Disclaimer: Not my characters. I'm just taking them off the shelf to play with them for a bit. I promise to put them back when I'm done with them. :)
A/N: Well, this is it. Some might say "finally" with a breath of relief but I'm sad to see this AU go. I had a lot of fun writing this story and delving into two of my great loves with it (language and history), and I'm glad for every comment or review that let me know that the little factoids I sprinkled liberally over this story were appreciated.
A/N: I hope this epilogue makes up for the last chapter. ;-)
August 31st, 1934
Granny watched from behind the counter as Regina sat in her regular booth, enjoying a strong cup of coffee after lunch and reading through some paperwork. She smiled at the familiar sight, even though the smile was a little sad around the edges because of the melancholy emanating from their mayor. They'd even had an election to make it all official, and Regina had been voted into office by an overwhelming majority.
Regina Mills, mayor of Storybrooke, Maine.
Granny liked how that sounded in her ears, and she patted herself on the back for the millionth time for persuading Regina to stay and take over. If only it hadn't cost her the woman she loved. Granny checked the big clock over the door and counted down under her breath. And here we go, she thought, as their sheriff, David Nolan, and his new wife entered the diner, all aglow from still being in their honeymoon phase.
David and Mary-Margaret waved to Regina, who took one look at the mousy teacher and winced. Granny sighed. Regina really couldn't stand the new Mrs. Nolan and Granny still remembered the day in early June when Regina had stormed into the diner with a fierce look on her face, growling "I just saw her talking to a squirrel in the park!" before disappearing into her room.
The same room she had shared with Emma before she had left. The room Regina had stayed in until Gold's mansion had been renovated and, on Granny's strict orders, fumigated. And even then Granny had only let her go with great reluctance.
"Everything ready for tonight?" David asked, greeting Regina with a large smile. He was never going to give up hope that Regina would get over her dislike of his bride, and they could got back to being good friends again.
Regina looked up from her coffee. "Yes," she replied with a satisfied smile. "Just finishing up my work for the day, and then I'll head over to the club to get ready." She ignored Mary-Margaret as she continued. "Will I see you there?"
"Of course. We can't wait to see you back on stage." He chuckled. "Too bad the sheriff can't moonlight as a bartender …"
"If the mayor can sing, I'm sure the sheriff could hand out drinks … you just have found better things to do," Regina said with a smile. "But I have no doubts my new bartender is going to be more than adequate."
Granny smiled when she heard her friend's words. She knew Ruby would be just as good behind the bar at the Queen's Club as she was behind the counter or waiting tables in the diner, but it made her chest swell with warmth that Regina sounded so sure of that as well.
Ruby and Granny had both decided that they'd leave the diner in the hands of the new second waitress, Ashley, while they went to the club on those nights when it was open, which would mostly be Fridays and Saturdays. They were a small town that didn't really need a full-time night club, and neither of them wanted too many outsiders to come in.
To Storybrooke, their new mayor who could sing and scat with the best of them, was their very precious secret, and one they definitely intended to keep to themselves. Which of course meant that they'd have to keep Mary Margaret Nolan from singing about it to the busybodies from Rockland and Wellport in her Sunday school knitting circle.
Granny stood silently as Regina drained the last of her coffee while David and his wife found a seat at a different table. She sighed once more, deeply unhappy about the rift between Regina and David, which wasn't really between the two of them at all, and had more to do with the fact that Mary Margaret clung to David like a limpet whenever they left the house. If Granny had to place a bet, she'd wager that Regina missed her old friend's company just as much as he missed hers.
Regina stood and pulled together her files but Granny stopped her before she could leave. "When should we come over tonight?"
Regina thought for a moment. "Ruby should be there two hours before opening to make sure everything's the way she wants it to be, I guess," she replied with a smile. Then she gave Granny a shrewd look. "But I already talked to her about this, so why don't you tell me what it really is that you want to know? You've been a little strange for days now … Are you all right?"
