Un long Voyage (37) – Once Upon a Time - N°1
Note : Court os écrit en anglais et que je n'ai pas eu le coeur à traduire, centré sur la relation frère/soeur d'Emma et August à travers les US s'ils étaient restés ensembles. D'où le fait que je me sois arrêtée à des moments stratégiques, c'est-à-dire avant Storybrooke où ils forment vraiment un duo fusionnel ; idem, le côté un long voyage de 28 années pour rentrer chez soi, et au final, pas plus de détails. Bonne lecture ! :)
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
She was barely four, walking on shaky legs as a strong summer wind blew outside the castle ; she had skip her nap time, again, to go down the narrow path that led to the bottom of the island their home was built on. She would sit there for hours straight, the helm of her dress all ragged down and wet by the time they found her – if they did at all – her blond-white hair tangled by the wind, and in her green eyes an unusual glint of nostalgia nobody could quite understand.
At first, they didn’t know what to do; stopping her was clearly not working, since she always found a way to sneak out of her room to go down the lake, her feet leaving a wet trail wherever she went. She was a bit too bright for her age, and it was as bad as it was good; but for that – whatever it was, a child whim, a passion for exploring or an eagerness to swim – even Emma looked like she didn’t had any clue, either.
So everyone let her go to the lake, and come back with a wet dress and a wild smile on her face.
Mostly, it’s David who finds her.
She was smart, maybe a bit too much – she rarely picked the same spot twice in a row, and when she did, it was one of those lonely days where they’d both watch the sun set over the lake, an unexplainable feeling of longing in their hearts.
They’d left the bank before it was too dark, so they could find their way back to the path safely and into the castle to eat dinner; she never told anyone about her expeditions, about the treasures she was keeping in the box safely tucked under her bed, or about anything at all. Emma was a timid little girl, never alone but somehow, lonely.
An evening, after reading to her and talked a bit with her daughter, Snow asked her about the lake. Emma just smiled to her, kissed her goodnight on the cheek and hugged her close.
- I love you Mummy, please don’t go, she muttered sleepily, her face hidden into Snow’s bosom that evening.
- Don’t worry, Snow said softly, kissing her daughter’s white-blond hair, if you don’t find me, I will always be here, she added, pointing to Emma’s heart and promising her, I will always find you.
- Maybe she’s just lonely, suggested Ruby one day, watching Emma playing with tiny stones and seashells.
They weren’t far from the castle and both Ruby and Granny had come with them to keep an eye on both the princess and the queen; relatively safe, they were sitting in the warm summer sand of a tiny beach bordering the lake – not Emma’s usual spot, but she didn’t seem to mind.
- You think so?
- Well, honestly I-I don’t know, answered Ruby. But with the curse and all that stuff, we may have forgotten that she’s just -
- A little girl, realised Snow.
The very next day, Emma and Marco’s son were presented to each other.
At first, she left him every now and then to go to the lake, disappearing quietly and leaving him to wander alone in the castle. He never said anything at all about it, letting her disappear and, after a few weeks, covering for her everytime she wanted to go ; Emma had found a surprising yet precious ally as much as a trustful friend in Marco’s son. Soon, Pinocchio was taken down the path and to the lake, wetting his feet together with Emma and both coming back drenched but never getting sick.
They got along well, and both Snow and David were relieved to see their daughter no more alone – even if somedays, they could still see that heartbreaking sadness in her eyes; and Pinocchio knew better than to tell them anything, no matter how much they tried to question him.
- She will tell you one day, he (re)assured them, but the truth was he didn’t know. Neither did Emma. (And many years would pass before they’d both finally understand the true meaning of the lake).
The age gap wasn’t an issue at all. Being eleven, almost twelve, Pinocchio had gotten taller enough over the last few months so he could carry her on his shoulders, making her laugh all the way down to the banks. Here, he would teach her to swim and what stones she should pick to make them ran like water spiders on the still surface of the lake. Sometimes, he’d be waiting for her to finish whatever it was she wanted to do alone before taking her back home.
