august w. booth, emma swan, geppetto/marco, neal cassady (august x emma)
summary: becoming human doesn't come with a textbook; he's learned that the hard way. near-future, human!August
Neal arrived in Storybrooke one day after the Blue Fairy and Geppetto finally found the way to make him human again. That was more or less what August said to the Fairy as he came, quite literally, crawling towards her: “Make me human again.” He chose his words wisely; he’s always been his harshest editor, after all. He never said “turn me back to human.” That would be wrong.
He wasn’t even human in the first place.
His papa told him to stay in bed for at least a week, fearing his health and “lack of body coordination” and whatnot. August missed him too much to disobey. His sore muscles needed a rest, anyway.
Neal arrived in Storybrooke one day later, tapping the postcard August sent him on the bedroom door. “I got your postcard,” he croaked. “To be honest, I never expected you to actually send one.”
August exhaled. “Why would I lie to you?”
August found Geppetto in the garage. When he started complaining, August merely answered with a rather calm “I need to work on my body coordination.” That made his papa smile.
“My boy,” he said then. “You’re so big now.”
“And you didn’t seem to age one bit,” August quipped.
Geppetto cried with laughter at that. He laughed so long until all that was left were the tears. August put his arms around him, letting Geppetto sob on his shoulder.
And if this was the end to the means, then why did it kept him awake at night, like it always has for 28 years?
August held Geppetto tighter. “We’ll go to them. We’ll explain to them what we did. Together,” he said. “Don’t go talk to the Prince alone.”
Neal was sitting on the bedside chair when he broke the news. “She’s back,” he murmured.
August blinked at the ceiling. “You know what to do.”
It wasn’t her voice that let him know she was there. It was something else he could never begin to explain, like how he always knew that she was standing outside his room at Granny’s, even before she knocked on the door.
“Where the hell are we?” He heard her voice coming from outside the gate of Geppetto’s house. He would have laughed if it didn’t hurt his lungs so much.
He sat up on his bed, listening to the commotion happening outside his room: her calling out at “Marco,” Geppetto finally introducing himself, the silent sudden realization and then— Footsteps approaching.
He tried to get out of his bed then. His legs have grown stiff but he massaged them abruptly, ignoring the pain. He was already standing next to his bed when the door opened, and revealed Emma.
He only wished she hadn’t smiled; what should happen next would have been easier for his selfish self if she hadn’t smiled.
But she looked just as bright as he remembered.
Emma let out a quiet chuckle. “August,” she breathed. With one quick move, she jogged towards him and circled her arms around his neck.
“You’re human!” she said; her voice muffled by the fabric of his t-shirt. “I’m so glad.” She let him go swiftly, as if she was afraid of anyone catching her off guard. August smirked at that, because who would Emma Swan be without her walls? He would know. He was the one who built those walls.
“Hi Emma.” But the wooden floor creaked behind her, drowning his feeble attempt at greeting. He looked up to see Neal standing right next to the opened door, fidgeting, waiting for Emma to be aware of him. And she has.
August watched her turning around, searching for the source of the noise. He heard her short, sharp intake of breath. And her shoulders tensed. And her knees tried their best to not give way under her.
“I asked him to come here.” Even August was surprised at how fast that came out of his mouth. She was just as startled, he noticed, as she turned to meet his gaze. Yet, there was an edge and preciseness to her voice when she later spoke; her tone more demanding than questioning. “August?”
Neal leaned on the doorway, nodding in his general direction. “So you’re gonna tell her or what?”
It had to be him, didn’t it? He was, after all, the writer. August took a deep breath, and began. “Emma—”
And so he started talking, finally letting her know everything. Neal withdrawed to the living room halfway through the story; their story. And as much as he wanted to leave also, he stayed. She, too, stayed. And he watched as the look on her face turned from wonder to sorrow to nothing. By the time he finished, he could no longer figure out what she was thinking.
He wished she would tell him.
But she just left.
August didn’t see her until two days later.
Something was happening outside, on the streets. He heard shouting, ambulance siren. The door knob of his bedroom door was turned.
“Papa?” He called out, getting up from the bed in a hurry. The throbbing in his right knee made him cringe.
It was Emma whom he saw when he looked up. “I asked your dad to help Archie out,” she said, somberly. “I’m sorry. I need to talk to you,” she added, talking to his headboard rather than to him.
August cleared his throat. “Well.” His voice came out coarse nevertheless. “What do you want to—”
“I’ve been talking to Henry,” she said, letting the rest of his sentence hung in the air. “About this. His dad. You. Most of all, you.” Emma took one step forward. “He said I should forgive you.”
He nodded once. “I might be biased, but I think you should listen to him.”
Emma scoffed at that, shaking her head as she snickered lightly. “Oh, you just can’t resist, can you?” Her hand was on her face then, rubbing her eyes a little bit too roughly. “You know what?” She looked at him for the first time since she entered the room. “Give me one good reason why.”
August sighed, if only to stall for time, to come up with an answer. In the end, repetition was the key. “This town needs you,” he said. “You’re their savior.”
“Oh, God!” she cried, throwing her head back. “Not again with the destiny! No one— You— No one ever bothered to ask me what I want! It’s, like, what I want doesn’t matter because I was born only to be the savior. Nothing else!”
He swallowed. “What do you want?”
She became too loud all of a sudden. “I wanted to grow up with my family!” With every word she inched closer to him. “I wanted to be with Neal. I wanted to raise Henry with Neal. You ruined it, though. You ruined my life.”
August closed his eyes. For his part, he wanted, more than anything, for this to stop right then and there. Yet Emma pressed on. “I want to not realize that if you didn’t, I would have never met my parents! I want to not realize that if you didn’t, no matter what you’d do, no matter what you’d tell me, I would never risk leaving what I might have with Neal for something as ridiculous as being a Savior! I want to not realize that these people did need to be saved! I want—”
She paused there, hiding her face behind her hands. She seemed to sway towards him as she mumbled curses and carelessly ran her fingers through her hair. Her voice broke when she began again. “I want to hate you!”
When nothing more came, August found himself muttering. “Why don’t you?”
The back of his knees were knocked against his bed as she bumped into him, making him lose his balance for a while. Emma gripped his shoulders, as if she was pulling him back, keeping him from falling. The movements hurt every single joint in his body but somehow he managed to place his hands on her waist.
She kissed him.
And how cruel it was, he thought as he kissed her back, that he got what he has always wanted, while she has been denied everything.
Emma pulled away first; his nose brushed against traces of tears he didn’t even know she let out. Her lips found his ear, and her voice was soft as she whispered. “I loved you, August. But right now I just don’t know if I want to forgive you yet.”
Her palms ran along the length of his arms as she retreated back, freeing herself out of his grasp. She staggered across the room then; her arms hung loosely at her sides. Her steps were lazy, yet heavy as she walked, walked, passed the doorway, leaving him on his own once again. The door stayed open behind her.
His chest started burning as if on cue. He sank into his bed with his hand clutching the front of his t-shirt and the flesh underneath. His head has started spinning too.
All this pain. Wants, guilt, responsibilities, consequences. He suddenly couldn’t remember why he would want to be a human.
He wondered why anyone would.