DISCLAIMER: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any of the characters from the show.
"I've been trying, you know?" Emma regrets the words immediately as they inexplicably find a way out of her mouth. Neverland is becoming colder, the nights on the island longer and darker as winter approaches, and she has spent most of the night silently staring at the bonfire she started. She has been unusually quiet tonight, so her mother is surprised when she hears Emma's shy, but strong voice.
"What?" Snow glances up to meet Emma's gaze, and her heart breaks at the clear anguish in her daughter's eyes.
"To be a daughter…" Emma could feel the tears forming in her eyes, so she averts her gaze from her mother's in an attempt to hide them. "Ever since we got here… I'd been trying to call you mom again."
Snow isn't sure where this is going, but she can't help the small smile that forms on her lips. All this time she has felt like Emma refuses to accept her as her mother, so hearing this makes her heart skip a beat.
"Because for the first time in my life, I didn't feel so alone. I felt like no matter what I did and no matter what happened, someone was there. And that was kinda hard to accept… Hell, it was hard to even grasp." She quickly glances at her mother just to make sure she is still listening, and then back at the ground because she can't risk shedding any more tears than she already has. "I've never had that, you know?"
"Oh Emma, honey, from now on I promise…"
"No, Mary Margaret, don't make any promises." Being called by her curse name still feels like a sharp stab to the heart, and Snow can't help but feel a little disappointed. Her mind consumed by that thought, she doesn't even notice the bitterness in Emma's tone until her daughter continues. "You know as well as I do that promises don't mean anything."
"No, let me finish. If I don't say this right now, I'm not sure I ever will, and I need to say it." Snow wonders where this is going. When Emma first began speaking, she thought her daughter might be giving her a free pass for some much needed mother-daughter bonding; now, given Emma's tone and the visible tears that fill Emma's beautiful green eyes, she isn't so sure anymore.
"Being here, with you and David… it just made me think that maybe the tides were finally turning for me." Emma looks up at her mother and a quick, shy smile is followed by a sigh so hopeless that Snow's heart breaks into a million pieces. "But then," The blonde takes a deep breath as she looks back down at the ground. If she keeps looking at her mother, she knows she stands no chance against the tears that threaten to escape. "And then you said that… that…"
And there, right there, Snow White understands what this is all about. And she regrets every word she recklessly spoke back in the cave. Seeing her Emma, her treasure, so heartbroken, sends a chill down her spine and Snow curses herself for being so selfish and impulsive. The anguish in her daughter's eyes is no one's fault but hers, and she is fully aware of that. Snow wants to take Emma into her arms and hold her until she understands that she is and always will be the light and love of her mother's life, but she knows better than that. Emma's walls are very likely back up, and trying to force them down is certainly not the best idea, knowing Emma like she does. So she simply stands there, tears now rolling down her own cheeks at the thought of the heartbreak she has caused her own daughter, and lets Emma continue.
"And then you said that you wanted another child." At this point, Emma is not even trying to contain her tears anymore. Her voice makes her sound like a small child, scared that her parents are gone never to come back. Except that her parents were never there to begin with. Snow's heart sinks and she has to make an extra effort to focus or she will forget that this vulnerable little girl is actually a twenty-eight year old woman. "I can't blame you, you know… One minute you have a baby in your arms, and you have so many dreams and plans for her future." Emma takes a deep breath before she continues, "and then the next minute you get me, this person so broken that you're not even sure you can or want to fix her.
Snow wants to comfort her daughter, but she can't find the right words. Are there any words she can say now, after breaking her own daughter's heart because she couldn't keep quiet about her own selfish desires? She knew Emma had always felt worthless and unloved, and was just beginning to heal, and yet she couldn't keep her cruel words to herself. What kind of mother is she?
Emma hates herself for breaking down in front of her mother and for making herself look so vulnerable. Still, she can't help but give in to the need to get all this weight off her chest. What she says next causes Snow the sharpest pain she has ever felt, a pain deep inside her heart she never imagined existed. "I know I'm not what you wished for… but I was hoping you would love me anyway."
Snow White, the strong warrior who has defeated armies and ogres, lets out a whimper so pained that even a distraught Emma is forced to raised her eyes from the ground so that they meet her mother's. And while Snow has never known a pain so unbearable, she figures what her daughter is feeling must be worse, and takes a few steps forward in an attempt to bring Emma into her arms.
While she wants nothing but to be sheltered in her mother's arms never to be let go, Emma takes a step back as she needs to finish. "I'm sorry, mom, I'm sorry I'm not what you wanted me to be. But please, please, love me, because I might not say it a lot, but I love you so much. I need you so much. And I promise I'll try to be what you need. Just don't forget that I'm here. I'm not a child, I know, and I'm not a princess, but I'm here and I need you. I need you to be my mom, I want you to be my mom! I know I'm not everything you deserve, but I'm still here. Please, mom, don't forget that I'm here."
Emma is now frantic and panting for air as she lets the tears freely roll down her cheeks. Snow is paralyzed by her daughter's words and remains motionless for a few seconds before she gathers all the strength she has and takes Emma into her arms once and for all. Hearing Emma practically beg for her love made Snow feel a pang of guilt in her gut. This time there is no way she will remain quiet. Not after what she has heard. Even if Emma asks her to only listen, it is Snow's turn to speak. There is no way she will let her daughter, her treasure, keep feeling so unworthy of her love.
"Emma, honey, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She expects Emma to object and tell her to just listen, but the blonde doesn't say a word. Instead, Emma keeps staring at her mother with pleading eyes, almost as if she is afraid of what Snow has to say. Snow takes this as an opportunity to go on, "Sweetheart, there isn't a word I can find that will express how sorry I am for what I said before. I'm sorry I hurt you and please believe me, my angel, I never intended to make you feel like you were being replaced." Emma keeps attentively staring at Snow, and her features slowly soften and become a little less pained, so Snow continues, "You might not be a baby, but you are my princess. I am your mom, Emma, but I can be Mary Margaret, or Snow, or mama, or whatever you want me to be. I'm sorry I was so thoughtless as to hurt you like that, baby, but I promise you will always come first. I will always be your mom, Emma, whether or not there are other children involved. You will always be my princess and the love of my life, and nothing can change that."
Emma isn't sure she is ready to believe these words, but just for now, she lets her mother take her into her arms, because she has never known a place where she feels warmer and safer than in these very arms. They stay like that for what feels like hours, neither willing to let go. Emma allows herself to cry into her mother's neck, and Snow feels her heart starting to heal as she rubs her daughters back and occasionally places a kiss on her temple. It will take time for Emma to completely heal, but Snow will make sure to tell her just how loved and treasured she is every day, and she knows that one day, near or far, her baby will believe her.