The summer went by with knowing smiles and children laughs all along.
In the first days of fall, a storm came and wrecked most of the villages nearing the castle; Marco and his son had to go help with the woodwork here and there, thus leaving Emma alone for the first time in months. She didn’t cry, and was asking for news everyday – going to the banks alone, she said, wasn’t fun without Pinocchio to carry her back or to do ricochet contests.
They didn’t come home until late winter, the curse following them closely.
He lied for both of them, telling she was his little sister and their parents had just ditched them on the corner of a road without any explanations at all – he had told Emma not to say anything, to just agree with him so they could stay together, and she had agreed, her eyes full of tears and a sadness he knew he could never stop.
They were alone, but at least, they were together.
They were taken to a big house full of children like them ; his name no more Pinocchio and Emma’s little hand in his, they had crossed the tall doors an old lady was holding for them, smiling kindly as they came in.
The sheets were itchy and the toys too differents to be funny, at first. They couldn’t go outside as much as they wanted to, either, so the life there quickly became dull, as dull as the world they were now in. Emma didn’t laugh anymore, her eyes filled with an emptiness that matched August’s ; he held her tight everytime a family would come and pick a friend to make him or her their child.
The same old lady who greated them on their first day here would tell them not to worry, that one day, a family would come for them too. That one day, they would find a home of their own ; as the years passed by, they sounded more and more hollow until both Emma and August understood that they would never find anything like home was back in the Enchanted Forest here.
Here, everything was a cold and dull shade of grayish yellow, with no people wanting them both; and soon, August became too old to stay. He took Emma with him, and for the first time in years, they went somewhere near the sea.
She didn’t remember exactly how it got on her wrist. A tiny buttercup. A crest she had seen a thousand times before recognizing it on a wall at a tattoo parlor.
When August asked her why this one, the only answer that came to her was that it reminded her of her father.
At one point, August got a bike and riding it was like riding the thunder, loud and wild; their home never forgotten, they tried to make the best of those years where they could do nothing but wait for the right day – Emma’s twenty-eight birthday. They craved to walk again these enchanted lands they’d come from so long ago – so long ago, it slowly started to feel like an old dream they both made up to forget their past.
- Maybe this wasn’t real, she told him sadly, eyeing the tangled waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The dreaded day Emma would stop believing was written somewhere in August’s plan for them; she had been too young to recall all the things he had, the castle, the rooms, daylight glowing in shades of red and blue and green in the colored windows where the throne was standing; the cold water on their naked skins as they swam in the lake, the huge rock they would sat on right after, the sun warming them to the bones ; the seashells hidden under her bed, the necklace of tiny white pearls her parents had offered her, so little time before the curse finally happened – so many things he would never forget, but she couldn’t as easily recall.
- Hold on to me as we go, he answered her, his hands cupping her face. I’m real, and I’ll forever be.
He kissed her forehead, her eyelids. She hugged him close, telling him she believed him; as the days went by, deep down, August knew she wasn’t. Not anymore – and then, they got separated. Emma ran away from him, holding tight the hand of a man she knew as Neal Cassidy - and who had, centuries before the curse happened, gone by the name of Baelfire.
When her days being a convict were finally over, Emma knew she had done nothing to earn a friendly presence at her releasing. But even with all that had happened, the good and (mostly) the bad stuff, August was there, waiting for her with the last message Neal ever left to her; he was still here, with the yellow bug and a warm embrace.
She never told him how much sorry she was, a total mess, that she had been naïve beyond reason, and that she felt awful for everything that had happened, because somehow, he already knew all of that; the only thing he had told her, she’d never forgot it to this day (and it is so revelant to who they truly are, that Emma is surprised they weren’t born with it craved into their skins) :
- We are more than the worst thing that’s ever happened to us, he promised her, holding her close.
Then, he smiled brightly, his eyes full again of a love that was never gone.
They left Phoenix not late after that, him explaining to her that he had talked Neal out of her life after his betrayal; her telling him about the pregnancy and the closed adoption.
