The River Always Finds the Sea
(Like You Find Me)
by misscam

Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.

Author's Note: AU. Based on a prompt asking for Snowing with infant Emma. I gave Mary Margaret's loft apartment a proper bedroom downstairs as well, because reasons. This is in two parts. Part one has a slight cliffhanger ending – my apologies.

II

The river always finds the sea
So helplessly
Like you find me

- Paper Boats (the Transistor soundtrack)

II

Part One: David

II

It feels like he's been driving for hours, David thinks, fighting the urge to close his eyes. Since morning, he's put as many miles between him and his father as possible, and now it's way past getting dark and nearing getting light again. He's had a few stops along the road, but he is in serious need of rest, he knows.

It's just hard to let go of the urge to drive one mile and get one more mile away from... From a threat to what is most precious to him.

As if on cue, Emma makes a small cry from her seat, and he glances over at her. His beloved daughter, just five months old. This will all be worth it for her.

"What do you think, Emma? Is the next town our stop?"

Emma makes a soft babble, and he smiles as the car headlights hit a town sign, illuminating it.

"This town it is, then," he says. "Welcome to Storybrooke, huh?"

II

Storybrooke is a rather small town, from what he can make out in the faint light of a coming morning. There is one main street with a few shops scattered about, and one bed and breakfast that apparently also has a diner – Granny's.

It will do, he figures, and parks. Emma is a bit fussy when he picks her up, but quiets when he hums her a lullaby and rocks her softly in his arms. As always, watching her makes his heart ache with love, and just a bit of fear. He'd very much like to be the best father he can for her, but he is afraid of failing, afraid of... Becoming like his own father, he thinks bitterly.

Granny turns out to be a gray-haired woman smiling at him an cooing happily at Emma, and he can easily image this being the town's grandmother. She doesn't ask too many questions about where he is coming from or why he is in Storybrooke, and offers to put a crib in his room for the duration of his stay, no matter how long it will be.

How long that will be, he isn't sure himself, but tells Granny at least three days. He needs sleep and to stock up, and he has to make some plans for the future. Perhaps this place will be as good as any to make them. His father will certainly never think to look for him here.

He pays for three days upfront, with the option to extend. Cash, of course. At least money is not a primary concern, not even cut off from his father's wealth. He has what his mother left him and his own savings and that will be enough to start a new life somewhere.

Before he can figure out what sort of life that might be, he seriously needs some sleep, though. His head is aching, and everything feels like it takes extra effort. He feeds Emma while Granny gets the crib into the room, and then lulls his daughter to sleep with a few more verses of the lullaby. With her asleep, he quickly gets his stuff from the car, and then blissfully, blissfully collapses onto the bed.

He's too tired to even care about undressing properly, settling for kicking his shoes off and just resting on top of the covers. He feels drained, not just from the lack of sleep, but from everything that has happened the last few months.

His life will never be the same after the impulsive decision he's made, he thinks, but perhaps that can be a good thing too. He's pretty sure the life his father intended for him would never have made him happy. Not really.

He sleeps.

There are no dreams, just darkness. He wakes after a few hours to feel the sun on his face, and gets up to check on Emma and close the curtains. After that, he sleeps until Emma's crying wakes him. He changes her diaper, feeds her and plays a bit with her until she wants to sleep again, and then he does as well.

It is dark when he wakes again. Emma is awake as well, making babbling noises that don't sound unhappy. They sound just like noises, like practice, and he smiles faintly. One day, she'll say her first word, and he's going to be there for it.

"Hey Emma," he murmurs, lifting her out of the crib. She moves her arms in that way she always seems to when he lifts her up. "Are you up for exploring evening Storybrooke? Taking a bit of a walk before daddy gets some food?"

Judging by her energy as she moves in his arms, she does seem to be up for that. He smiles at her, then changes her clothes before changing his own. In his hurry to get away, he's packed a mish-mash of clothes, so it's plaids for him and yellow for Emma.

Thus attired, they set out. It's a quiet evening, a faint wind occasionally stirring leaves and grass. The stars are out, dotting the dark sky, and he points out the northern star to Emma, who seems rather unimpressed by it. She's far more interested in trying to shove parts of his shirt into her mouth.

The town has a library, he discovers, a rather distinctive building with a clock tower on top. He wonders if maybe he could borrow a few books to read to Emma there if he decides to stay for a few days, and then he suddenly notices it. A light. A light on in the obviously closed library.

Robbers? No, surely there wouldn't be anything to take from a library unless this town has some infamous book thief. Vandals? Maybe. He does remember a few of James's friends starting a small fire in the school library one time.

With that in mind, he strides up to the library and tries the door. It's actually open, and he peeks inside. "Hello?"

He has time to register a shape just inside, hear the startled gasp, and then side-step something wooden that comes swinging at him. It puts him off balance, though, and with Emma in his arms he can't really steady himself, so down he goes.

He makes a groan of pain as he lands on his ass, and blinks against a torch in his eyes. Emma makes a slightly started noise, but doesn't sound pained.

"Oh," a voice says apologetically. "Oh! I'm so sorry. You scared me. I thought you were breaking in!"

It's a woman's voice, he realizes, a touch breathless.

"I thought you had broken in," he mutters, shaking his head slightly. He runs a hand down Emma's back in comfort, but she seems fine, sticking a finger into her mouth.

The torch is lowered, and a moment later, soft hands are helping him to his feet. In the faint light, he can make out green eyes in a face framed by dark, short hair and a petite frame.

"I'm so sorry," she says again.

"No harm done, except to my dignity," he remarks, He glances down at the floor to see a birdhouse at her feet and realizes that's what she must have swung at him. "I'm not sure my dignity would have lived if you had actually hit me with that thing."

He can see her lips curve into a smile, and he suddenly feels a little breathless. She has a smile that reaches all the way to her eyes and make them all the more brilliantly green.

"I'm sure your dignity will heal in time," she jokes, before looking more serious. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you had a child with you. I would never have swung at you if..."

"I know," he says softly. "No harm done. Emma is fine."

"Emma," she repeats, lowering a hand so Emma can grasp her thumb. "Hello, Emma. I'm Mary Margaret."

"I'm David Nolan," he offers, moving his hand to Emma's, and together, they shake Mary Margaret's thumb. "Pleased to meet you."

"Despite the injury to your dignity?" Mary Margaret jokes.

"Despite that," he says, and actually means it.

II

Mary Margaret Blanchard is the local teacher, David learns, and is friends with Belle, the local librarian. She has been trusted a key to return and/or get books for lessons if needed, as she sometimes works late, and was doing just that when he walked in on her.

