Let Me Go
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
Author's Note: An alternate take on the wish of 6x10. Focuses on Emma, with much Charming family, light Snow/Charming, Regina appearances and a few references to Henry and Hook.
I wish that Emma Swan's wish to have never been the Savior be granted.
"Is this everything you wished for?" her mother asks, and Emma finds herself grinning as she nooks the arrow and aims. It's not every princess who would wish for a bow for her birthday, but not every princess was raised by Snow White and Prince Charming.
Emma was, though, and she lets the arrow fly and watches it right where she wanted it to, the apple perched on the branch. (The best use of an apple, according to her mother, who has no love for them and was not very happy to see one included in their packed lunch for this traditional birthday picnic.)
"Yes, mother," she says, and hears her parents chuckle as she turns to face them and feels their loving gazes on her as her mother grins proudly and her father lowers his bow with a laugh.
Loved. It's a familiar enough feeling, but Emma still basks in it.
"You've bested me just as soundly as your mother," he declares, and looks like he couldn't be happier to have that be the case. He probably couldn't, Emma thinks fondly and smiles at him.
Her parents. Snow White and Prince Charming. They've been the cornerstone of her life for as long as she can remember, always there, always loving her. She knows they once came very close to losing her to a curse the Evil Queen planned to unleashed, and sometimes she wonders if that makes them make sure she knows how loved she is all the more. They came very close to losing her, after all.
"I want to learn how to shoot a bow," Leo says, and Emma smiles down at her dark-haired brother.
"Last week you wanted to learn how to use a sword," she teases, and he plants his hands on his hips.
"I want to learn that too," he declares, and her mother and father laugh.
"We will teach you whatever you want to when you're old enough," her father promises, and Leo lights up. "Just as we did with your older sister, and will with your younger sister."
Ruth coos happily on Snow's hip, as if agreeing, and Emma smiles at the sight. She loves being a big sister to Leo, but she has to admit she is very much looking forward to being a big sister as well.
"Thank you for the bow, mom," Emma says, then turns to her father. "Dad, thanks for letting me win. Very charming of you."
Her father looks utterly busted for a moment, then smiles sheepishly. "I suppose there is no point denying it, is there?"
"No," Emma says firmly.
"You're right," he admits. "I let you win. Just like I always let your mother win too."
"Hey," Snow cuts in, stepping up to him and looking stern, but with a smile playing at her lips. "You do not let me win."
"I do not," he agrees after a moment, and finds himself being kissed.
"Ew," Leo says, but without much passion. He's used enough to that sight, after all.
"One day you will find someone you want to kiss as much as mom wants to kiss dad," Emma tells him, and he makes a face. "You're destined for True Love, kiddo. You can't fight it. Runs in the family."
"Ew," he repeats, then glances up at her. "Does that mean you're destined for True Love too?"
"I already have that," she says, ruffling his hair. "I have my family. What else could I wish for?"
"A horse?" Leo asks hopefully. She knows that's been his greatest wish for months now. She also knows her parents are having a horse trained for him to fulfill that one for his birthday in a few months.
"I have everything I could ever wish for," she tells him sincerely.
The sound of a woman's voice makes her parents jump apart with a speed Emma has never seen before, and reach for their weapons in the blink of an eye. They look almost afraid, a look Emma has never seen before. They've never been afraid in front of her. She's never even seen them threatened.
"Regina," Snow hisses, and Emma feels her stomach drop. Oh. The Evil Queen's name. She's heard it mentioned a few times, like a ghost from the past.
Slowly, she turns around, readying her own bow, and finding herself looking at a dark-haired woman in strange clothing.
"You were banished," David says, disbelief plain in his voice.
The Evil Queen ignores them both, looking at Emma with a strange sort of desperation.
"Emma, this isn't real. You have to know this isn't real."
For a moment, Emma feels almost dizzy, like the world is trying to shift around her. For a moment, then it's gone and she finds that her parents have stepped protectively in front of her and Leo, her mother shielding little Ruth as well.
"The Evil Queen," Leo whispers in fear, and Emma takes his hand reassuringly.
"We defeated you once," her mother declared, voice strong and hard, but Emma can hear the hint of fear in it. "We will defeat you again if you threaten our family."
Regina looks strangely exasperated by that. "I'm not threatening you, I'm trying to save your daughter! She doesn't belong here! Emma, you have a family back home, and they need you. Henry needs you. Your parents need you. That love-struck pirate needs you. Come on, you know this isn't real!"
Henry, Emma thinks, the name spinning around in her head madly, as if trying to find something. Henry? Henry?
"I don't know what game you're playing, Regina," her mother says darkly. "But you won't tear this family apart. I won't let you."
Regina gives Emma one last strangely pleading look. Then she is gone in a cloud of purple, and Emma sees her parents' shoulders fall, the tension draining from them.
"She's back," her mother says sadly, clutching Ruth a little closer. Emma can just watch as her father sighs, then pulls Snow into an embrace and kisses the top of her head. "She vowed she would ruin my happiness if it was the last thing she did. After all these years, I... I let myself believe she wouldn't."
"She won't," her father swears passionately, and after a moment, her mother nods with determination.
