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Die Another Day, Another Way

Chapter Text


Carefully leaving the cover of the trees, Emma glanced up at the mountain she was faced with climbing. The sun overhead told her it was around noon, that she had about four to five hours of daylight left before the sun set, and that her job would become much harder after night fell.

She hadn't told her mother or Aurora where she had gone, only confiding in Mulan that she was going off by herself to search for the compass that would help them get back to their home in Storybrooke. She didn't tell Mary Margaret, knowing that she wouldn't let her go alone, especially after witnessing the destruction of the refugee camp that Cora had left behind, leaving no survivors.

Sometimes Emma still had a hard time believing that Mary Margaret, her roommate in Storybrooke, was actually her mother, the woman who she had been looking for for twenty-eight years, let alone Snow White.

She also found it hard to believe that she was about to scale a mountain so she could find a compass amongst treasure that belonged to Mr. Gold, who turned out to be the sorcerer Rumplestiltskin, that was guarded by a dragon.

She was happy that she at least had a sword with her, remembering how useless her gun had been when she had had to face off against Maleficent for a golden egg.

She often found herself wondering when she had perpetually stepped into a Disney movie.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward, knowing she had a long, hard journey ahead of her. The mountain itself wasn't too massive, but knew she had to move if she wanted to reach where the lair was supposed to be before dusk, especially if she wanted to catch the dragon during daylight hours when it was hopefully asleep.

She just hoped that dragons were nocturnal.

The cooler air made the trek bearable, preventing her from overheating in her leather jacket. The earth was smooth but solid beneath her feet, allowing for an easier climb without fear of slipping or falling.

The whole time she scaled the surface, she thought of Henry back in Storybrooke, using the motivation to keep moving up the mountain.

Taking only a few breaks as she went, she was relieved the sun was still out by the time she reached the massive opening to the cave. Lit torches lined the walls, giving the cave an amber glow.

Carefully, she studied the entrance, seeing it deserted. She stepped inside as quietly as she could, her eyes strained for any movement, her hand resting on her sword to draw it at a second's notice.

About twenty steps in, she stopped, noticing what looked like ancient remains, burned armor still covering old bones. Stepping forward, she stopped suddenly, her eyes zeroing in on the dark ground, barely lit by the flames of the torches.

A single tripwire stretched across the stone floor, hidden in shadow.

Crouching down, Emma examined it and the placement of the bodies, realizing the wire had set off a trap, triggering whatever had burned the people who had previously tried to come through.

Stepping over, she tentatively began descending back into the cavern, alert to anything that could lead to more traps.

As she passed more fallen bodies due to traps, everything from sinking stones to more tripwires, she couldn't help but wonder why the Dark One would set traps for a treasure guarded by a dragon.

She also noticed the deeper she got in, the less fallen remains rested, meaning less and less people managed to get so far into the cave. As she walked without passing any bones or evidence of anyone, she grew nervous, wondering what traps were set that she couldn't see.

Finally seeing a brighter point of light ahead, she felt herself pick up the pace, at almost a full run by the time she finally reached the entrance, not meeting any hidden traps.

She stepped into a massive cavern, her breath leaving her as she took in the copious piles of gold and trinkets strewn around. More of the lit torches decorated the walls, illuminating the treasures and making the whole room shine gold. What looked like a separate cavern laid further beyond.

Taking one glance around the room and seeing it empty, she quickly lurched forward, intent on searching for the compass she needed.

Hearing a deep rumble, she froze, her head snapping up in alarm.

Just as she stepped back and drew her sword, a large dark mass emerged from the separate cavern, stopping until it stood about twenty feet from her.

The dragon towered over her, most of its body black save the dark red underbelly and membrane of its wings. Onyx horns jutted from its head, with matching spikes running the length of its spine. Its eyes were a bright blue, a color that strangely made her think of the sea. Dark metal cuffs decorated its wrists, resembling manacles, but lacked chains.

Its chest didn't glow as Maleficent's did when it roared, giving Emma the hope that it didn't breathe fire.

Taking an involuntary step back, she tightened her grip on her sword.

"Why are you here?" a deep baritone voice asked her. "What are you here to steal?"

Emma felt herself nearly fall over in shock, realizing the dragon was talking to her, but she didn't see its mouth move.

"I'm looking for something to get back home," she said, quickly recovering and wondering why she thought it was wise to be speaking with a huge animal that was clearly prepared to attack and kill her despite it acting so human.

The dragon growled. "Why should I let some thief steal from what I guard?"

"Because it's important I get back," she responded.

"So?" it asked, spreading its wings before pulling them back against its body. "Why should I show you any forgiveness when I've received none myself?"

Thrown, she shook her head, confused as to the dragon's statement but chose to ignore it. "Because I have someone to get back to."

The dragon cocked its head, bright blue eyes examining her. "You have a child waiting."

Shocked, Emma staggered, unable to understand how the beast before her could have known.

"Maybe you shouldn't have left them in the first place," it continued, wearing a smug expression.

Feeling anger rise up, she raised her sword, pointing it towards where she guessed the dragon's heart should have been.

The creature didn't say anything else, merely stood there, waiting.

"I'm not gonna let you keep me from getting back," she seethed.

"Then do what you came here to do," it mocked her. "Don't hold back on my account, love."

Irritated at the dragon's pet name, she quickly moved to the side to attack.

It snapped at her, revealing large razor sharp fangs, missing her as she continued to run around it.

The dragon reared back as she moved to strike at it, avoiding the blow as it snapped its jaws again.

Despite easily avoiding her attacks and acting like it was going to retaliate, it never actually landed an attack of its own.

Emma quickly realized the dragon was teasing her, playing with her to egg her on.

The dragon suddenly halted all movement, its eyes wide before it quickly turned and disappeared into the other cavern, faster than she had seen it move previously.

Frozen in shock at its sudden movements, Emma stood still for a moment before following, tightening the grip on her sword.

She thought she heard something like the snapping and crunching of bones as she neared, growing louder as she crept into the cavern. She was met with silence as she reached the corner.

Taking a deep breath to prepare herself, she quickly turned the corner to meet the dragon, only to see it wasn't there.

Instead of more treasures, it looked more like a type of living quarters. A crude cot rested against a wall, with a small trunk for what looked like clothes beside it with a charcoal portrait of a woman pinned on the wall above. A couple of items rested on the chest, but she couldn't make out what they were. Books littered the area beside the cot and trunk, more than Emma could imagine reading in her lifetime. A single table rested against the wall, holding what looked like items used for grooming in the realm and a mirror.

On the opposite wall were scratched that she realized were tally marks, tens of thousands of lines marking the wall.

The cavern was deserted, save her and a single man that stood alone in the center.

"Hey," she called, striding forward to the man, wondering if the dragon was holding him there.

He didn't turn until she was only about ten feet away from him, allowing her to fully see him in the torchlight.

He was taller than her, his body fit and strong, even hidden beneath his clothes. He wore mostly black, the garments consisting of a loose linen shirt, leather trousers, and boots. The only splash of color he wore was the blood red silk brocade waistcoat. The shirt and waistcoat were buttoned low, exposing a generous smattering on dark chest hair. Dark hair fell over his forehead, with gingery scruff enhancing his strong jaw. A single black stone decorated his right ear, the rest of his jewelry composed of various rings and a necklace with charms Emma couldn't make out. He had very elegant, attractive features, but was still masculine, undeniably male.

He looked up at her with kohl lined eyes, making Emma start when she saw his were the same brilliant blue as the dragon's.


Chapter Text

Emma drew her sword up as she neared closer, pointing it towards the man's throat as he calmly stood there, watching her.

"Who are you?" she asked in a hard voice, keeping her sword raised.

The man sighed, speaking in a voice that matched the voice of the dragon. "Killian Jones, the reluctant guardian of Rumplestiltskin's treasures."

"Reluctant?" she questioned, raising a single brow.

"I'm not here by choice," the man, Killian, replied. "The bloody Crocodile cursed me and put me in here as a guard dog."

She narrowed her eyes at him in suspicion. "For being here so unwillingly, you sure seemed eager to attack."

He smirked, completely at ease despite the sword still held at his throat as he threw his arms out to gesture to the cavern. "Love, you're the first person I've had here in my humble abode since I was confined in here besides the Crocodile. Thankfully, his visits stopped a while ago. I do apologize for my behavior, but I haven't been around anyone for a very long time."

Lowering the blade slightly, Emma darted her eyes to the marks on the wall before looking back at Killian.

"How long have you been in here?" she asked, slightly horrified as she took in how many marks were there, dropping her sword further.

He sighed, his voice taking on a defeated tone. "I'm not exactly sure. I stopped keeping track after about a hundred and twenty years."

Emma felt her heart break for him, as well as had more questions forming. "How is that possible? And why did he even curse you?"

Killian's expression darkened. "Because his wife loved me. She left him to be with a pirate, so he killed her and cursed me to become a dragon every day. Part of the curse is immortality."

She lowered the sword completely, her mouth agape in shock and awe. "Why don't you just leave?"

He raised his hands, pulling back his sleeves to reveal smaller versions on the braces he wore as a dragon.

"These prevent me from leaving this lair," he told her. "I can't remove them. But that's why Rumplestiltskin set up all of those traps to keep everyone out, so that I would be completely alone."

Remembering how he had stopped as they fought before he escaped to change, she looked over at him curiously, knowing his transformations weren't be choice.

"How often do you... change?" she asked.

"Every dawn and dusk I would guess, judging by how long I seem to spend in each form," he told her.

Picturing the pawnbroker from Storybrooke, she knew Gold wasn't the most honorable of men, but couldn't understand how he could be so cruel.

She knew what he was saying was completely crazy, but her superpower was quiet, not sensing any deception from him. He was telling her the truth.

"I'm sorry," she said, not knowing anything else she could say.

She had only just met Killian, but she understood him, understood being alone.

"It's not your fault," Killian responded, giving her a weak smile

Nodding, she put her sword away, knowing that despite everything, he wasn't a threat.

His smile turning brighter, he looked at her curiously. "I don't believe I ever caught your name, love."

"Emma Swan," she told him, remembering she hadn't told him her name and deciding it didn't pose a risk in telling him.

He nodded as his smile softened. "A pleasure to meet you."

She returned his smile.

Sighing, he nodded. "You said you were looking for a compass, love? To get back to your child?"

Remembering her mission, she quickly nodded. "Yeah, a gold compass. It's supposed to help navigate realms?"

"I know which you're talking about," he told her, striding forward to reenter the first cavern.

Emma quickly followed him, seeing he was passing some of the piles of treasures before stopping at one near the center.

"Plus side to being in here for so many years, is that you learn where everything is," he said proudly, pulling an object and revealing it to be the compass she was searching for.

Releasing a heavy breath of relief, she stepped up to retrieve the compass from him, hesitating suddenly, wary that he may want something in return.

He seemed to sense her hesitation, closing the distance between them and gently grasping her hand to place the compass within it.

She tried to ignore the warmth that bloomed from where his skin touched hers.

"Take it," he told her. "You need it to get back to your child, and you're going to leave here with it." He suddenly smirked. "Plus anything to get back at the Crocodile."

Wrapping her fingers around the cool metal as his hands fell away, she suddenly decided to divulge more about herself.

"I'm trying to get back to my son," she admitted.

He nodded, understanding lighting his eyes. "You don't wish to abandon him how you were abandoned."

She looked at him in shock, feeling her walls threatening to go up. "How..."

"You're something of an open book," he explained simply. "I once spent some time in Neverland. The Lost Boys all had this look in their eyes, a look you get when you've been left alone."

"Yeah, well, my world ain't Neverland," she replied, feeling her walls going up further.

"An orphan's an orphan," he said, his voice not unkind.

Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, she crossed her arms, as though it would protect herself from him.

Somehow, he understood her just as she could understand him.

Glancing up, she saw he suddenly looked sheepish, unsure of himself.

"Sorry," he muttered.

She felt another small stab of pain for the man before her. Something told her that Killian had once been strong and confident, that he had been very proud, but that over a century in isolation with no one except the occasional visit from his captor, most likely to deposit more trinkets, had turned Killian into a shell of what he once was.

Emma quickly shook her head. "Don't worry about it."

He gave her a small, tentative smile.

"You should go," he told her. "Your son will be waiting."

She knew he was right. Staying there talking to him, she knew she had lost time. She had told Mulan to give her ten hours; if she hadn't returned by then, move on no matter what Mary Margaret said. Henry was back waiting for her, the main reason she had to return home.

Giving him a small smile in return, she nodded. "I should."

Tucking the compass safely away in the pocket of her jacket, she glanced around the chamber one last time before resting her eyes back on him.

"Thank you," she said.

His grin lightened, less melancholy. "It's nothing, Swan. Good luck, though I doubt you'll need it."

Feeling her cheeks slightly pinken, she nodded one last time before turning to return to the tunnel of the cave, leaving Killian behind her.

Emma got to nearly the entrance of the cave, avoiding all of the traps on her way out as a heavy feeling grew within her, growing more with each step. She found her mind kept wandering back to the man she was leaving behind.

Suddenly knowing it was guilt that was taking over, she stopped, looking back behind her.

Killian was nothing to her, but she found she couldn't just leave him imprisoned. Her gut told her she could trust him, that he wouldn't hurt her, especially in the way she had always been hurt before by others.

She knew the pain of being left, of being alone, so she could empathize with him. She knew he didn't deserve the fate that had befallen him, to be imprisoned and to face the solitude he had had to endure.

Determined, she turned on her heel, striding back to return to where he resided. She found herself frustrated at having to deal with the traps again, but knew it would be worth it.

Stepping back into the chamber with the various treasures, she saw he had retreated further back, into what equated to his living quarters. She didn't call out, instead quietly crossing the room to find him.

She found him sitting on his cot, looking down at what Emma realized were the braces keeping him prisoner.

"Killian?" she called, drawing his attention.

He looked up in surprise, his eyes widening in disbelief. "Swan?"

He rose up to meet her half way, his expression twisting into a mask of concern. "Is everything alright?"

"I can't just leave you stuck in here," Emma said as she stood in front of him. "You said those braces are what keeps you locked up in here?"

Surprised, he nodded. "Aye. But I can't remove them."

She looked up at him, determined. "You might not be able to, but that doesn't mean someone else can't."

He nodded, a strange expression on his face.

Emma recognized it, having seen it so many times in the mirror when she had been growing up. She knew the look of being afraid to hope, only for it to slip away.

"We'll find a way to get you out," she promised.

"You don't have to promise me that, love," he said quietly.

"Do you know what they call me?" she asked him.

He looked up at her in question.

"The Savior," she told him. "That means that it's my job to save people, to restore happy endings."

"So you think I'm worth saving?" he asked her.

"You don't?" she countered.

Smirking halfheartedly, he shrugged. "Swan, I've been in here for a very long time. I have nothing left, no one."

Reaching down, she grabbed onto one of his wrists, lifting it and pulling back his sleeve to examine to cuff.

"That still doesn't mean you should be a prisoner," she retorted.

"Love, the only thing I have is revenge," he told her, his tone slightly darkening.

"Revenge?" she questioned.

"On Rumplestiltskin," he answered. "He took my love and cursed me into this existence. I can't just let that go."

She didn't know what to say. She knew if she were being honest with herself, she would be thinking about revenge if she were in his situation.

Looking at the cuffs, she ran a finger down the seam of the metal where it opened. She felt an energy coming off it, drawing her too it. Hooking her fingers beneath the metal, she tugged at it, grinning triumphantly as it pulled loose and fell from his wrist.

She met his eyes, seeing hope shining in the blue, before releasing him to remove the other metal brace.

The second falling away just as easily as the first, she looked victoriously at him, taking in his amazed expression.

"Swan," he said gratefully as he met her gaze.

She smiled. "You said that you had nothing left. But you can always come with us back to Storybrooke. You can make a new life there."

He hesitated for a moment, almost as if he didn't believe her.

Holding her breath, she waited until he nodded.

"Alright," he grinned. "Let's get the hell out of here."

He retreated to quickly grab onto a long leather coat and a few possessions and weapons, including a cutlass, before joining her again.

She couldn't help raising a brow as they passed the various treasures, watching Killian as he paused to load some handfuls of gold coins into his satchel.

"Pirate, love," he said by way of explanation. "Plus it would be a shame after all of this time in here, I didn't get something out of it from the Crocodile as compensation."

Shrugging, she sighed, knowing he had a point.

They walked out of the cavern and into the long entryway, careful of any traps, not knowing if they were still active or not because Killian was released.

Emma found that the trip seemed easier, the cave not as dark, and she wondered if it was because she wasn't alone.

Breaking free for the lair and stepping back outside, she saw the moon was high up, knowing she was hours past the time limit she had set for Mulan, and that she, Aurora, and her mother had moved on.

She made it a couple steps down before she realized her companion wasn't following her. Looking up, she saw Killian just past the entrance of the cave out in the open, gazing up at the moon and stars.

And reprimands died before she could speak, realizing that it was the first time he had been out of his prison in over a century, much less see the sky. Being a pirate, he had been a sailor, and couldn't see what used to be his guides as he sailed.

"You know, there were many nights when I was a lad and couldn't sleep, I would sneak out onto the deck of the ship I was on to look at the sky," he said quietly. "The stars were always a constant, no matter where I was. They led me to wherever I wanted. Even as I grew, I would still look to them, even if just to relax and forget everything."

Turning to look at her, his expression suddenly turned sheepish. "Sorry. I know you want to get back to finding a way back to your son."

She nodded slowly. "Yeah. I've lost a lot of time."

At his suddenly guilty expression, she quickly shook her head, wanting to assuage his guilt.

"No," she protested. "No. That's not your fault. Plus I couldn't just leave you stuck in there."

He gave her a small smile in return, one that didn't reach his eyes.

Releasing a sigh, she looked down at their path.

"We have a lot of ground we're gonna have to cover," she said, tired just thinking about it.

Killian suddenly perked up, making Emma look at him in question.

"You know, I there is another way we can get back to your group," he said, a grin stretching across his lips. "This will be my way of making up for the time you lost. How do you feel about flying?"


Chapter Text

Killian stared down Rumpelstiltskin as the imp strode around his ship, waiting for the bean he and Milah were meant to provide.

His bosun brought the thief Rumplestiltskin had sent, leading Smee onto the deck as he covertly passed the black cloth covering the magic bean to Milah.

She held it up, letting her husband see it before tossing it to Killian, who was able to easily catch it despite his injury.

"You asked to see it," he said, holding the bean tightly in his hand. "Now you have."

"Do we have a deal?" Milah asked, her gray eyes sharp as she gazed at Rumplestiltskin. "Can we go our separate ways?"

"Do you mean, do I forgive you?" he asked, pointing at her, his reptilian eyes calculating. "Can I move on? Perhaps, perhaps. I can see you are truly in love."

Milah moved closer to Killian as he spoke, watching as he paced until he turned on his heel, staring at the pair of them.

She nodded as she turned to go with Killian up to the quarter deck. "Thank you."

"Just one question," the imp interrupted.

She turned to look back at him, cautious. "What do you want to know?"

"How could you leave Bae?" he asked, pointing at her accusingly.

The wind suddenly picked up, some of the rigging coming undone, ropes flying up towards the yards.

"Do you know what it was like walking home that night," he continued.

"Rumple," she said weakly.

Even from his distance away from her, Killian could see the regret and guilt weighing on her.

"Knowing I had to tell our son his mother was dead?" Rumplestiltskin finished with a shout.

"I was wrong to lie to you," Milah yelled back. "I was the coward. I was-"

"You left him!" he yelled. "You abandoned him!"

"And there's not a day that goes by that I don't feel sorry for that," she said, her voice wavering.

Killian knew she wasn't lying, knowing that she did in fact mourn being away from her son. They knew he had been too young to live at sea, that he deserved a home on land before they took him away to be a family.

It had been the worst when she had first left, often needing to seek solitude lest her tears be seen by the crew. She had gotten better over the years, the tears less frequent, but he knew the pain never left her.

Above all, he understood why Milah had to leave, the shame and embarrassment she constantly faced in her old home, as well as how her husband took all of her choices away from her finally being too much for her to handle.

"Sorry isn't good enough!" Rumplestiltskin continued to yell before his voice grew quieter, deadlier. "You let him go."

"I let my misery cloud my judgement," she defended weakly.

"Why were you so miserable?" he asked with a snarl, suddenly in her face.

Her expression suddenly became defiant. "Because I never loved you."

Killian could tell the moment Rumplestiltskin decided to go after her, his face contorting in rage.

The rigging suddenly wrapped around his torso, lashing him to the mast, away from Milah.

With barely a warning, the Dark One plunged a clawed hand into Milan's chest, making her seize up before withdrawing it, holding her beating heart.

"Milah!" Killian yelled in horror, ripping the rigging from his torso. "No!"

He sprinted to her, catching her as she fell in pain and gently cradling her body to his.

She raised a hand, softly stroking his face. "I love you."

She gasped before going limp in his embrace, dead.

"No, no, no," he whispered, crushing pain seizing his own heart. Sorrow quickly turned to murderous rage as he addressed her husband. "You maybe more powerful now demon, but you're no less a coward."

"I'll have what I came for now," Rumplestiltskin replied, the threat in his voice clear.

Gently, Killian set Milah down on the deck, trying not to think about how he would have to bury her just as he did his brother.

Gripping the bean in his hand, he threw it onto the deck, quickly bringing the heel of his boot on top of it, destroying it.

He would rather destroy the valuable object than hand it over to his love's murderer.

"You'll have to kill me first before you get anything from me," he spit out.

Rumplestiltskin suddenly gave him a malicious grin, revealing rotted teeth. "Ah, ah, I'm afraid that's not in the cards for you, sonny boy. I want you alive because I want you to suffer like I did."

Quickly grabbing a hook from the rigging, Killian darted forward, burying it into the imp's chest.

"Killing me is gonna take a lot more than that, dearie," Rumplestiltskin cackled as he pulled the hook from his chest.

"Even demons can be killed," Killian bit back. "I will find a way."

Rumplestiltskin's smile widened as he released a chilling giggle. "I do believe I have a plan for you."

He suddenly snapped his fingers, red smoke enveloping them as a pulling sensation took over Killian's body.

As the smoke cleared, he saw he was in a large cavern, piles of gold and treasures littered throughout.

"Since you're so set on guarding your treasures, I figure you could guard mine for me, too," Rumplestiltskin said, drawing his attention.

He waved his hand, freezing Killian in place with magic, leaving him at his mercy.

"Do whatever you mean to, Crocodile," Killian snapped, finding himself almost eager as he thought of Milah. "Just get on with it."

"Well then, let's see," the imp pretended to ponder. He suddenly waved his hand, causing two metal cuffs to appear on Killian's wrists. "Those should keep you locked in here."

Killian felt confusion wash over him as he watched the man he had met so many years ago.

"Ah, now I remember what I've almost forgotten," Rumplestiltskin suddenly announced, reaching into his coat with a flourish and pulling a vial.

Striding forward, he grabbed onto Killian's left hand, using a sharp nail to tear open his wrist. He let Killian's blood pour into the vial, making the liquid's color shift from red to black.

He suddenly smashed the vial to the ground, dark red smoke rising from it as Killian suddenly doubled over, his invisible restraints free.

Excruciating pain unlike anything he had ever imagined before wracked through his body. He felt as well as heard his bones shatter, reshaping within his own body, which felt as if it were suddenly being stretched. His organs felt as if they were being crushed and reformed, reshaping themselves for a new form. He felt something tear through his skin in multiple areas, as if new bones suddenly grew from his skeleton.

He couldn't help but try to release a scream of pain before realizing no sound escaped him, his lungs burning as they were starved of air.

He didn't know how long his agony lasted before his body spasmed as the pain left him, gasping for air.

Opening his eyes, he realized his vision was different, sharper, as well as realized he could hear things he couldn't before.

Reeling back, he realized he had grown a third set of limbs, large leathery wings extending from his shoulders as well as a tail.

Panicked, he looked down at his body, the reality setting in that he was no longer human.

"What did you do to me?" he roared.

Rumplestiltskin looked absolutely deranged. "What better to guard treasures than a dragon? Now, pirate, you serve me."

His eyes flashing open as he woke, Killian shook away the old memory of how he had been cursed, his eyes traveling to the old scar that marked his wrist bearing the mark Rumplestiltskin left when he cursed him.

Looking around, he saw dawn was just about to break, knowing it was the normal time for him to wake. He had never transformed in his sleep, the process too painful to ignore.

He often wondered if waking at dawn was a leftover trait from when he was still at sea.

Quickly rising and pulling his coat back on, he quietly moved away from the small camp he had set up with Emma as fast as he could, not wanting to risk hurting her.

Reaching a good distance away, he stopped, knowing the sun was beginning to peak and his change was about to happen.

He closed his eyes as he felt the first intense wave of pain, his lungs suddenly burning with the desperate need for air. He was silent, unable to express the immense pain he was in, unable to make even the smallest of noises.

Despite how long he had been undergoing his transformations, he never got used to the pain, feeling it just as severely as the first time.

Feeling an extra set of limbs extending from his shoulders, he spread his wings out fully as he dug his claws into the earth, reveling in being free of his stone prison.

Even if he wasn't free of his curse to transform into an immortal dragon, he could still enjoy in the freedom of no longer being in a cave being used as a guard dog.

Looking around the area with his enhanced senses, he saw it was deserted except for Emma and himself. He was able to hear a few animals around that his human ears couldn't pick up, but nothing that was a threat.

He knew in his dragon form, he was more dangerous than most other threats.

Deciding to rest for the time until Emma woke, he settled down, content to wait for her.

He found himself dozing off before hearing Emma stir, suddenly awake.

He had to hold back a snort of amusement at her shocked expression at the first thing she saw in the morning was his dragon form.

"Morning, love," he said.

"Hey," she replied, her voice raspy from sleep. "You been awake long?"

"No," he answered. "Do you need a moment before we go?"

She pushed her sleep mussed hair away from her face. "It's been a while that you've had to deal with human habits in the morning, hasn't it?"

Tilting his head to the slightly, he gave her a slightly sheepish look, feeling out of place. "Sorry."

Quickly shaking her head, she looked at him, looking lost. "No, it's just... I'm not a morning person, okay? I need a minute to wake up, and I don't have any coffee."

Killian nodded, faintly remembering the drink she mentioned. Resting calmly in his spot, he watched as she woke up and began moving around, packing what little stuff they had.

"Aren't you gonna eat?" he asked curiously as she came closer to him, hooking their small pack on one of his spikes.

"Not hungry," she told him. She suddenly looked at him nervously. "Are you? What do you even eat?"

"Don't worry about me, love," he told her. "And don't worry. I don't eat people if that's what you're afraid of. The Crocodile was kind enough to magically supply me with food everyday. I can't tell you how long it's been since I've had anything except mutton."

He felt a shot of pride at her amused grin.

"Yeah, cause you can't get anymore stereotypical than a dragon eating sheep," she remarked, before looking up at him, her green eyes shining mirthfully. "At least you weren't out kidnapping virgins."

Unable to help himself, he snorted as he spread his wings on the ground, allowing her to use them as leverage should she need it.

He expression suddenly grew unsure. "Um, how do I do this? Like where do I sit?"

"Just above the wings is fine," he told her.

Nodding, she carefully climbed on, settling just at the base of his neck. He felt her shift to grip into a spike to secure herself.

"Ready, Swan?" he asked, peeking back at her.

"Yeah," she nodded.

Turning back to look up, Killian stood, feeling the powerful muscles of his wings as he began to beat them, lifting himself from the forest floor.

Despite having to maintain a death grip on one of the spikes along the ridge of Killian's back, Emma found flying exhilarating. There was freedom in traveling that way, with the wind whipping past them and nothing to hold them back. She felt Killian's powerful body move beneath her, felt the muscles of his shoulders working as he kept them elevated.

Noticing a slight change in their elevation, she kept her grip as he carefully descended, mindful of the trees until he hovered just above a glen before gracefully landing.

"I'm sorry, Swan," he said apologetically as he turned his head back to look at her. "I just need a moment."

She quickly waved off his apology, knowing what he wasn't saying.

He wasn't used to flying, having spent so long in an enclosed space. He could only last so long without a break, not used to the physical exertion.

The fact that despite that, he was working to help get her back to her mother and traveling companions warmed her. She felt guilty that he thought she would be disappointed or annoyed that he needed to rest, that she might think he wasn't doing enough.

"It's fine," she told him, giving him a reassuring smile. "Because of you, we've covered a lot of ground. I'm thinking we may reach them by nightfall."

He nodded his scaly head.

"I'm gonna see if I can scavenge something to eat," she said, moving close to the line of trees. "I'll keep close."

Leaving him to lay in the grass, she went to the cover of the trees, watching for any type of game. Part of her wondered if Killian would eat when he turned back into a human.

