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Heart Bound

Chapter Text

The day she sets foot in Storybrooke, she just knows that everything will be different. It's a strange feeling, this premonition that won't go away. Perhaps it's a good omen, or a foretelling of terrible times to come. Of course, she can't tell which it is.

But as always, Emma Swan takes her hopes in stride with her doubts, telling herself repeatedly that she shouldn't want for anything but secretly wishing that finally, this could be home. Her home, the one she's been searching for since she was really young and naïve and lonely.

Not so young now, but still lonely. Praying she's not foolish this time around, like she had let herself be before.

Looking at the simple village houses, the rolling hills and cliffs in the distance that indicate how close they are to the sea, she realizes that her journey has come down to this. First, it was helping Robin find his "happy ending" (with a dish of sadness on the side of that tale, her own personal love story that became all twisted and wrong in one instant)... Then Graham, in all his sweetness and melancholy and his dear, dear mother who became like her own... And now this.

True be told, she had begun to see that maybe she had a talent for reaching out to others like herself, those who had been scorned and hurt and broken.

She had been told she had a gift – and from the looks of her new surroundings, she will really need to believe in this.

True to her nature, she has only one item of luggage, containing all that she owns in the world. Currently, it is heavily resting in the grip of her right hand, the left clinging to the hat she is holding desperately onto the top of her head.

Her skirt whipping about her legs, Emma descends down the dirt path, obviously well-trodden if judging solely by appearance, and curses under her breath when she nearly stumbles into a rather large prickly pine tree. Now that she notices it, there are trees of many varieties anywhere her eyes glance upon, the greenery almost overwhelming in stark contrast to the sandy beach she can just glimpse beyond the boundary of the buildings and streets.

Nevertheless, the countryside and nearby wilderness are oddly complemented by the domesticity of the little town, so quaint and solid that it seems to belong to its own world, free from factories and smoke and the ever present "division of the classes." As if all is at peace, and life is as it should be.

The visible solitude in the place that is to be her new abode gives her both relief and a throb of agony, too many reminders and suppressed longing coming to the surface at once.

He broke her heart. He gave her hope, then tore it away with his exposed lies. And worst of all, how she had loved him in return–

Picking her steps carefully amid the muck and wet ground, she barely realizes where she is going until she unknowingly collides with a warm, quickly moving form. God, she must have been daydreaming again...

"Oi, watch where you're bloody going, will you?" The voice is very cross and irritated, disdain in every word. But when her gaze comes into focus and she looks up to see the stranger and apologize for her clumsiness, her breath gets caught in her throat and she nearly chokes on her whispered "pardon me."

Striking blue eyes glint at her pointedly, furrowed brow and grimace indicating just how displeased he is at being pummeled by her. Without saying anything in return, neither accepting nor even acknowledging her apology, his stare narrows into one of heat, and she flinches visibly under that angry sight.

Before she can get a really good look at him, he mutters something unintelligible, pulls back and steps around her, sauntering once again in the opposite direction.

He doesn't turn around to peek back at her, but she makes a note of his long black leather coat, the tousled dark hair that is being brushed constantly by the capricious winds.

Harrumphing at his rudeness, she straightens her skirt and coat and proceeds to head toward what she hopes is the new schoolhouse, her boots sinking into a particularly muddy hole that she couldn't avoid.

Staring at her stained petticoat and soiled shoes, she huffs in exasperation. What a way to make a good first impression...

"This will be your room, and the water closet is right in there. I'm sorry the place is so small, but the council couldn't afford to accommodate the new teacher any more than necessary – well, at least you have a garden out back, and there's lots of privacy..."

Emma tries to tune out the new girl's optimistic chatter – Mary Margaret Blanchard, was it? – because after one hell of a carriage ride and three straight days on horseback, she is too damn exhausted to give a care about the size of the so-called hut she would be living in behind the school, the sad excuse for a yard another dismal aspect of the whole presentation. It has only one room, and the only blessing of it is that she doesn't have to take care of "bodily needs" outside. Otherwise, her new "house" is a moldy, damp, and gloomy den – so cozy.

So very encouraging.

"Anyway, if there's anything you need, feel free to call on me or David – I live in the house just along the path, and he's on the farm two houses down."

She snaps to attention, blinking rapidly. "Um...thank you." Emma grins weakly, hoping her attempt at a cheerful expression fools Mary Margaret, who is not only unusually beautiful but also as graceful as a fairy, her movements ethereal as she tinkers through the furnishments with a visible glare of distaste. "I don't want to be a bother–"

"But you aren't!" she replies, knocking down an old pewter mug that was already toppling over the corner of a worn-out bookshelf. It crashes to the floor and dissipates in a puff of dust, and suddenly, the absurdity of it all – the long trip, the reason behind it, the desire for change and her fear of it – makes Emma chuckle. Then the girl with the snow white complexion and raven hair begins to laugh as well, until they both are wrapping their arms around their stomachs to hold back more peals of laughter.