- I want to go home, she smiled sadly, hugging him tight.
He hugged her even tighter, blinking tears out of his eyes before the thought of his father made him wish he was cursed like everyone else.
- We will go back, Emma. It’s a promise, okay ? We will go back, and we will find them.
The far, far away memory of her mother telling her that she would always find her came back, haunting her with even more strenght than it ever did before; until then, August and her would bear the crushing weight of all those old memories, her father getting stabbed by the Queen’s black guards, blood staining his white shirt and her mother screaming for them to go.
The curse happened twelve days after Emma’s four birthday.
They weren’t allowed near the lake that precise day because of the rain. Even today, the memory remained, barren, of how they were watching dark and tall waves riddling the surface of the lake through one of the windows in Emma’s room; Granny Lucas was watching after them, knitting a scarf, her crossbow not so cleverly hidden on the table behind her.
She was singing something, the tune becoming fainter as the raindrops hit the windows harder every second.
- Do you think it will stop soon? Emma asked, pouting a little.
- I don’t know, he shrugged. Rain isn’t good for wood. Makes it swollen and heavy.
Then, thinking aloud, he wondered if so much rain could result into a flood. The last one had been ridiculously small, but Marco had told him of ones so much worse; of sleeping people drowned in their own beds, of houses destroyed like they were made of matches. The stone walls of the castle were safe, as was everyone living inside of it. But what of the others? The ones living outside? The sailors on their ships?
- Don’t worry, children; this castle and this forest have seen far worse. A little rain isn’t going to harm any of us.
That’s why nobody saw the curse coming, that day; dark stormy clouds were gattering above them, throwing every ounce of water they had, hiding away the sun and vanishing every light. Soon, Black Knights were everywhere, looking for Emma; Pinocchio was the one who took her down to the nursery, where the wardrobe was still waiting for her, protected by the King who eventually got hurt.
And, shielding Emma’s eyes from her father unmoving form, obeying Queen Snow’s last order, Pinocchio closed the wardrobe panel.
August never asked her why exactly she wanted to go to Tallahassee – they never went that far south, even to reach a warmer sea. The one bording the East Coast was enough, closer to what they had home than any other ocean they would find across the world; this they just knew.
Emma told him, not long after they’d find a small flat to rent, that she was looking for Neal. She assured August he did good by telling him to leave her alone, but months had pass and she wanted –
- A good reason, a better one than making money or covering his ass, she finished bitterly.
And there was one, but it was not August’s story to tell.
Neal had not known who Emma was, so August had to tell him everything – everything. That she was a lost princess as much as he was a lost wooden boy ; that Emma had to break a powerful curse to free the whole Enchanted Forest cast from the Evil Queen’s schemes, when the day would come. Almost immediately, Neal’s eyes had widdened in shock and disbelief –
- How do you know ?
- I’m Pinocchio, August said. And I’m also Emma’s brother.
- Ah, so obviously you’re not lying and I have to believe you ?
- See my nose growing ?
- I’m not stupid, Neal answered, cocky, his hands in his pockets. This is a land without magic; you wouldn’t be made of wood here, Pinocchio. Same story goes for your nose.
- I am not lying !
- Maybe, he supposed. But what about Emma ? For all I know, you’re just a jealous so called biker who go around chasing people and telling them to stay away from a sister who never ever mentionned you !
- We have to go back, started August less and less angry, desperate for Neal to believe him. We have to go back, all of us – we have to go home, he added, fighting back the tears, the loneliness, and the orphaned part of him who never really stopped screaming after they got here.
It didn’t seem to work.
- There is no home for me, and there won’t be any for you if you go back, told him Neal, looking as desperate as August was. My father probably destroyed everything with dark magic a long, long time ago before your infamous Queen came to curse everyone ! Why don’t you try to live here, where there’s nothing who’ll make us sad and hurting and heartbroken ?
- You can’t condemn us to live under your laws – to live here, in this wrecked realm where nothing is ever good or great anymore, where you left her to rot in a cell you should be in!
