The apartment is dark save for the lone jarred candle someone forgot to blow out throwing shadows across the kitchen counter.
"Hello?" Emma shrugs out of her red leather jacket and drops her bag on the table, hitting the light switch and illuminating both the empty room and the mess they've managed to create in the short time they've been back.
But despite the light and despite her overly cautious nature, she still manages to trip over a wayward pair of Henry's sneakers, before catching herself on the back of a chair.
"Dammit, kid," she mutters, not unkindly. A small smile snakes its way across her face as she picks up the shoes and carefully aligns them by the door, next to David's much larger ones. David. James. Dad? No.
Emma shakes her head, dispelling the thought. It was different with Mary Margaret. She had been her friend and roommate before she was Snow White. A confidante and sounding board – just as nurturing and maternal as any mother could be.
But David… David was something else altogether. Emma had judged him from a distance, angered that he broke her friend's heart and wary of his potential involvement in Kathryn's disappearance.
She didn't know his quirks as she did Mary Margaret's – like how she alphabetizes her books by author and eats banana pancakes every Sunday. How she scrubs the floors only left to right and can't leave the apartment unless all windows are shut and the door is triple locked.
Which brings Emma back to the empty living room and the lit candle rapidly burning through wax on the kitchen counter. Snow White's carefreeness seems to be seeping into Mary Margaret's psyche, a not entirely unwelcome notion.
With a smirk, Emma holds her hair back and leans over, gently blowing the candle out. The smell of smoke reminds her of a wish on a blue star that brought her long lost son to her front door. And so immersed is she in the memories and the feelings of having him back in her life that she doesn't hear the front door open until a throat clears, making Emma gasp and bump into the counter.
"Sorry," David says, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "Didn't mean to startle you. I was looking for Snow."
Emma tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. "I don't know where she is. I just got home myself."
David nods and shuts the door behind him, making Emma fervently wish she weren't the only other one home. They'd all been living together since she and Snow returned, and it was fine. Nice, even. But Henry and her mother had always acted as a buffer between her and David, not letting things slip into awkward silences and stilted conversation.
But now here they are, father and daughter, alone. And if the way David is shifting his weight from foot to foot is any indication, he feels just as lost as she does.
"I think Snow might have taken him to Geppetto," he finally says. "Henry said he had something that needed to be fixed."
Emma nods and turns away to put the kettle on the stove, if only to give herself something to do. Evidence of Henry and David's time in the apartment is still abundant: the wooden swords propped in the umbrella stand, the smears of chocolate on the tiled counter.
She finds it endearing, this male-bonding thing they have going on. And she'll never admit it, but her stomach flips every time she hears her son yell, "Gramps."
And David will inevitably reply, "Yeah, kid?" and it's all Emma can do not to lean against something for support because, despite time and space and magical curses, there are some traits she does share with her father. And that notion completely blows her away.
"Would you like some?" She holds up a tea bag and curses her voice for coming out a little wobbly. David smiles the smile that makes his "charming" nickname a forgone conclusion.
"That'd be great, thanks." He busies himself tidying the rest of the destruction from boys' bonding: board games whose pieces are scattered across the rug and swordfights that left the pillows a little battered. She watches out of the corner of her eye as he meticulously places every piece back in its box and plumps the cushions back to Mary Margaret's standards.
She notices the way he looks at her. She can see the longing on his face. It's like he's perpetually two seconds away from pulling her into his arms, and it's only the flimsiest thread of self-control that keeps his paternal instincts in check. In the beginning, he was the voice of reason and caution, telling Snow not to rush it. But now that she and her mother have had their own sort of bonding period, giants and pirates notwithstanding, the longing on his face is back and it's so strong, she can practically taste it.
The kettle whistles, jarring Emma from her thoughts and she pulls two mugs from the cupboard and begins to pour.
"Perfect," David replies and he sounds distracted, which is unlike him. She turns, tea in hand, to find him studying something rather carefully on the dining room table.
