Dedicated to alltheouatfeels (who currently goes by spaghettinights – perfect url) because she is lovely and all that is awesome in this world. Happy New Year to all of you beautiful, crazy, and crazy-beautiful people. Don't let anyone tell you you are anything less than perfect. xo
Four: the number of times Emma considers turning around and running in the other direction.
Five: the number of times she reminds herself that her son is on the other side of that door.
Six: the number of times she remembers that her mother is on the other side as well.
The door swings back and she's there before Emma can draw breath, smiling widely yet sympathetically, reaching out and pulling Emma towards her in a bone-crushing hug. One mothers perfect at an early age. And Emma freezes for a moment before sinking into the embrace and bringing her arms up to hold Mary Margaret to her fiercely. As if the past few hours could melt away as long as she held on now.
Until David, she had never been hugged with the intent to never let go.
Fitting that since David's hugs are no longer available, her mother has swooped in to fill the void.
"Mom!" she hears from inside the apartment and she tries not to whimper as Mary Margaret pulls away and brushes away a tear Emma didn't even realize had fallen.
"He's been waiting," she whispers as she pulls her inside and takes her bag, ushering her towards the kitchen a moment before Henry barrels into her midsection.
"Hey, kid," she murmurs, bending down and placing a kiss in his hair.
"Hi, Mom," he replies as he squeezes her tighter.
She can feel his hot breath through the shirt material against her abdomen – he smells like cinnamon and chocolate and David's shampoo, which is the realization that almost has her already weak resolve cracking.
Clearing her throat, she glances over at the table to find a third mug awaiting her arrival. Mary Margaret is in the process of ladling hot chocolate into it, no doubt putting the perfect dollop of whipped cream on top, and Emma takes the moment to watch her – watch her mother in the simplest of tasks – and wonder if events that got her to this point in time actually really happened.
She has her mother's chin, she can see that now. And her nose and possibly her ears, but the rest belongs to David. She considers how different she would be if she had Mary Margaret's influence as well and it makes her wonder how different Snow White is to the woman standing in front of her. Probably a little less meek. A little more impulsive. Emma can see it sometimes; it flashes in Mary Margaret's eyes. That courage, that fire, that steel. But then it's gone like the flame of a match, wafting into the air and waiting for something to spark it once more.
Emma could do that. Emma could spark it.
After all, David did it for her.
"Is Gramps okay?" Henry finally asks as he pulls away, blinking up at her with wide brown eyes rimmed with tears.
"He will be," she murmurs as she guides him over to the table and to the hot chocolate that's now gone cold. Without asking, Mary Margaret grabs the mug and refills it, bringing the steaming cup over to Henry and running her fingers through his hair.
Emma blames her newfound information for cataloging more and more of Mary Margaret's maternal moments. For studying her like she would a final exam, taking note and filing away for future use.
"I, um, I set you and Henry up upstairs. Sheets, towels. Stay as long you want."
And in this moment, Emma wants to stay forever. She wants David to come back and complete their family picture. She wants Mary Margaret to look at her and realize she's looking into her daughter's eyes. She wants, she wants…
"Sounds good," she manages, smiling and taking a sip of hot chocolate that's pure perfection. "Thank you."
"Of course," she reassures, but the usual light in the teacher's eyes is gone. And Emma knows it's because the man she loves has absolutely no idea who she is.
"Henry, go get ready for bed."
"Yeah, kid. I brought the book. We'll go over some stories," she says and he catches her drift because his eyes light up and he bolts up the stairs so fast, he has to return a moment later to get his pajamas and toothbrush.
Mary Margaret watches him go with humor, before turning her attention back to Emma, who's biting her lip as she debates whether or not to say what she's about to. She knows why David kept Mary Margaret at arm's length. He did it to protect her. And Mary Margaret needs to understand this.
"He loves you, you know. He loves you so much."
Mary Margaret grows pale and plays with the ring on her middle finger, staring at the rim of her mug. "He's gone."
"But that man is still inside him. We just need to find him again."
"I've heard stories. Stories about amnesiacs who never regain what they've lost."
