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Love Down the Line

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Storybrooke, Maine- April 8th

 

The buzzing phone on the table in front of Emma Swan was a distraction she didn’t need.  There were a million and one things that needed to be done and only one month to do them before her tour started.  She swiped to answer it without looking, too caught up in what she was doing to bother.

 

“Yeah?” She asked impatiently, absently brushing the tendrils of her long blonde hair out of her face.

 

“I have good news and I have shit news.”

 

Emma sighed, albeit quietly.  It was Ruby, one of her closest friends and the rhythm guitarist for her backing band who also had a flair for the dramatic.  She only hoped that whatever it was Ruby was calling about wouldn’t turn into a two hour conversation over something they could easily discuss when she didn’t have time sensitive decisions to make.  Preferably in a month when they were finally on the tour bus and had nothing but time to kill between cities.

 

“If it’s about going on that second date with Dorothy that I already talked you into once can it wait?  I’m trying to finalize this set list so I can send it to Regina so she can send it to the lighting guys and the sound guys and we can stop fucking around at rehearsals and get things going almost smoothly.”

 

“Um, yeah… I mean, it’s not entirely about my date with Dorothy,” Ruby said with what sounded like trepidation.

 

Suspicion and dread immediately filled Emma’s veins.  Ruby was anything but hesitant when it came to sharing information.  She’d once announced at a club they were playing that she was on her period and would only accept phone numbers that were written on the outside wrapper of a chocolate bar.  By the time they made it back to their motel she had a mound of candy that would have made Augustus Gloop jealous.

 

“What’s the good news?”

 

“Nah, you’ll want the shitty news first,” Ruby hummed with a grin in her voice, her confidence restored.

 

She groaned, “When have I ever wanted the shitty news first?”

 

“Never, but this time the good news won’t make sense without it-” Ruby took in a deep breath, loud enough for Emma to hear over the connection and it set her back on edge. “Okay, so I was on that second date with Dorothy and it was going great.  Like, really great.  She’s amazing and funny and surprising.  We went to a paintball place.  Paintball, me!”

 

“Ruby-”

 

“And it was actually fun.  You know I’m more of a heels and cocktails kinda gal but I was getting into it-”

 

“Ruby-”

 

“Something about the adrenaline maybe or possibly the weird power trip of having a fake weapon to stalk your prey.  Though that makes me sound like I’m about to go play the most dangerous game or something-”

 

“RUBY!  The shitty news!”

 

“Oh, right,” Ruby had the decency to sound abashed but it did nothing to alleviate the pounding that had started in Emma’s head. “So paintball,  fun and exciting and I may have broken my arm.”

 

Emma suddenly felt faint, “What?”

 

“In two places,” Ruby continued, sounding almost proud of herself. “Plus there’s some stitches and a bunch of Bandaids involved but you probably don’t care about those.”

 

“How long?” She winced at her harsh question, knowing she sounded uncaring.  She backtracked, “No, fuck, wait, are you okay?  That should have been my first question.”

 

Ruby laughed, “Don’t worry, after all these years I know where your priorities lie.  I’m fine, they’ve got me on the good stuff here.”

 

“Wait, are you still at the hospital?” Emma stood up, ready to jump into whatever action was needed.

 

“Yup, they’ve still got to set the bones and wrap it up like the world’s worst present but like I said: the good stuff.”

 

“Alright, I’m on my way,” Emma dashed to her room and frantically tried to find a matching pair of shoes in the piles of crap strewn across the floor. “Do you need anything?  A change of clothes?  Are they keeping you there overnight?  Want me to stop by Granny’s?  Should I call Granny?”

 

“Whoa, Emma, slow down,” Ruby said, laughing again. “Dorothy called Granny when we were on our way to the hospital.  She’s already here and glaring at anyone in a white coat that walks by my little curtained area.  It should only be an hour or so then it’s home to rest.  You can come over with pizza and I’ll bore you to death then with all the little details of my date.”

 

“Okay,” she breathed, dropping down onto her bed with a tennis shoe in one hand.  “Pizza.  I can do that.”

