If you haven't read "Coming Home", this probably won't make sense. This is a pretty rough fic, I made myself kind of miserable writing it. Just try to remember how far they've come in the current fic?


A defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of a loss.

Mary Margaret keeps Emma's room the same, because they're going to get her back. Helen has given them a list of things to do in order to be reconsidered and they're following it to the letter. Mary Margaret begins an anger management course run by Dr. Hopper. David makes repairs to their home. They get three new letters of recommendation: one from Archie, Granny and even Gold. All of them agree that it was a momentarily lapse of judgement. It helps that Helen is in their corner. She's fighting right along side of them so they can get their little girl back.

David and Mary Margaret don't discuss it deeper than the plan. They don't talk about what Mary Margaret did. She doesn't acknowledge that the warmth has completely disappeared from his voice. When Archie suggests marriage counselling and David flatly turns it down, Mary Margaret stays smiling. Things will get better. Emma will return to them and they'll become whole. David isn't smiling, but they can work past it. They went through a rough patch as they struggled to get pregnant, this is no different.

Then they get the call that their subconscious dreads. "I'm sorry," Helen says. "But social services thinks it's best for Emma to remain in her current foster home."

Mary Margaret doesn't cry upon receiving the news. David leaves the room. In the background, the washing machine buzzes. She walks over and opens it, revealing Emma's clothes. She was getting them ready for her return. Mary Margaret lifts a tiny yellow t-shirt with a smiling, fuzzy dalmatian on the front. She runs her fingers over the dog, accepting the comfort that the sensory brings her. She holds it to her nose, inhaling the sweet lavender fabric softener.

Sitting on the cool white tile of the laundry room, Mary Margaret folds the clothes to put away. Just in case.


The pain of loss starts to firmly take hold as we search for blame, feel intense guilt, and lash out.

Mary Margaret lets out a groan of frustration as she marks her latest test. They spent weeks going over these equations and yet, Damon Elbridge still doesn't grasp it. She offered extra help after school, going to his house for tutoring. Positive and negative reinforcement. Calling his parents. Nothing works. The kid simply isn't trying. At any other point, she'd just try harder but she's fed up tonight. She tosses the paper across the desk, her dark purple grading pen going with it.

The front door creaks open. Mary Margaret hates herself for being irritated that David has the nerve to come home. They've stopped the small talk and pleasantries. Now, they only talk if they really need to.

She can hear him recklessly kick off his shoes and almost sees him flinging his leather jacket in the direction of the rack, not caring if it actually makes it. Mary Margaret rolls her eyes, tipping her white chair back. Her mother's words echo in her head.

"You're going to get hurt."

At this point, Mary Margaret wills the chair to send her flinging back. Smash her head, make her forget everything that's gone on these past few months. The holiday season is approaching and they haven't dragged the boxes of their mixed faiths from the attic. There's been no mention of a tree. The spot in the windowsill where she leaves her menorah is empty. They're the only house on the block with absolutely no lights. Karen from the homeowner's association attempted to say something, but a quick glare from Mary Margaret shut her up.

David stomps into the room. Has he always been this ungraceful on his feet? Mary Margaret stays still, the chipped wooden chair teetering dangerously backwards.

"Did you pick up the milk?"

No, "Hey honey" or "How was your day?". No, all she gets are questions about grocery shopping or bills. Everyone has told her how out of sorts she's been lately. They question where her smile has gone. She tried to keep it up after Emma left. David's unwillingness to have a real conversation with her drove it off her face.

"I forgot," she mumbles.

It's true. She was in the direction of the market and then The Temptations' My Girl started to play on the radio. There are times she can force herself to not think about Emma. To forget about the door to the bright yellow room that she'll never open again. And then things like that damn song will play or she'll see someone order grilled cheese at the diner. Like a defibrillator to the chest, the memories crash against her heart. Once upon a time, Mary Margaret had a daughter. A happy family.

And then it was fucking ripped from her.

Keys crash into the table. "Just fucking great," David mumbles. "I needed it for quiche."

Mary Margaret leans forward, causing the chair to hit the floor with a thud. It brings a jolt to her system, but not enough to really hurt her like she planned. "If you need it so badly, run out and get it."

"It's just that I asked you for one thing. You got done with work hours ago. Is it that fucking hard?"