Emma can't tell her that those amnesiacs weren't mind-wiped by magic, so instead, she reaches across the table and rests her hand on Mary Margaret's – on her mother's – and squeezes in the only sign of support she can think of.
"I'm going to get him back. And he's going to be with you because this whole 'protecting you' thing is utter crap."
Mary Margaret bursts out laughing and wipes a tear from her cheek, smiling the first genuine smile Emma's seen on her all night.
"It is crap, isn't it."
"Totally and completely."
The room is too silent and the scratchy gown isn't helping matters as David tosses and turns, finally blinking his eyes open and attempting to focus on any object in the dark.
He's never been fond of hospitals, despite the fact that he doesn't recall ever being in one until now.
There's the constant hum of machinery and a beeping that he can't escape, even though he's not hooked up to a heart monitor. It's an odd world to be thrust into, to be sure. Like he's come in in the middle of the movie and no one bothered to at least summarize the beginning.
His wedding ring is missing.
There are children's shoes in his house.
He doesn't know where his wife is.
And a mysterious girl named Emma causes familiarity to tug somewhere deep within him every time he lays eyes on her.
He sighs heavily and turns to the left, only to realize the sheriff is passed out in the chair on the other side of the room. It can't be comfortable. His chin is resting against his chest, bending his neck at a nearly impossible angle, his gangly legs are sprawled out in front of him, and he's snoring softly, but what makes David wonder is why the sheriff is there at all. He doesn't remember being particularly close with him. He's not a criminal and therefore not a flight risk.
Graham's merely there to watch over him. And it's only with that knowledge that David finally drifts off, dreaming of ducks and blonde hair and blue eyes – of all things.
On the other side of town, David's grandson is having similar problems.
He tries laying on his left side, then his right. Then his back and then his stomach. It's useless though, and blowing out a huff of air, he kicks the covers off and reaches blindly for the book at the foot of his makeshift bed, pulling out the flashlight that he always keeps in the side pocket of his backpack for just such an occasion.
Once Upon a Time
The beam of light bounces off the gold embossed lettering and Henry traces the words for a moment, before opening the large tome and skimming passages he's long since memorized.
"Kid, what are you doing?"
Henry jumps nearly a foot in the air and shines the light to the right, blinding his mother in the process. "I thought you were asleep."
"Clearly not," she whispers, before getting out of her bed and padding over to his makeshift cot. "Scoot over."
He shifts to left and his mom drops down beside him, bundling under the blanket and brushing her cold toes against his warm legs.
"How long have you known?" she whispers as she peers over his shoulder and he gives her his trademark mischievous grin before flipping the page to the picture of Prince Charming placing a baby in a wardrobe.
"Long enough to make me wonder what took you so long."
She snorts next to him, but he can tell she's studying the image like it's not the 100th time she's laid eyes on it. But he supposes it isn't, in a way. She's looking at it with new understanding.
"That's you, Mom."
She nods, but remains silent, fingers reaching for the photo, before quickly drawing back once more.
"And that's how Gramps really got his scars," he murmurs, pointing to the blotch of red staining Prince Charming's shirt. "Well, actually, Grams hit him on the chin with a rock and shot an arrow into his shoulder, but to be fair, she wasn't aiming for him the second time."
Mom's eyes have hit her hairline and he drops the book in her lap, finally excited to be able to dole homework out to someone else for a change.
"Clearly you need to read up," he says, passing over the flashlight as well. "Your parents' story starts on page 37."
She laughs and says, "Will there be a quiz in the morning?" but abruptly stops when he replies with a definitive "Yes."
He rolls over, not minding at all that his already small cot is now half its size, and drifts off, already going over the details of Operation: Lion.
And when he wakes, his mother is gently snoring beside him, flashlight resting in the book's binding, which depicts the final chapter of her story: of a baby arriving in the middle of the woods to grow up in a terrifying world.
Operation: Lion, he thinks, as he carefully gets out of bed without waking her. Fitting, really.
Lions are royalty and so is he.
