Emma opened her eyes. Henry was still safely wrapped in her arms where she had grabbed hold and turned her back to shield him from the advancing purple cloud. The first thing she checked was that he was breathing, that she could feel the rise and fall of his shoulders beneath her hands. She kissed the top of his head in reassurance. She was forgetting something...someone, someone crucial... "August" Henry looked up at her worried by his mother's tone.
"What's wrong with him Mom?"
It took Emma's frazzled brain a few seconds to register the new name he'd called her. Her lips curled into a half smile
"Nothing. Hopefully nothing. I broke the curse right?" she asked. Henry nodded encouragingly.
"Then nothing. We'll go get him." She grabbed a near screen and surrounded the bed, making it clear to Dr. Whale or whoever he was that they were not to be disturbed. As she helped her son dress she was aware how weak he was. She was tender with him as she helped him dress, babying him almost in the way she had missed in the past 10 years. Henry did his trousers himself but Emma helped on him with his socks, shoes, t-shirt and jacket. "There we go, honey" she practically whispered. But Henry heard her. Of course he did. He beamed up at her in that absurdly adorable way and Emma realised what an idiot she'd been. She had spent hours pondering how to make Henry happy, except by spending time with him, all the more difficult by Regina, who Emma realised in horror, was her step-grandmother. And humouring him about Operation Cobra, claiming him as her own in this simple way, using an endearment as well as proving herself the Hero, the Saviour, the Hope would have meant days with that smile. Bundling him into her Beetle it was clear he was in no shape to go running round Storybrooke, which was something Emma, as Sheriff and Saviour, desperately needed to do. Henry on the other hand, needed rest. Emma thought carefully. She couldn't leave him at her and Mary Ma-Snow White's apartment. At least, not alone. She knew she should find Mary-Snow White and James. Princess Snow White and Prince James Charming. Her parents. She cursed as she realised, embarrassment flooding her cheeks as she realised she was no longer Sheriff Emma Swan of Storybrooke, Maine. She was Princess Emma Charming of The Enchanted Forest. She cursed again softly, shaking her head, to clear it, to help her focus on the most important factors right now. Snow White and James. They were family, they had been family, they had trusted her even before the Curse had ended. And she loved and trusted them. They would be more than capable of keeping Henry safe and keeping Regina away. She just-she couldn't have that conversation. Not yet. She knew this was selfish of her. But she just couldn't do it. Her thoughts automatically went to the next person she would trust with Henry, despite everything. However, for all she knew he was lying inertly as a wooden man where she had left him in room 2 of Granny's B&B. Then she had the answer. Of course. Granny. Ruby – Red – she corrected herself and Granny were perfect. Especially if Red could transform into a wolf again. If. Part of her brain reminded Emma that if that were possible they needed to make sure Red had her Cloak and that she had her wits about her. But then again, Emma reasoned with herself. It was the middle of the day. Any danger from that potentially reactivated part of Red's personality was pretty slim right now. Emma had also briefly considered Ashley and Sean. Cinderella and Thomas. But she had no idea where they were. Whereas she knew Red could kick ass, Granny was good with a gun and she could kill 2 birds with 1 stone by dropping Henry off in their care and getting to August. Emma drove extremely carefully. Whatever that purple cloud had been it had definitely altered things. Shaken the very foundations of the towns. The tarmac of the road was cracked, vehicles had caught fire where gas tanks had exploded due to the force of the cloud. Paving slabs were loose and some of the houses along the street looked unsafe and some of the porches had even collapsed. She pulled in beside the Diner, which miraculously was still in one piece and half carried Henry inside. Red and Granny were busy helping various people, obviously shocked by the destruction of the town and the remembrance of a whole other life. They and the Mother Sup-Blue Fairy was it? Were handing out blankets and endless hot drinks. Red spotted Emma and Henry first. She dumped her tray on the counter and started towards them "Emma!" she went to hug the Princess but said Royal Highness put her son in the way of their embrace. All the congratulations, the hugs, Emma would welcome them but later. When she could see straight again. "Hi. Look Ruby...Red, sorry, I need you to take care of Henry while I help August and make sure everyone's okay. I know your swamped but I wouldn't ask unless-"
"What about your parents? Snow and James would love to take care of Henry – they were in here earlier, asking if Granny or I had heard from the hospital- make sure you're both alright – they're desperate for news, to talk to you, to him, they can't wait to get to know their grandson properly. To know you. And more than anything else to apologise."
