Emma knows that her son believes in fairy tales, but it takes her awhile to realize he believes in Disney movies, too.
Henry is hanging out at Mary Margaret's place with her on a Tuesday afternoon when the horrible realization dawns. Her son doesn't know its inappropriate for him to be visiting a teacher's home, and Mary Margaret hasn't pointed this out because it never occurs to her. Emma, with her suspicious mind, can think of all the arguments against having her son there, but she cannot give up any chance to see him. If she was a cautious person, she would never have come to Storybrooke in the first place.
They're puttering around with about an hour to go before Henry has to leave to meet his adoptive mother Regina. Emma always thinks of Regina with that qualifier. They've already done his homework – Mary Margaret's not physically there, but being in his teacher's house still inspires him to be a conscientious student - and have played three games of Magic: The Gathering using the decks Henry carries in his backpack. Henry had spent plenty of time speculating on the fictional identity of the town's librarian, stating that he's sure she's Beauty.
Emma has seen Ms. Beauregard, and while the woman is strikingly pretty, she's an obviously dyed redhead with coffee-colored skin. Emma can't think of Beauty as anything but looking like Belle, and never mind the woman is also in a wheelchair. Ms. Beauregard definitely not going to be dancing around in a yellow gown to a song sung by animated crockery.
It's not worth picking a fight with Henry about, so Emma keeps her silence. Emma has learned the value of staying silent when speaking aloud will only bring harm.
After Henry beats her for the third time, Emma heads to the refrigerator to refresh their juice glasses. She forgets that she's dealing with a ten year old with little sense of personal property, because it only takes a second for him to be into Mary Margaret's entertainment center.
Mary Margaret has invited her to help herself to anything around the apartment, so Emma knows there's no hidden porno collection or embarrassing secret for Henry to stumble across, but it bothers Emma on principle. Emma is a private person, and while she doesn't own much in the way of material things, she believes personal possessions should remain personal.
“Did you ask?” she points out, raising an eyebrow at him as he paws through the cabinet containing Mary Margaret's DVDs. The collection isn't too large, but there's plenty of family friendly films in it, and all of the films have a happy ending.
“Ms. Blanchard wouldn't mind,” Henry says.
“I mind.” Emma has never not found Henry's presumption rude. She assumes it's a result of the “nurture” end of childhood development, since having Regina as an adoptive mother would lead to that sense of entitlement. Henry never asks, because that way the answer is never “no.”
“Do you want to watch Wall-E or The Jungle Book?" he asks, before spying something farther behind in the drawer. “Oh! We could watch Beauty and the Beast. It's not right, but at least we can talk about how to get Ms. Beauregard to spend time with Mr. Manteau.”
“He's a computer programmer who never leaves his house,” Henry says. “He lives a couple of houses down from me.”
“Of course he does,” Emma says soothingly. Archie has convinced her that outright confronting Henry about his beliefs is the wrong tact to take.
“So, you game?” he asks, pulling out the Platinum Edition DVD.
“I don't think we have time for a movie,” she says.
“We can finish it tomorrow.” His smile is impish, and he's trying to extort her into promising him reign of her life.
She sighs, deciding that she can't be subtle. “I don't like the movie.”
“It's Disney,” he says. “Everyone likes Disney.”
“Not everyone, kid,” she says, before deciding a change in topic is in order. “I think Mary Margaret has a copy of Grimm's we can look through instead. It's better to read the real source than the Disney version, right?”
He brightens. “Really?”
“You can't take it with you, but sure,” Emma says. She walks over to the bookshelf to retrieve the book she'd noticed a couple of days ago from a shelf above Henry's eye level. Looking at shelves always reveals something about the books' owner, and Mary Margaret's collection is full of children's literature, just like a good teacher's should be.
“Can you read it aloud?” he asks. “That way we won't have to fight about when to turn the pages.”
She hears the lie in his words about his reasoning, but desire is real. Henry is too old to admit wanting to be read to, and is trying to hide it. There's something intimate about reading aloud, and Emma knows he's trying to build his bond with her. She wonders if Regina ever read him stories at bedtime.
“Sure,” she agrees. “Do you want to start with Beauty and the Beast?”
He nods, and moves over to the couch so they can sit together. Henry's body doesn't touch hers as they look through the book for the story.
And fail to find it.
“Maybe this is an abridged version,” she mutters. “How about we start at the beginning and see what we find?”
He agrees, and they sit back and flip through to start with The Frog King.
Emma Swan hates Disney movies.
She's eight and suffering from Disney overload while living in the fifth foster home she can remember (as an adult, she'll track the records down and figure out it's really the seventh).
Tracy – thank god she's not one of those foster mothers who insists on being called “Mama Tracy” or some other overly familiar, untrue name – smokes like a chimney and doesn't really give a shit. As long as the kids aren't burning down her house and the support payments from the Department of Children and Families come in on a regular basis, she's easy to live with.
Her foster mother doesn't like kids, and it shows. She's set up a special “playroom” for the children, and they're expected to spend their time there or in their rooms. Since Emma's triple bedroom is usually commandeered by her older roommate, Jeanetta, the playroom become her de facto prison.
The room was old ten years ago, but it's still relatively clean. The lighting is dismal and there's a box full of toys for the kids to share, but many of the toys are broken or missing pieces. Emma doesn't have any toys of her own, so she has to fight the boys to use the Hot Wheels in the communal bin.
There's a relatively new television/VCR set which they're welcome to watch tapes on, and it's always playing cartoons when Emma comes home from school. The Disney Afternoon isn't all that bad, but she's already seen all the episodes twice. She has a secret fondness for Darkwing Duck that she will not admit to anyone, but she will never like Tale Spin and she thinks the Rescue Rangers needs to have more Gadget and less Chip 'n Dale.
It's later in the evenings and the weekends that she learns to hate the movies. Theresa, her other roommate, is only in foster care because her parents died in a car accident six months ago and they couldn't find anyone else to take her. Theresa's a year older than she is, but Emma often feels like she's babysitting. Theresa spends all her time crying about missing her Mommy, or zoned out while watching Disney films. She'll watch one to the end, hit rewind, and then re-watch it.
Emma wishes the machine would break and destroy the tape. There's only so many times one can see The Little Mermaid without wanting to scream.
She keeps quiet about her low opinion of the films because she doesn't think Theresa can handle the cold truth that the films are a bunch of garbage. Emma hates lying, but it's better than having to put up with someone whose dreams have been shattered. Right now, Theresa needs to believe that there's such a thing as happily-ever-afters, and as long as she keeps her mouth shut about waiting for Prince Charming to come save her, Emma can ignore it.
