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Between the Daylight and the Deep Sea

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While he drove home, Killian glanced continuously between Emma, chewing her lip in the passenger seat beside him, and the rear view mirror, where he could see Ian in the back, leaning against Evie's car seat with his eyes half-closed. The boy's face had been scrubbed clean by the nurse that stitched his forehead closed, but he had the beginnings of a black eye and a fresh spot of bright red blood already stained the bandage on his temple.

Killian's grip tightened on the steering wheel. Suspicion brewed in his mind. He desperately wanted to ask Ian what had happened in the woods, desperately wanted to confirm his own speculations, to decide which emotions to focus on—fury and bloodlust or just pity and heartache—but he forced himself to refrain.

Now wasn't the time. Ian needed to rest and recover. The truth could wait.

Strangling his young brother-in-law could wait.

They pulled up to the house just before midnight. Five fat Jack-o'-lanterns with ghoulish, flickering faces sat on the porch steps; the only other light was coming from the kitchen windows, which Killian hoped meant that Belle had managed to get the girls to sleep.

Ian shrugged off Killian and Emma's helping hands and staggered ahead of them up the sidewalk. Emma hovered, clearly wanting to assist, clearly hesitant to upset whatever delicate balance was keeping Ian awake and on his feet.

Killian was right behind, ready to catch Emma in case she had to catch Ian.

They all stepped over the screaming doormat at the base of the stairs and ducked beneath the veil of fake cobwebs that shrouded the porch. A giant black spider with purple-and-orange striped legs hung from the eaves at the top of the steps; normally it shook and its eyes lit up whenever it sensed motion, but now it was silent—Belle must have turned it off, likely for Evie's sake, as the poor lass was rather frightened of it. Apparently it hadn't managed to scare away any of the trick-or-treaters, however, as the candy bowl on the landing that Killian nudged aside with his foot was empty.

Ian opened the front door and went through. Inside, they were greeted both by the dog and by the sight of Belle reading at the kitchen table.

"I'm fine, Bonny," Ian told the dog, who was whining and licking his fingers. She whuffled in what sounded like disagreement, and Ian turned his hand over to scratch the wiry fur beneath her chin.

Belle rose from the table and walked swiftly over. She had her fussing face on, a face Killian had learned the hard way not to get in the way of. He sidestepped Belle, mumbled, "I'm going to check on the girls," to Emma, and slipped upstairs to the second floor.

The hallway was dark and hushed, lit only by the muted glow of nightlights issuing from beneath two of the bedroom doors. To all outward appearances, it was a normal night at the Jones house, the sort of night that soothed Killian's soul and filled him to the brim with contentment.

He felt a heaviness lifted from his shoulders—he knew it was only temporary, but he embraced it nonetheless.

He padded silently to Jackie's room, footsteps muffled both by the carpet and from much practice, and eased the door open. He almost didn't see Jackie at first, so large was the pink stuffed dolphin that lay beside her; it was longer than she was tall, and her arms just barely fit around its middle. She was still in her skeleton costume, and her blonde hair was knotted around her head in a very obviously un-brushed tangle, but she was asleep.

Smiling to himself, Killian closed the door, and turned back down the hallway towards Evie's room. She slept in what had been her nursery and Ian and Jackie's nurseries before that. She was also asleep, snuggled beneath her comforter on her toddler-sized bed, pacifier in mouth and cheek pressed against a plush mermaid doll.

Reassured that two-thirds of his children were safe and sound and not concussed, Killian started to close the door, but Evie's soft voice broke the silence.

"Dada?"

Killian stepped fully into the room. "Aye, lass?"

Her face was turned towards him, her big green eyes bright even in the dim room. One of her hands appeared from beneath the blanket to pluck the pacifier from her mouth.

"Where's momma?"

Of course.

Evie was, through-and-through, a momma's girl.

Killian went to her bed and knelt beside it. "She's downstairs, little love," he said. "You'll see her in the morning. Now go back to sleep."

Evie nodded, replaced her pacifier, and obediently closed her eyes. Killian remained there for a few minutes, humming and stroking his fingers along her brow and cheek and through the short, dark curls of her hair until she was clearly fast asleep again, then he stood and returned downstairs.

The heaviness settled over him once more, growing more oppressive with every step.

