thegirl20: (smile)
[personal profile] thegirl20
TITLE: Never give all the heart
AUTHOR: [livejournal.com profile] the_girl_20
FANDOM: Once Upon a Time
PAIRING: Kathryn Nolan & Regina Mills (friendship)
SUMMARY: Kathryn needs a friend.
RATING: PG
WORD COUNT: ~2100
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For [livejournal.com profile] anomalousalanna.

It’s raining. She stands at the window, toying with the band of gold on her finger. The rain makes her think too much. While David was gone, rainy days were the hardest. Now he’s back, they’re just as hard. Kathryn knows she shouldn’t think that way, but in some ways it was better when he was gone. The thought had occurred to her, in moments of darkness, that she might have preferred it if he’d died. Instead he’s alive and well, and he still isn’t with her. He’s never with her.

Since David’s return, her own memories seem to be more mixed up. She remembers buying the house with David, but not how they met. She remembers Ajax being put to sleep, but she can’t recall bringing him home as a puppy. She feels like she remembers having friends, but she doesn’t know who they are or where they went. Sometimes, she wonders if she’s going crazy.

Sighing, she turns away from the washed out colours of the world outside. She wanders through the kitchen, tapping her hand against the pocket of her jeans, against the outline of her phone. Without questioning the impulse, she pulls it out and scrolls to a number she’s never called before. She hits send before she can decide against it.

“Mayor Mills.”

“Regina? It’s...it’s Kathryn. Nolan.” She feels foolish; having to identify herself to someone she thinks of as a friend.

“Kathryn.” Any surprise Regina feels at receiving her call is not evident in her voice. “So nice to hear from you. How are you?”

“I’m good, thank you. And you?” She’s started to smile, just from the simple pleasure of talking to someone.

“I’m very well. And David? How are things going?”

The straightforward question makes her throat ache. No-one else cares how she is or how she’s coping. She feels more alone now than she did while he was gone. He appears to have a whole host of people who know him and care about him. Kathryn has no-one but this stranger on the end of the phone.

“He...uh...we’re...” She hates how thick her voice sounds. Her eyes close and she swallows hard.

“Kathryn, would you like to meet me for a cup of coffee?”

“Yes.” She answers without thinking. The warmth and concern in Regina’s voice is hypnotic and she wants more of it; more of this person who cares how she’s feeling. “Yes, I’d love to.”

“Excellent. I’ll meet you at Granny’s in thirty minutes.”

Something about the way Regina takes charge is reassuring; it reminds her of being taken by the hand as a child. She frowns, struck by a blurry vision of a man – her father? – pulling his hand away as she reached for it. She grasps at the image, trying to bring it into focus, trying to decide if it’s a memory or something invented.

“Kathryn?”

She blinks. The picture is gone. In its place there is an unease that’s been growing in her since David came back. It feels like waiting. Waiting for something. Something bad.

“I’ll see you there.”

There is a pause and Kathryn isn’t sure if she wants Regina to ask her if there’s something wrong.

“Okay.”

“Okay bye.” She hangs up before she can say anything else.

---

Granny’s is warm and welcoming, as always. The smell of freshly baked pie surrounds her as she pushes the door open and makes her way to a table. It’s early; the dinner rush hasn’t started yet. She shrugs out of her coat and takes a seat, glancing around at the other patrons. Most are reading newspapers or chatting quietly with companions. Ruby swings by her table with an easy smile and a crack of gum.

“You waiting for somebody, or can I take your order?”

“I’m waiting for-“ She feels like a fraud saying the word. “a...friend.”

“No problem.” Ruby shoves her order pad into the pocket of her apron. “Can I get you started with some coffee?”

“Sure. Thanks.” She sweeps away to pick up a pot.

Exactly on time, the bell above the door heralds Regina’s arrival. Kathryn looks up and is immediately glad that she accepted this offer. Regina greets her with a smile as she makes her way to the table. Mayor Mills always cuts a dashing figure, and today is no different. An immaculately tailored black suit hugs her curves. A flash of deep red silk is visible at her chest, matching her lipstick. Kathryn feels plain next to her. Beige against Regina’s black.

“Kathryn. You’re looking well.” She takes the other seat at the table. Kathryn notes Ruby’s eyebrows rising as she arrives with a pot of coffee and pours the dark, steaming liquid into the mug nearest to Kathryn. She turns to Regina as she does so, though she doesn’t quite meet her eye when she speaks. “Your usual, Madame Mayor?”

“Yes, thank you, Ruby.”

Ruby nods and starts to move away but Regina catches her free wrist to halt her. Ruby tenses until Regina lets her go.

“What kind of pie do you have?”

