Author's Note: Well, it's been a hell of a week, huh? I started a new job on Monday, which is, of course, the day my city became international news. I live about half an hour south of Boston, so I was never in any direct danger or involved in any of the scariness, but it's more than a little unnerving to have this kind of horrific stuff happening in your own back yard. Still, I've never been more proud to be Boston Strong than I have been this week.
Author's Note, Part the Second: You people are amazing. I know, I know, I say that in almost every author's note, but I mean it wholeheartedly. You guys are the reason 95% of my stories end up being far longer than I ever intended. Thank you so much for your reviews and follows and favorites. Your support means the world to me and never fails to make me grin like an idiot, haha. I hope you've enjoyed this story even half as much as I've enjoyed getting all your lovely comments. :)
Snow plopped down in the seat next to her husband, slightly out of breath. She had certainly earned her Official Parent merit badge today. She'd just managed to get another dose of cold medicine down her daughter's throat, which, if she did say so herself, was something of a minor miracle. Emma was tiring, and with her waning energy came waning patience.
Which was why when Henry asked if they were going to watch Jurassic Park anytime soon, Snow told him he could put the movie in now. Henry grinned and jumped up to put the DVD into the player, but Snow's eyes were solely focused on Emma. Relief flickered across poor Emma's face at the thought of a two-hour reprieve from having to talk. Snow smiled to herself. Her stubborn daughter apparently would not hear of taking herself out of the lineup, but a rain delay seemed to be fine with her.
When Henry settled back on the sofa, Emma unwrapped the blanket from around her legs and threw it out across the cushions so that it covered her son's legs as well. Henry grinned at her, snuggling under the blanket as he grasped the remote control from the end table.
"So," Emma said as Henry navigated the DVD's menu, "remember how I told you that Jurassic Park was the first movie Jason and I got into? It was almost the last."
"How come?" David asked, a gentle smile on his face. Snow smiled herself; she loved how much he loved hearing about Emma's childhood.
"Because I was nine and we were watching a movie where dinosaurs eat people," Emma chuckled. "I screamed out loud at one point and drew attention to us."
Henry's brows knit in a little frown as he pulled the case off the end table and squinted at the back. "But it's only PG-13. You shouldn't have needed a parent to get in."
"It had nothing to do with the rating and everything to do with the fact that we actually held tickets for some kind of Tom and Jerry movie. We would have gotten caught if anyone checked our tickets. One of the keys to successfully sneaking into a movie is not to call attention to yourself."
"Tom and Jerry?" David laughed. "You liked Tom and Jerry when you were little?"
"Nope. I had no desire to watch a cartoon cat chase a cartoon mouse when I could watch dinosaurs chase people around an island. But anyway, my point was, if you were quiet enough, sometimes you could spend the entire day at the theater and watch movie after movie. You'd just leave the auditorium when the movie was over, hide out in the bathroom for a little while, and then sneak into another auditorium where a movie was just starting."
A sad smile curled on Snow's lips when she spied the twinkle of nostalgia in Emma's eyes. She disapproved of the way a young Emma had chosen to spend her time and she was a bit annoyed with this Jason for taking her daughter under his rather questionable wing, but she did have to admit that she was glad Emma had had someone who paid her a little bit of attention. Even if that someone was a little boy not much older than Emma herself and who taught her how to break the rules.
"But like I said," Emma added after a beat of silence, glancing down at Henry, "never do that."
He giggled. "Yes, Mom."
When he pressed play, everyone save Snow turned their attention to the small television. "You know, this screen is really way too small for a movie like this," Emma groaned.
Snow kept half an eye on the television while the rest of her attention remained on her daughter. Emma sniffled a couple of times before reaching for the box of tissues on the floor. All right, Snow thought, after the movie, we should repeat the steam treatment.
She watched the movie for a few minutes before glancing back over at Emma. The steam treatment after the movie would more than likely not be happening, she realized with a smile. The cold finally seemed to be getting the better of her daughter, who was now lying on her side with the blanket pulled up around her shoulders. Every so often, her eyes would slide closed but she'd shake herself awake a second or two later.
Snow figured it would only be another twenty minutes or so before she was completely asleep.
She actually underestimated her poor sick baby's exhaustion. Emma was snoring before any of the dinosaurs even showed up onscreen. Henry tore his focus from the movie long enough to grin over at his mother before turning the same look on his grandmother. "You gave her the nighttime stuff this time, right?"
"No," Snow laughed. "I thought about it, but then I figured she'd crash on her own eventually. She's exhausted."
David reached out for Snow's hand and she complied, clasping a hand that fit perfectly into her own. It never failed to make her smile, all the different ways they were perfect for each other. She tightened her grip, and he squeezed back almost automatically. She smiled again, unconsciously running her thumb up and down the back of his hand.
They stayed that way until the movie was over. "So, what'd you think?" she asked as she finally released her husband's hand so she could turn off the television.
"I completely understand why it's one of her favorite movies," David said, smiling in his sleeping daughter's direction. "That was extremely entertaining."
Snow smiled as well, following his gaze over to the sofa. At some point during the movie, Emma had turned onto her back and stretched out across the couch with her feet resting in Henry's lap. She looked so comfortable that Snow visibly flinched at the thought of having to wake her to get her upstairs. "Henry, can you do me a favor?"
"Sure," he shrugged. He carefully shifted his mom's feet off his lap and stood, an eager smile on his face.
"Will you go unmake her bed for her?"