"She won't," Emma agrees, wishing she felt as sure as them.
They get back to the castle without incident or any other signs of the Evil Queen, and Emma watches her parents spring into action, ordering extra guards, sending messages to the fairies and doing everything they can to reassure Leo as well as Emma.
Emma can't quite let herself be reassured.
Who is Henry, and why does that name make her mind spin?
In the evening, she isn't too surprised to find her parents waiting for her in her bedchamber, holding hands and murmuring to each other in soft voices.
"I know why you're here," she tells them. "You think she's after me."
"Yes," her father admits. "The way she spoke to you, she clearly is focused on you."
"She seems to want me to believe this world isn't real," Emma says carefully. Her parents look pained at the thought.
"I don't know why, unless it's a way to take you from us," her mother says, and Emma smiles reassuringly at her. "She knows that would break our hearts. She knows how much we love you."
Emma nods slowly. She can almost imagine her mother's heartbreak at losing her, and for a moment it's almost as if she does see it, a crying Snow White in bed, howling with grief.
"Who is Henry?" she hears herself asking.
Her father and mother exchange a look.
"Regina's father was named Henry," her father admits slowly. "He went with her when she was banished. I have no idea why he would need you."
"He doesn't," Regina says coolly, and Emma finds herself completely frozen as the Evil Queen steps out of a darkened corner. Her parents are frozen as well, she sees, unable to move. "My father is dead. Henry, our Henry, is named for him. Emma, you have a son."
"I don't," Emma mutters, but her head is spinning again.
"You do," Regina insists, looking almost sad. "But you won't remember. Not as long as this world is everything you wished for. Emma, I'm so, so sorry, but I have to break this illusion."
Emma finds herself screaming soundlessly as Regina advances on her parents, hands like claws, reaching into their chests and pulling out beating hearts. This can't be happening, this can't be...
"You could stop me, Emma," Regina says darkly. "If you were a Savior."
"Please don't," Emma whispers, feeling her cheeks hot with tears. A million remembered moments seem to flash through her mind at once. Being thrown into the air by her father and laughing as he caught her. Sneaking out to watch her parents dance together at a ball. Being lifting onto her first pony in the bright sunshine of a summer day. Holding her mother's hand as they looked down on baby Leo gurgling in his crib. Riding out with her parents to villages and always being greeted by smiles. Dancing with her father at her first ball. Being crowned by flowers at every birthday.
She can't... She can't lose this.
"Emma," her mother whispers, clearly in pain. "We love you. Never forget that. We'll always be with you as long as you remember that."
"Mom," Emma whispers desperately. "Dad."
"We love you," he echoes. They've managed to link hands, she can tell, and even though they are crying too, they seem almost... accepting.
"Why do you have to be so damn Snow and Charming?" Regina says, closing her eyes for a moment as if pained. "I... I have to... Emma has to remember. I have to... I can't do this."
Emma can only stare as Regina slams the hearts back into place. Her parents both gasp, and fall to the floor.
"I'll find another way," Regina says, almost as if to herself, before vanishing in a purple cloud, and Emma feels herself able to move again. Without even thinking, she rushes to her parents, feeling herself pulled into a tight embrace by them both.
They don't let go for a long, long time.
In the morning, Emma pretends to sleep while her parents come in to check on her. She listens to them exchange loving words and determined promises to never let Regina harm any of their children, at the cost of their own lives if need be.
It only fuels her own determination.
And so, she sneaks out when they go to check on Ruth and Leo, bringing her new bow with her. She might not be the expert archer her mother is yet, but she is skilled enough with it. It may not help much against an Evil Queen, but it makes her feel a little braver.
She's not far into the forest before she feels herself being watched.
"Hello Regina," she says, and the Evil Queen steps out of the shadows with a scowl.
"How did you know I was there?"
"I was raised by an expert tracker," Emma says, lifting her chin.
Regina sighs. "Emma... You weren't. You are Snow and Charming's daughter, but they never got the chance to raise you."
Emma swallows, and swallows again. No. No, that can't be right, that can't be true.
"I cast a curse that prevented that," Regina goes on, and she sounds almost bitter, but strangely, it seems directed at... herself? "But you... You broke my curse and reunited your parents as the Savior you are."
"I'm not..." Emma mutters, trailing off. She vaguely remembers overhearing Red once mentioning that word, and her parents shushing her. "There was no curse."
"There was," Regina insists.
"No," Emma says, shaking her head. "I'll never believe your lies."
"So why are you were, Princess Emma?" Regina says, glaring at her.
"To make sure you won't harm my family," Emma says with determination. She has been thinking about this all night, thinking of her parents, of Leo, of little Ruth. She will save them, even at the cost of her own life.
"How would a little princess like you stop that?" Regina says mockingly. "Princess Emma of Misthaven is going to stop the Evil Queen, is she? She's going to be the Savior of her family and her realm?"
"Yes," Emma says, whipping out her bow. "I..."
Her head spins again, the world tilts, and everything falls apart. She can only stagger as the crushing weight of memories hit her, finally coming loose. The curse. Henry. Her parents. The wish. The genie.
