HOMG meet my new obsession. I am so a shipper on deck for these two it is not even funny! While I love angst like nobody's business I had a weird week and wanted something sappy. So here we go! Sappy and sugary and full of cinnamon hot chocolate (which is surprisingly good).
He waits for her every day.
The dark haired woman, marymargaretblanchard, marymargaret, mary, mary, he waits and watches but he always seems to miss her. She comes, he can tell by the change of flowers at his beside and the change in decorations at the ward. But he never sees her. Either he's in physical therapy, learning to use his right arm again or he's learning to walk without the aide of the wheel chair. His muscles haven't just atrophied, they're a joke, a distant memory. He can barely squeeze the yellow tennis ball they give him, much less stand up and hobble over to the bathroom.
His weakness is almost as infuriating as the loss of his memory.
His mind is a jumble of pictures and sounds. They meld together and when one of the images or sounds becomes clear it only makes everything more confusing. All he knows is that everything feels wrong. The sheets, the bed, the air-all the little things feel wrong and those, in turn, make the big things feel worse. He doesn't remember the blonde haired woman who claims to be his wife Kathyrine , Kath-y-rine, but he does remember that he dislikes blondes. Why, he cannot say, but he does and when she presses her gloss slicked lips to his he all but vomits.
The only blondes he seems to be able to stand are the little boy and the woman with curls that splay over her ruby red jacket. Then again, they aren't telling him that he's their husbands. The little boy hands him a book with a fairytale carefully tabbed and tells him it'll help him remember. The child is charming and nice and when his right hand trembles violently as it struggles to turn the pages and his eyes attempt to focus on the words, the boy confidently tells him he'll get him someone to help him before leaving.
The young woman on the other hand elicits a feeling he can only describe as protectiveness. It crashes down on him with the force of a wave that sucks him under and it seems that all he wants to do is protect her and fight whoever made her so sad.
Yes, fight, with a sword.
He can picture everything from the leather of the hilt to the whistle of the blade through the air. He knows how it feels in his hands, how the blade will vibrate when it clashes in a block or slice through resistance as he cuts down enemies. He wants to kill whoever hurt her and as he tries to focus on the words she says, he's overcome with the odd feeling that he already has.
He dismisses the thoughts as nothing more than fantasies inspired by the boy's book. He's not a fighter, with a sword or otherwise. He's a coward who ran from his wife and got in a car accident trying to flee from his problems. He hasn't fought off men or saved princesses or defeated soldiers who wear raven feathers on their helmet. If anything he's got more in common with the man in the stories who sits on the other side of the bars and hurls taunts at the noble prince and princess who come to him for help.
They transfer him to another ward.
Kathyrine is overjoyed, it is a sign of progress and a big step in his recovery but he's so upset he considers hurting himself to go back to the other ward. The hospital isn't big but the distance between his new room and the old ward is huge-impossibly huge. He wakes up after another insane dream, gasping for air and wondering if he strains hard enough, will he be able to hear Mary Margaret's voice? His heart sinks when he realizes that the only thing he can hear is the pound of his heart and the shrill sound of the monitor and the sound of soft loafers running towards him.
His eyes fly open and his body turns just as the door flies open and Mary Margaret Blanchard comes running into his room.
Unfortunately he turns too quickly and by the time her foot crosses the threshold he has landed on the ground in a heap of limbs. Its rotten luck-the only kind he seems to have-that his bad shoulder takes the brunt of the fall. The pain is sharp and blinding, eliciting a rough cry from his lips as black spots dance in front of his eyes. Everything is lost to the chaos of the pain for an impossibly long moment and he's fairly certain that if he passes out it will be the single greatest thing in the world.
He's wrong when the spots clear and he finds himself looking up into Mary Margaret's face. For an instant her hair is dark and long, spilling over her shoulders and tickling his cheek. Its twined with white flowers that match the pale gown she wears, which is shades lighter than his own cream colored tunic. But then the spots clear further and her hair is cropped. The cardigan she wears is grey and he, in turn, is clad in a pale shade of blue. The red is not her lips but the beads of blood from where he's ripped out his IV again. But her hand on his other arm is warm and gentle and that at least is the same.
"Hold on," she urges him, and her voice is impossibly musical, "Dr. Wales is coming."
"Doc-" he gets out, because Doc is Doc. He's short and wise and knows how to do everything from deliver a baby a girl, whose name begins with an E, its right there on the blanket she's wrapped in, to building a glass coffin he can't touch her, oh god she's dead and he's too late even though he swore he'd find her-, "no!" he cries because the image is too cruel for words.
His body twists but she holds firm. Firmer than he would think for someone of her slight stature. Before either of them realizes it she's dragged him into her lap and his bruised shoulder is pressed against her abdomen. It hurts but not enough to make him protest as her other arm encircles his shoulder, holding him tightly against her. His other hand gropes blindly and she catches it with hers, threading their fingers together as though its what they've always done.
"Shhh," she soothes him, "its alright, he's going to help you."
He nods and tries not to wince when she shifts him to get a better hold. He wants to tell her he's alright, that it will all be alright. Suddenly though he's pressed against something rounder. She's still holding him but the gown she's wearing is white and from the swell of her body she is pregnant or recently was. He still wants to reassure her but she's shaking with sobs and the words can't seem to leave his mouth. Something wet and hot is against his side and he thinks he might be dying. Her lips press against his and his eyes fly open.
