Word Count: 2,618
Summary: AU Neal and Emma make it to Tallahassee, on the drive there Emma has doubts about their chosen destination and then two months later she finds out she’s pregnant.
Author's Notes: I LOVED both of your Emma/Neal prompts and it was really hard to choose between them. In the end I went with AU where Neal and Emma made it to Tallahassee and Neal knew she was pregnant. Mainly because it’s Christmas and I’m in a very fluffy, happy, everything is sunshine and rainbows mood. There is so much angst with this couple already it was actually super fun and really cathartic to indulge myself in some happy “what could have/should have been” fic. Anyway I sincerely really hope you enjoy and like what I’ve come up with. Happy Holidays!
What if I hate it! The thought comes out of nowhere, only a few seconds ago Emma had been curled up peacefully against Neal’s shoulder, watching the lights of the highway speed by and humming along to the radio. She wonders why such a negative thought pops into her head at all. Then again Emma’s not an optimist by nature, not like Neal, who despite his past, which she still knows very little about, remains hopeful at heart.
Still everything was, is going perfectly. Neal had fenced the watches like planned; all expect the one resting comfortably against her wrist. Their yellow bug was now a legitimate car; no longer a stolen home and hiding under the front seat was a nice bundle of cash to help get them started on making a bigger one. The clichéd image of ‘driving off into the sunset’ was actually, in this case, an accurate deception. Admittedly Emma wasn’t prepared for that; she’s not used to getting a happy ending. Didn’t even think such a thing was possible, certainly not for her anyway. Even so, when Neal had picked her up at the parking structure there had been no doubt just overwhelming happiness, the kind that warms you up from the inside out and makes you feel like you could run a 5k marathon whilst at the same time you want to stay absolutely still.
What if I hate it! It is a stupid thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid! But now that it’s there ricocheting off the walls of her mind Emma can’t stop the niggling doubt it’s given birth to. Shifting her head slightly she glances up at Neal’s profile. His face is a picture of joyous serenity. His fingers absent-mindedly tap along the steering wheel in time with Charley’s Girl, mouth moving along to the lyrics as he sings in his deep husky voice that never fails to make Emma’s body shiver. The first thing she wants to do with their new-found wealth is buy him a guitar. She knows he can play, having watched him in a music store they’d hung around in once. She knows how much he loves them too, had seen the way his eyes lit up as he’d held the instrument in his hands.
“Neal.” Emma practically whispers, half hoping he won’t have heard her over the music.
“Yeah.” He hums back, inclining his head a little to the side to hear her better but not taking his eyes off the road ahead.
“What if I hate it?” Emma winches at her own silliness and presses her face a little deeper into his shoulder, berating herself for not being able to ignore her pessimistic uncertainties.
Turning down the radio, Neal glances down at Emma eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Hate what?”
“Tallahassee.” As soon as the word leaves her mouth, Emma regrets it; wants to stuff it back in and swallow it down, down, down. She can feel Neal tense, his arm muscles clenching underneath her fingers. Watches in dismay as his knuckles whiten on the steering wheel and, his eyes, a second ago so soft and excited, swirl in apprehension.
There’s a long pause, where Neal seems to struggle to find the right words, his forehead scrunched up in deep thought before finally he swallows and asks “Are you talking about Tallahassee or Tallahassee?”
It’s Emma’s turn to be perplexed, sitting up she narrows her eyes. “Is that a trick question?” If he was making fun of her….
Peeking at her expression Neal’s lips twitch upwards, the pervious tension in his body eases away a little. “No, nott a trick question. Tallahassee isn’t about the city. It’s about you and me…”
“Settling down?” Emma finishes.
Neal nods “And getting a house, eventually.”
“On the beach.”
“With a porch.”
“And a white picket fence.” Emma says laughing at the clichéd picture, but heart swelling at the idea of it anyway.
“Yeah.” Neal breaths softly, his own lips turning up at the sides in a indulgent grin.
“Well in that case I was talking about Tallahassee, the city. I know I won’t hate Tallahassee!” Emma clarifies planting a kiss to Neal’s shoulder.
“Good.” he grins back before turning his attention back to the road ahead. Emma waits a moment, expecting him to follow-up with something else. Something to reassurance that Tallahassee, the city was the best place for them to start their new life, expect he doesn’t.
“Neal?” Emma asks eyebrows rising questionably at him.
