Author's Note: My first foray into the Once Upon a Time story writing. Set in the year interlude in which Emma and Henry manage their new, fixed identities. Constructive Criticism is always welcomed.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to Once Upon a Time except my impatience for the season to start again - soon!
Secrets of Cinnamon Cocoa
Chocolate and Cinnamon - a delightful combination.
Especially when mixed together and was sliding down the back of the throat, heating you from the inside out.
Cocoa and spice – warm, inviting, comforting – nostalgia.
Bittersweet memories, memories just out of reach, of another time, another place.
A fantasy in which she allowed herself to pretend that her mother might have shared the same taste.
She brushed the thought aside. The only family she wanted or needed was already with her.
Emma brushed a hand through her son's mop of brown hair with a smile that he returned with a questioning look. She smiled softly before placing a kiss atop his head.
"Love you, kid."
"I love you too, Mom," he answered with a smile of his own even as his eyes danced with the slightest bit of confusion.
She'd been like this a lot the last year: restless, her mind traveling off for a moment as if searching for an elusive answer. When she couldn't find it, couldn't grasp hold of enough of it, she'd hover closer to him, initiating more affectionate touches as if unconsciously assuring herself that he was still there – that someone was still there for her, for them.
They were all they had in the world.
He'd asked his mom once why she didn't date, and she had responded quickly with, "I only have room in my life for one love and that's you, Henry."
She'd frowned suddenly, her eyes getting a faraway look at her own response. When he'd asked what was wrong she shrugged it off saying that she felt she'd said something similar once, not so long ago, but couldn't remember to whom or when.
When he'd then asked if maybe it had been someone at his school or her work she had bitten her lip, feeling that his suggestions were wrong but drawing a blank as to who else it could have been so she'd simply shaken her head at herself, agreed with Henry and shrugged it off.
But it had bugged her, niggled at the back of her mind along with the other moments she had been forced to chalk up to coincidence or something akin to déjà vu.
Like that couple she spotted at Henry's school once.
A blonde haired man with a kind smile and a pixie hair-styled brunette with gentle eyes giving their dark-haired daughter a last kiss good-bye as the girl ran off to class. Emma's heart had clenched painfully as she stood there, entranced by this family she had never seen before. And as she felt her heart screaming at the unfairness of the moment, one she had never known, her brain had rationally rejected the idea of the little girl being a brunette, insisting that the girl should have been blonde.
Emma had halted her thoughts in their tracks and shook her head at her ridiculous reactions – she didn't even know that family! And really, what did it matter if the child was a blonde, brunette or even a ginger!
The moment passed as the couple turned as one and headed back to their vehicle, Emma doing the same without a second glance back, determined to put the thoughts out of her head.
Then there was the guy she had run into at the coffee shop around the corner once – dark haired with entrancing blue eyes.
But something in his expression, in the way he looked at her that had been off – no teasing grin, no mischievous glint to his eyes, she had concluded.
The guy's smile had been warm and inviting, his gaze and manner respectful but…he hadn't been right. There was no other way to describe it. And it was frustrating as hell.
She knew she had trust issues, but she hadn't felt anything wrong with the man, simply that he wasn't what she was looking for.
He wasn't who she was waiting for.
That had been a gut-wrenching feeling that had scared her out of the shop with no more than a tight smile in return to the man. She had scolded herself the entire walk back to her apartment. Her craving for a good cup of coffee and a fresh bakery bite wiped completely from her mind as she called herself every kind of idiot for the overwhelming feelings that had snuck up on her out of nowhere, unwanted and unbidden.
And don't even get her started on the apple thing!
Neither she nor Henry was allergic to them, but they both had an innate dislike of the fruit that bordered on a distinct, nearly instinctual distrust. They couldn't explain it logically, had actually laughed about it a couple of times in fact.
Henry had even gone so far as to suggest that one of them must have died from choking on an apple slice in a previous life while the other could do nothing more than watch in horror. "Maybe that's it, kid," Emma had laughed with him, but his words had given her pause all the same, if for the briefest conceivable minute before rolling her eyes at herself for even considering the ludicrous idea.
Just like now, today, with the hot cocoa again.
All those odd moments hadn't been bad, hadn't dragged up horrifying childhood suppressed memories or adult decisions she had later regretted.
The opposite occurred sometimes, if she was being honest with herself. The moments infusing her like the hot liquid sliding down her throat with warmth, peace and longing – as if missing something just out of reach, something she'd only momentarily misplaced.
Which of course was absurd.
Emma had a knack for faces, it was practically a requirement in her line of work, and she couldn't recall a single, similar memory to compare to those moments to explain the feelings, the familiarity.
Maybe that's why she had been distracted this morning, forgetting the cinnamon at first.
She'd been too lost in the memories of memories that did not exist, recalling those moments of lost time that weren't lost because they simply weren't there to begin with!
She scolded herself for losing herself in them, questioning them, wondering about them in the same way she occasionally wondered about her mother's taste in cocoa.
If she was being honest with herself, however, there was a tiny part of her in that moment, wishing she knew, wishing that she could remember something as simple and comforting as that.
Stupid really. Completely and utterly pointless.
Emma made to sit down at the table, joining her son for breakfast when a sudden knock sounded at the door.
She felt it then.
That feeling that couldn't be explained, as if something similar had happened before – a wish, a knock at the door, a single person who would forever change her life, her very understanding of the world, how it worked and everything in it, including herself.
So when Henry asked her if they were expecting anyone, her startled "No" and resultant shake of her head was both for him and herself.
She told her son what the logical side of her mind was trying to convince her, swiftly followed by the sarcastic part of her mind internally adding in a teasing tone, "Maybe destiny has finally decided to knock on our door."
She didn't know what shocked her more in the next instant, the fact that her internal lie detector didn't go off at the statement or the sight of the dark-haired man on the other side of her door.
A man who's intense blue eyes held something in them that been missing, eyes that echoed the feelings of bittersweet nostalgia and longing.
When he spoke her name, she knew in that instant, some incessant instinctual voice whispering in her ear, that her world was suddenly about to be irrevocably changed.
The carefully constructed life she had built for her and her son was about to come crashing down around her ears. And it terrified her in ways she would never be able to give voice to.
But it was the whispered words that followed, so subtly and quietly spoken, that truly caught her attention.
Words full of warmth and comfort.
Chocolate and spice.
Words that brought upon the bewildering feeling that something was finally sliding back into place.
Words laced with promises, love and hope, like specks of cinnamon in her cup of hot cocoa.