He tells her that he's new in town, and she insists on taking both him and Emma to dinner. In the light of Granny's Diner, she looks even more breathtaking – the contrast of her pale skin and dark hair rather striking, but not as striking as her smiles. Her smiles makes him want to smile back, he quickly discovers.

They both order burger with fries while Emma gets a spoon to chew on, something she enthusiastically commits to.

"She's beautiful," Mary Margaret says, and sounds like she means it. "How old is she?"

"Five months and two days," he says, putting his hand on Emma's head. "Feels like she's growing up so fast."

"Kids tend to do that," Mary Margaret says, and he glances over at her. "My pupils always seem to do that. They seem to grow an extra head over the summer holidays."

"You don't have kinds of your own?" he asks, and she shakes her head.

"Never met Prince Charming to have them with," she says, and there is something sad in her voice, making him wonder just what kind of guys she has met. "Maybe I have too high standards."

"No," he says, surprising himself with how vehement he sounds. "My mother always told me never to settle for anything less than true love. She was right to. The alternative is..."

He swallows, struggling to find the words.

"Unhappiness?" Mary Margaret suggests, voice low, and their gazes lock. She understands, he can see, understand all too well.

"Yeah," he agrees.

They gaze at each other for a moment longer, then Mary Margaret bites her lip slightly.

"Did your pupils make the deadly weapon you almost hit me with?" he asks, changing the subject.

"You mean the birdhouse?"

"As I said – the deadly weapon."

She laughs slightly. "I'm sure my pupils would enjoy making them even more if they knew birdhouses are secretly deadly weapons. But I think I better not advertise that fact. A few parents might object."

"This parent would approve," he counters, and she smiles again, a smile he has to return.

"Perhaps I will teach Emma the secret art of birdhouse weaponry when the times comes," she suggests, and his smiles falters slightly. "Did I say something wrong?"

"No. I just... I don't know if... If I am staying here," he says slowly. "I haven't planned that far ahead."

"Oh," she says, and he can see her obvious curiosity, but she doesn't press him.

"I need to do what's best for Emma," he says, looking over at her daughter. "It's just me and her now."

Again, Mary Margaret doesn't ask. She just nods, looking at him with eyes brimming with sympathy. "I'm sure you will."

If he only he knew what the best was, he thinks, but doesn't say.

II

Mary Margaret wishes him and Emma all the best as they part outside the diner, something that could be a goodbye, but doesn't have to be. It's a possibility, he supposes, and she smiles at him as if she would like to see him again.

He lies awake for a long time after Emma has fallen asleep, staring at the ceiling and thinking. His father will undoubtedly try to find him, to 'convince' him to return, but he can't just go from town to town forever in the hopes of avoiding that. Emma needs a home as she grows older, so he has to settle down sooner or later. He has enough money for a while, but he would like to actually work too. He can't just be idle.

This place may be as good to settle in as any others, he considers. It seems quiet, and he imagines Emma could be happy here. There is definitely a local school (with the loveliest teacher he's ever met), and perhaps there is a pre-school too. He'll have to find out more about Storybrooke, and make sure there are no connections here to George Nolan, of course. If there aren't, and if Storybrooke is a suitable town...

Well. It's a possibility, he thinks, and smiles faintly.

II

He spends the next day discovering all he can about Storybrooke, and most of it seems good. It is not a particularly large town, but it has a pre-school. It also has daycare, it has several playgrounds and quite a lot of farmland and forest around the town. There is also a harbor, and it all looks rather picturesque, he has to admit.

Best of all, he can't find any obvious connections to his father. Of course, there is always a risk that there is one he's just not aware of, but that would be true of anywhere.

He brings Emma with him to a real estate office, and takes back several prospects both for renting and for purchase. It's not a huge selection, he has to admit, and none of them seem ideal. Still, he's not in a hurry. He can stay at Granny's for now, though that's not exactly ideal either.

He returns to the diner for dinner, feeding Emma first and then letting her sit on his lap while he orders and she chews on her small duck toy. He's just placed his order when Mary Margaret walks in, and he can't help but smile the moment he sees her.

"Hi," she she says, giving him a soft smile. "Hi, Emma."

Emma takes the duck out of her mouth, and waves it at Mary Margaret as a way of greeting.

"I think that is Emma's way of saying hi too," he remarks, kissing the top of Emma's head. "Hi, Mary Margaret."

She blushes, just slightly, and he tries not to gaze too much – and probably fails.

"I was just about to eat," he says. "Would you like to join me? My treat."

"Sure," she says happily, and he wonders if she actually came here in the hope of finding him here. He rather likes that idea, though he could be reading too much into it. He rather hopes he isn't, though.

Mary Margaret places her order as well, and sits down across from him.

"I wasn't sure if you'd still be here," she says after a moment.

"Emma and I are considering staying," he says. "If we can find a place, that is. Storybrooke's real estate market hasn't offered a lot of options so far. We may just stay at Granny's for the time being."

"Oh," she says, and bites her lip. "I... I have space at my loft, if you... I mean, while you look for something more permanent. Belle used to live with me before she got her own place."

"Oh," he says. He considers that, and it feels almost too tempting. "Are you sure? I'm mostly a stranger."

"I'm sure," she says. "When I moved here, I was a complete stranger, but Granny and Ruby were still only too happy to help me settle in."

He nods slowly. She's not from here, then. Another thing they have in common.

"You don't have to decide now," she goes on. "But the offer stands for as long as you want."

"Thank you," he says sincerely, and feels her hand touch his briefly. "Why did you move to Storybrooke?"

"A new start," she says, and her eyes seem pained for a moment. Whatever made her move her, it was not pleasant, he gathers. Yet another thing they have in common.

"Like Emma and I," he says, and Emma makes a soft noise. "That's right, you and me, princess."

Mary Margaret smiles at that, as Ruby arrives with their food, giving Mary Margaret a pointed glance that Mary Margaret tries to ignore.

As they eat, they exchange little tidbits about themselves in-between talking about impressions of Storybrooke. She is an only child, he learns, and he lets it drop that his brother died not too long ago. He mentions spending the first few years of his life on a farm, and she talks about caring for birds from an early age.

It feels very, very easy to talk to her, he realizes. He hasn't had anyone to properly talk to since... Since his mother, he thinks painfully.

Emma is falling asleep on him when the deal is finished, and he gives Mary Margaret an apologetic smile. "I think princess Emma needs her sleep."

"I see she's given a royal sleeping decree," Mary Margaret jokes, smiling fondly at Emma. "Thank you for the meal and the company."

"Thank you," he says, and she tilts her head. "For the company. And the offer. I'll think about it."

She smiles, and he watches her leave before getting up himself, Emma in his arms. Ruby is regarding him sternly, and he has the oddest sensation of being judged.

