James jogged down the sidewalk to Granny's where he was meeting Emma and Mary for breakfast, just barely managing to stop at the corner before colliding into another person.

It was the stranger.

The dark-haired man gave him a friendly grin. "Well, hello, neighbor."

James managed a smile, but eyed the other man warily. "Good morning."

He was pretty sure that due to the nature of the curse outsiders not related to their world shouldn't be able to come to Storybrooke, which raised the question of just exactly who this man was. What's more, from what James had been hearing from Emma and others, this man was a bit more interested in his daughter than he was comfortable with.

The other man pulled at the black leather gloves he was wearing. "Haven't seen you around that much lately."

"I've been busy," James replied noncommittally. He'd been spending his nights with Mary and only returning to his lonely room at Granny's for fresh clothes, but there were progressively fewer of those left at the B&B. He kept leaving his clothing at Mary and Emma's; neither of them said a word about it and his wife just started washing his clothing with hers. It felt so good, comforting, to be around them both all the time and to be so involved in their lives.

"Crime doesn't seem to be that big around here." Amusement threaded his words.

James smiled perfunctorily at the man. "Well, my job isn't my life, and if I don't hurry I'm going to be late for breakfast. Excuse me." He nodded to the stranger as he continued toward the door of the diner.

"See you around, neighbor."

The prince looked over his shoulder at the humor-infused tone, frowning slightly.

The stranger nodded to him pleasantly, a knowing glint in his eyes, before continuing to saunter toward his motorcycle.

"Hey!" James called; the stranger turned. "You know I've never caught your name."

The dark-haired man grinned. "Well, as I just told your boss," there was an odd note to his voice when he called Emma his boss, "my name is August W. Booth."

The fair-haired man cocked an eyebrow. "Really? With the middle initial?"

The other man chuckled, muttering something; James thought he might have heard "like" and "daughter" in the low words. "'W's for Wayne. What about you?"

They stared at each other for a few moments.

"Just 'John'," James finally gave him.

A small smirk lifted the corner of "August's" lips. "Right." Humor and a touch of disbelief slid through his voice, causing James to narrow his eyes slightly. "Well, see you around…'just John.'" He swung his leg over the bike, kick-starting it to life.

James watched him go, there was something about that man that set off his instincts, but not the same way that Regina and Rumplestiltskin did. The prince was wary, but at the same time the man didn't feel like a threat, at least not to his loved ones. He shook his head and briskly strode to the door. His wife and daughter were waiting.

Just before noon James was sitting at his desk writing up a noise complaint from the town busybody when Emma strode in, her brow furrowed.

He frowned worriedly. "What's wrong?"

She came to a stop at his desk. "Did you hear what Kathryn did to Mary?"

His frown deepened. "What do you mean?"

Emma crossed her arms. "She showed up at the school, slapped Mary and accused the pair of you of having an affair while you were still married in a very crowded hall."

James was on his feet in an instant. "What? Where the hell did she get an idea like that?"

"Well, she's all best-buds with Madame Mayor who seems to really hate Mary…" she said sardonically, letting the statement trail off, implication clear.

His jaw clenched; as he stormed toward the door he checked his watch, calculating that he had just enough time to catch his wife on lunch.

Mary sat at her desk in the empty classroom during lunch, her food sitting before her still packed, not feeling the least bit hungry. Her hand moved unconsciously to her cheek where she could still feel the sting from Kathryn's slap; the other woman's scathing words ringing in her ears.

Her head snapped up when the door was flung open; John stood there, concern etched on his face.

She attempted to force a smile, failing miserably. "John."

"Oh, Mary," he breathed, obviously seeing the hurt in her expression; he closed the door behind him before striding to her side. He crouched down beside her; taking her face in his hands with such aching gentleness–a raw, stark contrast to Kathryn's striking palm. His fingers urged her to turn her head. "Let me see, darling."

She'd wanted to protest and tell him that she was fine, unhurt, but the tenderness in his voice and touch, coupled with the endearment–which felt so familiar coming from his lips even though she knew he had never called her that–was too much for her. Her muscles gave easily under his guiding hands and the tears that had been prickling behind her eyes, slowly began to slide down her cheeks.

"Oh, my darling," John groaned quietly; he gently pressed a kiss to her still pink-stained cheek. "I'm so sorry."