Using a knife taken from the lair, she was able to get a couple of fat rabbits, knowing they would do. She didn't want to end up accidentally eating Thumper, but she knew it would beat eating chimera again. She found a small lake nearby, knowing they could use it to replenish their water.

Returning back to where she left Killian, she couldn't help smiling when she saw him sunning himself, resembling a giant lizard.

"Did you find something?" he asked, lazily opening a single bright blue eye.

Nodding, she held up the rabbits. "I figure save one for later if you decide you're hungry. I know it's not much."

"Thank you," he responded.

She moved off to the side to try to start a small fire, refusing to eat her kill raw.

She noticed Killian suddenly raise his head, hearing something she couldn't.

"What's going on?" she asked, finding herself nervous.

"Something's coming," he explained, standing so quickly she barely saw the movement. "Something huge."

Before Emma could ask anything else, a large mass broke through the trees, the ogre's yells disrupting the previous quiet.

Quickly placing himself in front of her, Killian released a low warning growl, trying to alert the ogre to the more dangerous threat.

Hearing him, the ogre roared, it's blind gaze landing on him as it began to stomp forward.

"Stay behind me," Killian directed at Emma as he darted forward, ready to take on the bigger foe.

He reared up, allowing Emma to catch what looked like an orange glow coming from his chest, before his jaws snapped open, a powerful stream of flames leaving him, directed at the ogre.

Emma knew at that point how much he was mock fighting her back in his old lair, realizing he could have easily killed her.

The ogre fell back slightly before charging forward again, screaming in pain when it became close enough that Killian dug his claws into its flesh.

The ogre was able to land a blow near Killian's shoulder, making him roar in pain before quickly moving to attack again

Striking like a snake, Killian bit into the juncture of the shoulder and neck of the other creature, sinking his fangs deep into it and clamping down before drawing back to rip the flesh.

Emma backed away carefully to give Killian more room, knowing there was no way the ogre was going to survive the injury, let alone last fighting too much longer.

Blood poured from the wound as the ogre swung wildly at Killian, it's roars growing weaker. Killian reared back again slashing, making more blood pour from the ogre until it collapsed, its heavy body falling with a rumbling crash.

Seeing the fallen ogre so still, blood pooling around it, Emma knew it was dead.

Slowly, she stepped forward. "Killian?"

She felt a rush of relief when he turned, seeing he was unharmed, the only blood on him from the ogre.

"Are you okay?" she asked, suddenly worried about any injuries she couldn't see, noticing how his shoulder appeared completely healed.

"I'm fine, Swan," he told her. "What about you? Were you harmed?"

"I'm okay," she said, shaking her head. "I wasn't hurt."

She caught what looked like relief in his eyes.

Examining him closer, she saw exactly how much blood covered him, from his muzzle to his neck, even his claws. Despite his already black and red coloring, the dark blood made him look deranged, the grisly smears making him appear more menacing.

"There's a lake nearby," she said, hoping he would want to clean himself of the blood.

Taking the hint, he nodded, waiting for her to take the lead.

Emma was surprised at his easy navigation of the trees despite his size as they moved, at the ease he moved through the foliage close beside her. Breaking through the copse of trees beside the water, she hung back slightly, watching as he went ahead slightly, stepping into the water before completely submerging, only for his head to pop out of the surface. He waded back to the bank, looking back at her curiously.

"Is it all off?" he asked her.

She nodded from her spot just a few feet away from the water.

His black scales shone brightly in the sunlight, the water reflecting off of them. He shook his body slightly, water flying off him.

Watching her for a moment, he quirked his head slightly to the side, examining her.

"What?" she asked, feeling his scrutiny.

"Are you okay, Swan?" he finally asked her. "I mean seriously. Watching that..."

She quickly shook her head. "I'm fine. It's just... Watching you fight that ogre so easily, and how you were fighting me, it just made me see how much you were playing when we fought. You could have killed me so easily, and I don't get why you didn't."

Silence stretched between them as they looked at each other for a long moment before he finally spoke.

"You're the first person I've been with since I was imprisoned," he sighed. "I didn't want to hurt you, love, but with what I am, what other reaction would you have had when you saw me? I don't blame you for how you reacted at all, Swan."

She knew he was lying, omitting something, but couldn't bring herself to call him out on it. Something about Killian made her want to protect him.

It made sense that he was wary of trusting her. He'd been alone for at least a hundred years, he wouldn't trust easily, or even be willing to open up to someone after his long isolation.

Offering him a small smile to try to sooth him, she nodded.

"Do you think you're set to go again, or do you want to rest more?" she asked.

"I'm ready whenever you are," he responded.

Carefully keeping her hold on Killian's spikes, Emma cautiously peered down at the ground below them, looking for Mary Margaret, Mulan, and Aurora.

"There's some people ahead," Killian told her. "Three of them. Are those your companions?"

"They should be," she responded, trying to look forward to see what he saw, only able to see the trees.

"They're too far away for you to see them yet," he explained, automatically knowing she was searching herself.

She glanced at the horizon, seeing the setting sun. "Will we be able to make it like this?"

Killian glanced at the sun to check to see how much time he had.

"I'm sorry, Swan," he said apologetically as he began descending. "I can't. I don't want to risk being in the air when the time comes, especially with you. And with how fast the sun is setting, it won't be long before its time for the change again."

"It's fine," she replied. "Don't worry about it."

Emma barely felt any jarring as he landed in a small clearing.

Quickly sliding off, noticing the sun making its final descent. She noticed Killian made to quickly move away from her before stopping, the sun set as night washed over them.

Feeling the air leave her as she stared in shock, she watched as his body convulsed once before he seemingly curled in on himself. The sounds of bone shattering filled her ears as his mouth fell open in a silent scream. His body contorted as his very form changed, his face shortening to turn back into a human's, as his wings and tail receded until they completely disappeared. The whole time, his scales disappeared, lightening and smoothing over until it became human skin. His horns, spikes, and claws sunk back into his body, completely vanishing.

Feeling nauseous and horrified at the obvious pain of the grotesque transformation, Emma fell to her knees beside him, tentatively resting a hand on his shoulder.

"Killian?" she asked worriedly. "Are you okay?"

Quickly recovering, he nodded as he uncurled himself, looking up at her. "I'm fine, love. The change just isn't easy, even with how many times I've done it. You... you just weren't supposed to see that."

At a loss for words, she stayed beside him as he sat up.

She noticed he didn't say he was used to it.

"What..." she trailed off, not knowing how to ask him her question. "What does it feel like?"

Unable to meet her eyes, he looked down at the grass beneath them. "All of your bones are shattered to reform themselves for a new body. I feel my organs being torn apart so they reshape, and I can't breathe. I can feel the wings suddenly being ripped from my body. My skin feels as though it's being ripped open for them to be free, as well as my horns. And of course, it feels like its all being forcefully pushed back in when I turn human again.

"It feels like when a heart is squeezed whenever I change, just on the cusp of death, but it's my entire body in pain. It's the worst pain possible, something I'd never have been able to imagine before."

Emma had never liked Gold much, but she found her fury at him rising, unable to believe he could do something so sadistic.

Killian suddenly rose up, extending his hand to help her up.

He was quiet as they began walking again, not very talkative.

She could tell that he hadn't originally wanted to tell her about his changes, that it was a very sensitive subject. She could sense what she thought was shame and embarrassment from him, even if he had nothing to feel that way about.

She knew more than anyone about not wanting to be vulnerable, her leather jacket a testament of that.

She just didn't know how exactly to make him feel better about it.

"I get it, you know," she finally said. "Why you want to go after who did this to you."

He nodded, not looking at her.

"But even if you go after him, it won't change anything," she added.

"Maybe not," he muttered darkly.

Sighing, she moved with him towards where her group was, hoping they wouldn't run into anything in the meantime.

Catching sight of a light in the distance, they began moving slightly faster, knowing they had caught up. She had missed her mother in their separation, even if it had only been for a couple of days.

Though they couldn't make out what was said, Mary Margaret, Mulan, and Aurora's voices could be heard, confirming it was them.

Stepping through the trees and into the camp, Emma and Killian were met with weapons drawn on them before a gasp rang out.

"Emma!" Mary Margaret exclaimed, dropping her bow and arrow to the ground as she rushed forward to hug her daughter tightly.

Emma immediately returned the hug, glancing over at the others as they lowered their weapons but eyed Killian warily.

"You got the compass?" Mulan asked. "And who's this?"

Pulling back from Mary Margaret, Emma stepped beside Killian, taking a protective stance.

"Killian Jones," he introduced himself.

"He helped me get the compass," Emma said. "Um, he's also the dragon that was guarding it."

She watched as the other women's eyes widened, suddenly looking at Killian distrustfully.

"The Dark One cursed me to constantly change forms, and imprisoned me in there to guard his treasures," he explained, suddenly unsure.

"Wait, Rumplestiltskin kept you, a pirate, locked in a cave for the past twenty-eight years?" Mary Margaret asked in disbelief, taking in his clothing as she examined him.

"Not exactly," he responded, looking nervous, glancing around at the others.

Emma knew exactly what he was going to ask.

"How long has he been the Dark One?" he questioned tentatively.

"Three-hundred years," Mary Margaret responded, raising her brow.

Watching as Killian's face fell, Emma lightly touched his arm, wanting to give him something to hold onto.

"Three-hundred years," he repeated weakly. "I've been in there for three-hundred years."

"That's impossible," Aurora protested. "Maleficent isn't even that old."

"It is possible," he argued. "He cursed me with immortality. I can't die. I have to live out eternity changing forms with the sunrise and sunset."

The others were quiet, looking at him in shock and what Emma detected was pity.

She caught Mary Margaret's suspicious expression thrown her way, making her stiffen uncomfortably.

"He helped me find the compass," she said. "Plus I wasn't about to just leave him in there."

"The extra person would be helpful," Mulan mused. "We need all the help we can get against Cora."

Killian nodded. "Whatever you need assistance with, I can help you however I can."

"We're making camp for the night," Mulan replied. "Rest while you can."

As the other's went back to their spots, Mary Margaret throwing her one last pointed glance, Emma lightly squeezed Killian's arm again, wanting to reassure him one last time before she followed her mother to rest for the night.

"There's something you need to know," Mary Margaret said quietly as she caught up with her.

Emma felt dread growing in her stomach. "What?"

"After I woke up from my sleeping curse, I was sent to this Netherworld whenever I slept, someplace where everything was on fire," Mary Margaret told her. "Aurora's been going there... and Henry. She's met him, Emma, talked to him. We've been able to communicate with everyone in Storybrooke, and have even gotten help from Gold."

"Henry's going through that?" Emma asked in horror, feeling sick.

"It passes," her mother promised. "He'll learn how to block it when he sleeps."

She reached out, resting a hand on Emma's shoulder. "He'll be okay, Emma. In the meantime, we can have Aurora talk to him to communicate with Gold."

Stiffening, Emma suddenly felt weary, glancing back over at the newest member of their group.

"What is it?" Mary Margaret asked, noticing Emma's gaze.

Her voice dropping, Emma looked back at her mother. "He wants revenge on Gold. He told me that Gold killed the woman he loved before cursing him."

"You understand him, why he wants to do it?" Mary Margaret asked her incredulously.

Emma nodded. "Yeah, I kind of do. I mean, revenge won't make it better or even bring her back, but he was locked away all that time."

"How do you know for sure he was telling the truth about being locked up?" Mary Margaret questioned. "You know your superpower isn't completely reliable."

"You didn't see him when he stepped out of that cave," Emma defended, her mind straying back to the previous night when she saw Killian staring up in awe and longing at the night sky. "He couldn't have faked that. I believe him, which is why we have to be careful if he's going to come with us to Storybrooke."

Mary Margaret sighed. "I know. And I know we can't just leave him here all alone. But it will be dangerous, Emma, especially if you're right about him and Gold."

"I know," Emma replied. "He'll be my responsibility."


Chapter Text

Emma jerked awake, hearing the sound of bodies stumbling through the underbrush.

Quickly looking around, she saw Mary Margaret, Mulan, and Killian rousing as Aurora rose from where she was keeping watch in the predawn.

"The noises just started," Aurora said, sounding nervous as she stood up from rousing Mulan. "I don't know what they are, only they're close."

Before any of them could say anything else, a group of the people from the sanctuary stumbled into their camp, people who they knew were dead. The holes in their hollow chests remained, their hearts missing.

The dead began swinging their weapons at them, making the group quickly scramble to fight back.

Emma ducked as one of the zombies swung an axe it her, narrowly avoiding it before she kicked it in the chest and making it stumble back.

Briefly glancing over, she saw Mary Margaret firing off arrows as Killian hacked at the zombies with his cutlass, Mulan and Aurora out of sight.

"Any idea how to kill these things?" Emma yelled as she plunged her sword into another of the dead trying to attack her just as one she thought she had taken out previously swung at her again.

"None!" he mother shouted as she dodged an attack.

Backing up, Emma bumped into a body, making her turn rapidly to attack. She quickly stopped when she saw Killian, drawing her weapon away from him.

She noticed his eyes widen momentarily before realizing he was about to change.

"Cover me!" he yelled to her and Mary Margaret as his body began to crumple.

She quickly turned to glance at her mother. "Mary Margaret! He's changing!"

Carefully, Mary Margaret maneuvered over to them as the sounds of Killian's bones shattering filled the air.

A moment later, Emma felt the brush of a large body against her back as a deep roar filled her ears.

The air suddenly heated as Killian released a breath of fire, incinerating some of the attacking zombies.

He swung his spiked tail, knocking more back. Some of the zombies managed to hit his large body with their weapons, but as soon as the wounds were inflicted, they began healing, his skin knitting itself back together.

Within minutes, he immobilized the last of the dead, releasing a hard breath.

"Are you two okay?" he asked them, settling slightly.

Emma nodded as Mary Margaret looked at him in amazement.

"We're pretty much in one piece," Emma told him. "You?"

"Aye," he responded. "I'm fine, love."

"Where's Mulan and Aurora?" Mary Margaret asked. She quickly looked around as she raised her voice. "Mulan?"

"To the west," Killian said, staring off into the distance. "I can see someone."

Mary Margaret looked at him with wide eyes.

"Enhanced senses," he explained.

Her brows raised, she nodded.

"It actually helped us earlier with an ogre," Emma offered.

Mary Margaret sighed as they began to move toward where Mulan was. "Of course there was an ogre."

"It would be faster if we flew," Killian told them. "I can get us to them."

"You sure you can get out of these trees?" Emma asked him.

He nodded his large, scaly head. "It shouldn't be a problem."

Grabbing the few packs from their camp, Emma led her mother to Killian, where he laid as low as possible to allow them to climb on.

Emma quickly settled on his back just at the nape of his neck before looking at Mary Margaret expectantly.

"Come on, love," he said, looking back at Mary Margaret. "I don't bite. It's safe."

Throwing Emma a frustrated expression, she carefully climbed on behind her. Warily, she clung to a spike to stabilize himself.

Glancing skyward, he beat his wings once, instantly propelling him up and through the cover of the trees.

Hearing Mary Margaret gasp, Emma turned her head back slightly. "It's okay. Just hold on and you'll be fine."

She didn't see her nod as she looked forward.

"I only see Mulan," Killian told them after a moment. "I don't see Aurora at all."

He lowered them, carefully landing about twenty feet from Mulan.

Emma noticed her mother shakily climbing down. She smirked, easily dismounting.

Mulan looked toward them, her voice shaking. "They took her. Aurora's gone."

"What?" Mary Margaret asked. "How is that possible?"

"We were attacked after we ran," Mulan nearly yelled. "It doesn't matter. We just have to find her."

"There's no sign of her at all," Killian said, staring off into the distance. "I can't see her at all."

"Then we have to find her," Mulan said, daring them to argue. "I promised Phillip I would look after her, and I intend to do that."

"Look, we're not saying we're going to just leave her," Emma said, trying to placate the other woman. "We can't just go charging in. We have to be smart about it, and find out where she was even taken."

Blowing out a heavy breath, Mulan nodded before heading off in the direction Aurora was taken.

Emma glanced at Killian, seeing him watch the rest of the group with interest.

"I really hope you're ready to start trekking through the forest," she muttered to him, making him huff slightly in amusement.

Starting slightly at the raven as it broke through the trees, she watched as it landed on Mary Margaret's shoulder, cawing in her ear.

They all stopped, watching as the brunette listened to the bird.

"Cora wants a trade," Mary Margaret said slowly. "Aurora for the compass. We have to make our decision by sundown."

The raven flew away just as chaos began to ensue.

"Then we make the trade," Mulan said. "We're not leaving Aurora with Cora."

"Let's just think about this," Emma replied, trying to calm the others.

"That compass is our only way home," Mary Margaret added. "We can't just give that up."

"So we just seal Aurora's fate?" Mulan asked angrily.

"Just give us two hours," Mary Margaret proposed. "If we can't think of some way to get her back, you can have the compass."

Mulan looked at her angrily. "There's only one way to get her back!"

She suddenly lunged at Emma, intent on stealing the compass from her.

She stopped in her tracks when Killian stepped forward, a low, threatening growl reverberating in his chest.

"Back away from her," he said, his threat plain.

Emma hid her surprise at his sudden protectiveness over her, instead focusing on Mulan.

"We'll figure something out," she promised. "We just have to think, and we can't just hand the compass over to Cora."

Huffing angrily, Mulan turned, briskly walking back toward the direction they were headed.

Seeing him still crouched protectively beside her, Emma gently rested a hand on Killian's shoulder, instantly making him relax his stance.

"Let's go," she said quietly, moving to follow her mother and Mulan.

He cast her a quick glance before moving to bring up the rear, keeping watch.

Speeding up slightly, Emma moved to walk beside Mary Margaret.

She dropped her voice, not wanting Mulan to hear them. "I feel bad for Aurora, I really do, but we can't give Cora that compass."

"I know," Mary Margaret sighed. "I just don't know how we can go against her."

"Is there anything of Gold's that we can use?" Emma asked. "Or something?"

Mary Margaret shook her head. "Not that I know of. I think we truly are on our own."

Sighing, Emma nodded. "I just hope Aurora can hold out until we get to her."

Soothingly, Mary Margaret reached out to squeeze her arm. "She will."

They continued, trying to figure out some way for them to get Aurora back as they traveled, the hours waning.

Hearing movement in the brush, they drew their weapons, immediately dropping them when they saw Aurora.

"How did you get away?" Emma asked, taking her in.

Aurora appeared completely unharmed, only winded as she stood before them.

Something prickled in the back of Emma's mind, telling her something wasn't right.

"Cora didn't think I'd fight back," Aurora told them proudly. "When she came to bring me food, I was able to surprise her and get away."

The voice in Emma's head grew louder, telling her there was no way that Cora would be surprised, even by someone as meek as Aurora.

Mulan believed her, smiling brightly at the other woman.

"You don't believe her?" Killian asked quietly, coming to stand beside Emma.

Watching the rest of their group for another moment, Emma shook her head. "Honestly, no."

She stepped forward, hearing the rest of the group arguing about whether or not to put Aurora back to sleep to talk to Henry.

"No way," Mulan said stubbornly. "Do you see her arm? There's no way she can go under again just to face that again."

"And we need a way to defeat Cora," Mary Margaret shot back.

"Mulan, if I can do this, I should," Aurora added.

Mulan turned her sharp gaze to her. "And let you become further injured?"

Her expression suddenly becoming contemplative, Mary Margaret suddenly looked at Mulan. "Do you still have that poppy powder?"

"Yeah, I do," Mulan replied, taken aback.

"I can talk to Henry," Mary Margaret said quickly. "I just need to go into a deep enough sleep, but I can go back into that Netherworld."

Emma felt her eyes widen. "You can do that?"

Mary Margaret nodded. "Yeah, I can."

"Okay then," Mulan nodded. "We'll do this."

Nodding, Mary Margaret settled at the base of a tree, wrapping her scarf around her shoulders as Mulan withdrew the poppy powder.

"Emma," Mary Margaret called, her green eyes intent.

Emma looked over curiously, seeing her mother watching her.

"I'll tell Henry we'll see him soon," Mary Margaret told her. "We'll be back home soon. I promise you, Emma."

Stepping forward, Emma tightly squeezed her hand.

She stepped away as Mulan approached, kneeling down to blow the powder at Mary Margaret, immediately knocking her out.

Sighing, Emma looked at the sky, knowing it wouldn't be long before Killian turned again.

Watching as the others settled to wait for Mary Margaret, she found herself constantly watching Aurora, knowing that something wasn't right.

A moment later, Killian slid through the trees just as the sun was beginning the last of its descent below the horizon, wanting to avoid the others seeing his change.

Closing her eyes, Emma breathed in deeply, wondering how they were going to make the journey back to Storybrooke, as well as how to settle Killian into the town.

She suddenly felt a sharp blow to her head, stunning her as she fell over.

Before she could recover, she felt someone picking her pocket, instantly knowing the compass was gone.

She opened her eyes in time to see Aurora's auburn hair disappear through the trees.

"What the hell?" she exclaimed, springing to her feet just as Killian rejoined the group.

"What the bloody hell happened?" Killian asked, his eyes wide.

"I- Aurora just stole the compass," Mulan said in shock.

Darting to her mother, Emma shook Mary Margaret awake, knowing they had to chase after Aurora.

Mary Margaret jerked awake, looking stricken. "Charming- he's under a sleeping curse."

"Our problems just got bigger," Emma told her. "Aurora stole the compass."

"What?" Mary Margaret asked in shock as she scrambled to get up. "How is that possible? And why would she steal it?"

"Something didn't seem right as soon as she came back," Emma said angrily as they began to run.

"Do you think she's being controlled?" Killian asked.

"I don't know," she answered.

She was amazed at how far Aurora was ahead of them. Out of all of them, Aurora had been the weakest link.

"Emma, she's headed toward the lake," Mary Margaret told her.

Emma began pushing herself faster, knowing with a sinking feeling that Cora was about to get the compass.

She pushed herself faster still when they caught a flash of lilac running through a copse of trees ahead, knowing the lake was just ahead.

"Just ahead," Mulan said.

They finally broke through the trees just as water from a geyser erupted in front of them, both Cora and Aurora standing in the dried lake bed.

Smiling, Cora poured some glittering dust into the water, making it form a blue whirlpool.

Just as Aurora offered Cora the compass, Mary Margaret quickly fired an arrow, knocking it from Aurora's hand and burying it in the sand.

"What was that sparkly dirt?" Killian asked.

"The wardrobe ash," Emma said quickly before charging, weapon drawn.

Cora simply waved her hand back, holding up a small black bag in her other hand. A slight red glow emitted from the sheer material, the shape of a heart visible within.

"I don't think you'll be wanting anything to happen to this," she said sweetly, indicating the bag.

Glancing over quickly at the rest of her group, Emma saw Mulan's eyes fixed on Aurora's heart.

"Get her heart," she told her. "Get it then leave. We'll take care of Cora."

Mulan nodded before springing forward. She easily deflected the fireball Cora threw at her with her sword, growing closer as Emma moved with Mary Margaret and Killian.

Aurora quickly moved to attack them, brandishing a dagger.

Killian moved in front of Mary Margaret as Aurora came closer, ready to strike. He easily blocked and disarmed her, twisting the dagger from her grasp and sent the dagger flying into the sand.

Emma glanced over at Mulan just as the other woman got too close to Cora, making Cora vanish in a swirl of dark blue smoke. Mulan's sword caught on the strap of the bag, accidentally flinging it toward the whirlpool.

Faster than Emma could have believed, Killian bent his torso over the edge of the vortex, catching the strap on his fingertips and swinging it away from the portal. Righting himself, he carefully tossed it to Mulan.

"Take it," he said. "You two get out of here."

Mulan nodded once before handing her sword to Mary Margaret, saying something they couldn't hear.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Emma asked Killian in a low voice. "This isn't your fight."

He nodded, his eyes intent on her. "You told me I could start over somewhere else, that you could bring me to your realm, and I have every intention of helping you to get back to your son. I can help you fight if nothing else."

She examined him for a second, knowing he was genuine, before nodding. "Okay. But we have to find the compass."

He ran with her to where the compass went as Mary Margaret went after Cora.

Frantically, they dug through the sand until Emma touched the cool metal, immediately yanking it from the sand.

"Got it!" she exclaimed as she pushed herself up to sprint back to her mother.

Cora disappeared as she and Killian ran back to Mary Margaret.

"Emma, run!" Mary Margaret yelled as she saw the compass, turning to go with them to the portal.

Suddenly appearing again in front of them with a puff of blue smoke, Cora waved her hands, making them all fly back into the sand.

Mary Margaret recovered first, standing to reclaim her bow as Cora strode toward her.

Scrambling to get up, Emma rose to sprint toward the two women, only to be thrown back again by Cora.

"Why do you want to go to Storybrooke?" Mary Margaret asked, looking at Cora in confusion.

"Because my daughter needs me," Cora responded in what would be a motherly tone, stopping right in front of Mary Margaret. "And now I'm going to give her the one thing she's always wanted. Your heart. Goodbye, Snow."

Emma stood just as Cora drew her hand back, stepping between her and Mary Margaret in time to feel Cora's hand sink into her chest.

A strange feeling shot through Emma as Cora's hand closed around her heart, that the organ was being physically touched.

"Emma!" Mary Margaret screamed, just as Killian suddenly looked terrified.

"Oh, you foolish girl," Cora chuckled, looking straight into Emma's eyes. "Didn't you know? Love is weakness."

She yanked at her heart before stopping, unable to remove it.

Emma gasped at the sensation, slipping forward slightly with each of Cora's tugs at her heart.

Realization came over her at Cora's confused and frustrated expression.

"No..." she said. "It's strength."

A pulse of light came from where her heart rested, throwing Cora away from her and knocking her out.

Frozen in shock, she looked around, trying to process everything as Mary Margaret rushed forward to check in her, Killian following close behind.

"What just happened?" Emma asked.

"That is a great subject of discussion," Mary Margaret said, drawing her hand away from her daughter's heart. "After we get back to Storybrooke. Let's go."

Regaining herself, Emma moved to go with them to the portal.

She held the compass out in her hand, allowing Mary Margaret to grasp onto it.

Holding out her other hand for Killian, she watched as he tentatively took it, grasping it firmly in his own warm hand.

Taking a collective breath, they jumped into the portal.


Chapter Text

Darkness surround them as Emma looked around, stone walls around them creating a tight space. Light filtered in from above but only partially, as if there was some cover over it.

They stood in water, soaking them up to nearly to their knees, much to Emma's displeasure.

"We're in the well," Mary Margaret said quietly, looking for anywhere to begin climbing.

"Here," Killian offered, kneeling slightly to offer her a boost up.

Mary Margaret went first, with Emma scrambling up close behind her.

As soon as she was up, Emma leaned over the edge, grabbing onto Killian's hands to help pull him up.

"Mom!" a small voice shouted.

Henry's small form nearly tackled his mother, wrapping his arms tightly around her.

Taking in the scene, Emma looked over Henry's head, seeing Regina, Ruby, and Gold standing near the well.

"Thank you," Emma said gratefully, looking back over to Regina. "For taking care of him and getting us back."

She noticed the strange look that crossed Regina's face before her attention was drawn to the man that stood beside her.

She was shocked at the sudden change in Killian's demeanor, having been nothing but helpful and gentle to her except for when she very first met her, and even then he hadn't been a real danger to her. Even when they had been threatened by the ogre and reanimated dead, he didn't carry the same hostility he stared at Gold with.

Emma understood then on how serious Killian had been about his desire for revenge as he stared at the Dark One, his eyes holding a cold fury unlike anything she had ever seen before.

Carefully, she passed Henry to Mary Margaret, preparing to defuse the situation.

"Well, Miss Swan, I see you let my guard dog off its leash," Gold said to her despite his cold eyes resting on Killian.

"Crocodile," Killian said in a low, venomous voice.

She quickly moved to stand in front of Killian, resting a hand on his chest to stop him as he began to move forward.

"Killian, don't," she hissed.

"Back away, Swan," he replied in a louder voice, his hand going to her wrist to pull her away.

"No," she said firmly.

"Yes, back away dearie, and let the old pirate try to finally get his revenge on me after all this time," Gold mocked. "Well, Jones? I'm waiting, unless I've finally broken you. After all, how many times did you promise you would kill me whenever I paid you a visit?"

Killian made to move forward again, even with Emma attempting to restrain him.

"Stop," she told him. "I can't let you do this."

Only a small part of her was comforted that he didn't push her aside, knowing that he could easily toss her aside to get at his target. She just hoped that it meant he was willing to listen to her.

"Swan, move," he said darkly. "I've waited centuries for this, and now the waiting is over."

"How?" she asked him, attempting to reason with him. "You're both immortal. All you'll succeed in doing is just hurting yourself and destroying the forest, maybe the town. Here, I'm the sheriff. I have to make sure the town is safe. I can't let you do this."