"Mary Margaret is nice," she says when he finishes paying.

"I got that impression," he says, keeping his voice light.

"I don't like seeing her hurt," Ruby goes on, and he can clearly pick up the threat.

"I wouldn't either," he says sincerely, and Ruby seems to consider that carefully.

"Okay," Ruby finally says, crossing her arms. "See that you don't."

II

He spends four days looking at potential places to rent, and finds none of them suitable for Emma. He also looks at the farm that is for sale, and finds that much more appealing, but it's not an option quite yet. He has to make sure he intends to stay her permanently before he considers that.

He also spends one day getting a tour of Storybrooke with Mary Margaret, and four days sharing dinner with her every evening, as she always stops by and he always asks her to join him and Emma. Ruby always looks knowingly at them, but he doesn't mind. Her gaze seems to become more and more encouraging, in fact.

As for him, he's pretty sure he likes Mary Margaret more and more – that is, until the fourth evening when he has to excuse himself for an errand to the men's room, and returns to find Mary Margaret holding Emma in her arms and comforting his crying daughter, and he thinks he actually might be falling more and more in love.

II

Emma wakes him early, and after changing her and feeding her, he finds himself unable to go back to sleep. So he lies down in bed with her resting on his chest, finding the sound of her breathing comforting. She's been the only comforting part of his life the last few months – that is, until now.

He thinks of Mary Margaret, and finds comfort in that thought as well. It is odd to feel this way about someone he's only just met, but he can't help it.

He smiles faintly as Emma kicks him slightly. He lifts her up, and she makes excited noises as he wriggles her slightly. He never tires of listening to all the noises she makes, finding them all delightful.

"I love you," he murmurs, kissing her forehead. "What do you think, princess? Should daddy make another impulsive decision based on his gut feeling?"

Emma kicks again, and he smiles at her. He knows what he'll take that as.

II

Mary Margaret smiles at him the moment she opens the door and spots him and Emma. "Hi, you two."

"Hi, you," he says, holding out the cup. "I brought you hot chocolate with cinnamon."

"Oh," she says, looking delighted that he's remembered her preferences when it comes to hot chocolate. "Thank you."

He smiles. "Emma and I were wondering... Is that offer of a space here still standing? I understand if it's not, if..."

"Yes, of course," she interrupts, putting a hand on his arm. "I mean, of course the offer is still standing."

"I would like to take you up on it," he says formally, and Emma makes a soft noise. "As you can tell, Emma is in complete agreement."

She smiles, then opens the door fully and he follows her inside. It's a charming loft, is his first impression, with a rather rustic look. It has an open kitchen and a set of stairs leading to an upstairs. He also notices an abundance of bird motif even at a quick glance, making him smile. Mary Margaret and her birds.

"There is a bed upstairs and downstairs," she says. "Perhaps it might be best if you take the downstairs one. Emma probably isn't crawling yet, but if she starts to, I don't want any accidents."

He looks at her affectionately. Of course she's thought about that. "Thank you. I... I actually has to buy a crib for Emma. Granny has been lending me one. I should probably get her a playpen soon as well, and I definitely need a stroller for her."

Mary Margaret nods, then bites her lip and looks hesitant. "Since it's Saturday and I am off work, I could... I could go shopping with you, if you want."

"I'd love that," he says sincerely.

II

They go shopping.

They find a playpen, a high chair, a changing table, a stroller and a number of new toys at a local store, but for a crib, Mary Margaret takes him to Marco, the local carpenter and woodworker. He can tell why right away, as the cribs Marco offers him are well-made and lovely, and he happily chooses one.

Perhaps, when the time comes, he might even get Marco to make a proper children's bed for Emma, he considers.

They stop by a children's clothing store as well, and he buys several new outfits for Emma, including a few dresses and hats for the coming summer. Mary Margaret manages to convince him to get a t-shirt with swans on as well, insisting Emma is clearly a bird lover given how enthusiastically she chews her duck toy.

They take Emma for a walk in her new stroller, and after a few minutes, Mary Margaret hooks her arm into his. It feels right, and he allows himself to actually feel good about it.

They have lunch a harbor cafe, and spend ten minutes negotiating rent. Mary Margaret is unwilling to accept much, and he is determined to pay his share, so they finally agree on him paying less than half and less than he would have liked, but more than Mary Margaret wants. A compromise, and they solemnly shake on it.

Afterwards, they move all of Emma's new stuff and the few things he had with him into Mary Margaret's place, and David has the strangest sensation of moving home.

II

He insists on being the one to make dinner, as his first act of being her new tenant. Emma joins them at the table in her new high chair, looking quite, quite regal, at least before she spills half of her food on it.

Mary Margaret seems to enjoy her food at least, complimenting him on his pasta and laughing when he confesses the secret is properly boiling the water.

After dinner, she insists on cleaning up while he gives Emma a bath. By the time he's dried her up and changed her, he discovers that Mary Margaret has also made his bed and the crib ready with fresh, lavender-smelling linen. What's more, he also notices there is actually a mobile hanging above the crib - a beautiful, beautiful mobile with glass unicorns in different colors.

"I got it a few days ago from Gold's," Mary Margaret says behind him, sounding slightly nervous. "He runs an antique shop in town. I figured it would be a moving in present for Emma when you guys found a place you wanted, no matter where it was."

"It's beautiful," he murmurs, turning around to see her standing in the doorway. "Thank you, Mary Margaret."

She smiles, and impulsively, he steps forward and kisses her cheek, lingering for a few seconds before pulling back. Her lips are slightly parted, he notices, and he thinks about kissing those too.

They gaze at each other for a few moments too long, and he thinks about a lot of other things he'd like to do with her and to her.

"I'll put Emma to bed," he finally manages to say, though his voice sounds slightly strained.

"Yeah," she says. She lifts a hand to touch Emma's cheek and smile at her. "Goodnight, Emma."

Emma makes a few noises at that, making Mary Margaret smile. With a last glance at him, she walks out and closes the door behind her. He supposes she wants him to feel like he will have some privacy here, if he wants it.

He presses a kiss to Emma's forehead before putting her down. She looks up at the mobile, he notices, and laughs a little as he makes one unicorn move. He hums softly while he waits for her to drift off, and eventually her eyes closes and her breathing steadies.

He tip-toes out, and finds Mary Margaret sitting on the couch in the living room, feet tucked underneath her. She has a book out, but lowers it as he approaches.

"Emma seems quite in love with the mobile," he tells her, and her eyes light up. "Thank you again. You've been more than welcoming, Mary Margaret."

"I've been more than happy to," she says, and sounds absolutely sincere.

