Your Father's Tact

This can't possibly be real. There's no way in this land, or any other frankly, that this could possibly be happening.

She still isn't entirely sure how it came about, but somehow – some way – August W. Booth, Neal Cassady, and Captain freaking Hook are on the receiving end of a massive time-out from Prince Charming himself.

No, 'time-out' isn't really the word. 'Interrogation' is much more apt.

She's still trying to piece together the last few minutes, even as she sprints down Main Street, chest tight and heart pounding. She's going as fast as her legs will carry her, yet the thought of the three men that her deputy has apparently taken into custody makes her stomach twist. The wind whips her golden hair behind her and her arms pump in her leather jacket, as Henry's words echo in her ears:

"So Pinocchio is back, as is some guy named Neal? And Gramps took them all down to the station for 'a little chat."

Henry even used air quotes.

"Oh, Captain Hook is there too. And Gramps may or may not have used handcuffs. But I'm not supposed to tell you that."

Crap was the first phrase that came to Emma's mind. Murder in the first degree was the second.

It took her a good ten seconds to actually process Henry's words, and another five before she was out the door and down the stairs, having no desire whatsoever to read Prince Charming, of all people, his Miranda rights.

She sees the station just up ahead and mentally curses her deputy for taking Storybrooke's resident cop car. Granted, she had been on her lunch break, but still. Running full tilt in leather boots isn't doing her ankles any favors.

Her hand connects with the glass door and she barely registers as it bangs back against the wall. All she wants is to make it to the office without stumbling over someone's body.

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Neal is the first one she sees and the half-terrified/half-happy look he gives her as his eyes find hers makes anger bubble somewhere in her chest. He has no right to be happy to see her. Luckily, he's handcuffed to the arm of the chair he's in, and her anger melts away into some sort of schadenfreudic satisfaction.

August is the next one she spots, followed by David who barks, "You. Sit," at the formerly wooden boy.

August drops into the indicated chair incredibly quickly, blue eyes wide. It's the most lost Emma's ever seen him and she can't help but be impressed that her father was the one to put that look on his face.

And finally, there's Hook. Hook, who's looking at the proceedings like it's the best entertainment he's seen all year. Bastard.

David is twirling another pair of handcuffs around his finger, as he paces in front of the men he's illegally holding. As sheriff, Emma should probably point out that what her deputy is doing is in violation of all sorts of this, that, and the other thing, but right now, she's too busy holding her breath, waiting to see how all of this is going to pan out.

"You left my daughter," David finally says as his gaze bores into August. "I understand that your father was trying to protect you by lying to us about the wardrobe, but you were supposed to watch over her!" David's voice cracks and something inside Emma breaks.

"I was a boy," August finally whispers after a moment of silent resignation.

"But you didn't come back," is David's retort. It's soft, as if he finally sees the pain that decision caused the former-Pinocchio. Soft, but no less angry. Something warm swells in Emma's chest.

"I didn't come back," August admits and, after a moment, David nods before moving onto his next victim.

"Can I just say – " Hook begins, before David cuts him off.

"Wait your turn. I'm not done with you yet."

Hook holds up both flesh and steel in mock surrender, before crossing his arms over his chest with no small amount of mirth. David shoots him an extra glare before turning his carefully controlled temper on the man who left her with nothing but a record, a positive pregnancy test, and the keys to a VW Bug.

"I suppose I should be thanking you for my grandson – "

"Wait. He's Henry's father?"Hook blurts out and Emma has to bite her lips to keep her laugh from escaping.

Neal shakes his head, as if he can't believe that Captain Hook is questioning his paternity, but David ploughs on undeterred.

"You have some explaining to do."

"I don't owe you anything," Neal replies, gaining somewhat of a backbone under her father's admittedly intimidating gaze. "Not to a guy who put his daughter in a tree."

Emma's surprised, because he certainly didn't learn that information from her, but before she can even voice the question on the tip of her tongue, Neal answers it.

"He told me," he says, nodding his head towards August. "If I owe anything, it's to her."

And finally, David turns and sees her standing in the doorway, and everything else seems to stop as sheepish alarm settles into his features.

