"It is just so frustrating!"

Mary nearly went beet red at the giggles from the two younger women.

"You know what I mean," she told them accusingly.

Ruby smirked as she set a hot chocolate in front of the teacher; Ashley was just grinning into her glass of juice.

"Well, you can't deny that it has a double meaning even in context," the waitress teased her.

Groaning, the teacher dropped her head into her hands and her friends both gave hearty laughs at her expense.

Eventually they regained control of themselves.

"Ok," Ashley began with residual laughter in her voice, "let's get serious. Mary has a problem." She looked about to burst out laughing again, but managed to restrain herself.

"I just find it amusing that you're complaining that your man is too much of a gentleman." A broad smirk was plastered across Ruby's face.

"Ruby!" Mary leveled an exasperated look at the waitress.

"Sorry, sorry." With the laughter in her voice she didn't sound too sorry, though.

The teacher sighed, exasperated but also anxious. She turned her mug on the counter top. "I'm just worried that maybe…" She bit her lip and looked up at the other two. "What if he doesn't really…want me…like that?"

Ashley choked on her juice and Ruby stared at the older woman in utter disbelief.

Ruby handed their blond friend a few napkins. "You think that John doesn't want you?"

Mary shrugged. "I don't know."

"Mary, have you noticed the way that man looks at you?" Ashley commented after dabbing at her lips one last time.

"Sometimes it's downright indecent," Ruby agreed smirking again.

The teacher bit her lip. "Really?"

"Oh, yes," the blond assured her.

"Then why doesn't he…you know?" Mary asked, a little awkwardly.

The other two women shared a knowing look before turning back to their friend.

"Mary, John isn't just dating you," Ashley began, "he's doing the same thing that Sean has been with me… He's courting you."

Raising her eyebrows Mary tilted her head to the side.

"Courting is what a man does when he's serious about a woman," Ashley explained. "It's what he does for the woman he intends to marry."

A gentle pink suffused the teacher's cheeks as she looked at the younger woman.

"That's not the only thing he's doing," Ruby told her with a taunting smirk, leaning on her elbows on the counter. "He's wooing you." Her tone was downright gleeful. "Not only trying to seduce your body, but your heart as well. Because he wants it all."

Mary's heart was pounding at what her friends were telling her. "You're saying that he's been holding off because…he wants to make sure that I'm all-in before we're together?"

Ashley grinned at her. "He wants you to want him as much as he wants you. He wants to know that you want forever as much as he does."

Her breath caught.


They were jolted out of their conversation by Emma's call. Setting aside their discussion, they greeted the sheriff as she sat down beside Mary.

After ordering a cocoa Emma proceeded to tell them about how the castle play set – Henry's special place – had been all but destroyed in the recent storm and Regina's words toward her.

Mary tried to reassure her that it was just because Emma had a special place with Henry and Regina didn't.

Her phone buzzed at her that she had a text message; she frowned slightly at the cryptic message from John.

"What is it?" her roommate questioned.

Mary shrugged, gathering her things. "John wants me to meet him to talk. He didn't say why."

The three other women looked at each other.

Emma smirked. "Talk…right."

John was staring off upstream as Mary approached him on the old Toll Bridge; he turned at hearing her footsteps.

"Hey," she grinned, "I got your text. What's going on?"

His face was a touch grim as he grabbed her hand. "Follow me."

Worry settled in her as he pulled her along behind him across the bridge and down the embankment.

"John," she reached to touch his arm as they hurried along the bank, "you're scaring me. What's wrong?"

He glanced back at her. "What's wrong is you're late." He brought them to a sudden stop.

To her surprise, laid out on the bank was a picnic.

"And the wine is getting warm."

Once she had finally absorbed what he'd done she turned to look at him; he was smiling that charming grin of his. She gripped the collar of his shirt and pulled herself up to kiss him, which he returned with equal enthusiasm.

They were both grinning when they finally pulled their lips apart.

She swatted his shoulder. "You had me worried!"

He chuckled as he cupped her face and pulled her in for another kiss. "Well, I'm sorry."

"No, you're not," she countered laughingly between kisses.

He was giving her a Cheshire cat grin. "Mm," he wrapped his arms around her tighter, "perhaps not…" He brought her in for another kiss.

She wrapped her arms around his neck. "That was mean." She was still smiling.

"Well, I'm at least sorry that you feel it was mean." He rubbed his nose along hers. "Forgive me?"

"I'll think about it," she told him as she brought their lips together again.

He laughed against her lips, his arms wrapped around her waist, holding her tightly to him.

Finally she pulled her lips back; he tried to follow her, but she pulled her head back farther, smiling at him teasingly. "Didn't you say that the wine was getting warm?"

