A/N: I'm not at all a regular angst writer (I loves me the fluff), but dani-ellie03 in her review of 5x10 mentioned desiring a fic about the painful memories that Emma went through during her flashback in the vault, so really this is all Danielle's fault. I blame her entirely.

The first thing Emma registered besides the sick slosh in her stomach from magical transport were the black, smoky tendrils sweeping towards her. She desperately scrambled back in an attempt at escape, but found herself colliding with a solid wall of rock as the oily darkness engulfed her. As the images cascaded over her she distantly registered someone screaming, high pitched and agonized, and realized with a muted start that it was her.

She's three years old, clutching her teddy bear, Miss Fuzzy, to her chest as tears fill her eyes because Mommy and Daddy are packing her things into a suitcase as a woman in a pant suit with her hair pulled back tightly waits in the doorway, checking her watch. Mommy hasn't been able to look her in the eye for the past month and Emma knows she fights with Daddy at night when they think Emma is asleep. "We can't keep her," the words are a whispered hiss from Mommy's mouth as she firmly rubs her belly, which has begun to get rounder, "we don't have the money or the space and we are finally going to have a real baby of our own." Emma is confused. She's real, isn't she? She's seen pictures of Mommy and Daddy holding her, wrapped up in her white blanket with her name on it (Daddy was so proud that Emma already knew how to read and spell her name, beaming and saying, "Good job, pumpkin. Use the ole noodle" and Emma responding, giggling, "Daddy, I not a noodle!" until he lifted her suddenly, pretending to gobble her up as she shrieked with glee until Mommy came to her rescue crying "No! Don't eat our precious noodle all up!").

Then her things are all packed and the lady is tugging her away roughly before picking her up entirely as she beats her tiny fists and screams for her Mommy and Daddy to please, please help her she'll be good, she will, she's sorry-not even sure what she's supposed to be sorry for-but she'll be better, she promises please please don't let this lady take her. But Mommy and Daddy don't even glance out the window as the car drives away and it isn't until she's bodily deposited in a huge, strange building with dozens of children milling around that she realizes Miss Fuzzy was left behind.

The Darkness swirls more thickly around her and the images flash more suddenly as Emma drops to the ground, clutching her head desperately and sobbing so hard her chest hurts.

She's six and she drops a cup of grape juice because her hands are too little to fit all the way around. She frantically tries to mop up the mess but her foster mother sees it first and backhands her into a wall. "God, you're a worthless little thing," she sibilates, "been here three days and you already stain my carpet. No wonder you've bounced around. Who would want a disaster like you?"

She's seven and on the playground and she so desperately wants to play with the other girls, but she doesn't have a doll and none of them will share with her. They sneer at her request, twisting their little faces up at the idea of Orphan Emma touching their things and infecting them with her dirty clothes and messy hair, because her foster parents are too drunk to make sure her clothes are washed or her hair is brushed. She tries to put on a brave face but her lip quivers and the girls lock onto this. "Aw, is the little baby gonna cry? Huh? Is that why people give you away? 'Cause you're a crybaby?" When she launches herself at the speaker they all end up in the principal's office. She's the only one who sits there without a parent beside her.

She's nine and she tugs her ill-fitting shirt down, trying to better hide the bruises. The Pattersons aren't the first foster parents to hit her, after all, and at least at their house she knows she'll always have food. They entertain their neighbors too often to not put on a show of being doting foster parents. It doesn't matter in the end because when one of the boys trips her on purpose as she walks to turn in her work-sniggering with his comrades when she goes down, papers flying-her shirt slips off one shoulder, showing the dark blue-black bruise that stains her pale skin. Her teacher's eyes go wide and she asks Emma to please stay back during recess. CPS is at her foster home when she gets there that afternoon and when she's taken to the hospital as part of the documenting that she's grown used to, she stares straight ahead and refuses to cry when the only adult with her is a case worker who types rapidly on her phone, only throwing occasional glances at her charge with a distracted reassurance of "It's okay now." Emma's back at a group home that night and she feels exactly the opposite of okay.