He considers his options for a few moments, then sits down on the other end of the couch. He doesn't want to be too intruding, but he feels an urge to be relatively close to her as well. "What are you reading?"

"Anna Karina," she says, showing it to him.

"Most of what I've been reading lately has been baby books," he comments. "I'm not sure Emma understands much of them, but I think she enjoys trying to put them into her mouth."

Mary Margaret laughs. "I'm sure she enjoys the sound of your voice too."

Her gaze is warm, and he smiles at her. "That almost sounded like a compliment."

"It was meant as one," she says, then tilts her head. "If you want to find a few new books for Emma while you're here, I can ask Belle to recommend some. I noticed you didn't bring a lot with you."

"Yeah," he says slowly. "I didn't bring a lot of anything, really."

"I noticed," she says quietly.

"And you've been wondering why," he guesses. She looks down for a moment, then meets his gaze again.

"Yes," she admits. "But I didn't want you to feel like you had to tell me anything."

"I don't," he says, reaching out and taking her hand to squeeze it. "But I want to. I want you to know. I want to tell you about James. I want to tell you about Emma's mother. I want to tell you about my dad, and about my father."

"Okay," she says. She shifts closer, he notices, and doesn't let go of his hand.

"James and I were twins. We were born on a farm," he says slowly. "I don't remember much of it, except that I was happy. I think James was too. At least I like to think he was. When we were four, our dad died. That was... Shattering. It's hard to explain what it's like to be a young child and lose a parent. I don't know if you can understand how it feels to... "

"Oh," she says, exhaling. "I understand."

He glances over at her. She understands?

"My mother died when I was ten," she says, and oh, she does understand all too well then.

"Sorry," he says, swallowing. "A year later, our mother met George Nolan. He had lost his wife recently. I suppose they connected over that. They got married, and George ended up adopting us both."

She nods, he notices. He wonders if she recognizes that part too.

"He became our father," he continues. "Our father, not our daddy. He wasn't very affectionate, but he spent a lot of money on us. Particularly on James. He was the firstborn. He was the heir. That's what I understood when I grew older, you see. Father didn't want children. He wanted an heir. He had a great financial empire built on a lot of horrible, but very legal deals."

He takes a deep breath, steeling himself against the pain. It hurts to recollect all this, but it feels strangely freeing as well.

"Father took James with him everywhere. He mostly left me at home with mom. Maybe that made the difference, I don't know. But James became increasingly like father. We grew apart. We had different friends. He studied law. I studied to be a vet."

"You're a vet?" Mary Margaret says, sounding delighted.

"Yeah, but I'm afraid I am not specialized in birds," he says, and she smiles at him. "I... I know I didn't make father proud, but mom was. She meant a lot to me. I... I wish she could have met Emma."

He thinks about that a lot. How much his mother would have loved to be a grandmother. How much love she would have given Emma.

"She got cancer," he says abruptly. "Three years ago. Nothing we could do. Nothing the most expensive treatment father could buy could do. She died. I still miss her every day."

"I'm so sorry," Mary Margaret offers softly, and he closes his eyes and feels a light touch on his cheek. She's stroking away a tear, he realizes.

"After that, father became even more obsessed with grooming his heir," he says. "James got everything. I was just left alone. I didn't really matter. I was just David."

"You're not just anything," she says, sounding affronted. "David. You're not just anything. You never were."

He smiles sadly. "I wish I had met you then. Maybe you would have convinced me of that."

He's pretty sure his mother would have loved Mary Margaret, he doesn't say. Instead, he takes a deep breath, and rushes the next part out.

"Two years ago, James went on a drinking binge with some of his friends. He drove home. He crashed. He died."

He swallows, and swallows again, and feels Mary Margaret shuffle even closer. It feels comforting, but natural too, as if being near her is just... Right.

"We hadn't been close in years, but I still grieved him," he says. "Father... Father seemed truly heartbroken, but after a while he started to... He wanted me to get a law degree. I was now the heir, you see. A disappointment, but the only heir he had."

"Asshole," Mary Margaret says angrily, and he finds himself actually amused by that. He has no doubt Mary Margaret would have told George Nolan just what she thought of him.

"I... I guess I tried to be less of a disappointment for a while," he says softly. "I grieved James, so I tried to... To work with father for a while. That's when I met Jacqueline. Jack, as she liked to call herself. I didn't find out until later that she had been with James. I suppose... I suppose she hoped I would be just like him."

Even now, he can feel the slight heartbreak at that. Not that he was deeply in love with Jack, because he wasn't, and he knows now that they were never really happy together. It still hurts to be just David once again.

"She became pregnant," he goes on. "She didn't tell me at all. She told George. I think... I suspect that he probably offered her money to carry the child to term and give him custody. He almost told me as much later, but it seems like she rejected his offer. I don't know why."

"Maybe she wanted better for her child than that," Mary Margaret suggests hopefully.

"Maybe," he agrees. "But she didn't want to be a mother. She didn't want me, as I had proved to be no James. She left me, telling me as much, but not that she was carrying my child. I only learned she had been pregnant after she had given birth. I got a message from her lawyer. That's how I discovered I was father and that she had signed full parental rights over to me. The lawyer also presented a DNA test to prove I actually was the father. Nothing from Jack herself, not even a message. I don't even know where she is now. I just know she didn't want me, and she didn't want the baby. "

"But you did," Mary Margaret says softly. He leans his forehead against her temple, glancing down at their intertwined hands.

"I fell in love with her the moment I saw her," he says. "She was so small, and she cried until I lifted her up and held her in my arms. Then she stopped, and looked at me, and I loved her. Does that sound odd?"

"No," Mary Margaret says, and he cans see tears on her cheeks. She's been crying along with him, he realizes.

"I named her Emma Ruth Nolan," he says, smiling at the memory. "Ruth after my mother. I took her home, and father actually seemed pleased to be a grandfather. He offered to buy us a grand house. He offered to buy us so much. I didn't really care about that. I was... I was trying to figure out how to be a good father to Emma, to make sure she would always feel loved and wanted."

"With you as her father, I am sure she will be," Mary Margaret says, and he finds her faith in him oddly assuring.

"I hope so," he murmurs. "Father became increasingly obsessive about her. Eventually, we... We had a fight about how he was treating her. He told me that I was the biggest disappointment in his life, and since he couldn't make me the heir, he would make Emma. That's when I left. I wanted better for her than what George Nolan intended."

"You deserve better than that too," Mary Margaret says thickly. "I always knew George Nolan was not a good man, but I had no idea how much of an asshole he actually is."

"You know him?" he asks curiously.

"Sort of. My father knew him," she says, biting her lip. "I wondered if you were related to George when you first told me your name."