She's hovering above him now and her body is not rounded with pregnancy. Her lips are not pressed to his and she is not shaking with sobs. But her eyes are bright and he knows he's worried her. He gets the fingers of his good hand to flex, to squeeze against hers in the most reassuring thing he can manage. She looks down at their joined hands and shock and happiness vie for control of her features and his heart pounds much harder than it should.
When Dr. Wales comes in he decides he's going to hurt the man. He scolds Mary Margaret for moving a man with an orthopedic injury and shoos her away as he examines his patient. He doesn't consider himself a hand holder but by the time the Doctor is done rotating his hip and shoulder and re-inserting his IV, he kind of wishes he had her hand to hold. Dr. Wales leaves with strict orders for rest and he strains to hear the doctor reprimanding Mary Margaret outside his door. When they are finished he barely waits until the doctor's polished shoes move away with their familiar tapping sound.
"Wait," he rasps and prays that she will hear him, "please, wait-"
Slowly she comes in and he cannot help but think she is very nervous about something. Her walk is neither confident nor authoritative, rather she seems to flit into the room like a bird and he fears that if he moves to quickly she will fly away and he will never see her again. He holds himself very still and she flits closer and after an impossibly long time she is next to his bed.
"Thank you," he says and the curiosity in her eyes almost breaks his heart, "for saving me," he pauses, "twice," he adds quickly.
"It was nothing," she says with a smile that doesn't even part her lips and before he can stop himself he reaches out and touches her wrist. She stiffens but she does not pull away.
"It was my life," he says and tries to emphasize the word as much as his raspy voice will allow.
"Oh of course," she says and the pink that stains her cheeks turns to a deeper rose, "I didn't mean-" now she pulls away and he cannot stop himself from grasping her slender wrist with his feeble strength, "Mr. Nolan-"
"David," he corrects and while the name feels strange, the formality feels worse, "I know your voice," he frowns, "how do I know your voice?"
"I volunteer here," she says, "I was reading to you when you woke up."
"Reading to a comatose patient?" he asks, "doesn't that get boring?"
"Not really," she says and he can feel the tension in her wrist slacken, "I'm a teacher," she elaborates. Her words are still quiet but he can see her eyes light up when she talks and he can tell she truly loves what she does, "it was actually quite nice to read a story when i wasn't interrupted until the very end."
"It must have been some ending," he says, offering a smile in an effort to keep her there, "was it good or bad?"
"It depends," she says and when she title her head to the side and the smile on her lips turns bright and genuine he thinks he might pass out all over again for the right reasons, "what are your thoughts on happily ever after?"
"I'm a fan," he says without hesitation.
"Then it was a very good ending," she says and her smile turns from gorgeous to breathtaking.
He barely manages to glance away to locate the book that the boy had given him. He releases her wrist only long enough to move for the book. She follows his gaze and quickly comes around the bed to pick up the book before he can hurt himself further. She holds the book with something akin to reverence before looking up and smiling at him.
"Do you want to know how it ends?" she asks.
"Do you mind?" he asks and suddenly feels like a jerk, "I know its late. If you have somewhere to be-"
"No," she smiles gently and looks about for a chair.
There's one in the corner but he doubts she can move it-nor does he really want her to try. He tells himself that he doesn't want the doctor to know what they are up to but a sneaky little voice in the back of his foggy head tells him he's far more interested in feeling her leg against his. The sneaky voice wins when he shifts over just enough to make the invitation clear and she carefully sits next to him.
The warmth of her body seeps through him and is more comforting than he could have imagined. He knows he's felt this before. Not just the warmth of her leg pressed to his but the comfort that comes with it. This is a comfort that is as profound as the protectiveness he feels for the woman with the blond curls. Maybe its because she's another person or a pretty girl or she's alive, God, she's alive and sitting in front of him and thank God there's only one horse between them because he cannot let her out of his sight ever again-
"Sorry," he says, jerking out of the odd sensation, "please, continue," he all but begs when he sees the worry in her eyes.
She gives him a reassuring smile and begins to read. Her voice is light and measured as she reads but there is a beautiful flow to the way she tells the story. As she reads its like when she smiles, its like watching a flower bloom. She's pretty-no, she's exquisite and the fact that her beauty seems to not matter to her only makes her more so. Everything about her eels to have a measure of beautiful delicacy about it, from the fineness of her hair to the small flowers that decorate her blouse to the pale fingers that hold the book in place.
A ring is on her longest finger, the green jewel is beautiful against the brushed gold of the setting and he cannot tell if the ring is old or was meant to look as such. As he watches her move he cannot help but think that the ring looks as though it was made for her. He stares at the ring on her finger and frowns as he realizes that he has felt this way before. He cannot think if the ring is the same or the girl or if he's thinking about Kathyrine but he knows he's watched a woman wear a ring and known it felt this right. Except Kathyrine is wears a diamond and when he looks at her he doesn't feel the same way.
"And before long she opened her eyes, sat up and was once more alive," she continues, her voice softening further.
Or maybe he's just going to sleep, his eyes certainly feel heavy and her voice is softer. But she doesn't stop reading and the comfort of the action washes over him even though he truly does not want to go to sleep again. His fingertips move forward in a silent request and when one of her hands comes down and grasps his, the brushed metal of her ring pressing against his fingers he thinks that for the first time his dreams will be pleasant.
It is no surprise that he dreams of her.