Ian and Emma were in the kitchen now. They had left their shoes and coats in the entrance hall, but Belle was still fussing over Ian as if he was a puppy someone had kicked—Ian was wise enough to let her do it, but Killian could see his son was in need of some rescuing.

He shed his stealthy tread and stepped loudly into the kitchen. Heads turned as he stripped off his jacket and slung it over the back of a chair, then started unbuttoning his cuffs.

Ian watched him, expression tired but wary. The spot of blood on his bandage was larger, and it sparked twin embers of anger and grief inside Killian.

Gone were the days when he could protect Ian from the world, apparently.

"Upstairs, lad," he said. "Time for bed."

Ian's eyes flickered downwards, then he nodded and trooped out of the kitchen, Bonny at his heels, his arm brushing Killian's lightly on his way past.

"Your mother and I will be up there in a few minutes to check on you," Killian added, softly. It wasn't a threat, as it had been when Ian was 4 and Killian ordered him up to bed so he and Emma could have a moment's peace; it was meant to be comforting.

Killian listened to Ian's footsteps as the lad trotted up the stairs and went directly to his room, then he returned his attention to the kitchen.

"What happened?" Belle asked, arms folded over her stomach, hugging her elbows tightly.

"We don't know exactly," Killian said, glancing at Emma. "He told us they were at the hollow past the Wishing Well and that he accidentally fell down one of the slopes, but..."

"But we think there's more to the story than that," Emma finished for him.

Belle nodded. "Do you want me to ask Enzo what happened?"

Killian and Emma shared another look, a lengthy one, and then Killian said, "I'd like to give Ian the chance to tell us the truth first—but if he doesn't then yes, I'd like to hear Enzo's side of the story."

"Ok. I'll talk to him in the morn—actually, I'm sure he's sitting up at home waiting for me so he can tell me everything now."

A smile tugged at Killian's lips. His godson was like that.

It wasn't that Enzo was a telltale, it was just that Enzo wasn't as stubbornly prideful as Ian, who'd rather seethe in silence than tell either Emma or Killian that Neal had stolen one of his toys or sucker punched him in the hallway at school.

Enzo's only loyalty was to Ian, and there was no inconvenient blood-relation getting in the way of him hating Neal Nolan with every fiber of his being.

Killian and Emma saw Belle out to her car, thanked her for taking care of the girls, then went back inside the house.

Without needing to be asked, Emma walked straight to the cabinet where Killian kept his rum stash, pulled the bottle down off the shelf, and poured some into a glass.

"Thank you, love," Killian sighed as he took it from her.

Her response was a kiss on his cheek.

"I'm going to go look in on the girls," she said, her hand lingering on his shoulder, her eyes steady on his.

"I'm right behind you, Swan. I just need a moment."

She nodded and went upstairs. Killian watched her until she was out of sight, then he sipped the rum slowly, savoring the sharp bite on his tongue and down his throat, relishing the way it burned his stomach, willing it to quench the anger boiling there.

He was fairly certain he knew what Enzo would tell Belle. He remembered the lad's face in the woods, the cutting glares at Neal, the pointed looks at Killian—he'd wager the Jolly Roger that whatever had happened to Ian, Neal was the cause.

Killian finished the remainder of his rum in one long pull, then he put the glass in the sink and followed Emma.

---

He sat in Ian's room overnight, perched in the absurd saucer chair he and Emma had bought Ian for one of his birthdays. It usually functioned as a dirty laundry receptacle, a halfway house for socks and underwear and t-shirts on their way to the hamper standing an entire two feet to the left.

Emma slept in their bed, but she appeared every two hours to observe while Killian gently shook Ian awake and asked him a few simple questions.

"Who am I?"

"Dad."

"How old are you?"

"Ten."

"What's your dog's name?"

"Bonny."

Bonny, having heard her name, would wag her tail from where she lay at the foot of the bed with her upper body draped over Ian's legs until Emma reached down and scratched her neck.

After Killian asked his questions he'd lay his hand over Ian's forehead and feel for a fever. By the time he'd pull his hand away, Ian was always already asleep again. He'd then shoo Emma away, back to their bed to go get some rest, watching the glow of the cell phone she clutched in her hand drift down the hallway until it disappeared into their bedroom before he returned to the saucer chair.