She's eleven and the flyer for her school's Father-Daughter Dance has been distributed, with the teacher skipping over her with the intent to be kind. Emma just feels even more isolated as the only girl in her thirty-person classroom with no piece of paper on her desk as the others chatter excitedly about what their dresses will look like and how their mothers will do their hair. On the night of the dance, Emma sneaks out the house and walks to the school, peeking in the door and watching as other girls stand on their father's feet to be led in a dance and twirled around, laughing all the while. When she's back in bed later that night, hot tears wetting her pillow, she wraps her arms around herself and eventually drops off. She dreams she's dancing on her own father's feet as he smiles and says he loves her. His face isn't clear but somehow Emma knows he's handsome and when he smiles at her she feels warm all over, like sunshine beaming down on her. She wakes to Mr. Hughy shrieking in the kitchen about a missing apple. The next time a Father-Daughter Dance is announced, she sits in a different classroom at a different school when flyers are distributed. This time the teacher accidentally puts one on her desk. She crumples it up immediately and throws it in the trash. She tells herself she doesn't care. She's lying.

She's twelve and she wakes up one morning with her lower belly hurting and she screams when she pulls back her blanket and finds her thighs smeared with blood. Sobbing, she scrubs at it with the edge of her blanket before leaping from the bed and dashing to her foster mother's room. She desperately shakes the woman's shoulder. When she finally wakes up she wrinkles her nose in disgust before getting up and rummaging for a pad in her bathroom, flinging it at Emma with a "Here, handle that" before flopping back down and falling asleep once more. Emma, having been given no explanation, shakes in terror back in her room until her older foster sister walks in after having been out all night. She isn't fond of Emma, as the younger girl's arrival meant she no longer had her own room, but she has just enough pity to give her a brusque run-down of what happened and what Emma needs to do, ending her brief lesson with a sardonic, "Congrats, hon, you're a woman." Emma's been in a different house and then a group home by the next time it becomes an issue.

An entire parade of children go past her, some of whom she can't even properly recall. What she does remember is the punch in her gut each time one got adopted and she didn't. Watching them drive off with a smiling couple who almost always greets them with presents as she stands, drawn back. A dozen different people put their hands on her shoulder and assure her, "You'll find a home, Emma." She doesn't even need her lie detector to know they don't believe it, either.

She thinks she finds a place with Lily. Someone who understands her, who can be by her side. Who can be her family. It's been one night but Emma is already prepared to go down fighting defending her.

Later that night, after she swipes the marker off of her wrist in rough, angry strokes, she settles in the mini-van, all of her worldly possessions in a single backpack at her feet. Tears sting at her eyes but she's too used to betrayal at this point to let them fall as she's deposited with a new foster parent, a woman named Ingrid.

Once again she's foolish enough to believe she can find a home. Ingrid smiles at her like she loves her. They do special "girl time" things together: manicures, pedicures, shopping, special lunches with just the two of them. She buys Emma art supplies after the girl expresses an interest and aptitude for it, and Emma gifts her with all of her creations, Ingrid praising her and examining the artwork as though Da Vinci himself had bestowed it upon her. Emma loves her like she's never loved anyone else. Ingrid isn't her mom and she knows it, but that doesn't matter to Emma because Ingrid is hers and the house is her home and she's so happy and she actually believes for a minute that the adults were telling the truth all those times they promised her she'd find a family.

Leaning against a wall, panting and choking on air so cold it cuts like a knife after the woman she loved and trusted turned out to be crazy, she does let the tears fall. She curls into herself, whimpering, too exhausted by residual terror and hurt to work up the energy to properly sob. She promises herself she won't bother with trying to find a home again, because it's bullshit and she's done listening.

When she gets her first chance to bolt from the system later on, she takes it and she doesn't look back.

Apparently she's a glutton for punishment, because when she meets Neal, she once again fools herself into making plans for a home. He says he loves her and that's enough for her. She gives him her heart and her virginity and receives promises about "Tallahassee, baby" and a forever home.

Sitting in a cell a few months later with a positive pregnancy test she almost wants to laugh because she's so damn stupid. She actually thought Orphan Emma would finally find her home. She forgot briefly that she's just too messed up for anyone to really love. She tells herself she won't forget again.

She remembers her vow to herself as she writhes, chained to a bed with an impassive guard standing watch and a nurse whose name she doesn't even know holding her hand while a doctor between her knees orders her to "push hard, that's it, almost there, good girl." She screams in pain and vaguely notices flickering lights before she falls back, exhausted, the wails of her baby filling the room. She retreats into herself and looks away, refusing to look at the little thing she knows she's already falling in love with. If she looks, she'll keep him, and she just can't do that to the tiny person she carried inside of her for nine months. She'd only screw him up. That's what's happened with everything good in her life. She's learned her lesson now, finally. Emma Swan belongs alone.

