Okay, I'm just going to let you go read, but first THANK YOU FOR THE EXPERIENCE. I will answer lots of remaining questions in the extended author's note at the end. Catch you on the flip side :)
HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU BELIEVE
It was autumn. The leaves had begun to change, and the sun worked to break through the increasing crisp of the daytime air. A gurgling laugh split through the breeze and a stumbling child burst through the brush and into the clearing. His sandy brown waves of hair buffeted in swirling patterns against the wind and a toothy grin was plastered on his face. Limbs flailing, he ran forward, throwing his head back and releasing squeals of joy. He glanced back, and seeing that his chaser had advanced closer, he screamed and his eyes grew wide, shining in the sun as he attempted to run faster.
But within seconds he felt two strong hands grasp his sides, and his feet left the ground as he was lifted high in the air. The fingers holding him tickled vigorously and he squirmed in delight.
"Mama no!" He tried to argue but his giggling overtook him. Swiftly he was spun around and was looking into the face of his mother. With his hands he grasped around her neck and hugged her tightly; letting her golden curls weave between his fingers.
"I love you Mama," he whispered into her neck, his round cheek pressed against it.
"I love you too Henry," she replied, holding him closer. The minute her grasp lessened, he seized the moment, squirmed from her arms, and took off across the field once again.
"I bet you can't catch me 'gain!" He cried, his teeth once again glinting in the bright daylight.
"I….." Emma found herself at a loss for words. Her emotions were spinning and she felt lost in Mary Margaret's hazel eyes. Or was that not even her name? How was all that she had just seen possible? She knew it was a memory, but a memory from where? And how?
She was feeling overwhelmed under the gaze of this other woman. This woman that was…her mother? Without a word she leapt from her seat, frantically asked the nurses to disconnect Henry's wires and set off toward the hospital exit with him in one arm and the book in the other. Somehow she knew that he would fine now, that he didn't need any sort of medical attention, almost in a magical way. Turning back she looked at the woman she was leaving behind, who looked like she had turned to stone, an expression of shock mixed with both love and extreme pain enveloping her features.
"I'm sorry…" Emma called out as she finally left.
She had barely made it through the front glass doors when something made her look back. She panicked upon seeing Mary Margaret venturing out the door of her room looking nowhere but the floor as though she was lost. But then her head flicked upward toward a voice. And then Emma saw him. James; he was racing toward her roommate and in one swoop they were caught up in each other's embrace. For minutes they were woven together but abruptly they broke apart, exchanged a few words and both glanced toward the door where Emma stood. She turned and ran, hoping they hadn't seen her.
As she traveled toward home she only had one lingering image in her mind. The look of elated revelation on James' face, and the conflicted pain and longing on Mary Margaret's.
"Come on Henry, grandma and grandpa are waiting.." she called out to the little boy who was stopped on the sidewalk, fascinated by the dandelion puffs sprouting up along the edge of the lawn in front of the mayor's mansion. The building itself was grey from a lack of care, and the lawn had turned into a garden of various weeds. No one had lived there in over two years. The same applied to the pink house on the other side of town.
It hadn't taken long for the townspeople to track down those who were responsible for their predicament, and even less time for the dwarves to construct another prison on the outskirts of the town. Rumpelstiltskin had been found, about to drink a strange purple potion, for what purpose none of them had ever figured out, and Regina had been sitting in her office alone, completely unaware of the fact that her curse had been broken. So there the two villains sat, sharing a cell.
Twice a day they were brought meals, and they were always sitting on either side of the cell, grasping one item each. Regina, a small glowing ring, and Rumple, a chipped porcelain cup. Both objects of the people they once loved, now dead. The day awaits when they will no longer be able to contain their blame and anger, and they will unleash it on each other.
Toddling to catch up, Henry lunged forward and grabbed his mother's hand and pulling her ahead. "Come on! Gwama's making basghetti!"
"Well, we better run then huh?" she played along with a laugh, leaning down to scoop him into her arms and taking off in a sprint; Henry's infectious laughter echoing down the road.
Emma had never understood what authors meant when they wrote that a character was "reeling." Up until this moment, that is. There was no other way to describe it. She felt like she was falling down an endless hole as she took in the stories before her. Each page in the book brought her childhood fairytales to life. She sat on the couch in the empty apartment and took it all in.
It told of a curse sent by an evil queen to take away the happy endings. To send the fairytale world somewhere where their loved ones would be ripped from them. A land without magic. But it also told of a child that was destined to save the people who were cursed, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Emma poured over the pages. She had guessed there was a connection between the book and her suddenly experiencing those memories and the minute she turned the next page it was affirmed.
