IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH
Emma Swan does not get sick.
That was what she told herself as she stared at herself in the mirror, running her hand through her tangled hair and taking in her red nose and bloodshot eyes. Emma Swan might not get sick, but she certainly did occasionally feel under the weather. Her head was aching and she had a terrible headache. She grimaced in the mirror as she coughed. A deep, aching thing that felt rather unpleasant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the ache in her ribs that she felt flare up- a remnant of the coughing she'd been doing all night. She groaned and rested her head against the cool countertop. She didn't like this, not at all. Then she coughed again and felt even worse. Alright, maybe she got sick on occasion.
"Emma?" The voice jolted her out of her reverie. How long had she been sitting there? She couldn't say.
"Ye-" Her voice weak and throat congested, she coughed again, trying to clear it. It sounded vaguely better when she spoke again but was still scratchy. "Yes?"
"Are you alright?" Emma almost groaned again. Mary Margaret sounded concerned. She didn't know why, and not knowing the why of it bothered her. She didn't understand the why of a lot of things that Mary Margaret did. The why of why she waited up for her in the days following Graham's death, the why of trusting her, the why of the kindness in her eyes when she talked about Ava and Nicholas. The why of it all made her feel worse because she didn't understand it. There had to be a catch, she was sure of it. There was always a catch.
"I'm fine, just you know, brushing my teeth and things," she said, not liking the way she felt like a teenager caught doing something against the rules. She felt almost guilty about the white lie. That just wasn't fair. The woman wasn't her mother, no matter what Henry thought. There was a long pause before Mary Margaret answered. Emma could practically see the look on the woman's face as she considered whether she was lying or not. It was probably best that Mary Margaret couldn't see her face- the woman had an irritating way of being able to read her like a book. She'd gotten very good at sidestepping her own attempts at side stepping the truth. And that, that was annoying as hell.
"Well, alright. I'm making breakfast if you want anything." Emma's stomach churned at the very thought of food, but she waited for the sound of feet padding away and there was a moment of hesitation before she heard Mary Margaret go. As soon as she was gone, she closed the lid of the toilet and sat down, resting her pounding head in her hands. After a moment, she shook her head to clear it. She opened the medicine cabinet and took two ibuprofen, drinking from the tap and staring at her reflection. Get it together, Swan, she ordered herself.
With a sigh she left the bathroom, hoping she could sidestep Mary Margaret long enough to get out of the apartment without any further interrogation. She'd made it halfway to the stairs to her room before she felt Mary Margaret's hand on her arm. "Emma?" Damn it, she thought, stopping and turning to look at the other woman.
"Yeah?" she asked, standing up straighter and trying to look as normal as possible. She was so taken aback at Mary Margaret's cool hand on her forehead that she didn't even have a response to it, just her mouth opening and closing without argument, comment or sarcasm. Mary Margaret looked bemused at her lack of response, but that amusement quickly turned to concern. There it was, that look again, the one she didn't understand.
"Emma, you're burning up," she said kindly.
Emma thought for a moment. What was she supposed to say to that? "So?" She'd often found that brushing someone's concerns off was usually very effective at, well, brushing them off. "I feel fine," she said brusquely, though her argument was undercut by her collapse into a rather painful coughing fit.
Mary Margaret placed a hand on her back as she bent over, racked with coughs. Damn it, could the woman carry on a conversation without touching her? "So I think you shouldn't go in to work today. You have to take care of yourself," she said, removing her hand after a moment.
"I feel fine," Emma said insistently, suddenly very uncomfortable with this entire conversation.
"Emma." The tone made her even more uncomfortable. It was exactly the tone she'd heard parents use with their children over and over again. She wasn't Mary Margaret's child. She wasn't anyone's. She never had been and never would be. But she hated the way that her ears reddened and she looked down without thinking about it. Why was she ashamed? Damn Mary Margaret. Damn her for making her, well, responsible to someone beside herself. She didn't like the feeling. Being responsible to someone else made her feel tied to someone and she didn't like that. If she was tied to someone that meant they'd just use her. She was suddenly angry, though she wasn't sure who she was angry at. She wanted desperately to be left alone, and so she refused to meet Mary Margaret's gaze, though she could tell the woman was trying to force eye contact.
Yet the gentle hand on her chin, forcing her to meet her friend's gaze surprised her nonetheless. "Emma, please. Stay home today. The rest would do you good, I think." Emma searched her eyes her voice for any malice, any lie, anything. No, there was no lying in Mary Margaret, not that way. Perhaps that was why Emma wanted to hate her. She just cared. No reason, no nothing, nothing for her to hold against her, to use as reason to bar her from her. Mary Margaret just wanted her to be happy. And that why, the why of that really confused her.
"Okay," she said. Her answer was soft and she looked away from Mary Margaret instantly. She wasn't even sure why she'd agreed. She hated the tenor of her own voice when she'd said the word, but if Mary Margaret noticed any weakness she didn't comment on it.
"Okay," she said, releasing Emma from her grasp. "Why don't you go sit on the couch?"