Her hair is longer and caught with flowers. The ring has moved from her middle finger to her ring finger and he has the clearest memory of placing there while a very large number of people watched. When he kisses her on the balcony of a palace she is as soft and exquisite as he imagined. She calls him James and he calls her Snow and if he wasn't a grown man he would say that they are in a fairytale. But he is and they aren't and the woman he's supposed to be thinking about kissing is as far away from her as can be.
He's set himself back a good bit with physical therapy thanks to fall and while his therapist takes the opportunity to push him harder, Kathyrine rolls her eyes as though he somehow planned for that to happen. She spends more and more time away from the hospital, which he is actually quite grateful for because it is taxing enough not to remember. He's too tired to try to pretend he wants to remember her as well. The pleasant dreams he had that night are soon eclipsed by thoughts of the tennis ball he has to squeeze or the bars he's using to try and walk again.
Two weeks pass before he sees Mary again.
He hears her outside of the room. The tempo of her steps is quick and he knows that she is trying to hurry past. Dr. Wales is on shift so he isn't entirely surprised by this, but he is disappointed. He wants to talk to her, he wants to know why she would be so nice to a perfect stranger. So before he can stop himself he snags the tennis ball, takes aim to where he thinks her feet would be and throws the ball towards the sound. Victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat when he hears her loafers stop and the tennis ball does not bounce again. A moment later her head peaks around the door.
"Hey," he says with what he hopes is a welcoming smile.
"Hi," she greets shyly, the fingers of her free hand playing over the surface of the ball nervously, "I think this is yours," she says and moves forward, extending her hand to give him the ball while still maintaining her distance.
"Thank you," he says taking the ball.
"Good night," she murmurs and turns around to leave.
"I'm sorry," he blurts out and her steps pause. She turns her head and gives him a puzzled look that title her head adorably to the side, "clearly I offended you and I'm sorry for whatever I did."
"Oh no," she says, her eyes widening in surprise, "no you didn't offend me-"
"Obviously I did, since you've been avoiding me since that night," he points out and tries not to smile when she blushes guiltily, "I can't do much to make it up to you," he continues, "unless you have a thing for tennis balls," he glances around, "or green jello."
Her lips part and a musical laughter spills from her lips and he feels like he could fly instead of walking. She's incredible and he's immediately plotting how he's going to hoard green jello if it means she'll spend time with him. He glances down to see her fingers have moved and she's loosened the ring from her finger and is playing with it in a gesture that is surprisingly familiar. He knows that is what she does when she's nervous or deep in thought except when she's pregnant and her fingers are swollen. Then the ring is worn on a narrow chain that circles her neck and hangs between her breasts except when she pulls it out and plays with it-which she does nonstop.
"That's a beautiful ring," he says changing the topic.
"Oh, thank you," she says but her fingers don't stop playing with it.
"Where did you get it?" he asks.
"You know i've had it for so long, I don't really remember," she admits looking at her ring.
"Well you're in the right place," he says drawing her eyes back to him, "I don't remember a lot of things."
She looks at him doubtfully and he comes to the realization that blonde bounty hunter is not the only one he wants to protect. She is hurt and afraid. But the hurt and fear she projects only makes the moments of strength shine brighter. Someone has done this to her and he vows silently that when he learns to walk properly and use his arm again, the first trip he's going to take is to find whoever did this to her and destroy them. He's not entirely certain where he can get a sword in this town but he'll figure that out. Worst comes to worst he figures he'll use the cane they're talking about giving him when he's ready.
"How's school going?" he asks, going to the only topic he can think of that makes her eyes light up.
"Great," she says with a smile that has his heart skipping, "the kids are learning cursive."
He smiles, but its bittersweet. The accident has taken many things from him and though his left hand is virtually unusable, his right hand's dexterity is still shot. He's tried to write but his attempts have been less than successful and though he knows his physical therapist would help but frankly it is wildly embarrassing that he cannot write without looking like a child. For some reason though, he's willing to suffer that embarrassment to have her touch his hand again.
"Care to give another lesson?" he asks holding up his hand.
"Let me get my bag," she says and ducks out. She comes back before he has time to wonder if she will and rummages through for a pad of paper and a pen. She glances at the chair but instead sits next to him on the bed, pulling the tray closer to them and turning to a blank page on the pad,"write the alphabet."
He picks up the pen and leans over the paper as she reaches out and holds it steady for him. The letters are slow and his hand shakes violently as he tries to follow the simple instructions. The idea that this might be a bad idea occurs to him and he almost puts the pen down when she place her hand over his. With a smile she stands up and comes around to lean over him. He finds out that she smells faintly of flowers and freshly cut wood, but mostly she smells like cinnamon.
"Here," she wraps her hand around his, "slowly," she instructs and carefully begins to guide his trembling hand into forming letters.
Frustration comes quickly but he refuse to give in to his temper as his she turns his scribbles into something resembling actual letters. Still though he thinks he hides it well she smiles encouragingly at him and reassures him that it will take time but he's doing wonderfully. As if it is perfectly normal for a grown man to be unable to write properly.
That night in his dreams she is screaming. He's holding her tightly, wishing that his strength could be given to her through their joined hands alone. She's trembling as tears and sweat slip down her face and he can smell blood in the air. He's terrified but when she looks up at him with fear and desperation in her eyes he squeezes her hand tighter and promises that everything will be alright. Someone comes in and says something is ready but what it is he cannot remember. He goes to move her but the small man shakes his head. Then suddenly she's leaning forward with a low moan and he's half on the bed supporting her as she strains. All he can do is comfort and support and watch in awe as a child-their child-makes its way into the world.
