Everything, Emma thinks darkly, is lesbians.
This is a fairly normal state of being for her life. She'd spent some time in a women's correctional facility, after all. It just is that she never expected it from fairy tales and goddamn Disney characters.
Mulan is pining and it's really gross. Gross to the point where Emma wants to go punch her in the face to see if it'll help to have a good fight. Fights Emma gets, and Snow will probably be pretty ok with it until Mulan inevitably starts to kick Emma's ass.
And then they'd have some fully crazy Molly Weasley going on.
(Emma still, to this day, is really tempted to refuse to admit that she ever actually wanted a terrifying-ass mother. Because Snow can breathe fire and it's scary as all get out.)
"Hey," she says, sitting down next to Mulan as she does her totally-not-Buddhist morning meditation. Emma's had some time to actually get to know her now; and while attempting to goad her into singing Disney songs and making jokes about her time in the Han army is all well and good, Emma knows that Mulan is hurting. Hurting in the deep and visceral way that makes Emma’s heart ache for her new-found friend.
And she's hurting because of Aurora, which somehow makes the whole thing even worse.
Mulan cracks open one eye, her mouth turning downwards into a steep frown before she closes it again. "I am meditating," she says, her tone stiff and leaving no room for negotiation.
Not believing that for a second, and not even using her superpower (lamest ever), Emma leans back on Mulan's meditation rock and waits for Mulan to finish.
This whole situation is really putting a damper on an already pretty terrible misadventure. She doesn't like her homeland - because she's from the America and will probably murder someone for a proper shower at this point. It's just.... really shitty to know that this is what Snow wants for her and Emma really likes Regina’s reality more.
Because showers? Totally taken for granted. God, when they get back Emma's not coming out of one for a week.
Emma's been spending her free moments trying to figure out if they can actually bring Mulan and Aurora back to Storybrooke when they hitch a ride back on whatever magic they've totally not found yet. She's not entirely sure that it's going to be possible and it really blows, knowing that she's actually gone so far as to make friends in this shithole.
Jefferson, in his moments of absolute insanity, had said something that reminded Emma of a book she'd once stolen away to read as a child. Nothing comes in without equal parts going out. He'd said that the Queen - that Regina had somehow dicked him over and gotten him stuck in Wonderland, away from his daughter.
Three beings had gone through that hat. The wraith, Mary Margaret, and herself. Outlook not good, read the magic eight ball in Emma's mind.
Finally, finally, Mulan shifts and Emma feels herself grin. Mulan isn't really all that awesome at the whole talking thing, but she does try. Which is more than some people Emma chooses not to speak for.
"What did you want to speak about?" Mulan asks and Emma just rolls her eyes and scoots a little closer. These were, at one point, really nice jeans, but now they're torn and stained and dirty like she's been rolling around in shit all day. Because she probably has. She really doesn't trust this ground very much. It could be all made out of ogre turds.
Good lord, ogre turds.
So do not want.
Now, this is where things get a little tricky. Emma knows that Mulan thinks she's a totally badass not-Chinese ninja with her emotions, but thing is, she's about a subtle as an anvil hitting Wyle E. Coyote. This isn't the sort of situation where Emma can just lean forward, and in her best totally-not-racist impression of Sebastian the Crab, tell her to, "Kiss de girl."
Oh god what if they actually know Sebastian?! Who could a crab be in Storybrooke? Was there a Jamaican presence in the tiny town? Were there - gasp - people of color other than Regina and Sydney? Emma seriously could not think of a single one. Well, the guy at the auto repair shop that flirted with Ruby on occasion.
(Who was probably also at least a part-time lesbian. Gods above and below, they were everywhere.)
Anyway, the fact that there’s no one who is anything other than lily white in Storybrooke is a huge can of worms in and of itself. Emma's leaving it the fuck alone. It will probably bite her in the ass if she pokes it.
Emma shakes her head and grins sheepishly, because everything is lesbians. "You've seemed upset recently," she tries, because when Snow does it to her it usually works and Emma spills her guts and cries like a baby.
It's annoying really.
When Mulan looks a little confused, Emma adds, "You're pining."