Granny chuckled. "Can't get anything past you, can I?" If only you knew, my dear friend. "I think I'm just nervous." In more ways than you could think.
Regina seemed to accept that explanation easily. "No need to be, Granny. It's going to be a fun night."
Regina turned and left, not allowing Granny to comment on the emptiness of her words and eyes.
o o o
Regina sat in the small apartment above the club that had been converted into a spacious dressing room for her and everyone else who worked there. It was late afternoon and everything was ready for the grand re-opening.
It should have been a happy day for her. Everything about her life these days was good. She had good friends, even if one of them married an insufferable idiot, and even something akin to family. But the truth was that she wasn't happy, and doubted her decision to stay in Storybrooke every single day. That brief happiness she had felt with Emma had seemingly ruined what she would have considered happiness before.
Now she just missed Emma every second of every day.
She thought back over the past few months, something she often did in moments like this despite knowing it would only make her feel worse. In the beginning, the pain had been acute, a stab every time someone mentioned Emma … and somebody always managed to mention Emma in her presence. The only people who never did were Granny and David.
It had taken Emma a week after her departure to get over the fact that Regina hadn't been there to say goodbye. She had called then, desperate for Regina's voice, but they had only been able to talk for a few minutes before they both couldn't get any words out any more.
They had written to each other. Regina wrote long letters with details of her life in Storybrooke but not too many words about her feelings which she couldn't seem to commit to paper. Emma wrote back, sending short, quirky notes about flights and mishaps, but hardly anything about her life in Iowa. Emma mentioned her feelings even less than Regina did.
About a month into their separation Emma had shown up in Storybrooke because she just couldn't take it anymore. She had walked into the diner, grabbed Regina by the hand and had just dragged her off to the room she still considered theirs. She had woken up that morning in Iowa after dreaming of Regina and hadn't been able to take another day without touching her, so she'd readied the Lady and had flown off. They'd made love for hours, reveling in each other's touch, but it had also reopened the wound of their separation, which had barely scabbed over.
In the morning, they had clung to each other, not wanting to let go, but knowing they'd have to, once again. This time, Regina drove Emma out to the airfield and watched her leave, while fighting the urge to just board the airplane with her.
Later that day Regina had written Emma a letter, asking her not to do that again. Emma couldn't even blame her for that because she herself was suffering the pains of their separation anew, and it almost felt worse than before.
After that, things subtly changed, and Regina still didn't know what happened. Emma's letters came less regularly, and they contained even less of what Emma was doing each day. Granny assured her that Emma was just busy with their company, helping Marco build a new airplane, and David echoed that. Regina hoped it was true, but she couldn't help but wonder if their love was slowly being eaten by the distance. There was no talk of their deal anymore either, and neither mentioned it.
Now Regina was sitting here, getting ready for her big night, and wondered what Emma was doing tonight. She hadn't heard from her at all in three weeks, but her last letter had confirmed what Granny had told her: Emma and Marco had to get a new airplane designed for a customer, and it was a big order. Once that was done, she'd have more time again, and that was what Regina clung to, but it was hard not to feel the sharp sting of rejection.
Regina had coped with the separation as well as she possibly could by jumping head first into her work. By day, she took care of her mayoral duties, and during the evenings she made sure the club was going to be ready for its opening on time, involving herself in every small detail. And between those two things, she caught some sleep or, as Granny called it, cat naps of a couple of hours here and there. She hadn't slept right since before Emma had left.
A knock on the door pulled Regina from her thoughts. Ruby's head poked around the corner and Regina gave her a warm smile. "Just wanted to let you know I'm here now," her new bartender announced cheerfully. "Everything's ready downstairs. Can I help you with anything up here, Boss?"
Regina chuckled, glad for the distraction. "You can bring me a nice hooker of bourbon, Ruby, and then you can help me pick something to wear tonight."