He groaned, but released her. He took her hand and led her over to the blanket and gave her a gentlemanly hand down before settling himself next to her, close enough that their thighs were touching. John pulled out the food from the basket, handing her one of the two plates from the picnic basket.

Mary grinned, watching him as he served the food. "Where did the meal come from?"

He eyed her. "How do you know I didn't make it?"

She gave him a look that had him laughing and admitting, "Granny." He finished dishing out the food, giving her a wry grin. "She was quite happy to help when I told her the reason."

Her bright smile warmed him through and through. "Well, it's lovely." She pecked him sweetly on the lips. "Thank you."

He grinned back at her. "You're welcome."

When the couple walked into Mary and Emma's apartment to find it near-overflowing with boxes of files with Emma pouring over them with, of all people, Sydney Glass, to say that they were both shocked was perhaps the understatement of the century.

"What's going on here?" the school teacher asked as she and John edged their way around the mess clustered around the kitchen table.

"Sydney discovered that some money is missing from the town's budget," the sheriff explained, flipping through a file. "We're trying to figure out what happened to it."

John, who had been eyeing Sydney distrustfully, draped his coat over a chair. "Do you want some help?"

"No," Emma tossed the file aside, "I need you to stay on business as usual."

His frown deepened. "All right." His tone didn't sound too pleased.

Emma glanced at the couple momentarily before looking back at the file in her hand. "What are you two doing?"

"John is going to help me cut out decorations for the classroom," the school teacher cheerfully informed her.

The sheriff's eyes cut to her deputy with raised eyebrows. "Really?" A smirk played at her lips.

He countered with a single lifted eyebrow. "Yeah…really."

The smirk was no longer playing at her lips, it was full-blown. "Well, you two have fun with that…"

John and Mary were in her room sitting on her bed. John had proven to be all thumbs when it came to cutting out the shapes and Mary had laughed, teasing him about it. In retaliation he balled up his sad attempts and tossed them at her, prompting her to pick up a pillow and bat him with it. He managed to grab the pillow away from her and tackled her to the bed, trapping her under his body and taking advantage of the knowledge that she was ticklish. She was laughing herself breathless as she kept squirming and pushing at him, trying to get away.

"John!" she gasped through her laughter. "Stop, please!"

"Apologize for insulting my decorations!" he demanded, laughing nearly as hard as she was.

She turned her head so that he could see her bite down on her lips closed in defiance.

"No, mercy then," he told her as he redoubled his efforts in his assault on her sides.

"John, please! I can't breathe!"

"Say you're sorry," he insisted grinning.

She pressed her lips together, holding off for a few moments longer before finally bursting out, "Ok, ok! I'm sorry!"

He lessened his attack slightly. "'Sorry' for what?"

She continued to try and wriggle away from him. "I'm sorry for making fun of your decorations," she managed to say between laughs.

His fingers stopped dancing over her sides and he gripped her waist, lowering his head to kiss her soundly. After a moment he pulled his head back grinning. "I forgive you."

She swatted his chest. "That's just unfair," she pouted.

He rubbed his nose against hers. "All's fair in love and war."

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she looked up at him with a wide smile. "And which is this?"

He rested his forehead against hers. "A little of both, I think."

"All's fair in love and war, Charming." Laughter rang in her voice as she danced around the furniture, attempting to stay out of his reach.

"Oh?" he inquired archly as he steadily stalked her into a corner. Giggling helplessly she tried to sprint by him, but he easily caught her in his arms, trapping her against his chest. "And which is this?"

Her eyes were sparkling up at him with a mixture of love and mirth. "A little of both, I think."

John blinked a few times and shook his head.


He looked down at Mary's concerned face. He smiled at her reassuringly. "I'm fine."

She didn't look entirely convinced, but nodded. "All right," she reluctantly agreed.

"Come on." He ducked his head down to quickly peck her on the lips before letting them both up. "These decorations need to get done."

Once they had settled again, her against the headboard and him at the foot of the bed, she set him about using the hole punch on the decorations she made. He would then attach strings through the holes so that she could hang them.

They continued to laugh and tease each other while they worked. But all throughout the evening his mind frequently wandered back to the vision that had assaulted him, and the fact that he was beginning to really think that Henry's theory might not be so crazy.

"I don't like it."

Mary looked at John across their table at Granny's where they were having lunch the next day. "You don't like what?"

He was scowling darkly at the table's surface. "Emma working with Sydney." He picked up a fry but then just flicked it back to his plate, obviously agitated.

She raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

"I don't trust him," he said bluntly.