He wakes before he finds out if they had a boy or girl.
When he wakes there are tears on his cheeks and a weight pressing against his chest. He spends the whole day remembering how it felt to hold her close and see their child come into the world. Her strength is familiar but when he dreams about her he sees her unhindered by fear or sorrow. He does not find it odd that he dreams about her whenever she visits him, she is a beautiful woman after all, but he does find it odd that his dreams when it comes to her are about true love and family rather than something else, like sex.
The little boy, Henry, comes to him as soon as the sun has set.
"Are you remembering?" he asks anxiously, ignoring greetings or pretenses.
"Not really," he begins, about to explain the issue with comatose and amnesia again when Henry's brows knit together in frustration, "remembering what?" he asks cautiously.
"Her! Mary Margaret Blanchard," Henry says, "she's the one you were looking for, remember?" he prods, "she's your true love! You two were married-"
There's an odd roaring in his ears as he remember the clearest dream he had of her the other night. In that dream, instead of being just lovely she is radiant. Flowers are in her hair, the dark locks twisted into some intricate design that leaves the column of her throat bare. The white dress she wears billows around her legs and he's half wondering how he's ever going to get her out of it. He can feel the weight of the brocade pressing down on his skin and though its uncomfortable he gets the feeling he's worn things far worse before. There are people everywhere and a man is talking and it is taking that man too damn long because all he wants to do is put the ring on her finger and proclaim to the entire world that they are married.
"Henry," he says instead, "I'm married to Kathyrine ."
"No you aren't," Henry says, "Emma thinks your marriage certificate looks fake and she should know because Emma always knows when someone is lying to her."
"Henry-" he begins, "Emma-" Emma, is the name on the blanket. Hold on Emma, we're going to the wardrobe and even if I'm only a father for five minutes it'll be the most important five minutes of my life because that is what a father does he protects his children, he protects-, "Emma!" he all but gasps, because the image is shockingly clear but even clearer is the feeling that he gets when he thinks about the infant girl whose haunted his dreams.
"Kid, what are you doing in here?" comes the demand given with half hearted authority as Emma walks into the room.
"He's remembering!" Henry all but cries, excitement written all over his face.
"Okay, go wait outside," Emma says and Henry gives him one last beaming smile before departing. Emma watches him go with a smile and a shake of her head before she turns back to him, "well your marriage is fake."
"Huh?" he looks at her.
"David Nolan, your marriage license was applied for and granted but you never actually got married," she says and pulls out a manilla envelope that holds the documents that prove her words.
"So I was engaged," he says, "but I wasn't married?" she nods and he tries not to feel excited at the knowledge, "I don't suppose you know why the marriage was called off."
"Not yet," she says and glances at the door before quickly closing it and approaching his bed, "listen, Henry is a good kid but he's got a bit of an overactive imagination," she explains.
"I know," he assures her with a smile, "I'm supposed to be remembering that I'm a fairytale character right?"
"Right," she says, returning his smile with one of her own that looks oddly familiar.
"Should I be playing along?" he asks, "or not getting his hopes up?"
"Either? Both?" she asks and her face falls for a moment and suddenly the protectiveness he felt for the baby in his arm is back and he's all but ready to leap out of bed and try to make her smile again, "I don't really know anymore," she sighs and glances at the door and crosses her arms, "you haven't been dreaming about, uh, fairytales have you?"
"No," he assures her.
Because he hasn't. He's been dreaming about her friend who smells like cinnamon and smiles like the sun. And if those dreams seem to feature them in slightly fairy tale clothing with slightly fairy tale settings, well then that is just a coincidence. Emma gives him a faint half smile that looks even more familiar and he tries to think of something to lighten the mood. Or at the very least to make her smile properly.
"So who are you in the book?" he asks, "I'd guess Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella," she gives him an incredulous look, "those are the only two blonde princesses I've gotten up to so far," he explains.
"Ah, well, neither," she replies, "I'm not in the book, I'm here to save you all," she adds with a wry twist of her lips.
"So you're a Prince then," he says, "riding in to heroically save the kingdom. Where's your steed?"
"Parked out back," she deadpans, "i left my sword and cloak in the trunk."
"That is unacceptable Princely behavior," he says with fake seriousness.
"Then where's yours?" she challenges.
"Over in the corner," he says motioning to the cane that is perched there.
"I see," she replies as though this conversation makes perfect sense, "well I will strive to follow your great example, Prince Charming," Charming, no, no, no he's got a name and if that brunette little minx would have used it he's certain he'd be able to get her out of his head. Except when her lips form his real name he knows that's impossible, he's never going to stop thinking about her ever again- "David?" Emma's voice pulls him back to the real world, "you okay?"
"Yeah," he says, "sorry, the drifting is bad today."
"That's fine," she says, "I have to go look after Henry before he finds another character here to prod," she heads for the door and pauses, "hey, do you want me to talk to Kathyrine ?" she offers.
"Thanks," he says with a shake of his head, "I'll take care of it," she nods and moves to leave, "hey, Emma?" she turns back to him, "if I'm Prince Charming, whose Mary Margaret supposed to be?"
"Snow White," Emma says.
Not ten minutes after Emma leaves, Kathyrine comes in with Regina. It takes him five minutes to show them what he has, another five to listen to Kathyrine 's feeble explanations, all of which are supported by Regina's prodding. All in all within the hour Kathyrine is leaving with as many tears as she can muster, Regina following with her scowl firmly in place. He actually feels ecstatic and when Mary Margaret comes around the corner into his room not ten minutes later he thinks that he might send himself back into a coma out of sheer joy with the situation.