Her magic floods into her too, like white light, and she feels it prickle in her fingertips.
She is the Savior. She always was. This world is just... A wish.
"Emma?" Regina asks, and Emma lifts her head. "You remember."
"I do," Emma mutters, lifting herself to her feet. "I remember... all of it, this world and ours."
Regina nods slowly. "So you know why you have to come back."
"I do," Emma says slowly. She thinks of Henry, of Hook, of her parents separated by a sleeping curse, of the family she's built in Storybrooke. She has to go back. Her family needs her. She has to let this... this wish fulfillment go. She knows that. It still hurts."I'll meet you back here in a few hours."
"A few hours?"
"I have to say goodbye," Emma says, and feels her heart break at the thought.
Her parents are talking together in worried voices as she walks into the courtyard, and the moment they see her, they rush at her and pull her into another fierce hug.
"Emma," her mother whispered, sounding choked up. "Oh, Emma, we thought..."
"We thought we had lost you," her father mutters brokenly.
She lets herself be held like that for a few moments. This world is not the real world, she knows, but she has so many memories of being raised by them, of being loved by them, of being their daughter. It feels real, and perhaps the wish did make it real, at least in this world.
"You have to let me go," she whispers brokenly, and her parents pull back to look at her. She can see the shock in her eyes.
"Emma..." her father begins.
"No, just listen," Emma murmurs, her heart breaking at their obvious pain. She has to do this. For the Snow and Charming of her world, for Henry, for Hook, she has to do this. "If Regina had cast the curse, and this world was doomed, what would you have done?"
"We would have tied to find a way to save you, Emma," her mother says softly, cupping her cheek. "You know that."
"I know," Emma agrees. "Because you did do that. You let me go, and saved me."
"Emma..." her father says again.
"It's true," Emma says softly, and he closes his eyes in pain. "In my world, my parents gave me up to give me my best chance. And now I need you to do the same. I need you to let me go so I can be the Savior, so I can be Henry's mom, so I can be the daughter to my parents of my world, so I can be with the man I love."
"This is... Regina's magic..." her mother begins, and Emma shakes her head. Softly, she holds out her hand and lets soft light shine in her palm. Her parents gasp.
"I have magic," Emma says, and they look both heartbroken and proud. "This isn't Regina's magic. This is mine."
Softly, she begins telling them about the curse, about her real world, about Henry, about her Snow and Charming, about Hook, about the wish. She shows them too, images dancing in her palm, and she knows they believe her.
When she finishes, her parents look bereft of words, their eyes bright with tears.
"I love you," she tells them. "You gave me something I always wished for. To be raised by my parents. I'll always remember that and you'll always be with me."
"We love you," her mother whispers brokenly. "Emma, if you have to go somewhere, can't we... Can't we come with you?"
Emma's heart seems to skip a beat, but she forces the words out anyway. "You won't be real in my world, mom. And in this world, Leo and Ruth need you. You have to stay for them."
Snow staggers a little, and her father catches her, kissing her temple.
"Are you sure of this, Emma?" her father asks, almost desperately.
"Yes," she whispers, and then they pull her into another fierce hug; they don't let go for a long, long time.
They insist on seeing her off. Of course they do. They bring Leo and Ruth too, and Emma can't find it in herself to stop them. As much as she longs to return to her real world, she can't help but postpone letting this one go for as long as possible.
Regina looks slightly surprised to see the whole group, giving Emma s slightly pointed look.
"Regina," Snow says, her voice like steel. "If you hurt my daughter..."
"Then I'll have Snow White of two worlds coming for me, I know," Regina murmurs, rolling her eyes, but there is something slightly affectionate in her voice too, Emma finds.
Snow just nods, her fists balling slightly.
"Do you have to go?" Leo asks, his voice thin.
"I have to," Emma whispers, feeling his arms come around her. She takes a moment to memorize his face, wondering if this is how her current baby brother will look as he grows up. "Kiddo, I need you to look after Ruth. You're the big brother now."
"I will," he promises, and then his voice breaks and he cries. She lets him, feeling her own tears, and seeing her parents openly cry too, holding each other tightly.
When he finally pulls back, Snow softly hands him his baby sister, and Leo holds her tenderly, protectively. He's going to be all right, Emma knows, feeling the familiar burst of pride that she can remember feeling about her little brother so many times. He's going to be a wonderful big brother to Ruth, and a wonderful prince to this world.
Her parents will see to that.
She has no words as she turns to them, but they seem to know what she's saying anyway, embracing her and just holding her. She can feel her father's hand at the back of her neck, her mother's hand brushing her back. It reminds her so much of her parents of her real world, the parents waiting for her, that it makes her heart ache.
"I love you," she tells them, vowing to say the same thing to her parents of her world the moment she returns to them. "Never forget that. I'll always be with you as long as you remember that."
"We won't forget," her father swears, and Emma nods. It hurts to pull away from them, but she still does, seeing her mother smile at her through tears. Softly, lovingly, Snow presses a kiss against her forehead, and Emma can't see through the blur of her tears anymore.
"I know," she whispers, turning around; this time, her parents let her go.