Author's Note: My DVR didn't tape the end of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," but I found out what happened from the episode list on Wikipedia. I know we'll see what happens to Emma in the next episode, but I had this idea that I wanted to get out. This was pretty spur-of-the-moment as far as my fan fiction goes. By the way, if anyone knows where I can find scripts or quotes from Once Upon a Time episodes, please let me know!
Emma had been packing her bags when Mary Margaret came home from the school and told her that Henry wanted to meet her at the castle playground. Emma went there, if only to say good-bye. She felt bad about having to leave Henry again, but she thought it would be the best – for her, for him, and for the town.
Emma found him on the play structure, reading the book of fairy tales. "Hey," she greeted him. "Why did you want me to meet you here?"
Henry looked up at her. "Ms. Blanchard said you're leaving."
Emma nodded. "That's right, I am."
"But you can't! Especially now."
Emma sighed and sat down next to Henry, dangling her legs off the side of the structure. "Look, kid, I know you were expecting me to save the town, but all I've done is make things worse. Your mom … she blames me for the Sheriff's death, and … maybe she's right." Emma wiped her hand across her face, trying not to cry. She had spent the whole night after Graham's death crying, something she normally detested doing – it made her feel weak. She had let down her wall, and she had been hurt because of it. "I mean – Sheriff Graham wouldn't have died if I hadn't come here."
"But you know why he died? He was starting to remember!" Henry exclaimed. "That's why the queen got rid of him."
Emma shook her head. "Henry, I was with him when he died. That means I'm implicated for killing him. In any other town, I'd have been interviewed by the police. But he was the police, and I was his deputy. The only reason I'm not in jail now is because there's no one to arrest me."
"But we need you – now more than ever."
"Are you talking about your fairy tale theory, or real life?"
"Both! We need you because things are changing, the curse is weakening and she's fighting back. And we need you because you're the only person in the law enforcement now." In response to Emma's quizzical expression, he added, "Ruby said that, not me."
Emma looked out at the water, considering. After a moment, Henry spoke up again. "Whether or not you believe me, there's this: if you leave, it means she's won."
Emma glanced at him. Henry pulled a piece of paper out from the pages of the book. "I wanted to organize a protest, but Ms. Blanchard thought it would put more pressure on you to have everyone here. So instead, I got everyone to sign a petition." Henry handed her the piece of paper. "These are all the people who want you to stay."
Emma frowned and read the list – or letter, more like.
Mary Margaret Blanchard. You're my first close friend. I don't feel lonely at home anymore. And you've made Henry so happy lately. Please stay.
David Nolan. You're one of the few people I really know in this town. Thank you for helping find and save me.
Ashley Boyd. Thank you for letting me keep my baby. I can never repay you for that. Alexandra and I both owe you our lives.
Sean Herman. You saved my relationship with Ashley; thank you. I'd understand if you say no, but Ashley and I were wondering if you would be Alexandra's godmother.
R. Gold. It would be a shame if you left. Don't forget, you still owe me a favor.
"Mr. Gold wants me to stay?"
"He says it's because you owe him a favor," Henry explained. "But he likes you, too."
Emma glanced down at the list again. There were more names – Archie and Marco, Ruby and her grandmother. Archie had even put his dalmatian's pawprint on the letter.
Henry was still talking. "Because of you, David woke up, and Ashley had her baby and was able to keep it. You're already a hero, Emma."
Emma bit her lip, trying to keep more tears from spilling – only now, they weren't tears of pain or sadness; she was just amazed at how many people she had come to know, and like, and help. They cared about her. They wanted her around.
In order for something to grow, it needs roots. And you have no roots.
She had wanted to prove Regina wrong. So she had started to put down roots. And now, it seemed, they had planted themselves firmly into the ground. The townspeople of Storybrooke wouldn't let her leave.
Emma smiled tearfully. "Thank you, Henry."
There was that crooked half-smile she had become familiar with lately. "You're welcome … Mom."
That did it. The dam broke and Emma couldn't stanch the tears. She hugged Henry, and he hugged her back – something he rarely did with Regina.
If Henry was right … her staying here might cause more deaths. But if she left, she would be leaving Henry the townsfolk – her friends – defenseless. So she would stay, for them.
Emma prayed that she wouldn't come to regret this decision.