Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any of its characters.
Note: So here we are at the end! Thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing – I so look forward to hearing what you think with every update. A list of a few awesome reviewers: LOCISVU, Othiara, GirLinTheMoon, Anarra, The Lovely Emma Swan, cinderellafetish, Catherine86, BelovedMaeve, Raspberry Not Pink, outof3office, 95, Cheshire Illusionist, Beloved of Apollo, SassySnow1988 and Camille22. As well as several lovely anons! I'm sure I've missed someone, but thank you as well! I really hope you enjoy the finale of this fic.
On a side note, I am working on a set of deleted scenes/alternate POVs for this fic, and I am taking requests, so drop me a message if you have any suggestions.
Also, a huge shout-out to the Best Beta Ever, Angie. This fic would probably never have made it this far without her!
Two years later.
Mary Margaret had never been a fan of hospitals - at least not playing the role of patient - and at this point, she was fairly certain she'd spent far too much time in them. It had been an accident; it was always an accident that brought her here.
Funny to think now that it was accidents and hospitals that had brought not just one, but two of the most important people into her life.
She cradled the bundle closer to her chest, still amazed whenever those bright, bright eyes would blink up at her, still feeling her heart swell in her chest when that tiny hand would wrap itself around David's finger. She looked up at him to find his face still wet with tears, eyes shining with pride and fixed on the infant tucked in her arms.
Her daughter. Their daughter.
"She's perfect," David murmured, eyes still transfixed on their child.
"She is," Mary Margaret agreed, and smiled when he pressed his lips to her temple.
He moved to kiss their daughter next, brushing his lips carefully over her downy head. "Hi princess," he whispered, then kissed her one more time for good measure. "I'm your daddy."
Daddy. That was a good name for him. So was the title of husband, she'd learned. It seemed that despite his baggage - despite her own baggage - David was perfectly suited for any title she chose to give him. It shouldn't surprise her really, she thought as he gently transferred the bundle of blankets-and-baby from her arms and into his. He'd been her partner in every way, through every obstacle they'd encountered. He'd held her hand through every physical therapy appointment, been waiting as she took those first steps and then folded her in his arms. He'd been her everything - her partner, her support, her husband. Her home. And now he was also the father of her child. Yes, this was the next logical step.
"Oh, Mary Margaret," he breathed, watching as the infant yawned. "She's so beautiful."
It was the fifth time he'd said as much in as many hours, and yet each time it sent a rush of pure love through her veins. She gazed up at him, watching as he stood and rocked their daughter in his arms, his face alight with all the joy in the world.
There was a knock at the door and Mary Margaret looked up to find Emma peeking her head inside. "Hey, mommy," she said softly, emphasizing the new title. "You up for a couple visitors?"
David turned away, hiding his face as he wiped away the tears with his free hand.
Mary Margaret smiled, exhausted but happy for the company. "Of course," she said, groaning softly as she pushed herself to sit up more. "Come on in."
Emma entered, followed by Graham, who stuck close to her side, a gift bag tucked beneath his arm. "How are you feeling?" she asked, squeezing her friend's hand.
"Amazing," she beamed. "Tired, but amazing."
Emma offered her a wistful smile. Of course, she'd done all this before.
"And someone already has daddy wrapped around her little finger," Mary Margaret added, looking fondly to where her husband was cradling their daughter.
Emma moved to peek over David's shoulder, grinning. "Can I-?"
He seemed reluctant to let her go, but after a brief glance to his wife, he conceded and gently transferred the baby into Emma's arms.
"Hey you," she cooed. "I'm your Aunt Emma. You have no idea how excited your parents have been to meet you."
Mary Margaret smiled as David slid onto the bed beside her, one arm slipping around her.
"They've been through a lot," Emma continued, gently bouncing the infant as her little face scrunched up in the beginnings of a cry. "They almost didn't make it here, to bring you into the world. So go easy on them, okay? They deserve a break."
Mary Margaret let a small sob of laughter pass her lips, leaning her head against David's shoulder. She closed her eyes as she felt his lips brush her hair.
Graham cleared his throat. "We - ah - we brought you something," he said, clearly a little uncomfortable. He'd always been a compassionate person, but he had never been much of a family man. In the past year, however, things had begun to change. Emma had moved in, and when she did, both of them were forced to lower their walls. Mary Margaret had even spent the afternoon a few weeks back helping Graham choose a ring (and giggling as the jeweler jumped to conclusions at the sight of her prominent bump). He was a loner by nature, but for Emma he was willing to be more than that. He held out the bag. "Well, not for you, but for the baby."