The thing she really hates about the Disney films is there's so much waiting involved. Cinderella and Snow White and Aurora spend most of the movies being good, and then suddenly a prince rides in to rescue them. They “deserve” their happy endings because they've been patient and kind, and the audience is supposed to rejoice that they've been rewarded.
Because life is supposed to be fair like that.
Three months later, when Emma is transferred to her next foster home, Theresa is still being a good girl waiting for things to work themselves out.
Emma feels like she's the heroine because she didn't destroy the girl's fantasies.
Mary Margaret, like many teachers, works longer hours than most people would think. She may only teach until three, but there's a ton of behind-the-scenes work she does aside from grading papers. Since moving in, Emma has learned about the joys of lesson planning and ongoing educational requirements. Emma knows not to expect her home before five, and that's on a good day.
Henry thinks Mary Margaret is her mother, and is overjoyed that they're living together. It's strange, but the boy hasn't made the connection that if that's true, then Mary Margaret is his grandmother. Whenever Emma lets herself think on it, she mentally hums “I'm My Own Grandpa” because it amuses her to do so. The song is such an earworm that once the idea occurs to her, she can't get rid of it.
The sweetest, most insidious thing about Henry's delusion is that it is tempting. Mary Margaret is everything a child would want in a mother. When Emma had been younger – so young she can't remember how old she was – she would dream that her real mommy would come to take her home. Back then, she was still dreaming about the foster mother who gave her back. She doesn't remember too much about living with Harriet Black, but she does remember the hugs.
She thinks that Mary Margaret would have to be pretty good at giving hugs. It's an elementary school teacher thing.
It's also a Mary Margaret thing. Ruby calls her Mary Poppins behind her back, which is actually pretty clever. Mary Margaret is “practically perfect in every way.”
She's not thinking about this when Mary Margaret arrives home that evening. Emma is tired and halfheartedly browsing the internet for lack of anything better to do. She's staring blankly at her computer screen, feeling guilty for scanning Fugitive Watch for potential work. She doesn't intend to leave Storybrooke (mostly for Henry, but partly to spite Regina's prediction that she would be gone soon), but is unable to keep herself for looking for escape routes should one become necessary.
Mary Margaret looks tired as she shuts the door, calling a soft hello. She sloughs off her off-white winter coat, absentmindedly putting it on the coat rack that appeared last week with the advent of winter.
“Hi, Mary Margaret,” Emma calls back. “How was work?”
“The joys of standardized testing made for a fun-filled day,” Mary Margaret says, rolling her eyes. “Tomorrow we might get to do something that matters.”
“I'm sorry to hear that.” Emma had hated school as a child. It was only now that she has learned that teachers didn't always enjoy it. She gently shuts the laptop so she can focus on the conversation. “Want a drink?”
For a second, she thinks Mary Margaret is going to take up the offer, but then she shakes her head. “I need to make dinner. Stir fry all right with you?”
“Anything's all right with me,” Emma replies. Since moving in, they have gradually begun to split the chores and figure out how to live together. Emma is indifferent to cooking, but Mary Margaret loves it, so Mary Margaret does all the cooking and Emma cleans. They never actually sit down and talk about this kind of thing, but somehow the patterns are becoming set. The organic way they're developing as roommates is terrifying, since Emma is starting to think of this place as home rather than the place I stay.
Mary Margaret bends over to remove her flat-soled black shoes, rubbing her feet a bit before slipping into dainty-looking red slippers and gliding across the living room. Emma realizes Mary Margaret has spotted the green cover of Grimm's, and tries not to feel guilty. Emma is not a messy person, but she's not naturally orderly. She's more about expediency, and when she's in a hurry she doesn't always have a chance to put things away neatly.
Her new roommate is the opposite; Mary Margaret would make a good Disney princess. She's got that edge of perfection about her everyday routine. She puts things away while she cooks, and the kitchen is always spotless. Mary Margaret is the eye of the storm, naturally calming things and giving the world a chance to breathe for just a moment.
“Henry and I were reading it,” Emma says. “I meant to put it away.”
“It's not a problem,” Mary Margaret replies, before smiling slightly. “I guess you can never have too many primary sources.”
“Right,” Emma agrees. She's not sure she should be enabling Henry's fantasy, but at least it's better than trying to destroy it. Archie and Mary Margaret, who both have fancy degrees that mean they're supposed to understand children, are convinced it's a good idea for now, so Emma is justified.
Mary Margaret caresses the green cover with a smile as she cradles it in her hands. She's obviously someone who loves books. “I haven't read this in years.”
“Do you have a favorite? Story, I mean.”
Mary Margaret purses her lips, tilting her head as she thinks through the question. “That's like asking me to choose if I have a favorite student. I like them all for different reasons. Do you have one?”
“Not really. Henry and I were looking for Beauty and the Beast, but it wasn't in the book.”
“That's because it's not one of Grimm's stories,” Mary Margaret says.
Emma raises her eyebrow. “I thought all fairy tales were Grimm.”
“That's a common misconception. Fairy tales are actually oral stories that were collected and written down. The Brothers Grimm collected a lot of stories in Germany, but Charles Perrault was actually well known for collecting them in France, and Giambattista Basile worked primarily in Italy,” she says, slipping into her teacher's voice without recognizing she's doing so. “There's collectors who worked all over the world, and some people like Hans Christian Anderson reinvented the tradition.”
“You sound like you know something about this.”
Mary Margaret moves over to the bookshelf and puts it away like she's running on autopilot, not even thinking about what she's doing. There's only one missing place on the shelf, so she doesn't waste time checking the organization. “My master's thesis was on the history of children's literature,” Mary Margaret replies.
“Thus the love for fairy tales,” Emma says, leaning her head against her hand as Mary Margaret moves to the kitchen.
“Thus the love for fairy tales,” Mary Margaret repeats with a smile, before stepping forward to dig vegetables out of the crisper in the fridge. Her voice is a bit muffled as she tries to continue the conversation, “It's really important to understand how these stories influenced our culture. They help shape our children's worlds.”
“I thought the original fairy tales were gruesome,” Emma remarks. “You know, the stepsisters getting their toes cut off.”
“Life was more gruesome.” On cue, she produces a very large knife and starts dicing the green peppers. Emma can't help but shudder just a little at the timing, which is probably intentional on Mary Margaret's part. Despite her sweetness, she has a bit of a wicked streak most people wouldn't believe exists. “They help us explain the world, and let us have faith in something... that the good guy will win, that the bad guy will get what's coming to him, and that things will be all right if we work hard and earn it. It's a kind of faith.”