Henry nodded and took off up the stairs. While David began cleaning up everything that had accumulated in the living area throughout the family's day, Snow crouched down next to the sofa and gently shook her daughter's shoulder. "Emma."
"Mmm." Emma scrunched her nose and turned her head to face the back of the couch.
She tried again and this time, Emma responded, blearily blinking her eyes open. "There you are," Snow said teasingly. "I think it's bedtime."
Emma gave a slight shake of her head as her eyes slid closed. "I'm awake."
Snow exchanged a grin with her husband. "You've been asleep for over an hour and a half, Emma."
At that, Emma groaned. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, rubbing her eyes like a small child awakening from a nap. When she looked over to the television and saw that it was off, her brow knit in confusion. "I missed the whole movie?"
David snorted in amusement. "I think you might have seen the first fifteen minutes."
"Did you like it?"
"I did," he smiled. "I see why you love it so much."
"'Kay, good," Emma murmured as she pushed herself to her feet.
The blanket that had been covering her dropped to the floor as she stood but before she could even bend her knees to retrieve it, Snow had done so herself. She left the blanket in a crumpled heap on the sofa as she rested her hand on the small of Emma's back and started to lead her towards the stairs.
Since Emma was still half-asleep, she complied far easier than Snow was expecting. And since Emma was still half-asleep, Snow felt comfortable gesturing for David to follow them upstairs. A fully awake and aware Emma would likely have had a conniption fit over her family babying her like this, so Snow was more than willing to take advantage of this opportunity to take care of her little girl.
Henry, who had turned down his mother's bed as Snow had asked, grinned when he saw the entire family tromping up the stairs. David winked, causing Henry's grin to grow wider. Emma tiredly plopped down on the edge of the bed and waited while Snow arranged the pillows.
Her hand touched something soft under Emma's pillow. As she grasped it, her fingers sank into soft yarn she instinctively knew she'd once touched, yarn that had only become softer through the passage of time. Emma's baby blanket.
A large part of her wanted to pull it out and drape it over her daughter's shoulders the way she would have all Emma's life had she had the chance. Once again, it was the Mary Margaret in her who squelched that desire, who understood that this secret needed to remain Emma's. It was, however, the mother in her who was touched that Emma still slept with her baby blanket under her pillow.
"Good night, Mom," Henry whispered, wrapping his mother in a gentle hug. "I hope you feel better tomorrow."
"Thanks, kid," Emma replied, wrapping her arms around him as well. "Don't con your grandparents into letting you stay up too late."
"I won't, I promise," he giggled as he pulled away. "But Mom? If you still feel sick tomorrow, do you think maybe we could do this again? Story time, I mean. It was fun."
A little smile curled on Emma's lips. "Sure."
Henry grinned. "Okay, good. And now I've got witnesses in case you don't remember you agreed to it."
David and Snow exchanged a grin. That was nicely done, Snow had to admit. As Henry slipped past his grandparents on his way out of the room, he gave them both a wink.
After Henry left, it was David's turn to say his good nights. He sat down on the edge of the mattress as Emma swung her legs up onto the bed. When he drew the covers up over her knees, she seemed to regain a tiny bit of clarity. "Are you tucking me in?"
She sounded vaguely horrified at the thought but David handled it masterfully. "Just helping you get settled," he shrugged while allowing her to pull the covers up on her own. Then he softly told her to lie down, and once again, she complied without argument. Snow smiled, touched, when Emma tucked her hands under the pillow to grip her blanket. Her eyes drifted closed a moment later.
"Good night, princess," David whispered.
"G'night," Emma murmured in reply.
David raised his eyebrows at his wife. Clearly he'd been expecting some kind of reaction to the nickname, but Emma was so tired, the term of endearment probably hadn't even registered.
It wasn't until David tiptoed down the stairs that Snow said her own good nights. She lightly touched Emma's forehead to feel for her fever. Emma's skin felt much cooler than earlier. Her daughter's fever had finally broken, she realized with a breath of relief.
As she sat down on the empty side of Emma's bed so as not to disturb her, she couldn't help thinking about all the good nights she'd missed. All of Emma's firsts, all the little moments, all the conversations and the activities and art projects. All the things she never got to do for Emma, things she desperately wished she had been able to do.
And before she knew it, she was humming. Whether it was an attempt to soothe her daughter into a deeper slumber or an attempt to soothe herself, Snow had no idea. Perhaps it was a little bit of both.
She didn't know when her humming turned into singing, nor did she know why she'd chosen this particular song to sing. Perhaps it was the melancholy mood in which she'd suddenly found herself, or perhaps she identified with the longing the song described. That aching yearning for something that could never happen. Either way, just like before, she went with it. "There's a port on a western bay and it serves a hundred ships a day–"
A little snort of amusement interrupted her. "You're trying to make a lullaby out of Looking Glass now?" Emma murmured, her voice barely audible. Her brows quirked up slightly but her eyes remained closed.
And just like that, Snow's heart lightened. Though she would never be okay with the time she lost, she had her baby now. Her baby was a remarkably amazing woman who always knew just what to say when anyone needed a moment of levity. "As a matter of fact, I am," Snow whispered back. "Now shush."
Emma gave a barely perceptible nod, making Snow smile and raise her eyebrows in surprise at the same time.
Snow began to sing again, starting the song over. By the time the sailors told Brandy she was a fine girl, Emma's breathing had evened out. Snow smiled, brushed an errant lock of hair out of Emma's eyes, and bent down to press a gentle kiss to her temple. "Good night, sweetheart."