She's always been a yogurt and granola kind of girl, but Emma and Henry are asleep upstairs, so Mary Margaret's pulling out all of the stops. Bacon is sizzling in the pan, omelet fixings are lined up, she's whisking pancake batter, and coffee is brewing.
It's all the markings of a perfect host, but really it just gives her hands something to do instead of twist her ring around her finger and focus on the fact that David didn't keep his word when he said he'd be back.
"I'm coming back for you."
The words seem to haunt her every move as she sets a table for three instead of for one. The extra place settings warm her heart and set her humming, content in the knowledge that her usually too-large apartment feels right right now. With Emma and Henry tucked away in bed and bacon sizzling on the stovetop.
"We have to give her her best chance."
She pauses halfway to the pan, spatula hovering in the air as the voice fades from her mind, a voice that is distinctly hers, yet the words are some she doesn't ever recall saying.
"You've got to look for the moments."
The spatula falls from her hand, making a loud clatter on the floor, but even the sound of metal on wood isn't enough to shake her from the grip those words have on her. It isn't enough to stop the images flashing through her mind; the weapons, the toys, the long stone corridors. The smell of the wood, the damp dew beneath her feet. The feel of his chest and the look in his eye when she was the only thing he saw.
"Hm?" her gaze snaps to him, all thought and feeling from the previous moment drifting into the air to mingle with the smell of bacon and burning toast.
"Are you all right?"
"Uh huh," she nods in a tone that most definitely says she isn't.
"You sure?" Henry asks again, inching his way towards her and slowly bending down to pick up the dropped spatula.
"I'm fine." She manages a smile, but she knows her voice is strained. She has absolutely no idea what that was. What any of those things were. The only constant in it was David, but it was a David she's never seen before. "Bacon?"
Henry's still looking at her skeptically, but he quirks a smile and nods, sliding into his place at the table, eyes darting over to her occasionally.
"I, um, I also have stuff for omelets. And pancake fixings."
"Banana?" Henry pipes up hopefully and Mary Margaret's heart twists.
"Sorry, Henry, I'm fresh out of bananas."
"Oh. That's okay," he replies, but she knows it isn't. "It's just… Gramps makes banana pancakes."
"Ah." She wipes her hands on a dishtowel and takes a seat beside him. "David will be just fine, you'll see. Back making banana pancakes before you know it."
He nods, but it lacks his usual optimism. The optimism that makes her think she's not completely hopeless as a teacher, when he slides his perfect homework over and positively beams at her.
"If people are supposed to be together, they find a way."
"You've said that before," Henry says, picking at his napkin.
"Have I? Well, it must be true then. Because if anyone was meant to be together, it's you, David, and Emma." She taps him on the nose and smiles, but he's looking at her like she's missing a piece of the puzzle.
"If you need anything…"
"You'll find me."
And before she can question the voices in her head, something's tugging at her again. The familiarity that washes over her on a wave of pine and love and him and home.
"You're remembering," Henry whispers, staring at her with something akin to awe, the napkin forgotten in his lap.
"Who you are."
"I'm Snow. Snow White."
"I'm Sn – Frosty."
"I have a name, you know."
"Don't care. 'Charming' suits you."
"I already know who I am."
He cocks his head in a way that's so like David, she has to close her eyes, and the two words he utters has her questioning everything that's happened to her up until now.
The house hasn't changed much, other than the missing windmill, Kathryn muses as she makes her way up the walk.
She's taken careful pains to avoid the street if possible, taking the long way to the grocery store if necessary. And not because of any particularly bad memories, but because she doesn't want to get lost in the good ones, knowing they are no longer hers to dwell on.
She takes the key Graham left with her and turns the lock, pausing slightly to study the bike resting against the wall on the porch. It's Henry's, that much is obvious. And as much as she wants to focus on the fact that she didn't want kids, the sight of the bike is enough to make her heart hurt with all that could have been.
The house smells sweet, like cinnamon and something else she cannot place. Fabric softener, maybe. Graham told her that Emma had removed all of the pictures and evidence that she and Henry were there, but Kathryn still makes her way through, trying to find clues from their life. Proof that David was happy.