Mulan juts out her lower lip and stubbornly scowls at anywhere-but-Emma, deciding that the mossy rock that they're sitting on is suddenly goddamn fascinating. It's frustrating, because it seems like the people of Han are not the sorts to ever speak to their feelings. Which is annoying.
So Emma does what she does best, and sits back and begins to tell what is probably more or less an elaborate lie. "The idea of a prince charming sort of sucks, when you think about it," she begins. Pushing away the fact that fucking David Goddamn Nolan of the 'I think you killed my wife, Mary Margaret' variety is her goddamn father is a little harder than she thought it would be. She takes it like a champ, because this isn't some situation of paragon heterosexuality. This is way the fuck more interesting than prince meets princess, prince falls in love and princess maybe does as well.
Because, after all, everything is lesbians.
"Come again," Mulan asks, looking hopelessly lost and just a little bit less terrifying than usual. It's the intensity, Emma can't deal with it.
Emma runs a hand through her hair, but winces as soon as her fingers touch the hair, because honestly it's damn gross feeling right now and she's all for going no-poo if she can at least bathe and rinse out her hair. Right now it's gross as shit. Mulan's confused, and she knows she has to choose a different approach.
"I see the way you look at her," Emma tries instead, because she has, you know, eyes. "And I know it's not just because of a promise you made to her pretty-boy prince."
Mulan scowls and folds her arms across her chest, her armor creaking ominously. Emma hopes she doesn't get punched in the face for what she's about to say. "Where I grew up, there's an understanding that if you fall in love with someone, you should tell them so."
"What's the point?" Mulan demands, her body curling tighter in around itself. "That curse could only be broken by true love's kiss and he did it! I have nothing but myself, no family, no honor to speak of. I cannot offer myself to her and know that she will never truly love me as I love her."
See, this is what Emma didn't get about Fairy Tale Land. What the fuck is the point of having only one true - destined love? It strikes her as mad bullshit and probably not even true. She'd blame that sort of thing on Regina, but the stories in Henry's book that he didn’t talk about make it seem like even Regina had suffered from this particular brand of fairy tale bullshit.
Snow makes it out to seem like it was the most wonderful thing in the world, having a true love.
Emma thinks it sounds a lot like a headache.
"How do you know that that was a stipulation of the curse?" Emma asks, suddenly thinking of a different sort of fairy tale. "Maybe it was the sort of thing where she had to be kissed by a prince - or even a guy?"
Mulan perks up at this, as Emma thought she might. "What do you know of such curses?" she demands, leaning forward and Emma can see that she's itching to reach forward and grab Emma by her jacket and beat the answer out of her. "Do they truly exist?"
This there is no practical answer to, because fuck if Emma knows. But she's read enough stories and watched enough Disney movies (and ABC Family musicals) to know that the magic from the stories oftentimes weren’t so specific as 'True Love's Kiss'.
"I uh..." Emma says, before glancing over to where Snow and Aurora are working on setting up the tiny somewhat magical tent that Mulan keeps in her pack. The thing is so much bigger on the inside that it boggles Emma's brain. "I'd have to ask Mary-damnit-Snow, I'd have to ask Snow."
There's this almost kicked-puppy look in her face that Mulan gets then that makes Emma want to pull her in close and tell her that everything is going to be okay. She’s not sure how, but she's going to make it okay. And then Mulan will stab her or something because Mulan? Also fucking terrifying.
Mulan slumps down onto her meditation rock and moves to pull herself back into the position she was sitting in before.
"I'll uhh... just go ask her then, huh?" Emma tries, but Mulan's breathing has become steady once again and Emma resists the urge to jump her and push her face first into the mud she's precariously perched above. Because she's five and that would solve everything.
Emma leaves Mulan to her business and picks her way on unsteady and somewhat numb feet down towards the clearing where Snow and Aurora are now sitting with their knees almost touching. It's strange to see Snow mother someone else, even stranger to feel the angry pinch of jealousy in her stomach as Snow reaches out and gently touches Aurora's shoulder.
"Mom," Emma says, because it's always better to hit whatever insecurities they both have about that particular aspect of their relationship on the head. Snow's a bit of an odd bird when it comes to Emma and Emma is still struggling to find the words that say that she wants a mother about as much as she wants to fuck Regina, which is to say that it's a novel and really awesome concept but not everything is quite so cut and dry.
