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unexpected permutations in sea biscuits

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She sends him out for flour.

 

It's a mistake, something she realizes five minutes after he's left. She almost regrets it, but then he calls her from the store in a tizzy, demanding to know why there are so bloody many kinds of flour, and whatever happened to good old fashioned mills anyway. She manages to hold in her laughter until he's off the line, secure in the knowledge that he's just looking for plain white flour, nothing fancier, but once he's disconnected she loses it, bending double in the middle of the kitchen, hand braced on the counter for support.

 

She's just glad Henry isn't here, that he'd gone with his mother and grandmother down to Boston for the day, because she doesn't want to have to explain the fact that she's laughing like a loon over a three hundred year old man's inability to purchase wheat byproducts without assistance. Henry still hadn't quite wrapped his mind around the fact that his mom and Captain Hook were dating, but she accounted that delay to the fact that he'd caught them snogging more than once, a difficulty that had been conspicuously less present while dealing with everyone else's fantastical alter egos.

 

After the laughter dies down, she straightens back up, eyeing the ingredients she’s got laid out over the island of what used to be Mary Margaret’s apartment. Her mother had moved in with David, and Kathryn had moved in with Jim, all of them caught up in the mad shuffle that had ensued after Regina’s curse broke, leaving the apartment open for Emma to spread herself out in. Killian was still living in the hold of the Roger, but he said it was because he’d gotten used to the rocking, not because he still wasn’t quite sure where they stood.

 

If he was unsure, he wasn’t the only one. Emma herself didn’t know how exactly to define their relationship, besides the thoroughly bland ‘dating’. Everyone else seemed to have a pretty damn clear idea of how things were, and Regina had cornered her three days ago and told her, in a supremely roundabout way, to get a move on already. Emma had gaped like a fish for a full thirty seconds before growling a half-hearted ‘I’m trying’ and then stalking away.

 

Which is why she’s now staring at stacks of cookie sheets, bags of powdered sugar, and tins of what Mary Margaret had called ‘tint’ but Emma’s perfectly willing to call ‘hell’. It’s also why Killian’s running around in a grocery store, looking for flour, because the only thing her mother had left behind was a box of something labeled ‘cake flour’ and she’s been told not, on pain of death, to even try to put that in cookies.

 

Emma sighs.

 

She’d thought--no, Mary Margaret had thought-- that cooking--scratch that, baking-- would be good. It was a familial thing, a transcendent thing, one that passed the bounds of electricity and magic. Read: something both she and Killian should be able to do. Together. But Emma had never learned how to bake beyond picking up the lone cupcake from the corner bakery, and Killian wasn’t much better. Regina had cackled from the breakfast nook and offered to give Emma one of her recipes, and Emma got a quick glimpse of her mom in scary mode before they’d all laughed it off and Mary Margaret had pulled out a neatly printed recipe card from the rolodex like thing next to the breadbox and handed it to Emma like it was a gift from above.

 

Fifteen minutes after the phone call, there’s a knock on the door, rapped out in the cadence of shave and a haircut. Emma slides off the barstool she’d schlepped herself onto ten minutes prior, landing with a thump before walking over to the door and pulling it open. Killian’s standing there, looking incongruous in a pair of dark jeans and a blue cableknit sweater, the grocery bag swinging from the hook at the end of his left arm.

 

“You found it,” she says, feeling like an idiot.

 

“Aye,” he says, and she steps back, letting him in. “Surprisingly easy, once I figured it out.”

 

“I’m glad,” she replies as she shuts the door.

 

“Where do you want it?” he asks, and she turns, following the lines of his back as he walks towards the counter.

 

“Uh,” she says, then clears her throat. “Anywhere, I guess. Do you remember where we put Mary Margaret’s card?”

 

“No idea,” Killian says flippantly, setting the flour down with a slight thud. “D’ya think your mother would care if we casually ‘lost’ it?”

