I made up my mind
that I'm gonna let you in.
And I'm not afraid,
but I have to say:
this is gonna hurt
if it ever ends -
somehow you have shattered my defense.
This is gonna hurt -
if it ever starts -
so promise you'll be careful with my heart.
It had been a slow thing. And slow... well, it wasn't her thing.
Sure, the thing with Walsh had been slow. But that wasn't her. It might have been "real" in that it wasn't a false memory implanted by a well-meaning formerly Evil Queen. But those false memories, they made her someone she wasn't. Take away the pain of giving up Henry, of living without him for a decade, and Emma Swan was an entirely different creature. Sure, many things about her remained the same: strong, determined, snarky. She'd still been abandoned by her parents and put in jail for a crime she didn't commit. But falsifying those years with Henry turned her into someone she didn't recognize. Someone who would take a date with a furniture salesman and keep him around because he was nice and seemed to like her son.
The Emma of actual reality, the one who lived every painful moment and felt every minute of loss - she was nothing but fast. She was zero to sixty with Neal, of course. Then once that blew up, and he never showed for her in Tallahassee, well, then she just went the opposite direction. Not straight to love, no. Love was the enemy. But she could go from "nice to meet you" to "fuck me harder" in about an hour.
(And thank you, good night in about an hour more.)
But with Killian - Captain fucking Hook - it had been incredibly slow. And quite the long journey, too (Most relationships don't start with tied to a tree and knife to his throat).
He was the enemy to start. Then a reluctant comrade. Then the enemy again, but one who seemed to be losing on purpose for her benefit? Which, you know, doesn't really have a name.
Once they made it to the same team, officially - once they were both fully committed to Operation Save Henry - well, that's when she was lost.
It was the little things. An encouraging smile. A sip of rum. An obnoxious flirty joke to break the tension thick as the Neverland humidity.
And the big things. Helping to save Henry. Saving David. Now helping out with the Wicked Witch even though he certainly has far, far better things to do...
At one point she'd been annoyed by his presence near her. And slowly, so very slowly - so gradually she didn't really even notice - she started to miss him when he wasn't there.
Even before Neal was... gone - even before they'd left Neverland, even... she'd known. There wasn't a choice to be made because her heart had long already made it, without any consultation from her head.
But now she was thinking clearly again. She had her memories, she had her son, and she couldn't ignore the dozens if not hundreds of times that Killian Jones had made her life... better.
She loved a cartoon pirate. Her parents were Disney royalty and her son's grandfather was both a beast and an imp and she loved a man she'd previously known for his curly hair and waxed mustache.
She'd made up her mind. She was going to let him in.
When I win your heart, Emma - and I will win it ... it will be because you want me.
Like he was far too often, he'd been right. Her heart chose him and now her head was, too.
It was a risk, obviously. Everyone she'd ever known had hurt her. Or she'd hurt them, you know, preemptively.
Killian is different. He's not going to hurt you.
It had been a long, sleepless night that led to this ... revelation? Decision? Whatever you call it, it had been the product - or cause? - of insomnia. And somehow it still felt right.
The air was chilly on her walk to the Mayor's house. They were trying something, apparently, to figure out this whole Evil Queen and Wicked Witch are Sisters thing. Hook would be there - Killian - and as had been their routine as of late, they likely would then spend the rest of the day working together.
(He'd been right about them making a good team, too.)
Was she going to be weird around him now? What would this change? But digging deep into her gut, she didn't feel worry or awkwardness. She finally felt... freedom.
She didn't need false memories to find happiness and stability. She didn't need to erase the bad to find the good.
Everything that's ever happened to Emma Swan has made her exactly who she is. The best version of her.
And as bat-shit crazy as it would sound to any rational human being not from Storybrooke, Maine - and to so many past versions of Emma herself - she'd found her complement in Killian Jones, Captain Hook, cartoon pirate and former villain of the Enchanted fucking Forest.
The Princess and the Pirate... well maybe it wasn't the craziest thing she'd ever heard, but none of those stories were quite like hers.
And maybe sometime soon they'd start their own.
(Even though it certainly had already begun.)