“Uh...today is...um...we have peach.” Kathryn wonders why Ruby is so nervous all of a sudden. “And I think there’s an apple pie just about ready to come out of the oven.”

“Perfect!” Regina leans closer to Kathryn, beckoning her across the table. “What do you think? Should we be naughty?”

Kathryn laughs at the mischief dancing in Regina’s eyes, coupled with the low, faux whisper she almost feels hypnotised by the other woman. She nods and puts on her best conspiratorial eyebrow raise. “Let’s be bad.”

Regina’s answering smile is nothing short of wicked. “Two pieces of apple pie, Ruby. And bring an extra cup with my coffee.”

With a quick nod, Ruby bounds away, relieved to be dismissed. Kathryn points to her mug. “I already have coffee.”

“I have them keep something special for me in the back. You’ll love it.” Regina gives her a little head tilt. “One of the perks of being the Mayor.”

She’s never given Regina’s role much thought, but now that she thinks about it, it must be a thankless task. Trying to keep everyone happy, making the difficult decisions, dealing with endless complaints and problems from the townsfolk. She doesn’t envy her. Power isn’t something that Kathryn has ever been interested in. Money and prestige hold no attraction for her either. She’s only ever wanted to be happy, and she can’t say for certain that she ever has been.

Her thoughts must be evident on her face because Regina’s hand is covering her own, still slightly chilled from being outside. She looks up to see Regina’s eyebrows slanted in concern and, from nowhere, she feels tears tickle the back of her eyes. She lets out a laugh that’s a shade away from being a sob.

“I’m such a mess.” She offers as an apology while she fumbles for a napkin with her free hand, not quite wanting to break the tentative contact she has with Regina. Dabbing at her eyes, her fingers are squeezed gently.

“You’re not a mess, Kathryn.” In Regina’s voice, everything sounds like it’s the absolute truth. Like there’s no room for disagreement. “I think you’re holding up remarkably well considering your life has been turned upside down recently.”

She keeps her eyes down, watching as she turns her hand over to hold Regina’s, her thumb brushing over the other woman’s knuckles. She returns the squeeze and finally brings her eyes up.

“I don’t know what to do, Regina.” It’s an admission that she didn’t know she needed to make. “I just...I don’t know what to do.” She draws in a shuddering breath. “It’s like...I want things to go back to how they were...but I’m not even sure that I know what that was like anymore. I wonder if I’ve dreamed up this perfect relationship that never existed.” Now that she’s started, she can’t stop talking. “When he was gone, I could at least hate him for walking away from what we had...whatever that was. Now he’s here and it’s still like he wa-”

She stops when Ruby clears her throat.

“Sorry...I...can come back?”

With a final squeeze, Regina lets go of her hand. Her fingers prickle at the loss and she bunches them into a fist to stop it.

“It’s fine, Ruby.” Regina keeps her eyes on Kathryn as she speaks. Ruby lays down a coffee pot and two cups with saucers. The cups are fine bone china; a far cry from the rough and ready mugs that sit on every table. Two plates follow, filled with generous slices of pie. The aroma is heavenly and Kathryn tries really hard to find a memory of her own mother or grandmother baking pies. She comes up blank.

“Let me know if you ladies need anything else.” Ruby picks up Kathryn’s original mug of coffee as she walks away.

They busy themselves with napkins and silverware for a few moments and Kathryn wonders if her emotional outburst has made Regina uncomfortable. She shifts in her seat as she digs a fork into the steaming plateful of pie. She shovels a sizeable portion into her mouth; if only to prevent further words from escaping. Instead, a moan erupts from deep in her chest and she covers her mouth with her hand.

Regina winks at her. “Sinful, isn’t it?” She takes a bite of her own pie, closing her eyes and echoing Kathryn’s reaction, albeit with a little more decorum. They continue to eat in silence until Kathryn can stand it no longer. She risks a glimpse up at Regina.

“I’m sorry for before. I didn’t mean to offload on you like that.“

With a wave of her hand, Regina dismisses the notion. “Nonsense. I suggested we meet so that we could talk.” She appraises Kathryn for a long moment. “I’m concerned about you.”

She almost brushes it off. But stops herself by biting her lip. She acknowledges the concern with a nod. “Thank you.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I let you deal with this alone now, would I?” For the briefest of seconds, Kathryn sees doubt flicker in Regina’s eyes. She forgets, sometimes, that Regina is as unaccustomed to having friends as she is. She smiles.

“It means the world to me that you care, it really does.” She shrugs. “I just don’t think there’s anything anyone can do. We can’t go back...I don’t even know what we’d be going back to. I just...”

Once again, Regina’s hand is on hers. The calming effect she has is almost unnerving. Those unfathomable eyes are on her. Though they seem to terrify Ruby, Kathryn finds nothing but solace in their depths.

