It was late when Emma drove her yellow bug back into Storybrooke a few days after she'd made her decision to return. As much as both she and Henry had wanted to leave at that very moment, there were important things such as her job and the apartment's lease that had needed sorting out before they could depart New York for good.
But that was all behind them now and as they got out of her car, Emma glanced around at the familiar buildings and finally felt a sense of peace that had evaded her ever since she'd left. She'd been right. She was home.
Looking over at Henry, she saw the huge smile that lit up his face and realised that it had been quite a while since she'd seen him look that happy. Immediately she regretted not returning sooner. Hell, she regretted leaving if she was being really honest with herself, which was what she planned to be from now on. No more hiding behind fears and doubts. She'd managed to take this big step in her life and she wasn't about to stop now. She was going to be all in…with everyone.
With a warm smile she put her arm around Henry's shoulders then they crossed the quiet road and headed for her parents loft. The lights from Granny's diner twinkled in the distance and she briefly wondered if Killian was there or, what was more likely, down at The Rabbit Hole. Once she'd seen her parent's she was going to find out she'd decided on the trip down.
She and Henry entered Snow and David's building then climbed the stairs to their apartment. Emma felt her trepidation build with every step, her palms becoming moist at the thought of facing them, unsure of her welcome after her behaviour. They reached the door and she raised her hand to knock then hesitated.
"It'll be okay, Mom," Henry assured her with a smile. "You know they love you."
Emma gave him a brief smile in return then nodded and took a steadying breath. Mindful of the hour and possibly disturbing her baby brother, she knocked softly on the door.
"Maybe they're asleep," she murmured when there was no reply after a few moments but then the sound of footfall could be heard and she drew in a sharp breath as the door flew open to reveal David standing there with a slight frown.
He stared at them both for a second as if unable to comprehend what he was seeing then an expression of utter shock spread across his face.
"Hi Dad," she ventured with a nervous smile.
Seconds later she was engulfed in his warm embrace, hand cupping the back of her head as he hugged her tightly.
"Emma," he choked out.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, holding him back just as fiercely and squeezing her eyes shut to try and stop the tears that were gathering there from falling. She'd missed him so much.
"Shh, it's okay," he soothed emotionally before loosening his grip a moment so that his grandson could join them both.
"David, who was it?" came Snow's voice suddenly.
Emma jerked back from her father and Henry and saw her mother standing a few feet away with a look of shocked bemusement.
"Mom," she said with a tremulous smile as she rushed over to her.
"Emma," Snow gasped before flinging her arms open and gathering her close. "Oh, it's so good to see you, sweetheart."
"It's good to be home," her daughter replied, tears now beginning to run unchecked down her cheeks.
Snow pulled back to look at her incredulously.
"Do you really mean that?" she asked uncertainly trying to hold back her own tears of joy.
Emma quickly nodded her head, guilt colouring her tone as she admitted brokenly, "I should never have left. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm so sorry."
"You're here now and you're staying, that's all that matters," she told her with a watery smile.
Emma swallowed hard and dashed away her tears as she tried to smile back at her. Even though she knew of her parent's capacity for love and forgiveness, she still couldn't quite believe how wonderful they were being. She was so unused to anyone caring for her that much but she was finally beginning to learn. Naturally it was the hard way because she knew her life and her own protective walls wouldn't let it be any other way, but she was learning nonetheless.
"We are," she affirmed not only for herself but Henry and her parent's.
Snow let her go then turned to Henry and gave him a fierce hug too before looking between the both and asking, "Are you hungry? I can make you something."
They both nodded and while Snow busied herself in the kitchen, Emma grabbed some tissue and managed to compose herself before sitting down next to her son at the counter.
"How's my baby brother doing?" she finally asked as she watched her mother whisk some eggs.
"He's really amazing," David enthused before adding proudly, "He actually smiled at me yesterday."
"Oh, he did not," Snow immediately refuted with an indulgent smile. "He's far too young, it was just wind."