Mary curled her hand around the back of his neck, eyes tightly shut, trying to let his loving ministrations seep into her pained heart. "I'm ok."

"No, you're not," he gently countered. "Physically perhaps, but she caused you heartache."

This caused more tears to spill forth from her eyes. "John–" Her voice broke.

He pulled her into his embrace as the quiet sobs began to shake her frame; she allowed herself to slide from her chair into his arms. John maneuvered them both so that he sat in her chair with her on his lap, face buried in his neck.

"I'm here, Mary. I'm right here," he murmured into her hair.

"Are we wrong, John? Are we wrong for being together?" she managed between sobs.

His arms tightened around her. "No, of course not!"

"People seem to think so," she countered, small hands furled in the front of his shirt.

John pressed his lips to her temple. "A small handful, maybe. And do they really matter?" He cradled her face between his hands, lifting it so that her eyes met his. "The people whose opinion actually matters are happy for us. We're happy. And we have done nothing wrong!" he told her emphatically. His thumbs delicately stroked away the tears still slipping down her face. "We did things right; we waited until my divorce was finalized before we started our relationship. As far as us being in love before then…" his gaze roved worshipfully over her face, causing her breath to catch in her chest, "you can't help feelings, and we did the right thing upon realizing those feelings."

John leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the corner of her eye; Mary's hands had risen and were grasping his wrists, leaning into his touch.

"I love you," he whispered against her skin, sending a shiver down her spine at the utter devotion in his tone.

"I love you, too," she responded with a gentle sigh, the corners of her lips finally lifting a bit. She let her body sway forward to rest against his chest, her head cradled in the joint of his shoulder and neck.

John wrapped his arms around her shoulders and waist; he rested his cheek on the top of her head. "You probably want to wash your face before the kids come back in."

"Yeah," Mary quietly agreed; pressing closer to him. "But in a little bit. I need you to hold me for a while longer."

He kissed her temple. "As long as you want."

Kathryn was opening her car door when a large palm slapped against it, slamming it closed. Her head snapped around to find a fuming David–John–whatever the hell he wanted to be called now. She set her jaw. "Excuse me," she told him crisply, attempting to open the door again to the same result.

"What the hell, Kathryn?" James ground out between his teeth. Abigail had become a good friend, once the engagement was broken off, and honestly he generally liked Kathryn, but at the moment was too furious with her to be polite.

Anger and hurt flared in her eyes. "I think I have more right to be mad than you."

"Why, because you think I cheated on you?" he asked scathingly.

"You did cheat on me!"

"No, I didn't," the furious man countered. "I might have fallen in love with Mary while we were still married, but we didn't have an affair! And I don't know where the hell you got the idea that we did. We didn't begin our relationship until after the divorce was finalized, not even once you and I were separated."

Kathryn noticed several passersby casting looks their way. "David, this is not really the place to have this discussion." Red was tinged her cheeks.

His eyes narrowed. "No, I think right here is just fine," he told her flatly. "If you're permitted to humiliate Mary in her place of work by very publicly flinging false accusations at her, then we can most certainly have a public argument."

"You two are the ones in the wrong!"

"No, we aren't!"

"You slept at her house the night before Christmas! How can you say that you didn't start sleeping with her until after the divorce if you were there then?"

"First off, I was over there for Christmas Eve dinner, afterward we watched a movie and I fell asleep during it…on the couch." He emphasized each word. "I don't have a lot of friends, Kathryn, who else was I going to spend Christmas with other than Emma and Mary? And second," his eyes became slits, "how the hell do you know that I stayed over at their apartment?"

"Regina heard from Sydney," Kathryn informed him tightly.

His fingers tightened convulsively on the frame of the car; it was a herculean effort to keep his fury out of his expression.

"And why on Earth should I believe you?" she seethed. "Regina is my friend, and you are my ex-husband who just admitted to me that you were in love with another woman while we were married."

James turned an incredulous look on her. "What reason would I have for lying Kathryn?" He scoffed. "We're already divorced. Lying would gain me nothing, and I have nothing to lose by telling you the truth." He waved a hand vaguely around them. "You can ask around to our friends, to Emma, who, allow me to assure you, wouldn't lie to you about this ever. Mary and I didn't start seeing each other until after the divorce, and any evidence that Regina," he all but spat out the woman's name, "has given you to the contrary is either falsified or has been twisted to suit that allegation." While he'd been speaking his cell began to jangle in his pocket.

