Don' t own Once Upon a Time or its characters.
This isn't really set in any particular episode but is probably going to be more towards the end of the series as it goes on.
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
The Joys of Parenthood
David Nolan didn't have children.
Why, he didn't know; it had never really come up with Kathryn once his memory had returned, and it had been far too awkward to ask her later.
He wondered if it had ever come up between them before, all those years ago.
He wondered if it had, what he'd said.
He wondered if he had ever wanted kids.
Because right now, his heart felt three times too big, and all he could think was, so this is what it means to be a parent.
Which in itself was strange, with the child in question actually not being a child but a twenty-eight year old woman who could look after herself pretty damn well, thank you very much.
But there it was, this insane need to protect, so strong it physically hurt him, punching a hole in his chest again and again with every beat of his heart.
Was this what fatherhood felt like?
He didn't know. If it was, he decided he didn't really want to know.
He told himself she wasn't in that much danger. It was fine. All fine. That's what the doctors had told. That's what he'd told Mary Margaret. It's what he would continue to tell himself.
He had been woken by a call from a frantic Mary Margaret, the only words he understood being Emma, crash, serious.
He was out of the house within four minutes, his truck moving before the door had even shut.
And then he had seen it on his way to the hospital, her little yellow Beetle almost completely crushed at the roadside, the bonnet so pulverised the broken windscreen was only inches from the wall, glass scattered around it like snow.
He had tried to ignore the blood staining it.
And now here he was, sat on a hard chair in a grim corridor waiting for the outcome of a life-saving operation. Emma's life-saving operation.
He hated those words more than anything. He hated words in general at the moment, for they all seemed intent on breaking his heart.
"How long has it been?" a hoarse voice asked.
He turned slightly, looking up unsurprised.
"I thought you were going home to rest," he said softly, taking in Mary Margaret's dishevelled appearance; face drawn, hair ruffled, eyes haggard and red.
"I took once step inside and came right back out," she said quietly, sitting beside him and leaning back against the wall. "How long?"
He didn't even glance at his watch.
"Just over six hours."
She nodded once, closing her eyes.
Without warning, a tear leaked out.
David moved immediately, instinctively, pulling her to his chest and holding her there, smoothing her back, cupping her face so as to wipe her rapidly falling tears.
"I don't even know why you're here," she said in a trembling voice. "I just got the call and I-I didn't even think, I just-"
"It's natural for you to want comfort," he said soothingly, whilst internally he raged at himself.
"No," she said firmly, gripping his shirt and looking up at him, her gaze intense. "No it was like-like you deserved to be here, like you had to know."
His heart rate spiked, the feeling he was trying to fight going right to the forefront of his mind.
"I don't even know her that well," he muttered. "Not like you."
"I know!" she spat, pulling out of his arms. "I know that, and I know I'm crazy, and I don't care! You need to be here, David! She needs you here!"
She realised what she'd said, eyes widening.
"I don't-" he started, those loathed words failing him. "She-"
"I love her, David," she said brokenly, eyes full of pain, "I love her, and I can't lose her."
"I know," he whispered, tears suddenly falling from his own eyes, burning their way down his cheeks. "I really do."
Mary Margaret stared at him, mouth dropping open. "You do too, don't you?"
He wanted to deny, he really did, but he couldn't.
Instead he said, "Not in…in that way, not the way I love you. I love her…like a dad would, and I don't-I don't know why." He paused, licking his lips nervously, aware of Mary Margaret's unwavering scrutiny; though she looked more awed than disgusted or furious as he had feared she would. "I love her so much that it has been killing me sitting her for those six hours and twenty-two minutes and not knowing whether or not she's going to come through those doors alive. And I don't know why," he repeated, feeling so lost, his gaze beseeching Mary Margaret for answers.
"You feel it too?" she breathed, a small smile forming. "Like she's part of you? Like she's your…?" She hesitated, before steeling herself and asking, "Like she's your daughter?"
"Yes," he answered immediately, almost smiling in relief. "I feel it so much it hurts right now."
"In the book," she burst out, sure she was about to regret what she was going to say, convinced she was crazy, but continuing anyway, "Henry said that Emma was the Saviour, and that her parents-Snow White and James-sent her here to protect her."
David frowned at her worriedly, but she took no notice, waving him away as he opened his mouth, speaking quickly.
"Henry told me that he thought I was Snow White, and that you-well that you were James. Prince Charming."
The corridor was silent.
His initial reaction was to suggest that she go get some rest for real this time, maybe find a sedative for her. His second was to splutter and gape at her.
His reaction was not to nod, take a deep breath and say, "Then I guess Henry's right."
She smiled, threading her fingers through his.
And then all Hell broke loose.