Sixteen-year old Emma Swan is determined to simply survive her final foster home before she ages out of the system, but Storybrooke, Maine, turns out to have more in store for her than she ever imagined. From her foster mom talking to birds to a potential magical war between two of her classmates, Emma's junior year is shaping up to be a wild ride.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters of Once Upon a Time.
Chapter 1: Welcome to Storybrooke High
Emma gazes out the window of the social worker's car as the thick forest gradually gives way to coastline and the rundown buildings of a sleepy little town.
"Now, it's not Boston," Tom is explaining. "It's a small town, but I think you might find that you get into a little less trouble here." He gives her a pointed glare and Emma snorts. Like she's never watched TV and seen all the mischief small-town kids get up to when there's nothing else to do.
Still, she'll try to stay on the straight and narrow. It would be nice to live in the same place for more than six months - maybe she can even make it to graduation if this foster mom isn't horrible.
"This is Storybrooke High School," Tom points out as they drive past a large brick building. "You'll attend school here, obviously. Your foster mother is a math teacher and very highly regarded in town."
Emma already knows this - she read the entire file when the social worker had stepped into Dunkin' Donuts to get his third coffee of the trip. Mary Margaret Blanchard. She's a first time foster parent, but due to her extensive experience working with teens, they apparently think she'll be able to take on the challenging case that is Emma Swan.
"And, here we are!" Tom finally announces. They pull in front of a small apartment building on Main Street, and Emma takes in the town center. Everything looks like it's stuck in the eighties, but she supposes she can see the charm. It looks like the type of place where everyone knows their neighbor; she wonders if the town meetings are anything like on Gilmore Girls.
Her new foster mom rushes out of the building like she's been waiting at the window all day and immediately greets herwith a hug. She's much younger than Emma expected, and a round, earnest face framed by a pixie cut makes her look even younger. She's wearing a pastel-blue cardigan and a silver cross necklace, and she looks like the kind of woman who could have been a nun if she had any ability to look intimidating. How her students don't eat her alive is anyone's guess.
"You must be exhausted from the trip," she says after everyone is introduced. "Let's get you moved in - can I help you carry anything?"
"Nope, got it all." Emma heaves her backpack over one shoulder, and Mary Margaret looks horrified.
"That's...all? All your stuff? Really?"
"You really haven't done this before, have you?"
It doesn't take long to empty the contents of Emma's backpack into her small room - well, room is a bit of a stretch. It's more like a corner of the main room separated by a curtain, but she has a bed and a window and even a small closet, so she's not about to complain. Mary Margaret sleeps upstairs in the small loft; her space is bigger than Emma's but certainly not by much. There are almost no doors in the entire apartment, but somehow the bathroom has two.
"The privacy situation is...not much, I realize," Mary Margaret says guiltily after Tom leaves. "I guess we'll just have to learn to respect and trust each other."
Emma raises her eyebrows. Trust? Mary Margaret must not have read her file very thoroughly.
Emma's stomach growls and Mary Margaret's eyes widen as she checks her watch. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize how late it was getting," she apologizes. "I don't know what kind of food you like, so I haven't made anything for dinner. How would you feel about eating at the diner next door?"
"Sounds great." Emma remembers the smell of fried food coming from the building marked "Granny's Diner" when they arrived. "For future reference, I'll eat anything, so you don't have to worry about what to make."
Mary Margaret raises an eyebrow. "Anything?"
"Well, probably not, like, snails."
They both laugh, and Emma is surprised by how comfortable she feels with this woman already. Her pessimistic side knows it probably won't last, but it certainly would be nice if it did.
An extremely tall girl with red streaks in her hair and an excessively short skirt places two sets of burgers and fries on the table and greets Emma's foster mom with an excited smile.
"Miss Blanchard! I heard a rumor you're teaching Pre-Calc this semester?"
"For once, the Storybrooke rumor mill got something right," the teacher says with a laugh "I've got two Pre-Calc classes."
"Well, maybe I'll be in one of them. Pretty much the only thing I'm looking forward to about school starting next week."
"That would be lovely, Ruby. By the way, I'd like you to meet someone. This is my - this is Emma Swan. She'll be living with me for a while."
"Nice to meet you," Ruby says pleasantly, reaching out to shake Emma's hand.
"Emma, meet Ruby Lucas. Ruby is a senior at Storybrooke High," Mary Margaret explains. "Maybe she could show you around, if it's not too much trouble, that is," she adds, turning back to Ruby. "Emma's going to be a junior."
