Not Backing Down

"So, how did your date with Mary go?"

John looked up at Sean as the younger man captured one of his knights.

The deputy raised an eyebrow. "How do you know about that?"

Sean smirked, lifting his coffee for a sip. "Ruby told Ashley that she saw the two of you walking back from Chez Crabe . Nice choice for a first date, by the way."

John rolled his eyes as he put his friend into check. "Sometimes I really think that this town is way too small."

His friend chuckled, tipping his king over onto the board. "No secrets 'round here," the younger man agreed.

They began to reset the board.

"Mr. Nolan."

Both men went still; John watched Sean's expression fall at the person he saw over the deputy's shoulder, and he knew that his own had gone stony.

The older man took a bracing breath before turning in his seat. "How might I help you, Madame Mayor?"

"May I have a word?" Her eyes cut to Sean, eying him coldly. "Alone."

The deputy raised an eyebrow but nodded. "Sure." He purposely kept his tone casual and attitude almost dismissive, knowing that it would bother her that he didn't act unnerved by her. He stood, turning to Sean before following the Mayor. "Go ahead and set up another game; I'll be right back."

Sean nodded.

John followed Regina over to an isolated table; he didn't particularly want to, but sat down when she did so.

"What is it you felt was so important to 'discuss', Madame Mayor?" he inquired, not bothering with pleasantries.

She met his direct gaze. "You went out with Ms. Blanchard last night."

"No secrets in a small town." He casually sat back, an intentionally almost bored gesture. "Going out on a date isn't against any laws I'm aware of," he told her drolly. "And since I'm not married," he held up his bare left hand, "I'm not morally or ethically wrong in doing so either."

Her lips pressed into a razor thin line, his obvious utter disregard for her intimidation attempts visibly peeving her. "One would think that you would at least consider your ex-wife before beginning to date another woman the day that your divorce is finalized."

"Kathryn is as much at liberty as I am," he easily countered.

Her eyes narrowed. "What I meant is that you might take into consideration Kathryn's feelings, and give her time to adjust to the whole thing before running off and seeing another woman."

He gazed at her levelly. "How long?"

"Excuse me?"

He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table and lacing his fingers together. "How long am I supposed to wait for her to 'adjust'?"

"As long as it takes," she put in quickly.

He was already shaking his head. "We've been separated for months already. I can appreciate that it's going to take her time to get over it, but I can't leave my life on hold indefinitely. Were our situations reversed I wouldn't ask that of her." His eyes narrowed. "And I fail to see how any of this is even your business."

She sat back from his intense stare, tilting her head up haughtily. "Kathryn is my friend –"

"Then be a good friend," he cut in, causing her eyes to go wide. "Be the friend you keep saying you are to her, and help her mourn the loss of David because I'm not him. He's gone and isn't coming back. Help her get over this and move on." He stood. "And stop sticking your nose into my life." He briskly walked away from the table, not letting her get another word in.

Though what he didn't realize was that even if he hadn't been so abrupt in leaving she wouldn't have been able to get a word in. She was watching him, his posture and stride. Tall, using every inch of his height, confident, strong; a man of authority who knew how to wield it, and wield it well. A prince…

Mary had been smiling the whole morning, still riding the high from the date her date with John the night before. Henry had been casting her knowing, wide grins all through class. The bell rang for lunch and all the children began collecting their things. It lifted Mary's heart further to see Henry now as eager as his classmates to get to lunch, knowing that Ava and Nicholas would be out in the hall, waiting so that the trio could claim the table they favored.

The teacher noticed that the boy's grin faltered as he turned to the door. Mary performed an about-face to see what had caused this reaction.

The children, who were scurrying out the door, were granting wide berth to the Mayor who stood there, looking ever like the Evil Queen Henry claimed she was.

Henry cast Mary a worried glance, to which she just gave him an encouraging smile and nodded for him to go ahead to lunch. Behind her brave face she was trembling violently.