"I can't" Emma shook her head fiercely at the whole idea "I just...not right now, okay Red? I need you, I trust you to do this. To keep him safe just in case anything happens." she leaned closer "In case Regina does something desperate"
Comprehension dawned in Red's eyes. "Of course" she agreed before beaming at Henry "I'll look after him, tell him about my adventures with his grandmother!"
"Really?" Henry asked, his eyes bright with anticipation
"You bet" she grinned as she she lifted the counter to admit them. "I'll only be in the B&B if you need me Red!" Emma called back over her shoulder "Then I'll come straight back for him, I promise"
The door to August's room was ajar, just as she had left it. Peeking hopefully around it to the bed, her face fell. August was still lying there, still a wooden puppet man. Entering the room properly she went to sit beside him and once again laid her hand on his. After a few minutes, she managed to find her voice "Well, August, I did it. I broke the curse. It wasn't just believing, that wasn't enough. It was true love's kiss." she gave a short laugh, blinking through the tears that had started to form. "You were right. You and Henry both. And that book. I never asked, did you write it?" God, a man's lying here, in cursed death and I'm bloody babbling.
That was it! There was more than one curse at work here and if she'd broken the mother of all curses, she could break this one too.
True love's kiss can break any curse.
Turning back to August's frozen form, she gently pressed her lips to his carved ones. She pulled back, waiting for the wood to turn back to flesh. Nothing. "Come on" she said quietly, stroking the back of his wooden hand.
Nothing. Maybe it was the purple cloud's doing she thought angrily, before another thought became apparent, or maybe we were never meant to be.
She pulled herself up off the bed and left, unable to bear looking back. She couldn't let her emotions at losing August overtake her. She swallowed back the grief. Now was not the time. Right now she had to tango with Madame Mayor, Regina, the Evil Queen herself. Right now, she wanted answers.
August stumbled out into the street, searching the pavement for the woman who had left a trace of cinnamon on his lips. She was walking, slowly, with her son, back up the street to the apartment she shared with her mother. "Emma! Emma, wait" he called after her, just as he had in the forest where they'd come through into this world. What Emma Swan hadn't known was that August was already slowly coming back to life. The magic in that engulfing purple cloud had seen to that; healing and replacing solid wood with flesh and blood. However, it had remained hidden underneath his long black jeans, boots and well worn leather jacket. True love's kiss, however, sped the process right up.
She turned slowly, and even at this distance he could make out the unchecked tears coursing down her face. Henry spun also and despite his height, was the first to spot August amongst the dazed people wandering through the town as their memories returned. He didn't say anything but beamed and tugged at his mother's hand, pointing. She followed his finger, and when her eyes finally came to rest on August, she stared for a few seconds, taking it in. "August!" she shouted, releasing Henry's hand, forgetting everything; the threat of Regina and Rumpelstiltskin, seeing only him and sprinting towards him. He caught her up in his arms and they stood together, holding each other, breathing each other in, eyes probing faces. Emma pulled back and touched August's cheek, "I thought I'd lost you for a minute there."
"For a minute there you kinda did"
She kissed him then and he kissed her back, not caring that Henry was right beside them, having hurried after his mother watching them making out, not bothering to see that Snow White and James were just across the street. They thought only of each other, of how they had found each other, of how close they had come to truly losing everything; their parents, Henry, each other - without even admitting how they really felt.
"I love you"
Sometimes it's hard to see what's right in front of us. But I knew you would" he answered, grinning, before adding "I love you too"
"Hey!" chipped in Henry from beside them. "And we love you too" Emma told him, pulling her son into their hug.
Snow White and James stared at the spectacle from the middle of the street where they were still entwined in their own lovers embrace. "Emma" they said together. They both started towards the three but James felt a tugging on his hand as Snow fell back. "What is it?"
"Look at them. They're a family"
And she was right. So like a mother, husband and son - reuniting, the three of them there, joyful, Emma with one hand still pressed to August's stubbly cheek, the other arm around Henry, whilst August had one arm round his love and the other rested a hand on Henry's shoulder. The puzzle pieces fit together perfectly. Anyone who saw them at that moment in time would immediately guess they were a family. And somehow, these 3 strangers, who had come to Storybrooke years apart were exactly that.
"Our family" James reminded Snow "Our daughter, our grandson, our daughter's true love"
She smiled back, beaming at the prospect of reunion. That was until the three of them promptly took off up the street.
Whilst Snow and James had been sharing their epiphany, August had been congratulating Emma "You did it! You broke the curse!" he gave her a quick kiss.