One glance over his shoulder makes her wish she had stayed in the kitchen.
It's Henry's book, which he had conveniently left open to the page highlighting a wardrobe and a wounded warrior, placing the most precious of packages inside its intricately carved doors.
She tries to glance at David's face but he doesn't even seem to register her presence. The tips of his fingers reach out to gently trace the illustration, running first over the baby and then the tree he left her in.
"I saw it, you know."
He jumps slightly and his voice sounds thick as he replies, "What?"
"The wardrobe," she says as she places his mug on the table. "Snow took me to the castle. I saw my nursery."
David nods but seems unable to open his mouth, so she continues.
"It was a mess. The crib was over-turned and the toys were broken, but… it was there. I didn't get to use it, but you had built it." And that's all that really matters. She takes a sip and the tea burns her tongue. It's almost like she relishes the pain, a reminder that this is all real. "You know, when Henry told me I was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, I thought he was crazy. But the more he talked, the more I realized that, no matter how outlandish his theories, I was so against them because I didn't want to let myself believe that any part of it could be true. That the woman welcoming me into her home was my mother. Or the coma patient lying in the local hospital was my father." Her breath hitches on the word, and finally David looks up and meets her gaze.
But the more she speaks, the more the man in front of her seems less like David. And the desire to call him as such melts away to something else altogether.
"Granny told me she knit my blanket. And Snow told me you built my crib."
Her father nods and manages a watery smile. "Took a few tries. Give me a sword and I'm fine. Give me a hammer and I'm a mess." He shrugs. "Snow told me to leave it to Geppetto, but… that was something I wanted to do for you."
She holds his gaze for a moment before the need to look away becomes too much. Her eyes burn and she hides the wobble of her lower lip behind the rim of her mug, studying the picture once more.
She taps the picture and the red stain depicted on Charming's white shirt. "You're bleeding."
Her father swallows hard and slowly lifts up his blue plaid flannel, revealing a pink scar with jagged edges. "I was."
Emma's hand reaches out of its own accord, but she realizes what she's doing and quickly recoils.
"It's all right. You can touch it. It doesn't hurt anymore." He takes her palm and places it on his side, and she traces the line that runs from sternum to navel. "I almost died that day. In fact, if not for the curse, I would have. Funny how things work out."
Yeah, funny, she wants to say but she can't. Because the man standing before her with a scar on his stomach and a matching one on his chest, nearly gave his life to get her to safety. Sacrificed his happiness and that of the woman he loved to protect her.
And finally all of the pain and anguish and confusion she's felt since she realized that the man she's been searching for has been here all along makes her breath short and her heart pound. And her father finally allows himself to lose the battle with his self-control as he steps forward and wraps strong arms around her, holding her so tight, not even one of Regina's spells could come between them.
A muffled "Dad" slips out between her lips, almost indecipherable where her face presses against his chest, but the way his grip tightens proves that he understood it all the same.
Some time passes – she's really not sure how long. But her knuckle hurt from holding onto the back of his shirt so tight and she's pretty sure the whole of her tears have made their way onto the front of his clothes, but he doesn't seem to mind. He pulls away and smiles softly, gently brushing the remaining wetness from her cheek with his thumb.
"Let's go find our family," he whispers and she nods, allowing her grip on him to loosen and glancing down at the tea that's long since gone cold.
She shrugs back into her jacket as her father (Charming, she grins) looks thoughtfully at the real sword resting on the highest shelf, out of Henry's reach.
"Did you really slay a dragon?" he asks.
"Like father, like daughter," she murmurs, and it takes her a minute to realize that her words have frozen him where he stands.
She frowns. "What?"
He shakes his head, yet his smile is wistful as he nods at her jacket.
"You look good in that color."
She glances down at the red leather and smiles softly, hugging the material closer to her body.
Yes. Like father, like daughter, indeed.