"Well, this is quite a welcome," Emma finally retorts, dropping her bag next to the dilapidated bed and flopping down on the mattress, only to arouse another cloud of dust. Smiling, Mary Margaret joins her side, patting her tentatively on the shoulder when she sniffles and frowns at her clasped hands on her lap.

"Everything will be alright," Mary Margaret says kindly. "Hey, if you'd like...I can send David down here during the next few days – he's good with tools and fixing things, so maybe he can restore this place a bit? Help you get back on your feet?"

"Who's David?" she asks, sighing from exhaustion and defeat.

"Oh – how silly of me! David Nolan's my...well, we're betrothed." She glances from under her eyelashes. "He's a shepherd, but we have plans. We want to leave this village, see the world. With his mother, of course."

"How wonderful for you." Emma really doesn't have the energy or the patience to sound elated at this point. Instead, a wave of disappointment is trying to throttle her, and she's pushing it down with every breath she takes.

However, Mary Margaret seems to understand her better than she thinks, because she only gives her another warm, sympathetic smile in response before rising up and then reaching down to lift up a covered basket and lay it down on the oak table. "From Granny and Red – so you won't have to worry about cooking for a while."

Emma nods and bites her lower lip, preferring to stay silent. But right before Mary Margaret leaves, she sticks her head through the open entrance and says, "I can tell that this may look...unpromising...but I just want you to know that we're happy you're here, Emma. So...have hope that all will get better with time?"

The memory of the pure radiance and light in the girl's flawless face is what keeps Emma from bursting into tears after night falls, huddled in the moth-eaten covers as she watches the flame of her solitary candle flicker in the bitter wind.

Alone and lost, just like her.

So much for new beginnings, when the past is haunting her at every turn.

It was a mistake to come here at all. Why had she agreed to this?

Despite her bloodshot eyes and runny nose the next morning, Emma puts on her best dress, combs her hair thoroughly and rolls it into a simple chignon, and checks her overall appearance in the cracked mirror hanging on the wall. She hesitates before departing, taking a minute to sneak a peek under the basket of goodies Mary Margaret's friends gave her. Surprisingly, it's a cornucopia of hearty wealth: scones, breads, a soup mix, pastries, and a large variety of vegetables and fruits adorn the sides and center, arranged decoratively in a circle.

Losing her appetite when she remembers where she has to go this instant, Emma dejectedly lowers the checkerboard patterned towel and hurries out the door, strangely eager to confront whatever future is waiting for her.

It doesn't take long to find out exactly what she's up against.

First, she has to sit through Sunday service, listening to some thin, red-haired man with spectacles drone on and on about the importance of listening to one's conscience, a mission in life dedicated to not only the finding of one's happiness but also helping others to find theirs as well. It isn't that she doesn't concur with anything he is saying.

She just despises people preaching at her – that's all.

By the time the sun is high in the sky, Emma is standing awkwardly by the minister as he beckons everyone to come to the schoolhouse, where the blessing and honorary first lesson will take place.

She also hates being the center of attention.

Still, she can't help feeling lighter inside when Mary Margaret approaches her and gently entwines her arm around hers, backed by a golden-haired, handsome smiling man who could only be the famous David Nolan.

He does indeed introduce himself as such, welcomes her to Storybrooke with as much charm as he can muster (because his schoolboy bashfulness seems to be more bountiful), and wordlessly escorts both her and his fiancé to their destination.

Out of the corner of her eye, Emma sees him enfold Mary Margaret's other hand in his own. Deep in her heart, she envies them, that they have trust in each other and their feelings. If only all could be so fortunate...

It hurts not to trust your own heart for fear it will break you.

Shaking these morose thoughts away, she puts on a wide smile for the sake of the children in front of her, all eagerly sitting in their plain wooden desks are in fact simple tables and benches. They are all ears after the minister's dedication, waiting for her next words. Clearing her throat, she takes a long look around the crowded room, at all the hopeful, doubtful parents who are dreaming of giving their offspring a good education and better prospects for tomorrow. They are counting on her, both the children and their parents.

Remembering how it began, how it ended, how it continues, Emma straightens her pose, grabs the piece of chalk from beside the blackboard, and starts to write.

"My name is Emma Swan – you can call me Miss Swan – and from today onward, I'm going to be your teacher."

She turns and faces them once more, standing tall by her fine cursive script etched out in white. "Welcome to my classroom."