Author's note: Oh wow. I'm SO glad to hear that people are still reading this :) Thanks for all the reviews!
"This is as far as we'll go." Mulan says as they come to a sudden stop. "The castle is just beyond there." She points, indicating an imposing gray structure not far away.
"You're not coming with me?" Emma asks, hobbling along on her makeshift crutches.
"No." Mulan shakes her head. "We were leaving for a long journey to find our way to revive our friend before we found you, and that is where we are heading next."
Emma nods. She is surprised at how she doesn't want to see them go. In many ways, they are her first friends in a long time.
Aurora pulls her in for a hug. "If you need anything, anything at all, you know where to find us."
"Thanks." She replies. "For everything."
Mulan nods. "Good luck."
As Emma watches them leave, their horses traveling down the way they just came, she thinks vaguely that luck is maybe just what she needs.
After so many days in the forest, she is unused to being inside. How the hell am I supposed to find my parents in this place? She almost wishes she is back with Mulan and Aurora. At least that would've been a lot easier.
Finding her parents. That was a pretty laughable notion. She'd spent a good part of her life trying to track down her parents, and now that she was so close she had a hard time believing that she was actually about to meet them. What would she even say?
Suddenly, her crutches slide on the slick floors and she finds herself sprawled out on the ground, her crutches sliding twenty feet away. "Great." Emma hisses angrily. Just great. She inches along on her butt, feeling like a complete idiot as she does so.
A figure clad in a white nightgown approaches, and seeing Emma, she immediately heads over. "Need some help?" The woman teases.
"Yeah, that'd be great." Emma replies. The woman hands over the wooden crutches and automatically helps Emma up. "Thanks." As she looks up, she realizes that she's looking at the woman who went all psycho on her, claiming that she knew something about her daughter. Emma immediately backs up, anticipating another outburst.
"No problem." The woman replies. She stares curiously at Emma but does not seem to recognize her. Doesn't seem to remember their last encounter. "Snow. Snow White."
Emma blinks. Snow White? That meant that she was…her mother. She is stunned into silence, her eyes hungrily taking in the woman before her. Her mother. She notices the chin, so startlingly similar to hers. Her expression, one that Emma is certain she's seen on herself before. Their resemblance is uncanny. There is no doubt that she's her mother.
Half of Emma wants to reach out and wrap her arms around this woman, someone she's loved and hated all her life. Cursed at and cried out for more times than she can count. She finds herself biting back tears.
"This is the part where you introduce yourself." Snow teases.
"E-Emma." She chokes out, swallowing back the huge lump in her throat. If what Mulan and Aurora said was true, Snow has no idea who Emma is.
Something in Snow's expression shifts, a deep sadness shining in her eyes.
"What?" Emma asks warily.
"Nothing." Snow sighs. "It's just…that's the name my daughter would've had. Before she…" Her voice trails off.
Oh. Right. Something about Snow's daughter (her, Emma realizes with a jolt) being dead. "What do you mean?"
"I lost my daughter." Snow answers. "In the earthquake." She shakes her head sadly. "Never even got a chance to meet her."
Oh jeez. Emma wants to scream that her daughter wasn't dead, that she was standing right there in front of her, but she knows that wouldn't go over so well with Snow. She settles for a look of commiseration. "I know how you feel."
Snow looks up, her curiosity piqued. "You lost someone too?"
"In a manner of speaking." Emma replies. And that is as far as she's going to go on that subject. She can already feel tears starting to burn in her eyes.
"Yeah." Emma looks away, feeling the lump in her throat coming back. "So believe me when I say that I know it sucks."
"Want to talk about it?"
Snow fixes her with a look. "You look like you need to talk about it. Come on." She loops her arm around Emma's. "It will make you feel better."
Soon they are seated on a windowsill in a large room. Like every other room in the castle, this one bore signs of being magnificent at one time, but has fallen into disrepair and ruin.
Emma's swollen and purplish ankle is stretched out in front of her; Snow had taken one look at it and declared that she knew just the way to fix it.
"There." Snow finishes the last knot. "It'll be good as new soon."
"Thanks." Emma tests her weight and surprisingly it doesn't feel too bad. "How'd you learn to do that?"
"Oh, a sprained ankle is nothing." Snow waves her hand as if to say psh. "When you live in the forest you pick up a few things."
"Why were you in the forest? Aren't you supposed to be a princess?"
"I am. Or I was. I was on the run from the queen for the longest time."
Huh. The mental image of Snow running from guards in the forest doesn't exactly mesh with the Snow White Emma is familiar with. "Oh." Looks like all the Disney movies Emma watched as a kid weren't exactly accurate. "That must've been tough." After several days in the forest she knew that it wasn't exactly easy to survive out there. "Those ogres, they're a piece of work."
Snow laughs; again Emma is surprised at how much her voice sounds just like her own. "Not if you know how to avoid them."
