I'm sure there's a handful of people reading this staring at their screen thinking "Oh, mai, gawd, I thought you'd died! Now could you finish one of the stories you started ages ago and never finished because that story was really interesting and I couldn't wait to see how it would go." Well, I'm getting there, but I strongly doubt I will. (New readers, you have been warned, I enjoy 'forgetting' to complete stories.)
Regardless, I'm also certain there's one or two people out there doing a little woop that I'm writing again. Good for you, but you really need to get outside and smell a couple of flowers.
And so I come to this story. It actually originated as a one off, a bit of Captain Swan fluff, but then I couldn't really stop writing and suddenly it became a bit more than a one off. I doubt this shall reach the dizzying heights of the novel, but it shall be an adventure; expect trolls, toads, far-off places, daring swordfights, a prince in disguise! (Oh and a bit of smut; this story is rated M for a reason.)
Anyway, now that I've got the overture out of the way, I say its time for the curtain to raise, and on with the show!
Title: Throwing the Cat Amongst the Pigeons
And then came Neverland; a place where she was forced to confront some of her deepest and darkest secrets, and where her past and her present smacked her in the face and said 'deal with this or your future is going to be a repeat of your past.'
It's been a week since our villains and heroes returned to Storybrooke following their adventure in Neverland. In the stifling heat of an apartment, and with the exhaustion of sleep deprivation and parental-child discomfort, Emma makes a decision she never thought she would.
I do not own Once Upon a Time, it's characters, or its stories.
Heat was not her friend. And it wasn't even summer! Emma wasn't entirely sure who had set the thermostat to the epicenter of hell degrees, but whoever it was, they would pay. She couldn't understand how everyone else in the apartment was able to sleep. Granted everyone else was her parents and granted sleep was not really what they were doing. It had only been a week since the adventure in Neverland had (thankfully) ended. Everyone who had returned aboard the Jolly Roger had looked at each other once safely back in Storybrooke harbor and had silently acknowledged that this style of life needed to end; no monsters, no villains, no hero's, no magic; 'let's just all be normal' they had said. For Emma's parents that had meant 'operation family expansion' was underway. She was thankful she and Regina had discovered a way to have Henry and not have Henry, as it meant he wasn't always around to catch the noises coming from her parent's bedroom.
After the Neverland ordeal, Emma had decided Regina was truly trustworthy. She had demonstrated a determination to save the little boy that Emma had shared. They couldn't fight each other anymore; both of them were his mother, and fighting each other was only going to push him away. So the three of them had had a surprisingly short conversation; let him decide was the result. Let him choose which mother he wanted to spend his time with. Henry had quickly decided that both of his mom's homes had their advantages; if he wanted a bit of quiet, he would usually head for Regina's, simply because there weren't four occupants in the house, he could get his homework done, get a good night's sleep, and a full belly to boot. (Regina was a really good cook). It was at about that point that Neal had piped in; he was Henry's father after all, he did have some right to spend time with the boy. The two women had looked at each other and acknowledged that it was going to be hard enough sharing him between the two of them, let alone adding another parent to the mix. But Henry had reminded them all that just because he chose to sleep in one bed over another, didn't mean he didn't love them any less. They were all going to have to figure this out as they went, all he wanted in that moment was some of Granny's famous lasagna. That had effectively ended the conversation as they all departed the ship heading for the warmth of the diner. Thus far, no great issues had emerged with their 'arrangement'; in fact Emma was proud that he (and by extension, her, Regina and Neal) wasn't making a big deal out of whom he spent his time with. There hadn't been any competing amongst the parents, and each had respected the other's claim. Such was the lack of animosity that when Henry walked into the apartment earlier today and felt the wave of heat erupt upon his face, he had very promptly turned and disappeared. Emma wasn't at all concerned or disappointed by the departure; in fact she wished that she had somewhere else to go and escape the furnace.
So that was the story of her parents, a week after Neverland and her son. Regina, despite the 'solution' that had been found where Henry was concerned, was, well, being Regina. Magic was her crutch; she had proved (according to David and Henry) that attempting to live without magic was a struggle for her. She couldn't seem to escape its cold embrace. But she was a useful teacher, and whilst she wasn't anywhere near as knowledgeable as Gold was, nor as gifted an orator of the magical world, she did speak about magic in a way that sent tingles up and down Emma's spine. Gold meanwhile had enabled Emma to not just know that she had magic inside of her, but had made her understand it – at least begin to – and understand what she was capable of if she believed. That particular lesson had been just a little unsettling given how like Pan he had sounded, but the following day he had demonstrated it to her. It wasn't simply about her believing that she could lift the pen on the counter or that she could light the candle (which by now was a little easy), no, no, no, her magic wasn't quite like that. Her magic was more powerful than anything people like Regina, or even Cora, could begin to understand and comprehend. Her magic was tied to her being a product of True Love, and as such, meant that she could conjure spells and potions that he had difficulty with, quite simply. And all of those spells and potions were tied to her emotion; Love, and True Love at that, was a force more powerful force than all of Regina's and his power combined. Emma had become a little bored by the lecture as most of it she already knew, but as she practiced the protection spell he had her cast, she began to understand what he truly meant by it. It did nothing more than pique her curiosity and had her wanting to know more. If only Neal had been more understanding about her seeming natural interest.