"You knew what I wanted when you agreed to bring me here," he said accusingly.

She dropped her voice so only he could hear her. "I didn't think it would come so soon. I thought I would have time before you saw Gold."

"So what?" he laughed humorlessly. "You thought that I'll suddenly forget everything, change my mind as soon as I got here?"

"So what happens?" she asked him. "You're both immortal, Killian. Neither of you can die. What are you gonna do? Just keep fighting? What about everyone else? Let the town die while you and Gold keep fighting?"

She knew it was a low blow, but she had to stop their fight. "You helped me back there. You protected me, with the ogre, then the dead villagers. Are now just going to risk me dying from getting caught in the middle of your revenge?"

He stilled, tearing his glance away from Gold to look at her, his anger evident despite logic winning him over.

After what felt like an eternity, he stopped trying to fight her, yet his eyes remained icy.

"You knew why I wanted to come," he said lowly. "Why I had to."

"Look, I know he imprisoned you-" she began.

"He did more than that," he laughed darkly. He looked back at Gold. "Do you care to tell the story, or shall I? About how Milah couldn't stand being married to a coward? How she left and fell in love with me? How you ripped her heart from her chest and crushed it, murdering her before cursing me into this existence?"

Gold smirked, a malicious gleam in his dark eyes. "You stole her from me. I thought living as a creature that guards stolen treasures was a fitting punishment."

Emma's stomach dropped, suddenly feeling sick, not just because of Gold's twisted idea of justice, but because she finally understood Killian's reaction from when Cora tried to take her heart.

"I still can't let you," she murmured to Killian.

"This is all I have," he replied, his anger barely concealed.

"I'm responsible for you," she told him. "You have a second chance, and you're going to throw it all away."

He was quiet, looking at her before finally exhaling and closing his eyes. He completely relaxed, letting her know he wasn't going to try to fight her.

"Emma, we need to get to David," Mary Margaret reminded her quietly, still holding onto Henry, who was looking at them with wide eyes.

Emma nodded, slowly drawing her hand away from Killian. "Yeah, let's go."

She dropped her voice, looking back to the man beside her. "You coming?"

He hesitated before nodding. "Aye."

Offering him a small, sad smile, she walked beside him as Henry moved to her other side, all of them following Regina.

She watched as he looked around the town when they hit the streets, curiously inspecting every shop, his dark mood replaced by curiosity.

"We'll show you around the town later," she promised. "We'll help you get settled in."

He nodded in thanks as he peered at Granny's.

"You can get really good food there," Henry explained, starting him slightly.

Killian's blue eyes focused on the boy before is expression softened. "You're Henry."

Henry nodded proudly. "Yeah, I am. My mom said that you protected her back there. Did you help her get back?"

"He did," Emma confirmed. "Kid, this is Killian Jones."

He smiled at the man. "Thanks, for bringing her and my grandma home."

Smiling, Killian nodded. "It was my pleasure, especially after your mother got me out of my own prison."

Henry looked at him curiously. "Yeah, I caught something about that, but what do you mean exactly?"

Killian's eyes flashed to Emma's, seeking permission. At her nod, he looked back at her son.

"I was cursed," he explained. "Whenever the sun comes up, I transform into a dragon, and when it goes down, I'm human again."

Henry's eyes went wide. "Wait, you can turn into a dragon? Like Maleficent?"

"Not exactly," Emma said. "He can't control it."

Killian nodded. "Yeah, I turn depending on the sun. But I was trapped guarding a cave of the Crocodile's treasures for a very long time until your mother released me."

Nodding, Henry kept his eyes on him. "So, can you fly?"

Chuckling, Killian nodded. "Yeah, I can. I can breathe fire, too."

Eyes wide, Henry looked at him in awe.

He suddenly began bombarding Killian with questions, growing more and more excited with each one. "How big are you? What color? Oh, and do you have horns?"

Killian took it in stride, answering each of his questions patiently.

Looking over, Emma saw his looking slightly nervous before realizing he wasn't used to the attention, having been alone and isolated for so long. She wondered how he would do in the town, knowing he would have to deal with more people, most of whom would most likely be very curious about him.

"Henry, let the poor guy have a second," Emma told her son, wanting to give Killian a break.

Henry nodded, looking over and announcing they were at where David was before taking off inside.

Looking up, Emma saw the building was Gold's pawn shop.

She sighed. "Sorry about all of that. He's just curious, and honestly we're still pretty new to this whole magic thing."

Killian shook his head. "It's fine, love. I don't mind. It's just that, well, after being in there for so long..."

"You're not used to other people," she finished for him as they walked through the door.

He nodded.

"It's okay, you know," she told him. "If you need time to adjust, you can have it. I know this is different, and it's a lot to take in."

"Thank you," he said softly.

Entering the back room, they stepped through right as Mary Margaret kissed David, waking him up.

She couldn't help smiling as her parents reunited.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Killian about to rest his hand on her arm to catch her attention before he hesitated, pulling away.

"Swan," he called softly instead. "I need to go out. I'll be in the forest for now. I doubt the town will take to a dragon roaming the streets."

She slowly nodded. "I'll find you later? We can bring you into the town then?"

He gave her a small, grateful smile. "I look forward to it."

Returning a smile, she watched as he turned and left, wondering at the strange feelings she was having.

She didn't know if it was because he was lost or if it was just his vulnerability, but something made Emma want to protect Killian and make him happy. She knew what it was like to be alone, making her sympathize with him.

She never cared for Gold, never trusting him knowing everything he did came with a price, but she found herself unable to even look at the man after hearing what he had done. She found herself hating the man for what he had done to Killian.

A small part of her feared Killian, not in seeing the darkness that overcame him as he stared at Gold, but at what he could do to her. She didn't fear him physically hurting her, knowing that he wouldn't harm her. Despite their brief time together, she knew that Killian could possibly break down her own walls, leaving her vulnerable and susceptible to pain again. He could possibly gain the power to break her if she wasn't careful.

She was drawn to him for some reason she didn't know, possibly seeing him as a kindred spirit.

Knowing she couldn't push him away completely, Emma knew she had to protect herself.


Chapter Text

Emma peered through the trees surrounding her, searching for the large black and red figure she was seeking as the sun was beginning to set.

She had intended to take him back to her parents' loft first to introduce him to David, as well as let him get cleaned up and possibly changed, before taking him with them back to Granny's for the small welcome home party that was being thrown for her and Mary Margaret to introduce him to the town.

"Killian?" she called, looking through the trees.

She suddenly caught a faint sound, the sound of something large moving stealthily through the trees and brush.

"Here, love," a reply came, a large black scaly head coming into view.

Exhaling, she turned to face him. "I was hoping you would come back with me to the loft where my parents and me live."

It was hard to tell because he was in his other form, but it looked like he quirked his brow. "You're bringing me to your home?"

She nodded. "Then after we'll take you to Granny's and introduce you to some of the town. They're throwing a little party to welcome home party for me and my mom."

He moved to stand in front of her before laying down, folding his arms as he rested. "I... think that would be a good idea. How many will be there?"

"A few dozen, I think," she replied honestly. "You know if it's too much you don't have to do it."

"I know," he responded. "I want to do this."

She offered him a comforting smile before he got up, knowing he was going in the trees to change. She tried to distract herself, anything to block out the gruesome noises of his transformation. She knew that no matter how many times she may see and hear it, it would never fail to horrify her. She couldn't imagine how he had been able to do it for so long without completely breaking, especially when he described the agony of the change.

She looked up when she heard his much lighter footsteps, seeing him again as a human approaching her from the trees.

"You okay?" she asked him, wanting to give him a moment if he needed it.

He shook his head. "I'm fine, Swan. Lead the way."

She tilted her head off to the side in the direction of her Bug. "C'mon. We'll take my car back. It'll be faster."

Killian eyes the yellow vehicle warily. "A horseless carriage?"

Giving him an amused smile, Emma shook her head. "It's called a car."

She opened the door for him, waiting as he got in and sat in his seat before closing the door and getting in the driver's side. She felt his eyes on her as she buckled her seat belt, fighting a grin as he moved to copy her.

"Um, let me know if you don't feel good," she said suddenly. "Some people get car sick, and this is the first time you've ever been in a car."

He nodded.

She saw him watching in fascination as she started the car and began to drive, looking in wonder out the window as they began moving.

"You doing okay?" she asked him, quickly glancing over at him.

"I'm fine," he responded.

Nodding, she kept driving.

No one on the streets paid her car any mind, unaware of the peculiar passenger she had with her.

"These are all of the people from Misthaven?" Killian asked her.

"Yeah," she replied. "Some aren't even... human. Like the dwarves and fairies. Sorry, it's just still weird for me."

"It's alright," he told her. "Before you came here, you didn't have any idea of magic?"

Emma shook her head. "No. It was all just a fairytale. Snow White and Cinderella and Pinocchio were all just stories."

"And dragons?" He added with a playful smirk.

She grinned back at him. "Yeah, and dragons."

She stopped her car in her spot in front of the loft apartments, turning off the ignition before showing him how to undo the seatbelt. He followed close behind as she led him up the stairs to where she lived with her parents and son.

Mary Margaret, David, and Henry all looked up as they entered, their attention mostly focused on Killian.

Emma caught his nervous flush, noting the tips of his elfin ears reddening.

Henry smiled widely in greeting. "Hey, Killian."

Killian grinned back at him. "Hello, Henry."

David stepped forward, extending his hand. "So you're who helped my wife and daughter come home. For that, I want to thank you. David Nolan. Or Prince Charming, depending on who you ask."

Reaching out, Killian shook his hand, nodding. "Aye. Killian Jones."

Nodding, David pulled away, going back to stand beside Mary Margaret.

"So, we just need to do a few more things here and then we'll head out," Mary Margaret said as she began moving around the small kitchen.

"Do you want anything?" Emma asked Killian, gently touching his arm to lead him further into the loft. "You can get cleaned up, if you want. You can borrow some of David's clothes."

He shook his head. "I'm fine, love."

She nodded, leading him to the barstools by the counter before moving to help Mary Margaret.

She caught him watching with interest as they worked, feeling self conscious before realizing everything they were doing was completely alien to him, from the food they were putting the finishing touches on to the appliances to even just being able to have water from the faucet.

Not wanting to push him, she relaxed, letting him study the space that surrounded him, knowing he would eventually begin asking questions about the new world he was in.

She wondered where she got her sudden patience from, wondering if it came from being a mother to Henry or because of Killian himself.

Putting a lid on the giant tupperware container holding the tacos they had prepared earlier, Mary Margaret looked up, satisfied. "We're through. Granny's?"

David nodded as he tossed away the towel he was wiping the counter with before grabbing a couple of the containers.

"Need help?" Killian offered.

Mary Margaret smiled sweetly. "No, it's okay. David's got it."

David, who looked at his wife as if she was being completely unfair, grumbled as he began walking toward the door.

Emma stood back beside Killian, intending to walk beside him on the way. "C'mon."

He quickly got up, staying beside her as they exited the loft to head out onto the street.

"So, some of the people here can be a bit much to take in," she explained as they walked with Henry just behind her parents. "Like the dwarves. They can swarm you if you don't watch it."

"Hey, they're like my protective older brothers," Mary Margaret defended. "That would make them your uncles."

David snorted. "Leroy threatened me a couple days ago, so they're still 'protective.'"

Emma raised a brow as she looked back at Killian. "See what I mean?"

Killian released a small laugh, nodding in agreement.

She saw a few people out on the streets look toward them in interest, particularly at the man in the long leather coat, but she ignored them, not wanting to draw more attention.

They could tell from the outside of the diner that most of the partiers were there.

She glanced at Killian once more to make sure he was okay, noting he seemed fine for the time being.

"Trial by fire," she murmured before pushing the door open.

A chorus of cheers met them as they walked through, with Mary Margaret rushing forward to embrace Ruby before darting off to hug Archie.

The entire diner suddenly filled with silence as the patrons turned to the rest of the newcomers, all eyes on Killian.

He shrunk back slightly, ready to turn around as Emma stepped to stand in front of him.

"Why is he here?" Leroy asked, not bothering to conceal the distrust in his eyes as he looked at Killian.

"Cause I brought him," Emma defended. "He helped us in the Enchanted Forest and wanted to leave there."

"A dragon?" someone said. "We just got rid of Maleficent, and remember what she used to do?"

"How is he any different?" Leroy asked.

"Swan, it's fine," Killian muttered, moving to leave.

Quickly grabbing his wrist, Emma looked back at him. "No, it's not."

Looking back at the crowd, she felt her anger spike as she peered toward the back, meeting eyes with a smirking Gold.

She knew that he had taken advantage of the time between their homecoming and the party, most likely neglecting to tell the people of the town that he was responsible for the condition of the new "threat."

"Because he wasn't born this way," Emma said in a louder voice. "I'm sure Gold forgot to mention how he became this way."

Some of the people looked back at Gold, suddenly unsure.

Belle suddenly turned to Gold, demanding his attention, her features frustrated.

Emma tugged on Killian's wrist again to draw him back in, seeing how most of the others went back to what they were doing before.

"It's okay," she reassured him.

Hesitating, he nodded, finally relaxing.

Looking unsure of what to do, he tailed behind her as she took one of the containers from David to present it to Granny, who was approaching them.

Emma held up the container in offering, smiling at the older woman. "Tacos. I can tell you the relief of cooking something I didn't have to kill myself."

Granny returned her grin. "Don't I know it. Meatloaf back home, what a bitch."

Emma laughed.

Granny's eyes swept over to Killian, who was standing near Emma. "So you're the one these people keep jabbering about?"

Momentarily freezing, Killian nodded. "Aye. Killian Jones. I'm sorry about all of this, I-"

She waved him off. "If Gold can come in here, you sure as hell can, too. You're just as welcome here and to the town as he is, despite what he thinks. If you ever need anything, just let me know. And welcome to the town."

She took the food Emma carried, leaving her alone again with Killian. She grabbed a couple of glasses of beer, handing one off to him.

David hit a glass with a knife, calling the attention of everyone in the diner.

"I just wanted to thank you all for joining us tonight," he said, his voice and stance betraying his status from back in the Enchanted Forest. "Mary Margaret and I, we have a saying. That we will always find each other. And while I believe that with all my heart, I'd like you all to raise your glasses and join me when I say to not having to look for a while. To Mary Margaret and Emma!"

Cheers erupted from the crowd as they began to drink.

They were silenced as the door opened, revealing a slightly nervous looking Regina, carrying a white ceramic dish.

"Sorry I'm late," she apologized as she stepped in.

Leroy pulled a long knife from the table. "What's she doing here?"

"I invited her," Emma replied in a tone she meant to halt all arguments.

Regina stepped behind her to deposit her offering of food.

Everyone was suddenly weary, the tension in the room thick.

Slowly, they began to return to their festivities, steadily ignoring both Killian and Regina.

Emma jerked her head off to the side toward where the food was laid out, speaking quietly to Killian. "Let's get something to eat. I know you've gotta be hungry."

Nodding in agreement, he followed her to the counter, eyeing the various dishes warily.

"What is all of this?" he asked her. "I know it's been awhile since I've had anything different than what the Crocodile provided, but most of this just looks... unusual."

Biting back an amused laugh, Emma shook her head. "I know. It's good, though. Maybe we can just see what you like or can handle."

"What about that sustenance you prepared earlier?" he asked curiously. "Tacos, I believe you called it?"

Wondering if he would be able to handle the food, she grabbed one, as well as some other different types of food for him to sample.

She led him to one of the booths towards the back of the building, setting the plate down and sitting across from him. She was sure to sit facing the door so he didn't have to see the occasional stares going his way, even if she was sure he could feel them.

Patently, she sat with him as he tentatively began picking at the food, pulling faces at some of the dishes he didn't like. She carefully catalogued each reaction, noting which foods it appeared he liked and disliked.

Feeling her own hunger, she began nibbling on a couple of the foods he tried and didn't like, him telling her it was better than some of it going to waste. She noticed most of the foods he avoided were sweeter and richer, understanding he wasn't used to foods like that.

"I know a lot of these are pretty different from back in the Enchanted Forest," she told him. "You might have to get used to some of it, first. Some of the stuff might be too rich or strong."

He shrugged. "It's fine, love. Its food, I'm not gonna complain."

She bit her lip, understanding exactly what he was saying. She had done the same before years ago when she was living hand to mouth, that she would take whatever she could get.

"Still, there's nothing wrong with having a preference," Emma told him.

He gave her a small nod.

"You know you don't have to, but maybe tomorrow we can see about getting you some different clothes," she proposed. "I mean just some stuff from here. It might help you get settled in here."

"I do stick out, don't I?" Killian asked with a small smile.

Grinning, she ran her eyes over his long leather coat. "If it helps, people still wear leather here. Just not as much usually."

Her grin widened as she saw his expression lighten.

They looked up when someone moved to stand at their table, seeing Belle looking determined.

"Hello, Killian, is it?" she greeted, her blue eyes focused on him.

"Aye," he nodded slowly.

She smiled daintily. "I'm Belle. I know you don't know me, but I want to try to help you."

Killian cocked his head to the side, looking at her curiously.

"May I sit down?" she asked.

He and Emma nodded, the latter sliding further into the booth to make room for the other woman.

Belle slid in, looking directly across at Killian. "I had no idea Rumple did all of that to you. What he did was horrible, and I want to help you. You could say there was... something between us back before the curse, and I know he still cares about me."

She shook her head, refocusing. "Anyway, where have you been staying?"

Shrugging, Killian looked back at her. "Um, no where, exactly. I've been mainly in the forest around the town since I arrived. I can't exactly wander the town in my other form."

"We haven't talked about where to set him up yet for at night," Emma added. "We can't exactly just set him in Granny's, and Gold owns nearly all of the town."

A smile curled Belle's lips. "Which is why I was able to talk to him and convince him to give you a place to stay."

Killian looked at her, stunned. "What?"

She nodded. "Rumple has a cabin out in the forest that he agreed to let you stay in, no price."

Emma fought back a laugh, noticing Belle's smug expression.

"I know it's not exactly in town, but it keeps you close to the forest," Belle continued. "The place is fully furnished and set up for someone to live there. You're free to refuse, of course."

Sitting back, Killian looked over to Emma. "Swan, what do you think?"

Emma shook her head. "This is your choice. Do what you want."

Quickly thinking it over, he nodded, grinning back at Belle. "I'll accept your offer, love."

She smiled back at him. "Obviously if there's anything you need, you only have to ask, and I'll make sure Rumple will take care of it."

Killian's grin could only be described as devilish. "Thank you."

She nodded before suddenly speaking in a rush. "I almost forgot. If you should need anything, you can find me in the town library during the day, or just have Emma call me."

Emma nodded in agreement, not minding at all serving as the middleman for Killian and Belle.

His grin turning sincere, he nodded at Belle. "Thank you, Belle."

She nodded in return. "It's my pleasure. What happened to you was cruel and wrong, and I know this can't make up for that, but I hope this makes it easier for you here."

She looked between him and Emma. "Do you know where it is?"

"I believe I passed by it earlier when I was wandering the woods," he replied.

Emma nodded. "I know where it's at. I can take him there when we leave and help him get settled."

Belle grinned. "Good. And it was good to meet you."

"Likewise, love," Killian responded as she rose up to leave him with Emma.

Sitting back in her previous spot, Emma noticed him wearing a pensive expression. "What?"

Killian shook his head. "Nothing, Swan. Just wondering how the Crocodile managed to get a lass like her. I would think the tales would have been off putting."

She bit back another laugh.


Chapter Text

Glaring at the table, Emma sat with her head in her hands, feeling the oncoming of a migraine. She didn't know what to do, how she was going to suddenly be the sole parent to an eleven-year-old, but knew Henry was her priority.

Her son had broken at the news of his friend's death, having been close to Archie. What had made it so much worse was the proof they had of Regina being the one to kill him. Emma had held him as he cried when he found out, feeling her own heart breaking for her son.

She had no idea how they would deal with Regina, not wanting to use her newfound magic to try to beat her, but knew they couldn't just apprehend her as she would with a normal arrest.

Using her magic had made for an unusual experience for her, even with Gold's instruction. While the magic felt like a part of her, almost like a sixth sense or another limb, it felt foreign. She hadn't wrapped her head around having it even with the incident of Cora trying to take her heart, and the impromptu lesson with Gold hadn't made it any easier

She ignored the sounds of her parents as they made dinner, fighting off her growing headache.

She quickly turned in her chair as the door opened, relaxing as she saw Killian come through looking shy.

Guilt shot through her, remembering she was supposed to go with him to get him some modern clothes.

"Is this a bad time?" Killian asked sheepishly, taking in the mood of the room.

"Sorry," she said in slow voice. "A lot has happened today."

Tentatively stepping closer, he stood beside her. "What's wrong?"

She sighed, not at him but at the situation. "Do you remember Archie from the party last night? Dr. Hopper?"

He nodded.

"He's dead," Emma told him.

His eyes widened in shock. "What happened?"

"Regina killed him," she explained. "We don't know why. I thought she was getting better, but I was wrong. And we can't arrest Regina. She's too strong."

"What can I do?" he immediately asked, offering.

She shook her head. "This isn't your fight."

"But I still want to help you if I can," he insisted.

Despite the situation, Emma felt her lips pull up into a small smile.

She leaned against the tabletop, shaking her head. "Nothing."

Clearly unhappy, he nodded.

"We can still do what we need to get you settled," she told him.

Mary Margaret suddenly spoke up. "Why don't you stay for dinner? It's almost ready and you can go after."

"I don't wish to intrude," he said, sounding unsure.

"Stay," David told him warmly. "Its okay, you know. You're welcome to come by here whenever you want."

Meekly, Killian nodded. "Thank you."

"And like I said, some places will still be open," Emma added, grateful for entering the winter season, meaning it was getting dark sooner. "We'll get you a new wardrobe so you'll blend in. The coat is kind of ostentatious."

He grinned.

Emma checked her phone as she stepped into the cabin Killian was inhabiting, seeing it was nearing midnight. They had taken longer than expected for both shopping and going back to the loft to wash everything, wanting the new clothes to be as comfortable for Killian as possible. Henry had gone with them for the shopping, partly because she wanted to try to do something to cheer up her son, but for the most part wanted to keep an eye on him to ensure Regina didn't come for him.

He had seemed to enjoy himself enough, helping them find items he thought Killian might like, as well as was active in showing him how to use a phone, having gotten one for Killian. The phone was outdated, but would serve its purpose.

Emma didn't think anyone sold flip phones anymore, much less seeing they still existed.

The shopping itself had been easy, finding Killian preferred to stick with mostly black with a few dark colored shirts mixed in. His small wardrobe was a modern version of his clothing from the Enchanted Forest, keeping his waistcoat and coat in the form of vests and a new leather jacket.

"Am I keeping you?" Killian asked her, standing a few feet away as he saw her checking her phone.

She shook her head. "No, it's okay. Just checking the time. I just need to leave soon with the funeral tomorrow. "

He nodded solemnly. "Aye, I remember. You can go home if you wish."

Sighing, she tucked her phone away. "No. It's okay. It's just hard, you know? I mean I knew Archie before the curse broke, and he was Henry's friend."

She walked over to a chair, sitting on the edge before looking back up at him. "This is the second funeral I've had to go to in a year."

He pinched his brow in curiosity. "Second?"

Nodding, she sighed. "The sheriff before me, the one I was deputy for. His name was Graham."

"What happened to him?" Killian asked.

Emma bit her lip, knowing it was for the same reason they were burying Archie. "Regina killed him. It was during the curse. I guess she took his heart before and was controlling him. They were sneaking around and he started to remember, so he left her. She blamed me for it, and crushed his heart."

He moved to stand closer to her before suddenly stopping, leaving some space between them, unsure.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

She shook her head, pushing away the bad memories. "It's fine. C'mon, we need to put everything away."

He quietly followed her to the lone bedroom and bathroom to set everything up.

"So, how do you think Gold is gonna react when he finds out you're getting everything from some gold you took for him?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood.

Shrugging, he wore a small mischievous grin. "I'm not exactly sure, but I look forward to it. What can he do to me, really? The bloody Crocodile's already cursed me."

She rolled her eyes as she shook her head.

Emma found herself tired from the funeral, as well as just feeling emotionally exhausted.

She understood some of the people of the town wanting to see for themselves the state the Enchanted Forest was in, but couldn't help but feel defiant at the fact that David wanted to not only go back but make the return permanent. She and Mary Margaret had fought hard to return, seeing the realm had become desecrated from the curse and ogres.

Her entire life she had lived in a world without magic, having never known anything else. Most days it had continued to be too much, having gone from just living on her own working bail bonds to being the sheriff of a town full of fairytale characters. Despite finding her family, she felt like an outsider who didn't belong. She wasn't a princess despite what her parents and everyone else said.

Even without going back to the Enchanted Forest, Mary Margaret and David had discussed moving, finding somewhere else and letting Emma have the apartment with Henry.

Debating between wanting coffee or a drink, Emma looked up when the door open, seeing Killian quickly slip inside and giving her a shy smile.

"Hey," she greeted tiredly.

"Hey," he responded. "Is everything alright?"

She snorted. "Sure, considering everything that's been going on."

As he stepped forward, Archie's dalmatian walked over to greet him, his tail wagging.

"Don't worry, he's friendly," she reassured Killian.

He nodded, scratching Pongo's head. "I don't recall you having a dog."

"Archie's," she said silently.

He nodded in understanding before looking over to Henry.

His brow pinched in curiosity as he saw the papers her son was working on. "Expansions? With an armory?"

"Yeah," Henry replied. "Mom thought I was plotting an escape from Shawshank earlier."

Killian looked at her, completely lost with the reference.

"I'll explain later," Emma promised him before she shifted her weight, crossing her arms. "Mary Margaret and David are talking about possibly moving out, so Henry wants to make some modifications."

"Hey, my grandparents are Snow White and Prince Charming," Henry pointed out. "Plus we need the protection in case Regina comes."

"But we live in an apartment," Emma reminded him. "We can't turn Mary Margaret's room into an armory."

"It can be a small one," he replied as he went back to his plans.

Exhaling, she looked back to Killian. "Do you want anything? Are you hungry, cause it's just me and Henry for dinner."

He gave her a small, meek smile. "Thank you, dinner would be great."

Nodding, she flashed him a quick smile before noticing Henry peeking up at them, watching them closely.

Deciding to ask her son later, she spoke to Killian as she turned her back. "Make yourself comfortable."

She heard him move to sit down before Pongo suddenly began to whine and move to the door.

Turning back, her brow furrowed.

"Pongo," Henry called. "Why's he acting so weird?"

"What is it?" Emma asked the dog as she moved to open the door, only to be met with another whine.

She opened the door as someone knocked on it, stunned when she saw Archie on the other end, very much alive.

"Archie," Emma said softly as she let him in, Pongo running to his owner.

"Hi," Archie breathed out, stepping further into the loft and scratching the dog's head.

Emma looked at him in amazement, her voice weak as she spoke. "What happened?"

"It was Cora," he responded. "She kidnapped me."

Her stomach sinking, she shared an uneasy look with Killian, both knowing what Cora in Storybrooke meant.

"Archie?" Henry asked in disbelief, abandoning his blueprints to rush to his friend.

"Henry," Archie laughed as he gladly accepted Henry's hug, returning it. "Oh, it's alright. I'm fine. I'm fine."

"We were wrong," Emma said breathlessly as they pulled apart, dread curling in her gut. "Regina didn't do it."

"I knew it," Henry said happily before his grin slipped. "Maybe we should let her know."

"Yeah," she replied quietly. "Something tells me either way, we're gonna pay the price."

"Do you think she'll retaliate immediately?" Killian asked her in a low voice, just loud enough for her to hear.

"Considering her vendetta against my parents, yeah, I have a feeling," she responded, knowing they were facing a war.


Chapter Text

Setting down her large cup of coffee, Emma glanced over at Henry, seeing her son picking at his breakfast. She had a bad feeling about the day, that she would be most likely fighting a migraine all day, leading to her wanting as much caffeine possible, as well as taking some aspirin. She knew she was prone to migraines, usually from stress, but some days knew when it was going to be a bad day for her.

Waking up with only about four hours of sleep had been bad enough, but she knew her day would only get worse.

She had had a late night, calling her parents back from their dinner out when Archie had arrived at the apartment, who had escaped from a hiding spot Cora had in the woods. He had barely made it, Cora not thinking to use any magical restraints on him, believing him to be a weak target. Killian had stayed late to help her, including going with her to take Archie back to his home. She had appreciated his help, knowing already how valuable he was in a fight if he was needed, as well as cautious that Cora would possibly try to abduct Archie again.

Cora was a completely new issue, one Emma thought they had left behind back in the Enchanted Forest. The fact that Regina's mother managed to find a way to Storybrooke was worrisome enough, but that the woman wished to find her daughter according to Archie made Emma that much more nervous. Combined with accusing Regina and attempting to lock her up of Archie's murder, Emma knew that there was good possiblity that Storybrooke could become ground zero.