The hand that's resting on Aurora's shoulder falls away and Snow looks up at Emma with an almost guilty look on her face, which is cute but unnecessary. Emma gets that Aurora is at a disadvantage of being significantly less badass than the rest of them, and that Snow is way too mothering for her own good. She's just another girl who's stuck in this male dominated world, trying to figure things out.
See, the thing is that Emma really likes Aurora, she sees what Mulan sees in her. Sometimes, Aurora will do things like say 'I can see Henry when I go to sleep' and Emma could just kiss her - but it's really more than just that. Aurora is the sort of girl that Emma wishes she'd been friends with growing up. Aurora is kind and friendly. She's a princess, but she can cook and skin a rabbit (which impressed Emma to no end the first time she did it) and she's always there with a pleasant smile and the sort of cheeky grin that made her seem younger than however old she actually was.
"Emma," Snow replies with some raised eyebrows that make Emma raise her's in response, because that's how this works.
"Could I borrow you for a moment?" Emma asks, inclining her head towards Aurora and then jutting her chin out in the direction of Mulan. Snow's not really that dense, but her eyes widen when Emma gives a slight shrug that says ‘I don’t know what the fuck but I’d sure like to run it by you before I do something stupid.’
But Emma isn’t unkind, and she likes to create windows of opportunity when she can for Mulan. “Hey Aurora,” she says quietly. “Thanks for setting up the tent. Mulan wanted to see you,” she jerks her thumb over her shoulder at the stoic warrior’s stiff back on her meditation rock amongst the mud. Mulan will hopefully not kill her later for doing this, but they’re so fucking close and they need to get the fuck over each other and Philip and just make out.
The speed at which Aurora scoots up the slight hill towards where Mulan is sitting is a little amusing to Emma, who watches her go with a fond smile.
“What’s going on,” Snow asks as she bends down to pick up some of the lacing that Mulan uses to tie up her secretly-fucking-huge tent and coils it up neatly.
“Mulan likes Aurora,” Emma replies, ducking into the tent and flopping down on the blanket that’s been laid down across the floor there. “And she’s afraid to say anything, because of Philip.”
“Then she’s noble,” Snow reasons, sitting down next to Emma, her legs folded up underneath her like some sort of rag doll. How they don’t go to sleep like that is completely beyond Emma, who is sprawled out with her legs spread wide like a man without a care in the world.
Anyone who’s got an issue with it can suck her goddamn dick she’s tired and the blanket is far more comfortable than sleeping leaning up against a tree trunk.
“What makes you say that, it sounds so fucking shitty-”
Snow’s nostrils flare and Emma bites back a smile, because it really is true. Snow is her mother, and Snow really doesn’t like it when Emma swears. Oh fucking well, but Emma’s not going to tell her that just yet. It’s still mad weird to even have a mother, let alone one who cares about such things. Emma’s been without anything even resembling proper parents for a minute now, it’s going to take some getting used to.
“I don’t know what sort of curse Aurora was under, but if it was anything like the one I was under, it requires the kiss of a prince-”
Emma sits up suddenly, her hand reaching out and grabbing Snow’s hand. Her eyes are shining excitedly and she’s almost laughing with giddiness, “You mean it wasn’t true love’s kiss?”
“Well, I suppose that that was part of it,” Snow sniffs, as though she can’t believe that Emma’s suggesting such a thing. Emma doesn’t care that she’s somehow offended Snow. It’s amazing and she’s thrilled by the prospect. “But it was more royal blood…”
“Henry told me that David wasn’t even a real prince,” Emma pointed out. “Some sort of deal with Gold went sour and he was a replacement?”
Snow bites her lip and looks away, her cheeks burning bright red. “I didn’t know that when I met him,” she admitted. “And he was very charming, for a shepherd’s son.”
“So was Hannibal,” Emma mutters, but sighs. She knows when she’s beaten. “I suppose that it doesn’t really matter. Mulan is in love with Aurora though.”
“Really?” Snow asks, and then her lips quirk upwards. “I had a feeling.”