 

“Good.  It’s six weeks by the way,” Ruby said offhandedly.

 

“Six weeks,” she repeated, confused by the non-sequitur.

 

“Recovery time.  At least six weeks.”

 

The shoe dropped out of her hand, “Six weeks.”

 

“And then a few weeks of physical therapy,” Ruby continued. “So, more like two months give or take.”

 

“Ruby,” she said weakly. “The tour starts in a month.  There’s no time to audition a replacement and have them learn the songs and what if they don’t get along with us or, fuck, what if they have a massive ego or-”

 

“Emma, stop.” Ruby said calmly. “This is where the good news comes in.”

 

“Good news?  How can there be good news?”

 

“I told you there would be,” Ruby tsked, “Here it is.  I already have a replacement ready!  He knows most of the songs you’ve been picking, has a shit ton of experience on the road and playing the type of venues we’ve got booked, and best of all he’s available to start as soon as you tell me yes.”

 

Ruby’s words had started to slow but her excitement was still palpable.  Emma on the other hand felt nothing but dread settling in her stomach.  Ever since she’d started doing the music thing seriously Ruby had been a part of the band playing behind her.  The seedy bars with tiny stages, the slightly better clubs with slightly worse sound systems, the places that could actually be called venues that held more than a hundred people and then bigger and bigger until she was finally selling out places that easily sat four or five thousand people.  She’d been there for everything, had seen everything, knew everything and her not being able to be there for any part of it was starting to cause Emma’s vision to go slightly grey at the edges.

 

“I need to call Regina,” she gasped, trying to draw in a deep breath, “We can cancel the first few weeks or reschedule them.”

 

“Emma-”

 

“I’ll say I have bronchitis or those polyp things on my vocal chords.  Or I can do the shows acoustic-”

 

“Emma, if you’d just-

 

“But then I’ll have to figure out how to pay Will and Tink-”

 

“Or you could just give this guy a chance, maybe?” Ruby said sharply and a bit pointedly. “I’m not letting you sabotage the biggest fucking thing to happen to you because I can’t play for a few weeks.  The fans don’t care who’s in the backing band, they’re paying to see you.”

 

“Then they won’t mind an acoustic show, will they?” Emma snapped back.

 

“No, but it’s also not what you’ve been teasing on Instagram for the past few months.  Not to mention all the techies and roadies that have already been hired that will be fired because they’ll be deemed unnecessary.  Plus isn’t it in your contract with the label that any major changes to the tour had to be approved by them?  I can tell you right now they won’t approve of anything this close to the start date.”

 

Emma hated that Ruby was right but couldn’t help one last argument, “And replacing you with some rando off the street isn’t a major change?”

 

“First off: the label cares even less about who’s in the backing band then the fans do.  As long as we make you sound good and don’t upstage you they’re happy,” Ruby said flippantly. “Second: Jones isn’t some rando, he’s actually a session guitarist and has played on a few songs on your last two albums.  Third: This is your best option and you know it.”

 

“I don’t know it,” she grumbled, “He could still be a problem, you know, personality wise or whatever.”

 

“Okay, sure,” Ruby conceded, “but you won’t know unless you give him a chance.  So will you?  Give him a chance?”

 

“Ugh, fine, but if he sucks I’m definitely writing a song called ‘I fucking told you so’.”

 

“And if he doesn’t I get to write it and you’ll have to play the terrible result at the final show,” Ruby said gleefully.

 

“I hate you,” Emma sighed, falling back so she was laying across the width of her bed.

 

“No you don’t,” Ruby paused and Emma could hear murmuring in the background. “Hey, the doctor’s back and they’re ready to get my bones a crackin’.  You can complain about it more tonight.  Meat lovers supreme, extra large, and bring those cinnamon sticky things too!”

 

Ruby hung up before Emma could utter a sound.  She chuckled to herself before the reality of the situation sunk back in.  For Ruby’s sake she’d give the Jones guy a chance but she had little faith that it would work out as easily as Ruby had made it sound.  Nothing had ever worked out easily for her before, no use in getting her hopes up again.