The boy didn't look convinced but did as she indicated, casting his adoptive mother a "Hi" as he passed her.

"Madame Mayor," Mary was heartened to hear that her voice didn't quaver, "how may I help you?" She knotted her hands together in front of her to keep them from visibly shaking.

As the Mayor walked into the room Mary was struck by the image of a panther stalking its prey; her heart began to pound and she had to focus to keep her breathing steady and slow.

"I understand that you and David Nolan went on a date last night." The woman's eyes scanned the children's colorful artwork that decorated the walls with a disdainful eye as she prowled toward the teacher.

Mary was so used to thinking of John by his chosen name that it actually took her a heartbeat to connect his legal name to him. "Yes," she acknowledged, saying the word slowly so as to control the waver that wanted to creep in.

The intimidating woman turned her piercing glare on her. "I thought I warned you to stay away from him."

Mary wanted to quail under the woman's withering look, but remembering her friends' steel in facing this woman made her stiffen her spine and keep her head up.

The woman stalked closer. "But instead you pounce right on him. Did you even wait until the divorce was finalized?"

The shorter woman felt like she'd been kicked in the stomach; a stricken look came over her face. "I would never –"

"Can you even conceptualize the pain that you're causing Kathryn by taking up with David and just flaunting it around town?"

The woman's words were cutting into her, twisting the beautiful night before into something ugly.

The Mayor moved to tower over her. "If you have any shred of decency, you'll end this with David now. Do I make myself clear, Ms. Blanchard?"

Minute tremors shook her frame. "Yes." Her voice was barely a whisper.

"Good," the woman sneered. She turned and strode toward the door. "I'm sure you'll do the right thing."

Mary had been staring off sightlessly at the far wall feeling her will crumbling pathetically. Then suddenly something in her surged forward; calming her racing heart, stilling the trembling and filling her with a steel that was simultaneously alien and familiar. "No."

Her voice, ringing calm and confident in the classroom, brought the Mayor to an abrupt halt and had her spinning on heel to face her.

"Excuse me?" she asked in a deadly calm voice.

The teacher turned her head to look at the other woman. "No." She shifted her body to face Regina entirely. "I won't break up with John."

The woman was striding across the room again. "I don't believe you understand what exactly there is at stake here, Ms. Blanchard." She was once again standing over the shorter woman, trying to intimidate her once more with her greater height.

Mary could just barely feel the familiar urge to cave under her, but whatever it was that had possessed her was drowning it out and refused to let her back down. "I know exactly what you are saying, Madame Mayor. But I have done nothing wrong." The truth in that statement filled her with conviction. "My life, John's life and our life together, is none of your business." Her voice remained calm and even.

There was nearly blinding fury in Regina's eyes; normally the look would have had Mary wanting to curl up in a corner, but at least in this moment she just met the woman's gaze steadily.


Both women's heads snapped to the doorway.

Emma was standing there, eyes flicking back and forth between the two.

Mary, ignoring the presence of the Mayor, smiled at her friend. "Emma, I was wondering where you were."

Keeping a watch on Regina from the corner of her eye, the sheriff sauntered into the room. "Had to handle a dispute down at the diner." She held up the sack in her hand. "Brought Granny's meatloaf sandwiches."

"Sounds wonderful." The teacher finally turned to the Mayor. "Was that all, Madame Mayor?"

The woman's eyes narrowed dangerously. "This isn't over, Ms. Blanchard."

Mary didn't even blink. "Yes…it is." She remained calm and poised as the taller woman sneered down at her again before finally storming out.

"Bravo, Mare."

She turned at her friend's words to see the blond woman watching her with surprise and pride as she set their lunch down on Mary's desk.

"Where did that come from?"

Mary let out a shuddering breath, as what she'd just done washed over her. Looking down at the floor she blinked a few times in disbelief of her own bravery. "I have no idea."

Later that evening Mary and John were curled up together on her couch with cups of cocoa.