Killian himself drifted in and out of sleep, soothed by the usual noises the house made in the night, the natural creaks and groans of its wooden frame, the hum of warm air issuing from the vents, and the faint droning of the refrigerator.

Near dawn, he was brought sharply back to wakefulness by another sound—the sound of Ian muttering.

"Hello?"

Killian blinked and was about to respond before he realized Ian wasn't talking to him, but to something in his dream.

"Hello?" Ian repeated.

Bonny lifted her head and started growling. Killian felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise; a chill crawled down his spine, like the caress of an icy finger.

Ian sucked in a shuddering breath. "Who's there?"

The dog's growls deepened, a sound that made it feel as if the air itself was trembling. Ian twitched, huffed out several rapid breaths.

"Who—AARRGH!"

Killian jolted to his feet and crossed the room in a single bound. He dodged Ian's flailing arms and took him by the shoulders, shaking him hard until he stopped thrashing and his eyes flew open.

"Da-" Ian started, then stopped, gaze darting to the side, past Killian. His eyes widened, and his body became rigid beneath Killian's hands. "No," he said hoarsely.

A flash of red in the corner of his vision, Killian turned—but there was nothing between him and the closet aside from the saucer chair and several piles of dirty laundry.

"It was just a dream, lad," he said, turning back to Ian and laying a hand lightly on his brow, careful to avoid touching the bandage. Ian's eyes flickered back to Killian's. "You're fine now. I'm here."

Ian stared up at him for a long moment, then said, "I saw a ghost."

"There're no ghosts in here, lad. Just you and me."

"No, I mean in the woods."

Killian frowned. "You saw a ghost in the woods?"

"Yea. Right before I fell. He had a wolf."

"A ghost man with a ghost wolf?"

"No. The wolf was real."

"There's a wolf in the woods?"

"Dad, you're missing the point: there was a ghost!"

Killian shook his head. "Frankly, I'm more concerned about the wolf." An animal like that running wild was a danger to the hikers, bird watchers, and fool children that frequented the forest.

Ian narrowed his eyes. "You don't believe me," he said.

"I do believe you, Ian."

"You don't believe me about the ghost," Ian clarified.

Killian sighed. "I do, actually." He wished he didn't, but he does; he's never seen a ghost before, but he's seen far too much else for him to truly doubt their existence. "I believe you, lad, I just don't see the point in discussing it right now while you're lying in bed with a concussion."

"But-"

"But nothing," Killian said firmly. "You're hurt. You need to rest and recover, and unless you're telling me it was the ghost that caused you to fall..."

He trailed off, gave Ian an opportunity to contradict him, but Ian only pressed his lips together.

"Then the ghost can wait," Killian concluded.

Bonny crept forward then and laid down at Ian's side, nuzzling her head into the circle of his arm. It seemed to signal an end to their conversation, though Killian couldn't be certain if Bonny was telling him that, or Ian.

"How do you feel?" Killian asked.

Ian grimaced, but said, "Fine."

"Do you have a headache?"

"Yea."

"I'll be right back. Get comfortable."

Killian left Ian's bedroom and headed down the hallway. He passed silently through his and Emma's room to the master bathroom to fetch the bottle of children's Tylenol from the medicine cabinet and the First Aid kit from the drawer. He kissed Emma on his way out, lightly so as not to wake her, then got a glass of water from the kitchen and returned to Ian's room.

Ian was sitting up in bed, a candy bag in his lap and a Kit-Kat hanging out of his mouth.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" Killian growled.

"What? I wanted my candy," Ian said, around the Kit-Kat.

"And you thought you should use magic to get it? While you have a concussion?" Killian thundered, his blood pressure rising. "What are the rules?"

"Magic is for emergencies only," Ian recited, completely unruffled by Killian's furious scowl. "Dad, this was an emergency."

The pounding in Killian's ears increased as curses began rocketing around the inside of his skull.

He loved his son. He would do anything for him; he was willing to die for him the moment Emma confirmed that she was pregnant; he would kill to protect him.

But sometimes his son was a complete idiot.

"Want one?" Ian asked, holding up a fun-size Snicker's bar.

A complete idiot with zero sense of self-preservation, Killian amended.

"Give it here," he grumbled, and snatched the candy bar from Ian's hand.