As soon as Emma mentions the f-word, Emma flashes back to living at Mrs. Stanislaw's house for two months during her thirteenth year. The woman had been dour and too fond of repenting for minor sins to be comfortable to live with.
“Do you think God is a fairytale?” A second after she speaks, Emma cringes inside because she has just gone there. Religion is one topic she's learned never to touch on, because it's one thing almost everyone feels fervent about. She's getting too comfortable with Mary Margaret and forgetting to think before she speaks.
“No.” The response is immediate, but Mary Margaret lifts a hand to finger the gold cross at her throat. “But I think they might be a part of God.”
The dichotomy of Mary Margaret holding a knife in one hand and her cross in her other crystallizes in Emma's mind, and suddenly she knows this will be the mental image she always thinks of when someone mentions Mary Margaret.
Emma Swan is too old to find it cool to dress up for Halloween, but it's free candy.
She's eleven and stuck wearing a second-hand Snow White costume. Virginia – her current foster mother - found the costume at the Salvation Army, and actually took the time to pin it up so it almost fits. She knows she doesn't look right, since who ever heard of a Snow White with blonde hair, but it's better than cutting eye holes in a sheet.
Virginia and Carl are some of the better foster parents she's had. They're not forcing her to take her two younger siblings trick-or-treating, but had instead elected to make her a deal. If she takes Bernie and Jaminda with her, they'll excuse her from doing chores for three days. Since she hates doing dishes, it's an easy deal for her to make.
Plus the free candy.
Lark Tree Lane is a working class neighborhood, but Emma feels safe walking outside at night. The people are friendly, and most of them keep their lights on. She marks the couple houses that don't, and wonders if the residents are going to wake up to find “tricks” have been performed to their trees with toilet paper. She would be tempted to go out to play with the big kids, but her foster parents would notice.
She shepherds the kids from house to house, not bothering to hold their hands but keeping an eye on them. She lets Bernie take a pee in Mrs. Schroder's hedge (there's no light on so the old lady won't see it), and keeps repeating assurances that Jaminda makes the cutest kitten ever. Both of the kids are being good, and their bags are filling up in a satisfying fashion. She's gotten too many sweet tarts and not enough actual chocolate, but she can make the others trade her for them.
She's just about ready to turn around and march them home when they're cornered by three boys wearing cheap plastic masks, the kind that the school programs warn against for fear of suffocation. She thinks she knows who the one in the Yoda mask is, but she's not one hundred percent sure. The boys are chuckling in an unpleasant fashion, and she knows what's about to happen.
The bigger kids steal their candy.
Emma's reflexes aren't quick enough to close her fingers over the fragile Wal-Mart bag, and the one wearing the George H.W. Bush mask gains control of her candy. Later on she'll realize how stupid it is, but she can't stand by and let them win. She yells at them to stop and throws herself forward to get back the candy.
What happens is predictable to anyone with an ounce of common sense. She is definitely no Wonder Woman, because she can't take on the three boys on her own. The boys have no manners or never heard the old axiom about how to treat a girl, and it only takes a minute for them to put her down onto the ground. They taunt her about being helpless, and one of them throws his hands up in the air in a faux-pleading mockery.
Emma brings Bernie and Jaminda home, and all she has to show for the evening is two crying seven-year-olds and a black eye. She's already tearing off the costume when she crosses over the threshold, muttering to herself that next year, she's dressing as Ellen Ripley – or better yet, she's not dressing up at all. Snow White was a pushover princess, anyway. There's no way she's going to be anyone's damsel in distress.
On Thursday, Henry tells her they can go see The Muppets. He appears at the station after school, interrupting her glacial progress on traffic incident reports. She tries not to feel cornered as he gives her a smile that warns her he's after something.
“It's playing at The Strand,” he tells her. “They'll let me in for half-off if you buy an adult ticket,” he wheedles in his matter-of-fact-this-is-rational way that she's never able to completely turn down.
“I'm not a huge fan of puppets, kid,” she replies. She hardly ever calls him by name, since Henry isn't what she would have named her son. She knows in her head that this boy belongs to Regina, but that doesn't mean she can't be passive aggressive about it.
“Muppets are not puppets,” he replies in that curiously calm tone he assumes when he thinks the adults around him are being stupid.
She's not going to get into an argument about what a muppet is. Engaging Henry never goes well, since he's just as stubborn as she is and just as unwilling to admit defeat.
“Sure,” she agrees. “Fine. Whatever.”
“So we can go to the Saturday matinee.”
“I didn't say I'd go,” she tries, realizing it's a losing battle. Having a conversation with Henry is an exercise in frustration, since he's as silver-tongued as his father was. Emma doesn't like to think about Jack, but the comparisons are inevitable. It's impossible to tell if Henry is Henry because of his upbringing with Regina or his genetics.
“'Did you have other plans?” he asks, and the puppy eyes are irresistible. She doesn't have any other plans, and she's not about to lie to him. She hates it when people lie to her.
“We can meet at noon,” he tells her. “I'll meet you outside the theater.”
She opens her mouth to object, but shuts it a moment later with a click of her teeth, and finds herself agreeing to his plan. He gives her a bright smile, content that he has what he wants, and announces he needs to go home now.
He breezes out the door just as suddenly as he appeared. Emma takes a deep breath, centering herself again. She wants to spend time with Henry. Taking him to the stupid movie will provide her with a good excuse for when Regina inevitably flips out at her. At least this activity is more appropriate than hatching another plot to break up a marriage.
Someone chuckles, and she turns her head to see Graham standing next to the dartboard, absentmindedly rolling a red dart between his fingers. She raises an eyebrow challenging. “Do you need me for something?” she asks.
Trying to keep her relationship on an appropriate level is a balancing act she hasn't quite mastered. Strictly speaking, Graham is her boss and his flirting could be considered sexual harassment by some standards. But the attraction between them is mutual, and the employee handbook she was given on her first official day is going to be knowingly disregarded within the next couple of months. It's frisson, the awareness of where he is and how he is and how much she wants to suck a hickie into the fine curve of his stubbly neck. She's only human. At some point, they're going to end up in bed together and what happens afterward will be typical of her relationships.
That doesn't mean she's not going to put up a fight and pretend they're “just friends.”
“I'm working on the schedule for the next month,” Graham says. “Are you okay with working second shift?”
Schedules. She hasn't held a job with schedules since she was twenty. Her acceptance of this post had been more of a function of her wanting to piss Regina off than for any desire for regular work and security. She hadn't realized the details of being tied down to a regular job since she's so used to freelancing and calling the shots herself.