He had punched him, then, accusing him of everything, breathless and angry, finally understanding who that man was.
- Let her go, Bealfire!
Neal’s lower lip was bleeding, and his cheek was already turning a deep shade of violet ; and August couldn’t do anything else but screaming, eleven again, angry again at parents who weren’t there.
- You left us ! He yelled again. You went away from our land for this – this wicked reality we are forced to live in until Emma’s of age ! So stay here if that please you so much, but don’t make us !
Neal was looking at him, eyes blurry with tears.
- Don’t, August finally whispered, falling to his knees and almost crying, his eyes lost in the many things he had left behind by taking Emma to this wardrobe.
His father, the many hours they spent in the workshop, their Sunday walk shopping for strong, old wood in the big marketplace the castle held; the numerous things he was told, stories of his homeland he never stopped telling Emma as they were growing up in this one.
Neither of them talked for a long time, lost in memories of a far away past.
- If you go there, Neal finally said, you’ll free my father into this realm. He’ll come after me, he added, his voice shaking from what could only be fear.
- I don’t care what your father will choose to do – I’m– we– we both can’t stay here anymore. It’s too hard, we have to go back – we have to go home.
But going home, it seems, won’t be that easy.
They still have to wait for another seven years before Emma can break the curse – and tonight, after two long years of research, they’re leaving Tallahassee behind to try another city.
They still don’t know how they are supposed to break it; nobody told them, and strangely, Emma isn’t the one anxious about it. She’s watching the horizon and humming what can only be a Pirate of the Caribbean song. The movie was released more than a month ago, but it never quite left her.
- Hey, tell me one thing, he asks her that day.
- Yeah, sure. What is it ?
Her bright green eyes never leave the sun, the glowing water; the horizon shine at her like it knows who she is, and his question is totally forgotten for a moment. In this dying daylight, she’s quite the figure – maybe lost, but still a princess.
- What? She gets impatient, turns to see him looking at her and smiles. You are the creepiest friend I ever had, she tells him then, laughing already.
- What can I say to that, I’ve to make up for every friend we don’t have, he whispers as a joke, but both of them are quiet for a few seconds.
- Remember that one thing you told me, when I got out of jail? I wasn’t sure of what you meant, back then, she said, frowning at her own ignorance.
- But you do now?
- I do, she says, and so she starts humming the Pirate song again.
August smiles, and finally asks her.
- You were always sneaking out to go to the lake, back home. I’m curious, he laughs, I want to know why you were so drawn to it.
- I do, he laughs again, I remember you and I swimming there and getting back all wet to your father.
- So do I, August, she says, lost in her thoughts. He was always waiting for us to come back, sitting on that rock at the end of the path.
- So tell me, dearest princess, why the lake?
Her smile is brighter than any of the stars and suns they know.
- I was looking for something, but I- I don’t remember what it was, she tells him, puzzled. Silly isn’t it?
She laughs then, lost like a falling star but shining all of her might, but he can only smile a little; since the curse was cast over their homeland and they were forced to come here, and more and more of who they were before was lost to time.
- If we go back to the castle –
- When we go back, she corrects him. When we go back, maybe I’ll remember what it was, or why I couldn’t help but look for that damn thing. Sometimes it kills me not to know, I- I’m sure it’s obvious!
This time, August can’t help but laugh at her frowning face and puzzled thoughts.
- That’s the only way it can be.
She gives him a questionning look.
- It’s seemed so simple back then, the lake, the beach near the castle – what I mean is, I think deep, deep inside your heart you know who or what you’re looking for. Hell, maybe you’ll only remember once you finally find it.
- That’d so awkward, ‘hey pal I think you’re the man I’m dreaming of since I’m able to walk’, please, no.
- You had dreams too?
- Twice. He had the ugliest of scars on his face and his breath smelt of garlic, she says, joking.
He laughs too, but never asks her again after that.
One day, they eventually talked about how Emma was supposed to break the curse – and it was quite a creative talk.
- Maybe with a sword. That stuff was pretty common in our land, and it can break other stuff, she said, peeling potatoes along with August for dinner.