"I just saw Kathyrine and Regina leaving," she says, "is everything alright?"
"Well, it turns out I'm not married," he replies
"O-oh, really?" she tries to sound disinterested but the hope in her eyes makes his heart pound.
"Really," he confirms, "turns out it was a ploy by that evil witch of a mayor."
"I'm sorry," she says, as though any of this was her fault. His confusion must show on his face because she ducks her head with a self conscious smile, "that can't be fun to wake up to."
"Well I suppose its better than being lied to," he reasons.
"Of course," she says and fidgets with her ring, "i can come back another night if you need some time," she begins.
"No," he says quickly, "I'd actually like the company," he explains, "please," he adds.
"Alright," she says coming fully into the room, "I thought we could try numbers this time."
"Oh goody," he says and cannot keep the sarcasm fully out of his voice.
She smiles reassuringly and they spend the next few hours forming letters and numbers. By the end of the night his fingers are shaking and his wrist hurts but he can make it through the alphabet and numbers legibly. She beams at him proudly and he decides it might be the best day he's had since he woke up from the coma. Especially when she remains sitting next to him on the bed, close enough that if he really wanted to he could reach up and put his arm around her. She'd feel perfect against his chest, he knows it, but when his fingers brush her hip accidentally she all but jumps from the bed like a scared bird.
"I should be going," she says quickly, "you've had a long day and you need to rest."
"Wait," he says desperately, "did I know you? Before the accident?"
"No," she says quickly and shakes her head as though to emphasize the point.
"Are you sure?" he prods and she looks at him as though he's grown a second head, "I just-I feel a connection with you," he pushes himself up as he talks, trying to keep his movements as slow and steady as his recovering muscles will allow, "I didn't feel it with Kathyrine and she's the only person I'm supposed to know."
"I was reading to you when you were in a coma," she says, "should you be doing that?" she asks as he wobbles to his feet.
"So you don't feel anything?" he asks searching her face for any sort of reaction.
"David-" she begins as he steps forward, one hand pressed to the bed for support, "I-" she looks down as though embarrassed about something. He reaches the end of the bed and is determined to walk to her even though he's not entirely certain he can. She reaches out for the ring on her finger before seemingly realizing his plan and stepping forward before he can run out of support, "I do," she admits finally, "but I thought you were married."
"Not to Kathyrine ," he says stepping close enough that their arms are touching.
He leans forward. She tenses against his arm but doesn't pull away though he gives her plenty of time to do just that. Her eyes drop to his lips and before he can talk himself out of what he's about to do, he leans forward and gently brushes their mouths together. The contact is feather light but sends electricity across his skin. He's trying to be careful and aware of the fact that he has no idea if he even has the right to kiss her. But then she shifts towards him and her lips part with a soft sound and he takes the invitation to deepen the kiss. She tastes like cinnamon and chocolate and he thinks his heart is going to pound right out of his chest.
"David," she whispers, one of her hands coming up to touch the stubble on his cheek.
He kisses her again, not understanding the sense of urgency that grips him. The metal of her ring is warm against his cheek and the heel of her hand is on the scar that adorns his chin. The one scar he is certain did not come from the accident that put him in a coma. It's too old and while the scars on his chest, side and thigh are carefully stitched together into neat scars, this one is jagged. Like someone struck him, with a rock, and it's a girl and dear God she's beautiful and perfect and if she keeps smiling he's going to forget that blonde harpy in the carriage and marry for true love and-
He breaks away with a hiss as pain shoots through his chin. Concern flares through her eyes but the pain has suddenly increased tenfold and he can barely see. He's dimly aware that he's gripping the bed and trying not to pass out when he hears her gasp. He forces his eyes open to see her stumble back, her fingers buried in her short hair. Through the dark strands he can see the jewel on her ring is glowing and why would it be doing that?
Suddenly he remembers standing in a room. He barely reaches the waist of the woman who bends down to look at him. She's clothed in silk and lace and might be the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. She slides a ring off her finger and places it in his palm. His hand is small and chubby when cupped in the graceful curve of her palm but there is warmth in the way she holds his hand. The beautiful woman tells him that the ring is special, that when he gives it to his true love it will protect them against evil things. He tells her he doesn't believe in true love and she smiles and says he will one day.
She calls him James.
Suddenly it makes sense. The feelings, the dreams, he's not David Nolan at all. He's Prince James to everyone except Snow White who calls him Charming when she's feeling particularly affectionate or snarky which she has been feeling a lot because she's pregnant. And then there's an evil Queen and Rumplestilkin and a sword buried in his side and he can't quite move which is a shame because his beautiful wife is holding him and begging him to please please come back to her and he has to because he always swore that he would find her and if he can just open his eyes he'll find her now.
The chaotic onslaught knocks the wind from him but when it clears it feels like this is when he's woken up, not three weeks ago. His head snaps up and he looks over to see his beautiful wife with her back against the wall. She's looking at him with tears in her eyes and he doesn't know if she remembers but he prays she does. When she approaches him it's hesitant but purposeful and when her fingers reach out to settle the scar on his chin there's a familiarity in the gesture that wasn't there before.
"Snow?" he whispers, hardly daring to believe that this is happening.
She draws back with a shocked gasp that may or may not be his name, only to lunge forward a moment later and wrap her arms around him, weeping softly. He sinks onto the bed when his leg gives, holding her tighter, if that is possible, and burying his face in the curve of her shoulder. He wonders how it is possible that he has survived twenty eight years without her.
