Title: Sometimes We Have to Lie to Protect the Ones We Love
Characters: Emma, Neal, Henry, August (flashback), & Marco; Emma/August & past Emma/Neal
Summary: "I lied to protect him." Once she can no longer ignore the facts, Emma is forced to finally tell Henry everything. An AU of what SHOULD have happened sometime between 'Manhattan' and 'The Queen is Dead'.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: When I heard Emma was going to say 'I lied to protect him' I got Wooden Swan feels and started writing this (but didn't finish). Since the episode totally didn't live up to my expectations I decided to finish this and show off how I would have liked to see things go. As always, thanks to my wife for giving this the 'go ahead'.
"HOW COULD YOU TELL HIM I WAS DEAD!"
They'd been going at it for hours. She wasn't sure that sending Henry off with Gold, even if he was his grandfather, was the best idea, but it was better than him listening to his parents scream at one another. She was trying, really trying, to get past their history, for Henry's sake, but Neal's guilt-tripping and helping Henry in making her out to be the bad guy wasn't helping.
She'd loved him, once upon a time, and she wasn't entirely sure he'd ever loved her, at least, not as much as she'd loved him. And if he thought trying to convince her that abandoning her was 'what he had to do' then he didn't know jack shit about who she was.
At least August never tried to blame his mistakes on…
Emma sighed and pushed out thoughts of her departed best friend.
She was trying really hard not to be angry with a dead man, especially since it meant having to deal with his death.
"What was I supposed to tell him? That his father was a thief who got me arrested and thrown in jail? Or should I have mentioned the part where I was only SIXTEEN! I WAS SIXTEEN YEARS OLD!" Her voice broke and she mentally fought off tears. She'd cried enough over him and she was never going to do it again.
Neal had served his purpose in her life: to give her Henry and to erase every ounce of naivety from her.
"I didn't have anyone and you took advantage of that. You cannot blame August for that one. What were you thinking? I didn't know any better. If you'd loved me you wouldn't have…"
Emma turned away from him, finding that no matter how hard she tried, the tears were going to come.
"Do you think either one of us wanted to leave you in there?
I screwed up, Emma, okay? Is that what you want to hear? I shouldn't have been with you and getting you involved in my life of crime and he made me see that. And trust me, if we'd known about Henry…"
Emma turned slowly and crossed her arms.
"Wait, did the two of you…"
"We both had a hard time, okay? I wasn't used to having to put someone else first and even though he knew time in jail would help you stop stealing I was the one who had to talk him out of getting you out of there. He eventually took off to Asia because he couldn't handle it anymore.
I'm not proud of any of it but none of that excuses the fact that you not only kept my son from me and gave him up for adoption but you lied to him about me."
"I lied to protect him," she hissed, sick of yelling. "Because I love him and sometimes you have to lie to protect the people you love. Everything I've done is for Henry because I love him more than anything. I gave him up because he deserved more than me and more than you and I didn't want him to know the truth. He deserved to believe the fairytale I told him about who his father was.
Don't try to guilt me over this.
I'm not proud of lying to him but I was trying to keep him safe."
Emma turned away from him once more and covered her face with her hands. Memories that she'd been trying to fight back somehow made their way through.
"Why lie about where you found me?"
"I lied to protect you."
"No, no, no," she whispered, as she realized that August really had done everything out of love for her, or some sort of need to be there for her.
No, it was love.
She remembered the look on his face as he died and while she'd been too invested in saving Henry to process it, she was processing it now.
Neal touched her shoulder and she jerked away from him.
"Don't touch me."
She wiped at her eyes. She didn't deserve comfort or anything. August had died trying to help her. He was the only person she'd learned to trust in the past eleven years and she'd failed him. She hadn't broken the curse in time and she hadn't even acknowledged him or his death since it happened.
What kind of person did that?
They'd come here together and she couldn't blame him for leaving. He'd been a child, but she sure as hell had done her best to throw the blame on him.
"Right, of course, Pinocchio. Explains all the lying."
Even when he'd told her the truth she'd…
"YOU LEFT ME AND LET ME GO TO PRISON BECAUSE PINOCCHIO TOLD YOU TO?"
She was a horrible person. She'd avoided speaking of him for weeks and the first time she bothered…
"Look, I'm not coming on to you, Emma. You should know, I'm engaged. Her name is-"
"Yeah, well, I have August." She snapped, annoyed that Neal was interrupting her inner meltdown with the assumption that they were ever going to get back together.
And then it hit her that she didn't have August. He was gone. She'd watched him die.
"Had," she corrected as his death flashed before her eyes again. "Oh God, August," she whispered. If the tears were coming before they were falling now.
Emma pushed past Neal and headed for the fire escape. With her luck, she'd run into Henry on the stairs and she couldn't let him see her like this.
"Emma!" Neal called but she ignored him.
She gripped the cold steel and held onto the escape for dear life as sobs invaded her body. Why was this happening now? Why couldn't this be happening while she was alone in the shower, where no one would have to hear her losing it?
Of course the kid would come back now. How much had he heard? She wasn't ready to have this talk with him. Having to tell him about Archie had been bad enough. There was no denying how much Henry loved August and until now she'd been able to avoid telling him the truth but if he asked her, she wasn't sure that she could lie to him again.
She didn't want to face him, but she could feel him next to her and knew avoiding him was futile. She looked down and the look on his face broke her heart. So, he'd heard them fighting?
"Kid, I'm sorry you had to hear that-"
"What happened to August?"
"Henry, I don't-"
"I haven't seen him since the curse broke. He missed every single one of our Saturday lunches. He doesn't answer his phone and when you mentioned him you started crying and you never cry…"
She lowered herself to her knees and took his face in her hands.
"He's dead, isn't he?"
"Just tell me, mom."
Tears filled her eyes once more and she found she couldn't say it out loud so she just nodded.
"I'm sorry; I couldn't save him in time."
She waited for the accusations and blame so when Henry threw himself into her arms, she sighed in relief. Emma hugged him back tightly as he cried and gently rocked him in her arms.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, until she could no longer speak.
"But he was supposed to get better and you two were supposed to be together so he could be my step-dad."
"I know, Henry." Emma pulled away and wiped at his eyes.
"I know how much you loved him and August loved you too, kid. Don't ever forget that."
"I know he did," he whispered. "And he loved you too, mom."
Emma closed her eyes and laughed bitterly.
"Yeah, well, it's too late for that."
She'd spent so much time pushing aside her feelings and pulling away from him because she couldn't handle a relationship and she because Henry was her priority. Now she had to wonder if she could have had them both.
Henry moved into her arms and she hugged him once more.
"You're a strong, kid, you know that?"
Henry nodded and she smiled proudly. She didn't know how many kids could go through everything he'd been through just in the past six months and come out of it with their sanity intact.
Emma glanced up to find Neal watching them and she sighed. As much as she didn't like it, Henry wasn't just hers anymore.
"Hey, kid, why don't you go spend some time with your dad? I'm sure he has lots of places he'd like to show you."
Neal gave her a small smile and a nod before disappearing from the window.
Emma pulled away and stood, while wiping at her eyes.
"Are you sure, mom?"
"Yeah, go, I'll be fine. I need to call your grandpa and check on things at the station anyway."
She nudged him towards the window and he watched her sadly for a moment before throwing his arms around her.
"I love you, mom."
"I love you too, Henry Now go, I want you back before nightfall. And don't load him up on sugar, Neal!" She called as Henry went back inside. She waited until the two of them disappeared before pulling out her phone.
She did need to call her father but first there was one person she needed to stop lying to.
"Hello? Marco? Hi, it's Emma. There's something I need to tell you."