On the day the clock starts ticking again, Rose takes a different route home.
It's not something she usually does, but the evening chill is creeping up her bones, urging her hand to pull the bar door open and step inside.
Here she is, smoke and warmth enveloping her like a blanket. She shrugs off her coat and walks up to the bartender, cloudy thoughts of martinis and olives on sticks flying through her mind as she gives the order. She feels brave and adventurous as she takes the first sip of her drink.
(In truth, Rose needs a change. Needs a little thrill, a little excitement to her uncomplicated life, something to sweep her off her feet and make her forget about the tiredness of being alone.)
She has been there, once or twice, with Ruby who methodically picked the right men for them. They would buy them drinks and kiss in the dark corners, and Rose almost felt the thrill when one of them, (Adam, wasn't it his name?) sneaked his hand under her shirt. But the almost feeling was soon gone, and she felt so sick she called the cab home.
The place is dark and cozy, half-filled with people, and the muffled sound of their voices mixes pleasantly with the raindrops hitting the windows.
There are men looking in her direction, but mostly out of curiosity – she really does look out of place there, in her modest black skirt and a pink girly blouse with lacy patterns at the front. She likes it though, it makes her feel feminine and beautiful, (she is a romantic at heart after all).
She sips her martini slowly, feeling the pleasant burn in her throat trailing down to her chest. She doesn't usually drink, not that much anyway, so when she finally does she enjoys it all the more, the lazy, relaxed feeling of being able to just sit back and forget it all, if just for a little while.
Rose doesn't expect to be bothered, not the way she's dressed. She is not scared of walking back to her house alone either – this town is so awfully quiet and peaceful, hardly anything happens there, and if she ever has doubts, she can always call the Sheriff, and that might actually turn out to be pretty enjoyable.
The thing is, Rose has never been scared. Not of the horror movies, not of the big bad men with cruel hands and sharp knives, not of being alone, or being happy, or dying. (She thinks it might be so, because she has never lost anyone. She doesn't know how to feel something for the first time.)
So when a tall dark stranger sits on the stool next to her, and with a charming smile asks if that seat is taken, Rose simply smiles back and says 'no'.
“A flower shop? How thrilling,” he says in a perfectly serious tone, but his bright blue eyes are dancing, drinking in the sight of her as if she were the most exquisite thing he's ever seen.
It's her fourth martini and her mouth starts to hurt from all the laughing he's making her do. She doesn't remember seeing him around, (and she is sure she would never forget someone like that), so she downs the last of her drink and demands an explanation.
“And what do you do?”
He smirks at that, white teeth flashing in an almost wolfish way. “Bits and pieces, here and there. If I told you, it would kill the mystery.”
Rose scoffs, hair falling into her eyes when she shakes her head. She pushes them lazily back, marveling at the cold air hitting her now exposed neck. Her vision is blurring, but she can't really mistake his gaze for anything other than hungry (she has seen a deal of lustful glares in her life, and she's a friend of Ruby's – she might be an expert on that).
The man pays, not really caring how much, and cocks his eyebrow questioningly, offering her his left hand.
It swirls around Rose, colors mixing and the bar is really, really loud, she also feels far too hot to be comfortable with the situation; as she takes his hand it feels like an electric shock through her nerves, and the heat pooling in her belly seems quite unbearable. He drapes her coat over her shoulders and pulls her close – so close she can feel his quickened breath on her neck and it's making her toes curl in her shoes.
(She shouldn't have left with him. She should have waited for her prince to wake up and sweep her off her feet and rebuild her fairy tale kingdom in the Sands, should have waited for her true love's kiss and a happily ever after.
But it is really hard to make wise decisions while drunk and horny out of your mind.)
She doesn't know how they make it to his apartment, but when they do he is halfway out of his plaid shirt and her skirt is far higher than she remembers it being before. They are a messy tangle of limbs and fabrics and kisses, and she wails in disappointment when he takes his mouth away for a brief moment to lock the door. He presses her against the wall in the hallway and his lips slide along her jaw, one of his hands finding its way under her blouse. Rose yanks his shirt off completely, marveling at the warmth his body gives off.
She locks her legs around his hips and pushes him closer; she feels a shiver of satisfaction as he grunts and presses her farther into the wall.
“Bedroom,” he says hoarsely, and she loses her shoes on the way.
She doesn't qualify it as such a bad decision in the end, because the sex is amazing. (Sure, she has some bruises on her hips and bite marks on her collarbones, but it's not like she didn't pay him back in kind.)
She lies there, sprawled lazily across his bare chest, the steady beat of his heart lulling her to sleep. She notices his hand, or the lack of actual one, but decides it's better not to ask; soon he drifts to sleep anyway.
It is the brightness of the morning that wakes her, and for a moment Rose can't exactly recall anything, except for the pounding in her head and a warm arm curled around her very naked waist.
But soon along with her memory comes back her sense of time. “Shit–”, and she scrambles out of bed to gather her clothes. The man stirs and half opens one of his eyes, clearly not happy about losing his warm company.
“What are you doing?” he asks, a huge yawn disrupting the end of his sentence. His eyes follow her every movement, as she pulls on her blouse and tries to fix her unruly curls.