Ruby gave her a bright smile. "Be right back."
o o o
Emma cursed loudly as the heavy box in her hand threatened to slip for the third time in as many minutes, leaving her with yet another tiny splinter in her hand. She quickly shuffled the final few steps to the airplane and heaved the box into the small cargo hold with a loud groan.
"That was the last one," Marco said from behind her. "The rest is in the truck." He studied Emma's tired posture, her sad face, and wondered if he had ever seen her this broken. No, he decided, she hadn't even looked this bad when he'd first found her walking along the highway out of Chicago. This needed to end, and he sent up a prayer to Saint Thérèse, hoping that it wasn't too late to fix this mistake.
Emma sagged against the airplane. "I know," she replied wearily. "I'm going to freshen up a little before I take off." She strolled slowly towards their house and stopped at the water pump in the front yard, getting it going with a few heavy pumps.
"I'm heading out," Marco yelled to her and received a short wave from Emma in return. "Make sure to get those tools there in one piece!"
Emma looked up to glare at him, but didn't say anything. Marco climbed into his pickup truck and rattled down their long driveway, thoughts already focused on the long drive and what awaited him at his destination.
Emma splashed cold water on her face, trying to feel as awake as possible for her flight, but her thoughts were somewhere else, just like always. She sent a thought to the woman she missed more than she could have believed possible, then climbed into her airplane.
As soon as she was in the air, she allowed herself a hopeful smile.
o o o
The club was full to bursting on this opening night but Ruby handled all orders with aplomb. She checked the pocket watch that was strapped to her belt and gave a sign to Granny across the room. Granny gave her a short wave and disappeared through a side door. Ruby gave another sign to Leroy, who got up from his chair at once to go upstairs and get Regina, while Ruby poured a dirty martini for Belle French, smiling softly. "Good luck tonight, Belle," she said with a wink, glad to see her old high school friend out and about. She received a shy smile back.
Tonight was going to be interesting.
o o o
Regina checked her reflection in the mirror and wondered not for the first time why Ruby had practically insisted on her wearing a tuxedo tonight. She had been all set to wear one of her new dresses but Ruby had smiled enigmatically and had told her that it would be good luck to wear something similar to the last time she had sung in the club.
Slightly confused at Ruby's insistence, Regina had shrugged and put on one of her new tuxedos. She wasn't exactly sure why but she had taken extra care with her hair and make-up, too, and it had appeased the fluttering in her stomach a little. There was a kind of nervous energy around the club tonight that she hadn't felt in a long time and she decided to enjoy herself as much as she could.
"Boss, it's time," Leroy's voice came through the door.
"Thank you, Leroy. I'm coming."
Leroy opened the door and poked his head in, giving her the up-and-down. "Wow, you look snazzy, boss. You're gonna rock he—… everyone's socks off tonight." He blushed and disappeared, leaving behind a frowning Regina.
Was it her or was everyone around her acting strange today?
o o o
Granny had decided unanimously that she would be the one to introduce Regina and officially open the club, and nobody had dared to contradict her. David had shaken his head with a small smile, and Regina had just hugged her, and so it came that Granny now stood in front of half the town in her brand new black evening gown, clearing her throat loudly into the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, hats and cats," she said once the excited chatter around the club had quieted down considerably. A sign from Leroy from behind the curtain told her she could continue. "Welcome to the Queen's Club." A smattering of applause. "Ever since it was burned down by Gold, we all missed this wonderful den of hooch and jazz … oh, wait a second … this was a tea salon wasn't it?" She winked at the people at the table in front of her and basked in the laughter. "Well, nowadays we can all get out the giggle water from under the bar and dip our bills openly again." More cheers from the tables and many raised glasses.
"And as for the jazz, ladies and gentlemen, we have that back as well." Granny made a dramatic pause. "You wanted to see your queen? Here she is!"
o o o
Ruby disappeared through a side door while the club's lights were still down for Regina's big entrance, and smiled when she saw the person waiting outside. "You can come in now," she whispered with a smile. "I saved you a seat at the bar."
