In Orbit

The trees are going by in a blur and thank god the local police force is a family business because David is most definitely going over the speed limit.

Emma's holding onto the door handle as hard as she possibly can, but she still slides halfway across the seat, bumping into his side as he takes a corner a little too sharply. The truck's tires squeal in protest but she doesn't dare tell him to slow down. If anything, she has to bite back a "Drive faster."

Five seconds. That's all it had taken for them to enter the apartment, for David to call Snow's name, and take one look around, before he was turning on his heel and sprinting back down the stairs. Emma managed a "Stay here" to Neal and Henry as she chased after him, panic rising. He hadn't acknowledged her presence – so focused was he on finding his wife – and even now, Emma wonders if he truly does realize she's in the car with him. Her heart is thundering in her chest and that sense of panic that's been whispering in her ear since she followed after her father is whipping itself up into a downright roar.


She's harshly brought back to the present as David spins the wheel, sending the truck into a tailspin as they make a crude but impressive U-turn in the middle of the street. Emma's head bumps against the window and, though she can finally see the woman they've been searching for standing slightly stunned in the middle of the sidewalk, David's first movement is not towards his wife, but towards Emma, whose face he cups in his hand as he gingerly turns her chin to inspect her head.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine – "

"I didn't mean to spin it so sharply…"

"David, go."

His face is conflicted as he tears himself away from her, opens the door, and sprints across the street to his wife, whom Emma can already see is definitely not okay. That panic in her chest flares and within seconds, she's in hot pursuit of her father.

"Where did you go?!" he's yelling as she skids to a stop beside him. Mary Margaret is staring at the pavement, but not really seeing it. Her gaze is unfocused and her response-time sluggish. "Snow. Snow, it's me. It's Charming." With a finger under her chin, he gently guides her face up to meet his, and when Emma gets a good look into those green orbs, she gasps. She's never seen Mary Margaret look so empty. So defeated. "Snow, say something," David pleads.

"I told her to kill me."

And suddenly Emma feels like she's been punched in the gut.

"You what?" he whispers, unbelieving.

A tear slides down her cheek as she bluntly responds, "I deserve to die."

David grabs Snow's shoulders so quickly, Emma jumps, and he gives them a hearty shake.

"Don't you ever, ever say that. Do you hear me? Don't." His voice cracks, and Emma places a hand on his back without thinking. "You deserve to live. I need you to live."

"It's too late, she took my heart – "

A strangled sound rips out of Emma's throat as David presses a hand to Mary Margaret's chest, as if checking for the beat beneath his fingertips.

"She put it back again," Mary Margaret continues in a tone so bland, it's as if she's reciting the morning's weather report. "But not before she showed me the blackness eating away at it."

Throughout this tale, Emma has inched closer and closer to her father, until she's pressed against his side from shoulder to knee. She'd never admit it, but the utter desolation haunting Mary Margaret's face frightens her more than she's ever been frightened. Mary Margaret's always been the hopeful one. The one to see the world as glass-half-full. The one to have faith. But now… now her father will have to have enough faith for the both of them.

"Snow, listen to me. Snow!"

Mary Margaret flicks her eyes up to his and he cups her face in his palms.

"Your heart is not black – "

"Charming, I saw it – " She nearly sags under the weight of that truth and it's only David's strong hold on her arms that keep her upright.

"No! I've seen it, too. You've shown it to me everyday since the moment you came back and saved me on that damn troll bridge."

Mary Margaret shakes her head, causing another tear to fall. Emma glances around, thankful that there are no pedestrians wandering around, but they're still too close to Regina's house for comfort. She wants nothing more than to bundle her parents into the truck and continue this conversation elsewhere, but she's utterly floored by the desperation written on her father's face.

"How could you ever think it would be okay to leave me? Leave us?" His arm is around Emma's back in moments and she can't help but cling to the hand that comes to rest around her waist. "We need you," he finishes.

"You'll be fine," Mary Margaret replies, and it sounds too much like resignation for Emma's taste.

"I need you," she blurts out, bringing the other woman's haunted gaze to hers. "I need my mom. And Henry needs his grandmother and my father needs his wife. Don't you ever think… for one second… that we can do this alone."

She doesn't dare look at David's face – watching the emotion flicker across her mother's is enough – but his grip on her waist tightens and she can feel him shaking with barely contained sobs.

"No one is entirely good or entirely bad," she continues, just to fill the silence. "So you killed someone – " Snow visibly flinches "If anyone tried to hurt this family, I'd kill them, too. David killed people trying to get me to safety. We are not good and evil. It's not that black and white. We're gray. And we're all the better for it. Please don't do this."

"Listen to your daughter, Snow," David murmurs, voice wrecked, and it's that which breaks the dam. Mary Margaret's face crumples and she sags against her husband as he effortlessly lifts her into his arms, rocking her back and forth. And Emma stands back and simply watches as her father and mother attempt to heal each other.

"I love you. I need you," he murmurs against her temple as she buries her face in his shoulder. "Don't scare me like this again."

"My heart is black," she mumbles and David's eyes find Emma's over her mother's shoulder.

"Then Henry's just gonna have to find a red crayon and color it in for you," is his reply and Emma audibly snorts, drawing a smile to her mother's face as David eases her back on her own two feet.

"Your parking job leaves something to be desired," Snow murmurs, causing all three to glance at the truck idling in the middle of the road.

"Well, I came home and my wife was gone. Parking was not exactly at the forefront of my concerns." He places a kiss on her head, before glancing at Emma and nodding towards the car.

"We have a long road ahead of us," Mary Margaret says as she loops her arm through Emma's and allows her husband to guide her with a hand on her back. "I need help." She stops in the middle of the road, causing Emma and David to halt beside her. "I can't let Regina be right."

David presses his forehead to his wife's and says, "We won't allow it" with such conviction that Emma, the staunchest skeptic if there ever was one, finds herself nodding along with finality.

Mary Margaret gasps as Emma's arms come around her waist from behind. Emma herself is surprised – she's never been one to initiate physical contact – but she had been so terrified that something had happened to her mother that just seeing her alive and well makes her want to cuddle up next to her and shun the rest of the world. In fact, she thinks as she feels her David's large hand gently stroke the top of her head, her father can join, too.

Eventually, they untangle themselves, but not before David leans down and whispers something only for Mary Margaret to hear. Her mothers nods, face fighting off emotion as she swallows hard, before reaching up and placing a hard kiss on her husband's lips.

And Emma can't help but feel a pang somewhere deep in her chest at the knowledge that she might never find what they have. She might never inspire someone to take one look around an empty apartment and realize a vital piece is missing. Her parents are connected through some invisible, intangible thread, orbiting each other like moons.

No. Not moons, she thinks, as she slides into the passenger seat, scooting closer to her mother than strictly necessary, as her father's arm spans across his wife's shoulders and onto his daughter's.

It doesn't matter if Mary Margaret has black in her heart. She is the sun. And her family will follow her as long as there are stars in the sky.