Emma peeked into Henry's room to check on him to make sure he was asleep; it was nearly midnight. He was sound asleep, all curled up in his covers, his hand floating just above the Peter Pan nightlight Emma had purchased for him when he was born.
Her love of the fairy tales had been passed on to her son and she often found herself portraying the role of the devious Captain Hook opposite Henry's Peter Pan or Snow White to his Prince Charming. Those were some of her favorite memories with her son, along with their Disney movie marathons.
There was always a peaceful comfort that overtook both of them whenever they lost themselves in an adventure through, what they liked to call, the Enchanted Forest. It felt natural. It felt real. It felt like home. Neither of them could explain why, and they never spoke about it, but Emma and Henry knew they both felt the same way.
Shutting the door to Henry's room quietly behind her, Emma shuffled back to the kitchen to make herself a cup of cocoa.
Her mind was still uneasy from the stranger that had appeared at their front door just this morning during breakfast. There was something oddly familiar about him, but Emma knew she had never seen him before in her life. She had convinced herself that he was just some weirdo off the street that happened to get into the apartment building; he was dressed in a pirate costume, after all.
Still, that didn't explain how he knew her name or why the taste of his lips felt like something she had been longing for but never knew she needed.
Emma shook her head and threw her traditional dash of cinnamon on top of her cocoa and walked into the living room. She looked to the couch and made to sit down, but something else was pulling her to the window.
Gazing out, she saw the Empire State Building all lit up as it was every night. There was nothing different about the view from the window. She couldn't understand why she had such a desire to look at the outside world, that is, until she peered down to the street.
There he was, the man in black, standing on the edge of the sidewalk looking like a lost puppy. She watched him as he paced back and forth in front of the entrance to her apartment complex, surprised at the fact that he had not been arrested by now.
A part of her felt very uneasy about this obviously psychotic man still hanging around her building. She knew she should call the cops and have him hauled away, but she couldn't bring herself to reach for the phone. She needed to talk to him. She needed to know what the hell he was doing there and why he needed her help. None of it made any sense, but she would be damned if she didn't find some way to get rid of this guy.
Emma set her half drunk cup of cocoa on the coffee table, slipped on her sneakers over her thick socks and grabbed her keys as she walked out the door. She couldn't shake the familiar feeling of this man and she needed to know why. She needed to see his face again, to convince herself that he was just another lunatic on the streets of New York.
"This is ridiculous," Emma said out loud to herself as she rode the elevator the few stories down to ground level.
The elevator dinged as the doors opened and Emma saw man dressed in black leather across the lobby outside the doors. She took a breath and walked forward, ready to face him.
His back was turned to her when she opened the front doors, but already, she caught a familiar scent coming from him. It smelled like the sea, a sea she had once smelled in a dream, though it felt like a memory. His black hair shone in the streetlight catching Emma's eye and she found herself rubbing her fingers together as if she could feel the smoothness of it coursing through them.
It made no sense. None of it. Why did she all of a sudden feel like she had found a missing piece to her heart?
Shaking her head of the nonsense swimming around in it, Emma cleared her throat. "What do you want?"
The pirate turned at the sound of her voice, a smile spreading widely across it, his bright blue eyes beaming at the sight of her as though he had longed for this day for ages.
"Swan," he said softly.
Emma stuck her hand out before he could come any closer. "How do you know my name?"
"I- I told you before," he said, shifting his weight with anticipation. "I'm an old friend. I know you don't remember me, but I know you, Emma."
The sound of her name hung in the air with a heavy weight. There was something so natural about it rolling off his tongue the way it did. It was intimate, reverent, warm.
"How do you know me?" Emma asked, choosing to ignore the wave of comfort that was spreading through her. "How can you know me if I have no idea who you are? You say we're old friends, but that can't be true. I don't have many friends, so if we were friends, I'm pretty sure I would remember you."
He looked into her eyes with desperation. "I can help you remember, love."
Love. He called her "love". The only time she had ever been called "love" was in her dreams by a faceless man she had gone on many adventures with across different realms. Yet, here he was, standing before her, his scent tingling her nose, the taste of rum from his lips on hers, calling her "love" the exact same way as in one her dreams.
Her dreams. That's it. This had to be one of her dreams. There was no other explanation for it. Many of her dreams had felt like memories to her, but they were never anything more than a dream. She reached over to pinch herself, but he took her hand in his before she could prove that it was only a dream.