"Can she see me?"
"Not unless you want her to."
o o o
Regina waited until the applause had died down a little before she started on the first song. They had decided beforehand that she would ease them all into the evening with a bit of a cappella singing while her new band members got over their nerves.
She smiled with her eyes closed as she sang the first few lines, half listening to the noise of the club, half to the rustling behind her that told her that Archie, Mike, and Belle were getting ready to join in. They had practiced together a lot over the summer to get ready, and Regina felt confident that everything would go nicely. Archie had been at the box for her before, but it had come as a pleasant surprise to realize that Mike Tillman was not just a good mechanic but also a nobby skin tickler, and that Belle was more than decent with the dog house.
Regina slowly opened her eyes as her band joined in with almost perfect timing, and her shoulders lost some of their tension. This was good, she thought. This was going to be a good night.
They finished Blue Moon and segued into Stars Fell On Alabama when Regina first realized that there seemed to be something going on in the club. She couldn't see farther than the first couple of tables due to the lights shining in her eyes, but it seemed as if a lot of people were just as interested in the back of the club than they were in her. Well, must be Ruby and the drinks she's pouring, Regina thought as she continued with their planned set list.
o o o
Regina only sang for a good hour, as had been the plan, so she and her band members could enjoy the opening as well. She was about to tell the audience so when there was a cat call from somewhere off to the side.
"Sing the Morocco song!" the voice called. "Do the Dietrich again!"
Granny, Regina thought with a fond smile. Wonder why she wants that particular song. I guess that's why Ruby wanted me to wear the tux tonight. "The Morocco song?" she asked into the microphone and was surprised by the wave of calls and applause from everybody in the house. "All right," she agreed with a shrug. "I have no idea why you want that song in particular, but I can certainly sing it for you."
She looked back at her band. They hadn't worked on this song, but for some reason they all had the notes handy and started playing the intro immediately. Regina raised an eyebrow, beginning to wonder what was going in earnest now. Her heart started beating harder than it had all evening as her mind went back to the last time she had sung this song. The night of the fire, the night she had first kissed Emma at the end of this very song. She closed her eyes and thought of Emma, while her voice rang through the suddenly silent club.
About halfway through the song, Granny gave Leroy a small sign and he went off immediately and, one after one, switched on more lights until the whole club was visible from the stage.
At the back of the club, a woman got up from her seat on wobbly legs, downed a drink that was handed to her by Ruby, and slowly started making her way towards the stage.
Regina noticed the difference in ambient light despite still having her eyes closed. She refused to open them, not sure what was going on, but not yet willing to find out. She made it to the last couple of lines of the song before she opened her eyes and blinked a few times to make sure she was seeing correctly.
There, in the middle of the club, stood Emma Swan, wearing the same dress Regina had given her the night of the fire.
Regina's voice broke at the sight, and the final words of the song remained unsung. "You …"
"Hello, Regina," Emma whispered, her voice not stable enough for more, but the club was so quiet that Regina heard it anyway.
"What are you doing here?" Regina sounded hoarse from more than just singing.
When neither of the women made a move toward the other, Granny silently walked onto the stage and gave Regina a light nudge. "Go on, Regina, go and kiss your girl," she whispered, and when Regina still didn't budge, she gave her a light push that finally propelled Regina down the two steps off the stage and toward Emma.
Belle accentuated every step she took with a cheeky pull on her strings, and Mike and Archie joined in until they were jamming a little to take the focus off their band leader. It didn't help much; all eyes remained fixed on the two women who were now standing only an arm's length from each other.
Suddenly there was a resounding crack that broke the rhythm of the song the band was playing. Emma's hand shot to her cheek, covering the burning spot where Regina had just slapped her.
"This is for completely disappearing on me over the past month," Regina growled. "I thought you'd forgotten me."