Dust outlines are the only marker on the empty shelves and tables that used to house memories of a happy life. Scuff marks by the door indicate shoes kicked haphazardly off, a habit neither she nor David possesses. There are ninja-shaped cookie cutters in the kitchen and a drawing that's clearly been on the fridge since Henry's pre-school days hiding in the crack between the cabinets. Kathryn picks it up reverently and places it in the drawer under some takeout menus to protect it both from David's prying gaze and the dirt on the floor.
She gingerly climbs the stairs, well aware that this is no longer her home, but she's too curious to not take a look. The guest room has clearly been turned into Emma's room, but with all of the personal belongings gone, it looks much the same as it once did, save for a change of bedding. The biggest difference is her former office, whose walls have been painted a pale green and in whose corner resides a twin bed, clearly meant for a boy. Or for a little girl who happens to like Star Wars.
There will be no way to explain this to David.
She's about to turn and head back downstairs, but something peeking out from under the bed catches her eye. Stepping further into the room, she smiles slightly at the solar system hanging from the ceiling, before bending down and pulling a stuffed animal from among the dust bunnies. A wolf, from the looks of it. A well-loved wolf. Its paws are matted and one of its eyes is a bit loose. She runs the pad of her finger along the faded velvet nose, smiling slightly, but then the front door opens and she drops it as if she's been caught.
Quickly bending down to pick it up, she hides it behind her back as she makes her way to the top of the stairs, murmuring a "Hi," as she descends the first two.
Graham is the first to glance up at her, offering a tight smile as he shoves his hands in his pockets. David sees her next, and it's clear in his expression that he was not expecting her.
"Uh, hi," he manages as she reaches the bottom, and she can tell he's studying her every feature because she's doing much of the same.
It's been a while since she's seen him. Up close, at least. She's caught sight of him across the street leaving Granny's or getting into the cruiser as she drives by the station, but never right here. Never close enough to see the crease on his forehead when he doesn't completely have a hold of a situation.
She's inventorying his injuries, marking the sutures near his hairline and the bruising on his forearm. His left elbow is pretty banged up, like he landed on it, and his gaze – usually so sharp – is lost.
She gestures to the living room even though it's no longer hers to invite people into, but they go willingly, and she takes a moment to tug on Graham's shirt, shoving the wolf into his hand before David can notice.
His eyes fill with gratitude as he registers what she's given him and she smiles as he hides it behind his back.
"I'll just…" Graham begins, gesturing noncommittally with his free hand, not even bothering to pretend there's anything that might come after that as he lets himself out of the house.
David watches him go with something akin to trepidation. Kathryn sympathizes.
"Tea?" she asks because it's the only thing coming to her mind at the moment, and David nods.
She doesn't even know if they have a kettle let alone teabags, but she leads the way to the kitchen anyway, breathing out a sigh of relief when she spots the yellow pot on the stove. She's not sure how to do this – how to broach a subject she hasn't thought about in years – and she watches out of the corner of her eye as David opens a cabinet, looking just as perplexed as she feels as he stares at its contents.
"Where'd the mugs go?"
"The mugs." He nods towards the plates that now reside on the shelf. "They used to be in here."
"I don't know where you keep them," she murmurs and he glances sharply at her, like everything is slowly falling into place, and a flick of his gaze to her left hand only confirms it.
"We're not married anymore," he states flatly, without fanfare.
And despite the fact that it's been this way for years, something inside of her breaks. "No. We're not."
He takes a moment to absorb what she's just said, hands continuing to rest on the handles of the cabinet that used to contain the mugs. In a kitchen he no longer recognizes.
She can pinpoint the moment when it truly sinks in. When what little light is in his eyes fades and true panic begins to set on his face.
"David…" She takes a step towards him, but he backs up swiftly and the move hurts her more than she'd care to admit.
Sighing, she gestures to the chair at the table and when that doesn't work, she decides the kid gloves are coming off as she manhandles him into a seat.
