Two Households Of Dignity
Chapter 1: Looking Up From Underneath
Something happens when parts of you turn into wood. Blood stops flowing, chest stops going up and down, limbs become stiff – immovable, you loose your ability to feel.
Then the wood creeps up your neck and surrounds your face. You can't taste, talk, hear, or smell. You know what your last look will be, before your mind registers that your sight will go next.
In my last seconds, before my eyes are glazed over, I see the determination in her face, the fire, the anger, and the passion within in her that I always knew existed and wished I could ignite myself, and I knew she would be saved and my father would be saved.
Those were the only two people I needed to be saved.
Thoughts are whirling inside my head. Then, I realize she's saved me too.
Synapses are firing all through my body. Air is coming in and out of my lungs. I move my toes, my fingers, and then my body back and forth. I'm a real boy again!
I debate whether I even want to try to open my eyes. At this point, I have no doubt they will open. Why would I want to open them now? I feel myself smiling, trying to absorb the feeling of strength in my legs, control over my arms; a steady structure to support my soul.
One last deep breath passes through my body before I open my eyes.
It's the same. My room is the same. My clothes are the same. My position on the bed is the same.
I finally move my head to look out the window. Outside, Storybrooke looks the same as well – as if not one hour has passed since I talked to her.
That is the first time since waking up that I am disappointed.
I wish I woke up at home, in my old room in Father's house, and not in Storybrooke.
How can I be here, in Storybrooke, alive? How can the curse be broken and when I am still in Storybrooke? Did they leave me behind?
There is a dust cloud floating past my window. I squint at it and understand everything.
It's no dust cloud.
My mind automatically goes to her.
Was she safe? How did this happen? Did she bring the magic or did the magic somehow happen to her as it happened to the rest of us?
My second movement in my new body involves leaping out bed in one seamless, but rigid motion.
Running felt good. In fact, it was wonderful to run. It felt like I was flying down the stairs out of Granny's.
I didn't know why I was doing it, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
The savior needed her protector now.
Nothing and nobody else mattered.
For some reason, which I could not figure out at the time, I knew I could not see Father. I knew he would be okay. Father didn't need my help. Father has lived in a world with magic before.
The savior has never known a world with magic. She would need protecting. In my new life, in my new body, I decided I wouldn't fail her. The protector would fulfill his promise. The protector would protect the savior.
I turned heads as I run through the main street of town. Although the townspeople only have changed slightly, I can see Red Riding Hood coming out of Ruby and Cinderella coming out of Ashley. It was nice. Graceful, even. But as I watched people realize their true selves, they began to look at me with suspicion.
Their thoughts were obvious on their faces when they looked at me.
Who is that? How does he belong here?
I don't care what they think. Where is the savior?
She talked about saving her kid, right? Where was he? Wherever her kid was, she would be also. What happened to her kid? Did I forget her words as I lay dying or did she never tell me?
I don't know where I'm running to, but I know I'm going in the right direction. I run past the savior's parents embracing each other in the middle of the street. I wonder if they have remembered they have a daughter yet.
My eyes turn away from the couple to further down the street. My new hearts leap. There she is. The savior is walking with her son – a little too casually for having just saved the town - down the street. I dart my eyes for a spilt second away from her in the opposite direction to see her parents, who haven't realized their daughter or grandson are feet away from them. I turn back to her. She is now starring at her parents.
I back away from the family to give them some space. When I look back at the scene, I realize her eyes are glued to mine as soon as I meet them. I can tell she is conflicted. Soon, she is pleading silently for a way out. I debate weather to give her one, knowing that she will have to face her parents at some point. But when I see the fear in her face and the tears streaming down it, I nod past me indicating the alleyway we can hide in behind me.
She smiles in relief and I visibly see some of the stress leaving her body. Without making any noise, she sprints across the street towards me. My eyes leave hers for a second to check on her son. He has not realized his mother is no longer standing behind him. I know we only have seconds to disappear before both of us are in trouble.
