A/N: I freaking love Once Upon a Time already and Emma's character intrigues me. I wanted to see something that delved more into her past, especially when she was pregnant with Henry, but I figured I would write something of the sort myself as well. Side note: I said Emma was 17 when she got pregnant because if Emma was turning 28 in the pilot and Henry is 10, she would've had to have been 17 when he was born - she must just round up to 18.
This is Not a Fairy Tale
Emma's life had never been a fairy tale.
Far from it, in fact.
Just minutes after she was born, she was found on the side of a freeway with nothing but a baby blanket, embroidered with her name.
She had no idea where she came from or who her parents were—nobody did. That always stuck in her mind.
It was true that a person needs roots in order to grow, just like a tree. Emma had no roots.
She was placed into foster care as an infant, and was even with a family for a few years until the family had their own child, and suddenly she became an afterthought. She was sent back into the system, bouncing from home to home.
House to house, really, because Emma couldn't say she had ever really had a home.
A home implies somewhere that you're comfortable and happy, perhaps where there is someone who loves you. Emma never really knew what love felt like.
She rebelled like many teenagers do. But she had something much greater to rebel against. She wasn't rebelling against mommy who wouldn't let her stay out late or daddy who wouldn't let her have a boyfriend. She was rebelling against the system.
The system had put her through hell, but she was headstrong. She had built a firm exterior over the years, and she wasn't going down without a fight.
She constantly ran away from her foster home, but she was always caught and returned. That didn't stop her from trying again.
The last time Emma left, she was seventeen. She met Sam and she ran away with him. He was nineteen, but she thought she might love him and she thought he loved her.
Neither of those was true. She still had no idea what love felt like, but she found out after the fact that it wasn't what she and Sam had.
She found out he was cheating on her and she ran again. Running was her nature. It was what she knew best. Staying meant forming attachments and forming attachments meant getting hurt.
A month later, her period had yet to come. She was nauseous and lightheaded. She knew what that added up to, but she refused to believe it.
She was caught three weeks later stealing a pregnancy test from a drug store—finally breaking down and deciding to find out once and for all if she was actually pregnant—, and when the cops took her in, they realized she was a runaway and sent her back to foster care. She was just months away from being a legal adult, and she was having a fucking baby, and yet they insisted she go back into the system.
As the baby grew inside of her, Emma struggled with the idea of what to do with it.
You have no money, no form of support, her brain told her, logically. But she felt the baby flutter in her womb and she thought, for just a moment, that maybe she could do it.
But the system had other ideas. They handed her pamphlets on adoption, telling her how happy her baby would be with a nice, loving family who could afford to take care of him or her. They told her she couldn't give the child the life he or she deserved, but someone else could.
Emma refused to find out the sex of the baby. She was too unsure about what she was going to do, and she was not one to form emotional attachments to anyone who might not be in her life for long.
She was alone when the baby was born. Fourteen hours of excruciating labor, and Emma did it all alone, just like everything else in her life.
Emma was used to being alone. It was the only way she really knew.
When she heard her baby's cries as it finally made its way out of her womb, Emma cried. The doctor announced that it was a boy and then proceeded to bundle the infant in blankets and hand him to Emma.
She stared at him for fifteen minutes, taking in every detail of his tiny body.
She was a runner. Transient. She moved around constantly. She didn't know how to stay in one place and she didn't know how to love someone. And Emma certainly didn't know how to be a parent—what model had she had?
She couldn't keep him.
They were right, Emma thought. I have to give him his best chance, and that's not with me.
Emma climbed out of her hospital bed, still holding her son in her arms.
No, he wasn't hers. Some wonderful family would adopt him and he would have everything he could ever need. Most importantly, they would give him love. She couldn't even promise him that.
Emma softly kissed the infant's soft head, before placing him in the hospital bassinet.
She grabbed her clothes and threw them on, leaving the baby in the room, but not before pressing the call button to make sure someone would come and get him.
She signed away her parental rights—a closed adoption—and ran.
She ran for ten years. Ten years and seven different cities.
It was her birthday and she had no one to spend it with. She made a wish on a candle that she had placed in a cupcake she'd bought for herself. She wished that, maybe just maybe, she wouldn't have to be alone for her birthday. She wondered what it felt like to not be alone. She wanted to feel loved.
Then he showed up.
He told her he was her son, his name was Henry, and that she was a part of some fairy tale.
Her life was in no way a fairy tale.