Mary Margaret accepted the bag, and after sifting through a mass of tissue paper, pulled free a mobile of crystal unicorns. The intricate glasswork caught the light spilling in from the window, glittering back at her like the stuff of stories. "Oh my …" she breathed.
"I know you hadn't found one you liked," said Emma, adjusting the baby in her arms.
"I love it," said Mary Margaret, clutching it to her chest. "Thank you."
Graham finally cracked a sincere smile. "Congratulations," he said softly, and brushed a kiss to her cheek before clasping David's hand. "Both of you."
"Thank you," said David, leaning into his wife once more, and the statement was loaded with Emma's previous comment. Mary Margaret tilted her head to look at him, and saw the wistful sadness in his eyes. Graham had saved her life once, and consequently their daughter's.
But Graham merely smiled and slipped back to Emma's side, looking down at the little girl in her arms. It was a fitting sight - that of Emma and Graham with a child between them. Emma was wholly captivated by the little eyes blinking up at her, and Mary Margaret wondered if she saw Henry there instead. Henry, who she'd only held for the briefest of moments before saying goodbye. Even though she had only been a mother for a few hours, Mary Margaret couldn't even fathom the pain of giving up her daughter, couldn't imagine a life without her for even a day, let alone ten years.
"She looks like you," Graham commented, pressing his hand to the small of Emma's back.
"Who?" David chuckled.
"Both of you," Graham answered, daring to stroke the baby-soft skin.
"I'd hope so," said Mary Margaret wryly.
Emma grinned. "You should hold her."
"I don't-" Graham began to protest, but soon his arms were full of baby, and he stilled, looking down into the bundle of blankets. "Wow," he breathed.
Emma shot Mary Margaret a knowing smile, and she returned it - a secret smile as small as the budding secret itself.
A wave of exhaustion threatened Mary Margaret, and she shifted more fully into David's arms, one of the crystal unicorns still clutched in her hand. No, she thought, hospitals were certainly not her favorite places to be, but perhaps they weren't all bad.
Mother and baby both declared healthy, they made their way home. Though it had only been a few days since their little family had grown, they moved seamlessly together - Mary Margaret with their daughter cradled against her chest, David with all the bags slung over his shoulder - as they mounted the stairs to their apartment.
Mary Margaret wasn't surprised to find the door unlocked, and pushed it open.
Regina smiled at them from the kitchen, putting away the last of the dishes. "You have great timing," she said, wiping her hands on a dishtowel and rushing over.
"We try," Mary Margaret quipped, sighing contentedly as Regina pulled her into a tender hug, the baby pressed snug between them.
"How are you feeling?" Regina murmured against her friend's ear.
"Tired," Mary Margaret admitted. "Sore." But as she pulled away, the older woman's hands still braced on her shoulders, she couldn't help the radiant smile tugging at her lips. "And really, really happy."
Regina squeezed her shoulders. "I'm so glad," she said. "About being happy. The other parts don't sound like much fun, but I've got a cup of tea and a book ready for you on the couch. You relax while David and I get everything settled."
"Uh-uh," Regina chided, using that tone she typically reserved for Henry. "You need your rest." She moved to take the baby from her, cooing as the child fussed at being taken from her mother. "Shh," she soothed. "I've got you."
Mary Margaret tried to resist, but she trudged over to the couch regardless, letting out a satisfied moan as she sank into the cushions. Eva chirped from within her cage beside the couch, and Mary Margaret smiled faintly. "But there's so much to do," she said, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. "Laundry. We have no food. There's probably some dirty dishes that are on their way to molding too."
"All taken care of," Regina said, settling on the couch beside her.
Mary Margaret cracked one eye open to find David wordlessly unloading their bags in their appropriate places. Apparently Regina really meant that David would get everything settled while she held the baby. (Though she couldn't really blame her friend; were their places swapped she would have done the same.) "What do you mean?" she asked, curling up in the corner so she could face them.
Regina adjusted the blankets around the infant. "Well, aside from what you'd taken to the hospital with you, all your laundry is clean, folded and put away. Your dishes are clean. And your fridge is stocked with your basics, a tray of lasagna and a week's worth of pre-cooked frozen meals. Oh, and I took the liberty of buying a few more packs of diapers, once I saw how tiny she is. She won't be moving up to the next size for a while yet."