"But you didn't ask," he says, and she shakes her head.

"If you wanted to tell me, I figured you would eventually," she says. "I'm glad you did, David."

"I'm glad I did too," he says slowly, and closes his eyes as she presses a feather-light kiss against his cheek; even in all the grief remembered, he still feels oddly happier than he has in months.

II

He wakes early, feeling rejuvenated. Telling Mary Margaret, and having her sympathize and actually understand, feels like a weight off his shoulders. He supposes he didn't realize how alone he has felt with it all, even if he has had Emma with him.

Emma laughs as he picks her up from the crib, and manages to grab one of the unicorns on the mobile for a moment.

"Careful there," he tells her. "That was a gift from Mary Margaret."

Just saying her name makes him smile, and Emma smiles back at him. He bounces her a few times to make her laugh, then changes her and takes her into the kitchen to feed her. Mary Margaret is still asleep, so he dashes outside to pick some spring flowers before making breakfast for them both.

He isn't sure what Mary Margaret loves, so he makes a bit of everything – toast, bacon, eggs, pancakes, and of course, hot chocolate with cinnamon.

He is rewarded by seeing Mary Margaret downright charmed as she walks into the kitchen ten minutes later, her smile making her eyes light up too. She also looks very, very good in pajamas pants and a Minnie Mouse t-shirt, he has to admit to himself, and the slightly ruffled sleeping hair is adorable.

"Good morning," he says. "I hope you're hungry."

"Me and the whole kingdom," she giggles. "How much food did you make?"

"A bit of everything," he says. "I wasn't sure what you liked. We haven't had breakfast together yet."

"Our first," she says, then blushes slightly as she realizes what she's said. "It looks great. Thank you."

They sit down to eat, and he discovers that Mary Margaret is very partial to his pancakes. She also smiles rather adorably when he confesses his secret is nutmeg, and he makes a note to make her pancakes for breakfast tomorrow and every day he gets the chance to.

II

He makes her breakfast every morning the following week. It becomes almost a routine. 7.15, her alarm rings and he always, always has pancakes ready for her. They eat together for twenty minutes before she gets ready for work, and she always kisses Emma's head before she hurries off.

He spends the days looking after Emma, fixing up things at the loft and looking into setting up a veterinary's office in Storybrooke. It would only be part time while Emma is still young – he has enough money that he doesn't have to work, but he prefers to – but between farm animals and all the local pets, he's pretty sure he would have enough to do.

He sometimes stops by Mary Margaret at school to bring her lunch. He's learned that she doesn't much like apples, so he brings her pears instead, and she always smiles at him in a way that makes him feel almost dizzy.

Two times a week, there is a Mommy and Me gathering at the library with singing and reading, he learns through Mary Margaret, and he finds himself accepted into the group of moms even if he is a dad. Ella has a lovely daughter named Alexandra that is a little older than Emma, and Aurora has a song named Phillip who is a little younger than Emma.

Mary Margaret insists on being the one to make them all dinner every night, and he finds himself enjoying her cooking almost as much as her company. (Only almost because nothing could ever be better than her company, quite frankly.)

After dinner, they sometimes play with Emma, sometimes talk, sometimes watches TV together and sometimes she reads and he pretends to, enjoying simply watching her.

He thinks it may be one of the best weeks of his life.

II

"I want to tell you about my family," Mary Margaret tells him one evening as he sits down on the couch next to her, and she looks strangely nervous, he notices.

"Okay," he says, smiling in encouragement.

She nods. He's been wondering if she would open up to him as he did her, but he hasn't wanted to rush her.

"My parents were Leopold and Eva Blanchard," she begins, her voice soft, but he can already hear a tinge of sadness in it. "My father was no less rich than your father, actually. I grew up in wealth, and I grew up loved. My father was away a lot of the time, but my mother was always there, until..."

She swallows; he takes her hand.

"She died," Mary Margaret says. "She was sick for less than a week before she died. Less than a week. I was ten."

"I'm sorry," he says, and she nods. She knows that he knows what that kind of grief feels like.

"Father grieved, but he also thought about my future. He wanted me to have a mother. I suppose... I suppose I did want to have someone who could be a mother figure to me, if not my mother. Especially with my father away as much as he was. I grieved my mother, but I did want a mother in my life as well. Maybe that was wrong of me."

"No," he says softly. "You were ten. That was just... Normal of you, Mary Margaret."

She swallows again. "One day, I met a young woman named Regina. We became friends, and when father found out, he decided to marry Regina. She didn't want to be my mother. She didn't want to marry him. Her mother forced her into it. I didn't know that at the time. All I knew at the time was that I thought we could be a family."

"Oh, Mary Margaret," he says softly, hearing the world of pain in her voice.

"It became an unhappy marriage," she goes on. "Increasingly so. I think Regina had been in love with someone else before she married dad, and now she had lost him. She blamed me for what happened, I think. I think... I think I will always blame myself too."

"Mary Margaret," he says, pulling her into his arms. "You were a child."

She lets out a small sob, and he kisses her temple comfortingly.

"We were all so unhappy," she whispers. "Regina. My father. Me. Eventually, father died. He left his whole fortune to me. I was nineteen. I told Regina I hoped she would be happy and gave her half. The rest, I mostly donated to charity, apart from a little to get me started in life. I wanted..."

He brushes a few tears away with his thumb. "You wanted a new start in life."

"Yeah," she agrees, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I think I've found it now."

II

On Saturday, after breakfast, Mary Margaret mentions she has a few errands, and he decides to go and buy himself some new clothes and take Emma with him in the stroller. Storybrooke doesn't exactly have the latest in fashion, but he does end up with plenty of plaid shirts and jeans, as well as new boxers and two new pair of shoes.

Purchases done, he he just started his walk down the street when Ruby suddenly dashes out of a woman's clothing store and stops in front of him. She looks breathless.

"David! Just the guy I was hoping to see!"

That sounds suspicious, he doesn't say. "Hello, Ruby."

"I need you," she says. "You need to help me convince Mary Margaret."

"Of what?" he asks, but does follow Ruby into the store, pushing the stroller ahead of him. Emma is snoozing, and doesn't seem very interested, but he has to admit that he is curious.

Mary Margaret looks utterly startled as she spots him, he notices. "Ruby!"

"Don't 'Ruby' me," Ruby says sternly. "You will thank me for this later. David, Mary Margaret wants to have a hot date tonight. Help me convince her to pick the hot dress."

Hot date, he thinks, and feels his heart fall. Of course he had no right to hope, but... No. No buts. He owes her too much to become some idiot over this. She should be happy; he wants her to be happy.