“Huh? Oh, you won’t hate it.” Neal says letting go of the wheel with one hand to tuck a stay piece of hair back behind her ear.
Emma isn’t convinced. “What if I do?”
“You won’t, but,” Neal adds before she has a chance to protest. “If you do then I’ll get a map and you can pick us a new spot.”
“A new spot.” Emma echoes back. Simple enough expect…“What happens if I love Tallahassee but you hate it?”
Neal shakes his head fondly at her, chuckling lightly. “I won’t hate it.”
“How do you know?” Emma demands; slightly frustrated at his blasé attitude. “Neither of us has actually been there, for all we know its crap!”
“Em.” Neal’s voice, soft and warm washes over her blanketing her in its warmth. “It’s all going to be fine. So would you please stop worrying.”
Emma sighs and lowers herself back down, resting her head against his shoulder again. “Promise?”
“Cross my heart.”
Tallahassee isn’t a paradise. It’s not some dream land from a fairy-tale book. It has its faults, like all places and sometimes Emma’s convinced she’s lived, or briefly passed though better cities, but she doesn’t hate it. She wouldn’t change cities either because although there where things that weren’t ideal they’ve sort of turned into little quirks that Emma’s become rather fond of. Like the beach. When they’d first arrived Emma had been gutted to find that it was not the ten minute walk away she’d anticipated.
An hour’s drive might not seem like a lot to most people, especially when you consider the fact it could be a plane trip away, but it had still left Emma feeling deflated. Neal had come up with solution though. Their weekly weekend picnics on the beach were now a fixed tradition. Nothing could quite compare to cuddling up under a blanket listening to the waves lap against the shore and watching the fire dance in their mini campfire; and it Neal was feeling partially chilled, or Emma ‘persuaded’ him, he’d bring his guitar (Emma had surprised him with it one evening) and serenade her for a time.
They’d already starting making plans to move closer to the ocean once they’d saved up enough for their dream beach house. To start with though, they decide on a bedsit flat. It’s pretty small, nothing fancy, just your basic bedroom, kitchen and a bathroom setting but they don’t really need anything bigger. It might be small but its cosy and certainly a step up from the cramped nights sleeping on the back seat of the bug, though Emma will attest to missing those sometimes.
It wasn’t easy getting everything together. They’d spent the first few days arguing over paint colour in the hardware store, until Neal decided to go the “close your eyes and pick” route again. All of their furniture had been brought second-hand, expect the bed. Having to start from scratch meant it took a good month to actually get the flat finished but for a pair of ex thieves Neal and Emma had settle into domestic life with relative ease. Emma finds a job as a waitress in a high-class restaurant and Neal gets work in a local bar, a handy five-minute walk from their flat. The pay was nothing spectacular but between them they made enough to pay all the bills and have a little left over to save. So whilst the money wasn’t rolling in, with their combined jobs and twenty thousand dollar head start they were doing alright.
It’s an ordinary life. They go to work. They pay their bills. They argue. They make up. It’s nothing to talk about and yet Emma can’t remember the last time she felt this elated, doesn’t think she ever has. Neal tells her “I know I’ve never been this happy, even when you were screaming at me for wanting to paint the bathroom sunset orange.” Things carry on in their blissful normality, until Emma starts throwing up in the mornings.
It takes her a while to twig the cause of her sickness and even when she finally works out the dates she doesn’t believe it; thinks they must be some other explanation. When she finally gives in and buys a pregnancy test, two pink lines glare mercilessly back up at her. Five pregnancy tests later and she still can’t wrap her head around it, just keeps staring at them like she’s entered the twilight zone.
Pregnant! She was going to be a mom. The thought sends panic churning through her; it squeezes at her heart till she feels like she’s going to pass out. How is she going to be someone’s mom? She knows nothing, less than nothing. She’s only just started to get her life together; two months ago she’d been one half of a shop lifting team and before that she’d been orphaned and alone. What does she know about being a mother? Oh god she can’t do this. She’s not ready. She’s going to mess it up.
On auto pilot, Emma drops the latest pregnancy test into the bin and walks into the bedroom. She catches a glimpse of her reflection in the floor length mirror on the wardrobe and pauses. She’s still wearing her waitress uniform; a black skirt with a form fitting white shirt. Her hair is pulled up in a ponytail that’s become somewhat messy after a long shift. She looks the same as she did yesterday evening expect she doesn’t feel the same.