Second shift is the two to ten bracket. Henry's school doesn't get out until three.
“Day shift only,” she tells him. “I can't work nights.”
“Oh,” he says, and there's a long, knowing pause. “Any reason?”
She shrugs. She's not going to admit anything she doesn't have to. Graham may be cute, but she doesn't know if she can trust him.
“You're a deliberate mystery, Emma Swan.” He tilts his head in a fashion that draws attention to the column of his throat, and the wild impulse to climb him like a tree crosses her head before she ruthlessly suppresses her libido. “I don't know who you are.”
“I'm a hard worker who does day shifts,” she replies, her lips curling slightly, keeping her posture pure and making an effort not to send him any flirtatious hints.
“We'll see.” He pauses, before saying, “I've already checked the sex offender registry. And I also checked on your criminal history.” While his tone may be playful, she realizes that he's telling the truth. He did try to track her.
She knows it's hypocritical, but she really hates it when someone runs a background check on her. She does her best to keep off the radars, but there's no way someone who is existing on the right side of the law can avoid having an electronic trail right to their doorstep.
And her record isn't entirely clean. Graham doesn't deserve an explanation, so she fobs him off by stating, “I work in a rough business. We get assholes trying to play the blame game all the time. Please note I was never convicted.”
“Assault and battery is no laughing matter,” he replies.
“I'm not laughing.”
He laughs, like he's expecting her to join in.
She can't. Emma appreciates humor, but she doesn't laugh much. She's spent most of her life just surviving. Right now, surviving means keeping her hormones in check and not jumping Graham to find out what his skin taste like. There's a difference between needs and desires, and learning that distinction is the reason she's made it as far as she has. She may want Graham, but she needs to be here for Henry.
“Just days,” she repeats for a magic third time.
“Just days,” he echoes, acquiescing more gracefully than she deserves. “Maybe I should see about scheduling so we both get an evening off together next month.”
Since she's not sure what she wants the answer to be, Emma smiles and lets him interpret it as he will. She doesn't need to make this decision yet. She has more immediate concerns - like a son who is insistent in believing in fairy tales.
Emma Swan finds the attempts to teach her to appreciate “culture” a joke. She doesn't plan on doing anything with culture in her life, since culture doesn't want to do anything for her.
She's fifteen and cynical when she attends the performance of Peter Pan with her English class. Her teacher made them read the book and watch the cartoon version, and now they're going to have to suffer through a play.
It's some kind of Bull Crap Arts Program sponsored by Elitist Snobs Who Think Art Is Going To Fix Everything. Emma would rather go to school, because at least there she can cut her classes without anyone looking for her. She's been assigned Jillian Gutzman as a “buddy,” and Jillian's nose is so brown that Emma can smell the shit ten feet away.
She squirms in her seat, a captive audience for the matinee performers. The only thing that's cool is watching the actors get into the harnesses to “fly” on stage about fifteen feet off the ground. Everything else sucks.
She's confused as to why anyone would believe that the woman – there's no mistaking the curve of her chest or hips when she stands at an angle – is a preteen boy. Later on her English teacher will force them to watch the old film starring Mary Martin in order to prepare their compare-and-contrast essays, and she'll think it's even more ridiculous that the tradition of the theater is to shove middle-aged women into Peter Pan's tights.
The story is boring, and she feels zero empathy for any of the cast. The Darlings are privileged brats, and Peter Pan is an idiot for wanting to be an orphan. Her disbelief doesn't suspend, and she spends the rest of the time picking the play to bits in her head, even as Jillian makes the audience-appropriate reaction sounds like she's reading stage cues from the script.
Emma yawns as Tinker Bell saves Wendy, and can't bring herself to care as Peter tries to save his fairy friend. The rest of the audience is clapping Tinker Bell back to life, but Emma doesn't bother to lift her hands. This is stupid, she thinks. It's just a light pointer and some bad sound effects.
Jillian spends half the bus ride home asking why Emma had to be such a spoilsport, causing Emma to grit her teeth for a good twenty minutes before the girl's whining gets to her.
Emma finally snaps and tells Jillian that they're too old to believe in fairy tales, and it's no wonder nobody likes her because everyone thinks she's a baby. Jillian thankfully shuts up, and Emma indulges in her own sense of vindictive satisfaction.
Ruby is good at her job. It's Emma that who is a horrible patron. There's nothing Ruby does that Emma doesn't inadvertently screw up. When she ends up wearing her hot chocolate for the third time in a week, Ruby is already there to take care of things.
“Here,” Ruby says, leaning over and wiping a rag to soak up the spilled liquid. She doesn't seem to care that bending in that tight red shirt is letting Emma see all the way to China. She's wearing a black and red bra, Emma notes idly.
“Thanks,” Emma replies a second late. “Sorry about the mess.”
“No big,” Ruby replies with a shrug as she straightens up. Her lips curl sideways, like she knows something Emma doesn't. She's lying, but at least it's a polite lie and not one that matters.
“Thank you,” Emma replies, watching as the would-be punk goddess wander to the next place that needs to be scrubbed.
Granny's Diner is like hundreds of small-town diners Emma has visited over the course of her life. The food's mediocre with the exception of truly fabulous pie, but the atmosphere is priceless. There's always people around, and they all know each other. Emma learns more by listening to the casual gossip than she could by conducting thorough background checks on Storybrooke's inhabitants.
She's always felt comfortable at diners. They have the perfect balance of hominess and business, of friendship and casual acquaintance. It allows her to feel like an included outsider.
Emma is at the diner to meet with Archie. For the last month, they've had Thursday dinner with each other, whiling away the time. Originally, they'd just discussed Henry, but they're gradually broadening their topics. Emma is slowing falling deeply in like with him, and she's unable to stop herself.
Archie Hopper is a righteous man. There is something about him that makes her want to believe in Henry's delusion, because Archie would make an excellent Jiminy Cricket. She's not inclined to like people since she's found they will always disappoint her, but she is making an exception for Archie. He may be gentle, but he has balls of steel when it counts. He's overly invested in Henry, but she's not about to object when it's clear the man wants what's best for the kid.
He's also prone to running late. She knows that caring for Pongo takes priority to promptness, and when a dog has to go, he has to go now. Some people might be insulted, but Emma knows that the way the owner treats his pet is an important indication of character. Emma can wait, because Pongo can't.
The clock is clearing ten minutes past the hour when he finally hustles in, his face flush from the cold. He apologizes profusely, but she merely smiles and waits for Ruby to deliver him a cup of green tea.