 

“Mind? No,” Emma says as she walks over to stand next to him. “Kill us? Probably.”

 

They both stand silent for a moment, considering the ingredients laid out in front of them.

 

“What’s a mixer?” Killian asks, not looking at her.

 

“Electric thing, mixes stuff,” Emma says.

 

“Any idea where one is?” An eyebrow wings up, and she can see he’s trying give her--them--a way out.

 

“Uh,” Emma says, leaning back to take a look at the counter behind them. “No.”

 

“Right,” Killian sighs. “This is going to go brilliantly.”

 

“Avast, ahoy,” Emma says, and snickers at his outraged corrections as she turns and starts digging in the cabinets.

 

~~~

 

An hour later, there’s something in the oven.

 

She hesitates to call them cookies, but both she and Killian had exchanged a look she was more used to seeing between doomed comrades in war films, thrown their collective hands-and-hook up, and said fuck it. They’re sitting in the breakfast nook now, heavy mugs of cocoa--which she can make, thanks very much--in front of them, eyes only occasionally flicking to the oven timer as it clicks closer and closer to their doom.

 

“So, Jones,” Emma says, and takes a sip doublehanded, cinnamon and whipped cream smearing across her lips.

 

“So, Swan,” Killian says, raising his mug to drink, eyes solidly on hers.

 

“Ten minutes to D-Day,” she says, licking the cream off and watching his eyes drop to follow her tongue.

 

“I--What?” His eyes snap back up to hers. “D-Day?”

 

“Big battle in World War II, about, oh,” Emma waves one hand, “Seventy years ago.” She looks at him pointedly. “Lot hinged on it.”

 

He raises an eyebrow. “And these cookies…?”

 

“Definitely on par,” Emma says, and he laughs, head going back, left arm coming up like he’s about to run his hand through his hair but then he remembers and it thunks back to the table as his shoulders continue to shake.

 

"You're welcome to take a look before time," she says.

 

"To gauge our chances?" Killian’s shoulders are still shaking.

 

"Such as they are," Emma says, voice grim.

 

"What they are,” Killian says, laughter finally settling, “Is abysmal. When did your mother say she was getting back?"

 

"Round six, why?"

 

"Mmm, just figuring out how long we have to plan our escape route."

 

"We might not need it," she says, and he gives her a look that's so comically disbelieving she can't help but smile.

 

~~~

 

It might not be D-Day, but it’s definitely Waterloo.

 

“What,” Emma says, her voice slightly awed. “What did we do?”

 

“More like what didn’t we do,” Killian says, equally as reverentially.

 

They’re standing in front of Mary Margaret’s stove, the baking pan balanced on the grates over the burners. On the baking pan is, well. It might have once been something, might have once been several somethings, but now it was just one thing, one massive, blackish, slightly smoking thing.

 

“How did we not set the fire alarm off?” Emma wonders, stretching her hand out towards their creation, wanting to touch it just to make absolutely sure it wasn’t alive, or some odd thing.

 

“Beats the hell out of me,” Killian says, before putting his hand on Emma’s arm, pushing it down before she can touch anything. “Allow me,” he says when she looks over, and waves his hook slightly. “Less chance of important bits melting off, aye?”

 

“Right,” Emma mutters, and steps to the side a bit, eyes still fixed on the curve of Killian’s hook as it approaches the charred mass of what was supposed to be delicious pastry. He nudges it, sending the tray on a screeching slide across the burners, which makes Emma jump a bit but does nothing to what’s on the tray.

 

“Just cookie then,” Emma says, letting go of her breath.

 

“Bit more like abject failure,” Killian replies distractedly, still picking at the tray.

 

“Yeah, but we followed the recipe,” she says, looking over at him, “Right?”

 

“Mostly,” Killian agrees. “Except for that fiddle with the powdered sugar, but that--” he waves vaguely behind them “--shouldn’t have affected it like this.” He and Emma go back to staring morosely at the tray.