Mary Margaret swallowed over the lump in her throat. "Regina …"
"No," Regina cut her off. "Don't even try to say 'thank you' or that I didn't need to do anything. I know what it's like to be a new mom."
She did, of course, and Mary Margaret hadn't been there to see it. Regina had done it alone. No husband, no family. Just her and Henry against the world. No-one had been there to do her laundry, or wash her dishes. And now, watching as Regina gazed fondly at the infant in her arms, Mary Margaret realized that she would likely never be able to return this favor. Not unless Regina chose to adopt again.
Regina was thinking the same, it seemed, as she looked up at her friend with wide, shining eyes.
Mary Margaret smiled sadly at her, and changed the subject. "How's Henry?"
"Still sad he couldn't come see you at the hospital," Regina replied.
Mary Margaret chuckled. "Yeah, I think Whale has finally had it with us bending the rules."
"I told him he could come by when Killian picks him up after school today," said Regina. "I hope that's okay."
"Of course," said Mary Margaret. Officially speaking, there was nothing going on between Regina and the former Navy lieutenant. They were 'just friends' Regina would insist, as she switched nights with Emma to accommodate Killian's schedule; 'just friends' she'd say when Killian was already at her house when they all met for dinner. 'Just friends' she'd say as their gazes met across the table. 'Just friends'. "They should be here soon then?"
As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. David clambered down the stairs from the nursery - which had once been Emma's room - to answer it, revealing Henry and Killian standing on the other side.
"Mr. Nolan!" Henry greeted, and laughed as David wrapped him in a hug, lifting him off the floor, backpack and all.
"Good to see you too, Henry." David groaned as he set the boy back down on his feet, but his face was lined with laughter. "You're almost too big for that now. And you know you can call me David."
But Henry had other things on his mind, and he was rushing toward Mary Margaret and Regina not a second later, stopping just in front of them as if suddenly nervous. "Hi, Miss Blanchard," he said, shy.
She didn't bother to correct him, neither for him to call her Mary Margaret nor that it was technically Mrs. Nolan now. "C'mere, Henry," she smiled, patting the spot between herself and Regina.
Henry carefully wedged himself between them, dropping his backpack at his feet. He peered over to the bundle in his mother's arms, and whispered, "Cool."
Mary Margaret held back a giggle, and glanced up to find her husband and Killian talking quietly in the kitchen - an unlikely friendship if she'd ever seen one.
"You were this little once," said Regina, looking wistfully at her son.
"No way," he replied, then turned to Mary Margaret, suddenly remembering something. "Oh! I have a present for you."
"Is it another one of your famous cards?" Mary Margaret teased, remembering the various cards made of construction paper she'd received over the years.
He unzipped his backpack, pushing away some loose papers in the process. "No, this is so much better," he explained, then pulled free the same book of fairytales she'd had Emma give him years ago.
She gasped. "Henry …" she said softly, running her fingers over the gold-embossed script on the cover, spelling out the words 'Once Upon A Time'. "This book is yours. It was a gift."
"And now I'm giving it back to you," he replied, setting it on her lap. "As a gift. I don't need it anymore."
She laughed softly, and opened the book to turn through the old, weathered pages. "You don't?"
He shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "They're really great stories. But I think I want to be a real hero someday. So I've got to get started soon."
"A real hero, huh?" she smiled.
"Yeah," he agreed. "Like you, when you saved me. Maybe a firefighter. Or a police officer like Emma and Graham! Or maybe a doctor. I haven't really decided yet."
When she felt tears stinging her eyes, Mary Margaret inwardly blamed it on the hormones. "That's wonderful, Henry," she said, and ran her fingers through his hair before planting a kiss on the crown of his head. It seemed the book had done its job. "I'm very proud of you, you know that?"
Henry shrugged her off half-heartedly, a sign that he was already well on his way to being a teenager. "I thought you could read it to the baby." He peered over into the bundle of blankets once more, now addressing the aforementioned baby. "You'd like that wouldn't you?"
Mary Margaret grinned. "Would you like to hold her?"
Henry's face lit up with excitement. "Can I?"
"Of course," she replied, nodding for Regina to help him. "Just be careful, okay?"
Regina carefully arranged the baby in Henry's arms, guiding her little head to the crook of his elbow. "She's so little," he said, looking down at the infant in awe. "What's her name?"
"Anna," Mary Margaret replied softly, then met Regina's eyes over Henry's head. "Anna Danielle Nolan."
Regina's smile turned sad at that, as she reached up to ruffle Henry's hair.