They were living in New York since a few weeks, in Brooklyn. August worked for a Sunday paper and wrote pages upon pages of novels and short stories every week – he had published a few already. Emma was pretty good at finding people, so she kept doing that here and there.
They were good.
- Nah, I don’t think you’ll do it by using just a sword. You can’t break magic with a sword, he tells her, cutting his potato into smaller cubes, throwing them in the pan.
- Point taken, she answers, pointing her knife at him.
She starts cutting her half of the potatoes, and throwing them into the frying pan.
- So tell me, Wooden Boy, what weapon am I gonna use against the Evil Queen?
- I don’t know if killing her would work, he shrugs. But that can’t be so bad either – she’s the reason we grew up here, after all…
Emma doesn’t add anything, lost in her thoughts.
- I wonder what my mother did to her, she eventually says after a few minutes.
They are finished with the potatoes, and she is putting salt and pepper on it, along with other spices; then, they would put some salad with it in their plates, and eat pop corn or ice cream while watching a movie. Saturday night was the only one they could spend together, staying up late rather than sleeping, because neither of them had to go to work the next morning.
- To Regina?
- Yeah. You told me she wanted her revenge, but you also told me my mother was a good person. So how did they become mortal ennemies?
- I don’t recall a time when they were anything else than that, he anwers, bitter and sadenned – the curse was born of their quarell, after all.
- Does it mean I have to go nuclear against the Queen?
He only smiles, not finding it in himself to laugh.
- There might be another way, he supposes, gazing at the room like he doesn’t see it at all.
- We don’t even know where they are, or what happened – the only thing I remember is that it was meant to destroy all the happy endings.
She pauses, thinking about it, trying to recall what she could have missed ; her memory was bare, but for her childish amazement at the lake, the castle, her father’s hair shining like a golden crown upon his head.
- It looked bad enough already, so I didn’t ask for more. I don’t think they knew much more about it than we do, Emma assumes bitterly.
- We’ll see when we get there.
He is thinking about what could have been his own curse – the wooden legs, arms, his nose that wouldn’t stop growing if he lied, even a little. The Blue Fairy was the one who turned him into a real boy, not one made of wood, in reward for his bravery and the sacrifice he made to save his father from Monstro.
The Blue Fairy probably knew how to break the curse, but it was too late to ask her, now ; and back when they were children, neither of them thought about asking. The curse wasn’t an immediate threat, even if it was still lurking at the back of everybory’s mind. Nobody knew why it took so much time to make it work, either, and from what August recalls of it, everyone was so relieved – nobody cared to think about that, too.
- Maybe someone will tell us? Emma jokes.
He laughs, smiling.
- Maybe that’s the thing you’re looking for.
Emma shruggs, setting their plates on the table.
- I don’t know, Puppet, she sighs.
And there’s always the same longing in her eyes, the same desperation to find it, once and for all.
They eat in silence, none of them speaking as the evening goes by. The TV can speak for both of them, because they had that discussion a billion times over already and none of them have a better answer than to wait, and travel even more while doing so.
It wouldn’t be long, now.
The words cross his lips before he begs her to let go, because there is nothing more she can do. Tamara shot him. It’s over for him, but not for them ; there are still magical beans, there is still hope.
I’ll be with you, Emma.
A small part of her still hopes it was nothing but an awful nightmare, like the ones she got when she was younger, in that dreadful new world they knew nothing about – but August is gone for good, and the worst about it is that she can’t pretend she’s alone anymore.
Her parents wait patiently for her to come back at their side if she needs to, which she does. Henry hugs her tightly, and in the blue eyes of Killian she reads the same desire to make her feel better, to help.
They can’t. He’s gone.
She is alone, and the lake feels so far away it is nearly forgotten.
A lifetime and many adventures later, she finally finds it.
It was never the lake, but what it held – a sword. One that can cut through the fabric between realms, and allow her to cross the thin frontier between the world without magic and theirs.
Her smile is brighter than every star in the sky.