
Where the hell was he?
By the time seven-thirty rolled around and she had to leave or risk being late for work, she was livid. Granted, she’d dropped off the face of the earth without warning before, but that hadn’t been by choice! If he wanted to end their friendship, he should have at least had the balls to show up and do it, like she’d tried to.
When she got in the car and began driving to work, trying very hard not to let her anger turn into road rage, she realized that her damn radio was on 94.7. She’d taken to listening to it on her way to and from work ever since she and Killian had reconnected, and so of course she’d left it on. “Treat You Better” was just ending, and so she reached for the dial to shut the damn thing off.
“That was the latest from Shawn Mendes, here on 94.7 WSBK.” She nearly hit another car as she was trying to navigate out of her building’s parking lot.
It was Killian.
“I’m DJ Jones, playing you the hits from today and yesterday to help you get a good strong start to your Monday morning. Here’s an oldie but a goodie, one of my personal favorites, near and dear to my heart.”
And “Can’t Help Falling in Love” began to play.
As soon as she got to the station, she googled WSBK’s schedule on her phone, and when ten fifteen rolled around, she popped her head into David’s office. “I’m going for a coffee break. Can I bring you back anything?”
He frowned. “We have a coffee maker.”
“I know. I want good coffee.”
“It makes good coffee.”
“Who’s going for coffee?” Graham asked. Emma waved at him. “Bring me back a macchiato?”
“Sure.” She turned back to David. “Regular coffee? Latte? Cappuccino?”
He rolled his eyes. “Iced coffee with skim milk. But this is your lunch break, got it?”
“Got it, chief.”
It was exactly ten-thirty by the time she got to the coffee shop, and sure enough, Killian was there, waiting in line.
“Hey!” He turned around at the sound of her voice, but he looked quite shocked to see her. “What the hell?”
“Emma, how did you know I’d be here?”
“I had the radio on in the car.” His face lit up. “Seriously, though, what the hell?”
“I tried to get the shift that would end at six pm,” he said, as though that made sense. “My boss agreed to the morning switch, but he wouldn’t give me the later spot.”
“You—wait, what? You switched shifts?”
“Aye.” Everyone was staring, and they were holding up the line, so he guided her over to the side of the shop. Emma glared at the two people sitting in their usual seats. “Look, Emma, you were right: it was too hard on us, working opposite shifts. This way, we’re at least on similar schedules, although I do have to be at work a couple hours earlier than you do, so I’m no longer able to meet you for coffee.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He laughed, a little unkindly. “Emma, you and I haven’t exchanged numbers, and one of the only reasons my boss agreed to the switch was that I agreed to start immediately. I was in the same position you were when you switched.”
“So you work from six to ten now?”
“Aye, I do.” He rolled his eyes. “Of course Gold couldn’t switch me to the two to six pm spot, but I swear, Emma, he’s sleeping with—”
She didn’t really care about radio station politics. She cared about the fact that he’d done what she’d tried to do. He’d switched his shift so that they had a chance to spend time together. Thanks to him, they could see each other in the evening. For hours. They could hang out on weekends, since neither of them had to keep up a weird schedule.
So she kissed him, right there in the middle of the coffee shop.
She only stopped kissing him when someone started hooting and whistling at them, but the kiss had been long enough that she knew she’d made the right choice. She pulled away, enjoying his stunned expression, before grabbing her phone and shoving it into his hand.
“I need your number,” she said, when he kept staring at her in confusion. “So I can call you when I get off work.”
“And what will you want to talk about?”
“Probably when and where I should meet you on our date tonight.”
This time, he kissed her, and only stopped when the manager very kindly and awkwardly asked them to leave.