“How have you been?” he asks once settled.
There's something about him that loosens her usual restraint, so she gives him an honest answer. She tells him about Henry and his visit to the station, which naturally leads into Graham's sort-of invitation for an evening off together.
“So he asked you out?” Archie asks, his face alight with intelligence and concern. From someone else, the question might come off as teasing, but she knows he means it sincerely. He is genuinely interested in the answer and not just the gossip.
“Not so directly,” she said. “I might have been reading into it too much.”
“Most women know when a man is interested,” Archie replies softly, shifting in his seat. “Especially when the man is used to wooing.”
It was such an archaic word that she couldn't help but smile at his unknowing charm. He's rapidly becoming her closest acquaintance in the town, with the notable exception of Mary Margaret.
“Most men I know aren't interested in romance,” she says. She's slept with a number of guys since Henry's father, but they had all been casual flings. She likes sex, but prefers to avoid the entanglements that a full-fledged relationship might lead to. Nowadays, there is no point in pretending that sex and relationships aren't two entirely separate things. She's good at one and crashes and burns at the second.
“Maybe you don't know the right men,” he says. “I understand your former profession might not have... exposed you to positive aspects of society.”
She snorts. “To put it mildly.”
He glances down at his hands, then looks into her eyes. “Forgive me if I can't divorce myself from my profession,” he says, “but have you ever thought you don't give people enough credit?”
“No,” she says bluntly. “I've seen how wicked people can be to each other.”
“They can also be kind,” Archie replies, his eternal optimism that he can fix things shining through. “We all have the option to do right.”
“Maybe,” she replies. “But my experience is nine times out of ten, someone is going to screw you over if they can.”
He winces, and she's immediately guilty for bringing up a sensitive topic. She knows he might have originally been in Regina's pocket, but she respects the way he found the courage to stand up for Henry.
“You're the tenth time,” she tells him, reaching out and squeezing his hand. “I know you want what's best for Henry.”
“I do,” he tells her. He doesn't make any kind of suggestion that she is what is best for Henry, and she reminds herself not to be disappointed.
Emma Swan hates that she's becoming yet another statistic for unwed teenage mothers in foster care.
She's eighteen and scared, even though she won't admit it aloud.
Emma believed she was in love, and that her boyfriend was going to be the one she spent the rest of her life with. He was handsome and kind, and when he kissed her, she forgot her own name. All she cared about was the tension in her body, and the way she wanted to melt into him and never let go. He was hers, and she was his and they were going to make their own happiness together. They weren't perfect, but she thought they had a chance because they loved each other and wanted to make it work.
Emma knew all about safe sex thanks to the annual “chats” that her school mandated she went through as part of her phys ed classes. But his hands were on her breasts, and there was no way she wanted to slow him down to check to see if he had condoms, because he might have stopped.
They had sex, and in the aftermath she decided that for the first time in her life, she was genuinely happy. She didn't want a storybook romance. She wanted a romance which was all hers.
Instead, she gets neither when she finds out the creep is married and she is pregnant. Her heart is broken, but she's more worried about what's going to happen now that she's gone and messed up her plans for an escape from the system. An “accidental miscarriage” would be the neatest solution, but Emma cannot bring herself to even think of the idea.
Emma struggles to find the solution that will work. For so long she's been promising herself that she was going to get out of the system as soon as she was eighteen, but her wings are turning into lead. There's not going to be an escape if she has a kid. She knows all about the vicious cycle, and doesn't want anything to do with it.
But this is her child, and she knows what it's like to be given away. She doesn't want her baby to feel unwanted. It's an unsolvable riddle, and she feels the walls caving in on her. Emma hides her pregnancy for a couple of months, but her morning sickness becomes so intense that her current foster mother guesses.
Her social worker shows up the next day. Ms. Ulster simply looks at her, and Emma knows it's time to pack her bags for another move. Usually her foster parents warn her, but Layla and Eric aren't talking to her.
Instead of moving into yet another foster home, she's placed in a group home that specializes in pregnant teens. There's eight other girls in it, and Emma pulls back into herself as her pregnancy advances, refusing to make any connections. Ms. Ulster visits the mandated number of times, but doesn't actually talk to Emma. She always calls Emma “Jane” which is weird since Emma can't figure out how you get to Jane from Emma.
By the time she's nine months along, there's not a single part of her body that isn't swollen, and she doesn't know what's going to happen tomorrow. She's used to uncertainty, but she's got a child growing in her and a decision to make. She's survived for so long because she's always only depended on herself, and now she's paying for making an exception in her “trust no one” personal mantra.
Giving birth is seventeen hours of pain, pain, pain. The medical staff are all strangers, and she is more isolated than she ever has been in her life. The sequence of events are blurry in her head, and nothing straightens out until her boy is born and she's done delivering the afterbirth.
A young nurse with pretty green eyes offers to let her hold the freshly cleaned child. Emma has made the decision to give him up, since keeping him would be a mistake for both of them, but she can't resist the opportunity to have him in her arms just once.
There are no words to summarize the amazement she feels as she studies him. He's perfect, and she lets herself count his fingers and toes to make sure they're all there.
She holds her child and knows she still has the right to change her mind. She has three days before the adoption becomes irrevocable. She's not going to, because a pretty baby boy is much more adoptable than a toddler someone else has started to raise. Emma won't make the same mistake that destroyed her childhood.
She doesn't know what else to do with him, but can't let go just yet. No one has taught her what a parent was supposed to do with a newborn. The only thing she can think of is singing a lullaby, but she never learned any lullabies since none of her foster mothers took the time.
The only song she can think of is "Baby Mine" from Dumbo. Her throat starts to clamp shut as Emma thinks of the image, of being chained down while her child flies free outside her prison – but her baby boy won't be flying home to her at the end of the story. She cannot sing, because it would only be a lie.
Instead, she lets herself kiss him on the forehead gently, and whispers the name she's chosen. His adoptive parents will call him something different, but for this moment, he's all hers.
Emma will never, ever have to give her son's real name away. It's hers, a secret kept close to her heart, and as long as she never says anything aloud, no one will ever be the wiser.
One of the things Emma dislikes about Storybrooke is that the village really does belong in a story – although not the kind Henry imagines. She thinks it's closer to Pleasantville or Twin Peaks or Seahaven than something good. It's just that kind of creepy place. For a moment, she has kind of double-vision , imaging the people who are on the street breaking out randomly into song about their lives. She saw that Buffy episode, and agrees that living in that kind of Hollywood world is nightmare inspiring. Emma likes honesty, and musicals never are.