"I helped" chimed in Henry
"You sure did, Henry. You are one smart Kid"
"Now everyone remembers. But why didn't that take us back?"
"Dunno. We'll just have to- everyone remembers?"
"I have to go find my father."
"Gepetto. But who- Marco. Marco is Gepetto. I should've realised that" Emma chided herself
"Don't beat yourself up about it Emma. And, speaking of parents...yours are right across the street"
Emma couldn't look round, she just couldn't handle that reunion right now. Her best friend, her room-mate and her married boyfriend were now her parents. She didn't dispute the fact, she had remembered everything the second she'd believed in the magic, but the shift in the relationship was too big after such a day. She couldn't believe this, after all that time in care, dreaming of her parents,wondering why they'd left her, where they did, wanting to be with them more than anything...she was chickening out? Typical.
"You just need time" August told her gently, guessing her thoughts.
"Haven't I had time? All this time with you, Henry, Jefferson telling me the truth over and over again?"
"You need time to process what you've accepted. It changes everything"
"I already thought of them as family. Speaking of family, do you want me there when you meet Geppetto again?"
August smiled at the pair of them "Yeah. Come on" and they hurdled off, Emma holding onto August and Henry as they raced away.
When August entered the workshop he could see Gepetto sitting on his stool at his bench as always. However now, he was sitting, hunched with his head in his hands. It was probably the overload of a whole other life coming back to him. August didn't look back to where Emma and Henry tactfully waited for him. Nor did he want to alarm Gepetto. He very quietly leaned across the bench and waited until Gepetto realised someone else was there.
Looking up, Gepetto started "Ah! August, my boy, you startled me"
August tried to keep the look of concern in place despite his disappointment that his father had failed to recognise him. He knew he was no longer a 7 year old boy but he had hoped that somehow, Gepetto would know his son.
"Are you alright Marco?" he asked, maintaining the pretence against every impulse. It would be better for his father, if he recognised Pinocchio in his own time.
"My boy, my name isn't Marco. Not any more. I-" he paused as the next onslaught of memories came to him "My boy!" but it wasn't the joyful exclamation August had hoped for, it was filled with a distressed anguish. "I must go - I must find my son, my little boy, I must-" he had got up at this point and was staring at the object August had in his hands that he had just reached down from an overhead shelf. The wooden whale.
"My boy carved that for me. As a memento you know. It's name, the whale's name, was Monstro."
"I know" August told him softly.
"Yes, I know. I remember...father"
Gepetto looked from the carved whale in August's hands to the grown man's face. The mature face, the stubbled chin. Black hair. But those eyes, those blue eyes so full of worry over doing wrong, of disappointing as they had often been were exactly as he remembered them
"Pinnochio?" the hope he hardly dared to allow himself to recognise betraying his true feelings of longing
Gepetto grabbed hold of his long lost 35 year old son and held him tightly, half weeping, half laughing.
"You did it! My son! My wonderful, wonderful boy!"
"Emma did it. Emma and Henry" August told him quietly, refusing the praise he did not deserve.
"But you helped" Gepetto insisted
"I broke my promise to you. I'm so sorry father"
"Not really, my boy, if you had truly broken your promise you would never have returned to help the Princess. And I meant what I said when you came back to me that day. The fact that you realise your mistake and attempted to make up for it...that is enough for me. I am so proud of you my boy, my Pinnochio. The Protector." He quite liked that; Pinnochio the Protector of Emma the Saviour, the Hope. But all he said was:
"I kinda go by August now, remember?"
They all squeezed into Emma's bug but August could tell Henry just wasn't up to running round Storybrooke all day. The poor kid at least needed a nap to get some strength back. He quietly mentioned this to Emma who gave a curt nod, glad of his agreement not taking her eyes off the damaged road. "Can you take care of him for me? Just till I get Ma- Snow White and James back to the apartment." She couldn't bring herself to call them Mom and Dad just yet. She would. In time. Maybe. Just...not yet. She dropped the pair of them off, despite Henry's protests before she and Gepetto headed back to the Diner to rally the townsfolk. Even her parents.
Once August had convinced Henry to take a nap, he had to dash to answer the phone to avoid the risk of disturbing the sleeping boy. "Hello" he hissed
"Hello? Whose this?"
"It's August. August Booth." he used his pseudonym just in case. In any case, he preferred it. He had chosen it after all. "Who're you?"