James set his mouth in a grim line as he dug the object out of his coat pocket; glancing at the screen momentarily before hitting the green button and holding it to his ear. "Hello?"

"John, it's Ruby." He was surprised to hear Mary's friend on the line, and worried by the harried note to her voice.

"What's wrong?"

"You need to get over to the diner now..."

Kathryn watched as his expression darkened with each passing moment.

"Thanks for the call, Ruby; I'll be right over." He closed the flip-phone against his leg before tucking it back in his pocket.

His ex-wife had crossed her arms over her chest, expression coldly aloof. "What was that about?"

James met her look with an equally icy one of his own. "Someone vandalized Mary's car." His jaw locked. "Spray-painted 'tramp' on it."

The blond woman's expression fell a bit.

"Happy, Kathryn?" He began to turn away, but paused and spun back to face her. "You know, whatever happened between us was only between us. Don't blame Mary for any of it."

"She stole my husband." But most of the bite had left her voice.

His head was already shaking. "David, whoever he was, died a long time ago, Kathryn. Another man awoke from that coma: me." He took one step closer to her. "Mary never pursued me. If anything I'm the one who pursued her." He stepped back again. "So if you want to blame someone, blame me. But frankly, I just recommend moving on."

She stared at him wide-eyed, mouth hanging open slightly.

He turned on his heel and strode off to Granny's.

Ruby was scrubbing at the red lettering viciously scrawled across Mary's car, the scarlet color cutting like bleeding wounds across the vehicle. James was strongly reminded of one of the books that Mary liked so well and had him read, The Scarlet Letter, the situation all-too-reminiscent of the story.

The waitress was dressed in her usual uniform, but she had wrapped a coat around herself against the biting air. She still had to be fairly freezing, especially with the water trickling down her arms from the scrub-brush she was using to try and clean off the paint. But her lips were set into a thin, furious line as she continued scouring determinedly at the marring word. James knew that the young woman didn't remember her real life, but he couldn't help wondering if some part of her remembered being Red, of her strong, deep friendship with Snow.


Her head lifted at his call and relief flooded her face, which bled into her tone, "John." She turned back to face the car, waving a hand and looking at him apologetically. "I'm so sorry. I didn't notice this until it was too late."

Anger flashed in his eyes as his gaze flicked momentarily to the defacement, but he forced that aside and gave her a grateful smile. "Thank you for the call." He reached out to take the brush from her, which she handed over, tucking her frozen hands under her arms.

"I don't know who did it," she told him guiltily. "I saw her car outside, as usual when she's running errands after school, and then, when I looked out again a few minutes later…" She gestured to the vehicle.

James set his jaw as he continued to scrub at the paint, having a very good guess as to who was responsible. "It's all right, Ruby. I'll see it's taken care of." He turned his head to her. "You'd best get inside before you freeze to death."

Her small white teeth tugged anxiously at her vibrant red bottom lip. "I'll bring you some coffee to stay warm."

He cast her a grateful smile. "Thanks, Ruby."

She nodded firmly once and hurried back over into the diner.

James was amazed to discover that he had it in him to hate Regina any more than he already did. He began to take long, deep breaths, trying to let go of as much of the anger and hate raging in him as possible, his mother's voice sounding in his mind reminding him that they were poison to the heart and soul.

"Oh, my God."

He turned at the gasp.

Ella and Thomas–no, Ashley and Sean, he quickly corrected himself mentally–were standing a few feet away, matching horrified looks on their faces.

Tho-Sean bit out several curses under his breath as he moved to join James beside the car, rolling up the cuffs of his sleeves and pulling a second scrub-brush from the bucket of water. "Do you know who did this?" The younger man's voice was tight; he began to help James scrub at the cruel word.

"Not sure," he ground out. "As far as I know no one saw."

Ashley had one arm wrapped around her daughter, who was strapped to her chest; the other hand drifted up to cover her mouth. "This is terrible. Does Mary know?"

James set his jaw. "Not yet. Ruby spotted it a few minutes ago and she called me directly."

Alexandra began to fuss.

"She's probably cold." Sean turned to his fiancée and daughter.