"Emma said that you had a visit from our resident Evil Queen?"

She lifted her head to look at him, hearing the worry, but also the amusement, threading his voice. "She came in at the beginning of lunch." She settled back into his side, letting her head rest in the cradle of his shoulder once more. "She wanted me to break up with you."

His jaw set, pissed beyond all belief at the gall of the meddling woman. But then he remembered what Emma had told him of how Mary had dealt with her and a grin pulled at his lips. "Emma said that you 'stuck it to her.'"

She tilted her head back to see him again. "I have no idea where that came from…" Her eyes drifted to where their mugs sat on the coffee table. "But it felt…good."

His finger curled under her chin, lifting her gaze to his. "I'm proud of you," he told her warmly.

Her heart skipped a beat at the pride, tenderness and love in his eyes. Her hands slid up to curve around the back of his neck, pulling his lips down to hers.

This more daring Mary they were seeing more and more of frequently surprised John, but he found himself enjoying this new boldness.

One of her arms locked around his shoulders while the nails of her other hand dragged over his scalp gently.

He snaked one arm around her waist, letting his other skim down her side, past her hip to grip her knee. He used his hold to urge her to lie back on the couch, which she did most willingly, and then stretched his own form over hers. His body settled naturally into the cradle of her hips, the leg he had grasped curled around one of his, they both moaned at the way this aligned their bodies.

John's lips sketched the line of her jaw down the column of her throat, where his lips and teeth gently worked the sensitive skin, enjoying the soft noises it brought from the woman in his arms.

Small, delicate hands slipped under his shirt; she scraped her nails along his back, before her hands came back around to caress up his chest, drawing groans from him with her teasing.

Snow was always very passionate in their love making, but sometimes she could be playful and even competitive, almost making it a game to see who could break the other's control first.

It took quite a few moments for John's lust fogged mind to catch up with his thoughts.

He froze the moment they did so.

Noticing his sudden stillness, Mary lifted her head, which had fallen back, to look at him. "John?"

He tried to chase the incongruent thought; before a spike of near-blinding pain shot through his mind he caught sight of Mary, again with long tumbling curls and dressed in a flowing white dress. She was staring at him with such a brilliant smile, overflowing with love and joy, asking, "Do you promise?" and he had this feeling that this was the most important question he had yet been asked in his life.

At the pain spearing through his skull he reared back, pressing the heel of his hand to his forehead and hissing out a breath.

"John!" Mary's gentle hands reached for him, placing one on each side of his face. "What's wrong?"

He lowered his hand and managed to squint at her through the now aching pain in his head. "It's all right; it's just a headache."

Worry flooded her face. "Hold on while I get some Tylenol." She rose and scurried to the kitchen.

John let his head fall back on the couch, closing his eyes against the light overhead. A moment later the light was all but gone; he opened his eyes to find that Mary had turned off all the lights save one small lamp on the far side of the kitchen. She moved back over to him, handing him the two pills and a glass of water.

"Thank you." His voice was raspy as he accepted the pain reliever and glass, pressing a chaste, but loving and thankful kiss to her lips. He popped the pills in his mouth and took several swallows of the water.

Her hand had slipped to the back of his neck and was gently massaging the area; his eyes slid shut and he leaned into her ministrations with a relieved sigh.

"I'm sorry, Mary."

Her lips pressed to his temple. "Don't apologize for things you can't help, John. It's a headache," her voice was gentle, soothing.

He turned his head to press their foreheads together; his arms slipped around her, pulling her to him in a sweet embrace. "Thank you, Mary."

Her arms looped around his neck; she softly brushed her nose against his. "Always, John."

Writing the scene with Mary and Regina facing off was a heady experience with all of Mary's emotions! I can tell you that I'm working on the first "scene" in the next chapter and I've been grinning and laughing as I go! So something to hopefully look forward to! I hope that you all liked this chapter! I'm not sure exactly when the next chapter will be up, but hopefully soon! Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know what you think!

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