His touch was gentle despite the rough calluses on his fingers. Emma looked down at her hand, their fingers slowly beginning to lace together as if it was where they belonged.
She swallowed thickly and jerked her hand away, scared to death of whatever was going on inside her head.
"Don't touch me," she heard herself say.
Emma immediately regretted saying the words as he dropped her hand and looked down to the ground.
"I'm sorry, love," he said softly.
There is was again. "Love". She watched as he adjusted the black glove on his left hand, though there was something off about it. It was very stiff, too stiff to be real. Was he missing a hand? His left hand?
Doing her best to shake off the weirdness of the whole situation, Emma straightened herself up and gathered as much composure as she could.
"Look, I don't know who you are or why you need my help, but I can assure you, I am not the person you're looking for."
"And why do you think that?"
Emma raised her brow. "You say my family is in danger, right?"
Chills ran down her spine at the simple word uttered from his mouth, but she kept going.
"Well, the only family I have is upstairs in my apartment sound asleep in his bed."
"Henry," the man in black said simply, knowingly.
Emma froze, her mouth hanging open. How did he know, not only her name, but her son's name? How long had this guy been stalking them?
"Look, I don't know who you are or where you came from," Emma said, her voice rising fast out of fear, "but I can assure you that you have the wrong girl. The only family I have is my son. I don't have parents. I'm an-"
"An orphan," he finished.
"How... how do you know that?" she whispered.
He took a small step towards her his eyes focuses on hers, waiting to see if she would push him away, but she didn't.
"All orphans share the same look in their eyes, the look you get when you've been left alone. The look of a lost boy or a lost girl." He took another step towards her. "The look we both share."
Emma felt herself go numb as she saw that same look he was talking about in his eyes. It painful, yet familiar. She had seen it before in her own eyes. But she also had seen it in his eyes, the eyes she so often dreamt about.
Fear overtook her and she stepped back towards the door, her face crinkling up as she pointed her finger dangerously at him.
"You get out of here," she warned.
"Emma!" he pleaded. She started fumbling for her keys. "Emma, look at me!"
Her eyes flicked up to his.
"Have I told you a lie?" he asked desperately.
The shaking in his voice caused images to flash across her mind, images of her and him in a huge hall as if built for a giant. She felt as though she was going to pass out.
"Leave me alone!" she snapped. "Leave my son alone! Don't ever come near us again!"
Emma turned on her heel and stuck her key into the lock of the front door.
"As you wish."
She froze on the spot, the three words ringing in her ears. Tears flooded her eyes as she recalled from somewhere long gone in her memory those same words spoken to her only twice before.
"Don't follow me. Wait five minutes. Go get some firewood or something." "As you wish."
"Let's get the hell out of Neverland." "As you wish, m'lady."
Firewood. Neverland. Hook.
Emma turned around, tears on the verge of flowing over onto her face at any minute, and looked at the face of a man she had long since forgotten. A man she had only seen in her dreams.
But they weren't dreams. They were memories.
The pirate stared at her curiously, anxious with what was happening in front of him. He took a chance and stepped towards her.
Emma, leaving her keys in the lock, closed the gap between them, never taking her eyes off his. She felt a lost warmth return to her as she grasped his lapel and pulled him close and his hand weaved its way into her hair, cradling the back of her head perfectly.
When their lips met, Emma felt the holes in her heart fill as she saw the images from her dreams spread through her mind, but she knew now that they weren't dreams. They were memories.
Memories of her life, her real life.
Storybrooke. Her parents. Her son. His book. Regina. A sheriff. His shoelace, which was still wrapped around her wrist, its origin she could never quite remember until now. Granny's diner. Mr. Gold's Shop. Belle. A wraith. The Enchanted Forest. Hook. The beanstalk. Cora. The stranger. Rumplestiltskin. Neal. Tamara. The Jolly Roger. Neverland. Peter Pan. His curse.
It was real. It was all real. Every adventure she had ever went on in her dreams was real. It was a part of her, a part of who she was. Everything made sense. She remembered. All because of a kiss. This kiss.
True Love's Kiss.
It had been a year since she was forced to say goodbye to the people she loved and drive over the town line with Henry, leaving them all behind as the purple smoke from the curse washed over them.
Emma pulled away from him, her tears finally letting loose as she smiled up at the pirate.