"No trouble at all. Hey, you moved here at the perfect time! And you got the perfect foster mom - Miss Blanchard's everyone's favorite teacher."
"Maybe not everyone's," Mary Margaret mutters darkly. Ruby grimaces, and Emma wants to ask what that's all about, but she figures she doesn't know either of them well enough yet. "Anyway," she says, quickly brightening, "I was hoping we could stop by the school tomorrow morning. I have to set up a few things in my classroom, and they want you to take some placement tests."
"That sounds fine," Emma shrugs. She doesn't have anything better to do.
"We can hang out tomorrow afternoon if you want," Ruby offers. "I'll introduce you to everyone worth knowing, show you the very few fun things we can do around here."
Emma agrees just as the older woman behind the counter, who Emma assumes is "Granny," hollers at Ruby to get back to work.
"She seems nice," Emma observes, because Mary Margaret looks like she expects her to say something.
"She is. Most of the kids in this town are very nice. I think you'll make friends very easily."
Emma almost argues that she's always been more of a loner, but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing to say to a foster parent on the first day when you might actually want to stay. Instead, she bites into her burger and almost moans in bliss. "If I become Ruby's best friend, do you think I can get free burgers here?" she asks, and Mary Margaret laughs again.
On the way out of the diner, they come to an abrupt halt when Mary Margaret almost crashes into an imposing older woman. "Madam Mayor, I'm so sorry," she quickly apologizes. "I should have been looking where I was going."
"Don't worry, Miss Blanchard. There's been no harm done," this woman, the mayor, reassures. Her eyebrows raise as she notices Emma standing behind the math teacher. "And who's this?"
"This is Emma Swan, my foster daughter. Emma, this is Cora Mills. She's the mayor of this town."
"The mayor? Wow." Emma reaches out to shake Cora's hand and tries to use her best manners. "It's very nice to meet you, Mayor Mills."
"The pleasure is all mine. How old are you, Miss Swan?"
"Just turned sixteen. I'll be a junior."
"How nice. So will my daughter, Regina." The mayor steps aside, and Emma finally glimpses the dark-haired girl who had evidently been hiding behind her mother. Her first thought is that Regina is absolutely breathtaking, perhaps the most beautiful girl Emma has ever seen. Her second thought is that the brunette does not look at all happy to be there.
"Nice to meet you, Emma," she says woodenly, staring at the floor. "Hello, Miss Blanchard," she adds reluctantly when her mother nudges her.
"Hello, Regina. I hope you've had a good summer." Mary Margaret's expression is pained.
Regina mumbles something under her breath before receiving another nudge from her mother, this one harder. "It was fine, thank you."
"Well, we should be on our way," Mary Margaret says, attempting to paint a smile on her face. The two mother-daughter pairs quickly say their goodbyes, and Mary Margaret breathes a huge sigh of relief when she and Emma are finally out the door and alone.
"Let me guess. That's one of the students who isn't obsessed with you?"
"It's a long story. A very long story."
The next morning, Emma and Mary Margaret are at Storybrooke High bright and early. "Emma, this is the head teacher, Mr. Gold," Mary Margaret says as they enter a small, cluttered office. "He's going to figure out which classes to enroll you in."
"Hi," Emma says shyly. There's something extremely intimidating about this man, though she can't quite figure out what it is.
"Would you direct her to my classroom when she's finished?" her foster mom asks the head teacher politely.
"Of course, Miss Blanchard. Emma, why don't you take a seat."
Gold asks her questions about her previous schooling, classes she's taken in the past. He has her transcripts, but there are so many of them he needs some clarification. Then he gives her a math test, a grammar test, and a twenty-minute writing prompt. It's all very routine, and Emma doesn't have much trouble with it. She may have some gaps in her education from changing schools so many times, but she's always been fairly intelligent.
Gold seems satisfied with her performance. He tells her he'll mail her course schedule to Mary Margaret's address in two to three days and mentions that he set up an appointment for her with the school counselor, Dr. Hopper, to help with her adjustment.
"Thank you, sir. Is that all?" Emma asks.
"Just one more thing. Before you go, I'd like you to tell me about an experience that made you feel very angry."
"I thought you said Dr. Hopper was the school counselor."
"Humor me, Miss Swan. We do this to get an assessment of a student's verbal skills - our debate team is very successful."
It's a strange request, but certainly not the strangest thing she's ever had to do at a new school. She's certainly not articulate enough to join the debate team. She struggles to find the words to explain to a perfect stranger how she feels about her birth parents abandoning her on the side of a freeway or her first adoptive parents giving her up after replacing her with their own child.
