Two Households Of Dignity
Chapter 30: Never Let Me Go
Looking back on Emma's announcement, I know I should've handled it better. Only now, years later, do I understand I did have the strength, the bravery to be a man in that moment.
But I wasn't.
I'm a little boy, my old puppet self, following Honest John and Gideon, as my motorcycle lures me away from Emma reaching out to me on the porch.
"August!" Emma yells abhorrently from the porch.
I don't turn back to look at her. My only thought is to run, to leave the scene and all of its emotions and never return to it. I'm not running Emma. When I realize Emma is my only liberator from my tortured soul, I finalize my driving destination.
I wait, at our tree outside Storybrooke, for what seems like hours, until Emma arrives.
Her loathsome voice is still with her as she slams her beetle's door closed. "Okay. I know that was a shock for you." Her voice comes closer as she walks through the woods. "But you can't just leave! I had Henry with me."
She is out if breath when she reaches me. I look up at her from my sitting spot; my drained face meeting her fiery one.
When I stay frozen at the foot of the tree, Emma expression changes to one of compassion. She bends down, finds a dry place to sit, and plays with her hands uncomfortably.
Emma tries to level me with her eyes, but I can't meet her penetrating gaze. Still attempting to connect with me, she whispers, "You really had no idea?"
"He's a cricket, Emma!" I try to keep my voice low. "A cricket that feels guilty for killing my Father's parents. I honestly thought that's what they were fighting about. That's all they would fight about at home."
Emma separates her lips to speak, but quickly purses them together again.
"What?" What could be more shocking than her last announcement? Emma doesn't speak, though. Her hands continue playing with sweater strands. "Just say it."
She finally looks up at me. Sadness washes over her face again. "If you really thought that's what they were fighting about, you wouldn't have asked my opinion."
I look away from her then, irked by her critique of me. Her words might be true, but they weren't what I wanted or needed to hear.
After minutes of silence, during which Emma changed her fixation from her sweater to a rip in my jeans, she finally offers, "It makes sense…"
Outraged, I stand. If Emma is surprised, she doesn't show it. "How! How does it make sense? How in this world or the next could any of this make any sense at all?"
Emma stands too and reaches for me. "We don't even know the whole story, August! Years from now, we'll probably laugh about this as a misunderstanding."
"I could never laugh about this!" I step out of her reach. "And if I don't understand this how could anybody understand it?"
Emma winces. "I understand it…"
"Of course you do!" I speak before I process again. "Because it's your idea! That's the only reason you understand it! You put together this theory based on one dinner conversation!"
"August!" She yells out my fake name again. "You know you wouldn't be so upset if you knew deep down it wasn't true."
I ignore her. "How did this crazy idea even come to you?"
"Okay," Emma puts her palms out between us. "Were we at the same dinner table?" Emma's spunkiness I usually love returns. "Because the signs were obnoxiously clear."
"What signs?" I look at her and address her like she's crazy. "What are you talking about?"
Emma sighs. "Like every time your Father would speak, Jiminy would give all of his attention to him, so much so he would have to stop everything else he was doing. When they would look at each, they would hold each other's gazes a second longer than they had to."
"Come on," Emma reaches for me again. "It's sweet. It makes sense because you guys are such a family unit already. Jiminy would do anything for you, despite what he felt for your Father, you know that. Maybe that bond pushed them together-" I show my disgust, and she adds, "Who knows! It doesn't matter."
"I do not what to talk about this anymore!" I yell at her.
"Fine!" She yells back. "What do you want to talk about, then?"
"I want to talk about," I lower my voice. "Why you think our future-impending marriage is no big deal!"
Emma's energy from our fight drains, and she steps back. "Pinocchio…" she warns.
"How can you talk about so casually, so indifferently that it makes me feel like I am unimportant to you?" My voice shifts to a singsong one. "Oh, I'll marry him eventually. Who cares what the townspeople are saying."
"I never said that!" Emma starts to yell again, "If you are going to get mad at me, make sure it is for something I actually said."
"You said you didn't care what everyone thinks!"
"I don't!" She tries to regroup herself. "First of all, gossiping about us and judging us are two different things. Second, don't deny that you're just mad because the town brought up the subject of marriage before you did."
"Oh!" My arms go up in frustration and I turn from her. "Don't go acting like you know me better than I do myself. You don't actually know how I feel about anything!"
"Pinocchio." She says seriously, waiting for me to turn back to her. When I do, her are eyebrows raised and her arms are crossed. "This whole conversation, since I arrived here in our precious spot proves that I do, actually, know you better than you know better than you know yourself."
So many frustrated, inappropriate words come in my head; I don't know which one to choose.
Emma walks closer to me, her anger growing with every step. "Were you expecting to marry your true love or not?"
Why doesn't she answer her own question, since she apparently knows me better than I do myself?
After angered thought passes, I'm able to fill my being with love for her. "Of course I was." I whisper.