When she turns around, she flushes inwardly. The bastard doesn't even think to cover himself, and the sight makes her doubt her reasons about why she should leave, and fast. “I'm already late for work,” it actually sounds apologetic and Rose wants to smack herself. So much for being an independent woman.
She rushes to the door, hoping to find her shoes in the hallway (and not in the street), but his voice makes her turn around once more.
“Can I call you sometime?”
Ruby drops by during her lunch break. She looks Rose up and down, before jumping onto the counter and folding her arms over her chest.
He calls her the next day to ask what a girl like her was doing in a bar like that. Rose balances her phone between her ear and shoulder and laughs, a pearly sound, as she proceeds to burn her pancakes.
The kitchen smells, and she has just wasted all of her Friday food. It's not like it isn't an emergency, (there's even a pancake sticking to the ceiling after all). “Do you know how to cook?”
“Depends on the dish, princess.” Oh, she thinks, he didn't catch my name either.
She gives him her address, and opens all the windows to get rid of the nasty smell, (then runs to her drawer in search of a matching bra).
The kitchen is a mess, to put it lightly, because Killian (she finally knows the name!) is in truth a terrible cook, and licking chocolate from her belly wasn't really the meal she thought he would prefer, but who is she to judge?
His lips taste of flour and nutella as she kisses him, soft feather-like nips and touches, as he balances her on top of him, lying in the middle of the kitchen floor. It's her own brand of fairy tale, the way they fit so strangely well, like missing puzzles – one small and bright, the other large and dark, but somehow they match, completing the picture.
“I think we need a shower though,” she says against his neck. He scratches her cheek with his stubble and she huffs playfully, small hand punching him on the shoulder. Killian just laughs, his eyes running fondly over her face.
“How big is your shower then?”
(It turns out it's large enough.)
“I really think you may die from the amount of banging you're indulging in recently,” Ruby says, pushing a cup of coffee in Rose's direction. She slides into the seat next to her friend then, lips curling into a warm smile. “But I'm actually happy for you. It sucks to be in love these days, just look at poor Mary Margaret. You're a lucky girl.”
Rose has been quite occupied with her life recently, but the great love affair of Storybrooke has been hard to miss. She feels sorry for Mary Margaret, although they don't even know each other that well. She's also sorry for Kathryn – she can't imagine how badly she must be hurting, a happy marriage or not – it's never easy to be someone's second choice.
But it isn't the only thing that worries her. She thinks about Sheriff's death and something catches in her throat. He was a good man, a proper gentleman, really dedicated to his work. He used to drop by her shop and buy some flowers for Valentine's day, and when he did, he always bought one more and presented it to her as a gift.
Killian knew him too.
He mentions it one day.
“We used to go for a beer on Fridays,” he says, bent over the carrots he's been cutting. “Not every Friday,” he quickly corrects himself as he sees her expression changing and rolls his eyes, “you know, from time to time. After work.”
Rose puts the spoon down and sets the soup on the stove. She's been meaning to ask him for a long time now, that burning question which bubbles in her chest every time he leaves in the morning to “get things done”. It worries her, if only a little.
“What exactly do you do?”
He doesn't answer, concentrating instead on cutting the carrots into perfectly even pieces. When he's finished he throws them into the pot with utmost care.
Rose just stands there, waiting.
“I didn't want to make you upset, petal” he says finally, his prosthetic hand lying still on the table top. Rose watches him silently with her brows furrowed, but she doesn't make a move in case it scares him off. “I work for Regina. Nothing too hard though. I make contracts for her, deal with the paperwork, though I usually stay at the hospital and manage the place. You know, most times Whale is the only company I get all day.” He doesn't smile then.
Rose turns his words over in her head, moves them around and tries to uncover the hidden bits. It feels off, his story, doesn't fit him at all.
“Why?” is her only question. She is not reprimanding, nor is she disappointed. There is a tinge of worry in her voice instead, as she looks into his blue eyes and searches for the answers his lips deny her.
“I don't really know,” he says with a sigh. “When I was finished with college and looking for a job, I sort of bumped into her. She said she could give me a job, and I should accept it if I knew what was good for me. “ He pauses for a while, flexing the fingers of his left hand. “She said there is someone in this town who wants to see me hurt. And that she can protect me from that.”
Rose blinks, the idea of Regina trying to protect someone too alien and ridiculous for her to acknowledge.
She takes a few steps in his direction, hand outstretched in search of his. When she finds it, she plants a feather-like kiss on his palm, and his eyes brighten like the morning sky. She doesn't care what he does, she realizes then, nor does she ever wish to change him.
He dreams of the sea – she can hear it in the soft, whisper-like breaths he takes, in the muttered words, she can see it in the longing in his eyes. It feels fitting for him to be a sailor, she thinks, although she can't quite point out why exactly. If she mentions it, he just ruffles her hair and kisses her forehead, as if she were an imaginative little girl with her head in the clouds.
“You should be a princess,” he says, fingers combing through her hair, as she mewls like a cat beneath him. “You're certainly beautiful enough.”
Sometimes he whispers names she doesn't recognize, but she never asks, the way she never asks about his hand.
(Rose doesn't dream.