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But the rose remembers

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Beauty never slumbers;
All is in her name;
But the rose remembers
The dust from which it came.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Autumn Chant"

 

When David dreams, it is of her face.

He sees her as Mary Margaret, with hair pixie-short and wearing prim dresses and matching cardigans. He sees the hope on her face when she saw him at the Toll Bridge. He sees the pain in her eyes when he chose his vows instead of his feelings. He dreams of every fleeting moment that they spent together and wakes wishing that they'd had a thousand more.

But he dreams of her as someone else too, some unknowable other. In those dreams she is dressed in breeches and boots that come up to her knees, or in long, flowing gowns. She has long, dark curls that tumble wildly around her shoulders, that he somehow knows are soft to the touch. He dreams of her pregnant with their child, and he can feel the curve of her stomach under his hand. He dreams of trolls and swords, glass coffins and curses, and of kissing her goodbye, knowing that he might never see her again.

David dreams these things and then he wakes to his wife, and the ache in his chest is enough to make him wish that he'd never woken up at all.

***

The first time Mary Margaret sees him with Kathryn, she is having breakfast at Granny's with Emma.

Kathryn walks in first, a wide, beaming smile on her face, and her husband at her heels. Her hand curls possessively around David's arm as they discuss seating with Ruby, and the casual intimacy of the gesture is a stab in the heart that Mary Margaret wasn't expecting.

Kathryn can touch him like that because she's his wife. Mary Margaret can't touch him at all, because she's not.

The pain from the night at the bridge washes over her anew, and she closes her eyes against it, willing herself to be strong.

"What's wrong?" Emma asks, and Mary Margaret's eyes fly open, the order to not look dying unsaid on her lips because Emma is already looking and it would be no use. Emma turns back around, and there is an understanding on her face that Mary Margaret doesn't feel she deserves. "Do you want to leave?"

Mary Margaret shakes her head. "No."

"You don't have to punish yourself," Emma says. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"But I did," Mary Margaret says. "Or I was going to." She shakes her head again, picking up her fork. "It doesn't matter."

"What doesn't matter?" asks a new voice, and Mary Margaret's forkful of eggs clatters back to her plate.

"Kathryn," she says, forcing herself to smile even though she's never meant anything less in her life. "And David. How nice to see you."

"You, too," Kathryn says, smiling at them both. "I just wanted to say hello. And to make sure you'd heard the good news."

Mary Margaret's teeth dig into the side of her cheek, and she is beyond grateful when Emma asks the question so that she does not have to. She doesn't think she could speak those words. Not now. Not ever.

"What good news?" Emma asks Kathryn, and Mary Margaret looks up at David. He's staring at her with an intensity that she can feel all the way down to her bones, but she doesn't look away. She can't look away.

This is her penance.

"David got his memory back," Kathryn says, her joy plainly evident in every word. "Isn't that wonderful?"

"Wonderful," Mary Margaret echoes, numbly. "Just wonderful."

***

David thought that getting his memory back would make things easier, but nothing could be further from the truth. Before, when he said or did the wrong thing, Kathryn would sigh sadly, and he knew that she was blaming the amnesia for the changes. Now, her sighs are angrier, as if he's not behaving the way that she expects to spite her.

He's not. He would swear it on anything Kathryn asked that he's not, but even with the same memories, he's not the same man and he doesn't know how to make her understand.

He can't even take refuge in his dreams any longer, because suddenly Kathryn is there, too, except she's not Kathryn at all. She's someone haughty and cold, with none of Kathryn's warmth or kindness.

In his dreams, David knows that she is no more in love with him than he is with her. In his reality, the desire to love her is there but the feeling itself remains somewhere beyond him, just past his reach.

He thinks of Mary Margaret and knows that she is why.

***

Of course, because she doesn't want to see them at all, Mary Margaret suddenly sees David and Kathryn everywhere she goes. She sees them at the grocery store and walking through the park. She sees them at Granny's again, and after that she starts avoiding it all together. She sees them at the hospital after she's returned to volunteering, and it's enough to make her want to quit again on the spot.

"I don't understand," Mary Margaret says to Emma late one night. She is pacing the length of the apartment, glass of red wine in hand. "I've lived in Storybrooke for years and never seen Kathryn before. And now I can't get away from her!"

Emma makes a muffled noise that might be a laugh, and Mary Margaret rounds on her, her wine glass precariously close to tipping over.

"What's so funny about that?" she demands, and Emma sighs.

"Nothing," Emma says, standing up and taking the glass from her hand to set it safely on the kitchen counter. She presses down on Mary Margaret's shoulders until she's sitting on one of the stools and then takes the second one for herself. "Did you want me to take out a restraining order for you?"