The tick of the second-hand on the clock is practically thunderous compared to the silence that's engulfed the room.

She takes a step in, and then another, before she's close enough to register Neal's bruising cheek and August's ripped shirt. Hook seems unscathed and that doesn't surprise her in the least.

Her gaze finally sweeps over David's face; the anger has melted away, revealing something much softer, but there's still a steady pulse of protect her in his eyes.

Emma nearly buckles under its weight.

She should say, 'This is entirely illegal' or 'I think they've been chastised enough,' but she can't because he's here and she's here and they're here she's been waiting for this moment, this interrogation, for years.

Ever since she first allowed herself to imagine bringing Neal home to meet her non-existent family.

Her hearts pangs painfully for a moment as she spies Graham's jacket, still hanging on the rack in her office. She remembers that he tasted like coffee and smelled like pine. His lips were soft and his curls untamed. At the time, Neal had been nothing but a distant memory, only remembered when she spotted his features in Henry's face. And in the last ten years, Graham was the only one to come close to inhabiting that coveted daydream.

It's ridiculous, but she's relishing the protection in her father's eyes and the fear in Neal's. The guilt in August's and the cockiness in Hook's. The situation is so far beyond anything she might have imagined, but her father is defending her honor and, for as stubborn and bullheaded as she can be, for once she's happy to sit back and let someone else fight her fights.

After all, he's been fighting for her since she first drew breath.

"Charming." The semi-chastising voice belongs to Snow and five heads turn to find her standing in the doorway, eyebrow raised as if to say, "Really?"

Emma can't help but smile because she's seen the exact same expression in the mirror. David sheepishly shrugs but doesn't remove his hands from his hips. Emma likes to call it his 'battle stance.'

Snow takes another step into the room, her gaze surveying the various men that have been rounded up, before settling on her husband once more. And Emma watches in wide-eyed wonder as they conduct an entire conversation without ever uttering a single word.

It's impressive, and something she hopes one day to be able to do with someone, but for now, she studies them as they teach a master class in intimacy.

"Look, your highness, if we're done with family bonding hour, I'd really like to get back to wenching and pillaging, if it's all the same to you."

Of course Hook is the one to break the moment. And of course David's temper flares.

August shifts his seat further away from the gathering storm and motions with his head for Neal to do the same. Though handcuffed, her ex does manage to hop his chair out of the way, just as David advances on the pirate. He opens his mouth for some witty retort, but then Emma finds herself saying, "Dad," and the ticking of the second hand is back as complete silence settles on the room once more.

The fire in her father immediately dies, leaving just a flicker of utter astonishment.

Dad. She has called him many things over the past few weeks: David, Charming, Deputy, Prince, Hey You, but not Dad. Never Dad.

She can't look at Snow because she just knows she'll see tears tracking down her mother's cheeks, and that's not an image her already unstable emotions can handle. David isn't much better, staring at her with more hope and fear than he's probably felt since he held a sword in his right hand and her in his left.

She sees him swallow once, then twice, emotions working as he glances at the tiled floor and clears his throat. He takes a moment and no one breathes a word, not even the guys, as if they know just how momentous this is.

Emma can tell that Snow is about a second away from going to her husband, but David recovers and nods, pulling out a chair and gesturing for Hook to take a seat. The pirate stares at him like he's just suggested they go skinny-dipping off Antarctica, but David merely pulls out his keys and unlocks Neal, before placing a reassuring squeeze on August's shoulder.

Something inside Emma mends at the gesture. A something she didn't even know was broken.

"Okay," David says, voice a little rough but no less firm. "We're grown men. We can talk about this civilly."

Snow nods in encouragement, even as Emma rolls her eyes. This can't end well.

David takes a seat as his gaze finds Hook, and the arrogant smirk the pirate's been wearing since she arrived falters.

Nope, there is definitely no way this ends well.

"Captain," David begins, as he places his elbows on the table and folds his hands calmly in front of him. "What are your intentions with my daughter?"

August snorts and Snow gasps, as Neal grins and Hook gapes. As for Emma…

Her face flushes and a curse slips through her lips, but damn, if that question doesn't make her beam.