So watching the final moments from Going Home had me dwelling a bit too much on everyone's thoughts as Emma and Henry drove away. This is just a one-off that i couldn't kick. Please note that i've done a little re-jig of some of those heart-wrenching moments (mostly because i didn't like the fact that Emma and Hook just looked at each other). I won't gas-bag much longer because that's just boring.
Title: Goodbye to my Happy Ending
Summary: Saying goodbye to the people we love is the hardest thing to do.
Disclaimer: I don't own Once Upon a Time, characters, story, etc etc.
Emma Swan's life story was not empty of despondent moments. Her childhood in particular was littered with them. But this moment, this was easily the worst. It was engulfing. It was swallowing her whole and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Kicking and screaming was not going to stop it, magic was not going to stop it, death was not going to stop it. That cloud could not, and would not be halted. She could feel her heart failing, her stomach falling, her knees buckling. There was a lump in her throat that was going to destroy her. As she met her parents one last time it rose to unspeakable heights, she very nearly buckled by the force it took to hold it back. The three of them clung to each other, none of them wanting to let go, because to let go would mean she would never see them again. She knew there were other people she needed to see, to say goodbye to, but the very thought of leaving her parents embrace was too much to bear.
She had spent her entire life searching for her parents, searching for her family, and she had finally found them. She didn't believe it at first, how could she when the man who had fathered her and the woman who gave birth to her were practically the same age she was – not to mention the fact that they were fairytale characters. But she accepted it, no believed it now. And that's all that mattered. But she was going to lose them, all over again. She didn't know if she had the strength to deal with that, didn't know if she was going to be able to move on with her life without her parents in it. She had come to depend on them, their support and their guidance without even realising it. They were her parents, it was their job. She didn't care that they wanted to have another baby, she didn't care that they wanted to expand their family, she didn't care about any of that, it was their right. If Regina had never cast that curse in the first place she would have siblings, of that she was sure of. She was an adult now and she had her own kid, she didn't care what her parents did, only that they were in her life; her family, Henry, Neal, everyone, call her selfish so what she wanted them all.
She could feel that burning feeling in the back of her throat that she had always hated. She could feel warm tears prickling her eyes. Her entire life was falling to pieces. She was going to have Henry, sure, and she was thrilled about that, but it wasn't going to fill that void that only her parents could. In that moment she wanted a magic bean or something; she wanted to be able to open up a portal so that they could all disappear back to the Enchanted Forrest, so that they could all be together, safe and happy. Never before in her life had she felt so vehemently towards someone, some people. She needed her family, needed her parents. Once she might have run screaming at the thought of being open to others, but now it was right. She wasn't alone anymore, she never would be again. Henry walking into her life was once the worst thing that could have happened, but now it was by far and away the best moment in her life. It was ironic in a way that he had not only brought her, her greatest happiness, but also her greatest heartbreak. She could feel him at her side, he hadn't really been far from it as they said goodbye to everyone, but now she felt him move away; there was one very important person he needed to say goodbye to, Regina.
Emma knew as she felt his presence leave her that there were still a few more people she needed to see, but it was so difficult, just thinking about it, just considering breaking her parents embrace was causing tears to spill. But it wasn't the worst part. No, the worst part was that with every moment she stood there, saying goodbye to her new friends, her parents, despair filling her lungs, she could feel a pair of eyes following her that once would have incited nothing but rage inside of her. Of all the people she had to say goodbye to, he was the one person she abruptly refused to do.
She finally broke the embrace with her parents, both of them touching her cheek. She missed their warmth the moment she left their sides but she had too. It wouldn't be right for her to get in that car and not say goodbye. She didn't want to, hell, she didn't want to be saying goodbye to any of them, but she had no choice.
She chose to move on to Neal. The past few weeks had been destructive to the stone cold organ buried deep within her chest, him coming back into her life had only been the tip of the iceberg. But she had realised that whatever their relationship was now, or was going to be, it wasn't going to be the same as what it had once been. She had moved on, a long time ago in fact, and him coming back into her life had created a mirage inside of her. She knew she had feelings for him, they had flared when he came to Storybrooke, but her time in Neverland had awakened her to what they really were: an illusion. She hadn't had another moment to even think about how she felt about him. All she knew right now was that no matter what, he would always be her family, always.