Mary Margaret blinks. Emma sounds completely serious, but she can't have meant it that way. She narrows her eyes and sure enough, there's a twitching that wants to be a smile at the corners of Emma's mouth. Mary Margaret points an accusing finger at her. "You are laughing at me!"

Emma starts to shake her head, but changes mid-motion to a nod instead and it makes Mary Margaret dizzy just looking at it. "Maybe," she says. "A little."

Mary Margaret is too tired and too tipsy to stop the hurt from spreading across her face. "But why?"

Emma hesitates before speaking. She pours more wine into Mary Margaret's glass and nudges it toward her. "I just think that maybe this is good. That seeing them together, as much as it hurts, will help you get over it -- him -- faster. That's all." She tries for a half smile, but it looks wrong, like it's not an expression that comes naturally for her. "Besides, it's not like they're stalking you, right? You don't think that."

"No," Mary Margaret says, so softly that she can barely hear herself speak. "I don't."

Emma nudges the glass closer still, and Mary Margaret's hand closes around the stem.

"Drink up," Emma says, and Mary Margaret obeys. "Things will look better in the morning."

"Will they?" Mary Margaret asks, rising unsteadily on her feet.

She walks away without waiting for Emma to answer.

In the morning, the coffee is already made and there's a glass of water with aspirin waiting for her on the counter. It makes Mary Margaret smile, just a little.

At least she has this, she thinks. That's something.

***

Seeing Mary Margaret is both the best and worst part of David's day. He wants to see her more than he wants to take his next breath, but then he sees the pain in her eyes and knows that it is his fault. He never wants to be the one to cause her pain, and now it is all the he does.

Then there is Kathryn, and David knows that this hurts her, too. Whenever they see Mary Margaret, Kathryn's fingers tighten on his arm and her smile gets a little stiffer, and David knows that she wonders if this will be the time that makes him leave.

David wonders, too, and hates himself for it.

His dreams are now of obligations to meet and feelings he knows he must suppress. There are secret meetings in the forest, kisses full of desperation and longing that feel so real that when he wakes he can feel the scratches of tree bark on his skin. He dreams of a wedding that doesn't happen and a wedding that does.

He dreams of having the courage to chase his heart's desire, and when he wakes he is a coward once more.

***

Mary Margaret is at the Toll Bridge again when David finds her. She doesn't know why she's there. By all rights she should hate this place, but she's drawn there by a force that she doesn't understand. She supposes she should understand at least that, because none of this makes any sense to her at all. She isn't the type to fall in love with married men, to risk her heart where there's no chance of a future, of forever.

And yet here she stands, shivering in the cold, waiting for him without knowing why.

She knows that he's there before he says a word, and yet when he speaks she shivers again. It's no longer about the cold.

"Mary Margaret," David says, and she can feel his hands hovering above her shoulders, a phantom touch that she longs to lean into so much that it aches. But she doesn't let herself, instead turning to face him.

"David."

He tries to smile at her, but it falls far short of the mark. There's pain in his eyes, and a yearning that she knows is matched in her own, and her heart breaks a little bit more. She curls her hands into fists at her side, her nails cutting into her palms, as if the physical pain can anchor her, stop her from doing something as foolish as reaching out to touch him the way she wants to so badly.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, trying to make the words light and airy, and knowing before they're even spoken that she has failed.

"I could ask you the same question," he answers, the same way, and none of this is right.

She shakes her head, no longer in the mood for pretenses. "Don't do that," she says. "I can't --"

"Mary Margaret," he says again, stepping closer. His hands land on her shoulders, and the warmth of them radiates through her. She knows she should step back, break contact. He shouldn't be touching her and she shouldn't be letting him.

She lets him.

"David," she says, almost helplessly. "What are we --"

He kisses her instead of letting her finish, and she is lost. Her hands grasp at the front of his jacket and she kisses him back, hating herself for doing it. Knowing that she can't do anything else. She kisses him with everything in her and he kisses her back the same way, as if it's the only thing he's ever wanted to do, the only thing he'll ever want to do again.

For one heady, desperate minute, she lets herself believe it.

And then she makes herself remember.

She doesn't look back as she runs away from him. She can't. She knows if she does, she'd run straight back into his arms and stay there forever.

She doesn't even notice when she starts to cry.

***

That night, there are no dreams for David to lose himself in. No dreams of the woman without a name or of dragons or of true love won and happy-ever-afters lost.

But when he wakes, it's with her name on his lips.

"Snow White."