Leroy, her former prison mate, chooses that second to cross her line of sight whistling "Heigh Ho," and she looks away quickly.
Today the sky is the perfect blue that only comes in winter, and she pulls her jacket tighter around her body as she waits outside The Strand for Henry to meet her. He is running late, and Emma wonders if Regina has found out and put a kibosh on the outing.
She checks her phone to see if there's any messages before realizing that Henry doesn't have her number. He may not even have a cellphone; it's one of the many things she's never thought to ask him about. Most kids she knows get them about his age nowadays, but one of the strange things about Storybrooke is how technology doesn't seem to have really arrived. She hasn't seen anyone glued to their IPhone, and the IPods that are ubiquitous everywhere else she's ever been in the last decade are mysteriously absent. For Emma, who is as used to electronic communication as she is breathing, the absence is one of the most off putting things about this town.
Henry is convinced that time didn't move until she arrived. A part of her, that sly sense of humor that is such a major coping strategy to deal with the crap life deals her on a daily basis, points out that he's partly right since Storybrooke has missed the digital age. She double-checks the clock in the center of town and notes it's still not working correctly.
The movie is supposed to start at twelve thirty. Emma is just resigning herself to being stood up when Henry arrives with Regina in tow – or maybe it's the other way around.
The woman's dark eyes are flashing as she steps out of her car. Henry pops out of the passenger side like he has springs on his behind. Thankfully he has enough sense to let Regina lead the way, instead of running ahead and giving Emma a hug.
Regina is dressed in a slimming design made with a cut that speaks to classic elegance. She is the kind of woman who doesn't need to follow trends, since everything about her radiates majesty. Today she's wearing royal purple, and it's a color that suits her. Every time Emma sees Regina, the contrast between them is stunning and she has to remind herself that she has nothing to feel inferior about. She is a strong woman in her own right. She may lack elegance, but that's part of her charm. They're different, but Emma is secure enough in herself not to feel threatened.
Sometimes the little lies to herself easiest to justify. It's positive thinking, really. Never mind that Emma Swan is the world's original pessimist.
Regina owns the ground as she strides forward, somehow both feminine and powerful at the same time. Her movements are brisk as she comes over to Emma, her face hard and determined.
“You're lucky I'm such an understanding person,” Regina says without preamble or proper greeting. “I've had to reschedule my entire day just to accommodate this little outing of yours.”
Emma doesn't point out that Henry was the one who invited her. She's not going to let herself be drawn into a fight in front of him. “Thank you for bringing him,” she replies.
“I could have walked,” Henry says calmly to Regina without a hint of remorse.
Regina doesn't reply to Henry's statement, instead keeping her eyes trained on Emma's face. “I need him home by three,” she says. “We have plans for this evening.”
“I'll give him a ride,” she says.
“Straight home from the movie,” Regina demands. “No stops at the diner or library or whatever the hell Henry tries to convince you is a good idea.”
Henry's expression is somewhere between tired and exasperated, but thankfully he keeps his mouth shut and doesn't say anything to escalate the already tangible tension.
“Fine,” Emma agrees.
“I need to go,” Regina announces, and then leans over to pull Henry into a stiff-armed hug. She's close enough that Emma catches a whiff of the now-familiar the fragrance she's wearing. Regina always smells like apples, but it's not the fake scent that comes from Bath and Body Works' Country Apple. It's more real somehow and lacks the cloying sweetness of a manufactured fragrance. Regina's scent should be comforting, but Emma's never been a big apple fan. Apples are a relatively cheap fruit, and she had been fed more than enough of them through school lunch programs and foster care.
Regina pulls away from the boy a second later, turning and heading back toward her car without another word or threat. Emma puts her hand on Henry's shoulder, turning to open the glass doors of the lobby of the theater.
“I don't need a ride,” Henry tells her. “I can get home by myself.”
“Kid, you're the kid,” Emma says in exasperation as the smell of buttered popcorn hits her nose. “It's natural she wants to know where you are, especially after your little adventure in the mine.”
“She's not my mother,” he mutters again. “She's the Evil Queen.”
There is no way Emma is touching that one. If Regina had been Rex, Emma thinks Henry would have been trying to hook them up à la The Parent Trap. The more cynical part of her wonders if that isn't actually what he's doing, since the twenty-first century is the age of equal opportunity loving. The last person in the world Emma wants to play the “Henry Has Two Mommies” game is with Regina, so Emma really hopes she's reading too deeply into things. Emma doesn't have anything against women, but she sure as hell has something against Regina. The hatesex would not be worth it.
Henry has turned Regina into the enemy in his head, and Emma knows she's supposed to be the hero. Archie told her it's easier for Henry to paint people into black and white roles, and she shouldn't do anything to destroy his fantasy.
The idea that Henry could possibly be right is seductive, and she refuses to indulge his fantasy that far. If Regina really is a wicked witch, then Emma would be justified in sweeping him away.
The thought of kidnapping briefly passes through her mind. It would be so, so easy to take Henry away from Storybrooke, and start a new life somewhere else. A good bounty hunter knows how to fake the papers, and Emma is convinced she could get away with it if she gets Henry to play along. She could spin the Sleeping Beauty story, maybe, and convince Henry that he's a prince who needs to be hidden from the Evil Queen.
All she has to do is get him into her car, and spin him a tale.
It's tempting, but Emma isn't going to offer him that poisoned apple. She can't live a lie. She knows that if she needs to, she'll face Regina, head to head, and give her son the heroic showdown he's clearly plotting in his fairytale-infested head.
Instead, Emma sighs, and asks him if he likes salt on his popcorn.
There's no way some lawbreaking asshole is going to get the better of Emma Swan.
She's twenty-three and powerful. Bounty hunting (the politically correct term may be bail bondsman, but she knows she's a bounty hunter) is something she lucked into, but she is very, very good at it.
A former roommate of hers, a rather stupid girl from Jersey, had ended up in the business, and told her it was good money. Emma's bounced between jobs ever since high school, and she's never found anything she could tolerate for more than six months. But she needs to eat, so she walks up to a bail bondman's office and offers her services. The man looks her up and down, and tosses her a book of rules she'll need to follow. Don't fuck up and you'll get paid, he tells her cynically.
She ends up pulling in her first bail jumper the next day.
It's like something clicks inside her. All of the jobs she's been through have provided her with a skill set that's flexible, and her pretty face makes people underestimate her. She's given a task and the bail bondsman doesn't care how she accomplishes it as long as she doesn't piss the police off.
