She’s learned from her mistakes, but Neal Cassidy is a tempting mistake to make twice. After all, he did give her Henry and her bug (along with a year in prison.) Ultimately, the scales tip to good. “No Emma, you cannot go back to him,” her brain interjects, “You are not a teenager anymore. He is most definitely bad for you.” She knows the little voice inside her head is right, but she also knows that staying away from Neal will be a challenge.
Turns out, when your ex-boyfriend that let you take the fall for him is right in front of you, it is much easier to remember the bad than the good. Even though she’s been silently wishing that Neal would never turn up again (maybe he actually did die in a fire,) now she can finally say what she has spent years thinking up. The giant argument that never got to happen.
Before Emma can get a word out, Neal is already running his mouth, “Can I see my son? I don’t know much about him, but I know that he’s here.”
Emma responds in a flash, “He thinks you died before he was born. I even made you sound like a decent guy.” A chunk of hair breaks free from its restraint and starts whipping around the top of Emma’s head, “He thought firefighters were the closest thing to superheros a normal person could get, so--”
“Well they are.” Of course he would interrupt, “Look Em, we already have something in common!”
“Excuse you, you are in no place to be cutting me off or calling me Em. You lost that right when you let me wind up in prison for a year for your crime.” Unfazed by his reaction, she continues, “And any ten year old thinks that about firefighters and police officers, so you could have that in common with any kid.”
Still trying to fight a losing battle, Neal argues, “The whole prison thing was over a decade ago! Holding onto grudges isn’t good, you know.”
“Yeah. Care about me now, now that your ass isn’t on the line.” Emma knows that this is not a grudge. A grudge is a petty dislike over something minor that person did to you. This is not a grudge. This is something far more, something that might not even have a name. Her brain processes her newfound anger in milliseconds, “But let me get this straight, knocking a girl up and then setting her up to spend a year in prison is something you should readily be forgiven for?”
“Well, yeah, Em. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
“Guess what? I did not need you in my life all those years ago, and I sure as hell don’t need you now.” Neal had managed to get under her skin, to press her buttons, setting her on a path to obliterate any shred of an argument he might come up with, “My family is here, Neal. I am not some weak, pitiful little girl anymore,” Taking a step forward, “Now you can’t make me think that you’re the only person that cares about me. I have parents, I have friends, I even have my son. My son.”
Neal takes Emma’s step back as his chance to defend himself, “He is not just your son, Emma. He’s both of ours. You can’t say I wasn’t involved at all.”
“Involved how exactly? You had the easy part, I was the one that grew a human. Regina raised him, and did a hell of a job. You…” The words get stuck in her anger, but when they make their way to the front of her brain, she lets them go without a second thought, “You are the exact person I do not want to be, so why in the hell would I let you around my son? The kid who trusts me, who knows me so much better than you do.” She closes the distance she had created, “I’ve gotten into this fight before, and I’ve won it.” The wind picks up around them, adding emphasis to her words, “I will protect my son from you no matter what it takes. If I have to dig up every dirty little secret of yours, I will.”
“Careful Em. Remember how many of those secrets are tied to you.”
“Is that a threat?”
In a tone that makes the threatening intent perfectly clear, “I’m not saying it is, I’m not saying it isn’t, but go ahead and take your final bow as the savior. If I go down, you’re going down with me.”
Emma has never driven home faster or hugged Henry tighter. Neal will not win this, he can’t. Not for her sake, but for Henry’s.