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A/N: Well after that heart-wrenching episode, I just had to write something in response. I know many of you are looking for more Emma/Mary Margaret from me...here's what I hope will be the first of many post-eps to come!
Spoilers for 2x03, but why are you reading fanfiction if you haven't seen it yet?
Much thanks to Melissa for beta'ing! And thank you to helikesitheymikey for pointing out an embarrassing canon error!
Emma finds herself awake in the middle of the night. She's not sure if it's the wind that woke her, or the light rain that has begun to fall, or the twig that's been digging into her shoulder, but once she's awake, she can definitely hear someone crying. Emma sits up, glancing around the camp. Everyone else is still asleep. It must have been her imagination.
She closes her eyes, but when she hears the sound again, she realizes it is not her imagination. Squinting in the darkness, Emma makes out the figure hunched over a few feet away. She glances again at the sleeping bodies around her and realizes who is missing. A weight sinks in her heart. She knows she must do something, feels obligated to say something, but she has no idea what. She doesn't even know what to call her.
She realizes that Mary Margaret (she can't bring herself to admit that she's her mother) has noticed she's awake. Emma gets up carefully, trying to avoid stepping on any branches, and makes her way over. She stands before her, hands tucked into her jacket pockets, swaying uncertainly on the spot. "Hey," she finally begins.
"Emma." Mary Margaret hastily wipes her eyes. "I'm so sorry. Did I wake you?"
Emma shrugs as she sits down next to her. "No." When Mary Margaret throws her a skeptical look, she amends, "Not really. I'm not sure."
"I'm sorry," Mary Margaret repeats.
"For waking me?"
She sighs and shakes her head. "For everything. I just…" Emma bites her lip, suddenly unsure she wants Mary Margaret to continue. "I just can't stop thinking about what you said."
Emma shifts uncomfortably. Mary Margaret is crying because of her.
"That you thought…that you ever thought that we – that I – didn't want you," Mary Margaret finishes.
"Oh…" Emma begins, but Mary Margaret cuts her off.
"All we wanted was to give you your best chance," she whispers. "We didn't think of it as abandoning you. At the time, well, there was no time. The curse was coming…you only just managed to get away." She smiles sadly at Emma. "I'm sorry that we couldn't come with you."
Emma lets out a slow, shaky breath. There is something about hearing the words said aloud, the rationale of her parents at the critical moment when they decided to give her away, that resonates within her, bringing forth all the unanswered questions from childhood. She can understand their rationale, can even grant that at the time it was their best – their only – option, but there is something she simply cannot yet forgive. The fact that they chose her path for her, gave her this destiny, made her the savior that she had never wanted to be…she's never wanted any of it.
She's nothing like her mother; that much has become clear to her in the few days she's been in the magic world. Her mother is brave, her mother is smart, and she is a leader. Her presence is enough to command respect. Emma admires this, but at the same time it makes her uneasy. She's next to the only woman who can truly claim her as her daughter, but she's never felt further away.
"I know why you did it," Emma answers. But the words don't ring true. She can't stop feeling abandoned, and it's eating away at her. The worst part is knowing that her parents made the decision for the greater good. How can she claim that they should have chosen her over the well-being of everyone else?
Mary Margaret seems to know that she's not being entirely honest. "You don't have to say that," she says gently. "It's okay to be upset. I understand."
Emma sighs, thinking about the abandoned nursery. Obviously her parents had wanted her; they had taken the time to prepare a space for her. But then she realizes that they had known for a while that the curse was coming; they had built the portal for her to get through to the other world. Why had they built a nursery for a child they knew they could not keep?
She decides to ask.
"Oh," Mary Margaret begins, and to Emma's horror, she can see fresh tears in her eyes. "We had already built the nursery before we knew about the curse. We always, always wanted to have a child."
Mary Margaret blinks back more tears. "Yes. Your grandmother…" She suddenly stops, unable to continue. Emma hesitates, and then reaches for her hand. Mary Margaret smiles at her through her tears. "Your grandmother gave her life so that I could have children."
"What?" Emma frowns. "But I read Henry's book. I thought your mother-"
Mary Margaret shakes her head. "Not my mother. Charming's mother. She, ah, well…" She trails off. Emma waits for her to go on, but finally she says, "Never mind. It's all in the past."
"No," Emma urges. "Tell me the story." When Mary Margaret hesitates, Emma raises her eyebrows and adds, "It's my story, too."
Mary Margaret nods. "Of course it is…you're right." Emma waits as she draws a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "After your father and I were engaged, I was captured by King George – do you -?" Emma shakes her head. "He was – well, it's a long story, but the gist is that he wanted your father as his son and wanted him to marry King Midas' daughter. Kathryn, in Storybrooke," she adds, answering Emma's unasked question. "Princess Abigail in this world."
"But your father and I were in love, so we wanted to fight back. Anyway, I was captured and drank a poison that caused me to become infertile. Meanwhile, King George's men were sent to capture him and in the battle that followed, one of their poisoned arrows pierced his mother. Your father knew of a lake that had water with magical properties, so we went there, but it was all dried up. He found a shell that held enough water for just one sip – still enough to save his mother's life.
"But your grandmother knew what King George had done to me. She told me to take the water instead of her, told me that all your father had ever wanted was a wife and a family." Mary Margaret shudders and Emma finds herself squeezing her hand tighter. "But I couldn't."
"You didn't take it?" Emma whispers.
"I couldn't," Mary Margaret repeats. "She was the only family your father had left. I couldn't let her die."
"But she did die," Emma points out. "And you had me."
"Right," Mary Margaret says. "She only pretended to take the water. Lancelot – remember how I told you he had always watched out for me? – gave me the water instead, although I didn't know that he'd put it in my drink at the time." She pauses, and then adds, "I've never told your father this story."
Mary Margaret shakes her head. "No. He never knew what his mother had done for me…for you. I never told him about the curse. He thought that she died because there wasn't enough water. But really…"
"…she died so you could have me," Emma finishes quietly, and to her surprise she can feel the tears brimming in her own eyes.
Mary Margaret smiles. "So many people love you, Emma. And knowing that you never knew that until now, it breaks my heart."
Emma shifts closer to Mary Margaret and tentatively puts her hand on her shoulder, trying to gather the courage to do what she wants to do. But Mary Margaret beats her to it, and pulls her into a tight hug.
"I love you, Emma," Mary Margaret whispers. "So, so much."
Emma blinks back tears. She holds onto her mother, even though she can't yet say it. "Thank you."
A/N: I hope you enjoyed and will consider leaving me a review! Can't wait for the new episode on Sunday! In the meantime, if you're looking for more Emma/Mary Margaret pieces, check out Family Portrait, a series of vignettes of missing scenes from season 1, or Safe and Sound, and AU multi-chapter work-in-progress. Both are on my profile page.