Emma just nodded in response, stepping away from her and confused at the mix of emotions ripping through her. She made her way to the couch and sat down, half in a daze. So she hardly paid attention when Mary Margaret pressed a warm mug of tea into her hands. "It'll help with your throat," she said softly in response to Emma's questioning look. She skeptically took a sip of the liquid, surprised to find that it soothed the soreness in her throat at least marginally. She said nothing for a long moment when she noticed that Mary Margaret had sat down, perched on a chair across from her.
She stared into the mug as though mining its depths for answers for a long moment before she looked across at Mary Margaret. Her face was inscrutable, but open as always. "Why?"
Mary Margaret looked as confused as she felt. "Why what?" she asked, shifting in her seat, her gaze never leaving Emma's face.
"Why're you-" Emma stopped when she realized that the end of that sentence was 'taking care of me' and realized that she didn't really want the answer to that question. So she bit her lip and changed tacts. "Aren't you going to be late for work?" she asked, glancing at the clock on the wall.
"Today is an off day." At that, Emma did vaguely remember Henry talking about how excited he was to have a day off school. She felt guilty instantly. Why was Mary Margaret sitting here with her when it was one of her few days off?
"Why're you sitting here with me then?" she asked, "You must have had plans, something more interesting to do then sit here with me." There was that look again, the one that made her feel like Mary Margaret saw through the deflections and knew what she was really asking, the unspoken whys that hung in the air.
"Is it really that hard to believe that someone would care about your wellbeing?" The words weren't accusing, weren't indicting. They were gentle, filled with a concern that Emma hadn't heard from, well, anyone. To her disgust, she felt tears pricking at her eyes. That was no good at all. "Oh, Emma," Mary Margaret murmured from across the room. Emma looked down at her hands, the mug in them, and saw a tear drop from her face into the tea. No, this was no good at all. She heard footsteps falling on the floorboards and in an instant Mary was kneeling before her, gently taking the cup out of her hands, one hand on her knee, the other over her hands, which were clasped in her lap. "I didn't mean to upset you."
That broke the spell. "No, I'm fine," she said quickly, sniffling and hoping she could pass it off as just another part of her illness. "Just something in my eye," Yeah, if that something is a serious case of abandonment issues and a lonely childhood. But to her credit and Emma's eternal thanks, Mary Margaret didn't contradict her. She just gently squeezed her hand. "Of course," she said softly. She pressed the cup of tea back in to her hands. At that moment, she caught Emma's eye, and she just smiled. Emma broke her gaze quickly, bringing her hand up to wipe her eyes when the other woman continued back to her seat. They sat there in silence for a while, Emma drinking her tea and studying the floorboards for a long time. She knew Mary Margaret was still sitting across from her, no telltale creak of the floorboards meaning she'd finally grown bored with her and left.
So she was surprised when she blinked and found that the cup was no longer in her hands. She blinked, drowsy. How long had it been since she'd lost the cup? She didn't know. She heard footsteps, and was surprised when Mary Margaret's face entered her field of vision. "Emma, you should get some rest. You're falling asleep sitting up," she said gently. Emma tried to shake her head, clear the cobwebs from her head. "Emma. Just get some sleep," she insisted, nodding in the direction of the pillow that had appeared on the couch. She found herself nodding, laying down. As soon as her head hit the pillow, she realized how exhausted she'd truly been, her eyes fluttering closed. She shivered a little as she settled into the couch. A blanket was spread over her almost instantly. Of course. Mary Margaret knew her so well.
"Mary?" Her voice was sleepy, and she managed to pry one eye open to look at the other woman.
"Yes?" she asked, kneeling by her side.
"Will you-" She was relieved by Mary Margaret's comforting smile and nod precluding her from having to finish her rather shameful question. She was surprised when Mary Margaret gently lifted her head and removed the pillow before sitting down, putting the pillow in her lap and resting Emma's head on it. Her eyes fluttered closed again. She was surprised to feel Mary Margaret's hand on her head, her eyes opening as her thumb gently began brushing along her forehead.
"Shhh." Her eyes closed again, and she took a shaky breath. "My mother used to do this for me when I was a child and didn't feel well," Mary Margaret said softly, her thumb continuing to brush along Emma's forehead, before stopping for a moment, her fingers threading into her hair, stroking it comfortingly. Emma had no idea what to make of this, tensing at the contact. She wasn't used to being comforted. She had no idea what to do about it. She just knew that she should hate the contact, but it was soothing and she was even more unsettled by that. "Emma." That caught her attention, and she bit her lip, but refused to open her eyes. If she did she thought she might cry again. She knew exactly what look would be on Mary's face. "Just relax, okay?" She nodded just a bit and found that if she just focused on the feeling of Mary Margaret stroking her head, and not the complicated emotions it caused, it was actually easy to do as she asked.
She found herself drifting off, surprised at how easy it was to let Mary take care of her, if only for a moment. She was troubled to find she was actually starting to like it. When Mary paused in her ministrations for a moment only to tuck the blanket a little tighter around her, she really knew she was screwed.
I really love me some Emma/MM/Snow. I may write a companion piece from Mary Margaret's perspective if there's any interest. Let me know what you think!