"I'm more of a city girl." Emma counters.
"I can tell." Snow teases.
Emma is struck at how normal this feels. Sitting with her mom who turned out to be a fairy tale character…she supposes that their supposedly missing memories are facilitating their instant connection.
For about the tenth time in their conversation, Snow's hand unconsciously goes to her flat stomach as though she is expecting something to be there. A sad look of longing crosses her face every time she does so.
"Tell me about her." Emma says suddenly. Snow looks up. "Your daughter."
"Only if you tell me about whoever you lost."
"Deal." Emma answers. She is dying to know what her life would've been like with this woman as her mother.
"Ok. Well, you already know her name was supposed to be Emma. It was my favorite name growing up; I wanted to name all my dolls Emma. It was the most beautiful name I'd ever heard and I knew immediately then when I had a daughter I had to name her that."
It is so strange, hearing someone talking so affectionately about her name. The name that Emma herself never cared for, figuring that it was just a plain name that the parents who'd hated her so much they'd so carelessly abandoned her quickly gave her before tossing her out. Now she knows how far from the truth that was.
"When I found out I was pregnant, it was the happiest day of my life. Happier than my wedding day. I thought to myself, finally, I'll have a family. And then I learned it was a daughter and things seemed to get even better. I loved her immediately. I started to talk to her every night, reading her stories, singing to her, preparing her nursery. I imagined what she would look like. Would she have my hair and eyes, or Charming's?"
Emma hid a smirk. Charming, as in Prince Charming?
"What would Emma be like? Would she be adventurous or more calm? Girly or not? Whoever she turned out to be, I knew without a doubt that I would've loved her more than anyone."
Emma can tell by the tender way Snow speaks of her daughter that she would've been loved. Very, very much. It was a far cry from how Emma had grown up, carelessly tossed from house to house as nothing more than a meal ticket. She turned away, quickly wiping away a stray tear.
"In fact, she would've had the love of everyone in the kingdom. As a princess, everyone would've worshipped the ground she walked on. I was going to give her the best life I could. Everything she wanted she was going to have. Yes, she probably would've been the most spoiled child in all the lands but I didn't care." Snow says sadly. "She was my daughter and she was going to have everything she wanted."
Emma has a brief mental flash of herself at age eight, longingly eyeing a doll in the window of a toy store before her foster mother pulled her down the street. The exact opposite of the life she was supposed to have.
"I loved her so, so much." Snow shakes her head. "And then I found out I lost her…" She sighs deeply. "I never got a chance to be her mother."
"Hey." Emma places her hand on Snow's. "It's ok. It's not your fault."
"But it is." Snow protests. "I'm her mother. I'm supposed to protect her. And I failed."
"Well…maybe you didn't."
Snow looks strangely at her, and Emma hurriedly continues. "I mean, yeah, she's dead, but it doesn't mean you failed. It sounds like you did a great job. I'm sure your daughter, wherever she is, knows how much you tried. How much you loved-love her. You would've been a great mother."
Slowly, Emma lowers herself and rests her head on Snow's shoulder, trying to subliminally communicate that her daughter was right there and that she loved her. Emma is momentarily surprised at her internal thoughts but realizes that she does love her mother.
"It's your turn." Snow says after a moment.
"I was hoping you'd forget." Emma says as she sits up.
"Not a chance."
"My story's not nearly as interesting as yours."
"Try me." Snow says. "You promised. Come on."
Emma sighs. "Ok. Well, when I said I knew how you felt about losing a child…I wasn't kidding."
Snow raises her eyebrows. "Really?"
She settles on an abridged version of the truth. "I was eighteen when I found out I was pregnant. Except I wasn't as happy as you were. Because I was in jail." She waits for the inevitable eyebrow raise that usually accompanies that last sentence but to her credit Snow's expression remains placid.
"It pretty much sucked. Being in jail isn't fun, but add being pregnant to that and you pretty much get the suckiest experience that ever existed. Except that wasn't the worst part, of course. The whole time all I could think about was what my life would be if…if I kept him."
Emma nods. "If I kept him, it would mean that I would no longer be alone, as I had been my entire life. He would've been my second chance. To finally be happy. Except that things never work out for me."
"Oh, Emma." Snow realizes. "You had to give him up."
Emma's throat is tight as she recalls that awful, awful day. "I pretty much came to the conclusion that there was no way I could be a mother. I mean, what kind of life could I give him? I was 18, having escaped from the foster system. I was in freaking jail and I was penniless. I couldn't give him the life he deserved. So yeah, I had to give him up. I couldn't even look at him. Because if I did I knew I couldn't do it. I had to listen to him cry as they took him away." She finishes.
"Thanks." Emma says blandly.
She's never opened up to anyone like this before, this being the first time she's ever told the story of her son. And she's glad that the first person to know is her mother.
Author's note: Some more Emma/Snow bonding coming up in the future, I think. Anyways, what did you think?