She collects a couple of commissions and squirrels away at least thirty percent in order to build her own bank account. In less than a year, she has enough money to start putting up her own funds and becomes a bail bondsman in her own right. It's even better, because she's in charge of her own life and doesn't answer to anyone. She is not unaware of how ironic it is that she finds freedom by denying others theirs.
Most of the people she posts bail for end up paying her back with a small bit of commission. It's the ones who don't that she secretly enjoys more.
There's nothing like the thrill of the hunt. She likes taking names and pushing back, because without fail the guys who jump bond are assholes. It's a one hundred percent guarantee, and the law is on her side when she goes to drag the assholes back. Occasionally she pushes the threshold of illegality to do so, but that never stops her from doing anything. For Emma, the most expedient path is always the best one.
The skip she's currently chasing has a daughter at an elementary school. Most of the assholes she's after are smart enough to cut all their ties, but every now and then one of them is unable to let go. Most of the bounty hunters she knows – they're not friends, but she does need to keep up with the business – think they're idiots, but she understands.
She's dressed in slacks and a polyester shirt, the kind that an elementary school teacher would wear. She has wire-frame glasses that are just out of fashion, knowing they'll help her with the pose. While she is not actually employed at the school – getting through the background test would take more time than she's willing to invest, and she probably wouldn't pass it without committing identity fraud – she looks like she might be a teacher.
She's been lurking outside the school for the past couple of days, getting a feel for its rhythm and keeping an eye out for Joran Vander Plaats, who's accused of setting up a Ponzi scheme and bilking members of his bowling association out of a couple of million dollars. Emma thinks the members of the association are just as culpable as Joran, because who the hell thinks investing in bowling balls that would theoretically retail for several thousand dollars each is a good way to get rich quick? It always amazes her how gullible people can be.
She knows what Joran looks like – he's pushing forty and is starting to carry a bit of extra weight around the middle despite a muscular build. Some people might consider him handsome, but Emma doesn't like sandy-haired men (because she once liked one too much). She's also learned not to trust appearances, and since she's read the charges, there's no way she'll ever see him as anything except the scum he is.
Right around the time the bell is set to release the little monsters for the day, he shows up at the school. She waits for him to get out of the car and approach, making sure she can deprive him of his escape route. She has to get him before he crosses the boundary line of the school since she wants to avoid trespassing charges. Apprehending a skip is so freaking complicated sometimes.
She approaches him from the right, stepping in front of him about ten feet from the school. Behind her, she can hear the sound of the intercom, announcing that the students are released for the day.
The guy's not supposed to be dangerous, but desperate men have been known to do stupid things. She never puts bail up for someone she's not sure she couldn't take one-on-one, but a couple of them manage to land a hit or two before she inevitably drags them in.
The man sees her, and he tenses, his internal alarms going off at being approached by a stranger. Joran has been on the run for two months, and he's the type of skip who operates under heightened paranoia. She doesn't even get a chance to speak before he takes a swing. She easily ducks below his arm and makes her own move, kicking him in the balls so hard that she ensures his daughter will never have any siblings.
As he crumples to the ground, she hears the screams of a little girl. She glances over her shoulder, and curses when she realizes that the man's daughter is standing on the other side of the school fence. The little girl is dressed in a Bambi shirt, and has her blonde hair up in pigtails. She's too little to understand what is going on, and Emma can't stop to explain. Instead, she picks up the phone to call her police contact to come collect the guy, ignoring the girl's begging.
This little girl is always going to see her as a villain. The image of Daddy being taken away is going to imprint on this girl's memory, and Emma is going to feature in her nightmares.
Emma tells herself that she's just doing is necessary. Joran Vander Plaats is a jackass who needs to pay for his crime, and he's the one ultimately responsible for what is happening. He is the one who needs to bear the blame for traumatizing his child.
She turns her head away, wondering why all she can think of is the Hunter in Bambi, and if he ever turned around and saw a fawn standing off in the distance. It's funny that he's considered one of the greatest villains of all when he might have simply been trying to put food on the table. The Hunter never gets a chance to explain his side of the story.
The Strand is a legacy theater that's approaching its 100th anniversary. There's a plaque on the wall in the lobby – decorated in cheap, replicated 1930s décor – that explains the theater was originally built in 1913, right before The Great War, and was one of the first places in Maine to show talkies in 1927. It's been refurbished twice since then, once in the seventies and again in the nineties. The glitz suits the place, because she knows that all it would take is a couple of good scrapes to unearth the dross that's underneath. Emma thinks it's about due for round three with the decorators.
It's the only theater in town, and it shows movies about a month after their initial release date. She's heard Ruby complain about having to wait so long to see the latest Twilight film, but the next nearest theater is over fifty miles away. If Storybrooke's residents want to see a movie, they have to see it here.
“If you get the tickets right now, we'll be able to get the best seats,” Henry says. “And popcorn,” he adds as though it's an afterthought instead of his primary focus. “We can dump in M&Ms.”
“M&Ms or popcorn, not both,” Emma says.
“I had to try,” he says. “Popcorn. Can you get the tickets and snacks while I go to the bathroom?”
He doesn't wait for a response, instead turning and heading off toward the men's room sign. For a second, she watches him go and wonders if he's trying to pull something, but decides that Henry is more likely to enlist her as an accomplice. It's Henry's sense of entitlement kicking in again.
One of the many things Emma doesn't want to admit to herself is that Henry is exactly the kind of boy she would have hated to be around growing up.
It doesn't take any time at all to purchase the tickets, soda and popcorn from the lone vendor. Henry still isn't back, so she looks around the lobby for lack of anything better to do.
The framed movie posters advertising the future releases from the studios are all for mainstream stuff, and she there's nothing forthcoming she wants to see. When Emma watches movies, she prefers cynical art house stuff, since mainstream Hollywood just infuriates her. Life is not tied up in neat little packages with pretty ribbons inside two hours.
“Which film are you seeing today?” a voice asks from one side, and she nearly jumps out of her skin as she spins around. Someone has come up behind her, and she could have sworn there was no one there a minute ago.
She knows who it has to be. Mr. Gold is always lurking to the side, just out of focus. He oozes into the room, just like carbon monoxide. He's suddenly there, no one sees him coming, and he's deadly.
Emma forces her face to remain calm as she confronts the worst boogeyman in the town. Regina pisses her off, but Mr. Gold is the one who scares her.
She's been around rough characters most of her life, and she's learned when it's best not to mess with someone. Mr. Gold sets off every one of her internal alarms, although she's not able to pinpoint why. He's a jackass involved in human trafficking, but she's encountered many of those jackasses.
