Author's Note: A very special thank you to Chloris who graciously betaed this for me and who gave me some excellent advice that made it better!
Warning: Spoilers for 1x22: A Land Without Magic and 2x01: Broken
Parent and Child
Emma's carefully constructed world was crumbling and her heart was breaking. She'd just fought a freaking dragon in an attempt to save her son, but she'd barely even had time to wrap her head around that before the "cure" she'd retrieved had been stolen by Gold and the hospital had called with the news that Henry had taken a turn for the worse.
As she ran from the clock tower to the hospital, Emma wasn't even aware of Regina running beside her. Her sole focus was Henry. Please let him be okay, she thought desperately. Please, I just found him, I can't lose him now.
When she rounded the corner and saw Doctor Whale's face, Emma felt something within her break. No, not Henry, never Henry. She was vaguely aware of the doctor talking, of Mother Superior offering condolences, but they didn't matter; nothing mattered except Henry. Everything else faded into the background as Emma approached Henry's bed. He was lying there, motionless, surrounded by wires and machines that could no longer help him.
Emma felt her eyes stinging as she slowly approached her young son. He was such a special boy and she loved him so dearly that she just couldn't believe he was actually gone. Placing her hand over his, Emma squeezed gently, her tears beginning to fall as she realized that he'd never again place his hand in hers while they were walking down the street. With her other hand she brushed the hair off his forehead, trying not to think about how she'd never see him look up at her again with his bright hopeful eyes.
Her whole body shuddering with grief, Emma leaned over him. "I love you, Henry," she whispered, her lips brushing softly against his still warm forehead.
Suddenly, Emma felt some kind of weird energy flow past her, while at the same time a gust of wind blew through the room. What is going on?She thought to herself, reluctantly pulling away from her son to look down at him, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Huuu," Henry gasped, his chest heaving abruptly as his eyes sprung open.
Emma's own eyes widened with shock and disbelief. She didn't understand how or why, but her son was alive. Relief unlike any she'd felt before washed over her. She immediately brushed her hand over Henry's forehead again, fresh tears spilling down her cheeks, though this time they were tears of pure joy.
"I love you too," Henry said softly, eliciting a sob from Emma. "You saved me."
Emma smiled down at him through her tears, still trying to reconcile the fact that a few moments before her son had been dead and now he was very clearly alive. Under ordinary circumstances Emma would have been puzzled over the how's and why's of this, but right now, she didn't even care. Her son, her precious Henry, was alive and well. Nothing else mattered.
"You did it." Regina's voice was light and filled with wonder.
Emma turned towards the sound, becoming fully aware of the other people in the room for the first time since they'd arrived. The door opened, more people started to step inside, their faces awash with astonishment along with something else that Emma couldn't quite place.
"Henry?" She said slowly. "What's going on?" She could feel him moving beside her and without looking at him she could tell he was sitting up.
"The curse." Henry's voice was full of awe and pride, making Emma's heart swell with happiness. "I think you broke it!"
Mother Superior looked at Emma, smiling as she stepped closer. "That was true love's kiss."
"No," Regina said softly, almost to herself. Emma noticed tears still glistening on her face before she said it again, louder and more forcefully. "NO!"
Mother Superior looked at Regina, her eyes darkening. "If I were you, Your Majesty, I'd find a place to hide."
Emma's mind began to spin at the words 'Your Majesty.' Even though she'd realized earlier that Regina truly was the 'Evil Queen' Henry had accused her of being for months, hearing someone else use the title made it seem all the more real to her. What had happened to her life?
"Henry!" Regina's voice roused Emma from her thoughts and she watched intently as the other woman approached her son. Emma wanted to reach out for Henry, to protect him, but she forced herself to resist. Regina's world was crumbling, and she had a lot to answer for, but for Henry's sake, she deserved to have a chance to say goodbye. "No matter what you think, no matter what anyone tells you, I do love you." With tears still glistening on her cheeks, Regina walked backward, away from the bed before turning to run out of the hospital, presumably to the safety of her own home. For a fleeting moment Emma felt bad for her, but she let it go. Regina had brought this on herself, she would need to face the consequences. It wasn't Emma's problem.
Pushing aside all thoughts of Regina, Emma looked back at Henry, marvelling again at the fact that he was alive. Henry smiled at her, his eyes filled with trust, hope and pride. For the first time in months, Emma started to forgive herself, just a little, for giving him up as a baby. Her son loved her and that eclipsed everything.