But still, every single year on the anniversary of that day her chest feels heavy and her throat feels scratchy. Every baby's giggle hurts worse than a kick to the stomach and she fails when she tries to not imagine what her little person must look like with every growing year. She blames PMS hormones even if it's nowhere near that time of the month and works on convincing herself she's better off with no one she can screw up.

It works for ten years.

Then she's in a tiny town that doesn't even have a Starbucks with her son-God, her son, and with the combination of his earnest little face and the handsome sheriff's equally earnest pursuit of her, her walls drop a little.

Cradling Graham's still body in her arms later on, she berates herself while she sobs. It's her fault. She never gets good things. She screwed this up. She killed him. It's all her fault. It's all her fault. It's all her fault.

She should have left then, she angrily tells herself, as she hovers over Henry's small body in that hospital bed. She should have left and spared him this. She screws up everything. She knew that. That's why she gave him away. She only hurts people. That's what she does.

And then everything's a whirlwind when Neal is suddenly back in her life and Henry is throwing verbal daggers at her. She realizes she loves Neal too late when he's sucked away from her.

She finds him again, on that damn island. The same island where she hears her mother say she isn't enough. That Mary Margaret wants more, needs more, than Emma can provide. Emma tries to swallow the pain but she remembers the Swans and being carried away screaming because they didn't need her anymore. She actually thought that she would be enough for her mother. How foolish.

She's saying goodbye to her parents at the town line. She has her kid but she had been selfish and that's why everything is ruined. She actually thought she would get a proper family, people to love her and to love in return. But life isn't that kind to Emma Swan. Never has been. She drives across the line, but over the course of the next year she has vague, murky dreams about blue-eyed men who cradle her head and women with short black hair who smell like cinnamon and she wakes up with tears on her face, unsure why such random images would make her cry.

Walsh's betrayal shouldn't have even been a surprise. What was she thinking, believing someone would love someone as damaged as her?

Even when she does make her way back to her parents again, it's to find her mother large enough to have her own gravitational field. She must be nine months along, and although she doesn't show it, Emma's heart aches. Unless they got lucky the first time, they would have had to try for a while. Did they even wait a day before they tried to replace her?

And then, of course, she loses Neal again. Of course she would. Just in case she might have forgotten for a moment that she doesn't get nice things, the universe had to give her a reminder of her own unworthiness to have love and happiness.

She watches her mother die in the past, the flames consuming her as Emma stands high above. Really, the woman was doomed just by virtue of having given birth to Emma. It was only a matter of time. Even when she gets her back and launches into a hug that Storybrooke Snow would have loved, Emma gets a discomforted look with no recognition and Snow keeps her distance after that, unwilling to be too near a stranger who spontaneously hugs people she's never met. Emma tries to give herself a peptalk that it's only because Snow doesn't remember. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't make it hurt less.

Ingrid eventually makes it back into her life, but this time Emma can see her for what she truly is. It doesn't make it ache any less, but it gives her some perspective. And Emma curses that she ever let Ingrid in, because the woman knows exactly where and how to push to hurt her the most and get her to lash out.

Perhaps Snow was right to pull the baby away from her. Emma destroys everything she touches.

She destroys the wall of the sheriff's office easily enough. Surrounded by rubble she hears confirmation that what she's done is the work of a monster. She brings down a light post on her own father and hears her mother's horrified exclamation of her name. Her heart is pounding in her ears as she flees, her heart thudding out a rhythm of "Mon-ster, mon-ster, mon-ster."

She almost loses Killian to Gold while she's frozen at the base of the stairs, useless as his beautiful heart was squeezed, him crying out in pain and Emma unable to do anything but stand there and watch.

And then she really does lose him. In that alternate reality after having been chained up and left for dead in that tower, she was reunited with him. He didn't remember her but was still willing to die for her. She watched the life drain from his eyes without ever having gotten to say "I love you" and is forced to leave his body behind and flee.

The Darkness winds down its picture show of pain as Emma crouches, panting. The cyclone of torment may have ended but it's ripped open old wounds that she'd thought had healed. As she solidifies above ground, stunned both by the sudden light and the residual ache she feels in her chest, she finds herself completely alone.

Of course she does.