“No wonder this place tripped Artie’s radar,” Claudia says, over some of the best damn pancakes Steve’s ever had.
“What do you mean?” he says.
“Besides the name of the town? We’re staying at Granny’s B&B, staffed by Ruby and Ashley--”
“Who you keep side-eyeing, by the way. What’s that all about?”
Claudia shakes her head. “Long story,” she says, after she swallows. “Like fifty years long, I’ll tell you on the way home. Anyway, the mayor’s name is Regina, for godsakes - this place has some serious fairy tale shenanigans going on.”
“And what are we supposed to do about that, bag the whole town? Can we even do that?”
“Well, our B&B’s in the Warehouse already, and... but not only would that be a Bad Idea in general, most of the town probably doesn’t deserve bronzing. I don’t know, Artie just said see if anything was fishy, but at this rate I’m a little worried about who the sheriff’s gonna be.”
“Well, if it isn’t the little ATF agent who could,” a third voice cuts in. “Don’t tell me Madam Mayor’s scaring the nonexistent tourists already.” A blonde with a sheriff’s badge pinned to a too-large jacket pulls up a chair at their table, and Steve grins.
“Emma? Wouldn’t have pegged you for the Maine type.”
Claudia frowns. “You two’ve met before?”
“We crossed paths on one of my first cases. Emma, this is Claudia Donovan, I work with her now. Claudia, Emma Swan, the only other person I’ve ever met who can tell if someone’s lying, and apparently the sheriff we’ve been waiting for.”
“Again with the meaningful names,” Claudia mutters; before she can elaborate on whatever theory it is she has this time, Emma rolls her eyes.
“Trust me, kid, I’m the normal one here,” she says. “And Henry doesn’t need any more encouragement than he’s getting.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “Your kid found you?”
Emma doesn’t answer (Steve takes that as a yes, and doesn’t blame her for not saying it; he’d only found out she’d had a kid by accident); instead, she studies them for a few minutes, finally saying, “So you’re working with Eyebrows now?”
“How did you know that?” Claudia says, at the same time as Steve says, “When did you meet Artie?”
Emma snorts, and points at the gloves sticking out of Claudia’s tool belt. “Three, four years ago. North Carolina. I was tailing a deadbeat dad and Eyebrows was tailing the money clip the guy was using. Which... apparently was making him not pay child support, or something? Anyway, he said he’d help me bag the bond if I agreed to never speak of it again, but if you’re part of his racket you clearly know what’s going on.”
“In general, yes,” Steve says, “but I don’t remember hearing about any money clips.”
Claudia shrugs. “Would’ve been before my time. Anyway, your charming jurisdiction tripped Artie’s radar, so he wanted us to see if anything was fishy.”
“Of course he has radar.” Emma rolls her eyes. “Mostly we have small-town drama. I mean, if you believe Henry, then our dear mayor exported everyone from Fairyland and dumped them all here--”
“Maybe he’s on to something.”
Steve sighs. “Claud...”
“What? I’m just saying, I mean, holy meaningful names, Batman. But we can’t take the entire town to South Dakota.”
“I wouldn’t let you, either,” Emma says. “Either my kid’s got one hell of an overactive imagination, or it’s something that needs to be sorted out here, since it started here. Or something. But as long as you guys are in town, I was considering sending something along to Eyebrows, if I could figure out where. It’s in my office.”
Steve raises an eyebrow at the slight hesitation before Emma claims the office - she must be extremely new to the gig. After they finish breakfast, she takes them to the sheriff’s office, goes over to the desk, and pulls a wicked-looking dagger out of a drawer - she’s got a towel between it and her hand. It’s probably no guarantee against Artifact properties kicking in, but for someone who’s only vaguely aware of Warehouse protocol, it’s not bad.
Claudia pulls on a pair of gloves, and takes the dagger with a frown. “Dude, in what story did his name actually end up on something?”
“I’m not saying this out loud, who knows what it would do.”
Emma shrugs. “Far as I know, just the one in Henry’s book, but I’m not exactly the world’s authority on fairy tales here.”
“Where did you get it?” Steve says, starting to wonder himself if there’s more to Storybrooke than meets the eye. After all, if the dagger’s got the kind of roots Claudia and Emma are talking about, and it’s here to be rounded up...
“Let’s just say I’m doing the local pawnbroker a favor, not that he knows it yet. But if Henry’s on to something, I think that’s... best out of circulation, let’s say.”
Claudia tosses off a salute with her free hand before fishing a static bag out of her tool belt. “Nothing we don’t deal with all the time,” she says, and drops the dagger into the static bag - which promptly starts sparking like nothing Steve’s seen before.
“Holy--” Emma says, before ducking behind the desk; Steve covers his eyes and follows suit, hoping Claudia has the sense to get away from the thing. Nearly a full minute later, the sparks finally die down, but Steve doesn’t risk a look until he hears Claudia say, “Okay, that was... almost needlessly intense.”
“No kidding.” Emma gets up from behind the desk, eyeing the static bag like she’s expecting it to explode any minute. “This kind of thing happen to you guys a lot?”
“Kind of,” Steve says. “But I haven’t seen anything this intense since Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.”
“You know what, I’m not going to ask. Anyway, you guys have fun with your little souvenir there, and if you need anything else while you’re in town, let me know. Can’t guarantee Regina won’t do her best to get in my way, but I’ll do what I can.”
After they’ve left the sheriff’s office, Claudia says, “Okay, really, what is it with fairy tale shenanigans and knives?”
Steve blinks. “I... think you’re gonna have to explain that one, Claud.”
“On the way home. Like I said earlier, it’s a long story.”