Emma’s hand comes to rest against her stomach; it’s as flat as ever. It’s idiotic of course, but she’d kind of expected to see a huge bump protruding from her stomach or at least the beginnings of small one, but there isn’t anything. No evidence of the magic her body was wilding. You wouldn’t know she was pregnant by looking at her, except Emma does knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, five different tests can’t be wrong, there is something, someone growing inside of her. Someone she and Neal made and despite the chill of fear still threating to make her sick, Emma can’t help the way her lips twist upwards in a small smile. She feels… She can’t pinpoint the emotion exactly it’s all a jumble of petrified panic, shocked disbelief and excited happiness.
Emma pictures a girl with her blonde hair and Neal’s eyes, imagines a boy with his dark hair and a smile like his father. She sees a road starched out ahead of her full of late night feedings, days on the beach building sandcastles, school runs and plays, tantrums and giggles and a small hand wrapped in hers. Her smile is now full blown, wide and bright. Maybe she could do this. She wants to do it. The sound of the front door opening startles Emma back into reality.
“Emma.” Neal calls out as he shuts the door behind him.
Neal! How was she going to tell him? What was he going to think? They haven’t been together that long. It hadn’t bothered her of them before because she never felt like they were rushing into anything but there was a big difference between getting a flat together and having a baby! She tries to imagine his reaction when she says the words “I’m pregnant” but her fear morphs the image into something horrific, with unkind words, a slamming door and the words single parent flashing above her head. She chastises herself immediately. Neal loves her and would never leave her like that.
“Baby you home?” Neal calls again his footsteps growing louder as he makes his way towards the bedroom. Emma tries to slow down her racing heart and act as nonchalant as humanly possible when you’ve just gone on a roller-coaster of emotions regarding the news of your impending baby.
Clearly she’s done a crap job of it because as soon as Neal sees her his face contorts into one of concern. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine.” She means for it come out nice and steady but her voice betrays her.
“What’s happened?” Neal’s voice is thick with concern now; his eyes roam around the room as if searching for an invisible monster that might jump out at him at any second.
“Nothing, everything is fine.” She winches as her voice cracks again.
Neal’s incredibly worried now, she can tell by the hunch of his shoulders and the way he starts to reach out for her. “Emma, what the hell is going on?”
“I’m pregnant!” She hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that, hadn’t meant to blindside him with the news but it’s too late now.
Neal stops in his tracks. “Ummm I’m sorry, say that again. I think, I think, I think I misheard you.” He stutters, tongue feeling heavy and dry in his mouth.
“I’m,” Emma takes a deep breath, her heart pounding so loudly it practically echoes around the room. “I’m pregnant.”
“That’s what I thought you said.” Neal mumbles voice far away, his mind working in over drive as he attempts and fails to process the information. “I…I…your pregnant?” His eyes trail down her abdomen as she stammers the words out. Emma has to stop herself from rolling her eyes at him because hadn’t she done the exact same thing. “Have you done a test?”
“Yeah. I did five.” Emma says.
“And what did they say? Neal asks, eyes still conveying how stunned he feels.
Emma does roll her eyes at him then. “That I’m pregnant.”
Neal shakes his head at his own stupid question. “Right, yeah. Course they did.” The room is dead silent in the aftermath; so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Emma finds it maddening how Neal continues to just stand there and stare at her stomach but says nothing. She shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, biting her lip as she waits for him to say something, anything. The longer it takes the more anxious she gets.
Finally when she can stand the silence no longer Emma in a voice much fragile than she would like says. “Is this going to be ok?”
That seems to break Neal out of whatever reverie he was in. Without warning he closes the gap between them, cups her face in his hands and kisses her hard. Relief floods through every fibre of her body, tears previously unshed roll down her cheeks. Their salty taste mixes in with their kiss till it becomes a much sweeter flavour. Melting into his embrace Emma wraps her arms around his waist and pulls him closer, sighing when he runs his tongue over her bottom lip.
“You’re happy then?” Emma asks, somewhat redundantly, when the need for oxygen finally breaks them apart. Neal rubs his nose against her eskimo kiss style and grins back at her like a child on Christmas morning.
“Emma this,” he gently puts a hand on her abdomen “Is amazing! I’m…” his voice trails off and for the first time Emma notices the dampness on his own cheeks. “I’m beyond happy. I love you so much.” He leans in to kiss her. “Both of you.” He adds before kissing her again and again and again and again.