Killian had promised he would search the forest surrounding the town for her, letting them cover as much ground as possible.

Wanting nothing more than to go back to bed, she couldn't help release a small groan when she heard someone knocking on the door, knowing that whoever was at the other end wouldn't be bringing good news.

Emma had to fight back another groan as she saw Gold push the door open without invitation, dressed in one of his signature suits, cane in hand.

"Gold," she greeted tiredly, knowing he wanted something. "We've all had a long night."

Not bothering with any pleasantries, he looked straight at her, his dark eyes demanding. "Remember that favor you owe me, Miss Swan?"

"Yeah," she said hesitantly, unease creeping up in her.

"I'm cashing it in," he replied quietly. Despite the volume of his voice, there was nothing soft in his tone.

She shook her head, exhaustion weighing heavily on her. "It's not a good-"

"You do honor your agreements, don't you?" he asked, cutting her off. "I need to find someone, so we're leaving today. Pack your bag."

"And if I don't?" she said defiantly.

He smirked, the malice clear in his eyes. "The only reason I allowed the pirate to use my cabin is because of Belle. I may not be able to kill him, but I can certainly make his existence unbearable."

A chill ran up Emma's spine at the threat.

She knew that Gold knew that he had her, that she would comply to protect Killian from the man that had already caused him so much suffering.

"Fine," she said.

"Leaving?" Mary Margaret asked, moving with David to stand beside their daughter.

"Where?" Henry asked quietly, looking nervous as he moved closer to Emma.

Wanting to protect her son, she wrapped an arm around him, drawing him closer to her as she looked back at Gold. "Wait, you want to find someone? Who?"

"My son," Gold responded. His voice was soft as he spoke before it became menacing. "It has to be today because every minute I'm here, is a minute closer to me hunting down Jones and throwing him back in a cage. So it's really best for all concerned if I leave, and you're gonna come with me."

He suddenly pointed at her entire family, a deranged glint in his eyes. "Oh, and we have a long history. So know this, and know it to be true. If any harm comes to Belle while I'm gone, I'm killing all of you."

He looked back at Emma. "I'll see you at noon."

Without another word, he turned on his heel and strode out of the loft, his threats hanging heavily in the air.

Knowing she wasn't going to be getting any more sleep soon, Emma glanced at the clock, seeing she had a couple hours before she had to meet Gold.

She was reluctant to leave the town, but knew she had no choice.

"I need to go see Killian and tell him I'm leaving," she said quietly. She looked back at her parents. "I don't know how long I'll be gone, so can you just check in on him?"

Both David and Mary Margaret nodded.

"Of course," Mary Margaret told her.

Emma nodded in gratitude. "Thanks. There's just one more person I need to talk to."

Moving some branches aside, Emma hiked along the forest path to find Killian. It was typically easy enough, a huge black and red dragon stuck out from the trees and foliage.

Ruby kept pace beside her, having abandoned her heels for a more sensible pair of boots.

"Hey, thanks for doing this," Emma said.

Ruby nodded. "No problem. I feel bad for the poor guy, you know? Especially now that Gold has turned most of the town against him."

Emma nodded.

"So what's he like?" Ruby asked curiously without any trace of fear. "I know I was there when you came back with him, but Regina kind of knocked me unconscious."

"He's really shy," Emma said after a moment of trying to think of how to describe him. "That, and a lot of the time he seems unsure of himself. I think Gold did that, cause sometimes it seems like you can see who he used to be before he was cursed. He was a pirate, sometimes you can see some traces of that pride still. But he's really sweet. At least with me and Henry."

"And what about when he's around Gold," Ruby asked her.

"He's like a different person," Emma said quietly. "Back in the Enchanted Forest, he helped us in fights and was able to win them, but this was different. I'd never seen someone so... dark.

"But I understand it," she finished softly. "He's lost."

Reaching out, Ruby rested a comforting hand on her arm. "But you're helping him."

Emma nodded. "I'm trying to. I'm supposed to restore the happy endings, aren't I?"

Ruby gave her a pensive look. "I think it's more than that."

"What more is there?" Emma asked her suspiciously.

Grinning, Ruby shook her head. "Just remember, I knew your parents before."

Before Emma could ask further, she saw some disturbances in the trees, signs something large had passed through. She picked up speed, with Ruby trailing close until she caught sight of a clearing just ahead.

She released a breath of relief at the large figure in the field, faint sunlight glistening off the black and red scales.

At her approach, Killian lifted his head, brilliant blue eyes focusing on her. "Swan? Who's this?"

She smiled back at him, seeing the curious look on his face. "Hey, don't freak out, okay?"

Somehow, she knew he would be working his brow if he was in his human form.

"Gold is calling in his favor," she told him.

"What?" he said, alert, a low growl rumbling in his chest.

"I'm just going to be gone for a day or two," she said quickly in an attempt to calm him. "He's having me help him look for someone. I'm taking Henry with me to protect him from Regina."

He huffed, blowing out a strong puff of air. "I don't trust him."

"Then trust me," she told him. "I can handle Gold."

"do trust you," he told her in a softer voice.

She offered him a small smile before gesturing to Ruby. "This is Ruby. She's going to check up on you along with my parents. I think she's someone you can talk to."

"We kind of have a similar situation," Ruby said, grinning warmly at him. "Back home, my name was Red, and I turn into a wolf every full moon."

"You're a wolf?" Killian asked in amazement. "No offence, love, but I thought that was just a story."

Ruby chuckled lightly. "To be fair, we're all supposed to be stories. But yeah, I'm a werewolf."

"I thought she could be someone you could talk to that could kind of understand everything," Emma added.

It was hard to tell because of his reptilian features, but he looked happy.

His voice fell as he looked back at her. "I couldn't find any trace of Cora, even from where Archie escaped. I'm sorry, love."

Emma shook her head. "Don't be. We knew there was a good chance she could have moved somewhere else. We'll just have to keep looking."

She sighed. "I need to head back. Gold said we leave at twelve, so in about an hour."

He suddenly looked unsure. "Swan, just please, be careful."

"I will be," she promised him. "I'll come see you as soon as I get back."

He nodded.

Emma offered him a small smile. "You know too you can always call me, right? I don't know where we're going, but you can call me when you change."

"I might take you up on that offer," Killian replied.


Chapter Text

Stretching, Killian dug his claws into the earth, reveling in the soft ground instead of the stone he was so used to. The lifetimes he had spent in his prison made him appreciate everything around him, between the open forest air where he could detect some of the brine of the nearby sea, to the sun warming his scales.

Even finally being able to be around other people was an experience that felt completely new again, even if overwhelming. Aside from Rumplestiltskin, he'd had no human contact since he had been cursed, so he was out of practice. Some of the people he had quickly grown to like, particularly Emma and her son. He found he enjoyed Ruby's company, who had stayed with him for a while after Emma had had to leave. Most people continued to look at him with distrust, but it was different from when he was just a pirate, posing more of a threat as a being whose form changed into a dragon's.

He wished that he was able to be rid of his form completely, to be nothing more than a mere mortal man again. Even with his newfound freedom, he was still a prisoner.

Deciding to try for a nap to rest up so he would be awake at night, he found a soft patch of earth in a decently sunny spot. It wasn't the same as the bed he rarely used that was in the cabin he was inhabiting, but it was better than nothing.

He started as he heard noises from the town, screams and crashes mixed with something that sounded very large.

Worried about what has happening, especially for Emma's parents, he stretched his wings, propelling off the ground. As soon as he was a good distance above the trees, he could see the massive form of a giant roaming the town.

He darted forward, quickly passing over the rest of the woods to fly over the town.

Killian released a loud roar, drawing the giants attention to himself instead of the forms of David, Mary Margaret, and who he saw to be one of the dwarves.

The giant grabbed onto one of the horseless carriages beside him, aiming for Killian as he threw it. Killian easily dodged it, continuing his own pursuit.

He passed by the giant, landing in front of David, Mary Margaret, and Leroy on the docks, blocking them from the threat.

"What the hell?" he heard Leroy ask in disbelief from behind.

"It's Killian," Mary Margaret quickly explained. "He's protecting us."

"Killian!" David called. "Don't move forward. The ground will sink."

Killian made no move to move forward, instead holding his ground and instead let the giant come to him and fall through the ground David warned him of.

Sure enough, the giant's foot hit the ground, making it fracture into a chasm. Dark blue smoke billowed from the hole, alerting them to magic.

He backed up some to allow the others to move forward, craning his next to peer in the hole.

The giant, shrunk down to the size of a tall human, hung onto a large pipe, struggling to hang on and prevent from falling further.

People began to rush forward as David ran around them.

"We need a rope and my truck," he yelled, prompting the people into action.

A couple men quickly scavenged a long rope from a nearby ship.

"Dave, I can pull you up," Killian said quietly. "There's no time to waste. Too much longer, he falls."

David looked at him in surprise at the offer. "Can you handle that?"

"Aye," Killian confirmed. "You have to tie it around me. I can't hold it, but I can help."

"And why can't you just hold it?" Leroy asked impatiently.

In way of response, Killian grinned, revealing rows of razor sharp teeth. He couldn't help but feel a sort of satisfaction as the dwarf flinched back.

Not wasting any time, Mary Margaret and Ruby looped the rope around his neck, tying it off.

"Is that too tight?" Mary Margaret asked him quietly in concern.

"It's fine, love," he told her.

She nodded as David grabbed onto the rope, letting it fall into the pit.

Mary Margaret quickly grabbed onto her husband, kissing him.

"Most people would let that giant die after what he's done," she said.

David smiled back at her. "You wouldn't."

Killian carefully moved closer to the edge as David stood at the mouth if the hole.

"Alright, Anton," David called. "I'm coming down."

The man braced himself before descending down, disappearing below.

Feeling the weight of David climbing lower, Killian braced himself, ready to pull him and the giant up at a mere moment's notice.

"Take my hand," he heard David say.

"No," the giant, Anton replied.

"No?" David asked.

"I don't wanna go back up there," Anton argued in defeat. "I should just let go."

"You'll die," David pointed out

"Maybe death hurts less than life," Anton said.

Killian nearly felt himself flinch at the giant's words.

He heard David's reply from below. "If you really wanted to die, you would've let go already. Now take my hand."

After a moment, he heard the faint noise of Anton grasping David's hand, followed by an increase in weight at the other end of the rope.

Killian immediately began to pull back, lifting the man and giant as he went.

Quickly, David and Anton's hands gripped the edge of the hole, pulling themselves up the last of the way. They both laid on the edge, panting for breath.

"You saved my life," Anton said breathlessly.

"That's what we do," Mary Margaret said from beside David.

He nodded. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Leroy replied warmly.

Killian couldn't help the sting he felt at the dwarf's words.

The giant was already more accepted in the town than he was.

"Were not all the same, Anton," David told the giant. "I don't know what my brother did to you, but that's not us."

Seeing that no one needed him anymore or paid him any mind, Killian pulled the rope from his neck, his claws easily tearing through it. He took off, barely causing a disturbance. Only a few people looked towards him before their attention shifted back to the small giant, welcoming him with open arms.

Flying back toward the forest, he couldn't help thinking that he missed Emma.

Furious, Emma yanked her coat off, throwing it onto the bed of the hotel room she was supposed to be sharing with Henry.

She couldn't believe that Mr. Gold, Rumplestiltskin's son, Baelfire, was Neal Cassidy. The very same Neal Cassidy who a lifetime ago Emma thought she would be with forever, who instead landed her pregnant in prison. The man responsible for her never trusting anyone, who had made her construct her walls so high.

She wondered if the universe was playing some sick, twisted trick on her.

Henry had found out that she had lied to him about his father, and had been understandably angry. Despite her intentions to give her son a parent he could look up to and being proud of after he knew her past, he was still mad at her.

The thing that hurt the most was not his constant barbs at her, but comparing her to Regina, all because she wanted to protect him.

Thinking back to her phone call to Mary Margaret, she wondered if her mother would be more open to her side if she knew what Neal had done to her, why she had to protect herself. Ideally, she had wanted to call Killian, but knew she couldn't in the middle of the day.

Despite her better judgement, Emma had allowed Henry to stay with his father, leaving her alone. She wasn't about to go to Gold to talk to him, even if it would help chase away her loneliness.

She felt as if the walls were closing in on her, feeling anxious and claustrophobic, but knew she couldn't do anything about it. Taking a deep breath, she calmed herself, thinking that everyone would be returning to Storybrooke tomorrow.

Glancing out her window, she saw night had fallen, the sky dark even against the bright city lights. She smiled, striding back to her bed to rummage her phone from her coat.

She hesitated, wondering what he was doing, if he was hopefully with her parents. She had promised to check in on him, but knew better than to just expect him to wait around for her to call him.

After a brief debate, she quickly found his number, dialing. The line only rang a couple times before he answered.

"Swan," he greeted, his voice filled with what she thought was relief.

Despite her previous mood, Emma found herself smiling as she laid back on the bed. "Hey. How was today?"

His tone suddenly changed, becoming too light. "Fine, really. Well, except a giant was unleashed on the town."

"What?" she asked in disbelief, sitting up. Her parents had omitted that detail from their call earlier.

"Cora kidnapped a giant and set him loose on the town," he explained. "He went after your father, something about something your uncle did to him, but it was resolved."

Feeling her headache from earlier returning, she pressed into her forehead with the heel of her palm.

"When was this exactly?" she asked in frustration.

"Not too long after you left town," he answered in a small voice, sounding nervous.

Sighing, she softened her voice. "I'm not mad at you or anything, Killian. It's just that I talked to Mary Margaret earlier and she didn't tell me anything about this."

"She didn't?" he asked in amazement.

She shook her head before remembering he couldn't see her. "No, she didn't. It's already been a really long day as it is."

"Is everything alright, love?" he asked her, the concern plain in his tone. "How's Henry?"

Sighing, she rubbed at her forehead. "Honestly, no. I'll tell you all about it when I come home."

"Is there anything I can do?" he inquired.

Emma found herself smiling again. "Just talk to me? Anything to get my mind off everything."

"I've been thinking about going over to the beaches around this town," he told her. "It's been so long since I've been anywhere near the water and I miss it."

"You should have gone today," she told him. "Its wasn't bad at all today."

She caught his hesitation as he answered. "It's fine. There were probably people there who wouldn't want a hulking dragon on the shores with them."

"Why not?" she asked.

"It's fine, Swan," Killian told her.

She knew he was lying, even through the phone.

"Uh huh, sure," she responded. "Why don't I believe that?"

"It's nothing," he told her.

Emma curled her legs to her chest, wrapping an arm around them. "No, it's not. What's going on, Killian?"

Killian sighed. "As soon as that giant shrunk down to the size of a human and was out of the hole he got himself in, the town welcomed him with open arms."

She heard what he didn't say, that he continued to have distrustful eyes on his back, save for a few people. Belle and Ruby were some of the few that didn't, seeing the man behind the dragon. She knew her parents were coming around, but continued to be somewhat wary of him.

"I'll be back tomorrow," she promised him. "Just hold out until then, okay? We'll take care of it then."

"Alright, Swan," he responded.

"Hey, it's only a little while," she reminded him.

She didn't know why things were so different with him, why Emma felt the constant urge to protect Killian. She didn't know if it was his vulnerability, or the fact that she knew he was lost, just as she was, but she wanted to be there for him.

A good part of her desire to have him with her scared her, knowing that if anyone were ever able to break down the walls to protect herself, it was him.

"I know," he told her.

"Isn't Ruby supposed to be by soon with dinner?" Emma asked, partly to change the subject, and partly because she knew it would mean that he would have some actual company. "I remember she said she would be by later if she didn't hear from Mary Margaret."

She had made the arrangement with both her mother and Ruby earlier in the day, knowing that not only was there next to nothing in the way of food in the cabin, but they hadn't taught Killian how to use a modern kitchen before she left.

"I'm hoping so," he replied, his voice becoming lighter. "I've taken a liking to the cuisine in this realm so far, and would hate to regress back to mutton."

She released a laugh. "That would be tragic."

Emma felt lighter, some of her tension and stress slipping away as she talked to Killian, her lighter mood carrying over even after they hung up and she fell asleep.


Chapter Text

Emma fished her phone from her coat pocket as she stood by the couch in Neal's apartment, growing frustrated as she listened to Gold try to convince his son to go with them to Storybrooke. She wanted them to just decide so they could return, anxious to return to the town.

Henry sat on the couch, refusing to look at her.

Seeing her mother's name on the screen, she turned her back to the men, accepting the call.

Before she could greet her mother, Mary Margaret was already speaking. "Emma, we need to know where Gold's dagger is. Cora and Regina are after it."

"Wait, what dagger?" Emma asked in confusion, noticing that Gold went silent behind her.

"The Dark One's dagger," Mary Margaret explained quickly. "It controls the Dark One, and Cora and Regina are looking for it."

Emma turned back so see everyone in the apartment looking at her in a mixture of confusion and anger.

"Gold, Cora's looking for a dagger if yours," she said, seeing his eyes flare on anger. "My parents need to know where it is to keep it from her."

"The clocktower, on one of the arms of the clock," he spit out.

Emma was thankful his anger wasn't directed at her. "Okay. We need to go back, now."

She turned her attention back to her phone, speaking quickly. "He said he hid it in the clock in the clocktower, on the arms. We're about to leave for the airport. We'll be back tonight. You and David be safe."

"Okay," Mary Margaret responded, sounding like she was already moving. "Well see you and Henry tonight. And you be safe, too."

She hung up as she looked back at Henry, who was looking worried and scared. "Henry, get your things."

He quickly got up, gathering what little bit he had brought with him to New York.

Gold turned back to Neal, his voice softening. "Bae, I'm just going to ask you one last time to come back with me before I have to leave."

Seeming to understand the severity of the situation, Neal nodded. "Alright. But I'm doing this for Emma and Henry. Not you."

Her stomach twisted at his words, realizing he thought they could just get back together like nothing had ever happened, that he hadn't hurt her.

He took off to gather a small bag, leaving her with Gold. Both their things were already packed, having brought them with them over to the apartment, knowing they were leaving that day.

Despite it only being a few minutes, it took too long for Emma's liking for them to leave, taking Neal's car to the airport. She found herself constantly fidgeting as they bought their tickets and went through security, anxious to get home.

She spoke quietly as she glanced at Gold. "With that dagger, could Cora use it to kill us all?"

Gold responded with a dark smile. "Yes, and I would have no power to stop it."

Nodding, Emma couldn't help glance at Henry, worried about what would happen to him should anything happen to her and her parents.

Nearly springing from Gold's car, Emma saw her parents rushing toward them, their eyes focused on her and Henry. Both Mary Margaret and David embraced them before looking back at Gold.

Carefully, Mary Margaret pulled out a wickedly curved dagger, the name "Rumplestiltskin" etched in black along the blade.

Gold held out his hand expectantly.

Mary Margaret slowly handed it over, her voice tight. "We barely got it. Don't let Cora or Regina get it. Someone I was close to before the curse already died because we wouldn't hand it over."

Nodding stiffly, Gold tucked the dagger into his suit jacket. "Don't worry, dearie."

Releasing a hard breath, Emma turned away from Gold to look towards her parents, steadily ignoring Neal.

"What's going on with the giant?" she asked.

"You know about Anton?" Mary Margaret asked in surprise.

Arms crossing over her chest, Emma nodded. "I talked to Killian last night. He told me all about it."

David nodded. "Anton was taken in by the dwarves. Everything is fine with him."

Finding herself unsatisfied with the explanation, she decided to let it go for the time being. "Did anyone go over to check on Killian last night or today?"

Mary Margaret suddenly looked guilty. "Ruby went by last night to bring him dinner and Belle went with her to give him some books I think. We haven't seen him except for yesterday when he helped us with the giant."

Emma was glad that Belle went with Ruby to at least give him some company, as well as get him used to people again.

She couldn't help feel some frustration with her parents, knowing that they knew she had asked them to make sure he was okay. She knew they had to look over the town, but couldn't help feeling irritated.

Glancing at Neal, Mary Margaret's eyes suddenly lit up. "Who's this?"

Emma felt her irritation grow, knowing Mary Margaret knew exactly who Neal was.

"This is my dad," Henry said, smiling proudly. "Turns out he's not dead after all."

Emma felt herself flinch.

Neal grinned at her parents, extending his hand to David and Mary Margaret. "Neal Cassidy, or Baelfire. As the kid just said, I'm Henry's dad."

Mary Margaret smiled warmly in welcome. "It's nice to finally meet you. I'm Mary Margaret, and this is David."

Neal nodded as he shook each of their hands.

Emma felt uncomfortable as they made their way back to the loft, Neal and Henry walking side by side with Mary Margaret, chatting as Gold left to go home back to Belle. She held back, not wanting to listen to them.

"You okay?" David asked quietly from beside her.

She sighed. "Do you ever feel like the universe has played a sick joke on you?"

He released a humorless laugh. "Yesterday, actually. Anton wanted to kill me because my twin brother killed his family, and thought he was me."

"I just never thought that Neal would, out of all people, be the son of Rumplestiltskin," she said quietly.

Reaching out, he wrapped a strong arm around her, pulling her into his side. "Things will work out, Emma. One way or another. Me and your mom are proof of that."

She nodded.

"I need to go check on Killian," she said in a lower voice. "Just to make sure he's doing okay. He's still not used to any of this."

Hesitating a second, David nodded. "Just come home first?"

Knowing she needing to drop her bag off, she nodded in agreement.

Mary Margaret immediately set to make everyone comfortable as they entered the loft, moving toward the kitchen.

Emma quickly climbed the stairs to her room, tossing her bag onto her bed before going back down.

"I'll be back later," she said as she reached the door.

"Wait, where are you going?" Mary Margaret asked her, drawing everyone's attention to her.

"I need to go check on Killian," Emma told them. "I promised him I would go see him when I came back."

She left before they could protest, heading out to the street where her car was parked. She was eager as she drove toward the forest, finally finding herself relaxing a little bit as she stopped her Bug in the makeshift driveway of the cabin hidden in the trees.

Stepping out, she breathed in, inhaling the coastal forest air, taking in the scent of the trees as well as the ocean.

Looking around, she didn't see Killian, making her begin to walk through, looking for any traces of him moving through the trees. Knowing he already had a habit of finding spots where he could lounge in the sun, she made her way to the nearest clearing, smiling when she caught a glimpse of black scales through the trees.

At the sight of Emma, Killian lifted his head, offering her what looked like a grin. "Swan, you're back."

She smiled back at him. "I told you I would be today."

He watched as she neared, settling down and sitting with her back against his wing.

Leaning her head against him, she closed her eyes.

"Comfortable, love?" he asked with laughter in his voice.

"Hey, I'm tired from yesterday and the two flights," she defended, keeping her eyes closed. "I want to rest against something, and you're a lot more comfortable than those trees."

She heard a faint growl come from him that sounded almost like a chuckle.

He didn't say anything, patiently waiting for her as she continued to rest against him.

Preparing herself, she took a deep breath. She knew she wouldn't be telling him the full story, she wasn't prepared to relive what she had gone through.

"Rumplestiltskin's son is Henry's father," she told him quietly. "I didn't know until yesterday, and now Henry's furious at me, cause I lied about him being dead. I just didn't think I would ever see Neal again."

"He's the one who hurt you, isn't he?" Killian asked her just as quietly.

She nodded, seeing one blue eye trained on her.

"Everyone else knows it, so you might as well, too," she said, her voice barely a murmur, knowing somehow that he wouldn't judge her. "When I was younger, I went to jail. I had Henry while I was in jail, and put him up for adoption, which is how he ended up with Regina.

"He found out, and later he asked me about his dad. Neal didn't have a good past, so I lied, wanting Henry to have one parent he could look up to. I told him his dad was a firefighter that died. I truly never thought I would never see Neal again, so I didn't think he would ever find out."

"You lied to protect him," he said.

"Yeah," she nodded. "And now he's mad at me, telling me I'm just like Regina."

Killian sounded unhappy when he replied. "That's hardly fair. Regina killed hundreds and lied to save face, you only were trying to protect him."

Emma smiled weakly. "Tell him that. And on top of that, Neal thinks we can just get back together like nothing ever happened."

It was harder to read his expressions in his other form, making it so she couldn't identify the look that crossed Killian face.

"And what do you want?" he asked her.

"I really don't know," she replied honestly. "But I do know that I don't want to do this all over again with him. I'm not the same as I was ten years ago."

Her voice suddenly hardened, revealing her frustrations. "And it doesn't help that Mary Margaret is suddenly trying to play matchmaker."

"Your mother is encouraging the relationship?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah," she sighed. "She wants me to take that chance, but I can't. Not again."

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

She gave him a soft smile. "It's not your fault."

Reaching out, she touched his snout, gently running her hand along it. He closed his eyes, relaxed.

"You want to come by for dinner later?" she asked after a while.

"Aye," he responded in a lighter tone. "It would be nice to have some company. I'll be there after sunset."

He started, tearing his head away from her hand to look through the trees, hearing something too faint for her ears.

"Someone's coming," he said quietly, his body tensing for an attack.

"Who is it?" Emma asked him, on edge. "Is it Cora?"

"No," he told her. "I don't know who this is."

She heard her name being called, her stomach sinking as her irritation suddenly flared, unable to have even a moment before he sought her out.

She got up before Neal broke through the trees.

"Emma," he called, before catching sight of her. He stilled at the sight of Killian next to her, his tone becoming angry. "What the hell? I didn't believe my father when he told me about this."

Emma crossed her arms defensively. "What do you want, Neal?"

"I came to take you back home," he said. "Your mom said you would show me around town, and I thought we could get lunch."

"It's a small town," she hinted. "Besides, I have plans already."

"Hanging out here with my dad's guard dog?" he asked with a venomous glance towards Killian. "Do you know who he is, Emma? What he did to my family? How he stole my mother?"

Killian shrunk back at Neal's words.

"He didn't steal her," Emma shot back angrily. "Unless he physically carried her off back to his ship, he didn't take her. Actually, with how I hear it, she went on her own."

"Of course he would say that," he responded unhappily. "Look, Ems, let's just go back to town and hang out."

"You go ahead, I'm staying here," she bit back.

"It's alright, Swan," Killian told her quietly. "You don't have to stay here with me."

She shook her head. "Neal, go. I'll be home some time later. Go see your father, I'm sure he'll want to talk to you."

Unhappy, Neal turned away, leaving Emma alone with Killian.

They were silent until they were sure he was gone.

"He seems like a keeper," Killian said falsely cheery voice.

Despite herself, Emma laughed.

"So what are you gonna do now?" he asked her.

Shrugging, she looked back at him. "Mind if I stay here for a while?"

"Not at all," he replied.

Smiling, she sat back down against him.


Chapter Text

Burying her head deeper into her pillow, Emma turned away from the morning light streaming into her room. She was tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

She had been up late as Killian had been over often at night, having come back with her from bringing food from Granny's back to the loft or just to be close to people. She hadn't wanted to kick him out, genuinely enjoying his company, even insisting he didn't have to leave when he thought she was becoming too tired.

Henry had continued to give her a hard time, constantly standoffish. Regina had made her presence known a few times, each time demanding custody of Henry back, as well as making it a common occurrence in threatening the town. Combined with them being unable to come up with a trace as to where Cora was hiding, Emma felt constantly stressed to the point she was surprised she wasn't turning prematurely gray.

Emma knew that Mary Margaret genuinely meant well, but she was nearly at the end of her rope with her mother trying to set her up with her ex. She didn't want to give Neal a second chance, preferring if he would completely forget about her. Neal didn't seem to understand that she wasn't interested, continuing to pursue her. A few times she was supposed to meet her mom for lunch at Granny's, her mother had had to cancel last second, always sending Neal to send news of her cancelation after Emma had secured them a table. To Emma, it was one of the greatest betrayals she could imagine.

It had only been a little over a week since she came back from New York, but it had felt like months.

Hearing footsteps on the stairs, she stilled, hoping she appeared to be asleep.

To her dismay, Mary Margaret opened the curtain, letting the winter sunlight completely penetrate her eyes.

"Was that really necessary?" Emma grumbled as she picked her head up.

Mary Margaret shrugged lightly, immediately alerting Emma that she was plotting something. "It's a really nice day, and it's nearly eight. I know you have the day off, but you shouldn't spend it in bed."

She moved to go towards the stairs separating Emma's room from the rest of the apartment. "Get dressed, and we'll go out. It would be a shame to waste the day."

Muttering to herself, Emma pulled some clothes as she got up before heading towards the shower. She didn't pick anything particularly nice, knowing exactly what her mother was planning.

She got ready quickly enough, pulling on a sweater, jeans, and boots. Finishing drying her hair, she paused at the top of the steps, mentally preparing herself for whatever Mary Margaret had planned.