Her blanket. It was her blanket. The scene scrawled out in bright colors was a replica of what she had seen in the strange flashes. Snow White and Prince Charming. No, that was James and Mary Margaret. How was it possible? And then the following pictures continued to match the pictures engrained in her mind. A swordfight, and then a hollowed out tree. What did this all mean? She was overwhelmed beyond belief.
Suddenly the front door burst open and she jumped, looking first to Henry's crib to see if had woken, which he hadn't, and then to the source of the noise. To her surprise the people on the other side were engaged in an odd conversation and hadn't noticed her presence.
"Honestly, Charming. Did you have to bust down the door? I might have forgotten my key earlier, but I have a spare under the mat." Mary Margaret rolled her eyes at James.
"Yeah I know, but I've missed doing that. It's not every day you wake up after eighteen years and suddenly have all the athletic skills from what can only be described as a partial past life." He grinned at her sweetly and plopped a kiss on her forehead.
Emma exhaled louder than she'd intended and accidentally caught their attention. Abruptly their expression shifted as they faced her. They moved to enter but before they could she held up her hands and commanded,
"Stop." They looked startled at the statement but obliged. "I have no idea what the HELL is going on, but I'm presuming you do, so before anything else happens I need answers."
"Emm—" Mary Margaret began to speak softly.
Emma interrupted quickly, her voice tight and higher than normal. "Why do I suddenly have memories of you two? Not like memories from here or now, since I have known you, but from some other time. You were there and I was…I was a baby?..." She inhaled shakily. "Why do I suddenly have memories that you're…my…parents?"
Arriving at the doorstep, Emma swiveled the small boy to her hip gracefully and opened the door.
"Oh! God. Seriously?!" she cried out, mentally scarred for what felt like the hundredth time.
In the kitchen stood James and Snow, once again entangled in each other. James' hands were just shy of underneath the back of Snow's blouse, and her fingers were lost in his small waves of hair. Their daughter's entrance startled them and they broke apart, red in the face, and looking apologetic. Would they ever learn?
"I swear you two are like horny teenagers," the young blonde remarked with a snort, forcing the previous scene to fall from her mind as she set down Henry and watched him take off toward his grandfather.
In one bound he leapt into the air and landed in Charming's strong arms. "How's my favorite grandson doing?"
"I'm great! We went on ah advenchurrrr. We fought the dragons just like you Gwampa!" Charming's face was alight as he listened to Henry's tale.
Snow's eyes left her husband and grandson momentarily and glanced at her daughter, who responded with a warm smile. "Dragons, huh?"
Emma rolled her eyes playfully. "I'm gonna go throw our stuff upstairs," she announced, making her way toward the staircase. Behind her she could hear James getting Henry a plate of spaghetti, still chattering on about fairytales. Her boots clopped heavily on the metal steps until she made her way into the open space of her bedroom. James had creatively built a corner-ed wall in the room that allowed for a small "room" for Henry. It would have to do for a while, or at least until he grew too big for it. But Emma wouldn't mind if it stayed that way forever. She loved hearing his little footsteps running across the wooden floor in the middle of the night, followed by a soft poking on her face.
Most of the time he would just tap her cheek until her eyes opened, and then flash his very best pleading grin and jump into the bed at her okay. The feeling of his warm little body cocooned against her own always helped her sleep better at night. When the curse had first broken she would sit up in the wee hours of the morning and just hold him to her, gazing out the window and into the dark sky. He was the only thing that had felt stable for those many months.
Emma laid down on her bed and shut her eyes, trying to push away any thoughts of doubt. Despite the years that had passed she was never rid of the worry. And the feeling that at any moment her entire life might slip from her fingers. Who was to say that Snow or James wouldn't get tired of her one day and ask her to leave? Every parent she'd ever had, had done so. The bed suddenly shifted as another body landed on it. Emma hadn't even noticed her enter the room.
Snow touched Charming's chest lightly as if to tell him 'letme handle this' and stepped hesitantly through the doorway. Emma automatically backed away another few inches, so Snow halted and steadied herself. She felt like there was another person pressing on the entire inside of her form, trying to launch her across the room and towards her daughter. It hurt terribly to continue fighting it, but she knew that any other movement forward would cause Emma to either flee or shut down entirely.
They were on the edge of a double-sided cliff. Either way they were likely to fall and plummet to their death, so there really wasn't much to lose. All Snow could do was try to talk calmly, clearly, and with as little emotion as possible. That would be her best chance of getting a response from Emma.