"Then what's the big deal?" Emma yells. It's her turn to throw her arms up in frustration. "We get married tomorrow, we get married in Fairytale Land, we don't get married at all! Honestly, I don't see the difference! I would think being each other's true loves would be more permanent than marriage." She pauses and I have new appreciation for how cool she is. "I actually was planning on thanking you for not pushing me, happy that you understood me as much as I did you, but never mind!"
Her anger shoots through me as we stare at each other. Emma's breaths are visible in her shoulders and her belly as she tries to catch her breath.
My lips start to turn upward when Emma's anger settles. When my mouth opens to start laughing, Emma rolls her eyes, and starts laughing at the same time. I pull her into my arms.
"Crazy wooden puppet." She says on my shoulder. "I can't believe you're the one I'm stuck with."
I pull back to look at her. Emma's eyes are sparkling so I know she's teasing me. "What am I going to do with you my beautiful Swan Princess?"
Emma leans in to kiss me, only briefly, before running her hand through my hair. It feels so good. Her expression is serious when she says, "You are going to be the same guy you always were." I raise my eyebrows in question, but Emma just smiles. "The wonderful guy who knew when to push me, or when to accept where I am, in whatever moment we're in. The guy who knew not to propose, not to pressure me until he went absolutely crazy himself."
I smile and reposition her in my arms. "I love you, you know."
Emma shrugs cutely. "I know."
"You know?" I act offended. "You're not going to say it back?"
"No," she smiles, kissing my cheek. "You're too insecure tonight. Maybe tomorrow."
She laughs, rolling her eyes. "Do you really need to hear it now?"
"Okay," Emma looks deeply in my eyes, and strokes my cheek. "August Wayne Booth. Pinocchio. A Wooden Boy. Whoever you are. I love you and will love you forever if we reach fairytale land or not. You have been the weight lifting my troubles, the sun to my rainy day, the rainbow leading me to gold. You're the curtain unveiling a new world of emotions, of possibilities for me. I would still have a ball attached to a chain holding me to an old life if it weren't for you. You are the only person that comes close to Henry in how much I love you." Emma kisses me too briefly again. "I love you that much, forever, in this land or the next."
I can no longer call myself a writer after her speech. She has managed vocalized my deepest feelings about her in a way I haven't been able to. I would try forever to write down my deepest feelings for her and never put on paper the right way.
I don't know why Emma asked me to write a story about how we first fell in love. Only after remembering this moment, do I realize her story would have been so much better.
All I can do is kiss her. We hold each other fiercely as our tongues met. I feel her smiling when our lips part briefly to catch our breaths. I lift her up and spin her around, while still holding her in a passionate embrace. Reluctantly, I put her down, my thumbs finding her cheeks as she pulls away. The way Emma smiles and laughs adds to my confidence. I can't help repeating, "In this land or the next."
"Or the next," Emma whispers, leaning her forehead against mine while catching her breath.
We stay in the position for as long as it takes to regroup from everything that has happened since her arrival here.
"I have to go," she says softly.
I tighten my grip on her. "Don't go."
Emma closes her eyes. "Okay."
Father's image suddenly reappears in my head. I pushed it down during the marriage debate, but it has surfaced in the peace between Emma and I. "I have to go," I whisper.
I smile when she holds on to me. "Don't go."
"I have to," I tell her. Emma lifts her head. I see a mixture of vulnerability and strength that sends shivers down my spine. "My Father…"
Emma releases me then. Sadness fills me as she steps away. "You should go."
I don't dare reach for her again. If I did, I would probably stay here forever.
The house is dark when I reach the porch. I start to pull my keys from my pocket before I remember the door is new and the lock is different.
Instead of calling inside, I take the opportunity to decide what I want to say to Father when I see him.
The door cracks open. "Pinocchio?"
I turn to him and mange a smile. "Sorry I ran off."
He takes a seat on the porch step next to me. "That's okay. Emma explained it."
I sit up from my crouched position. "She explained it?"
How could Emma possibly explain my actions other than creating an entirely false story?
Taking a risk, I assume Emma told him the truth. "Are you going to tell me it is a complicated misunderstanding and I don't know the whole story?"
Father inhales deeply and his eyes widen. "No. I'm not."
Finally, I turn from him. Closing my eyes, I feel some tension leave my body. It actually feels good. I wasn't expecting relief.
"Although," Father starts, "You don't know the whole story."
My palms wash over my face. I try to put on an expression of bravery when I turn back to him. I'm shocked as I look at his broken face. I have never seen my Father so raw.
Still, my question escapes before I can stop it. "Do you love him?"
Father sighs. I'm surprised relief comes to him too, as if he was expecting to circle around the question for hours. "Yes." He tells me simply. I turn from him again. "But I would never do anything about it, Pinocchio. I could never forgive him for what he did to my parents."
"Well, then," I say much louder. Standing, I look at the open front door alluring me to bed. Father stands up to look at me, my silence torturing him. My expression changes to sadness. "That's just pathetic."