“What do you want, Kathryn?”

“I...” She pauses. Where her next words come from, she has no idea. “I want to not feel like I’m second-best. I want to feel like I’m meant to be something.” She laughs, but it’s sad around the edges. “Maybe there’s no such thing as ‘meant to be’, huh? Maybe we’re just supposed to put up with what we’ve got.”

She looks to Regina for an answer, but the Mayor looks unsettled for the first time since she’s arrived. She draws her hand away, slowly, and sits back in her chair. She doesn’t speak for a long time, and when she does, it’s with a kind of sad determination that Kathryn doesn’t quite understand.

“Maybe.” Regina shrugs one shoulder. “Or maybe we need to make things happen.”

Kathryn tilts her head in a question but Regina smiles and breaks the strange atmosphere that has fallen over them.

“Don’t let your pie get cold.”

---

The rest of their time together is spent on general conversation. They don’t veer back towards the subject of David until after the check is settled – Regina insists on paying – and they are headed out into the darkened street.

Pulling her scarf tighter, Kathryn turns to face Regina.

“Thank you for this, Regina. I really enjoyed it. I needed it, I think.” She takes a chance. “Perhaps we can do it again?”

“Perhaps.”

That air of sadness is back, but before Kathryn can comment on it, Regina has taken her hand and pressed their joined hands against Kathryn’s chest.

“Protect your heart, Kathryn. Remember that. Above all, protect your heart.”

And then she’s gone. Kathryn watches her walk away until the click of heels on the sidewalk is the only indication that she was there at all. She touches her chest and thinks about Regina’s words. Protect your heart. She smiles. If only she knew how.

Date: 2012-08-27 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devexation.livejournal.com
Oh. Ouch.

OUAT, y u forget about this friendship?!

Date: 2012-08-28 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-girl-20.livejournal.com
I hear friendships are difficult to maintain after one party has arranged for the kidnap/murder/removal of heart of the other. Sad though.

Date: 2012-08-29 01:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devexation.livejournal.com
I don't think they're trying hard enough.

Date: 2012-08-27 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faithinthepoor.livejournal.com
I am going to be the bigger person and not even mention that I've read your once upon a time fic when you haven't read mine.

I love the parallels here. How lost and lonely they both are.

I also like that Kathryn is not frightened or repelled by Regina.

I miss this dynamic in the show. Regina needs friends (I know she might sacrifice said friends if she feels she has to but she still needs them)

I also really enjoy the bits about Kathryn's memory.

Date: 2012-08-28 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-girl-20.livejournal.com
Yes, you are the bigger person by miles. And I appreciate that.

I love this relationship on the show and I would have really liked to see it develop. I felt the few moments we saw Regina with Kathryn showed a real desire to have a friend like that. I'm sad that it won't go any further.

The bits about Kathryn's memory were deliberately fuzzy because I don't quite know how all of that stuff works with ~THE CURSE and whatnot.

I am glad that you liked it and that you read it. I promise I will read yours soon.

Date: 2012-08-29 10:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faithinthepoor.livejournal.com
I would say thank you for recognizing my bigness but it doesn't really work out all that well for me.

I liked that they were fuzzy. I get that we don't know how the curse works but I guess I've always pictured it like that - these scaffolds of a life that don't hold up to scrutiny but it hadn't mattered as no one questioned them.

I continue to await the reading of my fic ;)

Date: 2012-08-27 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anomalousalanna.livejournal.com
YOU THINK YOU'RE SO CLEVER WITH YOUR GOOD WRITING AND YOUR SMASH REFERENCES AND YOUR RUBY PLACEMENT.

Well. You're right to think so, I suppose.

Date: 2012-08-28 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-girl-20.livejournal.com
I KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE, LITTLE DOVE.

Date: 2012-09-08 06:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sexonastick.livejournal.com
I like this!

Sorry that it took so long to say so. But you know what? PARTS OF IT ARE VERY VISUAL. For me, at least.

And I think those are my favorites! The flashes of Kathryn's memories -- and I like how you do that, because while it's obvious you're navigating what little is actually known about all that shit, it feels so confident and RIGHT -- the way Ruby won't meet Regina's gaze, and the plates. For some reason, I really love the plates. Because, of COURSE.

You know, for now you might not often write, but when you do you get it really right. (Badum bum.)

Date: 2012-09-13 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-girl-20.livejournal.com
YAY ME! I CAN DO VISUAL!

You know what? I think I do visual stuff when I feel like I don't know the characters well enough. When I feel like I know characters, I want them to SPEAK. With both Kathryn and Regina, I don't think I have a handle on their voices, so conversation was hard.

But I'm glad it worked for you, visually :)

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