A/N: I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know I'm supposed to be doing other things (like finishing the last chapter of All I Ever Wanted, and I'm sorry) but I've got dreadful writer's block on literally everything except, apparently, for this. This is my first foray in to OUAT fic, so bear with me.
Chapter One - Welcome to Storybrooke
Welcome home, while away they tampered with the locks and your things they've rearranged.
"It's just for a week," Emma promised, even though she didn't believe the words she was saying. Henry didn't believe her either, of that she was sure. But it was a lie she could comfortably tell herself and one he would willingly accept. And then they would be in the town, the tiny town in Maine that was the bane of Emma's existence, and a week would pass and then two and neither of them would mention Emma's lie again.
The yellow bug passed the old wooden sign that welcomed them to Storybrooke, and then the library's clock tower came into view on the horizon over the trees. As they twisted out of the woods and onto Main Street, Emma could almost see the past staring at her from the shop fronts. She could see herself aged thirteen going along with Belle's scheme to sneak into the town archives at City Hall late at night, just to find out how old Mr Gold from the pawn shop was, exactly. She could see herself aged fifteen trying to discourage Ruby from running away with some boy – irony had come back to bite her in the ass for that one. She could see herself age seventeen making out with Neal in one of the alleyways. But no matter how long she stared, she could only see Belle and Ruby and Neal, not the people who really mattered at the end of the day.
"Mom, where are we staying?" Henry asked.
"The diner," Emma said, parking the bug in front of Granny's and climbing out of the car. She grabbed her bag out of the trunk and Henry followed suit. The minute the bell over the door rang, Emma deeply regretted every decision in her life that had led to that moment.
"With you in a second!" a familiar voice said. Emma braced for impact and then Ruby walked out of the kitchen. She did a double take when she saw Emma, and for a second, Emma expected her to comment. But she didn't. "How can I help you?"
"We need a room," Emma said, searching Ruby's face for signs of recognition. The past eleven years had been kind to her, and Ruby could've passed for the girl in Emma's senior yearbook.
"Sure," Ruby said, grabbing a set of keys from behind the counter. "13, just up the stairs."
Henry started for the stairs immediately, but Emma hung back.
"Ruby? It's me, Emma," she said.
"Yeah," Ruby agreed. "I figured you didn't need hostility from me, considering."
Emma winced. "Then thanks," she said.
Ruby didn't say anything and Emma took the key, heading for their new room. It was one of the larger ones, and she was grateful for that. There were two double beds dressed in the antiquated floral patterns that dominated Granny's inn. It was the popular choice of hotel rental for prom night. That thought made Emma wince while she stared at the back of her son's head. It hadn't been room 13. It had been room twenty-something. She remembered that much.
"Who was that downstairs?" Henry asked.
"Her name's Ruby Lucas," Emma said.
"Did you know her?" Henry asked.
"Yeah," Emma replied. "She was one of my best friends."
Henry stopped unpacking his bag and turned to stare at her. "That was one of your best friends?"
"What?" Emma asked, hanging up a few of her jackets in the closet.
"She acted like she didn't know you," Henry pointed out. "And if she was one of your best friends, then Aunt-"
"We're not going to talk about them right now," Emma said, freezing at the mention of her elder sisters, even if it was just by associative familial nomenclature.
"Mom," Henry said, his eyes wide. They were Emma's green eyes. Emma's mother's green eyes. Mary-Margaret's green eyes. "When are we going to talk about them?"
"At the funeral," Emma said, steeling herself.
Storybrooke wasn't a bad place to grow up. At least, not if you stayed on the straight and narrow and were friends with other people on the straight and narrow and didn't date half the boys in your grade and weren't the sheriff's daughter. It was an alright place to be a kid. It wasn't such a good place to be a rebellious teenager, and it was definitely not a good place to be a rebellious and pregnant teenager. It was a monumental fuck up made worse by having perfect elder sisters.
Emma unzipped the garment bag holding her black dress and scooped up the funeral notice. Her parents' deaths had come at a disturbing coincidence with the end of her most recent relationship. That had been a pleasant screaming match, a diamond ring thrown across a table, a hollow fist to the face. There were police, and there were locked doors, quickly packed bags, and flight down the fire escape. She didn't really think Walsh was going to follow her back to Storybrooke since he wanted very little to do with her or her son, but she felt safer knowing that Storybrooke didn't even turn up on Google unless you zoomed in as far as the maps feature would let you.
"Do you think they missed you?" Henry asked, struggling to do up his tie. Most of his nice suit was leftover from his school uniform back in New York, and even though he'd been going there since third grade, he still didn't know how to tie his tie. Emma suspected he feigned ignorance so she would help him, and she didn't really mind.
