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with urgency but not with haste

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Sleep doesn’t come to her that night.

She stares at the ceiling, shadows drawn by the faded light coming through the window, as she listens to Elsa’s deep breaths, hoping their cadence will sooth her somehow. But not even the young queen’s cold toes pressed against her calves manage to keep her mind from wandering far away in the past. (She needs her own place, she reflects dully, royal sleepovers stopped being fun a week ago.)

She keeps coming back to the images she saw on the tv screen, those memories she no longer has. Slowly, patiently, she lists every foster home she’s ever had, counts how long she’s been in each house, hoping to find the gap somewhere. But she can’t, wonders if her memories were only erased or replaced too – the feeling doesn’t sit well on her, not when she already has to deal with ten years of fake and confusing memories.

But mostly she thinks what does she want, and glances at Elsa as if it would be written on her sleeping face. What does she want with the both of them, why are they so important? She can understand villain coming at her now, what with being the Savior. But her fifteen year old self? She was no one, literally. Nobody cared about her, she was nothing special.

What did the Snow Queen see in her?

Did she know all along?

Did someone know who she was, who she would become, and did nothing about it? How could one be so heartless?

She thinks back to their meeting in the woods, the way she’d said ‘Emma’ with such softness and – and love. It doesn’t make sense, nothing about what is happening makes sense, and she fights against the familiar prickle of tears in her eyes, fight against the soreness in her throat.

She’s cried too much as it is tonight, refuses to allow herself another show of weakness.

But… but that woman, whoever she is… She could have done something. She could have adopted her, could have taken her as her own until the time was right, until the day Emma was to become the Savior. She knew, she knew who Emma was and she didn’t –

With a sigh escaping her lips, Emma stands up as silently as possible not to wake Elsa up, and tiptoes her way out of the room and down the stairs. Her parents and brother are fast asleep too, making her exist all the easier.

It is only in the street, wind slipping beneath her clothes and biting her skin, that Emma realises she forgot to take a jacket – and that she’s still holding her baby blanket to her chest. (She’d hope the smell of it would trigger some memories – to no avail, obviously.)

The trek to Granny’s is a short one, and she slips through the back door without a noise, knowing damn well one of the Lucas ladies will hear her anyway. Not that it matters, as she finds her way up the stairs and down the corridor, and gently knocks on the door.

He opens it after only a few moments, blinking sleep away. A sob get stuck at the back of her throat then, vision blurry with tears. She doesn’t have to speak nor glance into his eyes for Killian to pull her to him. His chest is warm as she presses her nose against his skin, and a simple whisper from him is all Emma needs for the tears to fall once more.

His arms tighten around her as he closes the door and navigates them through the room. She finds herself in his bed in a matter of seconds, head on his shoulder and clutching the baby blanket to her.

The words don’t come easily, her voice breaking with each sentence, but they come anyway. Slowly, softly, barely more than a murmur as she opens her heart to him.

(Once upon a time, it would have scared her, how much she’s come to rely on someone, the trust she puts in him. Not anymore. Now she sees it as strength, as a gift.)

“Why couldn’t she keep me?”

She regrets the words the moments they roll on her tongue. She has a mother who loves her – a mother who gives her dresses and takes pictures of her first date and follows her to another realm if she has to – and it isn’t fair, that feeling deep inside her, that longing for something she never had – could have had – maybe had, even, what does she know?

She could have had that sooner, someone who listens and understands, someone who loves her despite her magic – or maybe because of it. She could have been happy, loved, and it was all that mattered to her back then.

Killian doesn’t answer – what is there to say, after all? –, instead kisses the top of her head and rubs her back. It soothes her where Elsa’s presence failed and, along with the headache and exhaustion from crying, helps her fall asleep.

The last thing she hears is, “You are very much loved now.”

She knows he’s right.