Because apparently even Snow knows that everything is lesbians.
“I know that this would be frowned upon in some circles,” Emma says, peering out through the tent’s opening, “but do you think that they’d appreciate some ‘sha-na-na-na’-ing and some ‘kiss-de-girl’-ing?”
Snow scowls, “I’ll be sure to tell Sebastian that you’re making fun of him and his unfortunate speech impediment when we get home.”
“I thought he was just from Jamaica,” Emma mutters and goes back to creeping on Mulan and Aurora, who appear to be having a deep and intimate conversation of their own. Mulan’s hand is on the small of Aurora’s back and Aurora is leaning into her. It’s all very cute and puppies and kittens and all that shit. “Ugh, gag me, they’re being cute again.”
“That’s not very nice,” Snow says in what has to be the most obnoxiously mothering tone ever. Emma glares at her and falls back down on the blanket. She’s not going to whine about it, she’s really not. But it’s just so tempting and Mary Margaret was always so great about dealing with Emma whining about just about everything under the sun.
She rolls onto her stomach and buries her head in her hands. “I just want things to be normal, you know?” she says. “I – god – I even miss Regina and her fucking mind games.”
“Really?” Snow asks with an almost amused bit of laughter in her voice.
Emma’s not going to mention that the sex wasn’t that bad either, even though Regina has it like it’s a power game and she probably doesn’t enjoy it as much as she should. Because Emma? Pretty awesome in bed. Yup.
They’re all goddamn lesbians after a sort. Except Snow, who is pretty painfully straight.
Or whatever. The stories with Ruby in Henry’s book raise some red flags on Emma’s normally very sensible gaydar. Emma isn’t going to mention that particular detail to Snow, well, ever. Because she knows way too much about Mary Margaret’s sex life and she really doesn’t want to be caught in the middle of her parents being pissed at each other because they were under some spell and Mary Margaret stupidly slept with the biggest skeezeball ever.
“Well maybe not,” Emma shrugs. She doesn’t want Snow to know that about her – not yet. She’s not really sure how to tell Snow that she’s not exactly the perfect daughter that Snow and Charming so clearly have wanted for a long time. She’s nothing even close to that. She’s just, well, Emma.
Emma, who is currently on a mission to get details for Mulan because they’re bros and that’s what bros do for each other, decides that now is probably not the best time to attempt to goad Snow into details about stuff that probably shouldn’t be talked about. Like Doctor Whale’s prowess in bed. Or how she’s fucked the mayor…well, maybe more than once. She bites her tongue and watches as Mulan moves in too close to be considered proper to Aurora and moves her hand slowly up the small of Aurora’s back to play with her hair. Aurora seems to like this, and smiles one of those god-awful gentle smiles at Mulan and Emma just wants to die its all so goddamn adorable.
“I didn’t think so,” Snow laughs, and leans in closer to Emma. Her voice comes again as a low and conspiratorial whisper. “I think you’re on to something with those two.”
Emma isn’t going to say ‘no shit’ to her mother. She’d say it to Mary Margaret, which is the absolute worst part of this whole situation, to be honest. She misses her best friend almost as much as she’s really not over the fact that she’s suddenly got a mother who gets all judgey over stuff like bad language and Emma scratching her ass and picking her teeth in public.
Because seriously? Everyone does that shit.
Mulan and Aurora make their way back down from their ah… meditation rock, or love nest if you’re a terrible person like Emma really does try not to be and the four of them set about making dinner for themselves. It’s like all the camping trips Emma didn’t take as a kid and somehow she’s comfortable and happy in this moment.
Maybe things can actually be good and right. You know, if they put their minds to it.
Later, when they’ve all maybe dozed off and Mulan is sleeping with her arm wrapped protectively around Aurora’s waist, Emma asks Snow if this is what it’s like to have a family.
“I really don’t know,” Snow admits, chewing on her lip. She looks pale white against the darkness of the night sky and Emma wonders if it’s wrong to think of the woman who birthed her as beautiful. “I never really had one either.”
“Why?” Emma asks, because she honestly doesn’t understand what Snow’s talking about. Snow grew up leading the charmed life that Emma always wished she had had. The stories made that blatantly clear, and even if Regina had found ways to rain on Snow’s parade, it was still far, far better than the foster mom who was a big fan of belts and hairbrushes.