Ruby holds up the dress in questions, a short red dress with lacing in front that he images will look utterly, utterly breathtaking on Mary Margaret.

"Ruby!" Mary Margaret hisses again. "You can't ask him to..."

"You're going to look great whatever you wear, Mary Margaret," he says softly, managing to give her a smile. "If you like the dress, you should wear that."

"Be less of a gentleman and help me convince Mary Margaret to dress sexily and go for what she wants," Ruby says, sounding annoyed and impressed all at once. "Mary Margaret, put it on and show him how hot you'll look in it."

He swallows. This will be torture, but he is determined to endure it.

Mary Margaret looks hesitant for a moment, then she lifts her head and looks... Almost devious, he considers, but it's replaced by a pleasant smile before he can be sure.

"I will," Mary Margaret says sweetly, and ducks into the changing room.

Ruby grins a touch wolfishly. "Convince her, Prince Charming. I have a lingerie purchase to make. You'll thank me later."

With that, she hurries off, and he stares after her. Prince Charming? Lingerie? Thank her? What?

"What do you think?" Mary Margaret asks behind him. He takes a deep breath before turning around, and still feels utterly breathless as he gazes at her. The red dress clings to her body in a most flattering way, and the thin shoulder straps of it leaves so much skin to gaze lovingly at. His fingers seem to almost itch to want to touch her, and he balls his fists to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. The dress is low cut enough to allow him a glimpse of the top of her breasts, and the lacing in front feels like an invitation to undo it.

Oh, fuck him, he thinks distantly.

Mary Margaret is watching him through lowered eyelids, biting her lip, and he realizes he's not managed to utter a single word.

"Good," he says helplessly. "I mean... You look... Stunning. Your date would be an idiot not to think you hot in that."

Mary Margaret looks emboldened by that, he notices. "Would a dress like this make... Make him want to kiss me?"

"More than kiss you," he mutters, then realizes he's said it out loud. "I mean yeah. It should make him want to kiss you very, very badly."

She steps closer. "David?"

He tries not to stare too obviously, but it is getting damn, damn hard. "Yes?"

"The hot date I want to have... Is with you. Of course it's you."

It takes a few seconds for her words to register. Hot date. Him. Him, of course. She wants him. She wants him to kiss her. She's wearing the dress for him.

Without a word, he takes her hand and almost yanks her into the changing room. He gives himself one second to enjoy the view of her, eyes wide and lips parted in surprise, red dress hugging her shapes and almost matching the flush of her cheeks, and then he lowers his head and kisses her. Not just any kiss, no. A kiss that tells her just how badly he's wanted to kiss her. He slants his mouth across hers and thoroughly maps her mouth with his tongue, pressing her against him to deepen the kiss even more. He kisses and kisses her until her lips feel swollen against his, and he's all out of breath.

Mary Margaret gasps as he breaks the kiss, her breathing as ragged and uneven as his. He watches as she licks her lips, and fights the urge to want to lick his way into her mouth.

"That was..." she says, then curls her fingers into his shirt and pulls him down for a scorching kiss, her tongue brushing against his again and again while he lifts her up to give her a better angle.

"Are you two having fun in there?" Ruby asks from outside, and he chuckles into the kiss before lowering Mary Margaret down on her feet. She sighs softly as she breaks the kiss, and he steals one more peck before she takes his hand and leads him out.

Ruby has folded her arms, but she looks more amused than anything else, he notices. "Ready to thank me yet?"

"Ruby," Mary Margaret says, cheeks blazing. She clears her throat, then looks up at him. "David. Would you like to go on a date with me tonight? Ruby and Granny offered to babysit Emma for the night."

"I would love to, Mary Margaret," he says, lifting her hand to his lips and pressing a kiss against her knuckles. "Thank you, Ruby."

"You'll thank me even more tomorrow," Ruby says, and Mary Margaret blushes most adorably, and he rather thinks Ruby might be right.

II

In the evening, while Mary Margaret gets ready, he takes a sleeping Emma over to Granny, along with a packed bag of necessities for his little girl. Granny assures him she is only too happy to babysit whenever needed, something he appreciates very much.

He stops by to pick up a bouquet of tulips before heading back home. He isn't sure what Mary Margaret has planned for the evening, but he is certain he will enjoy it, just by virtue of being with her.

She's not wearing her red dress, is the first thing he notices when he walks in. He had prepared himself for the sight of her in that. Instead she's wearing a short black lace dress that looks no less stunning on her, just differently so.

She smiles at him a touch nervously as he walks closer. "I know it's not the red dress, but..."

The flowers end up on the floor as he kisses her, groaning into her mouth when he realizes her dress has an open back and his hands can roam her skin there. Her skin feels just as soft and smooth against his palm and fingertips as he's imagined, if not more so.

It takes him several minutes to stop kissing her, as his lips seem to find hers again and again after every time they break apart even slightly to draw breath. Finally, he manages to tug his lips away from hers, pressing his thumb against her bottom lip before she can kiss him again.

"Do you have reservations?" he breathes, and she looks up at him with hazy eyes. "For tonight?"

She shakes her head just slightly. "No."

"Good," he tells her. "Because we wouldn't have been able to make those."

Her smile, a touch wicked, makes it impossible not to kiss her again, and kissing her again just makes it impossible to stop.

II

Making love to Mary Margaret is a joyous discovery – he takes his time figuring out what gives her pleasure, and then spends far more time indulging in those, until she whimpers his name helplessly and he finds utter joy in her utter pleasure.

Sliding into her, her body arched into him, is pleasure and joy both. Their hands intertwine as they move together, and their gazes stay locked. It isn't just sex, even if it is really great sex; it feels emotionally intimate as well.

The flowers remain on the floor; they remain in bed for round two.

II

They end up having a cold meal of leftovers at later in the evening; hardly a grand meal, but given their appetite for each other, it doesn't seem to matter. Mary Margaret manages to get the flowers into water before he ravishes her against the kitchen counter, but only barely.

It's close to ten when David stretches slightly, feeling Mary Margaret kiss his shoulder lazily before tucking her head in underneath his.

"We should do this again," she observes, and he chuckles.

"Which part? The date we didn't really get to go on, or all the sex?"

"Both?" she suggests mischievously, and he kisses her softly to how her just how much he agrees. "Mmm."

"Mmm," he agrees, tracing the curve of her spine with his fingertips. "Wear the red dress next time, and I'm pretty sure both will happen."

She chuckles. "Maybe I will."

"I'm going to pick up Emma early tomorrow," he says after a few moments. "I was thinking that maybe we could go on a harbor cruise. All three of us."

She looks delighted, he notices. "I'd love that. I enjoy spending time not just with you, but with Emma too."