The furniture is the same. They bought this together from the local hardware store. It was second-hand and cheap, but well built. Perfect for any newly married couple.
It's a shame now that she can barely remember the day. The details of the dress. The song they first danced to. It's as distant as a long-forgotten dream. A blip on an otherwise hazy past, and she wonders when she got so bad at remembering things.
"We haven't been married for a while," she murmurs as she takes a seat opposite him.
Henry's ten, she thinks as she tries to do the math in her head. It feels like ages and yet only yesterday all at the same time.
"Eleven years or so," she guesses and his eyebrows hit his hairline.
"I guess we married younger than I thought we did."
"Guess so." She smiles, but it's unnerving. Eleven years.
And she swears he hasn't aged a day.
"What happened?" he asks and she shrugs, but not because she doesn't know. It's resignation, because she should have known. It was inevitable. Some people just aren't meant to be.
"It just didn't work out."
He nods, seemingly accepting that as he turns to glance out the window over her shoulder.
She follows his gaze to the broken soccer goal leaning haphazardly up against the shed and shakes her head. "No."
"Probably for the best, I guess."
"Yeah," she murmurs, knowing that despite her own reservations, he would have made an amazing father. He does make an amazing father. If only he could remember the kids in his charge.
"So wait – do I not live here anymore?"
The question is so ridiculous and yet reasonable at the same time, she bursts out laughing. "No, you live here. I live somewhere else."
"Big house just for one."
She leaves that one alone because she knows there's no way she can answer it without giving anything away. Without giving it all away. They need him just as much as he needs them. And there's not a damn thing Kathryn can do about it.
"Graham thought it would sound better coming from me, so…" She stands just as the kettle starts to whistle.
"At least stay for tea," he urges. "Besides, I might need help finding everything." He's grinning and at least that's a start, but she thinks of Emma and Henry, Graham and Mary Margaret and decides that tea with him would just complicate the matter. She politely declines as she winds her scarf around her neck, allowing him to walk her to the door of the house they no longer share.
She kisses his cheek, briefly and achingly affectionate, but when she pulls away, she knows her eyes hold none of the romantic love he once saw there.
"Were we happy?" he asks, just as she turns the knob.
"We were until we weren't," she replies. "You found your happy ending, though. It just wasn't with me."
"You're not going to tell me who it was with, are you."
"No, sir," she laughs, as she steps out onto the porch. "Take care, David," she says, but what she means is Get better. What she pleads for is Remember.
And she can only hope that some small part of him – the part that once smiled at her the way he smiles at Emma – heard her.
When Emma was younger, she used to be fascinated by the trinkets in Gold's shop. She now remembers being five and coming up with fanciful stories for the items that line the dusty shelves. She used to visit this place in her dreams, never having a name or face to put with it, but here she is.
The two happiest times in her life were actually one in the same: Storybrooke, Hollyhock Street, David.
"I can assure you I can manage on my own," she hears Gold spit out as Graham manhandles him into his own property, jingling the bell above the door.
"Of that I have no doubt," Graham drawls, yet his grip remains firm as Gold straightens and sees they have company.
"What, are you two her bodyguards now?" he asks, sparing a quick glance at August and Jefferson before resting his gaze on her."Miss Swan – " but before he can get out whatever apology he's about to bullshit, Emma steps forward and slaps him clear across the face.
"Oh shit," August mutters and Graham doesn't even try to hide his grin. She has a sneaking suspicion Jefferson looks pretty pleased with the proceedings too, but she's too busy reining in the desire to beat the man in front of her to a pulp. Once the shock of the prior night had worn off, all Emma was left with was an overwhelming rage.
"You took my father from me."
And only then does Gold look well and truly contrite. "It was not my intention."
"Bring him back," August growls, but Gold merely graces him with a withering look.
"I'm not used to using my powers for good. This may take some trial and error."
She rolls her eyes, but feels hope bloom in her chest for the first time since David looked at her with an utterly blank expression. Since he uttered three words that made her blood run absolutely cold. Who are you?