"Neal, I'm sorry." She whispered approaching him.
"Don't be," he shrugged, "you have to get our boy out of here." She could hear the resignation in his voice. She knew because she could hear it in hers too.
"You have to go back there." She apologised.
If there was one thing that Emma knew about Neal, it was that he wanted to go back to the Enchanted Forrest about as much as she wanted to get in her car and cross the town line. He hadn't just been running from his father for a couple of hundred years, he was running from the world his father inhabited. Going back there was something she knew he wasn't looking forward to.
"Yeah." His voice was dismissive, it was clear he didn't want to dwell on it.
It was strange how much of an identical position they were both in. Both of them were being forced to do something that neither wanted to do. For him it was to return to a place he didn't want to; for her it was saying goodbye. And not only that, they were both losing family that they had just found. Emma didn't know how much love Neal felt for his father considering they'd spent so much time apart, but she did know that seeing the way his father had just died in front of him had shaken Neal. She couldn't find any other words to say to him so she merely stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around him, basking in the familiarity of the moment, despite the emptiness it left her with (which she chose to ignore).
'"Kay, this isn't over." He said as they separated. "I'll see both of you again." He declared quietly.
She could only smile at him weakly as she stepped away, leaving Henry to farewell his father alone. She had to make it to her car, had to get behind the wheel, had to get away before she couldn't hold it in any longer. One step, two steps, only three more and she would be there.
"Emma." Regina's voice sounded behind her. "There's something I haven't told you." She stepped up to her.
Emma couldn't do it, couldn't talk to her. She had to get to that car.
"What now?" She was going to erupt in a fit of tears at any moment.
"When the curse washes over us," Regina began slowly, "it will send us all back, nothing will be left behind. Including your memories." She explained. "It's just what the curse does. Storybrooke will no longer exist, it will never have existed. So these last years will be gone from both your memories and we go back to just being stories again." She finished.
It was clear to Emma that Regina was being very careful in her explanation to convey the magnitude of what was happening. And they were effectively freezing Emma in place. Not only was she going to lose her parents, but she was going to lose her time with them? It was crushing.
"What will happen to us?" Emma glanced at the people behind Regina, consciously avoiding him.
"I don't know." She shrugged weakly.
"That doesn't sound much like a happy ending." Emma breathed.
"It's not. But I can give you one." Regina stepped close to her, a small, sad smile on her face.
"You can preserve our memories." Emma asked hopefully.
She knew how long it had taken her to believe that Snow White and her Prince Charming were her parents: too long. She didn't want a time to come where she was going to have to spend another year, or maybe even longer, coming to believe that again. She had lost almost thirty years with them, and then another year when she hadn't truly believed it. She refused to spend any more time without them in her life even if they were in her life.
"No," Regina said sadly, "I can do what I did to everyone else in this town, and give you new ones." She finished with a smile that was genuine.
"You cursed them and they were miserable." Emma almost wanted to laugh.
"They didn't have to be." She could hear the bitter humour in Regina's voice. "My gift to you," Regina went on, "is good memories, a good life for you, and Henry." She turned to Henry who was still with Neal, beckoning him over. "You have never given him up; you have always been together." Her voice hitched as her tears began.
"You would do that?" Emma stared at the woman who for so long had demonstrated nothing more than mild loathing – and that was putting it gently.
Regina sighed. "When I stop Pan's curse, and you cross that town line you will have the life you always wanted."
"But it won't be real." Emma said dejectedly.
She knew what her parents memories had been before the curse was broken. They were stuck in an endless cycle of disappointment and loneliness. Nothing was real, time was frozen as they lived their days in a numb state. Hell her father was in a coma! She refused to have that, even if what she had inside her head instead was positive.
"Your past wont, but your future will be." Again, she had that determined and genuine smile on her face. "Now go, there isn't much time and the curse will be here any minute." Her voice once again hitched.