"I saw you laying there and I thought-I thought-" she trails off helplessly as sobs overtake her.
"Didn't I tell you I'd always find you?" he asks pressing his lips to her hair, heedless of the tears that slip down his own cheeks.
She draws back with a tear filled laugh and then suddenly her lips are on his again. She still tastes like cinnamon and even their tears cannot dampen that. He's so grateful to have her back in his arms again he can barely breathe. His thoughts are even more jumbled than before but he doesn't care as he reaches out and tucks an errant lock of the pixie short hair behind her ears, half certain she is going to disappear or he'll forget her all over again. The thought is incomprehensible and before he fully think the action through he pulls her close and kisses her once again.
She meets his lips eagerly and now he remembers what it is like to kiss Snow White. She is his Queen, his wife, the strongest woman he has ever known. Their child has come back for them, just as she knew she would. Their world is still in tatters, if it even exists at all, but they are alive and Emma is here and-he draws back and looks up at her.
"Are we grandparents?" he asks.
"Yes," she says and laughs as though it is not the most peculiar thing to be young and grandparents at the same time. But her laugh is infectious and he cannot help but join in despite the insanity of the thought, "we have a grandson and a daughter and an evil Queen who still wants us dead-"
"Hey, hey," he soothes her as her voice turns miserable again, "she's already lost. We remember each other and Emma is safe. We can fix everything else."
She nods, her cheek moving against his hand where he's reached up to cup it. Even now he can see that Snow is saddened. The Queen has done something to her, something terrible that goes beyond the curse. His grip with his good arm tightens around her waist and he feels her lean heavily against him. She has spent twenty eight years in the throws of the curse while he has been asleep and he is not entirely certain he will be able to forgive himself for that. But that discovery can come later, when they are home and everyone in safe. Snow has been impossibly strong but he knows that the real fight has just begun.
"Sister Blanchard?" Dr. Wales says and its a near miracle she turns to face him, "visiting hours are over. It's time for you to go home. Mr. Nolan, you need to rest."
He nods and looks at her beautiful face as it falls. She does not want to go and God help him he doesn't want to let her even if it means the Queen finds out they remember. It's been twenty eight years, they deserve to spend the night together. And the next night, and the next until they are back in the palace and never have to be apart again. But Dr. Wales is watching with his beady little eyes and he'd really like to punch him right about now. Something in Snow's face changes and while she suddenly looks timid there is a strength there now.
"Sorry Dr. Wales," she apologizes and pushes herself to her feet
It takes everything in him to let her stand up. He just found her again and he does not want to let her leave. It's been only a few weeks for him, for her twenty eight years have passed. They deserve to spend their first night together after all this time, especially since the last time they were together and aware she was giving birth and he was being stabbed. There was so much chaos, he can barely remember the last time it was just the two of them without the threat of the world ending.
"Goodnight David," she says giving him a chaste smile.
"Goodnight Mary," he says and if his voice is a bit too soft Dr. Wales makes no mention of it.
He watches her leave with the doctor and wonders how she became so strong. He feels like he's being ripped apart and can barely keep a straight face but she somehow manages to speak to the doctor in a quiet, gentle tone as though nothing has changed. No, he knows she is strong, she's always been strong, but this makes him think he might have actually married the strongest woman in the realm. He watches her reach the end of the hallway. Dr. Wales walks away but she hesitates and turns around.
Their eyes meet across the hall through the open door. She glances to the side before she holds out her hand, examining the ring in the exact same fashion she did that day back in the woods after saving him from trolls. She meets his eyes above her fingertips and smiles and he can only just keep the laugh contained. Lowering her hand, she looks at him for another moment before ducking out and leaving him to wonder if it is even possible to sleep that night.
He pushes himself past the breaking point when it comes to physical therapy. It's easier now, knowing that when he gets out of the hospital it means he can finally be alone with her. It strikes him as odd that he has to fight this battle to be alone with his wife, but he refuses to accept even the possibility of defeat. She spends as much time with him as she can, but Dr. Wales seems to watch them like a hawk and the moments when they can be alone are far between. It's like playing an entirely different game but he cannot wait for it to be over.
Three weeks later he's released from the hospital. She volunteers her house since he's got nowhere else to go. Granny plays along and won't give him a room at the inn, offering some excuse about medical care. Snow knows what to do and even Dr. Wales can't dispute the decision, especially since he's still going to need a cane and the sling. It takes them twenty minutes to walk to her apartment and another twenty to make it up the stairs. Snow looks at him anxiously and helps where she can but it takes a lot out of him to make it to her front door. When he gets there he's out of breath and sweat stains his collar but he feels like he's accomplished something. Snow turns the lock with her key and lets him into the small apartment.
He knows Emma's going to be there but he can't quite stop the skip of his heart as she stands up and fixes him with that guarded expression of hers. She's actually as tall as he is and the realization threatens to cripple him all over again. All he can think about is the five minute run to the wardrobe, the first, and only, time he was able to hold his daughter. He has to force himself not to stare and try to find every inch of himself and Snow in the curl of her hair or the way she nervously picks at the hem of her tank top.
"Hi," she says and he sees the small bag leaning by her chair, "I just wanted to give you this back," she says extending the key towards Snow.
"Where are you going?" she asks and doesn't manage to keep the anxiety out of her voice, "did you find another place to live?"
"No, but don't you need your room back?" she asks.