"Never," Emma swore. "I was just really busy settling our affairs back home and getting everything ready."
"Getting everything ready?" Regina repeated. "Ready for what?"
"Ready for the big move," Emma replied softly. "Regina, Marco and I … we bought the airfield here in Storybrooke," she explained. "I couldn't take being away from you. It was killing me."
There was a tear running down Regina's cheek, completely unnoticed by the woman. Emma, however, tenderly brushed it away with her fingertips. Regina reached up and held Emma's wrist. "Do you mean that?" she asked, needing to hear it again. "You're staying this time?"
Emma could only nod as her free hand moved a lock of hair behind Regina's ear in a gesture that echoed what Regina had done in a similar situation almost half a year before. "I'm here to stay," Emma confirmed. "If you still want me."
In reply, Regina pulled Emma closer and pressed their mouths together in a soft, gentle, too short kiss, despite being uncomfortably aware of their audience. Emma kissed back immediately, letting out a soft moan, part relief, part pure, unadulterated feeling as she tried to deepen the kiss. Her eyes remained closed when they parted after a long moment, only blinking open when the sounds of the club registered in her brain again.
Regina thought the blush on Emma's face in reaction to remembering they had an audience was cute, but all she wanted now was to take Emma away from here. "Come home with me?" she whispered in Emma's ear, so as not to be overheard. There was only so much she was willing to share with the citizens of Storybrooke.
"Am I forgiven then?" Emma asked equally as low.
"I'll tell you when we have less company."
Emma smiled against the side of Regina's face. "I'm much more of an action-oriented gal," she husked. "I think you should show me."
Regina pulled back enough to meet Emma's eyes, and the mix of love and desire in the dark eyes made Emma swallow hard. "Don't worry, Miss Swan," Regina said, barely audible even to Emma. "This will be a show and tell."
Emma's nostrils flared as she bit back another low moan and took a step back from Regina, holding out her arm. Regina took it without hesitation and the two women walked swiftly towards the exit.
"Well, now that the queen is leaving, I guess we can start the party," Granny called out, as much to the guests as to Regina.
Regina turned around at the door. "The next round is on me, everyone. Be my guests and enjoy your night." Then she met Granny's eyes across the club and mouthed, "Thank you", knowing instinctively that her friend had a huge hand in planning this surprise for her.
"You're welcome," Granny whispered to Regina's back. Then she walked to the bar to let Ruby pour her a good stiff drink. She deserved it.
o o o
Outside, Emma stopped Regina for another kiss. "I love you," she whispered against Regina's lips before diving in once more for another kiss, not holding back this time.
"I love you too," Regina breathed when they parted again. Then she gave Emma her most brilliant smile. "I still can't believe you're here to stay."
"I can't believe I stayed away that long," Emma replied ruefully. "Besides, you still owe me a riding lesson."
"I'll send for my horses tomorrow," Regina promised. Then she took a long look at Emma in the moonlight. "You look beautiful in my dress … I especially appreciate the slight burn marks on the side."
Emma chuckled. "It brought me luck the last time I wore it," she explained with a half-shrug.
"Does that mean I can expect you to share my dresses from now on?"
"Hell no," Emma replied. "Your tuxedoes, however …"
They walked to Regina's house arm in arm, talking softly, pausing for kisses every so often, dreaming of a future, while inside the Queen's Club Granny, Ruby, Leroy, and David proceeded to toast each other and their plan long into the night.
up-and-down — a look
snazzy — very good
a hooker of bourbon — a stiff shot of bourbon
hats and cats — male and female jazz fans
giggle water — alcohol
dip the bill — have a drink
box — piano
skin tickler — drummer
dog house — string bass
Thérèse of Lisieux is the patron saint of pilots.
In my head Marco drives a 1929 Pontiac Pickup.
The Volstead Act is the informal name for the National Prohibition Act of 1919, the law that enacted the prohibition in the U.S.