Emma followed him to the Starbucks across the street, where they found seats pretty quickly. At her insistence, they got a booth towards the back, away from the window, so he wouldn't be able to able to make a quick escape.
"All right. Go. Explain." Emma crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.
"I know you're mad at me, and you have every right to be." Neal began.
"Got that right." She snorted. Neal ignored her. He started playing with a straw wrapper, clearly at a loss for words.
"That day you were going to pawn the watches, I was chased by someone."
"Who? A cop?" Emma was all sarcasm. "Oh boo hoo."
"No. He introduced himself as August."
Suddenly, Emma was intrigued. What did August have to do with this? She leaned forward and began to listen to his story.
Neal launched into a tale about how August explained about the curse, showing him a fairy, and had basically coerced him into turning Emma into the cops. She grew angrier and angrier as he went on. Throughout the story, Emma noticed that he averted his eyes, choosing instead to focus on the worn table and the straw wrapper in his hand.
"And so he gave me a choice. Turn you in or let you stay with me." He finished.
"Why did you do it?" Emma's voice was guarded. "If you loved me so much like you said, why turn me in? Why not let me stay with you?" Her voice grew louder and louder. "Do you know how I felt when the cops came? How it felt to be abandoned by the one person I thought loved me? Who promised that we could build a new life together? It was the first time in my life I was happy, and you ruined that, Neal." Her eyes shined with unshed tears.
"Emma. Believe me. It was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do in my life. I loved you so much. But I knew that it was the right thing to do. I couldn't let you live a thief's life. Even though I knew it meant it would make your life miserable for a while, it was the right thing to do. To give you your best chance possible."
There it was again. That phrase "give you your best chance possible." The same thing that her parents and Henry had told her.
"Em." He grabbed her hand, and surprisingly she didn't recoil in disgust. "I'm so, so sorry about everything. But believe me, I never wanted to turn you in. I never wanted to leave you. But I had to. I loved you so much I wanted your life to be better than mine could ever be."
She nodded. His words made sense. In a way, he had given her a better life for a while. Storybrooke was like a dream come true. She'd had friends that she loved enough to call family (funny thing was they actually were family), a great job, and Henry. Her heart squeezed with longing at the thought of everyone she'd left behind. Yes, she was mad at August for taking away the one thing that'd made her happy, but that didn't matter anymore.
"You did give me a better life, but only for a while." She replied.
"What?" Neal was confused. Emma began to explain the aftermaths of the curse and everything that led up to her leaving and coming back to Boston.
"I ruined everything," Emma finished. "I had a great chance for finally having a family but I ruined it. I left because I couldn't handle everything."
"Emma," He said softly. "You didn't ruin everything. They still love you and want nothing more than for you to go back."
"How do you even know that?"
"August." Neal answered simply.
She nodded. Made sense. They'd been communicating for so long.
"I didn't just go through all that just for you to give up." Neal continued. "You can still go back and make things right with your family."
He was right, of course. Emma knew that her parents were insanely forgiving, just like Henry. It was probably something that'd skipped a generation.
"But that's not all." She said, taking a sip of her now cold coffee. "I ruined things with someone else too."
"Someone who loves you, huh?" He asked. "I can see by that look in your eyes."
Emma was amazed that he could still read her so well. "Yeah." She said her voice thick.
"So all the more reason to go back." He insisted. "You can still fix things before it's too late."
"One more thing," She continued. "You have a son." She prepared for his gasp and inevitably his anger that she'd kept Henry away for so long, but he merely shrugged.
"I know." He said simply.
Wait what? "How…" Then the answer came to her. "August." Emma realized.
"Yeah. Told ya we were still talking."
"Do you want to meet him?" She asked, hoping he'd say no. She'd already told Henry a fake story about how his "noble father" had died, and she didn't want her son to hate her for lying.
"Nah." Neal waved his hand. "He's better off without me. Look at me. I'm no father."
Emma nodded. She stood up, and he did as well, pulling on his coat. He wrapped her in a tight hug. "I've never stopped loving you, Emma."
She nodded, tears pooling in her eyes. She knew that, of course, by the way he looked at her. But her love for him had died the moment she was arrested. The moment in which she knew that she'd been abandoned. Again.
"Thank you for everything." She said, breathing in his familiar scent. It brought back memories, but they no longer hurt as much as they did before.
They parted ways. Emma knew she'd never see him again, but that didn't matter. Somehow she knew that he'd be keeping an eye on her through August.
Author's note: I know a lot of people hate Neal and want Emma to beat him up. Believe me, I feel the same way. But this story is an Emma/Graham, which is the main focus. So all I did was give the Neal issue closure so eventually Emma'll be able to let Graham in.