Henry stepped away from Emma as his adoptive mother's face crinkled with tears. She let him go. She might have to say goodbye, but her son also had to, and for him, it was almost going to be harder. She turned and stepped away from them both, closer to her car. When she turned around she saw her mother striding toward her. She pulled her into another tight embrace, pulling her head down so that she could plant a kiss on it. For Emma, it was the most motherly thing in the world and the lump that had been filling the back of her throat began to explode. She couldn't do it, she couldn't leave. She couldn't turn around and walk away from her mother, she just couldn't. But then her mother stepped away from her, making the decision for her. Emma blinked at the coldness, noting that Henry was still with Regina. When her eyes re-opened it was to see Hook standing before her, his piercing gaze boring into her. The skin beneath her eyes, beside her nose was already wet; she could taste salt in her mouth. He wasn't going to do anything to ease her anguish.
"That's quite a vessel you captain there, Swan." He nodded over her shoulder at the yellow bug behind her, a sad smile on his face.
She couldn't hold back the sob. She felt her heart pounding beneath his gaze. Those azure orbs that she had recently come to rely on stole their way again into her soul, causing that lump in her throat to break.
"There won't be a day that goes by that I won't think of you." His lips barely moved and yet she heard every word as clearly as though he was shouting them from the rooftops.
"Good." It was all she could say as her tears leaked out.
She smiled sadly, looking to the ground as she stepped close to him, not stopping until her forehead was resting on his chest, her hands fingering his open shirt. She couldn't help it as she felt the moisture from her eyes spill onto his chest. He didn't say a word in response. All she felt was his lips on the crown of her head, his lungs heaving as he inhaled her scent. She couldn't deny it was a good feeling, especially as she closed her eyes and did the same, the hair on his chest tickling her nose. She inhaled him in deeply. There wasn't an ounce of cologne on him, there never had been. She had to commit this to the deepest recesses of her memory so that she would always know it; she would always find her way to him and dammit she was going to know him the moment he crossed her path. Leather and salt, sea and sweat, always and forever would remind her of him.
It felt strange how whole this moment had her feeling. His body wasn't just warming her front; it was warming her entire being. This was what it should have felt like with Neal, whole and warm, but it hadn't. This was the feeling of family, what love does to you, it warms your insides, calms your heart, settles your stomach. Neal's embrace was supposed to make her feel like this, not Hook's. When had this man she at one point had ha – wait she had never hated him. She had disliked him, distrusted him, but never hated him. He had unsettled her the moment she had met him, had her arming her defences. He had rattled her walls, fought past her defences, found shovels and dug, blasted her walls with cannons. It wasn't their kiss that had made her feel like this, it was every tiny little thing that he did afterwards to support her. He believed in her, he supported her, he didn't lie to her – granted he was willing to keep Neal's existence from her – he told her the truth about the Dreamshade cure. He never demanded anything of her, he didn't press her, he let her be, albeit with a wink and a smirk. He had been every bit the charming gentleman he had always claimed that he was – oh god she had fallen victim to it! She was supposed to be immune to his charm. But despite all that, the thought of leaving him was about as painful a thought as leaving her parents.
"Mom?" Henry called from beside the passenger door, waking her up.
"I don't want to go." She whispered into his chest.
"You have to." He responded, gripping her face and lifting it to see her. "You're going to get in that, thing, and take your son somewhere where you can both be happy." His voice cracked fleetingly.
"But I won't remember you." She whispered so that only he could hear.
Large tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked back to his chest, noting the corner of a scar peeping out from beneath his shirt. She realised that there was so much about him that she didn't know. Was that a new scar or an old one? How many more war wounds did he have? What was his childhood like? What were his parents like? Did he always want to be a Pirate; did he always want a life of high-seas adventure? When was his birthday? Did he miss his hand? What was it about her that he appreciated, that he craved? Did he love her; could he love her? What did he find so special about her that he was willing to leave his thirst for revenge behind, that he was acknowledging that the time had come for him to move on from Milah? It pained her to think that she would never get that chance to find out.
"Well that just means that when I find you again," his voice broke her out of her reverie, "I'm going to have to work extra hard." He quipped, bringing her face back to his.
She noted that the smirk fell from his face almost as soon as it arrived. She tried to smile, but couldn't. She wanted to kiss him, wanted to tell him how she felt but she couldn't. She let him kiss her forehead as she feebly attempted to wipe the tears away.
