Important Author's Note: This story contains basically all major triggers one could possibly have. Please don't read this if you're a triggery type. Like 50% of my fics, this is based on a Within Temptation song - Forgiven.
All That's Done's Forgiven
Couldn't save you from the start
Love you so it hurts my soul
Can you forgive me for trying again?
More than a few hours must have passed since the skies shut the door to the heavens. Now they're nothing but a coat of ominous darkness, snoring and grumbling faint curses in its sleep as a storm brews not too far away. I closed the windows, but still a crack of thunder disturbs my peace every other second, when the entire briefly changes into a black and white show of shadows on walls. If you can even call it that; peace. Such a noble, frilly word to describe a condition native to none of us, I'm sure. Human beings are not born to live in peace. We are born to fight against ourselves and our superiors and our subordinates until one emerges victorious and countless others fall. It's a cruel and unreliable solution to thinning the numbers of the weak and foul in favor of natural selection. One condition cannot determine your worthiness in the face of another. What if they trick you despite your natural intelligence being higher that that of theirs? What if ten weaklings gang up on one strong specimen? How can that count? In what universe can that be fair? This is why I never believed in gods or any other kind of order. The double standard is blatant.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth and I swallow a bitter gulp of air, gritting my teeth. I'm thinking of her again, and the peace she never got to have. This has been happening often this winter as opposed to our seldom encounters the first few months after...wards.
Your silence makes me hold my breath
Time has passed you by
Like yesterday and the day before, I won't be getting any sleep tonight. I would rise and go read a book under the candlelight, but my limbs feel too heavy to lift. I should have listened to Maleficent. The void inside me I will never be able to fill came after all. It spreads through me like liquid gold, so bright one cannot ever look away from it and so hot it scorches the underside of my skin from my head to my fingertips, rendering me speechless and planting a new kind of fear inside me, one I've never known before - and I have known plenty of fears. This is different; this fear says to me, whispers in my ear, "You can never restore how it was before tomorrow."
Then again, does it count as fear when it speaks the bare truth?
Oh, for so long I've tried to shield you from the world
Oh, you couldn't face the freedom on your own
Here I am, left in silence
Night makes me weak. I can't hold the barricade. It's the curse of the night and the thunder and rain, I think, when all those memories finally assemble in all their glory before the gates of the castle of my mind and tear down the walls like I'm nothing but a mole's den.
I remember the day when the letter arrived. Her mother requested her assistance; without me, of course. She never thought twice when it came to the people she loved; a virtue I regret lacking every day of my life. She and Henry departed right away, without escort, and I didn't stop her. I knew the castle wouldn't be safe for them much longer. Hades may be a lot of things, but covering up that foul stench of the underworld isn't his strong suit.
As ludicrous as it sounds, I can almost touch the happiness we had had before then. Our days were filled with games and smiles and yes, tedious work, sometimes conflict, but mostly games and smiles, and our nights painted belonging, freedom, and love across our walls. In their imperfection, our days were perfect.
I watch the clouds drifting away
Still the sun can't warm my face
I know it was destined to go wrong
Snow White had never sent a pigeon. It was far too late when I realized the handwriting in the letter was written with a magical quill; coincidentally also one of the perks of our home her mother refused to ever use. Probably because I had when we were children.
I hoped I could make it in time. By the time I reached the forest where all the stories, including this one, have been born since the beginning of time, Hades had already locked her up in the underworld. Not Henry, only her; merely a prison, nothing more. He demanded we talk. I sent our son home with the soldiers. For just a split second, I wished I had kept the huntsman, so that he could take care of the boy. Now that is but one of the myriad of things I reprimand myself for.
He claimed some demi-god was giving him trouble and that he'd heard of my... talents in these matters. As if. There are no demi-gods, just as there are no gods; I know that now. I didn't then. I wasted no time in helping him exchange Emma's fate with Hercules'.
In retrospect, that is one more thing I reprimand myself for. There was no holiness and no power of nature's choosing in it when we forced the boy down a hydra's throat. I'll even admit there was a sour satisfaction in the act. Without her... Without Emma, I could - and would - do anything. Without her light, there was nothing to lead me out of the darkness. I never realized just how often she aided me, just how often her words empowered my will when I thought there was no hope for goodness. That was her true superpower.
Stop this. Get out of my mind. Isn't it enough I will never forget her pain? Do I have to live with mine, too?
Of course he wouldn't release her. He didn't kill her either. Where would the fun in that be? No, what he did was worse. "In exchange for your delightful company, I'll take you down on a little underworld road trip to see her again, whaddya say?"
Forgive me, Emma. I never knew. I never knew how much pain you were in, not until I saw it with my own eyes. Why didn't you ever talk to me? Why didn't you let me see who you were? All this time I'd thought I had saved and protected you when in reality, your happiness was nothing more than a mask concealing the true war. That one took place in a land I had never set foot in.
You were looking for the great escape
To chase your demons away
She couldn't see me. She couldn't hear me. Maybe she would have if I had acted quicker. Maybe I could have taken her home where she belonged, by my side, the way destiny had brought us together, back when I believed in these ethereal concepts.
At first she was wandering around aimlessly, looking for a way home amidst pools of dead bodies and wailing hearts, courtesy of Hades' collection. Some of them would move from time to time and she'd brush it off as her mind playing tricks on her. I can't help but chuckle into the back of my hand as tears spill over my eyelids and trail down my temples in narrow brooks as I recall how she always used to do that when she was terrified, act as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, wave it away; the routine was similar every time Henry got lost (or as he called it, played hide and seek with us). Surely he was changing his position every time we looked away. Lost? Dragged away? No, not Henry. Nevertheless, no excuses in the world could drown out the breathy sigh when he poked her leg from behind the bale of hay in the stables.