She took a few wavering breaths and then looked straight into the green eyes of the girl across the room.
"You have these memories because of a very long list of reasons and stories and…" In the corner of her eye she suddenly saw the book lying open on the couch. She looked toward it and then back to Emma. "How much of that have you read?"
Emma fidgeted nervously. "I just saw my blanket and then a tree…with doors? I was inside it. But that doesn't answer my…"
"Your blanket. Okay. That's a good starting place, I think. That was the blanket you were wrapped in when you were found, right?"
Emma looked surprised that the woman knew about her being "found."
"Relax Emma. I just read that file you keep with you one night while you were asleep. Sorry, by the way." Snow shook her head to clear her thoughts. "First of all, I don't know how much you have figured out on your own but I'm guessing you know that we aren't really who you know us to be, or at least have thought we were for the last few months. And trust us, we didn't know otherwise either. It was just a part of the curs—" Snow halted, seeing that Emma was lost.
She sighed. "Eighteen years ago, or at least eighteen years to you, my stepmother unleashed a powerful curse upon the land that I am from. That entire land was sent here, to Storybrooke, where we have all lived without our memories since then. You, Emma, are from that world too. But, you were sent to safety before the curse took over so that you could return one day and break it. And that is what happened today when we were at the hospital." Mary Margaret paused and tilted her head. "Are you following?"
Emma nodded ever so slightly, holding her gaze on the floor and keeping her arms crossed tightly across her chest.
"Breaking that curse restored all of our memories, so now we all know who we really are. Do you know who we really are?" Snow felt as though she was talking to a small child, but moving any faster would get them nowhere. Emma was a walking contradiction; despite her tough exterior, she was incredibly breakable.
Emma's eyes danced as she avoided looking at her roommate. She managed a small nod and mumbled. "At least I think I do."
"Okay. Good. So to answer your question, the reason that you have these memories is because the curse is broken, and when you broke it, it showed you the earliest parts of your life. You remember these things because they're the truth, Emma."
Snow laid next to her daughter, their arms barely brushing and stared at the ceiling alongside her. A soft exhale puffed out from her nose and she couldn't help the smile that crept onto her lips at laying with Emma. She still felt an unbelievable amount of love, even just being in her presence. She turned her head to the side and gazed at the profile of Emma's face. Their resemblance was uncanny; how she had never picked up on it before the curse was broken, was beyond her.
Feeling a twinge of bravery she spoke up, "Three years." It was less of a statement and more of a reflection.
Emma turned to look at her, and in doing so subconsciously brought their shoulders together. Her eyes flickered and her eyebrows twitched slightly in question.
"Three years," Snow echoed, "Three years ago today was the first time you said that you loved me. I know it's a silly thing to keep track of but after the curse was broken, and we were in that weird place in our relationship and I needed something to hold on to. So I went back and tracked down that date. The night before my birthday when we had our sleepover. I don't even know if you'd realized that you'd said it."
Emma was shocked that the woman had remembered the exact date. She could see her reflection in the wetness of Snow's eyes and had a feeling that the brunette could do the same in her own.
"To be honest," she replied softly, "I do remember it, but at that moment I had hoped you hadn't noticed. I haven't thought of it since, really." Noticing a slight drop in her mother's expression she continued, "But I do think I meant it, on some subconscious level, even if it was that early on. You took me in when I needed someone, whether or not I thought so, and were the first person to truly love me."
She shifted her head so it lay against Snow's shoulder and let her eyes close again. "So...thanks."
"And you're really not a terrible parent, you know. I still see it sometimes; I know you feel guilty, but you shouldn't. I know that you didn't get to raise me and all but...I don't know I'm just rambling now. So I guess I'm sorry that you never really got to raise your baby. I couldn't imagine not having Henry."
The silence that fell was considerably less awkward than Emma would have expected. The whole "using words to express your thoughts" thing was becoming easier with time. Any effort that she made was, in truth, more for her parents than it was for herself. But it really was for Snow the most. James was easier to fit into the form of her picture of a parent, because she really hadn't known him well in the first place. But Emma knew she would never trade her life now for anything in the world.
"Emma…" Snow White finally spoke softly, after debating with herself internally for many moments. "Your father and I have been meaning to...and I know he might want me to wait, but I can't anymore, and I just...I need to tell you som—"
Before she could finish there was a knock on the door. Emma rose quickly, raced downstairs to open it-Snow following close behind but taking a seat at the table-and beamed at the person on the other side.
