Summary: AU for 1x04 "The Price of Gold". Ashley's assault on Mr Gold has more serious repercussions. Emma tries to help but is haunted by her past.
For the angst bingo prompt 'assault'.
"I'm changing my life."
Ashley let loose with the pepper spray. Mr. Gold fell, hitting his head on a counter-top, and lay motionless on the floor. Ashley took the keys from his belt and unlocked the safe.
Emma was out for a jog the next morning when she saw the sheriff's car parked outside the pawn shop. Yellow crime scene tape adorned the door to the shop, and one window was broken. Her curiosity piqued, Emma headed over.
Graham was crouched down, examining the broken window.
"Hey. What happened here?" Emma asked, her breath showing in the chill morning air.
Graham straightened up and gave nodded politely. "Bad business, I'm afraid. Someone threw a brick though this window here last night, and broke in."
"Anything taken?" Emma could think of better places to steal from than the pawn shop.
"Undetermined. But Mr. Gold was assaulted."
Well he had enemies, Emma was certain of that. "Is he okay?" she asked, more to be polite than out of genuine concern.
Graham shook his head. "Archie found him unconscious this morning when he was walking Pongo. The paramedics took him away. I don't know anything more right now."
Emma stared at him. This was Storybrooke. According to Henry it was a fairytale town, filled with fairytale characters. Surely bad things weren't supposed to happen here!
Red Riding Hood's grandmother was eaten by the wolf, Cinderella made her stepmother dance in red hot iron shoes, the first two little pigs were eaten. Only later were the stories made more palatable, she remembered.
"Security cameras?" Emma blurted.
Graham gave her a smile. "I honestly don't know. Maybe we should go look."
We? When, Emma wondered, did this become "we"? But she was naturally inquisitive, if not just plain nosy, and she gestured to the open door. "Lead the way, Sheriff."
Emma was horrified when they found the computer which the single security camera was hooked up to. It was unclear at first who had broken in. But when Mr Gold approached the intruder, the young woman turned to the camera. It was Ashley, and, without obvious provocation, she sprayed Mr Gold in the face with something. He fell to the floor, hitting his head on the way down.
"Oh no," Emma said, her heart sinking.
"That's unfortunate," Graham agreed. "I'll have to put an APB out on her."
"To who?" Emma demanded. He was the only law enforcement officer in the entire town as far as she could make out. "Look, let me find her, talk to her."
"You can try to find her," Graham agreed. "But she's a suspect right now. A fugitive, based on this tape. I'm going to look for her too. And she's going to have to answer for what she's done."
Emma ran into Regina at the diner. Not what she needed right now.
"Ms Swan," Regina said, a cup of coffee clutched in one gloved hand. "Have you heard about the break-in? I'm shocked, and, quite frankly, appalled. For Mr. Gold to be assaulted in his store is unprecedented in Storybrooke… We've always been a remarkably law abiding town. Until recently."
Emma got the sense that Regina was blaming her arrival for this sudden one-woman "crime wave" and was indignant. Then again…
You just got to punch back and say, 'no, this is who I am.' You want people to look at you differently? Make them. If you want to change things, you're going to have to go out there and change them yourself.
Maybe, inadvertently, Emma had put the idea into Ashley's head. Maybe Ashley had thought to rob Mr. Gold and make a new start for herself and her child.
Emma pushed away the guilt. That wasn't what she'd meant for Ashley to do, and it wasn't her fault if Ashley had interpreted it that way.
"It's a tragedy," Emma said, trying for, though not quite succeeding in, sincerity.
"Mr Gold is in a coma," Regina informed her coldly. "His assailant will be charged not only burglary, but with assault and battery at the very least. If, God forbid, Mr Gold dies, it will become felony murder."
Murder? Emma shook her head as if it could change the facts. Since Regina had said 'assailant,' not 'Ashley,' she probably didn't know the truth yet. Emma had to keep it that way for a while.
"I'm sure there were extenuating circumstances," Emma responded as neutrally as she could.
Regina raised one eyebrow. "And why are you so sure, Ms. Swan?"
Emma gestured futilely. "There are always two sides to a story." Yet she knew that a jury who saw the security footage would, despite any circumstances, almost certainly have to find Ashley guilty.
"The law will decide which side is telling the truth," Regina said decisively. Emma had a terrible feeling that how vigorously Ashley's case was prosecuted would depend on what best served Regina's interests. So far she'd found no limit to Regina's authority.
After Regina left, Emma talked to Ruby - reasoning, threatening, and coaxing information out of her. She felt terrible for doing it, knowing she was probably helping to put Ashley in jail. But maybe, just maybe, if she could find Ashley first, if she could persuade Ashley to turn herself in, if she could find her a good lawyer…
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
No-one could leave Storybrooke, Henry insisted. It was part of the curse. So Emma wasn't actually shocked to find the car had crashed at the border.
Not that she believed Henry's wild tales of course.
She took Ashley, already in labour, to the hospital. Unfortunately, Graham was waiting for them.
"I have to arrest her," he said apologetically, before following the nurse to the birthing suite.
"What a pity," Regina drawled from behind Emma. Emma spun to face the mayor, a hundred pleas on her lips. None of them would move Regina however, and they both knew it. Emma clamped her lips shut.
"Not quite giving birth in jail, but close enough," Regina said, tossing her cardboard coffee cup into the nearby trash bin. "A poor start for a child, wouldn't you agree?"
Did she know? How could she? Emma sought to keep her expression neutral. "It's not the child's fault. And I'm sure –"
"Yes, yes, extenuating circumstances." Regina brushed the words away like troublesome flies. "Do you think a jury will accept 'because she was pregnant' as a reasonable excuse for breaking into a man's store and putting him in the ICU?"
Regina walked away and Emma felt her hands clench into fists. This wasn't right. It wasn't fair.
The problem of course was that this was too close to home, too personal.
Emma was good at worming her way into places she wasn't wanted or wasn't supposed to be. It had made her exceptional at her job as a bail bondsperson– which was starting to feel like a lifetime ago. It was easy for her to make her way to Mr Gold's beside.
Mr Gold. He had to have a first name, didn't he? Yet somehow Emma couldn't bring herself to read his chart or lift his hand to read his wristband. So she didn't call his name when she began to speak.
"Please," she begged. "You have to wake up. Ashley will go to jail for this. She'll be separated from her child. She wants to keep her baby. Please."
A tear ran down her cheek, not for Mr Gold, or even for Ashley, but for herself and the choices she'd made and the choices she'd never had.