It was clear that the relationship between Neal and Gold was going to take a lot of work. Gold was trying, and Belle was helping, but Neal could not stop seeing the evil in everything that his father did. She had thought he was coming around to the older man in Neverland, trusting him more, not questioning his motives or his morals, but alas no. Returning to Storybrooke had ended his seeming forgiveness and acceptance of his father's choices. Emma learning Magic did little to alleviate the situation. No matter what her personal opinions on Gold/Rumpelstiltskin were, she could not deny that his knowledge was remarkable. The way he talked about magic both filled her with fear and awe. She wasn't sure if he was talking about the craft with love, simple adoration, or obsession, but he knew what he was talking about. (And he had managed to get her to do a lot more than lighting a candle.) Neal had attended one of her lessons; well gatecrashed was probably a more appropriate term. Whatever issues he had with his father she could handle, but his issues with her and her learning Magic was alarming. It became clear that he had pushed his apprehension aside in Neverland, such was his desire to save Henry, but in Storybrooke, there was nothing stopping his apprehension from shining on through. Gold had stepped out to give them a moment, which had turned into a full blown argument that Emma was quite certain the entire town heard. Who was he to judge her trying to understand the Magic that she was born with, that came as part of her being a child born of true love? It's what made her The Savior. There was a reason Belle and Gold got on; she didn't take his crap and also knew when to call out Neal on his. And yet despite the argument between her and Neal (where she had basically told him that there was no better person to educate Emma than Gold himself), which Emma was also certain the entire town heard, somehow, Belle and Neal had become friends. Now if only Neal could get on with his father and get over her desire to understand the magic inside of her, because all that he was doing now was pushing her away.
But maybe it was for the best? I mean he had only come back into her life for a few short weeks before he was shot by his fiancé, she told him she loved him, and he fell through a portal that was opened by his fiancé to his apparent death then reappeared a few days later alive and well in Neverland promising he would never give up on her only to off his top when she did something that was outside of his comfort zone. She didn't know anymore, once she would have done anything to restore their relationship, but now, she wasn't so sure. She remembered hearing something her father said of her mother and of the love they shared; they never gave up, they always found each other. They encountered endless opposition to their union and they never let it part them. And the few times that it did, they fought to find each other again. Thinking about that made her look at her relationship with Neal with sad eyes. Sure they were trying, but it was clear that they were failing. The only thing they talked about was Henry, and half the time, not even that was enough. With each conversation, Emma found herself regretting her decision. Neal had nothing in common with her, not anymore; they were trying to revive a relationship from a decade earlier when they were both different people with everything in common. He was a thief on the run, and she was a young girl finally free of the oppression of foster care, and in love for the first time. He was now a man; he had a good job (he had had a stable girlfriend, nay fiancée), a good life; he'd made an honest man out of himself. And she was now a mother, a daughter, a savior, a Hero to a group of people some of whom she had never met. Storybrooke had changed her in a way that she did not think was ever possible. She had hope; for the first time in years, she looked forward to tomorrow. Ten years ago he burned her, he was the reason she had crawled into a shell that was more impenetrable than before. She came out of prison with more walls built than she had ever had. She hadn't had a decent relationship since; just flings, one night stands, and one or two 'arrangements'. She wasn't the broken child anymore; she was the broken and hard woman. She had built walls around herself, meant to protect her from experiences like what she'd had with Neal, and for a decade, nothing and no one came close to breaking them, until Storybrooke, where they started to finally crumble as she found the one thing that all her life she had been seeking: her family.
And then came Neverland; a place where she was forced to confront some of her deepest and darkest secrets, and where her past and her present smacked her in the face and said 'deal with this or your future is going to be a repeat of your past!' And in Neverland she had also been forced to deal with one fellow who increasingly was playing a part in her head.
The night they got out of Neverland, the night they got back to Storybrooke, everyone had been truly happy that they were out of that Godforsaken place. They were all hugging and embracing, relieved to be home. She didn't realize he was gone until they were halfway to Granny's. He was making her decision for her. She had paused on the walk, looked back to the harbor and silently thanked the space the group had just traveled, thinking that was what she wanted, but she knew now that it wasn't. She and Neal had no future, they only had a past. A part of her would always love him, but that was solely because he was her first love, and the father of her child. But she wasn't in love with him, not anymore.
She stared up at the ceiling of her room unable to sleep, and unwilling to continue trying. The heat was stifling, she had her window open and not even that was enough. She was just wearing a shirt, the thinnest, flimsiest one she owned (she had never been comfortable sleeping naked), and her sheets and blankets were lying in a crinkled heap at the foot of her bed. There was no noise in the apartment, meaning her parents were asleep. It seemed there was only one thing strong enough to induce sleep in this house. It was barely midnight; she had spent almost three hours trying to stifle the noises from the other occupied bedroom, trying to sleep. She was sick of trying, sick of being kept awake by thoughts of her son, his father, her parents, Regina, Gold and everyone else in Storybrooke. There was only one thing she could do. She got up, got dressed, grabbed her coat and keys and headed for the door. She needed to escape the boiling hot confines of the four walls surrounding her; needed some fresh cold air in her lungs and against her face. Dammit, she was going to get some sleep tonight.
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