It wasn't until the first voice from the past came that the facade shattered.
You gave up the fight
You left me behind
All that's done's forgiven
"Why did you steal from me, Emma? You knew I needed that money to buy meds for my mom."
The girl look surprisingly not unlike Emma, what with her blonde braided hair and round cheekbones that brought out her eyes - two pitch black abysses of infinity. In fact, thanks to this due reminiscence and had I not known better, I might have considered her Emma's pre-teenage sister.
"Alice? How did you get here?"
"I had to call 911 that night. Did you know that, Emma? Did you?"
"I'm sorry - I thought you were making it up -"
"What did you use it for, Emma?"
I watched her freeze. I watched her expression turn into porcelain and her doe-eyed gaze lock with the illusion of a scattered memory. "Pot," she answered, eliciting a satisfied grin from the other girl.
"That wasn't all, though, was it? You envied me. I had a mom and you didn't and you thought I deserved for her to die to know how you feel. You knew what was going to happen."
"That's not true, I-"
"Why did you pick a fight with me, Emma? Why did you push me off the roof?"
This one was a lad, no older than eighteen, still at the cusp of boyhood, a yoyo hanging loose off his middle finger that he yanked up and up at just the right times for the little circle to bounce back. His eyes were black and cold as the coldest night in the realm of the White Witch, but most disturbingly, a quarter of his head was missing from the picture, along with a part of his right eyebrow.
"I didn't - It was an accident, I never meant to -"
"Did you stick around long enough to see me die, or were you too busy skipping town?"
Emma, stop, please. It was all you. You were the one who taught me it was pointless to delve on the past. Please, stop.
You'll always be mine
I know deep inside
All that's done's forgiven
I watched her fall to her knees and curl into a ball and cover her ears in the wastelandish dirt. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, please believe me, I'm so sorry," and she went on and on like a broken record while they laughed like the background noise in what we called 'sit-coms' back in Storybrooke; the annoying, omnipresent track you couldn't mute or avoid.
"Hey, Ems, remember Arizona? How's yer boy, sista'? How's my lil' Henry?"
She could still hear it just as well as I could sense her heart skip a beat before returning to its previous hummingbird-like rhythm; except what is natural for a hummingbird turned out to be a near-death experience for her. "You don't know his name," she whimpered, backing away as fast as her wobbly legs would allow her to.
"Nah, 'course I know 'is name. Ain't no secret on the street I followed you around for a few years after the runt was born. Didn't ya know? Must say, that was some clever shit you pulled there, with the closed adoption an' all. Couldn't find 'im since."
This was Henry's father? This tattoo-covered slimy convict? And he was talking about stalking my wife, no less. I didn't know what to do but scream the path is out there. Come home, Emma. I believe in you. Ironically, that was the first and only time I have ever uttered those words so far. It was true, however. At the time I was hoping me believing in her would drag her out of hell. Why shouldn't it? It worked the other way around and I had been lost for decades. Surely Emma could be absolved of whatever she had done.
"But hey, 'least I did the right thing. I didn't have ta' rape you again."
I've been so lost since you've gone
Why not me before you?
Why has fate deceived me?
Henry never knew and he never shall; this I promise. I can't take this anymore; I muster all my strength and rise from the bed, flinging my bedroom door open with a fling of my hand. Henry's room is further down the hall. Lately he's been coming to me at night regularly when he can't sleep, but now it's me who feels like I'll explode if I don't hold him against me soon. Without saying a word, I ghost my way to his bed, careful not to bump my head on the glass unicorns hanging above. I sneak under the covers, wrapping us both securely in their warmth. Truth be told, I can't feel any of it; not until his tiny arms wrap around my waist.
"Mom? Are you crying?"
Everything turned out so wrong
Why did you leave me in silence?
He's gotten more and more intuitive since her untimely passing. He's even learned enough tact not to openly doubt the trustworthiness of my reply. "No, sweetie. Go back to sleep."
I gently push his head into the slope of my neck and muffle my sobs in his hair, stroking it. He can still feel the uneven rise and fall of my chest. In mocking disappointment I note there is not much in my power to stop it. Just like Emma, I can't breathe properly, can't control my muscles properly. How I wish I were dying too.
As soon as I think that, something soft lands on the side of my head and a thumb brushes over my ear. The hand makes the same soothing motion I did mere seconds ago, caressing my hair repeatedly. "It's okay, mom. I'll stay."
You gave up the fight
You left me behind
All that's done's forgiven.
"Why did you run away, Emma?"
"Why did you lie to me, Emma?"
"Why didn't you believe me, mom?"
I wish I'd never had to see her eyes light up with the spark of insanity. I wish the underworld had never had to hear and crumble under the sound waves of maniacal laughter rippling from her throat. I wish I'd had the power to unshackle her pained, tortured soul, before she threw herself off a cliff overlooking the lake of the dead, all the while laughing, and laughing and laughing as waterfalls of her own salty tears decorated her path.
Most of all, I wish I'd known her well enough to say
You'll always be mine
I know deep inside
All that's done's forgiven.
But you can't always get what you want. Sometimes, you can't get any of it. Nature doesn't choose those with the power to survive; she chooses those who don't need it.
How woefully accurate that we'd both die at the hands of ourselves.