Do you ever just think about Emma Swan, freshly out of prison, just barely 18 years old, finding whereever August stashed the bug, maybe finding $1k in the glove compartment and thinking it was a sign from Neal that he was waiting and that he never intended for her to be caught? Of her driving from Phoenix to Tallahassee, all in one go because she was so sure that he was there, waiting for her with their new life ready to go?
Do you imagine her keeping the Swan keychain dangling from the rear view mirror and parking in really conspicuous places so he could find her? Of her making friends in low places to try to find info on where he might be and finding out that she’s particularly good at finding people who don’t want to be found?
Emma Swan, 19 years old now, no longer parking her car where people can see it because in the last few months she’s made a name for herself catching white collar (she can’t bring herself to turn in anyone who was just trying to survive) bail skips, supporting herself and taking night classes in criminal justice at the local community college (thank god for financial aid). She’d found out where Neal was 3 months ago. Still in Canada, right where the cop who arrested her in Oregon said he’d be. He really had betrayed her. She starts wearing the swan pendant around her neck to remind her not to make that mistake again.
As soon as she finishes her associate degree she leaves. She stays 8-10 months in most places, turning up the difficult skips for the highest bounties, until she has saved enough to move on. She’s still searching for home.
Maybe that’s what eventually draws her back to costal New England. She starts retracing her childhood, finding out for the first time just how many times she’d been abandoned. A list of people she could barely remember who didn’t care enough about her to give her a permanent home. She tracked the boy who found her, thinking he might be her brother, and for a while she was excited because his trail always seemed to be a step or two behind hers, but he completely disappeared as soon as she’d been arrested. If he’d been trying to find her, he clearly decided he didn’t want to after that. Not even her own brother wanted her in his life.
She clutched the swan pendant tighter, it’s symbolism even more appropriate now that she knew that even they had abandoned her.
She threw herself into work, only seeking out other people when she had an itch to scratch. None of them ever got her number or even her real last name. She gave up hope of ever finding home.
Then one night a 10 year old boy showed up at her door and home found her.