Her mother looked up as she hit the bottom step. "Ready?"

Emma nodded.

She followed her out after a quick goodbye to David, heading out to the street.

"I thought we could go get breakfast," Mary Margaret told her. "It's been a long time since the two of us have done something."

"That would be nice," Emma tentatively nodded.

Refusing to fall into a false sense of security, she couldn't help constantly looking around for Neal, expecting him to arrive to join them any second.

He had been staying at the bed and breakfast, with Henry spending most nights with him, both saying they had ten years to catch up on. It stung Emma, but she knew there wasn't much she could do about it. She remembered how Henry had rebelled against Regina, knowing he would do the same if she tried to keep him.

She settled with Mary Margaret in a booth at Granny's, both quickly ordering.

Easy conversation passed between them, both keeping it light, but Emma refused to fall into a trap and be surprised.

At the very end of their meal, they finally reached the conversation she dreaded so much.

"So, Neal's been asking about you," Mary Margaret said calmly. "He wants to take you out tonight. I really think you should say yes."

Emma was shaking her head before she finished speaking. "I have no desire to go out with Neal."

Mary Margaret sighed. "Emma, he's Henry's father. Wouldn't it be nice to give Henry a real family with both his parents?"

Emma flinched back like she was slapped, thinking how low her mother's statement was.

"Henry wants you two to try at least," Mary Margaret continued on. "I know True Love isn't easy, but it's worth it, and you deserve it. Just give Neal a chance?"

Wanting to scream, Emma shook her head. "It's not True Love, believe me."

"Emma, just look at it," Mary Margaret urged. "You're separated all that time ago, and you find each other again. On top of that, he's from the Enchanted Forest? It's fate."

Her stomach turning, Emma shook her head. "Or a sick joke."

Sighing, Mary Margaret leaned back in her seat. "What would it hurt in agreeing to have one date?"

"For one, I don't want to get Henry's hopes up," Emma countered.

"How are you so sure its gonna fail?" her mother asked.

"Because I'm not that seventeen-year-old that loved him anymore," Emma told her.

"Neal's older, too," Mary Margaret responded. "People change and grow. Just look at me and David. We survived a curse, Emma, and are stronger for it."

Exhaling hard, Emma rested her head in her hands. She didn't move when Mary Margaret rose and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Just go on a date with him tonight," Mary Margaret urged quietly before leaving.

Closing her eyes, Emma fought against the headache creeping up as she moved to leave the diner.

Feeling guilty, Emma pulled out her phone, opening her messages.

She knew Killian wouldn't get it until he was back in his human body, but knew she couldn't put off letting him know any longer that she would be out. She knew he could fend for himself, that she, her parents, and even Belle and Ruby had taught him to work a modern kitchen in the week since she returned from New York, making sure his cabin was stocked.

5:27 Hey, sorry about this, but I won't be home until late tonight. I have to have a date with Neal.

Before she could stop herself, she hit send before tossing her phone aside and falling back on her bed.

Henry had been happy that she was going on a supposed date with Neal, making Mary Margaret's words ring in her head, that Henry wanted a family with both his parents.

Mostly out of guilt and desperation to make things right with Henry, she accepted when Neal asked her out.

Knowing she had about half an hour before he was to be there, Emma thought about getting a drink, refusing to get dressed up. She wasn't going to give Neal that benefit.

Going down, she went to the cabinet where Mary Margaret kept the alcohol, pulling a bottle of rum and carrying it over to the counter. She poured herself a glass, quickly downing it. She found herself wanting more but opted for putting the bottle back, knowing it would be a bad idea to go on her date buzzed.

As soon as she washed her glass, Mary Margaret, David, and Henry came through, carrying groceries for their dinner.

"You haven't gotten ready yet?" Mary Margaret asked in surprise.

Cocking her brow, Emma looked down at her clothes for show. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

"I just though- nothing," Mary Margaret responded, going over to the counter to deposited her bag.

Emma knew what she was thinking, that she would dress up. She had everything from Boston, including her clothes, but refused to wear any of her dresses. The dresses she owned she had used for her honey traps or to pick up someone to scratch the itch, and didn't want to give Neal the wrong idea.

On top of that, she didn't think it would be a good idea for Storybrooke to see their sheriff dressed in a short, tight dress on a date, much less with her son's father.

Shrugging, Emma sat at the counter.

Henry say beside her. "So, are you and Dad going to get back together?"

Not wanting to tell him outright, Emma shook her head. "I don't know, kid."

He seemed hopeful even with her uncertainty.

Emma regretted not getting drunk before her date.

Neal had picked her up as promised, both of them heading to Granny's. She would have preferred somewhere more private so the town wouldn't see her, but didn't want to go to a fancy restaurant.

He immediately began reminiscing, expecting her to be the same as when she was seventeen.

She had constantly felt imaginary eyes on her through their dinner, making her more and more uncomfortable, as if they were waiting for her to bolt.

"So, Henry's a really great kid," Neal told her after they received their food.

She nodded in agreement. "Yeah, he is."

He rested his arms on the table, leaning forward. "You know, he was asking me to move here permanently, so I'll be closer to the two of you."

The area suddenly felt too small.

"You know, if you wanted to get out of your parents' place, we could find somewhere," he suggested. "I can talk-"

"Whoa, whoa," Emma said, cutting him off angrily. "You left, disappear for ten years without a word, then just expect us to get back together and move in together?"

Not wanting to stay with him, she climbed out of her booth, standing up.

"I knew this would be a bad idea," she said before striding out of the diner.

She didn't want to go home, not wanting to face Mary Margaret and Henry. Taking a deep breath, she checked her phone, seeing she had a message from when she was still in the diner.

6:21 It's alright, Swan. I'll just stay in tonight most likely. Hope you have a good time.

Knowing it would offer some privacy as well as knowing she wanted to spend some time with Killian, Emma made way to go get her car. She decided to pick up some Chinese food as an offering, hungry herself as well as she hadn't touched her food at the diner.

The forest didn't creep her out as much as it should have, probably because she knew the biggest threats that lurked in there were friends. She had nothing to fear from Killian or from Ruby when she was a wolf.

Making good time even with picking up dinner for them, Emma stopped her car in the driveway, pulling the bag with her.

She only had to wait a few seconds after knocking on the door for Killian to open it, standing barefoot with wet hair.

"Sorry," she apologized quickly. "Are you busy?"

"Not at all, love," he reassured her, holding the door open for her. "I just got out of that shower contraption and was about to make dinner, which I'm guessing you brought judging by the smell of that bag."

She smiled as she raised it before setting it on the small table. "Yep. I didn't eat and thought you might like some, too."

He pinched his brow in curiosity. "Is your evening done already?"

"It is when I walk out," she snorted as she began pulling cartons from the bag.

"That's bad form, Swan," he replied, his brow raised in surprise.

"Not when he's already making plans for you to live together," she responded.

His brow raised impossibly higher. "Ah, I take that back then."

She gave him a rueful grin. "Yeah, so it went that well."

He scratched behind his ear, something she noticed was a nervous tick of his.

Unsure, he spoke up. "I know I'm not from this realm and it's been a long time since I've been around people, but isn't that something of a warning sign?"

"Oh yeah," she responded. "That's always a major red flag."

"Really?" he asked with a small grin curling his lips. "You're speaking of red flags with someone who was a pirate?"

Realizing his joke, she shrugged, smiling in amusement.

"He's trying to use Henry to get me to go back to him," she told him, her light mood slipping.

Killian shook his head, what looked like anger crossing his features. "That's low, to use a child as a bargaining chip."

"Tell me about it," she muttered as she slumped into her chair. "Mary Margaret thinks that getting back with Neal will solve all my problems, and that I'll suddenly just be happy."

She shook her head, guilt bubbling up within her. "Sorry. I know you don't want me to come over just to complain the whole time."

He shook his head again as he joined her at the table. "Its fine, love. If you need someone to talk to, I'll gladly be of service. And you obviously need to vent."

She flashed him an apologetic smile. "Sorry. It's just been a really, really long day."

"I can tell," he nodded. "But I'm sorry, he thinks you'll just go back with him?"

"He says he'll stay in Storybrooke for me and Henry," she confirmed, viciously stabbing a piece of chicken with her fork.

Shaking his head in disbelief, he began picking at his own food. "Yet he had no intention of even finding you until after he knew about Henry?"

"Nope," she snorted. "And what's worse is Henry suddenly thinks that me and Neal will just be together and get married."

"Sadly, I think I can understand that line of reasoning," Killian muttered. "You know my Milah was married to the Crocodile before she met me, but she was miserable. She hated being married to a coward. Unfortunately when she left, she left Bae behind. We had every intention of going back and getting him when he was older, the sea is no place for a child, but he had run from his father before we could because of his father's magic."

"That wasn't your fault," she told him, hearing the guilt in his voice. "Or Milah's. If he left Gold, then that's on them."

"But I'm also saying that just because you have Henry, so shouldn't have to stay with Bae," he told her. "If you're not happy or it's not working, you shouldn't have to stay."

"But I know if it makes Henry happy, I'll do it," Emma admitted in a quiet voice. "Even if I hate it, I'll do whatever I can for Henry."


Chapter Text

Killian stepped out of the cabin just as the sun was beginning to threaten peeking over the horizon, knowing his change would happen soon. After so long he was used to waking early, never able to sleep through his transformation.

The fact that he had somewhere to stay was bittersweet to him, because he finally had some actual comfort, but he had to leave that comfort early every day to prevent his safe haven being destroyed.

Stepping out into the trees, he was quickly able to reach the spot he dedicated to his change, a small clearing that allowed his larger body to move without disturbing anything.

The pain he was so familiar with wracked through his body, his bones breaking and twisting into a new skeleton as his organs threatened to burst. He may have been familiar with the pain, but he would never be used to it.

Feeling the soft earth beneath his feet and claws, he stretched, willing his body to relax after the trauma.

Deciding to remain close to the cabin for the day, he began wandering, intent on finding somewhere he could sleep. He preferred sleeping as a dragon, leaving his human form for being awake, even if his sleep schedule was reversed.

He was often bored during the day, having freedom yet being unable to do anything. He didn't feel comfortable going anywhere near the town, seeing the looks people gave him. He had some more freedom in his human form, as well as felt only slightly more comfortable going into the town. He didn't like going and moving by himself, receiving the same looks and knowing he wasn't accepted. Emma was usually with him, able to discourage the stares.

He often felt bad about always going to her, knowing she was losing sleep so she could stay with him. She had insisted it was alright, but he continued to feel guilt.

To his dismay he hadn't seen her as often as before because Neal had began trying to monopolize her time, which she would sometimes give into because her son wanted his parents to be together.

He knew that after being alone for so long he shouldn't feel the sting anymore, but the days and nights he was on his own he found himself lonely.

Settling into a small clearing, he glanced up, trying to determine if it would start snowing soon. He didn't feel the cold as acutely as in his human body, but didn't like the idea of being out in it. He had no idea what he would do, reluctant to search for a cave or cavern to seek refuge in. He had just escaped a prison in one; he didn't want to go into another even if it was necessary.

Curling up, he exhaled, closing his eyes in an attempt to sleep.

In what felt like no time, he jerked awake, alert as he heard a frantic voice calling him. Peering through the forest, he saw Henry's small form sprinting toward him, his face scared.

Killian stood up, straining to catch anything to explain why Henry was alone in the forest running to escape something.

Henry entered his small clearing, his face red in exertion and panting heavily.

"Henry, what's wrong?" Killian asked him. "Why are you by yourself?"

"Cora tried to take me," Henry gasped out, panicked. "She said she wanted to make sure my mom never lost me again so she would be happy. She's still after me."

Standing at attention, Killian looked through the trees again.

Closer than he would have expected, a pillar of blue smoke gathered out of nowhere, revealing a woman in the middle of it.

"Henry, it's not nice to run from your grandmother like that," Cora chastised him. "And you shouldn't be running off on your own, even if it's to visit your pet."

"Henry, get behind me," Killian hissed just loud enough for the boy to hear him, intending to use his body as a shield.

He wouldn't let anything happen to Emma's boy.

Henry ran behind him, letting Killian take control of the situation.

"You're not taking him," Killian said fiercely to Cora.

She laughed. "Why? Because you're going to stop me? I'm taking my grandson back to his mother where he belongs, not with the woman who gave him up."

Releasing a threatening growl, he stretched his wings to further hide Henry. "He's Emma's son. I'm not letting you have him."

With a sadistic grin, she held up her hand, fire igniting in her palm. "That's too bad. I'll just have to take him by force then."

She threw the fireball, striking his left wing.

Hissing, Killian drew his wings back, feeling the burning skin immediately begin to heal, looking like it had never been injured.

Just as Cora began to summon another ball of fire, he inhaled deeply, drawing his own fire. His chest and throat warmed, feeling the flames within him before opening his jaws and exhaling.

His fire was hotter than hers, heating the air around them until it shimmered. He stopped before he could do any damage to the forest, as well as because she used her magic to move herself.

Realizing she could easily use her magic to grab Henry, he used her temporary absence to his advantage. He quickly turned, lowering his head closer to the ground.

"Henry, get on," he ordered.

Henry stood frozen for a moment before following Killian's orders, darting forward to climb on and settle just above his wings.

Cora reappeared, throwing another attack.

Knowing Henry was in a more dangerous position, Killian countered with his own fire, the blaze swallowing Cora's flames.

Extending his wings for flight, he took off, knowing that while he had a chance to take out Cora, he refused to risk Henry.

Cora grew smaller and smaller as they gained altitude, taking off above the tall tree line.

"Hold on," he told Henry as he circled to head off in the direction of the town.

He didn't care about the looks he would receive or the murmurs, only caring about getting Emma's son to safety.

Quickly getting closer to the town, Killian began going lower, looking to see if he could spy Emma, Mary Margaret, or David out. To his fortune, he found all three on Main Street with Neal arguing with Regina.

"Sorry about this, lad," he apologised to Henry before releasing a loud roar to alert them to their presence.

The street quickly cleared out, allowing Killian to land in the middle, folding his wings to his sides.

"Mom!" Henry called, clamoring off on Killian's back and onto the ground.

They all sprinted forward, Emma quickly pulling Henry into her arms.

"What happened?" she asked breathlessly, pulling away enough to look at Henry.

"I kind of snuck out of school to see Regina," Henry explained breathlessly. "I went to her vault, and Cora found me. She tried to take me. I was closer to the forest than the town and remembered Killian was there, so I ran and found him."

Regina released an unhappy sigh, looking at Emma. "I told you I didn't have him, but I did not tell my mother to take him. This is crossing the line."

"Yet what are you gonna do about it?" Emma challenged.

"Cora threatened my son," Regina said simply. "I'll do what needs to be done."

Killian could tell that Emma didn't trust her completely, but knew that Regina would also protect Henry.

Emma passed off Henry to his grandparents, letting them embrace him as well as Neal.

Killian fought the growl growing in his chest as Neal lingered by Emma before finally leaving the space near her.

They all moved away save Emma, who moved closer to Killian.

"Thank you," she told him gratefully. "For protecting him and getting him away. Just- thank you."

He nodded. "You're welcome, love. You know Henry will be safe with me. I won't let anything happen to him."

"I know," she said honestly. "But it doesn't mean I'm any less grateful."

She reached out, gently resting a hand on his neck.

Hearing the whispers as well as feeling the uncomfortable stares, he shifted his weight, ready to extend his wings again.

"I should go," he told her.

"Come by tonight," Emma quickly requested. "I know we'll be planning on how to take Cora down, but we could use your help. Plus it's been a little while since you've been over for dinner. There's an area behind the loft that's large enough for you. Its private, so you can change without anyone seeing you."

Killian offered her a small grin, one that no doubt scared some of the people in the town. "I'll come."

Emma couldn't help constantly glancing out the window, knowing the sun was about to set.

She had been careful not to become too distracted and she helped her mother cook dinner, waiting for Killian to show up.

David and Neal had kept Henry entertained, knowing they were waiting for Regina as well.

It had felt weird knowing Regina was going to be fighting with them, but knew that when Henry was concerned, they were all on the same side.

She looked back as the door opened, revealing Regina slipping through. She thought she caught a large dark shape moving outside the window.

Regina immediately went towards where Henry was, hugging him tight. Henry returned her embrace just as tightly.

"I'm so sorry," Emma heard Regina say softly to him.

"It's not your fault," Henry replied.

"Okay, so what are we gonna do about Cora?" Mary Margaret asked, addressing everyone.

"We take her out," Neal said. "She threatened Henry."

"She's still my mother," Regina replied in a hard voice.

"Who tried to take my son," he bit back.

"Who you didn't even know about until less than two weeks," Regina scoffed. "I'm the one who raised him-"

Emma bolted to the door as she heard someone knock, relaxing some as she saw Killian waiting on the other side.

He raised a single brow as he peered over her shoulder, seeing Regina and Neal arguing. "Um, should I not have come?"

"No, it's fine," Emma told him with a shake of her head.

She let him in, making everyone stop talking and look towards them. She suddenly felt defensive as Killian seemed to shrink in on himself, his discomfort being blood in the water.

To her relief, Henry smiled widely, bounding over to them and wrapping his arms around Killian's waist. "Hey, Killian."

Killian glanced over at Emma, unsure until he caught her encouraging nod. He rested a hand on Henry's shoulder.

"Dinner will be ready in a minute," Emma told him quietly as Henry moved away. "Regina just got here."

"Why exactly is he here?" Regina asked, eyeing him distrustfully.

"Cause I asked him to be," Emma said immediately. "He's already saved Henry, or did you forget about earlier today? He can help us."

"How do we know we can trust him?" Neal asked. "Just because you do, doesn't mean we have to."

"Well, I do," David spoke up from his spot leaning against the counter. "He's already aided us multiple times. He's helped protect some of the people in this room as well as the town. Killian has my trust."

Neal and Regina balked at him.

"Now, if you're done throwing your temper tantrums, can we continue?" David asked as he crossed his arms over his wide chest.

Regina huffed as Neal muttered something Emma didn't catch.

Gently touching his arm, Emma led Killian further into the loft. He followed her, keeping close.

"So, where has Cora been hiding out?" she asked Regina.

Regina sighed. "My mother has been at my house this entire time. She will occasionally flee to my vault if she needs to, but she's mostly at my house."

Sighing, Emma nodded, knowing that of course Cora would be right under their noses.

"Is there any way we can send her back to the Enchanted Forest?" Mary Margaret asked.

Regina shook her head. "I don't know. We managed to take a single bean sprout from that giant's patch before we destroyed it, so we have one, but opening a portal that way won't guarantee anything. She should have been trapped in Wonderland with how I put her there, but she managed to get out."

"Is there a way to strip her of her magic?" David asked. "A permanent way?"

She snorted. "Of course, but she'll see that coming miles away and counter it."

"Not if it comes from you," Emma pointed out. "Cora won't be expecting you to try it."

"That could work," Mary Margaret said. "Regina, this could work. If you take Cora's magic, we can send her away so she can't threaten anyone."

"But if you send her away, won't she start going after others?" Killian asked quietly. "From what I gathered, she terrorized the people she ruled over in Wonderland."

"But she won't be here," Neal said. "As long as she's not here, I don't care where she goes."

Emma shook her head. "No, Killian's right. We can't just turn her loose on someone else."

"I think I can handle my mother," Regina said derisively. "Especially without magic. I'll just keep her with me."

"But what about Henry while we try to deal with her?" Mary Margaret asked. "He needs to be safe. And we can't have him stay in the vault."

Regina nodded in agreement, looking torn.

"I can set him with my father," Neal proposed. "He'll be safe there."

Snorting, she raised a brow. "Sure, let's keep my son with the Dark One, the man who taught my mother everything she knows."

"He can stay with me," Killian suggested quietly. "I can keep Henry safe and hidden. We'll be out of the way."

"Sounds like the best option," Emma said before looking back at him. "Are you sure though?"

He nodded, smiling as he and Henry shared a quick glance. "Aye, it will be no problem."

"I'll need time," Regina said. "Taking my mother's magic… it won't be easy. I'll need to find some way to do it that she won't suspect. And on top of that, she can't see me going through my books."

Sighing, Emma nodded.

Regina raised her brows. "And with that, unless you want her to suspect something, I need to get back. I'll tell you when I've found something."

She went to hug Henry, embracing him tightly before reluctantly pulling away to leave.

Despite the tension that remained, Emma felt like the room was lighter, that Regina's departure had lifted a weight.

She went to help Mary Margaret set out dinner, watching out of the corner of her eye Killian moving uncomfortably closer to the table. Neal went to the spot Killian would usually take beside Emma's spot, looking smug.

She rolled her eyes, unable to help thinking her ex was acting like a petty child at best and a total caveman at worst.

Settling down herself at the table, she motioned for Killian to take the next seat nearest her, across from David who was at the head of the table.

Even with the worst of the night over, Emma couldn't help feel anxious as she kept her eyes on the two men, knowing she had a fight ahead of her, that Neal would try to push her away from Killian, which she knew without a doubt she would fight him every bit of the way.


Chapter Text

Pushing the door to the loft open, Emma shrugged off her coat, hanging it up and kicking off her boots before stepping onto the small kitchen to make herself a cup of hot cocoa. She was tired from pouring over books to look for anything to take Cora's magic, unable to find anything. She had barely made a dent in her pile of books, but had hoped that she would have found something.

She was tired, wanting for the crisis with Cora to be over with.

She was just glad that Regina was on the same side as her and her parents, even if only because of Henry.

Mary Margaret and David wouldn't be home until late, staying out for a date night, leaving Emma by herself. Emma didn't begrudge them, knowing that as difficult as it was that she had parents the same age as her, it was hard for them as well, and that they needed to be a normal couple.

She didn't begrudge Mary Margaret her choice in movies and shows, but sometimes Emma just wanted to watch a good sci-fi, laugh at a bad horror movie or get lost in an old black and white.

Settling on some bad zombie movie, she couldn't help but think of the reanimated dead she had faced back in the Enchanted Forest. While the movie appeared almost comical, she thought back to the walking corpses controlled by Cora.

As one of the protagonists blew a hole into one of the zombie's chest where the heart was, she turned it off.

She didn't want anymore reminders of Cora, wanting to be able to relax if for a little bit before she was forced back into reality..

Debating on putting on her pajamas to get comfortable for the rest of the night as well as scavenge something for dinner, she was interrupted when someone knocked on the door as she began moving towards her room. Knowing she couldn't ignore them, she dragged her feet to the door, fighting a groan as she saw Neal.

He held up a small case of beer as he smiled at her. "Thought we could hang out tonight."

"Where's Henry?" she asked him, noticing the absence of her son.

He just shrugged. "With your parents. They offered to take him, so I thought I would come over and surprise you."

Emma reluctantly let him in, knowing he would only try to wear her down if she attempted to kick him out.

He immediately went to the fridge, depositing the beer but not before pulling two bottles from it. He handed her one, making sure her hand touched his as she took it.

Settling down onto the couch, he turned on the television, the bad zombie movie resuming.

"Really, Ems?" he laughed. "You still like watching these crappy horror movies?"

She sat as far away as she could on the couch. "Yeah, I do. I like them."

Shrugging, he took a pull from his beer. "If you say so."

She gripped her bottle tightly, feeling defensive.

He moved closer to her, closing the space between them. She tensed, making an attempt to move as far away as she could.

"I know you freaked out before, but I think maybe we should look into finding some place for us to live," he said casually, dismissing her reaction when he had first proposed the idea. "I mean, with Henry, I have a reason to stay. You can get out of your parents' place, and I can get out of Granny's."

Emma looked at him in disbelief. "I'm not moving in with you, Neal. I don't want to move in with you."

He sighed. "Look, I know it's been a few years, but I really think we can pick things back up. Besides, shouldn't we give Henry a real home with a real family?"

Gawking, she pulled away. "Are you kidding me?"

"I should have done this right when I saw you again," he muttered determinedly.

Before she could react, Neal kissed her, pulling her to him.

Emma froze in shock before violently pushing him away, furious. "What the hell?!"

"I-" he began.

"No," she said sharply, launching herself off the couch, her beer spilling on the floor as she fought the urge to strike him. "You don't get to talk. You do not get to just act like nothing ever happened, like you didn't just leave me. And you sure as hell don't get to kiss me!"

She turned on her heel, grabbing her shoes as she went and left the loft and a shocked Neal behind. She quickly pulled them on before going outside, the chilled air hitting her as she made her way to her car. She didn't grab a jacket or coat, the cold sinking into her skin. She realized she didn't even grab her phone, the device left on the table in front of the sofa.

Just driving, she was reluctant to return or to even find her parents, not wanting to deal with hearing why she should give Neal another chance. Without thinking, she found herself traveling along the forest roads, heading along the familiar path to Gold's cabin as it began to snow.

She felt guilty that she was dropping in unannounced on Killian, but hoped he would be willing to let her in.

Taking a deep breath, she left the warmth of her car, nearly running to the front door and praying he was there as she knocked, not knowing where else to go.

She only had to wait a second before Killian answered the door, looking at her in pleasant surprise before his expression grew concerned, taking in her disheveled appearance and lack of coat.

"Swan, come in here," he said, quickly drawing her into the cabin and shutting the door behind her.

The warmth of the cabin was almost a shock to her system, the roaring fire heating the space.

He touched her arm, leading her to the couch in front of the fire before grabbing a soft throw from the back of it and wrapping it around her.

"What happened?" he asked as he worked, his worry plain.

Emma felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment. "Neal kissed me."

He raised his brow in surprise.

She swallowed, suddenly feeling overwhelmed and her emotions weighing on her. "He just came over, started talking about us living together, and he kissed me."

Killian sighed and nodded before moving away. "Just hold on, love. Stay there."

Emma looked at his back in disbelief, seeing him retreating from her. It stung until she caught him rifling around the small kitchen area, pulling things from the small fridge and cupboards. As she registered the smell of the cinnamon and hot cocoa mix that Henry insisted he had, realization struck her, that Killian was trying to take care of her.

She watched him as he worked, not able to identify the feeling welling up in her as he moved before finally returning with two mugs.

He handed her one, the heat of the porcelain warming her hands further. He sat close to her, providing another heat source to drive off what cold she still felt from outside.

"Do you want to talk?" he asked her in a gentle voice.

She sipped at her drink before nodding, the taste of the cocoa comforting.

"Neal just decided to come see me," she began quietly. "He brought over some beer, so he intended to be over for a while. He sat down with me to watch some movie, and he just started talking about us moving in together again. He said we should give Henry a real home and a real family."

"That's low," Killian muttered unhappily. "To use a child as a bargaining chip."

She gave him a humorless laugh. "He then decided that he should have kissed me when he first saw me in New York, and decided to do it. I pulled away from him, yelled at him, then just left."

Sighing, he shook his head. "That's bad form. And really, just from knowing you, love, I'm surprised you didn't hit him."

"I wanted to, believe me," Emma admitted before taking another drink.

He sighed. "I know this is intrusive, but what happened between you?"

She hesitated, unsure of how to answer.

"If you don't wish to tell me, it's alright, Swan," he told her. "It's your secret to tell."

Swallowing, she looked over at Killian, his expression open. He was different around her than he was with anyone else, lighter and more trusting. He was someone she could talk to and knew he wouldn't judge her. She had already confided in him about growing up an orphan in the foster system, seeing understanding instead of pity in his eyes. She was ready to finally have someone know her story, to reveal what happened to make her build up her impossibly high walls.

"I ran away from the home I was in just after I turned seventeen," she confessed quietly. "I stole the car he had stolen, I didn't know he was in the back seat. We decided to stay together and help each other out, but it became more. He was the first person to really care about me, so I fell in love with him.

"We survived by stealing and sneaking into places. It wasn't the best, but for the first time, I was really happy because I wasn't alone. We made plans, to go to Tallahassee, get jobs, to make a real life for ourselves.

"One day Neal saw some wanted posters with his picture on it," she said, her voice becoming shaky. "He had stolen some watches before we met, and had to get rid of them. He wanted to flee to Canada, but I wanted to help him. I went to get the watches where he had them stored, knowing they wouldn't be looking for me. We were going to meet after he got rid of them and take off."

"You got caught," Killian deducted quietly.

She nodded her head. "They were waiting for me at the rendezvous, with a supposedly anonymous tip. He gave me one of the watches to keep, I didn't even think about it at the time, but he was just planting stolen evidence on me. So, I went to jail, and Neal went free. I was only in for less than a month before I found out I was pregnant."

He closed his eyes, exhaling. "You had your lad in the brig, because of his doing?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, furiously wiping at some moisture she felt build up in her eyes. "I couldn't be a mother, not one Henry deserved, so I put him up for adoption. I didn't even look at him after he was born because I knew if I did, I'd never be able to let him go to give him his best chance.