"I know," he says, thinking of how lovingly Mary Margaret always seem to look at both him and Emma. "Oh, I know."

He already loves her for that, he doesn't say – or that he's falling in love with her for everything else.

II

Mary Margaret goes with him in the morning to pick up Emma, and Ruby gives them both very approving looks after taking in their appearance. She also assures them Emma has been perfectly well-behaved, and seems to have enjoyed her adventure of a night away from daddy.

"Thank you, Ruby," he tells her, and she winks at him.

They take Emma home to get changed, and then set out again. It's a beautiful, sunny Sunday, and the water is calm and blue. It ends up being a perfect day for a harbor cruise, and holding Emma with one arm and holding Mary Margaret's hand in the other feels right in so many ways.

They have lunch and ice cream by the sea, and he tries the taste of fudge and Mary Margaret, and finds it delightful on his tongue.

They go home in the afternoon, and Mary Margaret gets her lesson planning done while he plays with Emma, making her laugh again and again by making duck noises every time she touches her duck toy. After dinner, Emma rests on his chest, and he rests his head in Mary Margaret's lap as she reads to them both. Emma begins to fall asleep after a while, and he actually drifts off too, and finds himself being woken like sleeping beauty with a soft kiss.

They put Emma to bed together, and he watches Mary Margaret stroke Emma's cheek and whisper goodnight. It makes him think about the future and possibilities, very definite possibilities.

As they step away from the crib, he notices Mary Margaret's eyes dart over to his bed, and she looks a little unsure. He cradles her head in his arms, kissing her softly and feeling her lips part against his.

"Share a bed with me," he murmurs against her lips. "Sleep with me, not just... sleep with me."

"Yes," she says happily, and he takes her hand and lead her to bed.

II

They fall into a routine after that; a rather wonderful routine. He still makes her breakfast every day before she goes to work, but he serves her morning kisses along with pancakes now.

He begins helping out at the local pet shelter a few days a week, bringing Emma along with him. Sometimes she sleeps, and sometimes she tries to mimic the animal noises. He takes her to the duck pond on clear days, and rides with her on the swing at the playground, and he thinks she is happy; she certainly seems to be.

On Thursdays, when Mary Margaret has a long lunch break, he stops by with lunch and a pear and always a flower, and often ends up necking with her in a broom closet as if they were still teens.

On Saturdays, they have date nights; Ruby and Granny watches Emma, and he gazes admiringly at Mary Margaret in a dress for about two minutes before actively trying to get her out of it. One of these Saturdays, they will make it actually out of the loft on a date night, he is sure, but for now, he rather enjoys it as it is.

On weekdays, they begin to make dinner together, and he finds sharing the various domestic tasks with her not just natural, but it makes him feel closer to her too, like their lives are becoming more intertwined.

They spend their evenings often playing with Emma, but he has to admit he is particularly fond of when Mary Margaret reads for them, often with him in her lap and Emma on his chest.

Every night, Mary Margaret sleeps in his arms. They don't always make love there, as with Emma's sleeping cycle that requires being very quiet, so it's sometimes easier to sneak off during nap times to have some fun upstairs or in the shower instead. But Mary Margaret always sleeps in his arms, warm and soft against him, and he sleeps better than he ever has.

II

One morning, he wakes to find the bed strangely empty. For a moment, he wonders if Mary Margaret has woken up to take care of Emma an d let him sleep, as she sometimes does, but no. Emma is still in her crib, blinking sleepily up at him.

There is a note, though, waiting for him on the kitchen table. 'Bring Emma and meet me at Granny's. Yours, MM.'

"Daddy thinks Mary Margaret is up to something," he tells Emma, who looks at him without blinking. "Let's go and find out what."

He sees what the moment he walks into Granny's – it is decorated with a big 'happy birthday, Emma' banner. There are gifts too, and a cake with half a candle, he notices, and he feels... He feels more touched than he can ever remember. Ruby is there, and Granny, and Aurora and Ella with their kids, and Graham and Belle and Marco and a few other friends of Mary Margaret's, and of course, Mary Margaret herself in a white dress.

She beams at him as he enters, holding out a tiny cardboard crown for Emma, and a larger one for him. She is the one who has set all of this up, he immediately knows. Oh, he's sure the others were happy to come when asked, but he knows this is her doing.

"Happy six months, Emma!" she says happily, pressing a kiss to Emma's forehead as she puts the crown on. "Happy six months of being a daddy, David."

"How did you know?" he asks, bending his head so she can put his crown on too.

"You told me she was five months and two days when we met, remember?" she says, her eyes bright and excited.

"You did the math?" he asks.

"I am a teacher," she points out, smiling cheekily. "Of course I did the math."

Of course, he thinks. Of course she did the math. Of course she set all this up. Of course. Of course she is beaming, all too happy to be doing this for Emma, for him, and it makes his heart ache with so much love for her.

"I love you," he says quietly, and her lips part and her eyes widen. He leans and kisses her, just a quick, soft peck with so many people here and Emma in his arms, but still a kiss. "I love you, Mary Margaret Blanchard. I just want you to know that. You don't have to say anything."

"Yes, I do," she manages to say, framing his head in her hands. Her eyes are teary, he notices. "I love you. I love you, David Nolan. I love you and I love Emma. I love you both so much I..."

She chokes, and he has to kiss her again, even with all the people there. He just has to, and he smiles bashfully at her when he pulls back, brushing a few tears from her cheeks.

"Emma loves you too," he tells her, and eases Emma into her arms. Mary Margaret swallows, then presses a lingering kiss against Emma's forehead.

"Happy six months birthday, Emma Ruth Nolan," she says.

He is pretty sure the next six month of Emma's life will be even happier.

II

It is a rather wonderful party, he reckons, though he does have limited experience with baby parties. Still, Emma looks excited by all the colors and sounds, and she laughs quite happily when he helps her blow out the half candle.

Her gifts include a few new toys, several new outfits to grow into and a beautiful carved toy box from Marco. Mary Margaret has gotten him and Emma matching t-shirts, a dragon toy that Emma immediately starts biting into, and baby book to fill with photos, with a few photos of him and Emma that she must have taken herself without him noticing; one of Emma sleeping on him, one from the day of the harbor cruise and one of him leaning over the crib and Emma reaching for him.

He takes the opportunity to take a picture of Emma wearing her crown, and when Mary Margaret isn't looking, he snaps a picture of her with Emma on her lap; the first additions to his new books and maybe in the future, to a wall as well.

II

Emma is out like a light that evening, excited by her party and the trip to the playground afterwards. He, however, is very awake, and takes Mary Margaret by the hand and leads her over to the couch in the living room.

