Disclaimer: I don't own these people. Pity.


Emma Swan breathed a sigh of relief as her plane's wheels touched the dusty runway. "Middle of nowhere, looks like," she mumbled, knowing full well she had no reason to complain. At least this town had an airstrip that she had spotted from the air.

She grabbed her bag and climbed out of the cockpit and down the wing, patting the side of her plane as she did. "What are you doing to me, Lady?" Her beloved machine had started to react sluggishly to her commands just as she was about to fly out over the sea, and she knew that she was lucky the malfunction hadn't hit when she was out over the water.

She waited a few minutes, just walking around the plane and looking around. Surprisingly, nobody had shown up yet. She was used to drawing at least a small crowd with her dark blue biplane, but apparently there was something more interesting going on right now.

When the machine had cooled down enough for her to open her up, she took a quick look at the motor. There was nothing that immediately stood out to her, so she closed the flap and resolved to call her fatherly friend and business partner, Marco. "He built you, after all," she told the plane, "and he loves you just as much as I do."

"You always talk to machines?" a rugged voice said from behind her.

Emma whirled around. "Sorry, I had no idea anyone was here," she said with a smile. "It looked pretty deserted."

The newcomer grunted and continued to wipe his hands on a greasy cloth. "She yours?" He pointed at the plane. "Never seen one like her."

"Yep," Emma replied. "First one of her kind. My partner builds the planes, I'm the test pilot," she added. "I was just taking her out for her first really long spin when she acted funny on me, and I thought it better to set down here in … where exactly am I?"

"Storybrooke, Maine." He reached out his hand. "The name's Mike Tillman, I run this place here. If'n you want me to take a look at her, I'd be glad to." He looked like he couldn't wait to touch the beautiful plane.

"Emma Swan." They shook hands. "I'm going to to talk to my partner first, to see if he has any idea what went wrong," Emma declined the offer. "But I bet I could use the help when I start working on her." She looked around. "Got some space in a hangar for her? At least for one night?"

"Lemme get my truck." Mike walked off and returned shortly in an old pick-up truck. "Hook 'er up," he called out to Emma, who grabbed the thick wire and hooked up her front axle. As soon as she was set, she banged on the side of the truck and Mike pulled her into the smaller of the two hangars.

"How far is the town?" Emma asked once her lady was settled.

"About eight miles that way." He pointed down the coast. When Emma groaned, he grinned. "Come on, I'll give you a ride. It's time to head in anyway. Gotta get ready for tonight."

Emma threw her bag in the back of the truck and got in. "Anything special going on tonight?" she asked curiously when she saw the dreamy smile on Mike's face.

"Nope," he replied. "Just a night out at the Queen's club."

This place has a nightclub? Emma wondered. This I have to see.

o o o

The drive into town was bumpy and slow on a road that was in desperate need of repair. "Any place in town I could find a telephone and a bite to eat?" Emma asked after a few minutes of silence. Just then the whole car swerved to the side as Mike avoided a pothole. "That's some craters you got around here," Emma commented casually, her other question forgotten.

Mike snorted. "The only good thing about that is that it keeps me in business."

"How so?"

"I'm the only mechanic in town," Mike replied dryly. "And these roads around here keep me pretty darn busy."

"Shouldn't something be done about these holes? Children and small farm animals could get lost in them."

"You wanna see my business crumble, gal?" He laughed but it ended in a sigh. "You're right, of course, and the city council has tried again and again, but the mayor … let's just say he has other priorities."

"Other priorities?"

"Yes ma'am." The car jerked through another pothole. "He's got himself a young lady he wants to impress, and he's spending the town budget and then some on building a library."

"A library?" Emma's sounded incredulous. "This is the worst our economy's been in ... ever, and your mayor's building a library?"

"It's been said it's supposed to rival the big one they got down in New York City."

"And there's nothing the people are doing about that?"

"Nothin' much that can be done," Mike said with a shrug. "Our esteemed mayor owns most of the town. And the people in it."

The car stopped in front of a diner. "Well, Miss Swan, welcome to Storybrooke." Mike made a grand gesture. "This right here is the best place in town to get some grub." He pointed at the diner. "And I'm sure Granny's gonna let you use her telephone."

"Thanks, Mike," Emma said sincerely. "Can I buy you a cop of coffee for your troubles?"

Mike shook his head. "Nah, gotta get home and feed the kids," he said. "And then get ready for a night out."

"Ah yes, that nightclub," Emma just had to ask, "is that where everybody hangs out at night?"

Mike grinned. "Those who can afford it, yes ... and many a man and woman who can't, but the Queen hasn't thrown anyone out in a while."

"The Queen?"

"The club is called the Queen's Club, though now that I think about it I never saw an official sign or something ... it's just what it is." Mike chuckled. "The owner is called Regina and someone once told me that the name means queen. I guess it stuck."

"I guess it did." Emma opened the car door and got halfway out before she stopped. "Say, is there a motel or something in this town? Don't fancy sleeping on that bench over there."

Mike's face fell. "Aw man, I completely forgot ... Granny's inn the only place in town that rents rooms but she's been closed down by Gold."

"Gold?"

"The mayor."

Damn. "Well, I guess the bench it is, unless I can find a ride back to the airfield later. Wouldn't be the first time I camped with my Lady."

"If it comes to that I'll drive you out myself," Mike assured, "but you should maybe go to the club first. It's in that big house, and most people who work there live in the house. Maybe there's room for you for a few nights."

"Well, I wanted to check it out anyway," Emma said with a sunny grin. "Thanks, Mike." She grabbed her bag from the back of the truck and lightly knocked on the side to let Mike know he could leave. He gave her a two-finger salute and drove off, leaving Emma alone in front of the diner. The door was open and she could see a few people inside. "Guess the mayor didn't want to touch people's coffee," she muttered. Lucky me.

She could use a good cup of coffee right about now.

o o o

"We lived our little drama

We kissed in a field of white

And stars fell on Alabama last night

I can't forget the —"

CRASH!

"Oh darn!" A gruff voice muttered. "Sorry."

"Leroy!" Another man hissed loudly.

Regina interrupted her run-through of the songs for the night and let out a long sigh. She wondered what Leroy had dropped now. Maybe it would be better to hire professionals instead of her ragtag group of people if they were planning on being open for business for a while longer.

She walked swiftly toward the bar. "What now?"

A small, squat man looked up at her from behind the bar. "Sorry," he gruffed. "You sounded so good and I wasn't lookin' and …"

"He dropped a box of shot glasses," the second man finished for him, not looking up from the glass he was polishing.

Regina rolled her eyes. "How many do we have left?"

"That was the last box of new ones," Leroy admitted sheepishly.

"So not enough for tonight when everyone and their dog will be here," Regina concluded softly. "Well, I guess I'll drive over to the diner to see if Granny can spare some of hers then."

Leroy visibly relaxed at Regina's words but before he could express his gratitude, another man stormed into the room. "Regina!" A man with black hair skidded to a stop next to her at the bar.

"Killian, what's the rush?"

"Gold is on his way to the diner, looks like it might be some kind of meeting." Killian gulped in some air. "And there's a newcomer in town, who also ended up at the diner, so maybe that's connected."

Regina straightened at once. "I feel a sudden urge for a cup of Granny's best." She held one hand out over the bar. "Thanks, David," she said as she accepted the coat the barman handed her with a small nod. "You're in charge until I'm back. Get ready for business."

"Sure thing, boss," David said with a grin while Killian flinched.