"Ar- Jiminy Cricket." there came a nervous laugh as if he was anticipating the Stranger's response to this but his next words surprised August all the more. "Henry was right after all. And who are you, August, back home?"
He grinned at the sound of his old friend on the phone, anticipating his response.
The enthusiasm this name pronounced made August laugh "Hello, Jiminy. Look – we can catch up later, what did you need? I'm just watching Henry"
"At the Diner."
"Good, I'm on my way now. Oh – Red's on her way over with some hot chocolate for Henry and to help keep watch by the way"
August thanked Jiminy and sat waiting for Red. Of course Emma would want the wolf protecting her son as well. Gave him a good excuse to skedaddle as well. When she turned up, he opened the door, grabbed his jacket and announced he would go help Emma, running out the door before she could protest.
Running out into the street for the second time that day, August could see a girl appear out of nowhere in the middle of the road right in front of him. Literally. Mid air. But August's more logic side countered, magic here is unpredictable. Hold on...Ella?
The girl stumbled. August reached out and caught her arm to steady her. She took a deep ragged breath like she was resurfacing from a pool and opened her eyes, looking up at August. She gasped. "August" she breathed flinging her arms around his neck. He caught her, and it took a few seconds to realise what she'd called him.
He disentangled himself from her embrace and examined her face. Nope, he didn't recognise this girl from his travels over the last 28 years. Holding her at arms length he said
"I don't mean to be rude, but you know me and well, I'm sorry but I don't know you."
"Oh." she looked put out for a second then she relaxed as if something had dawned on her Well I mean you do. I mean you've met me. But I'm older than I am as you know me now. In this time"
She rolled her eyes exasperatedly. "I don't have time for this...wait. What's the date?"
"Erm...2012?" he replied wondering just how drunk this girl was.
"Thank God! I'm in time!" She gave him the eyeball again. "August, trust me, I'm not drunk. You'll know when I'm drunk. I start singing A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes." she gave a half smile he found rather endearing " ironically enough." she added with laughter in her voice, at some private joke. She turned, scanning the damaged streets.
"So who are you then?"
"Mmmph? Oh er – Alexandra." She turned back to face him then, apprehensively. Expectantly.
August wondered why this would be significant. Enchanted Forest significant? "The only person I know called that is Ella's little girl" he announced, wondering if that's what she was getting at.
" Yes. Me. I am Alexandra, daughter of Ella and Thomas." She beamed at him, glad he'd caught on so quickly, nodding feverishly.
"Cinderella and Thomas' little girl?" he grinned looking at the 20 something year old. Of course, who else could she be?She looked like a young Cinderella was there in her pale ash blonde hair, which curled in tendrils reminiscent of Emma oddly enough and sky blue eyes and willowy figure whilst Thomas also had a place in her chin, and weirdly her eyes; the combination of his stormy grey to Ella's clear sky blue had produced what August recognised as central heterchromia – where her irises were generally 1 colour; namely blue but closer to the iris it melted into pale gold. Yet another strange and probably useless fact August had picked up during his stay in this foreign land. The overall effect was striking. But her eyes were full of a steely determination; she was totally ignorant of any natural beauty she might possess. Then he frowned. "What're you doing...y'know here?"
"I'm here to fix things."
"Emma fixed things. They're back aren't they? Aware, I mean. So what the hell are you doing, y'know in what I'm assuming is the wrong timeline for you?"
"Because Henry was right when Emma asked what that purple cloud was that enveloped the town when True Love returned to Storybrooke."
"What did he say it was?" August asked, annoyed that he had been unconcious during such a crucial turning point.
"Something Bad. And when your 10 'something bad' means 'total devastation'. I was sent back to stop it. Rumpelstiltskin inserted a clause into that curse as he does every contract. He created that curse for Regina"
"And he helped break it, if your from the future you should know this."
"Yeah but he created it to find Baelfire, which as far as I'm aware he didn't succeed in doing. He'll want to go back. But on his terms, that's why he broke the curse because he was trapped in that town because Regina enacted the curse, we were there on her terms. This time, it will be him in control. His terms. So, we're still screwed August."
August swore. "I have to get to the Diner"
"I'll come with you. Look, don't tell anyone who I am alright? Not yet at least. There are more important things to get on with"
She grabbed his hand and started off up to the Diner but not before August could ask why she had told him who she really was.
"Well..." she seemed put out. Like she wanted to tell him without telling him and it made her flustered "because it's you" Shaking her head disbelievingly at what she had just said, she pulled him off up the street.