The blonde nodded, rubbing a hand soothingly along the baby's back. "I'll get her inside the diner with Granny and see if there's maybe something better to get that paint off with." Her footsteps up to the door were brisk; she greeted Ruby in passing as the dark-haired woman exited with a steaming mug in one hand.

The waitress handed the coffee to James, who thanked her; she dashed off with a promise to Sean of a mug of his own. She and Ashley re-emerged a few minutes later, Ruby with a coffee for Sean, and Ashley sans baby and with scrubbing pads that would work better at getting the spray paint off without scratching the windows or, hopefully, Mary's paint job.

"Who did this?"

All four froze at the hoarse, pain-filled voice behind them.

James turned to see his sweet wife standing there, clutching the strap of her bag on her shoulder, eyes wide; tears pooling in them. Oh, how he hated it when she cried. His fingers clenched around the pad in his hand. "We don't know."

"I'm so sorry, Mary," Ruby said in a rush. "I just looked out the window and it was like this."

"People around here really need to mind their own business." Sean scowled.

James dunked the scrub pad in the water again. "Apparently they haven't heard the saying, 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'"

Ruby shook her head, arms crossed over her chest. "People just find it all too easy to stand in judgment of others; thinking themselves better when we all have skeletons."

Ashley moved over to Mary, placing a comforting hand on the elder woman's shoulder. "Don't worry, it might take a little while but it will blow over."

Mary gazed tearfully at her defaced car. "But what about until then?"

James dropped the pad to go to her, but Ashley had already pulled Mary into a tight hug.

"We'll all be here for you, and so will Emma and Henry." She pulled back, giving Mary an encouraging grin. "You won't go through this alone," she swore.

Mary's eyes scanned over the other three, Ruby's lips were set in a stubborn line as she nodded firmly, Sean looked up from scrubbing at the "M" and grinned at her warmly. Finally her eyes settled on John; her heart melted in her chest at the blazing love in his gaze. He moved closer to her, coming to stand in front of her. His free hand rose, fingers settling assuredly around the curve of her throat; the digits were icy and sent a shiver through her, but Mary hardly noticed with the intent gaze he focused on her.

His thumb feathered across her pulse. "No one is going anywhere, Mary; you're not going to face this alone."

Slowly, tentatively, a smile lifted her lips, hope, love and comfort laying balm over the aching, bleeding wounds opened by the events of the day.

That evening James was in the kitchen making spaghetti, admittedly it was the only thing besides Mac n' Cheese that he knew how to cook, when Emma came through the door.

"Hey," his daughter greeted him, eyes darting around the common room.

"Hi, Emma." He stirred the pasta.

She moved over to the island, setting her keys down. "Where's Mary?"

"Taking a bath." He tipped his chin in the direction of the bathroom. "She's had a really rough day."

The blonde scowled. "Yeah, I saw her car. Who did it?"

Blue eyes cut toward the bathroom before he answered her lowly, "So far as I know, no one saw, but I have my suspicions."

Emma compressed her lips. "Madame Mayor?"

He turned off the burner and took the pot of pasta over to the colander in the sink. "Or one of her minions."

She leaned into her palms on the countertop. "That woman has serious problems."

James snorted. "That's putting it lightly." He lifted the strained pasta and dumped it back into the pot, covering it with the lid.

One finger tapping on the counter, she glanced toward the bathroom, and then looked back at him. "How's Mary doing?"

He let out a heavy sigh. "Better than earlier; Ruby, Sean and Ashley helped me clean her car a bit and reassured her that they don't believe the gossip. She's still hurting; you know her, she can't stand the thought of people scorning her like this."

Emma set her jaw and shook her head. "I don't get how Madame Mayor can hate someone as good and kind as Mary so much."

It was a good thing that James had turned to the stove again to stir the sauce; his expression darkened and his hand clenched convulsively around the spoon. "Well, as you said, she has serious problems." He barely managed to keep most of the fury out of his voice.

She made a sound of agreement.

"So, where have you been all afternoon?" He changed the subject, lifting a spoonful of the marinara to his lips for a taste.

She snorted. "Well, gee, Dad," he choked on the sauce, "I went out to a wild rave and took an acid trip."

James snatched up a dish towel, hacking into it as he glared at his daughter, who was smirking at him unrepentantly. "I was asking simply out of curiosity," he managed in a strangled voice.

"I know. It was payback for the other day."