A single tear falls down his face when my words hang between us in the night air.
After it's clear he has nothing else to say, I swivel around his body, pushing the front door further open when I use it to give me an extra boost up the stairs to sleep.
"Happy Birthday!" is yelled in my ear purposely to wake me up. I don't process the words but I turn over, pulling the covers over my head.
"Pinocchio!" Emma yells again, shaking me. "It's August 28th! The day of your wood-to-boy transformation! It's your birthday." She manages to take control of my covers and strip them off the bed. "Rise and shine, you have birthday celebrations to attend!"
With all drama going on, I must have lost track of the days.
"Who told you?" My elbow covers my eyes when Emma forcefully opens the curtains, letting bright sunshine in.
"Your Blue Fairy." Her voice is still loud for the morning, but I like how Emma notes the Blue Fairy as mine. "Who, by the way, is waiting for you!" she excitedly drags me to a sitting position and forces a T-shirt over my head. "Come on!"
Emma tries to pull me up, but I don't bulge. "If I wanted you know it was my birthday, I would have told you. My concealment was actually an attempt to be unselfish."
"Your nose is growing, Pinocchio."
Automatically, my hand reaches up to touch my nose, causing Emma to bust out laughing.
Crossing my arms, I say, "Not funny."
"That was awesome!" she exclaims. When I don't join in on her fun, Emma adds. "I know you forgot your own birthday."
"I. Did. Not."
Emma rolls her eyes. "Once again. I prove I know you better than you do yourself."
Finally, I stand. "Did I insult you on your birthday?"
Ignoring me, Emma takes my hand and leads me down the stairs. The cheering is disproportional to the amount of people who greet us. I'm glad it's a small gathering. Only our family is here to celebrate and I couldn't wish for more.
Father embraces me first. I wrap my arms around him for a birthday hug. I know we have many more charged conversations between us, but they are the last thing I want to think about now. "Happy Birthday, my son."
I barely have a chance to smile at him before other arms reach for me. I haven't seen my Blue Fairy this happy since my first birthday. Jiminy is there. Snow White kisses me on the cheek. Prince James shakes my hand with a friendly smile. Henry unexpectedly raises his arms and waits for me to bend down so he can give me a hug.
Father has prepared another fest for my birthday brunch. Everyone gathers at the table excitedly in anticipation for his magically good food. The meal is delicious and filled with laughter.
While the Blue Fairy uses magic to clear the table, Henry takes the chance to make an announcement. "You know, I have a perfect gift for Pinocchio on his birthday."
"Oh, yeah?" Emma smiles. "What's that, Henry?"
"A BS rematch." He states with authority.
Smiles appear around the table.
"That wouldn't be a good present, Henry." Emma tells him. She looks directly at me when she says, "He wouldn't want the embarrassment of losing on his birthday."
I shake my head back and forth disapprovingly. "You're on, Princess."
My birthday guests chuckle while listening to our competitive bicker. Henry half-jumps around the table dealing cards out to everyone. Emma and I stare each other down, gearing up to take each other on.
"One Two." Henry starts the game.
Years later, I can still hear my family's laughter settling down in order to concentrate on the game. Looking back on my life, my years spent with Emma and without her, I choose that particular birthday has the happiest day of my entire life.
Despite our married life together now in Fairytale Land; including the birth of our daughter who brings me more joy than I ever thought possible, there's something about playing BS that day with each individual sitting around our table:
For the first time Emma's family and mine came together in peace, in love, in celebration.
Since this story is a gift to Emma for our wedding anniversary, I won't share who won the game of BS. I would say it didn't matter, but I've been told I'm a terrible liar.
Honestly, the only reason I remember who won the game is for the reaction that followed. I leaned over to give Emma a kiss at the end of the game, but was affectionately tackled by Prince James and Henry instead.
Only then, around Father's table, did our two households of dignity forever merge into one.
A/N: Writing Two Households Of Dignity has been such an incredible experience, truly. I doubt I will have another fanfiction experience as rewarding as this one. Thank you to each and every reviewer: Each of them has been the wind powering my sails when I decide to submit each chapter. A special shout out to each of my followers official or not, thank you so much for sticking with me until then end. To the people who are completely anonymous to me, but have looked forward to reading each chapter all the same, what an honor to make you smile. To my readers who have favorited my story, thank you for making me smile.
Two special treats: For those insightful readers who have been paying attention to my chapters' titles. It is true I stole them from Florence and the Machine. Look up August/Emma and "Never Let Me Go" on Youtube. The video isn't mine, but had a huge role in my decision to write this story.
I couldn't leave writing August and Emma. My smile at finishing would turn to a frown if I did. Please check out my new story, "The Wooden Swan Cuckoo Clock."
I know my A/N is like the Return of the King of endings, but everyone who has read my story and has given me feedback in some way: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I couldn't have had this experience without you.