"Unca Gwaham!" Henry squealed from his booster seat. He leapt from his spot and raced into the scruffy-faced man's arms.
"Well hello! How are you today Henry?" The Huntsman smiled, still getting that warm feeling at hearing himself being called by a real name, and not his fairytale moniker.
"I'm good," the little boy responded.
"Did you have spaghetti for dinner?" He asked, looking at the distinctive orange tint around Henry's small mouth.
Henry's eyes grew wide. "How did you guess? Do you have a superpower like Mama?"
"I guess so!" Graham said, playing along and throwing a wink at Emma, who responded with a blush and a smile.
Emma absorbed the information that was given to her. Her roommate was a fairytale character, Snow White no less. She hadn't been overreacting in her assumptions. The entire idea was insane, but there was something even more overwhelming that she had been trying to hold at arm's length. What it meant in relation to her. Who these two people were, not only their identities, but what their place in her life was.
For minutes they all stood in silence, Emma's shaky breathing rattling through the air and ripping Snow's heart in two with each exhale. Snow knew she shouldn't speak again. She had given Emma an opening, a doorway, a road to take; and now it was her job to actually go through it. So none of them spoke. None of them spoke for minutes.
Emma was trembling, and it increased the closer she got to admitting what was engulfing her mind, aloud. Her tongue was fighting her; the minute it was uttered, the minute it was re-affirmed, her world was going to come crashing down. She was angry, and scared, but leaving wasn't an option, especially with Henry.
More than twice she opened her mouth to speak, but it shut itself quickly, trapping the words inside. More than twice Snow saw this and each time her hope rose, only to fall once again. In the span of those minutes Charming had gracefully moved to Snow's side and shut the door soundlessly behind him.
Snow's foot moved ever so slightly in Emma's direction, as if to move to step forward and it was enough of a trigger. Emma's voice slid into the quiet air but she remained looking at the wooden floor.
"So this. All of this. You're Snow White, and that was you in the book. And that was me. So that means…that means…" Emma's exhale quivered dramatically. "You're my…mmm…" Emma tried to finish the word. She'd never truly spoken it whilst holding its weight in her entire being.
Snow closed most of the space between them and place one hand on Emma's arms wrapped tightly around herself.
"Mother." She finished the phrase for her daughter. She helped her make the jump.
At the sound of it, Emma's wet eyes looked up suddenly, meeting Snow's and instantly pouring out tears. Her shoulders were quivering and her mouth was tight like she was trying to hold in a scream. Suddenly her chest heaved and she felt herself starting to fall away. She wanted to shut it all out. Her throat choked, breaking the damn, and instantly she was crying audibly.
Snow forcibly unraveled Emma's tightly wound arms, and wormed her own in their place, wrapping them around Emma and pulling the girl into her. She held her tightly, and with such intensity that she thought she may never be able to let go. She could feel each muscle in her daughter tensing as she shook, her sobs outpouring the hurt from all those years.
"I'm sorry," Snow whispered. "I am SO sorry."
From her spot at the table, Snow fell into thought; something she hadn't done in a long while. She rested her hands in her warm, soft lap and watched the small grouping by the door as they moved in conversation, the two adults indulging in Henry's fantasies about fairytales. Sometimes it made her sad to know that they would never return to their old land. When the curse was created, it had been destroyed, and there was no getting it back. But at least she had her family.
Emma. Her Emma. Her daughter, the woman who was so headstrong; the woman who had taken months to adjust; but the woman who had made the effort. Reflecting on the memories made Snow's heart swell. They had started fresh, and although it had been bumpy, she finally felt like they were at peace. Many milestones still lay before them, undoubtedly moved farther away by Emma's walls, which still rebuilt themselves sometimes. But each time they came down, they stayed down longer, and never quite built up as high again.
For what felt like eternity the small family stood there, Emma in her mother's arms, and James holding his powerful hands on Snow's shoulders.
It wasn't perfect. The emotions that ran wild weren't even of happiness; they were of relief. The lifetimes they had each spent searching for each other had just won out. And that missing piece had been fit neatly in the empty space of their hearts.
Emma didn't even care about how vulnerable she was being. She didn't care about her anger, or her pain, or what these two people had caused her to go through. To the best of her ability she understood why they had done what they did, and she knew, without them saying, that they loved her. It was written all over their features.
She gave up on all her ideas of what she would do if the day that she found her parents ever came, now that it was here. She would have time, a lifetime, to yell and fight about stupid things, and ask questions, and tell them how they hurt her. But just for now, she wanted to be held. She wanted to be held, for the first time in eighteen years, by her mother.