She's about to start speaking when they are interrupted by flickering lights and a knock at the door. "Come in," Gold says, annoyed, and a tall redhead hesitantly enters the office.
"Hello, Mr. Gold. I'm just here for cross-country practice, and I thought I'd drop by to see how your summer was."
"Thank you, Zelena. My summer was just fine. I've just been giving our new student some placement tests."
"Oh!" Zelena finally seems to notice Emma sitting at Gold's desk and looks embarrassed. "I didn't realize I was interrupting anything."
"It's okay, I think we're done here. You don't seem all that interested in debate, Miss Swan. Are you?"
"Not at all," Emma answers honestly.
"Well then, Zelena, would you mind bringing her by Miss Blanchard's room. I believe it's on your way to the gym."
"Of course, Mr. Gold," Zelena says sweetly, and Emma feels like vomiting. This girl is making no effort to hide her massive crush on the teacher, and it's obvious even he feels uncomfortable.
"I'm Zelena Thropp," the girl explains as she leads Emma down the hall. "I'm a senior here."
"Emma Swan, junior." Emma has to jog to keep up - Zelena's pace is perhaps more suited to the Olympic power-walking marathon than a jaunt down the hall.
"So, you just moved here recently? Have you met many people?"
"Just my foster mom, Miss Blanchard, and Ruby from the diner. I think she's in your class. And now Mr. Gold. And...um...the mayor and her daughter, weirdly enough."
"The mayor?" Zelena's face takes on a look of extreme distaste. "And that horrible Regina? I'm so sorry."
"They weren't too bad," Emma protests, feeling like she shouldn't have mentioned anything to this girl at all.
"You'll see once you get to know them," Zelena pronounces ominously. "Or, if you're smart, you won't get to know them at all. Well, here we are." The sign on the classroom door reads "Mary Margaret Blanchard. Mathematics."
"Yup, this looks like the right place. Thanks for the directions."
"Emma!" Mary Margaret says happily. "How did it go?"
Emma shrugs. "Not too bad. Tests are tests, I guess."
"Oh, hello Zelena! Nice to see you! Are you here for pre-season?"
"Hi Miss Blanchard. Yep, just a lot of running. I've got to get going to practice, actually, but I'll see you around. Maybe I'll be in your class this semester?"
"As lovely as that would be, I don't think I'm teaching anything advanced enough for you."
"Oh well. Bye!" Zelena jogs out the door and Emma halfheartedly waves after her.
"I'm glad to see you're making friends already," Mary Margaret says. "Zelena's such a nice girl."
"I don't know if we're exactly friends. She was just...dropping by Mr. Gold's office and he asked her to walk me to class." Emma grimaces. She's not sure what about the senior rubs her the wrong way, but she already can't stand her.
Thankfully, there seem to be plenty of kids in Storybrooke she can stand. She really enjoys spending time with Ruby and her friends Mulan, Graham, and Billy. They have some strange interests, and they're a bit sheltered from living in the same tiny town their entire lives, but maybe she likes that about them. They're all fairly easygoing and don't seem at all judgmental of her background.
I might like this weird little place, Emma thinks to herself as she wakes up on the Friday before she's supposed to start school. As she sorts through the new school supplies and clothes that Mary Margaret bought for her, she finds that she's already happier and more comfortable than she's been in a long time. That is, until Mary Margaret calls her to the kitchen.
"You've got mail from the school," her foster mom explains, gesturing to a large manila envelope on the counter as she flips eggs. "I think it's your class schedule."
Emma opens the envelope, only half-interested. She's been to plenty of different schools before, and class is class. She only hopes she gets some kind of study hall or free period.
Everything on the schedule looks fairly standard at first glance. She's got Pre-Calc with Mary Margaret, which might be a little strange. English, Physics, U.S. History, P.E...nothing that seems too exciting until she gets to her last period class and does a double take, nearly spitting out her orange juice.
"Um, Mary Margaret? Is this...is this a typo?" she asks hesitantly. "Is it supposed to say Music Theory or something?"
"Hmm? Oh, no, that's right. It's a real class, but only a few students are selected to take it." Taking in Emma's confused expression, she adds sympathetically, "I guess you never knew you had magical abilities before, huh?"
No, because magic isn't real, Emma thinks. What the hell is wrong with this town?
She thinks maybe it was only a dream. A really weird dream brought on by Ruby's inexplicable comment about being a werewolf the day before. But when she checks her schedule again that evening, it says the exact same thing.
Room 7. Mr. Gold. Theory of Magic.
This is going to be a very interesting semester.