"Who?" she asked.
"Grandma and Grandpa," Henry said.
Emma sighed. Henry had never met her parents, would never meet her parents. She didn't know why she was so desperate to protect their memories, so determined not to tell Henry about the day she left Storybrooke, several months before his birth. The night they told her she was a disappointment, that they were ashamed of her, and that she was a disgrace to their family.
"I don't know, kid," she said.
This was another one of the lies she was comfortable telling and Henry was willing to believe. It was an easy negotiation, easier than the truth – no. Henry knew the answer. He was a bright, perceptive kid. Emma knew the truth and knew Henry was aware. But the time she didn't have to say it aloud was nicer to both of them.
"What about Neal?" Henry asked. "Is he here?"
Emma started. She hadn't even considered the possibility. Trade in one psycho ex for another, that would be her life trajectory.
"I have no idea," Emma said, blinking away the horrible sudden thoughts of Neal or Neal's father trying to steal Henry away from her. But, no. Neal had never wanted kids, and neither had Mr Gold as far as she knew, and if anyone she knew was going to try and steal Henry away from her it would be – but that wasn't important.
"Mom?" Henry asked. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Emma said, forcing a smile and glancing at her phone. It was almost time for the service. "You ready to go?"
Henry nodded and even left his DS and comic books lying on the bedside table. Emma's plan was to arrive at the service just in time to slip unnoticed into the back, pay her respects, and run before anyone saw her. It was going to be a full house, she knew that for sure. Leonard and Ingrid Swan had been huge in the Storybrooke scene. If the whole town didn't show up for the service, Emma would eat her shoes.
There was no point in driving from Granny's, and Henry didn't protest as Emma led the way across the small downtown to the chapel. The nuns who lived on the outskirts of town maintained it, and true to her predictions, the entirety of Storybrooke's modest population was pouring out the doors as she and Henry approached. Because it was Maine in August, it was overcast and dull outside. Emma overheard several people comment that the weather itself seemed to be lamenting the loss of the Swans.
What she really needed to do was take stock of the situation, figure out what the mood of the town was in a more concrete way than Ruby's frigid welcome. She needed to get Henry enrolled in middle school, she needed to find a job, she needed to find an apartment that wasn't Granny's Diner, she needed to get her car tuned up and the oil changed, she needed to go to the bank and transfer the bulk of her money from the BoA to the Storybrooke Credit Union, she needed to meet with her parents' lawyer to make certain they didn't leave her anything, she needed to do a million and one things besides sit in the back of the chapel listening to the local priest lament her parents' deaths. But she allowed Henry to pull her into a pew in the very back.
The décor of the funeral was something her mother would've hated. Everything was black and white. White calla lilies, black wreathes, polished black coffins. Ingrid hated black. Emma swallowed back the uncomfortable lump in her throat and forced herself to look at the front of the church. In the front row, on opposite sides of the aisle, were two heads of shiny black hair. Emma wondered if their separation meant they weren't speaking to each other either.
The priest droned on, talking about the achievements the Swans had had during their lives, and the benefit they'd done to Storybrooke. He talked about their legacy, the tragedy of their untimely deaths – but he didn't mention the irony of the sheriff bending his car around a tree while drunk, Emma noticed – and then he mentioned the sorrow that filled the hearts of the family they'd left behind. Emma waited with bated breath to hear the list of the nieces and nephews she had that she'd never met, but instead the priest listed her sister's names and then…that was it.
"Mom, why didn't he say you?" Henry whispered.
"Don't worry about it," Emma whispered back, giving a guilty smile to the man in the seat next to her. He frowned at her and then did the same double take Ruby had done at the diner. But he didn't say anything, and Emma silently thanked him.
As soon as the service was over, Emma was out of her seat, tugging Henry out of the chapel before anyone else could notice her. She thought she heard a man say "Emma" but she didn't turn to double check.
The wake wasn't being held at Granny's, an altogether abnormal circumstance, and Emma happily retreated to the room service Granny would provide. She knew Granny herself didn't care for her parents and she hadn't spotted the woman at the chapel, so she could only hope she wouldn't protest bringing up a few plates of waffles and some hot chocolate.
"Were they there?" Henry asked, sucking some cinnamon sprinkled whipped cream off the top of his beverage.
"They were up front," Emma said, cutting a piece off her waffles.
"Did they see you?" Henry asked.
"No," Emma said. She didn't even care if it was true. She had no desire to talk to her sisters and they had no desire to talk to her, so it really didn't matter if they saw her.
Henry looked unconvinced, but bit into his waffles anyway. Emma flicked on the radio and ducked into the bathroom to change out of her dress. She was still in the bathroom taking her hair down when there was a knock on the room door. She heard bedsprings and Henry opening the door.