Out of the corner of her eye Snow saw Charming get up from the table and join the cluster by the door, talking about dragons and magical fairies. They were safe, her daughter had returned to her, she had a grandson; her family was almost complete.
She faintly heard Emma call out. "Hey we're all gonna go to the park with Henry, you wanna come?" Emma. She would never be tired of her daughter's beautiful voice. She could listen to it all day and never be tired of it. She still had a lot of time to make up for. Little moments like the one they'd had upstairs were what she lived for now. Even though the Mary Margaret side of her still remained, Snow couldn't help but feel that lingering pain at what she had missed out on. What she had caused her daughter to go through alone for those eighteen years.
"Mom, are you coming?" Emma's holler echoed across the living as she walked out the door. Snow's head snapped up in shock to see a cape of blonde curls turning toward the door to follow the three guys ahead of her.
Mom. The largest grin she'd ever felt emerged on Snow's face and she fought her watering eyes, even though she knew the younger girl hadn't even noticed the slip. Maybe what she'd assumed about those walls was wrong.
"Emma wait! I'm coming." She grabbed her purse, and walked to her daughter's side, taking once last look into her deep eyes and giving her a smile.
They stepped out into the hallway and just as Emma shut the door she found herself wrapped in a sudden embrace. Snow hadn't even realized that she'd done it, but something inside her moved on impulse and she was squeezing the young blonde with an immense amount of affection.
Emma was startled to say the least. "Wh...What is this for?" she spluttered, more out of surprise than discomfort. She truly didn't mind such actions of affection, she just wondered what had caused it.
Snow backed up sheepishly, but still wearing an undeniable look of happiness. "Nothing. I just love you is all. Can't I just hug you for no reason?" She lied, covering her tracks.
"Fair enough," Emma conceded with a particular light in her eyes, and swinging her head towards the stairwell leading outside. "Shall we go?"
Snow nodded and they started off. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Emma fighting the smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth. She was perfect. She was Snow's entire world. She was her daughter. And she loved her more than anything.
They exited the front doors of the building and walked down the sidewalk without conversation, allowing the stillness to dictate their thoughts.
Together they clipped along, side by side, for they had found each other. Like they always would.
Okay, so super long author's note time.
First of all thank you all so much for following, reviewing, favorite-ing, and just plain reading this. Never would I have thought that my, truthfully selfish, need for some Emma and MM moments in my life would turn into such an amazing experience for me. You all are the best people a girl could get the chance to have in her life. Oh and did anyone catch that particular thing that I hinted at a couple times in this chapter?
Anyways, with that said, there are a few things that I have a feeling you all will be wondering about. Number one, why did Rumple want the baby? Well an important thing to know, that wasn't exactly made clear is that in this AU, for lack of time and the fact that the fic wasn't centered on Rumple/Regina, was that Belle really was dead by the end. Post the curse breaking, I imagined that Regina had her taken care of immediately, knowing that once the girl awakened she would head off in search of her lost love. That was something that Regina could never let happen. Especially now that her curse was broken and she had no magical power. That explains my statement that they were clutching onto the things of people they once loved, now dead.
My idea behind why Rumple wanted the baby is that he had the same plan set out as he does in the real OUAT, just altered slightly. He would give the child to Regina, scare Emma into leaving town, and knowing that she'd only discover it was all a lie a year or two later when she finally stopped running. But would she return? No. Because of her shame and guilt she wouldn't. She would convince herself that her son was in a better place by that point. And then years later, MM would give Henry the book that he was meant to have originally and the story would begin from there. There would just be more apologies and Emma redeeming herself with MM, instead of being strangers from the start.
Why Rumple was found trying to drink the true love potion was because True Love breaks any curse. And his curse was having no magic in this land. He probably thought that drinking it would give him his power back. Just him.
So that should clarify most of it, oh and Graham was free of Regina after the curse broke, obviously. And as for characters like Bae or August? I don't really know. Maybe August surfaced eventually after the curse broke, and maybe Bae returned one day (not Henry's father in this) and went to his own father, said a few words and then left, never to return. It's left up to the imagination.
So there you have it. If you have any more questions, please PM me, I'd love to answer. This has been such a fantastic journey, thank you for joining me, thank you 7Seven7 for everything, and I hope you all enjoy the SEASON 2 PREMIERE THIS SUNDAY. Get ready for some major Charming Family (Snow and Emma!) feels. I will have my hot cocoa with cinnamon and a box of tissues at the ready. I love you all, the end.