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Emma Swan doesn’t have a soulmate. That fact was made painfully clear when she’d been met with police sirens instead of Neal’s grin, and cemented in her very soul when she’d learnt that an anonymous tip was what had brought her to a cold interrogation room to face an even colder police lieutenant.

Not that she hadn’t known that before. After all, that was what had brought Emma and Neal together in the first place – their supposed freedom from fate, their freedom to choose who to live with (who to love).

Well apparently Emma had shit taste.

 

Emma Swan didn’t have a soulmate, not until her own cries of pain stopped to let her child’s – her son’s – voice sound for the first time. In the midst of the pain of giving birth (and the agony of giving her son up, of giving him a better chance at life than she had), she doesn’t notice the burning sensation that lights her right wrist on fire. Even if she hadn’t been drowning in grief, she’d probably have thought that it was the metal handcuff chafing her wrist, or the I.V. having moved.

She doesn’t notice her mark until a few minutes before being discharged, when the nurse removing her I.V. comments on it. 

“Well that’s uncommon, having your soulmate already know your name.”

Emma blinks at her, not understanding until the kindly woman raises her wrist, showing her black words that were definitely not there the day before.

Emma’s heart stops, then beats double time. “Are you Emma Swan?” is scribbled in choppy letters. Her son will find her again, he will look for her , she thinks with hope, a small smile stretching her lips for the first time since Neal had turned away from her for the last time (though she didn’t know it at the time).

The smile disappears, however, when she remembers that though her son may be her soulmate, she may not be his. 

 

She’s her son’s soulmate too is what runs through her head on a loop as she hyperventilates in her Boston bathroom. As soon as he’d stepped in her flat (in her life), he’d proudly shown her the mark on his right wrist, her chicken scratch spelling out “Can I help you?” and turning her life completely inside out.

(Henry – his name is Henry.)

Those words are what make her go to Storybrooke with him (what kind of a stupid name is that), but more importantly what makes her stay. She’s just lived through ten years of loneliness and cold, and now that she’s found her warmth once more, she’s not about to let it go, sociopathic mayors, weaselly journalists, or obnoxious writers be damned.

 

Delusional writer, really, with all his talk of magic and fairy tales and saviors. She’s nobody’s savior; how could she be, when she can’t even save herself? She almost leaves, but she won’t subject Henry to the cold and the loneliness she’s had to live through for the last 28 years. Plus, Regina is fucking crazy.

 

How can she be everyone’s savior, when she can’t even save her son? She tried, oh how she tried to save him, going after a dragon of all things, but she’s too late, his little body laying there, lifeless and so so small. She kisses him, trying to infuse his cooling body with all the warmth he’s gifted her over the last few months, all the love he’s brought into her life. 

And for once in her life, fate smiles on Emma Swan. She is suddenly drowned in a wave of pure love, every cell in her body lighting up as a pleasant wind blows her hair from her face. She never wants to surface.

But surface she does, and reality is even better, as Henry’s eyes are open and looking at her in pure joy. She has no idea what just happened, but she’s willing to accept her son’s mentions of True Love and magic if it keeps him talking and happy.

 

A purple cloud engulfs the whole town, making Emma’s skin tingle as she holds Henry tight, shielding him with her body from the flying glass that hits her in the shoulder, leaving behind a searing heat that is soon forgotten when Regina fucking vanishes into thin air.

 

She meets her parents – Prince Charming and Snow freaking White – and she’s engulfed for the first time in her life in her parents’ arms. It’s not the first time she’s hugged her mother, though at the time she had been Mary Margaret, her friend (her best friend). Finding her parents brings a sense of loss. not only does she lose her best friend, but she realizes that Emma Swan, lonesome orphan, is gone forever too, reborn as a new Emma, one she doesn’t know yet.

Her parents have her words on their left wrists, but she doesn’t have theirs.

 

When Emma woke up in the morning, she expected to go to sleep in her own bed that night. She certainly never expected to learn that magic was real, and to be sucked down a magic portal into the world where fairy tales actually happened. Instead of her comfy bed in the loft, she falls asleep on the cold hard ground under a giant tree, hiding from giant ogres while her mother – Snow White , in case anyone had forgotten – and freaking Mulan stand guard.

She prefers falling asleep to dealing with the utter and complete chaos that her life has become. All that counts is getting back to Henry, and being warm again. 

 

They find a blacksmith at the heart of the massacre, hiding under a pile of corpses. His hand burns her when Emma takes it to help him up, the heat running up her arm all the way to the back of her shoulder. His story doesn’t add up though; how could one man survive such carnage? 

Emma calls his bluff, but he doesn’t admit defeat until the earth starts trembling as the ogres approach. “Good for you,” he says in a completely different voice, no longer the meek blacksmith he’d played at being. “You bested me.” Emma stops walking, her triumph at being right (and besting him) igniting her body, making her shoulder tingle in a strange way. She frowns slightly; this isn’t the first time that part of her body has acted up. She doesn’t have time to focus on it too much, the pressing matter of ogres, beanstalks and outsmarting witches and cunning pirates demanding all of her focus.

 

It isn’t until she’s back in Storybrooke and brushing her wet hair after a blessedly long and hot shower that she catches sight of her back in the mirror. The brush drops from her hand as she sees very familiar words etched in an elegant loop on her shoulder blade. Good for you, you bested me. It can’t be, she thinks, twisting to get a better look at them. Not him, surely?

She quickly puts on a pajama top (a long sleeved one) and goes to her room, stroking Henry’s hair before slipping under her covers. There’s no way he can be her soulmate, is there? Those weren’t the first words he spoke to her after all, and he had never mentioned anything; surely he would have used such a weapon, if only for shock value? 

Anyway, she doesn’t have to worry about him anymore, does she? He’s back in the Enchanted Forest, and she’s safe in Storybrooke with Henry, the only soulmate she needs. She’s already tried giving her heart to a thief after all, and look where it had gotten her: in a cold prison cell for eleven months.

(In Storybrooke, with a son, and friends, and a family.)

 

Exhausted, Emma falls asleep quickly, merely shifting as her newest soulmark flares again around midnight – just as a maelstrom forms, unseen, in the middle of Storybrooke bay. And just as unseen, a pirate stands among the rigging on his ship, far above anyone, thinking about the mark he’d discovered on his shoulder while cleaning the grime and sand from his body in his cabin. The words “An island full of corpses, and you’re the only one to escape” are seared into his skin, and definitely were not there the last time he bathed, before the curse was lifted, and Cora’s spell with it. For the first time in centuries, Captain Hook has a new objective beyond taking his revenge on Rumplestiltskin.

He has a crocodile to skin and a Swan to conquer, it seems.