---

After Killian changed Ian's bandage—gently scrubbing away the dried blood encrusting the stitches while Ian glared fixedly at the wall—he gave Ian a dose of children's Tylenol and tucked him back into bed.

Ian was asleep again within minutes, though some traces of the pain Killian had just caused him lingered in the tightness of his mouth, the way he clutched Bonny to his side like an oversized stuffed animal.

Killian collapsed into the saucer chair, eyes closing, the image of Ian's stitches—thick black thread, puckered skin—floating behind his eyelids.

His stomach twisted.

A concussion wasn't a monster Killian could fight. It wasn't a scraped knee or a broken arm or even a shattered collarbone.

It was far bigger than that. Far scarier than that. It was possible brain damage. It was personality changes, memory and concentration problems, permanently affected balance and reflexes, irritability, mood swings, depression.

It wasn't a bump on the road, it was a fork in the path.

A quiver passed down his arms and he gripped the rim of the saucer chair to prevent the shaking from spreading.

He couldn't think that way. They didn't know any of that yet. They didn't know how bad the concussion was or what the long-term effects—if any—would be.

Whale had examined Ian thoroughly and pronounced him fit to be discharged. He hadn't even ordered any further tests or scans, just ample rest and children's Tylenol for the pain.

Ian could come out of this completely fine.

Killian opened his eyes, and was met with the green-eyed stare of his five-year-old; Jackie was standing in the doorway, a tiny skeleton with bare feet and a nest of blonde hair knotted around her head and shoulders, trailing her old yellow-striped baby blanket behind her like a flag captured from a conquered vessel.

"Hey there, lass," Killian whispered. "Everything okay?"

In answer, Jackie trotted over and climbed into his lap. Killian held his breath until her sharp knees and sharper heels had safely settled, then helped her cover herself with her blanket and rested his arms around her.

She leaned into his chest. "Is Ian okay?"

"Aye, he is. He just hurt his head. He'll be fine."

She nodded. Her feet swung idly back and forth, and one of her hands fiddled with a button on his vest. He hadn't changed his clothes at all. He probably smelled horrible, and he was certain there were crumbs from Evie's enormous chocolate chip cookie still in his pockets. Jackie didn't seem to mind, however.

They stayed that way while the sun rose, painting the room with bold strokes of orange and gold. Killian dozed, waking intermittently to check that Jackie was still there and that Ian was still asleep.

Emma awoke later, the sound of her opening Evie's bedroom door  rousing Killian.

"You up, babe?" Emma asked.

Evie's response was too soft for Killian to hear.

"Do you have to go to the bathroom?"

Another quiet reply from Evie that Killian couldn't discern.

"Alright, grab some undies."

Emma held out her hand, and a moment later Evie appeared in the hallway clutching a pair of toddler-sized underwear; she took Emma's hand and followed her to the bathroom.

Killian listened to Emma and Evie talking, Emma asking questions in a calm, even tone and Evie replying in sentences that, to an untrained ear, sounded like an alien language but were 100% comprehensible to Killian and Emma.

After the toilet flushed and while the sink was running, Emma leaned out of the bathroom doorway and flashed a diaper and a thumbs-up at him, meaning the diaper was dry—Evie was mostly potty-trained, but they still put her in a Pull-Up during the night just in case.

Killian grinned, and Emma disappeared back into the bathroom.

It was amusing, the way fatherhood could change a man. For instance, never once in his life had he imagined that one day someone would show him a dry diaper and he'd feel proud.

Emma exited the bathroom with Evie on her hip. She walked over to Killian and leaned down—Evie leaned farther, arms opening to wrap around Killian's face, her cheek landing on his forehead and snuggling into it.

Killian chuckled. "Good morning, little love."

She squeezed his head affectionately and said, "Dada."

"How's Ian?" Emma asked, and Evie's weight disappeared from around his head as Emma hefted her back onto her hip.

"He's alright," Killian said. "I changed his bandage a few hours ago and gave him some Tylenol. We talked for a little bit. He seems coherent."

"Okay. Good."

She leaned down again, and this time it was a curtain of golden hair that fell over his shoulders. He raised the arm not pinned beneath Jackie and buried his fingers in the wavy locks, inhaling deeply. It calmed him, her closeness, the warmth of her body, the floral scent of her soap.

"I'm going to go make pancakes," she said.