Graham grips his arm again – hard – and Gold winces as he attempts to escape the sheriff's grip. Emma smiles and receives a wink from Graham in return.
"Bringing magic back puts the entire town at risk," the pawnbroker explains once he's finally free. "Regina will be more dangerous than ever before and doing it without breaking the curse first would be most unwise."
"So how do I break the curse?" Emma asks and Gold smiles.
"You tell me."
"Don't play games with me, Gold. I'm in no mood." She crosses her arms across her chest and wonders if those 2am sword-fighting lessons will actually be needed. She's sorely tempted to whip some of them out right now.
"Bring back the happy endings," is the response and she audibly snorts.
"Sure, I'll get right on that."
"Miss Swan, what's your happy ending?"
And the sarcastic laughter dies in her throat, because she knows exactly what her happy ending is.
"You find that and you'll find your answer." Gold levels her with a glance and she fidgets under his heavy scrutiny. "Find yours and everyone else's will fall into place."
"Easier said than done at the moment," she mutters. She touched her happy ending. She looked it in the face and watched as it was stripped from her.
"Regina's waiting," Gold continues. "And she'll wait forever, stuck in this little time capsule, if left alone."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Force her hand."
"And how would you like me to do that?"
"You're the savior. The product of True Love." Gold smiles sickly. "I'm sure you'll figure something out."
She's grateful that Graham chooses that moment to slide his arm around her waist and stroke a calming circle on her hipbone. She's grateful that August and Jefferson immediately jump to her defense, showing Gold each in their own special way that they are less than pleased with his solution. She's grateful that she knew David's place in her life, even before she realized he had biologically earned it.
She's grateful for many things, but in this moment, she hates fate for taking way the one man she needs. Things are rushing too quickly to a head and Emma needs David. She needs her father even just to hold her hand and tell her it'll all be okay.
School was horribly long and, despite Henry's sometimes hilarious yet always confusing questions about bows and arrows, castles, and magical curses, all Mary Margaret wants is a long soak in a hot bath and possibly a large glass of wine. And candles.
Unfortunately, that will have to wait until a more reasonable hour because despite how tempting wine is at the moment, Granny's doesn't serve alcohol before 4pm.
"Hot chocolate?" Ruby asks as she slides up to the counter and she nods, grateful that the waitress memorized her order long ago.
The steaming mug is in front of her within moments and one sip lets Mary Margaret know that Ruby has broken her grandmother's 4pm rule. There's at least some sort of peppermint schnapps happening and Ruby saunters away with a wink as the teacher takes another grateful gulp and pinches the bridge of her nose.
She keeps seeing things. Hearing voices. Any sane person would have called Archie by now, but even Mary Margaret can't deny how right they feel.
"You're a girl?"
"We heard about David," Ruby murmurs, breaking Mary Margaret out of her reverie. "How are you?"
The question is unexpected because, if anything, people should be asking Emma that, but Ruby knows Mary Margaret. Sometimes better than Mary Margaret thinks she knows herself.
"He doesn't remember you?"
"Not me, not Emma, not Henry. But he'll know you," she says with a forced smile on her face. One which Ruby sees through immediately.
"I'm sorry," she offers and Mary Margaret knows she means it. "If you need anything…" She trails off but places her hand on Mary Margaret's and squeezes.
Before she can offer any sort of thank you, though, the bell over the door rings and immediately the hairs on the back of Mary Margaret's neck stand on end.
"Coffee please, Ruby. Thanks," the voice says and Mary Margaret barely registers that she's stopped breathing. Stopped thinking.
"Sure thing," Ruby replies, throwing a quick glance to the teacher before scurrying off to fill a mug.
His aftershave is what hits her first – it's a scent she could pick out of a flower shop. She doesn't dare lift her gaze as he slides into the seat next to her, despite the fact that the entire counter is empty. She's not actually sure she can look at him, even if she wanted to.
Silence reigns for a moment and it's awkward and deafening and everything it never was when he was David and she was Mary Margaret. His Mary Margaret.
"Here you go, David," Ruby mutters as she places his coffee down and darts away, equally eager to remove herself from the situation.