"Didn't you hear Regina? None of us will ever see each other again." She sobbed.
He smiled at her, the first one that had reached his eyes. "I'll find you Emma, I will always find you." He whispered into her ear.
She didn't just hear his words; she felt them in a way she never expected to. They scorched her soul in a way she never could have anticipated. She had seen movies where the guy declared his love for the girl in the rain and the girl buckled at the sound. Hook was doing more than declaring his feelings for her, the lack of those three little words only emphasised that. He was declaring himself, his intentions, his plans in a way that her parents, Neal, no one else could or even had. She had never felt this before, never knew what it felt like to be loved like this. Her eyes slipped shut at the sensation.
Then all she felt was coldness as he stepped away from her. Her eyes snapped back open, and immediately they found his. He backed away from her, a forlorn look on his face, and a fierce determined glint in his eyes as he backed away, not breaking their eye contact. She wanted to follow him, hold onto him and never let go. Absently she felt herself lean forwards, but then she caught sight of the billowing green smoke behind him, drawing ever closer. She cast one last look around, at the family she knew she was never going to see again, before she turned and got in the car.
She looked to her son as she turned the key in the ignition. This was it. She put her foot to the accelerator and felt the car lurch forward. One last look in the mirror showed her that the smoke had changed to purple and four people disappearing into its billowing clouds; four people that she and Henry loved more than they thought possible. She didn't even blink as the town line acted and everything disappeared. There was no smoke, no people, and no sign of a town ever having been there. Emma looked back at Henry with a small smile that he returned, but it did nothing to ease the chasm that had just erupted inside of her.
The floodgates were open as tears cascaded down her cheeks. She didn't need to look at Henry to know that he felt the same. After a few minutes she looked back in her rear view mirror and contemplated stopping. The tears were blinding her; she needed a moment, just a single moment where she could stand in the crisp air and let it all out, her tears, her loss, her failure as the saviour. But she didn't, she couldn't. She had to get away, had to put as much distance between them and Storybrooke as she possibly could. After about fifteen minutes of silent driving, she couldn't go any further as she pulled the car over to the side of the road.
"Mom, are you okay?" Henry asked quietly.
"Yeah, I just need a minute." She said through her tears as she jumped out of the car.
She was relieved that Henry didn't follow her because as she took a few paces away the tears engulfed her. She looked in the direction of Storybook as the tears flowed. They were gone, all of them; friends, family, love. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair, they were supposed to go together; they were supposed to be together. They were family after all. She wrapped her arms around her middle, wishing they were his, wishing she had acknowledged her feelings earlier. Who cares that she was a single mother who had shut herself off from love in order to protect her son? She had made that decision, the moment she held him, that he was the only love in her life, and for almost thirteen years she had never once been swayed. She would never see him again, and she knew that it was for the best.
"Mom?" She heard Henry calling out to her and the sound of his car door opening.
Thankfully her tears had begun to dry. She wiped them away one last time and was relieved when no more came. She knew he would be able to see it, her puffy cheeks and bloodshot eyes; he would know she had been crying, but she was just relieved that he wouldn't see her actual tears. Nothing could be worse for a child than seeing their parent cry.
She turned to see him walking towards her. "I'm okay kid." She said simply, wiping her face again.
"Are you sure?" He asked approaching her.
"Yeah, I just needed a minute; my allergies are playing up again." She said weakly as she turned to face him.
One look at him told her that he wasn't buying her story one bit.
"Quiet." She said to him in mock outrage.
"Okay so where are we headed? Where shall we find our happy ending? He asked reaching her.
She reached for him, pulling him into a hug. No matter what ever happened in her life, she could always count on one thing making her happy, Henry. He was her happy ending and had been since the moment she held him. She didn't know where they were going to go, didn't know what they would do, but what she knew as clear as day, was that whatever they did do, wherever they did go, everything she had, everything she wanted, everything she needed was here. Emma looked down at him, then back in the direction they had just come. The clouds approaching them had an ominous look, like they contained more than just a bit of thunder and lightning. They made her want to get back in her car and keep going.
She looked down at her son and said the first place that came into her head. "New York."
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