She fits perfectly on his lap, and he enjoys a good few minutes kissing her thoroughly, happily and lovingly, considering that a sort of celebration too.

"Thank you for today," he murmurs against her lips. "Thank you for being you."

She giggles. "David. You don't have to thank me for that."

"I want to," he tells her. "Mary Margaret. Having you in my life, in Emma's life, makes me more thankful than I can say. I love you."

"I love you," she says, and he dips his head down to kiss her. "David?"

"Mmm?"

"It's going to be summer soon."

"Mmm," he agrees, kissing her again.

She puts a finger sternly to his lips, preventing him from stealing more kisses. "I usually work most of my summer holiday at a summer camp, but this year, I thought that maybe... Maybe I could take a longer summer holiday while school is out."

"With me and Emma," he guesses, and she nods. His mind races as all the possible places they could go, all the things I'd like to experience with Emma and with Mary Margaret. "I'd love that, Mary Margaret. We could go on a family holiday."

He hears her draw in a stuttering breath. "Family holiday?"

He swallows. Oh, right. He used that word without even thinking.

"Family," he repeats. "That's what I'd like us to become. I think we're sort of becoming that already. I... I hope that's what you want too."

"Of course it's what I want, David," she says softly, looking at him with her bright green eyes that still take his breath away and has from the moment he first met her. "I knew that dating you involved being in Emma's life from the moment I met you. I accepted that. More than accepted - I wanted that. I love Emma as your daughter, but I love her as Emma too. I love you as Emma's dad, but I love you as David Nolan too. I don't even know if that makes any sense to you, but..."

"It makes perfect sense," he tells her, and kisses her; he loves her more than words can say, but he is rather hoping his kisses might tell.

II

They have their summer family holiday, and it's the best summer David can remember. He fills the baby book with snapshots of it – Emma laughing in the car, Mary Margaret holding Emma as they both touch a dog, Emma crawling for the first time on the beach, Emma discovering the joys of getting splashed, Mary Margaret and Emma wearing matching hats in the sun, Emma getting her first tooth, Emma and Mary Margaret laughing happily at the sight of a flying goose, Emma, Mary Margaret and him on a carousel, happy as can be.

Happy as can be fits it almost perfectly, really. He is happy to go on adventures of petting zoos with Emma and Mary Margaret. He is happy to spend days at the beach watching Mary Margaret tan and Emma crawl ever more confidently. He is happy to go hiking with Emma strapped to his back and Mary Margaret's hand in his. He is happy to spend long summer days making Emma happy, and summer nights making Mary Margaret hot and bothered and then happy. He is.

But a happy summer is not enough, he knows now. Happy as can be involves a life.

II

He gets up very early one morning, Mary Margaret still asleep. He presses a soft kiss to her naked shoulder before leaving the note on her night stand, and then he tip-toes over to the crib and lifts Emma up. Emma isn't quite awake, so she blinks sleepily at him and he puts a finger conspiratorially to his lips.

"Shh, princess," he murmurs. "No waking Snow White yet. Prince Charming and princess Emma have to get everything ready before she wakes."

He sets about doing just that, dressing Emma up before dressing himself, grabbing the box he's hidden in a kitchen cupboard behind some boxes of cereal and the bouquet of wildflowers from their hidden spot in the bathroom before he leaves the loft.

The library is dark and locked, as expected, and he uses the key he borrowed from Belle yesterday to let himself in. It doesn't take him too long to set everything up, though he does struggle slightly with weaving the flowers together, and then he just has to wait.

It's half an hour later when he hears footsteps outside, and then the door creaks open to reveal Mary Margaret, still actually holding the note that asked her to meet him here, he notices.

She goes completely still the moment she sees the banner, the carefully cut letters that spell out 'marry us', and in the faint light he can't really see her reaction.

"Hello, Mary Margaret," he says, stepping forward and putting the crown of flowers on her head. Her eyes are teary, he notices, wide and green and brimming with tears. "Emma and I would like to ask you a question. Here, where we first found you, and you literally knocked us off our feet."

"David," she says, her voice breaking. He smiles at her, then lifts Emma up and kneels down with her in his arms.

"Mary Margaret Blanchard," he says formally. "We, David Nolan and Emma Ruth Nolan, would like to formally ask you to become a part of our family by marrying David Nolan and making him your Prince Charming and the luckiest man alive. If you accept, we promise to love and honor you, to..."

"David," she interrupts, her voice trembling with emotion. "Yes, yes, yes. To all of that. Yes."

He grins. He was pretty sure she would say yes, but to hear it still makes him want to jump for joy. He doesn't, though. Instead, he pulls out the black box.

"Emma chewed a bit on the box before I realized what she was doing," he says apologetically. "I was trying to make her hold it."

Mary Margaret just laughs. "Oh, David."

She stops laughing when he opens the box, pulling out the ring and sliding it onto her finger. It looks right, he notes, right in ways he can't explain. The green stone seems to match the green of her eyes, and it fits, even without any adjustments.

"This was my mother's ring," he tells her. "From her first marriage. She gave it to me just before she died and told me to find someone I truly loved to give it to. That is you, Mary Margaret."

She swallows, then kneels down as well. "I, Mary Margaret Blanchard, formally and happily accept the proposal of David Nolan and Emma Ruth Nolan, and would also like to propose that David Nolan damn well kiss me right now."

He is more than happy to accept that proposal, of course.

II

It is one of the last days of summer in Storybrooke when David Nolan marries Mary Margaret Blanchard in a small, intimate ceremony in the park

Ruby and Belle serves as maids of honor, Emma as a flower girl, Graham and Granny as Best Man and Best Senior, while Archie officiates. Mary Margaret looks utterly, utterly stunning in her white lace wedding dress, which he of course can't wait to get off her later.

They exchange vows in the brilliant sunlight, and Mary Margaret never looks away while she promises to always love him and Emma, and he keeps his gaze on her as he promises to always love her and love his family.

He lovers her more than vows can express, but he tries his best anyway, and seals them with a kiss while everyone applauds.

It's the first day of the rest of his life when David Nolan marries Mary Margaret Blanchard; at least he likes to think so.

II

It's the third day of his honeymoon 'holiday' (which mostly means Ruby and Granny are watching Emma to let the newlyweds have time to themselves) when David gets up early in the morning to get his bride flowers and a morning cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon. It's a gray morning that threatens rain, and he hardly notices or cares.

He is happy. Happier than he can remember being. He has Emma, his daughter, who is growing up every day – growing up healthy and strong and away from George Nolan. He has Mary Margaret, his wife, whom he loves and loves him, and who he has spent two days ravishing in bed and is looking forward to the third.

He doesn't see the car before it hits him, and by then, it is far, far too late.