The one reason she can pin down is that Mr. Gold does not lie, ever. He's mastered the ability to be selective with the truth, and that makes him one of the most dangerous men Emma's ever met.
“I'm sorry if I startled you,” he apologizes genteelly.
“It's fine,” she lies. “What are you doing here?”
“I own this place,” Mr. Gold tells her.
It's only her promise to Henry to watch The Muppets with him that keeps her from turning around and marching right out. She shouldn't be surprised – Granny told her Mr. Gold owned the entire town.
Emma doesn't want to be in this conversation any longer than she has to be, so she goes for the direct route. “Is there some reason you're talking to me?”
“There's always a reason, Ms. Swan,” he replies, and she still can't pinpoint the origins of his accent, a little thing which bugs the heck out of her. She thinks it's Scottish, but it's not quite right. “Today, I'm simply making polite conversation with one of my business partners.”
There is nothing simple about him. He may be dapper, but she knows that under all his civility, he's the craziest son of a bitch she's ever encountered. She owes the bastard a favor, and she's not likely to forget that anytime soon.
He's going to make sure of that.
“I see.” She pauses, struggling for a way to get out of this conversation without doing irrevocable damage to her position with him. “My movie's about to start, so I need to go get seats.”
“I don't think any of the matinees are going to sell out today,” he assures her. “Plenty of seating.”
“The good seats always get taken first,” she replies, juggling the bucket of popcorn and soda in her hands. There's no way to comfortably handle two large sodas and a mega tub of popcorn.
“Indeed,” he says. “Everyone always wants the best seat in the house, so I won't keep you or your companion,” he replies, glancing over at the men's room where Henry is emerging on cue. “I hope you both enjoy the show.”
“We will,” she promises, baring her teeth in a grotesque parody of friendliness. She hurries over to Henry, intercepting him before he can come over and greet Mr. Gold.
Emma Swan is finally thinking on where she came from, and not just where she's going.
She's twenty-six and feeling regret. She's made something of herself, and gotten out of the system. She has the nice apartment and good salary she wanted growing up, but she can't help looking around and realize that the thing that is missing is the child who should be hers.
She knows she made the right choice by giving her baby up, but that doesn't mean she doesn't miss her son every day. A woman does not stop being a mother because her child is not with her. She thinks about him, and wants to know what he looks like and acts like and if he's happy. She wishes she had allowed the hospital to take a picture of them together, because the only thing she has is a memory faded by nearly ten years of use.
Emma had opted for a closed adoption, but she's always second guessing that. She burned that bridge before it could be opened. She knows she doesn't have the right to interfere in his life, but she understands that he won't be able to find her as a tradeoff. She doesn't want him to find her, because she can offer him nothing except apologies for giving him away.
As the longing for her child increases, Emma can't help but start to search for her own records, to figure out if the story about being found abandoned on a doorstep are really true. She's gotten good at tracking people via electronics, and she wants to know what her own trail looks like and if maybe her parents are out there somewhere. She doesn't want to meet them, but knowing their names would be enough.
It's hard to find information on her time in foster care. She keeps coming up against the privacy laws. While technically she could go through the long, drawn out process of requesting her own records from the system, she decides to take another route. She justifies it as simplifying things for everyone involved.
When Emma traces through the records – or at least the ones that have been digitized – she finally locates the initial police report about her discovery and learns that people have been lying for her entire life.
She wasn't left on a doorstep. She was left on a highway.
Somehow, it pisses her off more than she thought possible. She knows she is a bucket full of issues with a bag of chips, but it's somehow worse to know that not only did her parents not want her, they left her to die. It's only sheer luck that she survived long enough to make it into the system.
It takes her awhile to admit it, but this discovery is the death knell for any hope she might have had in happy endings. The movies had always promised a joyous reunion for an orphan when they found where they belonged. Even that little kid who had to be rescued by talking mice was handed a family in the end. Emma isn't going to get that.
She can at least take the satisfaction that she did better by her son. She gave up her parental rights to get him properly adopted. It was the hardest thing she's ever done, and while she may regret that he's not in her life, she's coming to terms with it. It may mean she will never see him or know what he becomes, but that uncertainty is worth the chance he has at a good life.
Emma spends the entire movie watching her son instead of watching the film.
The theater is about half full, and most of the patrons are closer to Henry's age than her own. This film is riding a nostalgia wave, but Emma isn't engaged on that level. She has vague memories of watching The Muppet Show on Nickelodeon, but was never that interested and doesn't recall any of the details. Instead, she focuses on Henry since he's the most fascinating thing in her life.
It's always to think that this amazing little person came from her. He's so intelligent and lively, and there's always something going on in his head. Having the chance to just sit and stare at him is a luxury she never thought she could afford.
When the movie ends and the lights come back up, Henry is full of energy. Sitting in a dark theater is a challenge for any child, even one as naturally introverted as Henry. He can't wait to share everything he's thinking.
Emma lets him babble, not contradicting any of his opinions about how fun the movie had been or why he thinks Kermit is the epitome of cool. She collects the empty popcorn tub in order to bin it and lets it wash over her, enjoying the moment.
Henry belatedly notices she's not contributing much to the conversation. “Did you like it?”
Emma hates the idea of a “happily ever after” because life doesn't work like that. The only unchangeable ending is death; if there's life, then the story is still continuing. She didn't enjoy the movie because she can't suspend her disbelief long enough to buy into the happy ending.
But she's not going to tell Henry that. “It was a Disney film,” she says instead. It's not lying if you avoid the issue. “I thought you said everyone likes Disney.”
The brilliant smile he gives is enough to sooth any misgivings she might have about misleading her child. Henry tells her they're definitely going to see Brave together when it comes out, and next time they can sneak M&Ms into the theater. It's supposed to be in 3-D, which means the film is going to be even more awesome.
“We can go to the show right before dinner and then go to the diner,” he tells her, just assuming that his plans will be fine with what she wants.
She looks at his face, and wishes she could promise that. But she doesn't know where she's going to be in six months, and she doesn't want to make any promises she cannot keep. Emma gives her word sparingly, and will not lie to someone she loves.
Henry doesn't need to be disappointed in her yet. She'll let him down someday, but that day isn't today. For today, she will smile and keep quiet, letting her boy believe what he wants. He has the chance for a childhood, and pointing out that Disney movies are just as realistic as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny would be cruel. Emma doesn't believe the crack that the House of the Mouse is trying to deal, but she's willing to enable her son for now. What she wants most in the world is for Henry to be happy.
Emma Swan doesn't like Disney movies, but she wishes she could.