"So have I met you or are you new?" he asks and it takes her a moment to realize he's speaking to her.
"Sorry?" Finally she looks up and that's all it takes. She's just gone.
"I had a bit of a run in with a steering wheel," he says lightly, gesturing to the small bandage on his head. "It seems I'm missing some memories. So do I know you or are you new? Because if I know you and I don't say 'hello,' well that just doesn't seem right. I'm having enough problems. I don't need to start being rude, too."
She wants to say so many things in this moment: I miss you, I need you, I love you, but "You could never be rude," is what ends up leaving her mouth.
"So I do know you," he murmurs, smiling. "I'm sorry," he immediately says, all gaiety gone.
"Not your fault," she whispers, willing the stinging in her eyes to stop. "Mary Margaret." She holds out her hand and marvels, not for the first time, how perfectly hers fits into his.
"Nice to meet you, David," she says for the second time in her life.
"Likewise," he replies and her already fractured heart shatters a bit more.
She's not sure she can do this again. Can go through the pain of loving and losing him once more. But then she remembers that he is David and she is Mary Margaret and some things are worth the fight. Worth the pain. Worth the experience, even if it is short lived.
"I'm sorry about your head," she offers with newfound resolve.
"Me too." His tone indicates so much more, so much left unsaid beneath the surface. She wants to ask him to dig deeper, to try and unearth their complicated and heady history, but she can't. Not yet. After all, he made a promise. One on which she certainly plans to collect. But there will be time for that.
At the moment, she just needs to get out of this diner, because facing him now is turning out to be more than her already overwrought emotions can handle.
"Check please, Ruby," she manages, but her voice sounds strangled even to her own ears.
"Sure thing," the waitress replies, but Mary Margaret can see the look of pity in her eyes.
"I'll see you around?" David asks, and he looks so bereft at having to say goodbye so soon that she nearly tells Ruby to forget about it.
"You know it," she says instead with all the levity she can muster. She pulls her coat on and drops some money on the counter before offering David a tight smile and heading towards the door.
She doesn't dare turn and look to see if he's watching her go – just in case he isn't.
Product of True Love, my ass.
At this point, neither of her parents knows who she is. The product of True Love isn't exactly off to an auspicious start.
Emma kicks a pebble and takes great delight in watching it ricochet off a nearby trashcan. When she closed her eyes and pointed to a map, this was not exactly what she bargained for.
Then again, she wouldn't trade it for the world.
Graham picked Henry up from school and took him to the sheriff's station, for which Emma is eternally grateful. After Gold's unbelievably frustrating instigating, she wants nothing more than to strap on a pair of boxing gloves and go to town on a bag. A decision she knows David would approve of, which actually makes it hurt all the more.
She hasn't really been paying attention to where her feet are leading her, but she shouldn't be surprised to find herself at the wharf. But it's not the location that has her halting in the middle of the sidewalk – it's the other visitor who seems to have had a similar idea.
"Oh sorry," Emma murmurs, awkwardly shifting her weight as she decides whether or not to turn around and leave.
"No worries," David replies, offering a kind smile as he takes a sip from his take out mug. "Room for both of us." He shifts over to prove his point, even though there's a whole expanse of bulkhead to choose from.
The gesture is enough to make her take a seat just a few feet away from him – close enough to still feel connected and far enough way to not feel overwhelmed.
"Beautiful, isn't it."
She nods and gazes out over the water. At the huge expanse of blue that is as alluring as it is alarming.
"I know you, don't I." It's not a question and she's not sure he's expecting an answer, until she looks up to find him gazing at her as if she holds all of the answers to life's secrets. "Don't I," he reiterates.
"I don't think I can tell you that."
He hangs his head and exhales deeply, as if shaking off the cares of the entire universe. "You're the second person today to look at me like that."
"Like I've just destroyed your very world."
It's not an unfair assessment. David went away and took her father with him. Her rock. The man who sometimes (literally) keeps her standing upright.