Mary Margaret scoffs, rolling her eyes once more. "Right, because my job isn't as important as yours. It's not like it actually ends when I get off the clock."

"I never said anything about your fucking job, Mary Margaret." She rises to her feet. The sadness that resided in his eyes over the past four months has subsided. Fury's moved in. "I just think it's not that hard to ask for. A wife that remembers what I asked."

A wife that remembers the milk? Or one that doesn't punch the mayor and cause them to lose their baby?

She doesn't dare ask that. They don't even say Emma's name anymore.

"Oh, what was I thinking?" Mary Margaret sarcastically bats her eyes. "Yes, dear, let me throw on my poodle skirt and run to the store to get you your milk. And then I'll whip up a five course meal for you, fetch you the paper and your slippers. Does that sound good, sweetie?"

David clicks his tongue. "Yeah, like I'd ever actually expect you to cook. I quite enjoy not having salmonella."

They used to flirtatiously joke about her inability to make toast. Now, there's no laughter in their house.

Mary Margaret puts her hands on her hips. "Not all of us were taught to cook from a young age. Not all of us clung to our mother's apron strings."

"Yeah, because you know so much about motherhood."

The air between them hangs heavily. Mary Margaret's green eyes have narrowed. He's scowling. They're reaching the point of no return and both know it.

David grabs his keys off the table. "I'm gonna go get the damn milk."

"Oh do hurry back," Mary Margaret replies dryly.

"And while I'm out, I'll get new pillows for the guest room. It's where I'm sleeping tonight."

"Whatever will I do without your idiotic snoring!"

David returns an hour later with milk and the pillows. He makes the quiche. Mary Margaret eats a pear. After he devours a quarter of the egg, mushroom and tomato concoction, he heads into the guest room. He never moves back to the master.


The "what if" stage. It provides temporary escape from the pain, provides hope and gives a person time to adjust to the reality of the situation.

Mary Margaret arranges the eggplant parmesan on two plates. Takeout containers from Tony's are hidden masterfully under coffee grinds and eggshells in the trash. She knows that David isn't stupid. He won't believe she actually cooked this. Still, he's bound to appreciate it. His favorite meal from the local Italian place, something different than Granny's (there's only three restaurants in this one-horse town). She pours a bottle of Blue Nun into two glasses, making sure both are even.

She and David don't snipe anymore. At the last minute on Christmas Day, they exchanged gifts. A new snowflake charm for her bracelet, bottle of his favorite cologne. They still don't smile, but find a way to talk about something other than the house or grocery shopping. David still sleeps in the master. Mary Margaret hopes that tonight, he'll find his way back.

Mary Margaret receives a half-hearted kiss to her cheek once David comes home. They settle at the dinner table and a small smile pokes up on his lips when she claims she made it herself. He talks about his day at the station. She offers up improvement in Damon's work.

After about 15 minutes, there's nothing left to discuss.

"I um, got a call today," Mary Margaret bravely says, broaching the topic from small talk. "Our foster license is going to expire. We need to take the classes again if we're going to renew."

David swallows his bite of cheesy eggplant. "I told Helen we weren't going to do that again."

Mary Margaret stares at him as he takes a sip of wine. She blinks a few times. He just decided that for the two of them? The door to fostering was closed forever? Helen assured them that they could get a new placement, they had done the work. No child was ever going to replace Emma, they both knew it. But maybe this could be a new start, for both of them. One where they talked about what was going on.

She opens her mouth to ask him why, but then shuts it. Asking would open the pandora's box they've been tiptoeing around since Emma was removed from their lives.

Instead, she raises the bottle of wine. "Do you want another glass?"


You might experience intense sadness, decreased sleep, reduced appetite and loss of motivation.

Mary Margaret lays huddled beneath the heavy cream-colored duvet. A rerun of I Love Lucy that she's seen about a million times. She's not even watching and sometimes forgets it's even on, until the loud laugh track overtakes her otherwise quiet room. An untouched pancake special from the diner that Ruby dropped off sits on her nightstand beside a half-downed mug of green tea. The cracked letters reveal that she's the "World's Best Mother". A gift from her first-and only-Mother's Day.

It's the second week that she's used her highly accumulated sick days. No one's questioned her for it, promising that her job is waiting for her and the sub can handle it. They still pity her. After Emma was first taken, she hated it. Now, she'll accept it if it means she doesn't have to get out of bed.