"I can't do this again with him," she finished. "I can't be with him again after everything that happened, and I can't let Henry get his heart broken. Neal said he's going to stay for Henry and me, but he's left me before. He even told me that if he'd known who I was before, he'd never even have gone near me. I can't take that chance again with him."

Hesitating for only a moment, Killian silently reached over to take her mug and place it on a small side table before pulling her to him, wrapping his arms around her.

Emma was shocked at the gesture before hugging him back, not expecting the gesture despite it not being unwanted. It was a complete contrast to Neal's kiss from earlier, Killian's warm embrace wanted and appreciated.

She felt safe in his arms, more comfortable and secure than she had ever remembered being as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"He's a bloody fool," he whispered. "He's a bloody fool who doesn't deserve you."

Despite the heavy mood and her emotions at reliving her old memories, she smiled.

"You've never told anyone all of that before, have you?" he asked quietly.

She pulled away, an action she immediately found she regretted.

"No, I haven't," she admitted. "Not even to Mary Margaret and David."

He nodded, about to respond when his phone began to ring.

"Sorry, Swan," he said quickly as he retrieved his phone and hit the button to accept the call.

"Dave," he greeted as Emma looked towards a window, her brows raising in surprise.

The light powder outside had become heavier, the snowfall nearly obscuring her view. She hadn't realized how bad the weather had become, realizing she might very well be stuck for the night.

Killian was quiet, listening to her father before speaking calmly. "Relax, mate. She's here. She's been here for a while now."

He waited for David before giving another response. "Aye, she can stay here for the night. She'll be safe and out of the cold here."

He let David say something else before hanging up, setting his phone back on the small dining table.

"Your parents just got home and didn't know where you were," Killian told Emma. "Apparently Neal told them you argued and you left to cool down, but they were worried, especially with the weather."

She shook her head. "Sorry. I know I probably shouldn't have just ran, but I couldn't stay there."

"Its fine, love," he responded. "You're more than welcome to stay here for the night. You shouldn't be out there right now."

"Thanks," she nodded in gratitude before sizing up the couch.

"Just take the bed when you're tired," he told her. "You're welcome to use any of the sleep clothes."

"No way," she protested. "I'm not taking your bed."

He shook his head. "It's alright. I prefer to sleep during the day in my other form anyway, so I don't really use it. I was planning on looking through some books on what might stop Cora, anyway."

Emma looked at him in surprise. "Seriously?"

"Aye," he nodded. "Believe me, if anything I'm just glad to read some new books. The same ones can get very tedious after over a century."

Slowly, she nodded. "Thanks."

"Have you eaten?" he asked her.

At his question, she felt her stomach twist in hunger. "Um, no, I haven't."

Nodding, he went to the small kitchen. "I haven't either. I can make us something really quick."

As he turned his back, Emma reluctantly got up to go change, feeling the warmth of her blanket seeping away as she removed it. Knowing the layout of the cabin, she moved to the bedroom, wanting to take advantage of Killian's offer of pajamas.

She quickly found a soft pair of dark blue lounge pants as well as a black tee shirt, swapping out her own clothes for them. She reveled in the comfortable fabric, noticing that it smelled like him, carrying the scents of ocean, leather, and something that was distinctly Killian.

She sniffed the air as she reentered the main room, catching the smell of something cooking.

"I hope you don't mind fish," Killian said from over his shoulder nervously. "It's all I have right now."

"That's fine," she replied, making a mental note to do some shopping for him in the morning to restock the cabin. "Do you want any help?"

"No, I've got it," he told her. "Just keep warm."

Not about to argue, she went back to the sofa and her blanket. She found herself watching the flames in the fireplace as she waited, feeling tired.

She didn't start when he sat beside her, holding his own plate as he offered her hers.

"Thanks," she said as she flashed him a small smile.

Realizing her hunger, she began eating, noticing that the food was perfectly cooked.

"This is good," she complimented.

He gave her s sheepish smile. "Not too bad considering I'm three-hundred years out of practice."

She chucked before sighing.

"Any idea what I should do when I get back?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Do what's right for you, Swan. Personally, I think you shouldn't begin a courtship with him again, but I know you're worried about Henry."

"Sounds like more reason not to," she agreed. "The hard part is telling Neal that and making him understand I don't want to be with him. Then I have to tell Mary Margaret to stop trying to set me up with him."

"A challenge in of itself," he chucked.

"You have no idea," she replied in agreement. "I know she wants me to be happy, but I can't be with him. And I can't afford to worry about any of that right now with Cora running around," she responded.

"And you'll beat her," Killian replied surely.

"How do you know?" she asked him, her voice sounding lost to her own ears.

"Because you won't fail," he said confidently.

His confidence warmed her, knowing that she had his compete support and encouragement.

He remained by her side after they finished, both enjoying their comfortable silence.

Emma felt her eyes growing heavier as she sat with him, tired from everything.

She didn't realize she had fallen asleep until she felt a strong chest and set of arms carrying her, her sinuses full of the source of the smell in her borrowed pajamas. She didn't open her eyes, too tired to bother as Killian carried her to the bedroom, tendery laying her down and pulling the blankets over her.

She fell back under when her head hit the pillow.


Chapter Text

Emma slowly blinked awake, realizing she was in an unfamiliar bed before memories of the previous night washed over her.

She remembered leaving the loft because Neal had kissed her, seeking refuge with Killian. She remembered how he had taken care of her, keeping her warm and making sure she was alright before she told him about her history with her ex.

He had carried her to the bed after she had fallen asleep, letting her stay the night.

Leaving the warm bed, she went to where she left her clothes from the night before, changing back knowing she would shower after she returned to the loft.

She noticed the smell of coffee as she left the room, realizing he left her a fresh pot. For a reason she couldn't identify, she felt her chest warm.

Getting herself a cup, she saw his leather jacket neatly folded on the table with a piece of paper on it, set away from the various books and notes scattered across the surface.

She couldn't help but admire the penmanship of the note as she picked it up, seeing it was addressed to her.


I didn't want to wake you, but I hope you're not too unhappy with my departure because as you know, it is a necessity. I've left coffee for you, which you're free to take, as well as whatever else is in the kitchen.

I do also hope that you make use of the jacket I left as so you don't have to endure the cold again.

Yours, Killian

She smiled as she set the note down, knowing that he was continuing to try to take care of her.

Remembering how he said the night before he was needing to restock on food, she ripped a sheet from one of the notebooks, penning what she saw he needed as she checked the fridge and cupboards.

Satisfied, she folded the paper and stuffed it in her pocket before pulling on Killian's leather jacket, sighing contently at its warmth and smell.

She paused before taking his note to her, deciding to keep it.

Bright white met her outside, the snow nearly blinding her.

Emma looked around as she got her bearings, seeing a small patch cleared for her car. Moving closer, she saw what looked like some claw marks in the frozen ground, making her realize Killian had cleared it for her.

Wanting to see him, she made her way to the other side of the cabin, spying a large black figure curled up beneath a large covering of trees. Snow was absent from the ground around him, giving him a small respite.

"Swan," Killian greeted warmly.

Emma smiled back in return. "Morning. I just wanted to say thanks for letting me stay last night."

He raised his head slightly. "You're more than welcome here, love. It was no trouble."

"Still," she replied. "I was actually going to go back home for a bit and then hit the store to restock your kitchen. Is there anything in particular you want me to get?"

"You don't have to do that," he said quickly, shaking his large head.

"I want to," she said simply. "Just like I wanted to ask if you wanted to come by tonight to have dinner with everyone."

He shrunk back sheepishly. "I don't want to-"

"You're not intruding," she told him quickly before smiling. "Besides, Henry likes having you over."

Slowly, he nodded. "Okay, so long as you're sure."

"I am," she replied. "I can deliver everything here and take you back with me? That way you don't have to worry about being out in the snow or going by yourself."

Despite the animalistic face, it looked like he grinned. "That would be appreciated."

Her smile widened.

"I need to get home for now," she told him. "I'll be back sometime before sunset to drop everything off and get you."

"Thank you, Swan," he replied gratefully.

Nodding in return, she turned to retreat back to her Bug, dying to get back to the loft so she could shower and get fresh clothes. She ran back into the cabin to retrieve the pajamas she had used so she could wash them before leaving, thankful he had made the path for her to get back to the main road.

She debated on seeing if she could take David's truck to go back to the cabin, knowing it would be easier to drive the larger vehicle in the snow.

The trip back was quick as not many cars were out, most of the town's residents staying inside.

She parked the Bug in its spot, quickly grabbing onto the pajamas in the passenger seat and going inside, wanting to avoid the cold.

Both Mary Margaret and David looked up in surprise as she entered the loft.

Surprising her, they darted forward, hugging her.

"Where's Henry?" she immediately asked.

"He's still asleep," her father quickly reassured her.

She felt herself calm in knowing where her son was.

"We were worried when we came home last night and you were gone," Mary Margaret told her. "Neal said you got in a fight and you needed to cool off."

Emma couldn't help snorting as she felt tension rising within her again. "That's not exactly what happened. He tried to talk me into finding a place with him then he kissed me."

To his credit, David looked unhappy.

Before Mary Margaret could say anything, Emma pulled away. "Hey, I really want to take a shower. I didn't have any clothes so I didn't over there."

She rushed up the stairs to her room, pulling what she needed before going into the adjoining bathroom on the second floor, shutting and locking the door in case Henry woke up.

The hot water relaxed her, chasing away any chills she still felt from her brief excursion outside. Her mind wandered to Killian, wondering if he was doing alright.

He had told her that the temperature didn't seem to bother him too much, but she found she worried about him. She understood why he didn't want to take advantage of one of the various caves in the town, knowing it would be too similar to his previous prison.

Steam curled around her as she left the bathroom, darting across to the dresser to grab some clothes and back to the safety of the bathroom, Mary Margaret and David's voices just audible from below.

Quickly choosing and pulling on some jeans and a sweater, she began brushing and drying her hair, not wanting to go out with it wet as she stepped back into her bedroom.

Right as she was about to hit the first step on the way down the stairs, she caught her parents' voices from below, quietly arguing.

"All I'm saying is that I want Emma to have what we have, Charming," Mary Margaret said. "I want her to be happy."

"Maybe she doesn't need Neal to be happy," David responded in a strained voice. "Look, if Emma ran off like that because Neal kissed her, something is wrong. For her to have that reaction, along with the fact that he never tried to find her after the curse broke, or even before? Something happened between them, and I don't think it ended on good terms."

"Emma needs to open herself up to love," Mary Margaret replied, sounding slightly frustrated with her husband. "I know she's afraid of getting hurt, but it will make her happier if she begins to let people in."

"And maybe Neal is the reason why Emma closed herself off to it," David pointed out. "Maybe Neal is what hurt her so bad she won't let anyone in."

Silently, Emma reminded herself to never leave her father and Killian alone in the same room, knowing that with Killian's knowledge of the truth combined with David's suspicions, they would probably hunt down Neal.

Despite that, she was thankful to have people protective of her.

Making as much noise as possible to alert them that she was going down, Emma began going down the stairs, wanting to grab something for her breakfast.

David and Mary Margaret looked up as she descended, trying to be subtle as they watched her.

"Hey, I'm running to do some shopping later," she told them as she began digging in a cupboard for some cereal. "Killian's place is running low on food so I want to restock it for him. I'm also bringing him over later."

Mary Margaret looked at her in surprise. "Oh, okay. I know Neal wanted to come by later to talk to you. He was worried when you didn't come back last night."

Feeling herself stiffen, Emma nearly crushed the cereal box. "Well, I don't want to talk to him. Especially after last night."

"But don't you think that maybe if you two sit down and talk, it would help?" Mary Margaret suggested. "Neal really wants to make things work."

"Then maybe he shouldn't be trying to convince me to find a place with him, considering two weeks ago, I hadn't seen him for twelve years," Emma replied.

"Maybe he shouldn't come around right now," David suggested. "If he's pushing for that, maybe some distance will help. We can't make her talk to him, Snow."

Pouting, Mary Margaret crossed moved to get a cup of coffee.

"Thanks," Emma said silently to her father.

He winked, careful not to let Mary Margaret see.

Emma had been right that David's truck would move more easily through the snow than her own car, the front bench stocked with groceries for the cabin.

She moved with ease through the road leading to the cabin, parking in her usual spot to unload the truck.

She only needed to take a few trips, able to bring everything in with a greater ease than when she did shopping for the loft. Putting everything away took little time, already knowing the meticulous way Killian preferred everything set up.

Knowing Killian would be going through his change soon, she put away the clothes she had borrowed before poking around the books that remained spread out on the table.

Her brows rose as she examined some of the books, seeing some in various languages, Greek and Latin among them.

She started slightly as Killian came in the cabin, having been engrossed in leafing through one of the books.

"I didn't know you can read ancient Greek," Emma said in wonder.

He gave her a shy smile. "You'd be amazed what they teach you in the Royal Navy. And I've had plenty of time to learn languages."

She shook her head. "Still."

"Do you mind if I go get cleaned up first?" he asked.

"Go ahead," Emma replied. " I'll wait in here."

He nodded in thanks before striding into the small hall that led into the bathroom, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Setting at the table, she began flipping through his notes, curious if there was anything he had found that could lead them to defeating Cora. She didn't realize the time that had passed until he spoke to her from the doorway.

"There's nothing in there," he told her solemnly. "Believe me, I've gone through my notes more times than I can count."

With a sigh, she nodded. "Just hoping that maybe you had more luck than we have."

He nodded in understanding.

Flipping the notebook she had been going through closed, she looked back over at him. "Well, your kitchen is completely stocked."

His face flushed, the red darkening his ears. "Thank you, but you didn't have to do that."

She gave him a gentle smile. "Don't worry. Plus I know that you haven't exactly had time to do it yourself."

Neither of them mentioned the other reason, that Killian hated going out by himself to any parts of the town, hated the distrustful stares that followed him.

"What do you say we get out of here and head to the loft?" she asked him in a lighter voice. "Henry's been missing you and Mary Margaret is making a huge dinner. I already told her I was bringing you over."

A small smile curled Killian's lips. "I would like that."

"Oh, and thanks for this," she said as she held out his leather jacket. "And the pajamas. Those are clean and put away."

He took it from her, shrugging it on. "Thanks."

Giving him a small nod, Emma led him to the truck, cranking up the heat as they climbed in.

"What happened to your carriage?" he asked curiously.

"At home," she replied as she pulled into the road. "David's truck is easier to drive in the snow."

He nodded.

"Oh, and thanks for making a path for me this morning so I could get out," she added.

"You're welcome," he said, his embarrassed flush returning.

Emma couldn't help smiling as he averted his eyes, finding it endearing.

"Weren't you cold out there today?" she asked curiously. "I mean, you cleared an area, but you're still out in the cold."

He shrugged. "It's not too bad."

She knew he wasn't telling her the truth.

"You feel it, don't you?" she asked quietly. "The cold like that. You feel everything."

"There's nothing that can be done about it," he shrugged as he looked out the window. "Besides, I just feel it. It isn't like it can kill me."

Her chest heavy, she noticed his position, curled up on himself, jacket wrapped tightly around him. It was faint, but she could see faint traces of blue on his fingers as well as detect occasional small tremors.

She set the heater onto its maximum setting.

She couldn't imagine living like he did, having to endure such extremes on his body, between the pain of transformation and exposure.

She understood why he couldn't seek shelter in one of the caves or even the mines, but wished he would.

"You know, you can always come over after," she offered quietly. "There's an area behind that's large enough for you. Its private, so you can change without anyone seeing you. Someone is usually home, so we can keep it warm."

"I don't think people would take too kindly to me flying over the town every day at dawn and dusk," he replied quietly.

She suddenly began to feel tears sting the back of her eyes with the knowledge that he felt like enough of an exile that he would avoid the town completely, that he would rather suffer and be alone in a cold cabin than have the basic comfort and risk being seen.

She swallowed a lump in her throat, trying to get control over her emotions.

Pulling up to the loft, she parked, letting them both out and into the building.

She just hoped they wouldn't have to deal with any surprises, that they could just have a calm dinner.

The first thing Emma noticed as she led Killian in was David's unhappy expression, the man brooding as he stood at the island with a flowered dish towel hanging from his shoulder.

She found she didn't need to ask as she heard Neal from the small sitting room, playing some game with Henry.

"Hey, Mom," Henry said as her son saw her come in. He turned noticeably happier when he saw her companion. "Hey, Killian."

She fought a smirk as Neal's expression faltered before shooting a glare at Mary Margaret.

"What's he doing here?" she asked silently.

"He wants to talk to you," Mary Margaret replied just as silently. "Be nice."

Emma balked, unable to help but feel a sense of betrayal.

As if on cue, Neal approached her. "Hey, can we talk?"

Exasperated, she closed her eyes before nodding, knowing he would ask again throughout the night unless she got it over with.

She lightly touched Killian's arm as she turned to go out, wanting to reassure him he was welcome to stay.

Neal followed her out, both stopping right as they were outside the loft.

Crossing her arms defensively, she waited for Neal to speak.

"So, I messed up last night," he began.

"You think?" she responded sarcastically.

He exhaled, frustrated. "Damn it, Ems, I know I screwed up, but can you just let me talk? Maybe you aren't ready to go so fast, and I can respect that."

Emma felt her jaw drop. "Are you serious? You're acting like the past twelve years never even happened. Like you didn't just leave and let me take the fall from those watches."

"It was twelve years ago," he responded. "I'm different from then, and August told me I had to leave to let you break the curse. Besides, I left you the money-"

"What?" she snapped. "What money?"

He looked at her in confusion. "The twenty grand from the watches. I gave it to August to give to you with the car."

"You trusted a puppet who is known for lying?" she nearly yelled, feeling sick. "I never saw any of it. I only got the car."

She wanted to scream at the new information, understanding what she had lost. She could have kept Henry. She could have used that money to start a new life, one where she could have provided for and raised her baby.

"Look, I'm sorry you didn't get that, but I didn't know he would steal it," Neal replied in a weak attempt at an apology. "But that's in the past. We can move on from it and be a family with Henry."

Her anger grew. "Neal, do you really think I can just drop everything and run back to you after everything you've done?"

"Not this again," he said. "Look, I made a mistake."

"You let me go to jail for your crime!" she nearly yelled, suddenly aware of the people on the other side of the door. "You left like it was nothing."

His voice suddenly dropped. "Yet you never moved on from it. Let me ask you this, Emma. In the time since we last saw each other, have you ever had a relationship with anyone else?"

"No, because you made it so I can't trust anyone," she shouted back. "I cant let anyone in anymore because of you."

"Yet you seem to be letting that pirate in," he muttered.

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" she asked.

"Despite what you seem to think, I'm not stupid," he bit back. "I've seen you with him, even just now in there. And you went to him last night?"

"He's a friend," Emma told him coolly. "Killian has nothing to do with this."

As she uttered the words, Emma knew that they weren't completely true, that she cared a little too much for Killian to just be a friend.

"Besides, I'm trying to help him after everything your father did to him," she added. "Or are you forgetting that he cursed him just because your mother loved him instead?"

"You believe that?" Neal asked her in disbelief. "You believe what a pirate told you?"

"He's not lying," she said simply.

He snorted. "I'm telling you, I've never believed you have a superpower. He's lying, Ems."

Irritation flared back to anger. "Well, I believe him. What reason would he have for lying?"

"Maybe so you'll feel sorry for him?" Neal countered. "He's been punished for his crimes, of course he's gonna seek sympathy."

"Are you kidding me?" she asked. "Do you have any idea what it was like when I met him? The prison your father was keeping him in?"

"He deserved it," he replied. "That man took my mother and broke apart my family, Emma."

She felt sick at his words, as well as caught that Neal refused to use Killian's name. "Unless he threatened or physically picked up your mother and ran off with her, she left on her own."

"You're still going to defend him?" Neal asked.

"Yeah, I am," Emma said firmly. "Maybe it's because me and Killian understand each other. That, and we've both been locked up because of you and your father."

Not wanting him to get the last word, she turned on her heel and quickly went back in the loft, shutting the door firmly behind her.

She caught Mary Margaret, David, Henry, and Killian all looking at her, heat flooding through her as she realized they had heard her with Neal.

"You heard," she said flatly.

"Part of it," Mary Margaret admitted. "We weren't trying to listen, but we couldn't help overhear."

Emma sighed. "I'm sorry, but I really don't want to talk about it right now."

Accepting her dismissal, her parents moved to set everything out on the table for dinner.

She glanced at Henry, seeing him wearing a confused and uneasy expression. She knew she would have to talk to talk to him later, try to find some explanation to give him.

She felt a gentle hand on her arm, making her look to see Killian's bright blue eyes on her in concern.

"Are you okay?" he asked her quietly.

Emma shrugged. "Yeah. I have to be."

He pulled away looking unhappy, like he didn't believe her.


Chapter Text

Emma sat down at the island, wrapping her hands around her mug of hot chocolate, suddenly feeling exhausted. Dinner had been uneasy, any conversation feeling forced after her argument with Neal in the hall.

Killian sat near her, pouring over a book to continue his own part of the research, everyone already telling him he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted, prompting him to take advantage of the loft and books they had gotten from Regina and Belle.

Henry was asleep, having gone to bed an hour earlier, leaving the adults awake.

David moved to lean his elbows against the counter as he sat beside Emma, looking at her.

"At the risk of wanting to go out and shoot Neal, we have to ask, what happened between you?" he asked quietly.

She tensed, feeling everyone's eyes on her.

She quickly debated, considering blowing them off before deciding against it. She couldn't take her parents, especially Mary Margaret, pushing her towards her ex anymore. She didn't want to have a relationship with Neal again, not when it had left her so damaged the first time.

Unable to help herself, so glanced over to Killian, seeing him give her an encouraging nod, as well as telling her the choice was completely hers.

Taking a deep breath, she looked back to her parents, who were watching her earnestly, David sitting beside her and Mary Margaret leaning against the counter.

"You guys know I met Neal when I was young," she began. "He was the first one to care about me, so I fell in love with him. He was a thief like me, so we lived that way."

She knew she wasn't going into as much detail as she had when she told Killian, but knew they would understand everything, why she couldn't bring herself to even entertain the idea of being with Neal again.

"He had stolen some watches before I met him, and needed to get rid of them," she continued, willing herself to keep the emotions associated with her memories at bay. "I wanted to help him so we could make a life somewhere, so I picked them up from where he had them hidden. He gave me one before he left, telling me to keep it. When I met at our rendezvous, the cops were waiting."

Mary Margaret looked stricken, covering her mouth with her hands, while David looked furious.

"He set you up?" he asked in a strained voice. "He let you take the fall?"

Silently, Emma nodded.

"That's … that's why you had Henry in jail," Mary Margaret said, her face pale.

"I was in there for eleven months," Emma replied. "I found out I was pregnant after a month."

David released a hard exhale. "I'm gonna kill him."

"We…" Mary Margaret said, at a loss for words. "Emma, I'm so, so sorry. And we pushed you to give him another chance…"

"Now you see why I can't," Emma said softly. "What's worse is that I just found out he actually left me the money from the watches, but August stole it."

David reached out, protectively wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer to him.

She relaxed into her father's hold, knowing both her parents would support her, knowing her past.

She caught Killian's small smile, as if he had the same thought. She returned it, knowing that for what it was worth, she had his support as well.

"Are you gonna tell Henry?" Mary Margaret asked her.

"I don't know," she said. "I don't even know how I can tell him. He deserves to have his father, and I don't want to take that from him. But I can't give him the family he wants."

Mary Margaret sighed. "We'll help you figure something out. There has to be a solution."

"I'm sorry to interject, but what exactly are you going to do about Neal?" Killian asked quietly. "Because it doesn't seem like he knows the difference between persistence and harassment."

Emma had to force back a laugh despite the mood of the room.

"I don't think Dave would oppose if he and I were to go out and just happen to run into him," he continued lightly.

"No way," she replied in a light but firm voice. "He's still Henry's father."

"I'm just adding, Killian is right," David offered before his voice grew more serious. "On both accounts. What are you gonna do about Neal?"

She sighed. "I really don't know. All I can think of is to just keep turning him down."

She noticed Mary Margaret's suddenly worried face. "Do you think he would try to take Henry if you keep refusing to go back to him? That he would try to get his father to help him?"

Horrified at the thought, Emma shook her head. "I hope not. He's tried using Henry already, but I don't think he would use him like that. Besides, no matter what he says, Regina is the one that actually still has custody of Henry."

"Wait," Killian said, raising a hand to stop her. "What do you mean that Regina has custody of Henry? You're his mother."

She looked over at him, gently shaking her head. "When I gave Henry up for adoption, I gave up all of my rights to him. According to the records, I shouldn't even have any contact with him."

His expression became stunned.

"I'll explain it all later," she promised.

He nodded in acceptance.

Mary Margaret glanced at the clock. "I think we're all gonna have to talk about this tomorrow. It's almost one in the morning."

David nodded, releasing Emma to stand.

Mary Margaret turned to address Killian. "David and I are going to bed, but you're welcome to stay. Help yourself to whatever you want."

Killian nodded. "Thank you."

Emma couldn't help the small smile that curled her lips, knowing that her mother was warming up to Killian.

"I'll probably be up for a little while,"she said as her parents retreated to their room, drawing the curtain closed.

She thought she heard a faint noise up above, but dismissed it, thinking it was just the building settling.

"Are you up to doing some more research?" she asked Killian quietly.

He nodded. "Aye. We might not know what to do to stop Neal for right now, but we can find something to stop Cora.

Emma was tired as she sat in her chair at the sheriff's station, a small part of her regretting staying up so late to pour over more books in hopes of finding something go let them stop Cora.

She didn't regret it too much, spending some more time with Killian despite the task and the late hour. She enjoyed his company, comfortable working beside him as well as being with him when he was around for whatever reason.

He continued to be timid whenever he went out with her to anywhere like Granny's, but had been getting better, the stares of people not bothering him as much, as well as getting used to larger numbers of people in general.

Despite him getting better, she understood his reluctance in wanting to remain out of the town during the day, even with its promise of more warmth and shelter than the forest. She understood it that he didn't want someone to see him in the middle of his change, not wanting to give people more reason to talk and stare. Having seen the transformation herself, she knew people would.

He had left early in the morning before the sun rose to retreat to the forest, hiding from the view of the town's people before anyone was even awake. He had left a note saying he left, along with his sparse notes.

Sighing, Emma knew she likely had a long day and even night ahead of her.

David set a mug of coffee in front of her, the smell drawing her attention.

"Thanks," she said as she lifted the cup to her lips.

"No problem," he responded, taking a drink of his own coffee.

"How did Henry seem to you this morning?" she asked suddenly.

Henry had been acting strange when he woke up, most of the time wearing an unidentifiable expression. He hadn't exactly been distant, but had been quiet.

Emma had thought he would have been happy with it being Saturday, letting him go out with his father, but he instead wanted to remind behind with Mary Margaret. She worried that he might be getting sick, but he hadn't shown any symptoms.

"It's probably stress," David reassured her. "It can't be easy for the kid. His family is working to stop his adoptive grandmother, while his adoptive mother, who's the Evil Queen, is working as a double agent."

He suddenly looked pensive. "Oh, and then you have the whole thing where he finds out that Gold is actually his grandfather."

Emma groaned, burying her head in her hands. "Don't remind me. They don't have huge family dinners for Christmas in the Enchanted Forest or anything, do they?"

"No, they don't," he answered, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands behind his head. "Believe me, me and your mother had that same thought, but for Thanksgiving."

She released a laugh.

"Killian didn't really seem surprised when you told us about Neal last night," he said casually.

Biting her lip, she leaned back in her chair. Her voice grew quiet as she answered. "I told him the night before. It's just that when I went over, he knew something was wrong without me even telling him. I wanted to tell him, and he listened."

David smiled pensively, making her wonder what he was suddenly thinking.

Before Emma could ask, she heard the front doors open, followed by the sound of heels clicking on the floor.

David's face became serious as he leaned forward. "Regina?"

Regina stopped as she reached the bullpen, looking frazzled. "We have a problem. My mother is going after the dagger tonight. She found out where Gold hid it."

Killian raised his head, checking the position of the sun in the winter sky best as he could through the trees by the cabin.

"It's still a little while before sunset," Henry said from his spot on a chair on the porch, wrapped in a thick warm blanket.

"You know you can go inside, lad," Killian pointed out. "You don't have to stay out here. Plus your mother will be angry with me if you catch cold."

Henry shrugged. "I'm not in the snow, and this thing is pretty warm. And it's lonely in there."

"I'm sorry," Killian said quietly. "Know it's not the best here, but your mother thought you safest here with me."

"It's not your fault," the boy replied honestly. "It's not so bad here. And I know. My mom trusts you."

Careful not to give anything away, Killian turned his head to look at Henry directly. "Still, I'm sure this wasn't your first choice."

Henry shook his head. "Actually, it was."