"Is your mother in, young man?" a man asked. Emma tried to place the voice but came up blank. Well, she was pretty sure it was the same man who'd said her name back at the chapel, but she didn't recognise him.
"Who are you?" Henry asked. Emma scrubbed the remains of the lipstick she'd ruined on her hot chocolate off her mouth and ducked into the room. She couldn't see the visitor because of the barely open door and was proud of Henry for keeping the chain done up. She figured that was what she got for raising a child whilst a bounty hunter in Manhattan.
"I'm afraid it's official sheriff's business," the man on the other side of the door said.
"Sheriff's business?" Emma demanded, rounding the door and staring at the man in the hallway. He was tall, blue eyed, with sandy blond hair. He leaned in the doorway with one hand against the top of the frame and the other on his hip, subtly adjusting his jacket to show the sheriff's star clipped to his belt. Emma's eyes widened. "David?"
The serious expression he'd been wearing disappeared as his face split into a grin. Emma shut the door and undid the chain before opening the door fully and wrapping him in a hug.
"I thought you left!" she said, letting go of him and allowing him into the room. Henry eyed him suspiciously. "Last I heard you were in Portland!"
"Yeah, well last I heard you were in Manhattan," David replied. "Things change. And you must be Henry."
"Who are you?" Henry asked, crossing his arms and eyeing David's outstretched hand like it was covered in filth.
"Uh, David," David replied. "David Nolan. I was friends with your mom a long time ago."
"No, no," Emma said. "Let's call a spade a spade. You were hopelessly in love with my sister and-"
Emma started to say something about the scraggly awkward kid David had been in high school, sickly as a small child and held back to Emma's year because of extended hospital stays, started to add how he'd pined something awful after Mary-Margaret who hadn't even noticed him. But then she saw the shiny gold wedding band on his left hand and froze.
"And she agreed to marry you?" Emma finished, grabbing his hand and frowning at his ring in stunned shock. The David she knew would have never even considered marrying someone besides her middle sister.
"No," David said. "But someone else did. And she wanted to move back home to Storybrooke, and so now here I am."
"And you're the sheriff?" Emma asked, nodding at the star on his belt. She could put aside her questions about his marriage for a while without being a bad friend. After all, she didn't want to reopen his old wounds.
"It's a recent promotion," David replied. "How long are you in town?"
Emma and Henry exchanged looks. Henry nodded once and retreated to his bed and waffles and hot chocolate. It was an unspoken agreement that Emma could take back her lie from that morning, that Henry would understand.
"For a while," Emma said.
"Good," David said. "I think everyone would be happier if there was a Swan in the sheriff's office again."
"Are you offering me a job?" Emma asked.
"If you'll accept it," David said. "The Emma I used to know was fond enough of law enforcement."
Emma narrowed her eyes at him and tipped her head in Henry's direction. It didn't really matter if David was referring to the several arrests she had under her belt for various things – drunk and disorderly, minor in possession, breaking and entering, theft – or Graham, but either way she didn't want her impressionable eleven year old son getting the wrong idea about the sorts of things that were accepted here in Storybrooke.
"Yeah, fond," Emma agreed, doing her best not to glare at one of her oldest friends, who was – as far as she knew – the only person in Storybrooke still speaking to her.
"Come on, you know I'm never going to get Mary-Margaret or Regina to take up the office," David said.
"No," Emma said. She discovered as he said their names that thinking about her sisters was one thing. Having someone else casually mention them was another thing entirely. "You won't. Let me guess, Regina's Governor of Maine."
"Close," David said. "Mayor of Storybrooke."
Emma nodded. If she accepted his offer of a job in the sheriff's office, there would be no way to avoid her. But maybe that would be a better way to meet again.
"So you need a deputy?" she asked.
"Yeah, I do," David said. "Granted, I'm only the interim sheriff, but the elections aren't for another three years so…"
"So you'll be around for a while," Emma finished.
She sighed and looked over at Henry. He quickly looked down at his comic book, pretending he hadn't been watching their conversation.
"What do you say, kid? Can you handle having your mom be a cop?" Emma asked.
Henry shrugged one shoulder, the picture of nonchalance and innocence. Emma shook her head and turned back to David.
"I guess I'll see you tomorrow morning?" she said. David grinned and showed himself to the door.
"Good," he said. He paused with his hand on the knob. "And Emma? Welcome back."
Fun fact: Maine and Oregon both share the same major city - Portland. I'm told that people from the east coast always assume Portland is in reference to the city in Maine while those of us from the west always assume Portland Oregon. While this is understandable, it is damn confusing when you're trying to buy plane tickets home.