 

“You know,” Emma says after a moment, “We could...we could ask her…”

 

“We could,” Killian says noncommittally, “But why would we?”

 

“Because we’re desperate? Because we’re hopeless?” Emma starts ticking things off on her hands. “Because she can, evidenced by her own survival, probably cook even just a little more than we can?”

 

“You make a fair point,” Killian agrees, then eyes her carefully. “You going to ring her, or should I?”

 

“You,” Emma says decisively. “It’s the voice thing, yours makes, ah--.” She stops, tugs on the sleeves of her shirt, and fixes her eyes on the oven. “You call her,” she repeats.

 

“As you wish,” Killian says, only laughing a little before he moves over to where the landline hangs against the wall.

 

“Tink?” Emma hears as she walks back over to the dregs of her cocoa, still sitting abandoned in the breakfast nook. “We might, ah, need help. Preferably yesterday.”

 

~~~

 

“Who’s died,” Tinkerbell says when Emma pulls the door open, shifting from side to side in a loose sweater dress in bright green that manages to make her more frantic looking than she already does.

 

“What?” Emma says, then, “Calm down, Tink, nobody’s died.”

 

“Not yet, at least,” Killian adds from behind her. “Might die soon though.”

 

“Very soon,” Emma says, nodding vigorously. “Soon, and horribly.”

 

“Horribly?” Tink asks, blinking in what looks like confusion.

 

“Aye, truly gruesome,” Killian says, coming up to stand beside Emma.

 

“Blood and stuff,” Emma chimes in helpfully.

 

“Our blood,” Killian says, “which, truth be told, I’m not in the mood to see.”

 

“Squeamish,” Emma says, leaning towards Tink in a confidential manner.

 

“Dreadfully so,” Killian says cheerfully. “Can’t even harpoon mermaids anymore, which is a shame.”

 

“Not that there are any mermaids here,” Emma muses, looking over at him.

 

“But if there were,” he replies mournfully, “I’d be out of luck.”

 

“Right,” Tink says, more than a bit skeptically, “and what, exactly, has you so threatened?”

 

Emma and Killian turn in unison so they’re flanking the door, and point at the stove. Tink’s eyebrows go up, but she walks through their impromptu gauntlet to investigate.

 

~~~

 

“I,” Tink starts, then stops.

 

She’s been doing the same thing for about five minutes now, and Emma’s starting to think they’ve broken her. A flash of light catches her eye, and she looks over to see that Killian’s shaking with laughter again, though it’s significantly quieter this time. Emma almost breaks down with him, but Tink’s voice cuts through the rising mirth.

 

“I don’t even,” Tinker Bell says, then turns to look at Emma and Killian, a horrified expression on her face. “What is that supposed to be?”

 

“Cookies,” Killian says, his voice admirably steady.

 

“Sour cream,” Emma adds. “Mary Margaret’s recipe.”

 

“Are you sure?” Tink asks, “Because they look more like like slag.”

 

“It’s definitely her recipe,” Killian says, with a smile that says he knows he’s being facetious. “Her handwriting and everything.”

 

Tink rolls her eyes.

 

“Can you help?” Emma says, proud of the fact that there’s only the barest hint of desperation in her voice.

 

“Help?” Tink says, “Emma, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but magic requires belief.”

 

“Yeah,” Emma says slowly, not seeing where this is going.

 

“I don’t know if I can believe that that,” Tink waves behind her, “Was ever once anything even resembling food.”

 

“Oh, c’mon, lass,” Killian says, his accent thickening. Emma elbows him in the ribs, and he shuts up with a rueful glare.

 

Tinker Bell sighs, green sparks rising around her like a heatwave.

 

“I’ll try,” she says.