There was a buzz of excitement in the room now. People seemed to have stopped doing their jobs and instead they were murmuring to each other. Some of them looked shocked, others angry. Doctor Whale appeared completely numb as he sank into a chair at the foot of Henry's bed. Emma watched as Mother Superior approached him, then turned to Henry.
"Henry, what's going on here? If the curse is broken, why didn't they go back?"
"I," Henry sounded as confused as she felt, "I don't know."
Before she could say anything else, a nurse on the other side of the room dropped her chart with a loud clatter. Emma whipped around to look at her, feeling a sense of dread when she noticed the expression on the woman's face. Now What? Emma wondered as she approached her. This day had already been filled with enough surprises and Emma would be glad when she could have a moment to go home to process it all.
"You okay?" Emma asked the woman. She didn't answer, so Emma turned to see what she was looking at. Emma felt her jaw drop a little as she looked out the window to see a massive cloud of purple smoke hurling rapidly over the tops of buildings towards them.
"What is that?"
"Something bad," Henry said ominously.
Emma blinked at him. "What do you mean something bad?"
"We're still in Storybrooke aren't we?" Emma nodded. "And that is definitely not something from this world."
A horrifying thought struck her. "Did I do that? Is it part of breaking the curse?"
"I don't think so." Henry frowned. "Maybe my mo- the Evil Queen had something to do with it."
Emma shook her head. "No, it couldn't have been her. She wouldn't have had time. Besides, I think I know who's responsible."
"Who?" Henry asked.
"Gold. He stole the potion I fought the dragon for. This must have been why he wanted it."
Henry gaped at her. "You fought a dragon?"
Emma laughed. "I did. It's a long story. I still can't quite believe it myself."
"Wow," Henry said, his voice so full of admiration that it made Emma squirm a little. After a long pause, Henry tugged on her sleeve. "Emma, do you know what this means?"
Emma shook her head as Henry looked up at her with excitement stamped across his face.
"It means that Mary Margaret and David will remember who they really are. Emma, they'll know that they're your parents!"
Emma gaped at him. In all the chaos that had occurred since she'd discovered that Henry's story was true, she had completely forgotten that point. Her parents were Snow White and Prince Charming. She tried to wrap her mind around that. She'd found her parents. Heck, she'd been living with her mother for months without knowing it.
She'd dreamed of this moment for years, but never would she have guessed that this would be the result. Emma wasn't sure how she felt about it, what she was supposed to feel. After all, how often does it happen that you find out that the parents who gave you up twenty eight years before were not only fairy tale characters who hadn't remembered who they were, but were also more or less the same age as you?
How had her life become so screwed up? Emma wanted to sink to the floor, to bury her face in her hands, but for Henry's sake she needed to stay strong. She could fall apart later, right now, her son needed her. She glanced around at the panic stricken faces around her. The town needed her.
Emma tried to push all thoughts of her parents to the corners of her mind, instead focusing on Henry, studying him carefully. He seemed to have absolutely no ill effects from whatever it was Regina had put in that pastry. Rage started to boil within her at that thought, but she mentally shoved it aside as well. Regina could wait. First, they needed to find out what was going on outside. She was still Sheriff after all, so it was her job to make sure that everyone was safe.
"Henry, how are you feeling? Are you well enough to go outside?"
Henry considered this for a moment. "I feel perfectly normal."
Emma caught sight of Doctor Whale on the other side of the room. She trusted Henry, but he had nearly died and she didn't dare take any chances. "Doctor Whale, do you think it's safe for Henry to leave the hospital?"
"What?" He looked at her blankly for a moment, then seemed to return to his senses. "Sorry, still getting used to all this."
Emma smiled at him. "I understand." She laughed wryly. Boy was that an understatement if she ever heard one. "It's just that I really should get out there so I can make sure everyone is okay, but I'd rather not go without my son."
He smiled and looked at Henry. "I don't see why you need to stay. You were under a spell, so technically there was never anything medically wrong with you." He looked at Emma then and must have seen the anxiety she was feeling written on her face because he walked over to them while positioning his stethoscope. "Of course, it never hurts to be sure."
Emma watched silently as Doctor Whale listened to Henry's heart and took his vitals. After several moments, he pulled the end of his stethoscope out of his ears, hung it loosely around his neck and said, "Henry, you are perfectly, 100% healthy."
Letting out a breath she hadn't even been cognisant of, Emma beamed, pulling Henry into a warm hug. "That is great news. Thank you Doctor."
"No problem." Doctor Whale ruffled Henry's hair, then gestured to the door. "Now if you don't mind…"
Emma shook her head. "No, of course not. We should get going ourselves."