Snow rolls over onto her back and stares up at the sky overhead. It’s so dark here, and the stars are so different that Emma tries not to look at them, desperate to avoid yet another reminder of how she’s not at home, not on Earth and generally fucked off from where she’s supposed to be. “When I was a little girl, maybe I did have everything,” she says. “And then I lost everything.”
“But I thought…” Emma trails off and Snow just shakes her head.
“The stories aren’t always true, Emma,” is all Snow has to say, and Emma knows that not everything is sunshine and roses for any of them.
“What happened?” she asks, because she’s coming to realize that she really doesn’t know her mother very well at all.
“My mother died, and my father was desperate to find a replacement for her, because all I wanted was a mother,” Snow turns over, curling up on her side, facing away from Emma. “And then Regina saved my life and my father decided that she was the one to be my mother.”
Emma knows the rest of this story. Henry’s told her about how Snow is tricked by Cora into telling Regina’s deepest secret, and how the man that Regina loved so dearly paid the ultimate price for her love. It’s really tragic and she doesn’t really know why she’s always so quick to blame Regina for her woes in life. While Regina was a mitigating factor in some of them, the largest part of the story actually comes from somewhere else. The place where it was written that Emma could not hold down a stable job after dropping out of high school – the place where she met fucking Neal and that whole clusterfuck had happened.
Regina had nothing to do with her life choices. Those were Emma’s and Emma’s alone. She would make them again and again, to get back to where she was now.
Okay – maybe not to be back here because it really sucks not being able to shower, but come on.
“Do you think that she’ll ever be able to forgive you?” Emma asks, counting the stars that seems to trace out the shape of a dragon. It’s like Draco back home, only somehow different, more complicated. There are ridges here and there, and Emma’s sure that this dragon might actually try and fuck her up if she ever dared to reach out and try to touch the sky.
Snow is quiet for a long time, before she finally turns over to face Emma. Emma wonders if she’s gone too far. To ask Snow to forgive Regina for what has transpired between them is to ask Snow to forget a lot of the horrible things that have happened to her over the course of her life. She shifts uncomfortably under the thin blanket they were able to take from what had once been a safe-haven for the people of this world, and opens her mouth to tell Snow to forget it. “I think that in time, we may be able to get to that point,” Snow says judiciously, and Emma remembers, not for the first time, that Snow could have been a queen here. Her voice holds a conviction and a fairness to it that makes Emma think of better times.
Emma says nothing, and they both drift off to sleep.
In the morning, Mulan and Aurora are gone. Emma sits up and rubs the sleep from her eyes and scowls at her dirty hair before leaning over to Mulan’s pack and gingerly rummaging through it until she finds a strand of leather that was probably intended to be a hair-tie of a fashion. She’s afraid to stick her hand too far down into Mulan’s pack, because she’s bound to get pricked or some shit and Emma’s way the fuck over that – she doesn’t want to die because Mulan’s an idiot who keeps poison loose in her pack.
“Where’d they go,” she asks Snow sleepily as the other woman rises from her bedroll and does a series of exercises that Emma’s never seen Mary Margaret do before.
There’s an almost amused smile that plays across Snow’s lips as Snow squats down and swings her arms in a wide circle. Her voice comes low as Emma shakes out her boots before starting to pull them on. “I see that you were right, about them.”
Emma scrambles to her feet, one foot still bare and getting gross on the clearing floor. In the distance, up by Mulan’s meditation rock, Aurora has her hands clasped around Mulan’s neck and they seem to be rocking against each other. It’s like a middle school dance, afraid to touch anything but shoulders and foreheads, yet it’s somehow unbelievably intimate. There’s a distinct redness to Mulan’s ears, even at this distance, that matches the flush at Aurora’s neck. They’ve confessed their undying love to each other, clearly.
“Everything is lesbians,” Emma mutters darkly and sits back down to put her boot on. Snow just laughs and goes back to her exercises.
Maybe now Mulan can stop acting like she’s got a stick the size of Texas up her butt.
And maybe pigs can fly, but hey, stranger things have happened.