A/N: Once Upon a Time has officially gotten to me - I have not been this in love with a show for a very long time. I just HAD to write something, even though I'm busy with another story.
When You Wish Upon a Star
Emma placed the candle on the cupcake and lit the wick.
"Another banner year," she muttered to herself.
"What would you know about family?" she recalled the fugitive's spiteful words and the sting they had inflicted. Emma had learnt very early on to be hard and let words run off her like water, but some always managed to slip through the chinks in her armour.
She stared into the flame until it's shaped burned into her eyes, a bright yellow light dancing in contrast to the blue of the candle, a little star. A single candle, alone in the dark. Emma had always been alone, for all of her 28 years. There had never been a constant in her life, never a place she'd called home, nor a person who wanted to keep her around. Not once they had gotten what they wanted from her.
Mentally, Emma slapped herself for getting emotional. This was just a day. She couldn't let a day get to her like this. She straightened her back and stared at the candle. Just one second, she decided. She would let herself mope for one more second, and then she would get back to being her normal, ass-kicking, awesome self.
Emma closed her eyes, and while watching the candle's echo on the inside of her eye lids, she let the dull aching in her chest take over. She let it grow and swell up into her throat until it nearly brought tears to her eyes. With her second almost over, Emma made a wish and blew out the candle.
And then there was a knock at the door.
Her eyes sprang open, startled by the timing. She cast a suspicious glance at the half-melted little blue candle before shaking some sense into herself and getting up to answer the knock. She supposed it was the building supervisor, or maybe someone with the wrong flat number. She stalked to the door, a little annoyed at being interrupted, already anticipating her slightly sleazy landlord to be standing behind the door with some lame excuse to come into her apartment and hit on her.
She opened the door already spinning some acerbic lines together to greet him, and was stunned to find not a slightly over-weight man but an earnest-faced child. Taken aback by the startling contrast, Emma paused for a moment before finding an appropriate opening sentence.
"Ummm… can I help you?"
She was genuinely stumped by the child at her door. She hadn't had much experience with children, not since she'd aged out of the foster care system a good decade before. She certainly didn't know any children well enough that they should be knocking upon her door. She figured maybe he was selling something, some sort of fundraiser for school, though she thought he looked too young to be out door knocking after dark.
"Are you Emma Swan?" he asked.
"Yeah," Emma answered, her confusion growing. How did he know her name? Did he live in her building? She didn't remember ever seeing any kids around before. "Who are you?"
"My name's Henry. I'm your son," the boy said and smiled up at her with a hopeful glint in his greyish-green eyes.
Emma could feel the blood running down out of her face like water down a window pain.
"I'm your son," the child's voice rang in her ears.
Emma could only stare at this strangely confident little boy, mouthing words that wouldn't come out. He darted under her arm and into the apartment while her mind was still struggling to process those three little words.
It was a trick - it had to be a trick.
"Hey. Hey kid! Kid! Kid!" Emma said when she found her voice. "I don't have a son! Where are your parents?"
"Ten years ago… did you give a baby up for adoption?" the boy – Henry – turned and asked her in that same confident little voice; he seemed so sure of himself for someone so young.
His words stunned her again. No one knew that. No one knew about the baby, not even the father knew! How could this child be…
"That was me," he continued, having found the answer in her face with skill that reminded Emma of her own ability to read people.
Before she had even considered doing it, she found herself searching his face, looking at his mouth, his nose, his chin, his eyes… her breath stopped when she looked into his eyes. He had her eyes. There was a little boy in her kitchen, staring at her with her eyes. And his hair was the same shade of brown as…
Emma struggled to think, feeling a little dizzy.
"Give me a minute," she managed, backing away into the nearest room, the bathroom, and closing the door behind her.
She braced herself with an arm against the door, forcing herself to breathe evenly and deeply.
"Have you got any juice?" the boy called to her, and Emma's eyes widened in shock. This could not be happening. No way. "Never mind, found some!"
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself out of her hiding place, determined to deal with the situation before her.
She stepped out into the kitchen, her game face on. The kid sat at her counter, drinking juice out of the bottle.
"You know, we should probably get going," he said
"Going where?" Emma asked, crossing her arms sceptically. She was starting to think this kid was a little bit crazy.
"I want you to come home with me," Henry told her, as if this was a perfectly normally request.
Crazy. Definitely crazy, Emma decided.
"Okay kid. I'm calling the cops," Emma announced, marching towards the phone.
"…and I'll tell them you kidnapped me," Henry announced. The threat sounded rehearsed - he'd obviously planned for this scenario.
"… and they'll believe you because I'm your birth mother," Emma concluded, cancelling the call with a push of a button.
"Yep," he responded with a slightly triumphant look.
She found herself liking this kid; he was clever. But Emma was clever too.
"You're not going to do that."
"Try me," Henry challenged her, with a charmingly defiant expression. Oh yeah; she liked this kid a lot.
"You're pretty good," Emma told him, "but here's the thing. There's not a lot I'm great at in life, but I have one skill. Let's call it a super power. I can tell when anyone is lying. And you kid? Are."
With that Emma started dialling again.
"Wait," Henry stopped her, "Please don't call the cops. Please. Come home with me."
Emma felt something inside her twist itself into a knot in response to his begging. There was a desperation etched in his features - like she was about to crush all his dreams with a single phone call. Damnit.
"Where's home?" she said, a note of resignation in her tone.
"Storybrooke, Maine," the little boy answered.
Just a few minutes later she had grabbed her keys, her hand bag and her coat, and found herself leading a ten year old out of her apartment. He followed her down the hallway and into the elevator, standing close by her side, practically bubbling with his little victory.
In a daze, Emma led him outside to where she had parked her little yellow car. He jumped into the passenger seat and buckled his seat belt, and grinned at her warmly as she sat in the seat next to him and started the engine. They were in the outskirts of the city before she managed to stop marvelling at the fact that child next to her was her son, the tiny baby who she'd given up. He was still so small – half her size – and yet, he had found her.
He chatted away, nonsense about fairytales and magic curses, and she scoffed, of course. But in the back of her mind, she couldn't help but picture that little candle burning atop a cupcake and wonder if maybe, just maybe there was a little magic left in this world after all.