AN: I couldn’t keep it canon, Ang. It hurt too much. I failed the prompt.
Neal’s apartment smelled like dust and stale coffee.
It had taken all of her strength to walk upstairs. She’d dawdled, circling the building, exploring its alleys, even standing beneath the fire escape for a bit. It was there she’d found his iPod—covered in dirt, scratched, with no battery life left. She took it anyway, suddenly filled with the desire to hear his favorite music.
She’d never gotten to ask what he did for a living. It must have been something absurdly respectable, judging from the business casual, semi-formal suits and shirts hanging in his closet. She resisted the urge to step fully into the closet, enveloping herself in the smell. Clean laundry and dust. That’s all it was.
Emma turned away, focusing on her task. Neal’s apartment was tidy—she’d always been the messy one, the first to spill her coke in the backseat of the yellow bug, to get ketchup stains all over herself. He’d always made fun of her for that.
She walked towards the window and stopped short. She’d found what she was looking for.
She gently took the dreamcatcher down, taking a shuddery breath as she let her fingers examine it. What was she going to do with this old thing anyway? Give it to Henry? Throw it away? She no longer could remember why it was so important to have this, to keep it safe for them.
We never found Tallahassee.
Emma’s eyes filled with tears. She sat on the window ledge, trying her damndest not to burst into tears, trying to remain strong. Who was she kidding? It had always been Neal. Neal was Tallahassee, and for a few brief shining moments, she’d had the possibility once more. She’d been afraid, terrified of letting him in, of opening herself up to that pain—but it had always been him.
Now it was too late.
Burying her head in her knees, she let the tears soak her jeans. Mourning had always felt like weakness she couldn’t afford, but if she didn’t in this single, solitary moment, she would rot away on the inside. So engrossed in this release, she did not hear the door quietly open and Neal step inside.
She lifted her head and started. The dreamcatcher crashed to the floor. Neal stared at her—a ghost?! But he was solidi, he was real, he was giving her that same half-smile…
“I tried to catch you on the road, but I think you didn’t go under 90 the entire way up here,” He said quietly.
Emma began to shake. ”How did you—how—are you—?”
“True love’s kiss.”
True love’s kiss. Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of that? Why hadn’t she tried?! Why had she given up on him so easily…
“But I didn’t—” She attempted to stem the flow of tears and Neal reached her easily, wiping them away.
“You didn’t, Henry did,” He explained. “Snow gave him the book, somehow he remembered. He broke into the morgue. Our kid is wily, let me tell you.”
Emma began to sniffle pathetically—God, she hated the sound of it. ”Henry is a believer,” She coughed. “I should’ve—”
“Shh,” Neal chided. “It’s okay.” He tilted her head up and pressed his forehead to hers. “I’m right here. And I’m not going anywhere.”