"Mm, sounds good."

"Do you want me to take Jackie?"

"No, love. She's fine here. Let her sleep."

"Alright, I'll call you when breakfast's ready."

Killian rested his cheek atop Jackie's head, her hair tickling his nose, and closed his eyes again.

---

He went to the woods in the afternoon.

He traced the boys' path easily, straight to the hollow, straight to the slope Ian fell down. His feet carried him to the bottom, where a large rock with a splash of dried blood on it stood. He knelt and touched the rock, warm from the sun, then looked back up the slope—and froze.

A wolf stood on the ridge where Killian himself had stood only moments before.

It was a massive creature, white and gray and with one gleaming red eye.

Killian stared. The wolf stared back. And then...it left. It turned and padded away, disappearing silently into the forest, not even giving Killian a chance to worry if he was about to be eaten.

It was several long minutes before Killian regained control of his body and was able to move again, and when he did he bolted straight up the slope and out of the woods as fast as he could.

---

Killian wanted to tell Emma about the wolf, but he walked into his home to find his kitchen crowded with several more people than usual.

Mary Margaret was sitting at the table, her chair pulled back to accommodate her pregnant belly. David stood at his wife's shoulder, his arm along the backrest of her chair, his posture tense.

Killian couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his mother-in-law not sitting down. It had been months, he thought, ever since she lost one of the twins and Dr. Whale put her on bed rest. The sight of her, the knowledge of what she'd been through, of all the hopes and dreams that rested upon the shoulders of the daughter she now carried...

It made Killian's heart ache.

He wished she wasn't here; he wished he could deal with Neal and whatever had happened between him and Ian without Mary Margaret, because Killian was done being kind to the boy, he was done making excuses for him and the way he treated Ian, he was done letting his behavior slide because he was both a child and Emma's little brother.

Neal sat beside his mother, head bowed and shoulders hunched as if he knew what was coming.

Ian was in the chair across from Neal. The smudge of a bruise that had started in the corner of his eye had spread, a mottled blue-black smear that reached all the way to his cheek bone. That eye was puffy, the other drooped tiredly.

Emma hovered near Ian, her arms folded over her stomach and her hands gripping her elbows; she was shifting her weight from side-to-side in a manner that's familiar to Killian, though he can't remember if she used to do it before they had children or if it's just her habit now after years of rocking their babies to sleep.

Bonny was next to Ian, her head in his lap, her tail brushing Emma's legs; Evie and Jackie were nowhere to be seen, so Killian assumed they were watching a movie in the den, likely with a pile of Halloween candy to keep them occupied.

Killian closed the door and went to the kitchen. David glanced at him, pressed his lips together in—not a smile, exactly, but an acknowledgement.

"As I was saying," David said. "We came here because Neal wanted to apologize."

Neal must have come clean to his parents then.

David nudged his son, and Neal lifted his dark-haired head and said, "I'm sorry."

"Fine," Ian replied tersely.

Neal didn't look surprised by Ian's reaction; Mary Margaret flinched.

"Emma..." she said.

Killian intervened before Emma could respond. "If you don't mind," he said, circling the table until he could see Neal's face, "I'd like to know exactly what Neal has to be sorry for."

"Dad, no-" Ian started, but Killian cut him off.

"Then you can go right back upstairs to bed, lad, and your uncle and I will have this conversation without you." Ian stayed where he was, so Killian turned his attention to Neal once more. "I want to hear what happened last night."

Neal raised his eyes hesitantly to Killian's. The boy looked like his mother, though he somehow managed not to resemble Emma at all. It must have been the dark hair, the oval face, and the slightly tilted eyes that gave him a sharper, more impish expression.

"Go ahead, Neal," David said. "Tell Killian what you told us."

Neal dropped his gaze again. "Me and Philip and some of the other football guys tricked Ian and Enzo into coming into the woods with us," he said, voice monotone. "Then we went ahead and hid so that we could jump out and scare them."

Killian's brow furrowed as he recalled the scene at the hollow, the disturbed pattern of the leaves, the scrapes in the exposed dirt.

"You hid near the edge of the hollow," Killian said.

"Yea. We didn't...I didn't know he'd fall down the hill."