"Hi Anna," he said. "My name is Henry. I'm your cousin."
Mary Margaret woke to the sound of rain beating against the window and thunder rumbling in the distance. She blinked at the alarm clock - two in the morning. Time for another feeding, she thought faintly, fighting past the exhaustion as she stumbled to her feet. But the bed was empty and there was the sound of humming and a dim light filtering down from the nursery. She climbed the steps quietly, hissing at the cold floor against her bare feet.
Upon reaching the nursery, she smiled to find her husband and daughter curled up in the rocking chair, an empty bottle abandoned on the table beside them. She hugged her arms across her chest and leaned against the nearest beam, watching as David slowly rocked the pair of them back and forth, his humming shifting to uneven singing.
"... there is no danger, I am here tonight …"
A flash of lightning illuminated the room, casting shadows over their faces - her husband's and her daughter's - their eyes fixed on one another as Anna's tiny hand clung to the tip of his finger. Her whole life, Mary Margaret had wanted it all - kids, marriage, true love - and it took her breath away to realize that she had it in spades. She really did have it all; a real life fairytale complete with heroic quests, a knight in shining armor (or, in her case, plaid flannel), and a little princess with all the hope and promise of the world.
The thunder soon followed, and Anna fussed.
"Shhh, princess," David soothed. "We don't want to wake mommy."
"Too late," said Mary Margaret gently.
David startled and looked up at her, his shocked expression only lasting a moment before fading to a sheepish grin. "I was trying to let you have your rest," he explained quietly. "She still had a bottle in the fridge, so I thought-"
Mary Margaret shook her head and waved him off. "You did great," she insisted, moving across the room to take the baby from him, settling the child against her chest.
"I think the storm's keeping her up." He moved over in the chair as his wife settled in beside him, her legs draped across his lap.
"Maybe," she agreed, and nestled against his side as he pulled a blanket around them. "Or," she said, shifting her attention to the infant in her arms, "maybe daddy doesn't know about our tradition."
"Tradition?" David teased. "You two already have a tradition without me after only ten days?" He pressed a kiss to her head, smiling into her hair. "Why do I have a feeling this is just the beginning of the two of you conspiring against me for the rest of our lives?"
"Maybe because it is," Mary Margaret quipped with a kiss to his cheek. "Could you hold her for a moment?" she asked, shifting Anna into his arms, before reaching beneath the table, hands searching.
"What are you looking for?"
She hauled the thick tome up into her lap, fingers trailing over the leather cover. "We've been reading," she explained. "It helps her fall asleep sometimes." Thumbing through the pages, she couldn't help but think of all the adventures this book held, the classics that had filled her dreams throughout her childhood. She hoped they'd find their way into Anna's heart as well, that she'd turn to them in times of need or loneliness the way she had. As a mother, it was suddenly terrifying to think that there would come a day when her child would be unable to turn to her, that the world would wear her little girl down as it had her. But if anything, her daughter would have these stories - a way to deal with this world that didn't always make sense. If anything, she would never give up on love or hope. Never give up on her dreams.
At last, Mary Margaret found the page they'd left off on the night before, featuring an illustration depicting Snow White bashing her prince across the face with a rock. Yes, she thought with a mischievous smile, these were the sort of heroes her daughter would admire.
"Maybe daddy can do the voice of Prince Charming," she grinned, and helped him to shift Anna back into her arms.
David slid an arm around her, pulling both of his girls close. "Don't know if I can live up to the reputation, but I can try."
He could, she thought as she took her turn first and began to read aloud. After all, he was her Prince Charming.
"As the prince chased the thief on horseback through the treacherous forest …"
Mary Margaret Nolan had never been one of the popular girls, had never been the prettiest girl in the room, never been the most outgoing. But tonight - in this moment, and all that would come after - that didn't matter. Because there were crystal unicorns hanging above the crib, and a tray of half-eaten lasagna in her kitchen; because to the man beside her, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Because there was a little girl lying ever so trustingly in her arms, just waiting for her story to begin.
And though a hundred, then a thousand tomorrows may pass, she knew that happily-ever-after was always waiting just over the horizon.
Back in the rocking chair, on a rainy autumn night much like one long ago, Mary Margaret sat wrapped in her husband's warm embrace, her daughter's weight anchored in her arms, as she listened to David read - a story of hope, forgiveness and true love.
" 'I told you I would find you,' said the prince. 'No matter what you do, I will always find you …' "
The lullaby David sings is Vienna Teng's 'Lullaby for a Stormy Night'.