She turned back to her task and David mouthed, 'he did' to Emma and Henry causing them to grin even as Snow called out, "I heard that."
David's eyes widened comically in surprise, earning a chuckle from them both and Emma's heart warmed at the knowledge that these wonderful people would be in her life from now on.
"Can I go and see Mom after I've eaten?" Henry suddenly asked eagerly.
Emma hesitated a moment before answering. She wasn't in any hurry to see the Queen after the way they'd left things but the hope on her son's face was too much to ignore.
"Sure, I'll drive you there," she told him with a smile.
And then she'd make a stop off to see Killian too she decided. Her desire to let him know she was back in town for good was beginning to come to the fore now that her reconciliation with her parent's had gone so well. She just hoped that the pirate would be so forgiving as they were. She knew she'd hurt him badly when she'd left and she fully expected to have some serious making up to do when they finally met again.
Snow finished cooking and dished up the eggs onto plates before placing them down with a smile in front of her daughter and grandson. They both gave her their thanks before tucking into the food with gusto.
"So, how has everything been here?" Emma queried in between mouthfuls of food. "Any villains…well, new villains come to town while we've been gone?"
David glanced at his wife then shook his head.
"No, no villains. It's all been pretty quiet here for a change," he replied lightly.
The blonde paused with her fork halfway to her mouth when she noticed their look, her eyes narrowing slightly as she tried to gauge what it meant. When she couldn't get a read on anything amiss she continued eating then stated as casually as she could muster, "Once I've dropped Henry off, I thought I'd stop at Granny's to get a hot chocolate and hopefully see Killian. Do you guys want me to bring you anything back?"
She looked up at them a little self-consciously, not quite knowing what they thought about the pirate but determined not to hide her feelings for him either. They'd been there when he'd heatedly kissed her goodbye, so it should hardly be a surprise for them that she'd want to see him.
Her parent's glanced at each other again but this time she could definitely see the worry that was evident in their eyes. Emma put her fork down with a clatter and stared at them with a slight frown as she began to feel concerned.
"What's wrong?" she asked a little fearfully her mind racing with all sorts of possibilities.
"Nothing's wrong, exactly," David hedged looking uncomfortable.
"Then what is it?" she queried, her voice raising a notch when they looked at each other yet again but still weren't forthcoming with an answer, "Tell me."
"Hook's gone, Emma," Snow blurted out a little more curtly than she'd intended.
The blonde stared at her in shock, her mouth dropping open as she frantically tried to make sense of what her mother had just said.
"Gone?" she finally repeated dubiously. "What do you mean gone? Gone where?"
"The Enchanted Forest," David revealed dispassionately. "He left about a week after you. He was supposed to be back four days ago but as yet he hasn't returned."
"We think something must have happened to him," Snow confessed unhappily.
"Or, more likely, he's just been held up," Charming interjected optimistically.
Emma looked from one to the other trying hard to comprehend what they were telling her.
"But…how is that possible? I thought there wasn't a way to get back there," she said incredulously.
A sudden wail echoed through the apartment and Snow gave her daughter an apologetic look as she hurried off to fetch Emma's brother.
"It's time for his feed," David explained unnecessarily.
Emma nodded then looked down at her plate and pushed the uneaten eggs away, the very thought of food turning her stomach.
"Look, why don't you go and take Henry to Regina's?" Charming suggested, "Snow would've fed Neal by the time you get back and then we can all sit down and talk."
Mind racing a mile a minute at all the possible explanations they could come up with, Emma reluctantly agreed and nodded to her son.
She made it to Regina's in record time and, after a truly awkward encounter with the once Evil Queen, she was back in her bug and racing across town as fast as she could.
Bursting through the door to the apartment she dumped her keys onto the kitchen counter then headed over to the sofa where her parents were seated. Standing in front of them, she folded her arms and tried to rein in her wayward emotions. The lights around the room flickered briefly but she didn't even notice. There was only one thing she was interested in at that moment and her parents were the only one's with any kind of answer.
"Okay, I'm back," she told them a little tersely, "Start talking."