Killian could picture it. Ian must have been standing right on the edge of the slope when Neal and his friends jumped out and frightened him; he must have moved sideways on instinct, hit the incline unbalanced, and toppled over.

Hearing Neal's confession calmed the fire burning in his gut.

It was an accident—an accident caused by a couple of thoughtless, cruel children, a crew of bullies, but an accident nonetheless.

Killian was still angry, he still wished he could do to Neal what Neal did to Ian—he wanted to pick him up, carry him into the woods, and hurl him down that same slope—but it relieved him a bit to know that Neal didn't physically push Ian down the slope—which is sort of what he'd been imagining.

"This is all going to stop," Killian said.

Neal blinked and looked up with wide, startled eyes.

"The way you treat Ian," Killian explained. "It ends now."

He wanted to say more, but he wouldn't with Mary Margaret sitting there. Killian knew Neal understood, he knew David suspected, and that was enough.

Killian and Emma had made a mistake with Neal—and with Mary Margaret.

Neal always been a bit of a brat—snide comments, taunts, leaving Ian purposely out of games, breaking his toys—and Mary Margaret had always been quick to dismiss claims that her son was anything other than the sweet, courteous boy that she knew.

Killian and Emma had learned early on that Snow had blinders on when it came to her son, so they'd backed off and minded their business, dealt with Neal one-on-one.

But perhaps they shouldn't have.

Perhaps they should have pushed from the very beginning.

Perhaps instead of just sending Neal home every time he disrespected their home or their children, Emma and Killian should have brought him to David and Mary Margaret and confronted them.

Perhaps instead of coaching Ian on how to handle Neal peacefully, they should have just exposed Neal to both the school and his parents.

They should have put Ian first, unequivocally, instead of worrying over how it would strain Emma's relationship with her mother further than Neal's complaints that Emma was mean to him already had.

"Am I making myself clear?" Killian asked.

Neal nodded.

"I need to hear it."

"Yes, you're—I get it. Yes."

"Good."

Mary Margaret, David, and Neal left immediately afterwards, Mary Margaret silently and Neal as quickly as he could.

David remained, and turned to Killian and Emma in the doorway.

"She's upset. Neal-" he halted, swallowed hard. "It's been a rough couple of months."

"I understand, mate."

"We know, dad."

Mary Margaret and David had been trying to get pregnant since Evie was born. They endured a long two years of miscarriages before they tried IVF, and Killian would be an idiot if he didn't believe Neal's increasingly aberrant behavior over that time period was correlated.

"Let's talk tomorrow, okay?" David said.

"Aye."

The door clicked shut, and Emma's hand appeared on Killian's wrist. He pulled her into a hug.

"I don't think my mom's going to be talking to us for a while," she muttered, her voice muffled by his shirt.

"It'll be fine, love. She'll get over it."

He felt her sigh into his shoulder. "We should have put a stop to all this sooner."

"We tried. We just..."

They did what they thought was best.

And they were wrong.

"Yea," Emma agreed, as if she heard his thoughts. "The cat's outta the bag now though, so hopefully things will change."

"And if they don't?"

"And if they don't, then whatever happens to Neal happens. If my parents won't take responsibility for their kid and teach him to stop being such a little jerk, then I'm not going to be responsible for my kid punching their kid in the face—actually, no; I will take responsibility for that because the next time I hear that Neal was mean to Ian I'm going to give Ian permission to punch him. I don't care anymore."

"Good to know," Ian said.

Emma startled and stepped away. "I forgot he was there."

"Aye. I'm not used to him being so quiet."

Ian glowered. "I can still hear you."

"Good," Killian said, "then you'll hear this: I saw your wolf in the woods."

Ian grinned. Emma's eyes widened.

"There's a wolf in the woods?" she asked.

"Yea," Ian said. "And I saw a ghost, too—I think it was Graham."

"Graham?"

"Uh-huh. You know, the old Sheriff dude? He died-"

"I know who Graham is, I'm just...are you sure that's what you saw? The ghost of Graham Humbert?"

"Yes!"

Ian had, throughout the years, been able to sneak a look at Henry's story book often enough to glean a treasure trove of information about the town and its inhabitants; his knowledge had gaps, however. For example, he apparently knew who Graham Humbert was, but he had no clue of the significance the man held for Emma.

"Why do you think he's haunting the woods?" Ian continued, completely oblivious to his mother's frown, or the way her hand sought Killian's.