"No!" they both say at the same time.
"No," Snow says firmly, refusing the key that Emma offers, "stay. We'll share a room," she adds looking over at him and he nods.
Emma gives them a look that is both disgusted and skeptical. He tries not to grin because he knows that he gave the same look to his parents when they would travel and require at least two rooms wherever they stayed. It feels like he's been waiting his whole life to see his daughter wear that expression. It also feels like he's been waiting since before he remembered to share a bed with Snow. They don't make idle talk with their daughter, though God knows he wants to. Emma looks too surprised at being told to stay and Snow seems worried she's going to slip up and tell Emma that she's supposed to have slept a few rooms away from them for most of her life. Soon they are all heading to bed.
The room Snow leads him to is small but homey. He never saw where she lived before he brought her to the palace, but he cannot help but think this is much more like it than the palace they shared. He sits on the bed and tugs her down. She leans her head against his shoulder, the short length of her hair making the gesture wonderfully new and familiar at the same time. He reaches for her hand and slides the ring off her middle finger, sliding it onto her ring finger where it belongs. She smiles and shifts her head against his shoulder, enjoying the site of it on the proper finger. The one thing that remains the same as the world goes insane around them.
"I can't believe it made it through," Snow admits as he slides his fingers through hers, "or that it fits my fingers again," she adds with a smile.
He lifts her hand and brushes a kiss to her fingertips. They are softer than he remembers, but in this world she has not spent years in the forrest stealing jewels and fighting trolls. He kisses his way past the curve of her wrist as a soft sigh escapes her lips.
"James," she whispers, catching her lip between her teeth as his lips grace the skin of her inner elbow, "you need to rest."
"I've rested enough," he dismisses as his lips brush the column of her throat.
She ducks her head and joins their mouths once more.
He is acutely aware of the fact that the last time they were alone on a bed together she was in the later stages of pregnancy. There is no evidence of the daughter she bore on her body now. Gone are the jewels and the gowns, in their place is thin cotton. But he loved her before all that, back when she was wearing boys clothes and running through the forrest. And if the changes make him hold her a bit tighter and kiss her longer, he doesn't think anyone would blame him. For the first time his slumber is dreamless, he does not need to dream about her when she's wrapped in his arms.
Hours later wakes up when the apartment is mostly silent, but he can hear someone in the kitchen. He gets out of bed and smooths the covers over Snow, tucking them in so she will not be cold. Foregoing the cane, he hobbles into the kitchen to find Emma standing over the stove. He can smell the faint scent of chocolate and cinnamon coming from the pot that she is stirring. When she hears him she doesn't jump, just turns her head towards him.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" she asks.
"No," he shakes his head, "I think I've slept enough for a while," he says.
"Fair enough," she looks at the pot, "want some?" she offers.
"Sure," he says.
She reaches up and pulls down another mug out of the cabinet, setting it beside the one there. He makes his way over to the kitchen counter and sits down. She stirs for a moment longer before turning around to face him, her eyes narrowing as she inspects him. The look is shockingly like the ones Snow gives him if he's being sneaky or trying to hide something from her, except if Snow's look is a five, Emma's is a fifty. He can't help but think that he's being inspected.
"Why are you sharing a room with Mary?" she asks and the look on her face takes a protective edge.
"We're friends," he begins.
"Friends don't sleep together," she retorts and when he opens his mouth to explain she barrels on, "and don't tell me it's got something to do with your injuries, I've seen guys way worse off than you do horrible things to nice girls like her."
He realizes what she's doing and it takes everything in him not to laugh. Or cry. He desperately wants to explain that if they didn't do what she's implying, then she wouldn't be there to threaten him like this. His daughter is threatening him not to break his wife's heart. This might actually be the worst part of the curse because if his daughter knew him, the real him, she'd know that he'd throw himself off the tallest tower of the palace before he would hurt Snow. He forces himself to remember that here she knows him as a man who spent a long time in a coma, was revived by her friend after a trip through the woods, only to reveal a wife-a fake one, but one none the less-and who then went crazy with physical therapy to leave to move in with said friend.
All in all, it was not the most flattering picture he could offer.
Emma turns around and picks up the pot, pouring the hot chocolate into the two mugs. She sets the one in front him down with all the authority of a King and leaned across the bar, keeping him in the crosshairs of her sharp stare. He tries not to squirm under her look, knowing that when he would stare people down and they would squirm he would take it as a sign of guilt. Instead he meets her gaze.
"I like her," he says, knowing that words like soul mate and true love have no place here, "a lot. And I swear that if I hurt her you can take me to the bridge and drop me back in the water where you found me."
She stares him down for a moment longer before leaning back.
"You don't have to be so dramatic," she says finally.
"I'm serious," he says, "but I'll do my best not to let it get to that," she nods finally and he casts his mind around trying to think of what he can ask her. He wants to know everything about his daughter but he doesn't want to scare her away, "so where are you from?" he asks.
"Boston," she says, "but I'm originally from Maine."
He shouldn't be surprised his daughter had a life far from the one she deserves but it saddens him none the less. She tells him very few facts but from the look on her face he is very lucky to get those at all. He wonders if somehow she knows that they have a connection, that he was the last person to hold her in the world before she went through the wardrobe. He knows there will be time for that later, when they have this all sorted out. For now he is about the same age as her and he knows the most he can offer is friendship.