She stretches, catching a whiff of herself. When was her last shower? Tuesday? No, she was barely conscious that day. Saturday? That was when she foraged downstairs for more food. It had to be last Thursday when she spilled cold tea all over her worn Joan Jett tee. She tried to ignore it at first, until it soaked until her skin, sending chills down her body. After the soothing jets, she pulled on a blue terrycloth robe and a pair of pink fuzzy socks. She hasn't taken either off since.

Mary Margaret picks at the potatoes beside her pancakes, half-heartedly eating a couple. Maybe she'll shower today. Maybe she'll at least just put on some new pajamas.

Or she could stay in bed and find a Bewitched marathon. Everything on these sitcoms are solved in 30 minutes. Oh, to have that luxury.

A soft knock falls against her door. "Aren't you going to be late for work?" David's voice echoes through.

"I still don't feel well." She's too tired to fake a cough.

"Oh." A pause. "Do you need anything?"

"Nope," she pops the p, grabbing hold of her mug. "Have a good day at work."

"You too…I mean," he fumbles awkwardly. "I'll bring home Chinese for dinner."


His boots squeak across the hallway floor. Mary Margaret knows he's the one trying this time. If only she had the serotonin to reciprocate.


Acceptance refers to accepting the reality of a loss and the fact that nothing can change that reality. This does NOT mean the person is okay with the loss.

There are three piles: donate, toss and keep. The one ready to go to the charity shop is bigger, packed to the brim with clothes, books and toys. They say they'll send a man to come by for the furniture. A few garbage bags contain torn pieces of paper, the ripped bean bag chair that David was going to fix before it happened and a handful of cheap, broken toys from the prize bin at Emma's school. The things Mary Margaret is letting come with her are just the Cabbage Patch doll, a Rainbow Brite Lunchbox, the wooden sign hand painted with the lyrics from You Are My Sunshine and a worn stuffed lamb already losing some of the stuffing. She can't find Emma's favorite sun pillow, the one she hugged tightly whenever she had a rough day. It'd go in the keep pile for sure. Maybe David packed it away when he gave Helen things to bring to Emma.

Mary Margaret pushes herself to her feet, looking around the nearly empty room. She's painted over the bright yellow walls with a mundane white. Someone else can decide what this room can be. Maybe an office or art studio. Perhaps a bedroom that another little girl will actually get to grow up in.

She walks into the hall, all she holds dear from her daughter clutched in her grasp. With her free hand, she picks up the listing for the loft on Main Street. The real estate agent bragged that the space opposite the living room would make for a great bedroom. The loft could be for storage or kids.

That chapter of her life is closed and she knows it. Still, Mary Margaret accepts it, along with all the ugly furniture it comes with…including the two beds in the loft.

Mary Margaret folds the listing over, placing the small plastic bag beside it and heads downstairs. David sits in the den, flipping through the paper.

You're making a mistake.

The voice is her own, but stronger. A person she was long ago. She's not sure where she went, but she sure isn't coming back.

You love him.

But he doesn't love her and she knows it.

Mary Margaret walks in, clearing her throat. He meets her eye, tilting his head. Her heart flutters at that simple move. It's part of why she fell in love with him in the first place.

"I need you to leave," she says. Realization washes over his face, but she continues. "I want a divorce."

David stares at her for a moment, then puts down his paper. She braces herself for the fight. Him telling her that they're not going to give up on this marriage. Offers to see Archie, to work to break down this wall that the past 6 months has built between them. All of the things she hasn't found herself able to ask. She isn't even sure how it all started. One day, they were a happily married couple and now they're just empty shells of who they once were. They can get back to that, if he's willing to fight for them.

Instead, his face remains emotionless. "I can be out by tonight. I'll go to Leroy's."

He walks past her, his foots ascending the stairs. Mary Margaret settles onto the couch, watching him return 10 minutes later with some suitcases. Once his truck has rattled out of the drive, she goes to the guest room. Empty drawers hang open, the closet is littered with deserted hangers. Her eyes carry to the side table. Beside a busted alarm clock and ugly floral lamp sits David's silver wedding band. Mary Margaret runs her fingers over her emerald stone.

One tear falls, then another. Soon, the floodgates are open.

She's alone now.