I know helping her hide might be the wrong decision, but I still reach out my forearms to her. When she is close enough she reaches to me and I feel her forearms on mine. I pull her back into the shadows of an alleyway between two town stores.
We don't have a moment to check in with each other before we hear an excited yell from Henry. We both turn our heads to watch.
"You remember!" He shouts down the street while running towards his grandparents. "I knew you would!"
When he reaches Snow White, Henry jumps into her arms without hesitation. Snow White puts her arms around her grandson and lifts him up with a smile. As Prince James is putting his hand on Henry's back, I watch as Snow White's eyes lift from Henry to search for her daughter. In desperation, she looks up and down the empty street.
Prince James must have seen his wife's movement, because I can almost see gears clicking in his head. He whispers something I can't hear to the other two, and Henry turns to point down the street.
They turn and look in the direction he is pointing, still unable to find the only family member they are missing.
"This is cruel," I whisper in her ear.
"Yes, it is," she agrees with me.
"You are not a cruel person."
"Thank you," she says sweetly.
I turn so we are facing each other. I cross my arms, hoping to show her my disappointment. "You can't ignore them forever," I tell her, still in a whisper.
"Sure I can," she whispers back.
"Emma." I say her name in disapproval.
"Okay, fine," she concedes, "But I can right now."
"Come on," I beg, motioning my arm towards her family. "If you don't go to them, they are going worry sick about you."
"They've had 28 years of not worrying about me, waiting a little longer won't kill them."
"Emma," I repeat my disapproval.
"August." She says firmly. I notice she's still using my penname. "I. Can. Not. See. Them. Now."
I tighten my arms that are still crossed on my chest. I look up at and her and see the desperation and raw truth in her face.
Still, I think she will regret it forever if she doesn't see them now.
Her facial expression has changed. I worry she's figured out something I haven't. "So, You've seen to your father then?"
Her eyes are a burning challenge into mine. I hope my shock at her words isn't evident on my face.
"Fair enough." I motion down the alley. "Shall we?"
Her gratitude is in her smile.
I lead her down the alleyway until we turn a corner. She stops right after we change direction and she leans her back against the cold building. I can tell she doesn't want to be to far away from her family.
She puts her hands in her pockets. Her eyes are still glossy, but she attempts a casual conversation. I wonder if it's to keep her mind off of what's happening in the street.
"Hey," she says feebly.
"Hey." I mirror her actions by putting my hands in my pockets. I realized afterwards that my movements have added to the awkwardness of the situation. I motion my head back towards her family. "Too much?" I ask.
She ignores my question. "It's good to see you no longer cast in wood."
I smile and then I accept her request for a different conversation topic.
"I have to admit, skin and bones are a little more comfortable."
She smiles sweetly in response.
"So," I offer, not knowing what to say.
"So…" She repeats. "What now?"
"I don't know." I watch the wind blow softly in her hair, I know I could do this for several more moments.
I watch her as she looks around her. I wonder if it is just to avoid having a real conversation with me, or if she is looking for people who could overhear us.
Not a soul is around.
"So," she looks back at me and starts to mock me. "Seeing your father too difficult for you, huh?"
Once I close my mouth at her insinuation, I consider the meaning behind it. "I had to make sure you were okay first."
"Yes." Her grin mocks me still. "You wouldn't want to report back to him without knowing for sure that the savior is safe."
My face grows serious. "That's not what I meant."
Neither of us say anything for a moment. I make sure my meaning is clear in my eyes as I look at her. She still has her hands in her pockets and I watch her eyes dart around mine and then settle back on the pavement.
That moment is when we hear Henry yell for her, his panic is obvious in his voice.
She steps out from the corner and half-turns her body towards her son. I can tell this decision is killing her.
"Emma!" Henry screams again.
A/N: Personally, I think there are not enough Emma/August-Pinocchio stories out there :D. If readers were wondering, there is a reason why he is not using Emma's name in his thoughts, you'll find out eventually.