Henry was already getting changed and within three minutes, Emma found herself leaving the hospital, her son's hand enfolded trustingly in her own. She felt lighter than she had in days.
They stepped into the street as the purple mist was slowly fading. Emma felt a slight tremor roll over her as the remnants of the mist flowed over her ankles and for a moment she had difficulty breathing, but the sensation was gone before she could properly process what was happening. The purple mist seemed to seep into the ground, then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, it vanished.
For the most part, Storybrooke seemed the same as always, but there was a new sort of energy in the air. As Emma and Henry wandered through the streets, people were stopping each other, hugging, or chattering excitedly, greeting long lost friends they'd lived near for years but hadn't remembered.
Emma blinked up at the clock tower as they approached it. Had it really been less than twenty-four hours since she'd gone into that building with her father's sword to fight a dragon? The thought of her father brought her mind back to her parents and she wondered where they were, how they were faring. No sooner had the musing entered her brain, than Henry was tugging on her arm again.
"Look! Emma, there they are." He pointed to the middle of the street not far from Granny's, and sure enough, there they were, Mary Margaret and David, (or was she supposed to think of them as Snow White and Prince Charming now?) standing side by side surrounded by Ruby, Granny, Leroy and six other men, some of whom she recognized from around town.
As they neared to group, Emma felt a flurry of butterflies start up in her abdominal region. She mentally chastised herself for being ridiculous.It's only Mary Margaret and David Nolan, you've known them both for months now. Mary Margaret is basically your best friend in this town. You have nothing to be anxious about.
But they're my parents, another part of her countered. That changes everything! I've waited my whole life for this day and now it's here and I'm terrified. Emma swallowed, taking a deep breath and trying to get herself under control. She wasn't ready for this. She wanted to think about all the ramifications, formulate what she wanted to say to them, sort out her mixed emotions, but there wasn't time. Besides, there were more pressing matters to deal with now that the curse was broken. Somehow they had nearly reached the group already and a very strong part of Emma wanted desperately to turn and run the other way.
As though he could somehow sense Emma's inner turmoil, Henry squeezed her hand reassuringly, relaxing her slightly. She still wanted to run away, but she felt grounded now and she knew that no matter what, she'd get through this. With a final calming breath, Emma and Henry closed the distance between themselves and the small crowd.
"Now," Emma could hear Mary Margaret saying, "Now I find my daughter."
Unexpected emotions threatened to engulf her, but Emma held them at bay. It was time to face her mother with the full knowledge of who she was. "So it's true!" She heard herself saying, even though she no longer doubted Henry. He had been right about everything so far, so if he said that Mary Margaret and David Nolan were her parents, then she believed him.
Mary Margaret was staring at her now, teary eyes brimming with happiness, regret and something else that Emma couldn't quite define. Beside her, David's attention was also fixed on Emma, the expression stamped across his face causing a lump to form in her throat. The outpouring of emotion that radiated from her parents nearly overwhelmed her, but Emma held her ground. She'd only get to "meet" her parents for the first time once, so despite her current confusion, she knew she'd regret it if she didn't savour as much about the moment as she could.
Mary Margaret slowly started to approach her, and though there were only a few feet between them, it felt to Emma like an eternity passed before her mother was standing directly in front of her. She smiled tentatively, her glove covered hands slowly rising to rest on Emma's cheeks. Emma felt tears stinging her own eyes as her mother pulled her into a hug, her arms wrapped protectively around Emma's shoulders as she embraced her tightly. Mary Margaret began to sob openly, her torso shaking against Emma's as they hugged.
"You found us," Mary Margaret said shakily.
David stepped forward then, placing his hand firmly on the back of Emma's head as he joined the embrace. He too was crying, which made Emma feel a bit like she was drowning. She'd never in her life felt so loved, nor had she ever been quite so vulnerable. Twenty-eight years worth of feelings of abandonment, loneliness, pain and yearning welled inside her, forcing Emma to have to fight to keep them at bay for fear she would completely lose her grip on reality.
Thankfully, Henry spoke then. "Grandpa?" he asked tentatively, immediately easing the tension in the air.
Mary Margaret, started to laugh through her tears, which was one of the most beautiful sounds Emma had ever heard. She too started to smile and, as Mary Margaret pulled away to focus on Henry, Emma was surprised to find herself reluctant to lose the contact.
Emma watched with awe as her parents interacted with her son, their grandson. There was something so utterly amazing about the fact that her son had grandparents - something she'd been certain she'd never be able to give him - that Emma couldn't help but feel a stab of fondness and protectiveness for all three of them. For better or for worse, this was her family and she would do everything in her power to keep them safe.