So he listens to the details he gives her and tells her the few things he's 'remembered', making sure to change them to fit the details Snow has shared of this world. It's only when they turn to the subject of Henry that he truly sees her light up. She's fond of the boy, that much is clear, and she doesn't trust the mayor whose adopted him. He knows that Regina's adopted Henry but he still cannot help the anger that sparks in him at the knowledge that the evil queen is raising the boy and has named his grandchild after the man she sacrificed to ruin their lives.
"It's great what you're doing for him," he tells her.
"I hope so," Emma says crossing her arms, doubt shining in her gaze.
"You are," he says firmly.
"Yeah?" she looks at him, "do you have kids?"
He looks at her and wants to say that yes, in fact, he's got a kid who happens to be standing right in front of him thinking that he abandoned her on the side of the road. But he can't because then she'll really think he's crazy.
"No," he says, "but I know that you wanted to give Henry the best shot at life and it takes a special kind of person to be that selfless," he keeps his eyes on hers, though the shock on her face breaks his heart, "I think you've got Henry's best interests at heart."
The way she's looking at him he thinks she's going to start to cry and he is all but ready to leap up and comfort her. Strangers or not, he isn't about to sit there like a lump while his daughter weeps. But then she shrugs the look off and glances at her half empty coco mug with a faint smile.
"I hope so," she says finally, her voice hushed enough to make him think she hasn't told many people this, "and thank you," she says looking up at him, "for not acting like he was nuts for thinking you were a fairytale character. That can't have been the most fun to wake up to."
"It was refreshing," he says weakly, "I don't get called a Prince very often."
"Well you're 'Charming' enough," she says.
"I do my best," he replies.
"Well I should get to bed," she says finally moving towards the sink.
"I'll take care of it," he offers quickly. She opens her mouth to protest but he cuts her off, "you cooked, its only fair I clean," she still looks doubtful so he holds up his hand, "besides, I'm supposed to keep practicing until I get full dexterity back."
"Alright," she concedes finally and heads for the room.
"Goodnight," he calls and she glances over at him like he's grown a second head.
"Night," she replies and disappears into the spare room.
He waits until she closes the door to push himself off the chair. He's too excited, it feels as though he's waited a lifetime to see his daughter go safely to bed. Or share coco laced with cinnamon or even hear her voice. When he feels as though he can move he places the cups in the sink and fills them with water before heading back to the bedroom. He pads over to the bed slides gently under the covers, trying not to wake Snow even though he knows his injuries still make it hard to move quietly. He thinks he's successful until he lies down and she turns over, immediately settling herself against his good shoulder and looking up at him with a soft smile.
"Sorry I woke you," he apologizes
"It's fine," she says, "did you have a nice talk?"
"She made hot chocolate with cinnamon and interrogated me," he admits.
"Lets see, who does that remind me of?" Snow asks, amusement heavy in her voice.
"I don't make hot chocolate for the people I interrogate," he defends.
"Oh you don't, do you?" she pushes herself up with a smile, "I seem to remember being called down to the palace kitchens for hot chocolate and interrogation on several occasions. One particularly memorable one comes to mind when you added cinnamon to the mixture."
"Well if you had just told me you were pregnant I wouldn't have had to do that," he retorts.
"I wanted it to be a surprise," she replies.
"I was surprised," he says.
"Oh I remember," she smiles unashamedly, "I wasn't expecting her to be so tall," she adds finally, "she definitely gets that from your side of the family."
"Probably," he agrees, "but she smiles like you."
"Really?" she asks, "you think so?"
"Absolutely," he replies, "and she adds cinnamon to the hot coco which we know is all you."
"Sleepy showed me that," she says quietly. His fingers tighten around her shoulder in silent comfort. She shifts her head against his shoulder, "we'll get them out of here. We'll bring them home."
With that promise firmly in mind, he falls asleep with her in his arms and does not wake til morning.
The next day is a Saturday and while Emma is off doing something, Snow takes him to the diner for breakfast. The menu items are odd but she makes suggestions and when it is time for them to order she asks for an additional meal off the children's menu. He gives her a puzzled glance but just when he's about to ask whose joining them, Henry comes around the corner and waves energetically through the window before darting into the diner. He's seen Henry dozens of times before but for some reason his heart beats faster. Under the table, Snow reaches forward and grabs his hand and he knows she's oddly nervous as well. Henry races all the way to them and looks between them breathlessly before breaking into the widest grin he's ever seen.
"You remember right?" he asks, they look between each other but Henry barrels on, "the ring," he says "you're wearing your ring on your wedding finger. Did he put it there? Did he?" the boy looks like he's about to jump out of his skin.
"Henry," he cuts in, "sit down," Henry all but jumps into the booth, "you know everyone else doesn't remember-"
"But you do," Henry says cutting him off.
"Yes," Snow says, "but we have to be careful-"
"So can I call you Grandma and Grandpa?" he asks hopefully.
He looks at Snow who seems just as shocked as he is. There is supposed to be a hundred steps between where they were and this moment. He hair is supposed to be grey and he's not supposed to be fighting battles anymore. They're supposed to have watched Emma grow up and fall in love. Their grandchild should always have known them as Grandma and Grandpa rather than asking permission to use the names.
"For now, alright?" Snow says leaning forward, "then we have to go back to pretending okay?"
"But not for long, right?" Henry asks looking between them.
"No," he says looking from his wife to his grandson and thinking of his daughter with her determined stare and blonde curls who will save them all, "not for long at all."
Okay I'm probably going to write for these two again, but with way more angst. But this was sappy enough to scratch my sap-itch.