His response surprised Killian. "Really? Wouldn't you have preferred to stay with your father?"

Hesitating, Henry shook his head, but didn't reply.

"Henry, is everything alright?" Killian asked, suddenly worried. He knew it wasn't his place, but wanted Henry to know he could talk to him.

"I… I heard you guys last night," Henry admitted quietly. "When you all thought I was asleep, I was listening. I know what my dad did to my mom. It's his fault she went to jail."

Stunned, Killian was at a loss for what to say.

"I was pushing her to get back together with him," Henry confessed guiltily, suddenly looking near tears. "I kept pushing and pushing, and I was so mean to her. I gave her so much crap for lying, and I-"

"That's not your fault," Killian quickly told him in a gentle voice. "You want to know what your mom told me?"

Silently, Henry nodded.

"She told you your father was dead because she really was trying to protect you," Killian told him gently. "She said all of that because she wanted you to have a parent you could look up to."

"But I looked up to her even then," Henry argued weakly. "She didn't need to say any of that. She stayed here to make sure I was safe, so I knew I had one parent to look up to."

Killian exhaled. "Aye, but she was worried cause you knew at that point that she had been to the brig, and that she had you in there."

"But that didn't matter," Henry said in a small voice. "I still knew she was a good person, and that she gave me up so I could have my best chance.

"This is weird," Henry said after a minute, releasing a small laugh. "It's weird talking to you like this."

Knowing what he meant, Killian felt what was the equivalent of a chuckle rumble through his chest. "Kind of strange talking about this to a giant winged lizard?"

"Yep," Henry said. His voice grew more serious. "I need to tell my mom I'm sorry."

Killian nodded. "She'll understand, you know. I may not have known your mother for long, but I do know she'll understand."

"You guys understand each other, don't you?" Henry asked him curiously.

"We do," Killian replied honestly. "Both your mother and I have spent a long time alone, and we know how hard it is. We both know how it feels to be betrayed by someone close to you."

"Who betrayed you?" Henry inquired, his eyes wide.

"That's a story for another time," Killian told him, not wanting to relive his memories and open old wounds. He peered up at the sky, seeing the sun's decent. "Go inside, Henry. It's almost time for my change, and you really, really don't want to see it."

"Is it bad?" the boy asked him uneasily.

"Aye, it's not pretty to watch," Killian confirmed. "Go inside, I'll be in there with you in a moment."

Slowly, Henry nodded, getting up with his blanket to go into the safety and warmth of the cabin.

Pain shot through Killian's body a minute later, alerting him to his transformation. He curled in on himself as his body shifted back into that of a human's, finally relaxing when it was over.

Breathing heavily, he waited for a moment in the cold snow to get a hold of himself before going in to join Henry.

The cabin was warm, the fire in the hearth started by Emma when she left Henry with him.

"You okay?" Henry asked him from the couch, still covered by his blanket.

Killian nodded. "Aye, lad. I'm fine. Are you hungry?"

Henry shrugged. "A little bit."

Nodding again, Killian moved to his small kitchen, feeling his own hunger.

"Do you think they're okay?" Henry asked suddenly. "My moms and Grandma and Grandpa?"

"I'm sure they are," Killian responded as he began pulling various ingredients. "Your mom especially."

He wasn't lying, knowing Emma wouldn't fail, that she would return unscathed.

Placated, Henry nodded.

They looked up in surprise as the front door opened, Emma's figure coming in.

Her eyes immediately found Henry, making her stride over until she tightly embraced him.

"Mom?" Henry asked, reflecting Killian's worry as he hugged her back. "Is everything okay?"

"It's over," she said in a tight voice. "Your grandma and grandpa are okay, and Regina is, too."

"What happened, love?" Killian asked gently.

She pulled away from Henry, her face suddenly exhausted. "Cora's dead."

He looked at her in shock. "What?"

"Cora was about to get the dagger," Emma said in a low voice. "She was breaking through Gold's wards on his shop, so Mary Margaret ran to Regina's vault. She found Cora's heart and crushed it. It was the only way she could have stopped her, and it was to protect everyone. Regina's going after Mary Margaret now, and I think it's going to be worse than ever."

"Maybe not," Killian replied softly. "She was trying to stop her, too. She knew how dangerous Cora was."

"Regina cursed an entire kingdom because my mother told a secret," Emma told him. "She's gonna want blood."

Sighing, Killian shook his head. "What are you gonna do?"

Emma looked lost, making him want to step forward and pull her into his arms to try to protect her, but he refrained.

"Keep her safe from Regina," she said helplessly. "David's with her right now, and Gold is warding the loft. It's all we can do for now."

He nodded. "I can help guard your mother."

"No," she said quickly before her expression softened. "This isn't your fight. I can't ask you to do that."

"I'm offering," he told her quietly.

She shook her head. "Killian, this isn't your problem, you don't have to do that."

Sighing he rested a hand on his belt. "I know, but that doesn't mean I can't do something."

Closing her eyes, she shook her head.

"Does this mean I still can't see my other mom?" Henry asked, breaking their small argument.

"No, not now, kid," Emma sighed. "Not when we don't know what she might do."

He nodded sadly.

Suddenly remembering he had been about to begin cooking a small dinner, Killian moved to return to the kitchen.

"You know we can stop by Granny's," Emma told him as he moved. "Just because you don't have to guard my mother doesn't mean you can't come over.

Thinking over the promise of some of the other food in the establishment, he nodded, moving to put the things he had pulled out back.

Silently, Emma moved over to help him.

"How are you doing?" he asked her quietly.

"Tired," she sighed. "I mean, I'm glad it's finally over, but it's one thing after another."

He nodded. "I can imagine it can become overwhelming."

She nodded. "It is. I mean, before I came here, I was living on my own as a bail bondsperson in Boston. Now I'm the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, having to deal with fairytale villains."

"It can't be easy," he muttered.

"Its not," she agreed.

"Bail bondsperson?" he said curiously as they finished setting everything away.

"I guess you could say bounty hunter," she explained. "Here, people can pay to get out of jail, but they still have to show up for their trials. If they didn't show up, I would go find them and have them arrested again."

He raised his brows, impressed. "Tough lass."

For the first time the entire day, she smiled.

"And what do you mean by fairytale?" he asked. "I've heard you say it a few times in regards to your parents and others in this town."

"I'll explain it later at the loft, okay?" she promised. "Let's get out of here first. I know Henry's hungry, and you have to be, too."

Killian nodded, letting Emma lead the way with Henry out to her car.


Chapter Text

Sinking onto the couch, Emma handed Killian his coffee, taking a drink of her own.

She couldn't hear anything coming from her parents' room, knowing that exhaustion had most likely claimed them, especially her mother. Mary Margaret had been quiet the whole night, obvious guilt weighing in her despite everyone telling her that there was little choice, as well as pointing out that because of her actions, many more lives had most likely been spared.

"Do you think Regina will come here?" Killian asked her quietly.

Emma shrugged as she drew her legs up. "I don't know. I mean, Gold set up the wards around here, but I don't know what she'll do."

He nodded solemnly. "Something you said earlier, that Regina cursed everyone to this town because your mother told a secret?"

Nodding, Emma took another sip of her coffee. "Yeah. Regina was in love with the stable boy that worked on her family's estate, and they were going to run off to get married. She was engaged to Mary Margaret's father because of Cora, something that he wanted to marry Regina because she saved my mother when she was ten. Anyway, Mary Margaret found out about the stable boy, and accidentally let it slip to Cora, so she killed him."

He raised his hand to stop her, a look of confusion on her face. "Whoa, wait. Cora killed Regina's fiance, and Regina blames your mother for that?"

"Yeah," she replied.

"What kind of logic is that?" he asked, his brow pinched. "Cora killed him, so that's her fault."

"I think it's because Mary Margaret told Cora, so that's why Cora did it," she shrugged.

"But if the relationship was hidden already, it had to have been that Regina knew Cora would do something to end it," he pointed out. "Technically, Regina should have gone after Cora all this time."

Knowing his logic was right, she couldn't help snorting. "Tell that to Regina."

He shrugged, giving her a mirthful smirk. "Why not? It's not like she can kill me or really even hurt me. If she did, I would just heal."

"She could curse you," Emma reminded him.

"What's one more," he muttered as he took a drink of his coffee.

His offhand comment felt like a physical blow as she looked at him.

"You know, now that Cora is gone, we can work on breaking your curse," she said in a softer tone.

She saw the hopelessness in his eyes when he met hers. "I don't know what can be done, love. The Crocodile likes his loopholes, but not when he's on the bad end."

"All curses can be broken," she told him. "There has to be some way to break yours."

His smile didn't reach his eyes.

Scrambling to change the subject, she thought of his inquisition from earlier in the night. "You asked what I meant when I said everyone here is just a story?"

He nodded, focused on her current topic. "Aye. Something about everyone being a fairytale?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Um, back in the Enchanted Forest, did you guys have fables or anything? Stories you told kids as warnings or entertainment or something like that?"

His brows furrowed. "Aye, some old legends, but they were all about people long ago."

She exhaled in relief, knowing she had something to compare to. "Okay, good. The fairytales I'm talking about are a lot like that, except everything is supposed to be made up. Lost princesses, magic, curses, none of it is real. They're just bedtime stories to tell little kids."

Brow pinching further, he looked at her in confusion. "So let me get this straight. According to this realm, I shouldn't exist?"

"Outside of a story book, no," she told him. "If it makes you feel any better, being the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, I shouldn't exist either. Neither should they outside of some storybooks and a Disney movie."

"Disney?" he asked.

Finding his expression endearing, she chuckled. "I'll show you some of those another night. They're like some of the movies we've shown you before."

A few nights when Killian had been over, Emma had introduced him to the television, showing him some movies to get him used to the realm's entertainment and technology. He had watched it in wonder, asking how it wasn't magic that produced the images on the screen. Henry had enjoyed the nights he was over, sitting with them and sagely explaining everything Killian asked about.

Despite being so old, he had been adapting quickly, even if occasionally needing guidance from her, her son, her parents, or occasionally Ruby or Belle.

"So according to these stories then, who are you parents supposed to be exactly?" Killian asked.

"Same as they were in the Enchanted Forest," she told him. "Snow White and Prince Charming. Their stories are different even if they keep a lot of the main points, but the people are the same."

His expression suddenly turned conflicted. "Who am I supposed to be then?"

Chewing her lip, Emma sadly shook her head. "I don't know. I've never heard of a Killian before in any fairytale."

He nodded.

Determinedly, she looked at him. "Well, maybe you have a different name here. You were a pirate, so that helps to narrow it down. What else can you tell me about before Gold cursed you?"

"The bloody Crocodile wanted a magic bean to get back to his son," he told her as he wore a pensive look. "He originally sent a thief on my ship to get it. The fool thought we wouldn't notice him, especially wearing a red cap, but of course my crew caught Smee easily enough."

The name caught Emma's attention, as well as how Killian always referred to Gold as the Crocodile. She studied him, his appearance, with his near black hair and blue eyes, as well as how when she had first met him, he wore dark but ostentatious clothing, making it obvious he had been a pirate captain. He was a gentleman despite everything, always courteous to women in particular. He had mentioned Neverland before, having visited there on a mission with his brother, having seen the lost boys more in line with the actual novel than the cartoon, remembering the book from when she was young.

She was sure she knew, but had to ask one last question to confirm her suspicions. "Killian, what was the name of your ship?"

"The Jolly Roger," he told her.

"Hook," she said simply in a soft voice.

"I'm sorry?" he asked in confusion.

"Captain Hook," she said by way of explanation. "He's a character in the book Peter Pan. He's a pirate that had his hand taken by a crocodile that follows him around trying to eat him. I think you were supposed to become Hook, but Gold changed the story."

He suddenly became quiet, his eyes on his lap when he finally spoke again. "The Crocodile used his magic to tie me to a mast on my ship so he could kill Milah. As soon as I got free, I stabbed him in the chest with a hook."

Surprised at the information, she reached out to brush her fingers on his arm.

He relaxed at her touch.

Knowing she was pushing her luck, she slid closer to him, waiting to see if he would pull away from her. When he didn't, she closed the distance completely, pressing her leg to his as she placed an arm over his shoulders.

He immediately sunk into her, the tension leaving him. Testing the waters, he rested his head on her shoulder, releasing a content sigh as she pressed her cheek to the crown of his head.

She understood how much he was taking in, learning that his fate was supposed to be that he was supposed to lose his hand, instead of becoming cursed and imprisoned.

"You know, Captain Hook was supposed to be quite the ladies man," she told him in an attempt to cheer him up.

He snorted. "I knew my way around women. I always had women around me until Milah, then it was only about her."

Emma's chest ached, hearing the effect of lost love in his voice. "And then you lost her. Believe me, I know how much it hurts."

"Aye," he responded. "Neal may not have died, but he did betray you."

She didn't respond, knowing that she couldn't tell him that it would get better, that she had issues trusting people because of Neal and Killian had been mourning Milah for three-hundred years.

She tried not to think about that despite everything that Neal had done, she trusted Killian.

Closing her eyes, she rested against him, the warmth of his body next to hers relaxing her.

"You know you can retire for the night," Killian told her quietly. "I can see myself out if you're tired."

"No, it's fine," she replied just as quietly. "Besides, you can stay here. It's probably snowing again, anyway. You can take the couch if you want to sleep. You don't have to leave."

"I don't wish to overstay my welcome," he protested lightly.

"And you're not," Emma told him. "My parents agree, you're always welcome here. I know that cabin must get lonely."

He shrugged. "That I'm used to. I've been alone for a long time, Swan."

She suddenly tensed, nervous as she realized the reproductions of suddenly emerging him into small groups of people when he wasn't used to them. She began to worry that even physical touch was too foreign for him.

Feeling her tense, he raised his head but didn't pull away from her completely. "Emma?"

"I- I'm sorry," she said quickly. "You're not used to people and I've been bringing you around my family a lot and I've been around you constantly to the point I'm overbearing. You're probably not even used to physical contact anymore, and I-"

Killian quickly shook his head to stop her rambling, his expression gentle. "It's fine, Swan. Believe me, I like you being around, and your family. You're far from overbearing."

Feeling herself begin to calm down, she nodded, noticing that he didn't break their physical contact.

"So this is okay?" Emma asked him.

He nodded. "Yeah, it is."

She relaxed further into him.

A feeling of warmth and safety enveloped her, making her feel at peace despite everything that was happening. She closed her eyes, releasing a content sigh.


Chapter Text

Emma groaned as she saw her car covered in snow, not expecting the afternoon snowfall to be heavy enough to cover her windshield.

"Should we ask Grandpa to borrow his truck?" Henry asked from the other side of the Bug.

"No, it's not too bad," she said moving to remove the light dusting of snow.

He nodded before climbing into the front seat, letting his mother take care of the snow.

Quickly finishing, she climbed in with him, starting her car and turning up the heat.

"Do you think people will stop staring whenever we go anywhere?" he asked as they began to leave the main streets of the town.

"I really don't know," she replied with a sigh.

At the encouragement of her parents, Emma was going with Henry to Granny's for dinner, insisting she needed a small break from the loft waiting for a possible strike from Regina. Mary Margaret's trip to Regina's didn't help things in both Emma and David's minds, making them more afraid that Mary Margaret would do something drastic in her guilt, but she needed a break.

At Henry's proposal, she had asked Killian if he wanted to have dinner with them, leading to them leaving to go get him from his cabin. Killian had agreed, even if tentatively.

She felt guilty, knowing he remained uncomfortable in crowded spaces, even if he had gotten better.

She noticed that Henry didn't fight being around her anymore, that he was more than willing to spend time with her. Him asking if they could invite Killian wasn't to try to deflect her, knowing her son just liked having the other man around.

She didn't know what had changed, but wasn't about to complain.

Henry adored Killian, always happy to have him around. To Emma, she knew Henry thought Killian was the coolest thing to happen to the town, even if his transformations were a curse.

"It's not fair," Henry muttered. "It's not his fault he turns into a dragon. Why don't they like him? We do."

"Because people are afraid of what's different," Emma explained quietly. "They don't understand something that isn't like them."

Her voice dropped to a mutter. "That, and I'm sure Maleficent terrorizing people back in the Enchanted Forest didn't help. Then let's add Gold."

"But they don't know him," Henry said unhappily.

"I know," she agreed. "But people talk. He hasn't been around anyone for a long time, so people don't trust him."

"People trust you," he argued without any bite. "Even when they were still cursed, they trusted you."

She didn't respond, not wanting to bring up that a large part of it was because she had gone against Regina and Gold.

She stopped the car in the spot by the cabin, shutting off the engine.

Henry was in the cabin before she had her door open, making her smile.

Drawing her coat tighter around her body, she quickly made her way to the cabin, relaxing as she saw her son talking to Killian, both wearing grins.

She felt a fluttering in her chest as Killian looked at her, his smile softening as his eyes met hers.

"Swan," he greeted.

"Hey," she grinned. "Are you ready to go?"

He nodded. "Aye, I am."

She led them out, darting back to her car to open it and start it, not wanting to stay out in the cold. She turned on the engine just as Henry climbed into the backseat, letting Killian have the front.

Letting the car warm up, she put it in gear, pulling out onto the roads.

"You're coming back to the loft with us, right?" she asked Killian quietly.

He nodded, looking nervous. "Yeah, unless it's too much trouble."

She shook her head. "No, it's fine. I've told you, Killian, it's fine if you stay over."

Slowly, he nodded.

Releasing a small sigh, she wished she could think of what to say to make him realize he was welcome, that he wasn't an inconvenience.

She was grateful that Henry began chatting, telling Killian about different books and movies Emma knew Killian had no idea what they were. He responded in turn with each of Henry's statements, indulging him.

She could see him grow tense as they reached the town, knowing he was about to be met with stares and distrustful glances.

Biting her lip, she stopped the car in front if the diner.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" she asked him quietly.

He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, it's fine."

Before she could respond, he got out of the car, pulling the seat back to allow Henry out.

They let Henry lead the way in, slowly following behind him.

"Thanks for asking me to accompany you and the lad," Killian said quietly, gratefully.

Emma shook her head, wearing a small smile. "It was Henry's idea."

He gave her a small smile. "That may be, but you could have not asked me."

"I told you, you're always welcome with us," she replied sincerely.

The pushed through the door, ignoring the sets of eyes on them as they moved to the booth Henry had chosen for them in the back.

Emma slid in beside him as Killian sat across from them, his back to the other patrons.

She wondered when his novelty would wear off, allowing him to move through the town in peace without being stared at with distrust.

Ruby took their orders, giving them their food quickly, making Emma wonder not for the first time if they were taken care of so quickly because Killian had become a favorite to both the waitress and her grandmother.

She couldn't deny the amusement she felt when Granny had once served them their food, telling Killian he was receiving his discounted, all the while Gold was charged extra for pickles a couple booths over.

"So, what happens when the seasons change?" Henry asked Killian curiously.

Killian worked his brow in confusion. "How do you mean, lad?"

"I mean you change with the sunrise and sunset, right?" Henry replied as he bit into a fry. "So when it's summer and the days are longer, are you a dragon longer than you're a human?"

Shrugging, Killian shook his head. "It stands to reason. I'm human longer than my other form right now, most likely because the nights are longer."

Henry nodded. "That sucks."

Able to figure out the phrase, Killian nodded in agreement. "It does. I'm not looking forward to the change in season because of that."

Emma bit her lip, knowing how much Killian hated being in his other form.

"Well, you won't have to deal with the snow then at least," she pointed out.

He nodded. "Aye, that's an upside."

His mood remained solemn.

She caught movement out of the corner of her eye as they finished their meal, making her turn her head to clearly see who had entered the diner.

She had to fight back a groan as she saw Neal.

Seeing her, as well as Henry, he strode towards them, faltering slightly when he saw Killian with them.

He plastered a smile onto his face, one that Emma had once found charming, standing at the edge of their table.

"Hey," he greeted. "I've been trying to get a hold of you guys. Ems, why haven't you been letting me see Henry?"

Killian stiffened up across from her, as well as Henry.

She had to fight the urge to reach out and rest her hand on Killian's to try to calm him as well as pull her son close to her.

Knowing she had to put on a show for Henry, she shook her head. "I'm not preventing Henry from going to see you. He's just been wanting to stay home lately. In case you haven't noticed, things have been pretty stressed lately."

She wasn't going to let Neal peg her as the bad guy, knowing he would attempt to. She wasn't going to use Henry as a scapegoat, but wasn't about to lie about her reasoning for not taking him to his father's.

"Well, maybe some time away will help him with the stress," Neal said, raising a brow. "I can take him tonight even. We just need to get some of his stuff."

Feeling annoyance turn to anger, she opened her mouth to respond.

"Actually, I'm not feeling too good right now," Henry said before she could say anything, hands resting on his stomach. "Mom, can we just go home?"

She couldn't help feeling suspicious, but wasn't about to let their opportunity go to waste.

Nodding, she moved to let Henry up, pulling out some bills from her pocket and setting them on the table.

Behind the counter, she caught Granny wearing a stern expression, eyeing their intruder. Emma prayed she wasn't holding her crossbow.

She ushered Henry out, letting him move past her. Both he and Killian paused to let her walk with them, refusing to leave her behind.

"Actually, can I talk to you second?" Neal asked her, halting her movement.

Fighting back a sigh, she nodded. "Yeah."

She looked back towards Killian and Henry. "You guys go ahead. I'll be right there."

Hesitantly, they nodded, Killian lingering for a moment to be sure she was okay on her own.

She spoke again as soon as she saw they were out of the diner. "What do you want, Neal?"

"Why haven't you been letting me see Henry?" he demanded.

"I haven't been," she bit back quietly. "He's been wanting to stay home lately. And it's not my fault if you never make an effort to actually see him."

"Maybe it would be easier to see our son if you actually talked to me and saw me," he argued.

"Are you serious?" she asked in disbelief. "You're seriously trying to spin this?"

He shrugged defiantly. "All I know is ever since the night you ran out on me to run to your pet, I have barely gotten to see Henry."

Anger flared within her, her voice coming out in a hiss. "Killian is not a pet. And maybe I left because you decided to kiss me out of nowhere, knowing I'm not interested. But I am not using Henry against you."

He suddenly looked around, seeing some of the other patrons of the diner looking uncomfortable. His voice dropped. "Just let me see my son. Tomorrow night, I'll come by, and we'll go out. Henry needs both of his parents."

"He needs stability," she argued, her jab intentional.

He scoffed. "Says the mother who gave him up."

Emma recoiled as if he'd slapped her.

She glared at him, her quiet voice sharp. "Maybe I wouldn't have had to give him up if you hadn't sent me to jail."

She quickly turned on her heel, striding out of the diner. She blindly went to her car, seeing Henry already seated inside the back while Killian leaned against the side, both obviously waiting for her.

He stood up straight, quickly closing the distance between them as she neared.

"Swan, are you alright?" he asked in a concerned tone. "What did he say?"

She shook her head. "I just want to get Henry home first, okay?"

Keeping his eyes on her, he nodded. "Okay, love. Do you want me to-"

"No," she said quickly. "You can stay. I'm not letting Neal ruin our night."

She pulled away to let him into the car, climbing into the driver's side.

Killian watched as Emma turned the television off, before they both glanced at Henry, who was passed out on the couch beside her.

"He didn't last long, did he?" Killian asked in amusement as the boys light snores filled the room.

Chuckling, she shook her head. "No, he didn't. Now I just have to try to move him upstairs. Or wake David to ask him to do it."

"I don't know if this is overstepping, but I can do it," Killian offered quietly. "I can carry him up to his bed. You don't need to wake your father."

Giving him a soft smile, she nodded gratefully. "Are you sure you don't mind?"

He shook his head. "It's no problem, love."

He got up, carefully lifting Henry into his arms before looking back at Emma, silently asking her to lead the way.

She led him up the stairs, guiding him to the smaller of the two beds on the upper floor. He quickly took in the rest of the area, the moonlight revealing the flowered quilts that were obviously her mother's choice. Only a few personal possessions were spread through the area, somehow making the area more scarce than his living quarters in his old lair.

He knew Emma hadn't really had a home before, but it didn't stop the sadness he felt at seeing the proof of what he knew.

He gently laid Henry in the bed as she pulled down the sheets, stepping back as she tucked her son in, following her back down the stairs after she was done.

He sat back in his spot, calmly waiting for her to open up to him, knowing she had been thinking about the incident at the diner the entire night.

"Neal blames me for him not seeing Henry," she said quietly. "He didn't say it, but he's still pushing for us to get back together."

Anger flared up, making Killian want to go hunt Neal down. "You've said it yourself, Henry wishes to just remain here with you. You're not keeping him from his father."

She shook her head, looking completely lost. He had to fight the urge to pull her to him, to hold onto her until her lost expression vanished for good.

"Do I make him see him?" she asked. "I don't want to force him, but I don't know what to do."

"I can't tell you what to do," he told her quietly. "If he doesn't wish to be around his father, that's his decision."

"I don't know why, though," she responded quietly. "Its like something has completely changed. He was so mad at me before, and now it's like he feels like he has to make up for it, and I just don't know why."

Not wanting to betray Henry's trust, he shrugged. "I don't know, Swan."

His chest ached further when he saw the threat of tears in her eyes. "And then when I told him that Henry needed something stable right now because of the crap with Regina, he threw in my face that I gave him up."

Anger turned to fury towards the other man, but Killian fought to keep it under control, knowing Emma needed him.

"You did it to give Henry his best chance," he reminded her. "You may not have been there, but you made sure Henry had a future."

She gave him a watery smile, leaning closer before suddenly hesitating.

He opened his arms for her, lightly tugging at her to pull her in. She easily curled into him, her body warm against his as her floral scent fully enveloped him. Wrapping his arms around her, she tucked her head under his chin, allowing him to see her vulnerability.

"When he said that, I did say that the reason I did it was because he sent me to jail," she admitted, sounding slightly smug to his ears.

A low chuckle rumbled in his chest as he grinned. "Good girl."

He felt her release a small laugh.

"He wants to see Henry tomorrow night," she told him quietly. "He made it sound like he wants me there, too. He's still expecting me to just go back to him."

"I think that would actually be worse for Henry," Killian said quietly. "If the options are having parents who aren't together or having them together but hating each other, it might be better if you weren't with Neal."

"I know," she admitted. "I just want Neal to go back to New York. I know it's horrible, and he's Henry's father, but I can't help but think all of this would be easier if he wasn't here."

"You deserve to be happy, you know," he reminded her. "Swan, you should do what's best for both you and your boy. Forget about everyone else."

Emma lifted her head to meet his eyes. "I don't know if that's in the cards for me."

"Why not?" he asked her.

She shrugged lightly, crossing her arms over her chest as she pulled away from him some. "I've been alone all of my life. I only recently found my family. I know I should be happy now, but it seems like any time I think of letting myself, something always happens. I think I lost my chance a long time ago."

"What about me then?" he suddenly questioned. "Swan, before I became cursed, I was not a good man. I committed many crimes, was a ruthless pirate. Then I was handed this curse and locked in a prison for centuries. But you came and brought me here where I have freedom. I have another chance at being happy here. If I can have that, why shouldn't you?"

Her lips curved into a watery smile before she gave him a small nod, making him feel as though his heart was swelling. "Thank you."

He offered her a small smile in return. "I only offer you the truth, love."

Her smile grew before she leaned back into him, resting against him once again.

Killian pulled her closer to him, letting her rest completely against him as he felt himself relax with her weight leaned against him.

Before too long, he felt her breathing even out, knowing that she had fallen asleep. He debated on moving her back to her own bed before his decision was made for him when she turned further into him, her head resting against his shoulder as her arm draped over his waist. Careful not to disturb her, he grabbed onto the throw blanket behind them, laying it over her.

He gently rested his cheek to her hair, letting her scent wash over her as his chest warmed. He would have given anything to protect Emma from what she was going through, to chase away all of her worries. Knowing there wasn't much he could do, he pulled her closer, wondering what he felt for her meant.

He never thought he would move on from Milah, but feeling Emma sleeping in his arms, he wondered if maybe he was being given another chance.


Chapter Text

Groggy from sleep, Emma looked up as she felt the body beneath her move, realizing she had fallen asleep on the couch. She was warm, Killian's body and a blanket she didn't remember grabbing keeping away the chill in the loft.

"Apologies, love," Killian whispered. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Its fine," she replied sleepily. "Damn it. Sorry. I fell asleep on you."

He shook his head. "It's alright, Swan. I have to go, though. The sun will be rising soon."

Rubbing at her eye and realizing she smeared mascara across her hand, she nodded. "Okay."

Knowing she wasn't exactly the most coherent, she got up with him to let him out.

"Go back to sleep, love," he told her gently. "It's still early."

"Its fine," she told him.

He shrugged as he moved closer to the door.

"Thanks for letting me use you as a pillow," she said with a small, tired smile.