 

~~~

 

They leave.

 

Tink has completely given up on magic--at least in regards to their cookies--and has simply pulled out the mixer--washed about twenty minutes ago by an apologetic looking Killian--and set the ingredients to dancing as she frowns at Mary Margaret’s recipe card. The thing-that-shall-not-ever-be-mentioned-again is double wrapped in a plastic bag that’s swinging from Emma’s hand, and she and Killian are unashamedly walking away from her apartment like they’ve just committed a murder and want very badly not to be caught.

 

“Where to, Swan?” Killian asks after a moment, eyes flicking up and down the road, on the look out for a glimpse of Regina’s Mercedes.

 

“The docks,” Emma says decisively, swerving at the end of her block and into the brisk wind coming off the Atlantic.

 

“So we’re not harpooning mermaids, we’re just poisoning them,” Killian says, only a step or two behind her.

 

“I thought you said there were no mermaids.”

 

“Dolphins, then,” he says, drawing even with her. “Or the whales.”

 

“Don’t let Henry hear you say that,” Emma says with a sideways look. “He’s been going off about needing to save the whales ever since Mary Margaret had him do that project last month.”

 

“If anything eats that,” he gestures to the bag on her arm, “then it deserves whatever end it’s got coming.”

 

~~~

 

In the end, they end up throwing it from the bow of the Roger, Emma dumping it out of its plastic cover and Killian winging it about fifty yards out into the bay. They watch it sink in mock solemnity, faces as straight as they can make them, considering the circumstances.

 

“Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda,” Killian says after a minute, his voice rolling out over the water.

 

“What’s that?” Emma says, starting at the sound of his voice.

 

“Latin,” he says, turning to look at her, leaning against the rail, back to the water.

 

“Sounded like a church service,” Emma says, an eyebrow raising. “Didn’t know you were religious. Or, at least,” she amends after a moment, “my kind of religious.”

 

“Requiem for the dead,” Killian says, smiling slightly. “Asking to keep us from the fires of hell. As for the religious,” his accent deepens again as his smile widens, “I’m Irish, lass, stint in Neverland notwithstanding. Catholicism is in our bones, whether or not we believe.”

 

“You’re incorrigible, is what you are,” Emma says, then sighs as the wind twists her hair into tighter curls. “When do you think Tink’ll be done?”

 

“Judging by the height of the sun, the speed of the waves, and the relative patience of fairies,” Killian starts, laughing as Emma goes to smack him, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

 

“So you have no idea, do you?”

 

“No bloody clue.”

 

~~~

 

When they get back, there’s a plate of cookies sitting on the bar, frosted a light blue and dusted lightly with cracked sugar.

 

“It’s a miracle,” Emma breathes, still standing in the doorway.

 

“How did you do it?” Killian asks Tink from his place behind Emma’s shoulder.

 

Tinker Bell waves the spatula she’d been licking from her perch on the counter. “I followed the recipe.”

 

“No,” Emma says, walking closer to the plate, eyes narrowing. “We followed the recipe.”

 

“To the letter,” Killian adds as he closes the door.

 

“No skipped steps, no teaspoons for tablespoons, nothing,” Emma continues, her foot tapping as she stares at the cookies. “So how…?”

 

“Beats me,” Tink admits after she licks the last bit of icing from her spatula before jumping down to stand next to Emma. “Maybe you’re just…” She trails off.

 

“Really bad at baking?” Killian asks, coming to stand on Emma’s other side, the three of them contemplating the plate in front of them.

 

“Must be,” Emma says.

 

“Unless Regina…?” Tink starts, then stops.

 

“She wouldn’t,” Killian says. “Would she?”

 

“She might’ve,” Emma says slowly. “Back when Mary Margaret owned this place.”

 

“And then what, forgotten to mention it?” Killian’s eyebrow is up again.

 

“If she did” Tink says, “how was I able…?”

 

The three of them fall silent as the cookies continue to sit there, looking blessedly edible.

 

~~~

 

Tink leaves as the light starts to fade.

 

Emma offers her some of the cookies, pointing out that she did make them (even if that fact is something that will remain secret for as long as Emma can wrangle it), but Tink says that she’d already had enough when she was making sure they were actually good, instead of just pretty.