Killian caught her fingers and squeezed.

"That's enough," he said. "I told you this morning there'd be no discussion of ghosts until you recovered."

"But-" Ian started, but halted himself and bit his lip in an angry scowl before Killian could interject.

"Now, since you slept through breakfast, what would you like to eat?"

---

The rest of the day passed sluggishly. Ian wasn't allowed to watch TV or play his Game Boy or even read a book, so when he was awake Emma and Killian sat with him and kept him company.

Both of the girls understood that Ian was hurting, and both reacted in their own way: Evie brought Ian every stuffed animal she owned and placed them all very carefully on top of him as he lay in his bed, and after she'd exhausted her supply but he still seemed "sick" she borrowed some of Jackie's toys.

Jackie herself mostly stayed away, appearing every now and then only to check, presumably, that he was still alive.

"I'm not dead yet, you can't have any of my stuff," Ian grumbled on one such occasion, but Jackie had already vanished back downstairs.

When Killian went into the kitchen to refill Ian's water glass, Jackie sprinted into him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"What's wrong with Ian?" she asked, as tremulously as it was possible for Jackie to be tremulous at all.

"Ian will be alright, lass," Killian assured her, rubbing her between the shoulder blades because she did not like people playing with her hair. "He just needs some rest."

By bedtime she'd worked up the resolve to sit with Ian, and that's where Killian found her—and Evie—while he was searching the house for where the Halloween candy had mysteriously disappeared to.

"Okay, two Reese's is gonna cost you five Sour Patch Kids," Killian heard Ian say.

"Three Sour Patch Kids," Jackie countered.

"Five."

"Three."

"Four—four or I'll give the Reese's to Evie."

"Bloody hell," Killian swore, and pushed through Ian's bedroom door.

Ian and Jackie were sitting cross-legged on Ian's bed facing each other. On the blanket in front of them was all of their candy, arranged into piles. Evie was perched in Ian's lap with her pacifier in one hand and a half-eaten mini Snickers bar in the other.

"Do not give your sister candy before bed," Killian said, meaning Evie.

Ian looked up, the eyebrow not inhibited by a bandage raised. "You did," he pointed out.

"I gave her candy at 4:00."

"That's technically before bed."

"Aye, but I'm also her father and capable of making those decisions for her."

Her little round cheeks were too full for just one bite of chocolate, and there was drool all over her chin.

"How many does she have in there?" Killian asked.

Ian looked down at Evie, and then at the five Snickers wrappers around his ankles. "Uh..."

"Bed. Now."

Killian reached over Jackie and plucked Evie from Ian's lap while Jackie shoveled her candy back into her candy bag; she darted from the room before Ian could notice she'd escaped with his two Reese's.

"Goodnight," Killian said pointedly, and waited until Ian was laying down before he turned out the light and then took Evie to the bathroom to fish out whatever was in her mouth. After she'd spit at least three Snickers worth of goo into his waiting palm he cleaned her up and put her in bed.

Forty-five minutes, two stories, and a lullaby later both girls were asleep and Emma and Killian were finally crawling into their own bed.

Killian collapsed into the mattress gratefully, not even bothering to pull the blankets over himself. Emma fell next to him and rolled until she was tucked against his side with her head on his shoulder and her hand over his heart.

"Hey, Killian?"

"Mm."

"That thing about Graham's ghost being in the woods? I want to look into that."

Killian opened his eyes. "We will, love," he said. He lifted one hand to her cheek and ran his knuckles lightly along her skin, from brow to chin. He held her gaze until she closed her eyes and nodded, snuggling her face into his t-shirt.

"Do you think you'll be able to sleep?" she asked.

His answer was a grunted laugh.

He set a timer on his phone for two hours, and then he closed his eyes.


Ian woke up afraid. His room was dark, the house was silent. He sat up and looked around.

His body was on the bed, fast asleep. Everything was drained of color, which was the norm when this happened, and it was cold. Ian sighed. He'd never liked this place and he liked it even less now that he'd visited it while unconscious.

He started to get out of bed to go look for some way to entertain himself until his body woke up when he noticed the door.

It wasn't his bedroom door or his closet door, it was the red door—the red door he'd seen at the hollow.

It stood in the center of his room, and it was open.