He swiped his mouth once more before tossing the towel aside and turning the heat down on the sauce. "Well, now you've got me wondering just what you did do."

Emma laughed lightly. "Nothing really." She plucked one of the uncooked noodles from the pasta box on the counter, broke it in half and began chewing on it. "Few weeks ago I promised that August Booth guy that I'd let him buy me a drink in exchange for knowing what was in the box he was carrying around."

James felt like he should be warning his daughter about making deals as frequently and carelessly as that, but bit his tongue, knowing that she'd likely not receive the advice well. "What's in the box?"

"A typewriter." She shrugged at his raised eyebrows. "He says he's a writer."

He leaned back against the counter with his arms loosely crossed. "So you went and had a few drinks at Granny's or the Rabbit Hole?"

She let out a laugh. "Nope." He lifted an eyebrow at the amusement in her voice. "He took me to a well and we each had a cup of water from it."

His eyebrows migrated to his hairline. "Really?"

"Really." She shook her head, bemusedly. "I'm trying to figure that guy out, but he just keeps tossing me curveballs."

They heard water rushing through the pipes in the walls, signaling that the bathtub was being drained.

James went to the cabinets and pulled down three plates. "I'm not sure what to think about him, but I don't think he's a threat."

"Hmm." She agreed, stepping around the island to gather the silverware for the table. "Yeah, and he says he never lies, but I've never met someone who was actually telling the truth when they said that."

He canted his head at her. "I wouldn't lie to you, Emma."

"Yeah, but you just qualified that statement," she pointed out, "you said you wouldn't lie to me. August said he didn't lie period."

"True," he acknowledged.

After setting the table, Emma moved back to the island, watching him. "So, you don't deny that you'd lie to someone?"

"I try not to, but if it was a matter of protecting you, Mary, Henry or one of our friends, then definitely." His answer was prompt and firm, without even a breath of doubt. He lifted his eyes to meet her gaze directly.

After a couple of heartbeats, apparently Emma was satisfied with the veracity of his statement and nodded. "Fair enough."

"Emma, I didn't hear you come in." Mary was running a towel over her damp hair as she padded on bare feet to join them in the kitchen.

"I just got in a few minutes ago." She nodded in James' direction. "And apparently right on time because your man just finished making dinner."

His wife turned a pleased gaze to him. "You didn't have to." She came to stand beside him, weaving her fingers through his.

James pressed a kiss to her temple. "I wanted to."

"Thank you," she told him softly.

Their daughter clearing her throat quite loudly drew them apart. "Could you two save that for when I'm not in the same room?"

He rolled his eyes, but secretly treasured finally getting to hear his child complain about him and Snow being so publicly affectionate.

Mary was beginning to move toward the table when he was struck with a need to tease his daughter a little more. Rather than releasing Mary's hand, he tightened his fingers and pulled her back to him, covering her surprised lips with his own and devouring her mouth in a searing kiss. At first his wife let out a startled noise, but soon she melted into him, free arm wrapping around his neck to pull herself even closer. He could hear Emma's strangled sound of dismay and protest. He grinned against Mary's lips and once he was certain he'd satisfactorily embarrassed his daughter he slowly disentangled himself from this wife.

Mary's gaze was a bit hazy, but she was clear-headed enough to swat his chest in admonishment. "That was mean." The huskiness in her voice really undermined her effort to sound disapproving.

His grin was completely unabashed as he looked from his wife to Emma.

The blonde turned her gaze back to them from where she'd been staring at the wall, and glared at him balefully.

James finally released Mary. "Consider that my payback," he teased his daughter.

Emma rolled her eyes and headed toward the table, grumbling.

He looked down to see Mary cocking an eyebrow at him. "What was that about?"

His head bent again to place a light, chaste kiss on the lips. "Just a joke between the two of us."


James chuckled at the far too familiar way she eyed him. Gods, how he missed his Snow. But as he sat down with Emma and Mary at the dinner table he found himself fairly content.

So, how did I do writing August? I'd actually been wondering when I was actually going to get to write him. I hope that I didn't put too much of the show into the chapter. I will be incorporating quite a bit of the canon plot into HC's plot line, but I already know how I want Emma to find out James remembers and such, and how Snow remembers, which I'm pretty sure will all be different than how they are doing it on the show. I hope that you liked it! :-D Thank you so much for reading! Let me know what you think!

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