A/N: I was going to post this as a separate story, but then I decided to put it here, seeing as there is a similar theme. A companion piece dedicated to 2x06 Tallahassee.
It's almost as if your brain knew in advance. It's grown so accustomed to these episodes during the past few months that it automatically sends out electric waves of little wild cards to rouse you from your sleep even before she makes a noise for the first time. Not that you've been getting much sleep anyway.
When the screams come like the onyx lining on the cloud hoisting the bottom of God Almighty, you pray to him so that he, in all his foolish self-righteousness and narcissism, won't let the boy hear. Thankfully his room is on the other side of the mansion, albeit the same floor. You've moved your bedroom to the distant end because of her, because Henry couldn't sleep. Not as much due to the shrill noises escaping her throat, but rather thanks to their cause.
This time is the worst. She doesn't respond the way she usually does. Usually, she slumps into your arms with ease and cries through ragged breaths. You never ask why. Even the first time, you didn't ask why. You don't think it matters.
You never thought you'd yearn for someone to hold onto you the way she isn't. Tonight is the night she rejects you. Tonight is the night when you doubt your judgment, just for a moment, for a split second you consider that maybe, maybe it does matter. Her fists are clenched and she's panting and crying and huffing and choking, and a spark lights up in her eye, a spark that is not the moon's reflection. Her cheeks swell with a deep, determined breath, and she tries to get up, storm out, and kill.
You see yourself in the shallow waters of her eyes.
Immediately, you grab her arms and pull her back down. The sheets crinkle. "Emma, don't. I'm here. It's okay."
"Let me go!" she yells on top of her lungs. She tries her hardest to wrestle free from your grasp, pushes you with so much force you start to think you must be holding onto her very bones. You don't relent, because you know you only have one chance.
"No. Calm down. No one is hurting you anymore." The words taste like blood and iron on your tongue. This is the first time you've acknowledged any of it. You didn't think it would affect you, but still the words taste like blood and iron on your tongue. Any words even vaguely reminiscent of Emma's past will always and forever be blood and iron on your tongue.
Especially the very last part. Anymore.
She tries to face you. You don't let her do that either. You can't stand the fact that if you lock eyes with her at this moment, you will break a little more than you can handle. With her endeavors blacklisted, she screams at the door instead. "But I want to hurt them," she admits, like there's no way in heaven and hell and onyx lining that you wouldn't understand and let her become you. When you don't respond, she whimpers, what little patience she has dwindling by the second. You have to understand. She just wants to hurt them, that's all.
Accidentally or not, she elbows you in the side. Then she turns to you, presumably to repeat her statement, hoping for a bigger impact. You bypass this attempt by pulling her into a tight hug, whispering soothing, meaningless little clichés in her ear.
"Please," she demands as her voice breaks, not even a wee bit pleased with your restrictive actions. She hits you once. Then she hits you again.
You hold onto her more tightly.
Her fist connects with your stomach.
"You'll wake Henry," you try, but your plea falls on deaf ears.
She hits August again. Then she hits Neal. Then she hits one of the prison guards. Then, you assume, she hits you. And then she does it all over again, shaking and growling and thrashing violently, running face first into the walls of her cage. Nonetheless, each punch leaves her with less strength, arrives with less vigor, until they're nothing more than bee stings. She's pummeling you until there's no oxygen left in her muscles, because she's forgotten how to breathe a long time ago.
"It's okay," you say as you caress her hair, subconsciously arranging it back into the correct, emotionally unscathed order.
She claws meekly at your chest, at your heart, begging it to listen. She doesn't know it already is, and that's precisely the reason why you can't obey her. "Let me go," she cries against your already soaked neck. She wants to know you've forgiven her, that you love her. You place your lips on the top of her head.
You understand, just not in the way she's expecting you to. You understand, because you've learned that there are some — not many, but some — demons not worth facing. You understand, because you're the behavioralist's lab dog that's realized that if it gets beaten for the same reason for enough decades, it's best to simply give up. Emma just hasn't reached that stage yet.
Until then, you'll keep holding her together as she hits you again.