She tilted her head to the side. "Are you sure it's not some form of jealousy. I mean you two have become rather close friends of late and you feel that it's your job as deputy to help her."

He was already shaking his head before she was halfway through her statement. "I might feel a twinge of that, but that's not it."

"Then what is?"

He crossed his arms on the table and leaned toward her, expression deadly serious. "I can probably count on one hand, maybe two, the number of people I trust. The number of people I trust with you, Emma and Henry wouldn't even take up one. And Sydney Glass is nowhere even near the stratosphere of either list." He clenched his jaw. "He isn't trustworthy." He glanced around and leaned closer, whispering, "He convinced Emma to tap the Mayor's phone calls."

Her eyes went wide. "Don't you need a warrant for that?" she whispered back, eyes darting around to make sure no one was listening.

"Yes," he confirmed grimly. "I don't like what he's influencing Emma to do. I just know that this is going to end in heartbreak for her."

Mary's face creased worriedly as she bit her lip.

"You know, a woman could feel rather ignored with the way you've been brooding."

John looked up at Mary's teasing voice.

They had finished having a nice quiet dinner at her place; she was leaning back against the counter in her kitchen, her eyes alight with amusement and her head canted appealingly to the side.

A grin spread across his face as he looked at her from his position across from her, leaning against the island. "I'm sorry."

She straightened up a bit and reached out to brush her fingers over his still slightly creased brow. "You're still worrying about Emma."

He sighed, letting his head fall forward in a sad facsimile of a nod. "I'm sorry about my head not being here."

She stroked her fingers down his cheek, drawing his gaze up to her warm one. "It just means you care…" Her eyes sparkled brightly. "And that's one of the things I love about you."

His heart stuttered at hearing her repeat the words that he had told her. "Mary…" He straightened up and crossed the small distance between them. His hands came up; he cradled her face between them gently, like he was handling delicate crystal. His thumbs brushed gently over her cheeks.

She gazed up at him, the talk she'd had with Ruby and Ashley earlier echoing in her mind. Since hearing their words, everything John did with her took on a new meaning, the surprise picnic down by the stream, meeting her every morning for breakfast and these near-daily quiet dinners. She could now easily read his face and she treasured the love she could see in his eyes and the utter adoration in his expression, things she never thought to see directed at her.

He lowered his head to rest his forehead against hers, their eyes continued to wander each other's faces.

She tilted her head, rising on her toes to press her lips to his.

The kiss was leisurely, lingering, full of the love and tenderness they felt for each other.

A key scraping in the lock had them slowly parting their lips, but not moving away from each other. They both turned their heads to the door.

Emma came through, head down, a completely dejected look on her face and her whole posture radiating the same emotion.

They parted, both of their expressions becoming worried.

"Emma." Mary hurried over to her roommate, who looked up at the approach of her two friends. The school teacher took the blond woman's hands in hers. "What's wrong?"

Emma was blinking fiercely; she swallowed hard. "I screwed up."

John frowned, moving to Emma's other side and helping Mary lead their friend over to the couch. "What do you mean?" They sat down on either side of the sheriff, with Mary sitting closer and John giving her some space.

Emma looked down at her hands, still grasped by her roommate. "The money from the town's budget? It was for a new play set. And now, Regina says she has enough on me that she could get a restraining order if she wanted."

John's mouth tightened; he met Mary's sad gaze over Emma's head.

"And she said that I can only see Henry if she says it's all right…and right now, it's not." Her jaw was clenched against the tears that wanted to escape, but she refused to let them fall.

"Oh, Emma…" The dark haired woman squeezed her hands around the other woman's.

The sheriff shook her head, casting her eyes to the side. "She's right, I broke the law, and legally she could make it so that I never get to see Henry again." She was blinking rapidly.

Her deputy reached a hesitant hand to rest tentatively on her shoulder.

"Maybe, with time, she'll let you see him again," Mary tried to say hopefully, though even she couldn't entirely keep the doubt out of her tone.

Emma looked at her with a wry smile. "Thanks for trying, Mare." She gave her friend's hands a squeeze before pulling away, standing up and heading to her room.

The couple watched her go, remaining in silence for several moments even after she had disappeared.

"What are we going to do?" Mary asked softly as she turned to look at him.

John moved to sit next to her, taking her hand in his and shaking his head wearily. "I don't know."

Mary sighed softly, letting her head fall to rest against his shoulder; he pressed a kiss to her crown before laying his cheek atop her head.

"I think, for now, all we can do is wait," he told her quietly.

"And hope," she added.

"And hope," he agreed.

I hope that it was ok! And that I didn't put too much of the episode in it. Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know what you think!

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