 

Killian lurks in the background, grinding coffee and cleaning up the last of the mess as Emma walks Tink down to the street. When she gets back up, everything’s where it should be again, and the coffee maker’s burbling away on the counter. Killian’s over by the breakfast nook, a shoulder against the window, eyes on the high street.

 

“Still looking for Regina?” Emma asks, eyes following his line of sight.

 

“Partly,” he says.

 

“The other part?”

 

“Watching you.” He turns, and the shadows make his eyes holes. “It’s been a long day.”

 

“Has it?”

 

“Aye, lass.”

 

“Well,” she says, leaning in so she can see the his irises again, the blue sparking as it catches the kitchen light. “Maybe you should rest.”

 

“Rest?” His eyebrow goes up and the shadows lessen in contrast.

 

“Aye,” she says, mimicking him.

 

“Mmm, he says, then pushes off the wall so they’re both standing straight and close, him looking down the scant few inches that separate them in height. “Any ideas?”

 

Emma smiles as the coffee maker beeps behind her. “Several.”

 

~~~

 

The coffee is stone cold by the time they get to it.

 

A minute or so in the microwave fixes it, though Emma makes a point of gagging the first time she tastes it. After living in Seattle for a few years following her stint down in Phoenix, she feels like she owes it to the city that got her back on her feet to maintain at least nominally high standards for her coffee.

 

The temperature’s dropping for the night and the radiator hasn’t kicked on yet, but rather than put on thick socks and stoically freeze like a true Mainer, she and Killian drag a blanket out of the cedar chest that’s pushed up against one of the walls and flop underneath it on the couch, hands juggling microwave-hot ceramic.

 

Regina and Mary Margaret are due back with Henry in about twenty minutes, but they’ve got a bit more time to themselves. It’s quiet, mostly, the yellow light of the lamp in the corner slowly spreading as the daylight goes, and shadows deepening above and around them.

 

“So,” Emma says. “Catholic.”

 

“Lapsed,” he replies after a minute. She almost doesn’t hear the hard swallow that comes right before.

 

“Any particular reason?” She’s prying and she doesn’t care.

 

“Multiple,” he says.

 

“Liam?”

 

“One among many.”

 

“But funeral rites.”

 

“Respect for the dead, Swan, which means leaving the issues of the living out of it.”

 

“That thing deserved respect, then?” The corner of  Emma’s mouth kicks up.

 

He snorts. “It wasn’t that I was mourning, rather our time.”

 

“Might be us, anyway,” Emma muses.

 

“What?”

 

“D’ya think Regina can taste magic?”

 

“If she could, she would have said something,” Killian says, his head dropping to the back of the couch. “Granny’s pie is swimming in it.”

 

“How would you know?”

 

“A keen intuition.” Emma shoves at him with her foot as she puts her cup on the floor, empty. “Fine. Fine. It tastes like Neverland.”

 

“Like Neverland.”

 

“Yes, like,” his hand waves above his head as he thinks, before he turns and looks at her. “You know how they say, if you’re ever captured by faeries, don’t ever eat their food or drink from their cups?”

 

Emma nods slowly.

 

“It’s like that. Neverland is pure magic, dreams made reality,” Killian says, hand dropping. “And so is what you eat.”

 

“So we’re safe.”

 

“Aye, we’re safe.”

 

“Good,” Emma says firmly, then twists around so her torso is tucked against his chest, her coffee cup forgotten on the floor. “Then I’m taking advantage of you.”

 

“By sleeping on me?” His voice is tinged with amusement.

 

“Already did with, might as well as go for the double,” Emma says around a slight yawn (produced entirely for his benefit, if she’s being honest).

 

She closes her eyes, and for a moment, there’s nothing but the sound of their breathing.

 

Then: “Sleep well, Swan.”

 

“You too, Captain.”