Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Once Upon A Time; alas, my life is no fairy tale.
A/N: Thanks to my incredible beta Melissa for her always pertinent advice.
There's a soft knock on the door followed by a tentative, "Emma?"
"Come in," she calls.
The door swings open and Mary Margaret enters, a nervous smile on her face. "Here," she says, holding out a thick white blanket and a towel. "I thought you might like these."
"Thanks," Emma replies, taking them from her to set down on the bed.
"I'm sorry it's not much," Mary Margaret begins quickly, gesturing to the room. The walls are bare, some sort of painted brick. The furniture is sparse, but adequate: small dresser, night stand, lamp. White is the dominant color. "I mean, it's a bit small – I don't have many guests, well, actually any guests, ever, so there wasn't much need for a larger room. But if it's too small, you can-"
"Stop," Emma cuts her off. "I've seen much worse." A second later, she realizes her mistake. "Not that there's anything wrong with this room. It's perfect. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you letting me stay with you."
"Are you sure?" she asks nervously.
"Of course," Emma assures her. "Without you, I'd be sleeping in my car."
Mary Margaret stares for a moment. "I meant the room. Are you sure the room is okay?" Her face is full of anticipation, an eagerness to please someone she doesn't even know that well.
Emma smiles at her, and Mary Margaret's entire body seems to relax. She cannot help thinking that they have the same set of the shoulders.
"Here," she murmurs, pushing the hot mug against Emma's hands. "You should drink something."
"I'm not thirsty," she replies automatically. She cannot even bring herself to wrap her fingers around the mug and take it from Mary Margaret.
"Okay," she concedes. The mug is set on the table in front of them. Emma can smell the cinnamon wafting from the warm steam and she finds herself marveling, for the umpteenth time now, how their taste for cinnamon in hot chocolate is one of the only things she has in common with her own mother.
"You can go to bed if you want," Emma mutters. She figures it must be three in the morning by now.
"That's all right," Mary Margaret says sincerely. "I'd rather stay up with you."
It's these words, more than anything else, that bring the tears to her eyes. She knows she hasn't allowed herself to grieve properly yet, but she still hasn't processed all that has happened. The moments flash before her mind's eye over and over: Graham falling to the ground clutching his chest, his dying eyes finding hers for the last time as she screamed his name. He was dead before the paramedics arrived. They said it was a heart attack.
She sniffs, trying to keep the tears at bay, but instead they come and she can't stop them. The pain rips through her chest and she lets out a sound like a wounded animal as she wraps her arms around herself. Her shoulders shake as she cries.
She expects Mary Margaret to say something, but she stays silent, for which Emma is grateful. She feels a hand on her back, tracing soothing circles. Suddenly she craves more contact, feels an overwhelming desire to be hugged. As though having read her thoughts, Mary Margaret wraps her arms around her and draws her close into her chest.
Emma cannot ever remember being held like this.
Emma looks up. "Hey," she says back. She feels awkward suddenly; she has not anticipated Mary Margaret still being awake when she returned from her walk.
She seems to have sensed Emma's hesitation. "I tried to go to bed, but I couldn't sleep." Emma stays silent, willing her to continue. "I just…I wasn't sure about the way we left things earlier."
Emma nods. She has been dreading this conversation since she revealed Henry's vision for her role in his fairy tale, but she is also glad she hasn't scared Mary Margaret off with the knowledge that a daughter she doesn't remember might be standing in front of her.
It's hard for her to reconcile her own feelings about the possibility of Mary Margaret being her mother. She has been searching for over twenty years for her parents, and now it feels like the answer, however fanciful, has been thrust in her face. It's hard for her to resent the woman standing in front of her, the woman who gave her the spare room to prevent her from sleeping in her car, for not looking for a daughter she didn't even remember.
"I know you've been searching your whole life for your parents," Mary Margaret begins tentatively. "And you're still looking for answers. I just…I don't know if you're going to find them with me."
"It's just something Henry said," Emma begins quickly. "It doesn't have to be true. I mean, the whole thing is crazy, right? It assumes a lot. You as Snow White, the curse…I'm not sure I believe any of it either."
"You will find your parents someday, Emma," Mary Margaret says, smiling gently. "After all, Henry found you."
Emma smiles back. "Thanks." She nods toward the direction of her room. "I think I'm going to go to bed now."
She's almost reached the bedroom door when Mary Margaret speaks again. "Hey, Emma?"
She turns. "Yeah?"
"Just so you know…whoever I am, whoever you are, I'm really glad that you're here."
She enters the room to find Mary Margaret lying on the bed. Even from behind her, Emma can tell she has been crying. Slowly she sets her coat down and approaches her. She vacillates for a moment, unsure of what to say, what she should do.
"Do you feel like talking about it yet?" Emma asks gently.
"Nope," comes the sniffling reply.
She considers this for a moment, then asks, "You want to be alone?"
There's a slight pause, and then Mary Margaret whispers again, "Nope."
Emma crosses over to the bed and sinks down. She is somewhat grateful Mary Margaret doesn't want to talk about it yet; she doesn't know what she would say. She has been in several relationships with men, most of which ended poorly, but she learned at sixteen to build a tough skin. She looks over at Mary Margaret, huddled in what is practically the fetal position, and Emma wonders how many times her heart has been broken.
This is probably the first.
There's something about watching her cry that is deeply moving, though she doesn't understand why. Emma usually has little patience for tears, and truth be told, she's had little experience with them, since the only person she ever has to comfort is herself. But Mary Margaret is a friend, one of her only in the world, let alone Storybrooke, and she can feel her own heart aching as she watches her cry. Emma finds herself thinking about the night Graham died, how Mary Margaret sat with her the entire night. She remembers the soothing hand on her back, a quiet gesture of comfort, of support, for which no more words were needed.
She rolls over on her side so that she is directly behind Mary Margaret. Emma hesitates and then slowly reaches out her hand and rests it on her shoulder. A moment later, she feels her hand being grasped and she tightens her grip around Mary Margaret's hand as a new wave of tears begins. Emma scoots closer to her on the bed so that her head is almost pressed up against the back of Mary Margaret's neck.
Eventually the crying subsides and the room is filled with silence. She feels Mary Margaret's hand relaxing in hers and wonders if she has cried herself to sleep. Just when she's about to leave, Mary Margaret breaks the silence.
"Emma?" Her voice is still thick with tears.
"I'm here," she whispers back.
"I just wanted you to know…I know Henry thinks I'm supposed to be your mother, but today…" Mary Margaret draws a shaky breath. "Today you feel like mine."
A/N: First time writing in this fandom...how did I do? Please review!