Silence settles over them and she watches as he carefully rips bread apart and tosses it into the water. It's cold, even by duck standards, but she can't help the utter devastation she feels at watching him do something he doesn't even realize he's been doing since she was five.
"You get yes or no answers. That's it," she says after a moment and he turns to her with an eagerness she sees in Henry every day.
"How do I know you?"
"Oh god, start with something less complicated."
He laughs and tosses the rest of the bread in the water, despite the lack of ducks. "How long have I known you?"
She inhales and mutters, "Ten years" and watches as his eyebrows skyrocket.
"Ten years? Wow. So I don't – I don't remember anything from the past ten years. That's… That's terrifying."
And he looks so desolate that she finds herself scooting closer and placing a hand on his arm. "Hey, it's… it'll be okay. We'll fix this." He looks slightly comforted and she quirks a smile. "By the way, that was not a 'yes' or 'no' question."
"I was hoping you hadn't noticed."
"I notice everything."
"And where'd you learn that?"
She swallows hard but replies with conviction. "My father taught me."
"The best," she replies and leaves the compliment hanging in the air.
"Does he live here?"
And oh god why is someone up there (with a sick sense of humor) testing her like this. "He used to. I… I lost him," she says and his face falls.
"I'm sorry to hear that." And with that, he places his hand on hers and offers her the smile he used to save only for her. When she was sick or when Henry was sick. When life would throw a fastball when she was expecting a curve. He'd beam and the world would just open up at her feet.
"I'll find him again, though," she states with renewed conviction. She squeezes his hand and watches as the waterlogged bread sinks to the bottom. "And I won't ever let him go."
Regina affects the air of disdain she always feels when she enters the sheriff station. It used to hold so much promise, she reflects, as she stares at Graham bending over some files at his desk, but it proved to be nothing more than a dead end.
"Hi, Madam Mayor," Henry pipes up from his spot at his grandfather's desk and Regina attempts an eye roll, but it's half-hearted at best.
"Hello, Henry." She's always had a soft spot for him, as much as she may deny it. Those annoyingly endearing cherub cheeks make it hard to sneer in his presence.
"How are you?
"Fine," she replies. "And yourself?"
"Good," he replies, but there's something different about him. A light that's dulled in his ever-glowing eyes.
Oh, he's lying. With a mother like Emma Swan, you'd think he'd have gotten better at it, but no. Something is very, very wrong in the life of Henry Swan. And she has a sneaking suspicion she knows what it is.
Graham drops the file he had been holding and snaps his gaze towards hers.
"Madam Mayor," he greets and she catalogues the dark circles under his eyes. "How can I be of service?"
He's formal – overly so – and has been since he stopped visiting her bed, but she doesn't hold it against him. Not too much, at least. But she's here on very particular business and she won't stop until she gets to the bottom of it.
"Why is Deputy Nolan acting so strangely?"
"I have no idea what you mean."
"I saw him looking incredibly confused at the diner today and I also saw Kathryn Nolan leave his house earlier – two things which haven't happened for a very long time. Care to explain?"
She studies Graham like she would a masters thesis and she knows he knows she's studying him, because he doesn't give away a single tell.
A master poker player he is, once he realizes he's being played.
"I didn't realize the deputy's personal life concerned you so," is his cool reply.
"It does when my town is not getting the best care possible."
Graham's eyes narrow and he exhales harshly, a tell if ever there was one that he's about divulge information he'd rather not share. "He hit his head and was a little confused. Surely you saw the bandage."
She raises an eyebrow and perhaps allows her gaze to rake up and down the sheriff's body. "How confused?"
"Enough," is his clipped response before he turns back to his desk, but not before placing a reassuring hand on Henry's shoulder.
The deputy doesn't remember who he is. Which means he once remembered who he was.
Her gaze slowly finds Graham and she watches him scan the file in front of him with a hunter's precision. And the floor drops out beneath her as a horrifying realizations dawns:
But the prince doesn't remember the savior. And the savior is lost without him.
Regina smiles and offers Henry a wink before spinning and sauntering out of the sheriff's station, confidence renewed.
Oh, well that is delicious.