He gave her a small smile in return.

"I'll see you later?" she asked him.

"Aye," he replied with a shake of his head.

She found herself leaning against the doorjamb as he left, watching as he descended the steps and out the front of the building, wishing he would stay, but knew why he couldn't.

Breathing out a sigh, she closed the door, choosing to go back to the couch instead of her own bed, not wanting to disturb Henry.

Stretching out, she rested her head on one of the throw pillows as she drew the blanket back over her, smiling as she realized Killian's scent lingered, the smell of the sea and leather remaining.

Setting the take out bags from Granny's on her desk, Emma checked them, pulling the one with David's food and handing it over to him.

He quickly began pulling items from it, obviously hungry.

Emma raised a single brow. "You know, you're the one that suggested pushing lunch back."

"And remind me to never do that again," he said as he took a bite of his burger. "And you're hanging out with Killian too much."

"How's that?" she asked taken aback.

"He does the same thing with his eyebrows," he pointed out. "You never used to do that before."

She laughed.

"Yet I've seen you wanting to hang out with him, too," she pointed out.

David shrugged. "Hey, it's not my fault he's naturally drawn to me."

Snorting, she shook her head. "Somehow, I think he would say otherwise."

Emma looked down as her phone chimed, unable to suppress her groan as she read the message.

11:34- Is 6:30 at Granny's ok for tonight?

"What's wrong?" David asked, all traces of humor gone from his tone.

"I didn't tell you and Mary Margaret last night because I didn't want Henry to have to deal with it, but Neal showed up at the diner last night," she sighed. "I really don't want to get into it, but he said tonight he wants me and Henry to go out with him for dinner. He still wants to give it a shot."

She saw David's hand twitch, knowing without a doubt he wanted to grab his gun.

"I feel bad, cause I want Henry to have his father, but I can't be with Neal," she said.

"Emma, you need to do what's best for both you and Henry," he told her. "You need to do what will make you happy, and what will be better for you both in the long run."

A small smile curled her lips. "Killian said that to me last night."

"And he's a smart man," David said simply. "Emma, if you want to tell Neal to get the hell out, or let him into your lives, you know your mother and I will support you. Whatever you choose, we'll back you up."

"Mary Margaret's dealing with enough right now," Emma told him. "I don't want to have to worry her with this, too."

David sighed as he crossed his arms, leaning forward on the desk. "Emma, I know you're still not used to it, but we're your parents. We'll always worry about you. We just want you to be happy."

"But what's best for Henry?" she asked quietly. "What will make him happy?"

"That I can't tell you," he said sadly.

Sighing, Emma glanced down at her phone, knowing she had to answer him. Giving him a confirmation, she pushed her phone away. She didn't want to go, but knew that she could at least use the meeting to again tell Neal she didn't want to be with him, hopefully for the last time, but she would remain civil for Henry's sake.

"You know, if you want you can just take off for the day," David offered. "There's not much to do around here, so there's no use in both of us staying."

She found herself reaching for her phone to stuff it into her pocket. "Are you sure you don't mind?"

He waved her off, his expression easy. "Go on. I've got things here."

Giving him a nod of thanks, she shrugged on her coat, leaving the station.

She knew Henry didn't get out for a few more hours, so she quickly made her decision, going to her Bug and climbing in.

The way to the cabin was one she was sure she could do in her sleep, the road familiar as she passed the snow covered trees.

She left her car in her usual spot, drawing her coat closer around herself as she moved away from the cabin, scanning the trees for Killian.

"Killian?" she called when she didn't see him.

She heard movement through the trees, looking to the west to see a large black mass moving toward her.

"Swan," Killian said happily.

"Hey," she smiled warmly.

"Not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here, love?" he asked her.

Her smile faded as she remembered the message on her phone.

"I have to meet Neal tonight," she said quietly. "I'm sorry. You can still come over to the loft though, even if I'm not there. But tonight I'm going to tell him that I can't do this. All I can do is be civil for Henry's sake."

He nodded his large head. "It's alright love. If he gets too handsy, I can always singe him if you'd like."

A laugh escaped her, making her feel light.

"You can't do that," she admonished without any heat behind it. "You can't burn my ex."

"Say if perhaps I were to just sneeze," he suggested lightly.

"No!" she gasped.

He released a rumbling deep in his chest that sounded like a chuckle.

She smiled, realizing he had been trying to make her laugh.

"So what were you doing out here before I came over?" she asked curiously, crossing her arms over her chest for warmth.

The snow was melting, but a chill remained in the air.

"Sleeping, mostly," he replied.

Completely familiar with his sleeping habits, she nodded.

"Sorry," she said apologetically.

"Don't worry about it, love," he replied. He moved closer to her, gently nudging her with his nose. "You know you can always come find me whenever you need me."

A small smile quirked her lips as she rested a hand just above his nose, his scales warm beneath her palm.

"I don't want to go," she confessed in a quiet voice. "I know I have to do this for Henry, but I really don't want to see him."

Exhaling, he lowered himself until he was laying on the ground close to her.

"I'm sure Henry will understand why you don't want to be with his father," he said softly. "He's a smart lad. He'll understand."

"Just how do I tell him that?" she asked, moving closer to lean against his shoulder.

He shifted so she was able to rest on him instead of the slushy snow.

"That I don't know," he said.

She sighed, wanting to think of anything else to get her mind off of her ex.

"Talk to me?" she requested. "About anything. What was it like when you were a pirate?"

"Alright," Killian replied, positioning his head so one blue eye peered at her.

Emma rested further against him, letting his lilting voice was over her. Part of her mind wondered how it would be to be with Killian, to act on the feelings she felt growing within her.

Reluctantly pulling on her coat, Emma glanced back towards the stairs seeing Henry hadn't come down.

"Henry, we've gotta go," she called.

A second later, Henry descended the stairs, scarf wrapped around his neck as he shrugged on his coat.

She could tell he was unhappy as he trudged toward the door, not wanting to go.

"Hey, tell you what," she said as she moved right beside him. "I know you don't want to go, but we have to tonight. But tomorrow, why don't we spend the day together? Just me and you?"

He smiled, looking at her. "I'd like that."

She grinned in return before sighing. "We need to get going if we want to be on time."

"I know," he said, turning with her to leave the loft.

"We're leaving," Emma called out to her parents as she and Henry stepped out of the loft.

She knew they didn't need too, but walked them to her car, knowing they could use it if she needed to leave.

Neal was waiting for them when they arrived, sitting in the same booth she and Henry had occupied with Killian the previous night. He waved to further draw their attention.

"Hey, kid," he said brightly at Henry. "Feeling any better?"

Henry shrugged. "Yeah."

Neal turned his gaze to Emma as he gave her a would be charming smile. "I'm glad you guys came."

Giving him a tight smile, Emma nodded as she sat beside Henry in the booth across from Neal.

Ruby quickly came by to take their orders, raising a sharp eyebrow at the sight of the man with them.

"Killian couldn't come tonight?" she asked.

Neal stiffened as Emma fought a smile, knowing of the wolf's fondness of Killian.

She shook her head. "Spending some time with Henry's father tonight. It's been hard lately with everything going on."

Ruby nodded. "Okay. Well, do you know what you want? The usual, Emma?"

"Yeah," Emma replied.

Taking the rest of their orders, Ruby left them alone. Neal immediately began to strike up a conversation with Henry, asking him about school and how things had been at home.

Despite the situation and being rarely included in the conversation, Emma was happy that Neal was showing an interest in Henry.

Near the end of the meal she suddenly felt uneasy, noticing Neal looking at her more and more. The urge to leave grew.

"Listen, Emma," Neal suddenly said, turning to face her completely, offering her a bright, open smile. "I know we just found each other again, and we have to make up for lost time, but I think we can do this. We can be a family, be the family Henry needs. I want us to do this, if anything to prove to you that I'm serious about us."

Her breath caught as he suddenly reached into his pocket, pulling a small black velvet box. The instinct to run became impossible to ignore as he opened the box, revealing a gold ring with diamonds in the center.

"Emma Swan, will you marry me?" he asked her.

"No," she said, feeling sick. "I can't. I cant do this. Neal, I cant marry you."

She quickly stood up, moving to leave the diner, Henry right behind her.

She couldn't speak again until they were over half way home. "Im sorry, kid. I'm really, really sorry."

"It's okay, Mom," he replied quietly.

Not knowing what else she could say, what could make the situation better, she focused on breathing evenly.

She immediately went upstairs when they reached the loft, not knowing what to say to her parents.

Tossing her coat onto a chair, she sank onto her bed, suddenly exhausted. She felt bad running like she did, most likely embarrassing Henry.

She never would have guessed that Neal asked her and Henry out just to propose to her.

"Mom?" Henry's small voice came from the top of the stairs.

"In here, kid," she called, switching on a lamp.

She sat up as Henry came in, patting the spot beside her. He sat beside her, leaning into her, making her wrap an arm around him.

"I didn't mean to embarrass you in there," she apologized quietly. "I'm really sorry, Henry."

Henry shook his head. "It's fine, Mom. I get it."

She looked down at him in amazement.

He sighed before inhaling. "I know why you can't be with him. Mom, I know what he did to you."

"What?" she asked, shocked. "How?"

"I heard you when you told Grandma and Grandpa," he admitted. "I'm sorry for listening."

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Emma shook her head. "It's- it's fine, kid."

He suddenly looked close to tears. "Mom, I'm so, so sorry for being so mean to you. I'm sorry for everything I said, after we found my dad."

She didn't let him continue, instead pulling him in for a tight hug.

"Mom, you shouldn't be with him," he said. "I know you're not happy with him. What he did to you was wrong."

"You make me happy, Henry," she told him. "That's enough for me."

He pulled away slightly, his hazel eyes wide as he looked up at her. "What about Killian?"

Taken aback, she gazed at him in confusion. "Killian?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I like him, and you smile a lot more whenever he's around. I know you like him, and he likes you, too."

She did care for Killian, and did find herself happier whenever she was with him. She depended on him, went to him when she needed to be grounded and craved his company. He was able to make her smile the way no one else could, simply by being with her. When she needed to run somewhere when everything became too much, she went to him, able to know that he would listen to her or silently be with her, whatever she needed. She knew she cared for him, always wanting to do whatever she could to make him happy in return and protect him.

Somehow, he had began to break down her walls, letting him see parts of her no one else saw.

"You think I should be with Killian?" she asked her son in a quiet voice.

Smiling, Henry nodded. "Yeah, I do. He makes you happy, mom. He cares about you."

Her lips curved into a small smile. "I care about him, too."

Henry suddenly began shoving her, surprising her.

"Henry?" she asked in shock.

"Go tell him," he urged. "Mom, you need to go see him, right now."

Despite everything, she laughed. "Alright, alright."

She quickly grabbed her coat again, pulling it on as she descended the stairs and left the loft.

The drive to the cabin took longer than she anticipated, her excitement making her eager to get there.

Even with her son's prompting, Emma knew that she would eventually want something more with Killian, that she wanted to go to him. Just earlier that day she had been wondering what it would be like to be with him, even if it wasn't the first time.

Exhaling in relief as she pulled up to the cabin, its front windows illuminated in the dark, she quickly turned off the engine, nearly running to the front door.

She carefully pushed open the door, remembering Killian telling her to just come in whenever she came over instead of waiting for him.

She grinned widely as she saw him on the sofa in front of the fire, one of the books Belle brought him on his lap.

"Swan?" he asked, moving his book aside to stand. "Is everything okay?"

Nodding, she moved forward to meet him. "Yeah, it is. Henry told me everything."

At his unsurprised expression, her brow raised. "You knew?"

Sheepishly, he nodded. "Aye. He told me the day you left him in my care."

Sighing, she shook her head, still smiling. "Well, he told me that I should do what makes me happy."

Killian gave her a small, gentle smile. "And what's that, love?"

Instead of responding, she grabbed his waistcoat, pulling him to her and crashing her lips to his.

Killian quickly recovered from his initial shock, burying his fingers in her hair and resting his hand on the small of her back, drawing her closer to him as he began reciprocating the kiss, his lips moving with hers.

Warmth enveloped Emma as Killian kept his arms around her, her heart racing even as they ended the kiss. She pressed her forehead to his, feeling a sense of belonging unlike anything she had ever experienced.

"I'm hoping that was okay," she murmured.

He chuckled, letting her feel the rumble in his chest. "Believe me, Swan. It's more than okay."

Leaning back in, he kissed her again.


Chapter Text

Emma clutched Killian's hand in hers, content as they walked towards Granny's where they were to meet her parents and Henry.

She glanced over, seeing him calm as they passed through the streets, making her smile softly. He was getting better whenever they walked through the town, the stares and glances not bothering him as they did as much before. He was more confident, especially when he walked by her side.

Even with only a couple days passing since she went to his cabin deciding to kiss him, the news spread through the town, with predictably mixed reactions. Some of the citizens of the town were genuinely happy, including her family and the few friends Killian managed to make, while most others were in disbelief, that their sheriff and Savior would chose to be with a man that was a pirate, as well as had a history with the Dark One.

The ones who protested the most had been Gold and Neal, one because the man he cursed to an eternity of pain and misery was finding some freedom and happiness, the other because Emma made it clear that she had moved on and chosen someone else, much less the man his own mother had run away with.

Emma felt bad for Belle, knowing she was caught in the middle. Killian and Belle had managed to develop a type of friendship, but she was Gold's girlfriend. Though she couldn't take a side, Emma caught Belle smiling happily the time she spoke with her in the library and mentioned Killian.

She didn't let go of Killian's hand as he pushed open the door for her that led into the diner, both keeping their hold on the other as they spied her family, seeing they claimed the usual booth Emma and Killian usually took in the back.

Both her parents smiled widely in greeting when they approached the table, making Henry turn his head to see them.

"Hey," Henry greeted them with a wide smile.

Killian grinned in return, offering his own greeting.

Emma slid into the booth first to sit beside Henry, Killian sliding in after her.

Even though Henry convinced her to go to Killian, Emma was glad to see her son approved of the relationship. She knew he always liked Killian ever since he first met the man, but had been worried all the same that his opinion would suddenly change.

Henry's opinion was the only one that truly mattered to her.

Her parents had been happy with the news, both smiling widely when she told them. She knew that David especially liked Killian, even if Mary Margaret had taken more time to warm up to him.

Emma couldn't help rolling her eyes as Killian and David began a lighthearted banter after their food arrived, hiding her amusement.

She was happy, even if it was just having dinner out with her son, parents, and Killian, feeling lighter than she had in a long time.

Occasionally throughout the meal, she would gently nudge Killian's leg with hers whenever she noticed he was feeling unsure, offering her silent support and reassurance to him. Her chest warmed whenever he gave her a small, tender smile after in thanks, knowing what the action meant.

Even with the other people in the diner no doubt glancing their way, she didn't care, knowing that what they thought didn't matter.

Towards the end of the meal, Killian laced his fingers through hers and rested their joined hands on her thigh, not out of seeking any reassurance, but merely to be closer to her.

Applying a small bit of pressure to his hand, she continued to hold on to him as they left with the rest of her family back to the loft.

She was unable to help glancing towards him, seeing his calm, content expression remained.

Henry remained close by them, keeping by her side on the way back to the loft.

Despite everyone's light moods, she noticed her son's expression, that something was weighing heavily on him.

Noticing Emma's sudden worry, Killian applied a slight pressure to her hand, his brows pinched in concern when she looked back at him.

She shifted her eyes back to Henry, silently telling him. Killian nodded in understanding, looking towards Henry himself in concern.

Resolved to talk to her son as soon as they reached home, she kept throwing furtive glances his way.

Henry spoke up before she could as they stepped in the loft, his voice quiet beside her. "Mom? Can I talk to you a second in private?"

Emma immediately nodded. "Of course, kid. Go upstairs. I'm right behind you."

He nodded, turning to climb the stairs.

"I'll be back down soon," she told Killian, releasing his hand.

"Go take care of your boy," he nodded in understanding.

Offering him a small nod, she quickly followed Henry.

She found him sitting on the bed, his legs folded under him, his expression growing more apprehensive.

Emma sat beside him, ready to comfort him if he needed it. "What's wrong, kid?"

"Promise you won't get mad?" he asked in a small voice.

"Of course," she responded in a quiet, gentle tone despite feeling her worry grow.

"I miss my mom," he confessed. "My other mom. Regina."

Her heart sank, wondering how long Henry had gone without telling her. Even if things were tense with Regina, the last thing she wanted was for Henry to be hurting because of it.

"I know what she did," he said in a small voice. "You've been great, Mom. So have Grandma and Grandpa, and even Killian, but I miss my other mom."

Immediately wrapping her arms around him, she hugged him closely, resting her cheek on his hair.

"I'll go see her tomorrow," she told him. "We'll work something out. I promise you."

Henry smiled, his mood lifted at his mother's promise.

Smiling back, she jerked her head towards the stairs. "How about we go back down for now?"

He nodded, hugging her one last time before getting up.

Knowing the hard task she had assigned herself, she sighed as she pushed her hair back, thinking over what she would say to Regina.

Despite everything she had done, Emma knew Regina would never hurt Henry, that he was safe with her.

She just wondered if there would be any hostility when she went to speak with her.

Killian and her parents looked up at her curiously as she descended the stairs, joining them in the main area of the loft.

She shook her head, silently promising to tell them what she planned to do after Henry went to bed. She knew her parents wouldn't likely be happy, but had to do what she could for her son.

"Did you finish your homework?" Emma asked Henry as she caught him moving towards the television.

He froze, a guilty expression on his face. "Um, kind of? I didn't finish all of the math. I didn't understand a lot of it."

Tilting her head toward the table, she indicated for him to follow her. "Show me what it is. I might be able to figure it out."

"I can assist him, Swan," Killian offered. "I can't imagine math has changed much between the realms, and I needed to have extensive knowledge for the Navy."

Looking at him in surprise, she nodded. "Um, sure. If you don't mind it."

He replied with a small nod of his head. "It's no trouble, love."

Before anyone could say anything else, he sat beside Henry, looking at the open school book to see what Henry had to do.

"You know, he really is good with him," Mary Margaret said quietly beside Emma.

"I know," Emma said fondly.

"Henry really likes him, too," Mary Margaret added.

Emma nodded. "I know."

She turned away to move further into the kitchen area. "I think this is good for both of them. Henry has someone else to be there for him, and Killian has someone else he can be around and bond with. He's been alone for too long."

"You have, too," Mary Margaret told her. "I think you and Killian are good for each other, too."

A smile curled Emma's lips.

"I know I didn't completely trust him at first, or was the most welcoming, but I'm glad you brought him with us," Mary Margaret said quietly, gently squeezing her arm before stepping away to sit with David.

Emma sat at the table with her parents, Killian sitting beside her as she wrapped her hands around her mug.

"Henry told me he misses Regina," she said, figuring a direct approach would be the best route. "He said that as much as he likes it here, he wants Regina, too."

As she had predicted, her parents wore less than happy expressions.

"I told him I would see her tomorrow to try to work something out," she continued. "I know what she's done, but she raised Henry. She had him for ten years. I'm not going to prevent him from having a relationship with her."

"But is it really the best time right now?" David asked. "Things have been tense enough as it is with her. What if she tries to take Henry?"

"She won't," she replied.

He shook his head. "All I'm saying is that things are strained right now. Our relationship with Regina has never been good, but now things could be dangerous."

"But maybe this could help things," Killian spoke up softly.

"How so?" Mary Margaret asked.

Noticing his ears beginning to redden as he scratched behind his ear, Emma reached to cover his hand in hers, offering her silent support.

His hand turned beneath hers, threading his fingers through hers.

"Regina is still Henry's mother," he explained quietly. "The whole reason she went against her own mother was because she threatened Henry. She loves him more than anything. This could be a sign of good faith at the very least, letting her see her son again. It would be cruel to deny Henry this."

"Emma is Henry's mother," Mary Margaret protested.

"But so is Regina," Emma said quietly. "Even if we don't like it, she's the one who raised him for ten years. She was there for him when I wasn't."

Killian gently squeezed her hand in his.

David sighed. "Do you really think this can help things around here?"

"I'm doing this for Henry, but yes," she replied.

Both her parents nodded.

"Okay," David said. "If you think this is right, you have our support."

Emma gave them a small nod as they rose to retire for the night, leaving her alone with Killian.

"That went better than I thought it would," she muttered.

He lightly applied pressure to her hand again. "But they did agree. And as you said, this is for Henry."

"It is," she agreed. After a moment of silence, she spoke up again. "Do you want to stay here tonight?"

He gave her a slight shake of his head. "I shouldn't. If I'm here, you'll stay up to try to make sure I'm not alone. And even if you do fall asleep, it's nearly never in your bed."

She felt her skin flush, knowing more often than not she had fallen asleep on Killian. There had been a few times he had woken her so she could go herself to bed, but more often he had carefully lifted her as not to wake her, tenderly placing her in her own room and making sure she was settled in. It wasn't unusual for her to sleep the night beside him on the couch, with him always staying up to go through the many old books they had.

"It's no big deal if you're over," she said, shrugging to hide her embarrassment.

He grinned, putting her at ease.

"I know the couch isn't the most comfortable, but it's always open," she told him, grinning.

He shook his head. "It's fine, Swan. I prefer staying up during the night, anyway."

Her smile slid off her face, familiar with his sleeping habits.

"I'm sorry," she stammered out. "I-"

He silenced her by kissing her forehead, calming her before resting his forehead to hers. "It's alright, love."

Closing her eyes, she inhaled his scent as she rested her hands on his shoulders.

"What are you gonna do now?" she asked him.

"See if I can find some way to break this curse," he replied quietly. "There's not much I can do tonight, but tomorrow I'm going to ask Belle if perhaps she has some more books to help."

Emma felt her light mood disappear further at the mention of his curse.

"Dont worry yourself over it," he said softly. "It's not your burden to bear."

"But I can help you," she said quietly, bringing her hands up to cradle his face. "Killian, you're not alone, anymore. You don't have to do this by yourself."

"I know," he replied. "It's just that I'm not used to this, having people."

"Well, get used to it, buddy," she responded with a small chuckle.

She noticed that his eyes remained sorrowful.

"Hey, I can go talk to Belle tomorrow right after I see Regina," she proposed. "David can handle things at the station for a while. Maybe she'll have them ready by tomorrow night, and we can start researching."

He gave her a small, hopeful smile.

"Now, do you want to stay here tonight, or do you want me to take you back to the cabin?" she asked him. "We can see what's on Netflix or something else."

"I don't want to keep you from sleeping," he protested weakly.

"Its fine," she told him gently.

Slowly, Killian nodded, smiling softly.

Returning his smile, Emma pulled away but not before taking his hand in hers, leading him over to the sofa, knowing she would gladly lose countless nights of sleep if it meant that she could chase his loneliness away.

Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Emma pushed open the doors to the Mayor's office, making Regina look up from the work at her desk.

"Miss Swan," Regina said derisively. "What do I owe the pleasure?"

Forcing herself from snapping back, Emma stopped in front of the large desk. "I'm here to talk about Henry."

Immediately, Regina's expression shifted from one of annoyance to one of concern.

"Henry?" she asked breathlessly, quickly standing. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Emma told her quickly. "He's fine."

Regina visibly relaxed.

"Henry wants us both in his life," Emma told her. "He misses you. I'm here to work something out. Something that will work for us all."

She didn't back down as Regina stared her down.

"You're his mother," Emma said firmly. "I realize that, that you're the one who raised him. But I'm his mother, too."

Regina released a hard breath as she sat back down. "What do you propose? That we trade him off?"

Emma nodded. "I think it's the best we can do. I have him stay with me for a week, then you have a week."

Slowly, Regina nodded. "That… that can work."

Her voice suddenly hardened. "What about Neal?"

Shifting her weight uncomfortably, Emma began chewing her lip. "As of right now, Henry isn't having anything to do with him. All I'll say is that he found out more about mine and Neal's past, and he's not seeing him because of it."

Regina looked almost smug as she nodded. "Believe me when I say I don't have a problem with that. What day will we trade?"

Emma shrugged. "I'll let you choose that."

Nodding, Regina folded her hands in front of her. "It's Friday. I can let Henry spend the rest of the weekend with you and the Uncharmings, and I can take him Sunday."

Emma nodded in agreement, choosing to ignore her dig. "That works for me."

She moved to turn before pausing, deciding to try another proposal of good faith. "Um, why don't you get him after school? I'm sure he would enjoy the two of you getting something to eat."

Regina's smile widened as she nodded. "I'll be there."


Chapter Text

Carefully maneuvering out of her car to accommodate the bags of food from Granny's, Emma started at the voice that came from beside her, not realizing he had come out.

"You know I can help you with that, right?" Killian asked from beside her.

Quickly recovering from the shock, she shook her head. "I thought you would be inside still."

"I heard you pull up," he replied with a shake of his head as he pulled the bags and drink trays from her hands.

He nodded toward the cabin, prompting her to lead the way in.

Warmth greeted her as they entered, the fire in the hearth warming the entire area and chasing away the last of the chills of the changing season.

She moved to turn on one of the lamps, illuminating the room in a soft yellow light as he set everything on the table.

"I got your usual," she told him. "I hope you don't mind."

"Its fine, love," he reassured her with a gentle smile. "Thanks."

She nodded, moving closer to help him set everything out.

It was domestic, something Emma never thought that she would be comfortable with in regards to a man. She didn't do relationships, yet found herself happy with Killian, even if just spending time with him or having dinner with him, whether with her family or by themselves. Everything was still new in their relationship, but she knew if it had been with anyone else, she would have run before she got so far with them.

She found herself smiling as they ate, both sneaking things from the other's meal, mainly the fries from his plate and onion rings from hers.

"I talked to Regina today," she told him conversationally. "We decided that Henry will stay with me for the rest of the week, then Regina gets him for a week, then I get him again."

He grinned. "I take it the lad is happy."

She returned his smile, remembering Henry's reaction in finding out about her agreement with Regina. "Very."

"It could be the beginnings of a peace between you," he nodded.

"I hope so," she said softly. "I did talk to Belle, too. She said she'll look to see what she can find."

It was small, but Emma saw the look of hope crossing his features.

"I can take a couple of books with me whenever I go to the station," she offered.

He raised a single brow curiously. "What about your work?"

She shook her head. "It's fine. Usually there isn't much to do, anyway. Now that Cora's gone, the most that has happened here is the dwarves fighting over who stole Leroy's cheese sticks. Don't ask."

His brow raised higher, but didn't comment, raising his hands.

As soon as they finished, Killian swiped her plate before she could grab it, smirking as he took it along with his to clean up.

"I've got it, love," he said cheekily.

Unable to help herself, she shook her head, grinning. In the almost four months since she met him, Killian had changed, becoming more confident and even playful, mainly around her. She wondered how much more of the man he was before would be revealed, having seen that even if he was comfortable around her, he remained shy and reserved around other people. She knew that he still wasn't revealing everything, but was okay with it, knowing he still needed time.

She had her own walls and scars, knowing how hard it was to let someone in.

Content to spend part of the night over with him to keep his company, she pushed herself away from the table, stopping when she heard another car pulling up outside.

She shrugged when she met Killian's eyes, not knowing anyone was coming over.

Shaking his head to silently let her know he didn't know who it was, he moved past her to answer the door, opening it to reveal Belle about to knock, a large stack of old tomes in her hands.

She immediately dropped them into Killian's arms, his face drawn in surprise at their weight.

"I was able to find some books in Rumple's library that I think might help," she said proudly by way of greeting. "If you want to set those somewhere, I have more in the car."

Letting Killian move to deposit the books on the table, Emma followed after Belle, noting with surprise the ease the other woman had in walking through the dirt and rocks in tall heels.

Belle pulled open the trunk of the car, revealing dozens of aged and weathered books, some titles in strange languages Emma had never seen before.

"I know it's a lot," Belle said apologetically as Killian joined them. "This isn't even all of them. I'm keeping some with me so I can look myself. I don't even know what exactly Rumple did, so I don't know where to look."

Her heart sinking, Emma glanced back Killian, his face a stoney mask.

"He didn't say anything about what this curse is?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," Belle said solemnly. "All I could get for him to tell me about it is that it's supposedly what you deserve. The argument we had after wasn't pretty."

He shook his head. "Thank you, love."

Sighing unhappily, Emma pulled a large stack to carry with her back into the cabin.

Rubbing at her blurry eyes, Emma checked her phone, releasing a small groan when she saw the numbers illuminated on the screen.

"What's the matter, love?" Killian asked from beside her, looking up from his book.

"It's a quarter to two," she said tiredly.

"You know you're always welcome to sleep here," he offered.

She gave him a gentle smile. "Thanks, but I told Henry we could go have breakfast tomorrow, so I need to be up early."

He nodded in understanding.

Setting a loose leaf of paper in her book to mark her place, she closed it, grabbing a couple more to take with her back to the loft.

"See you tomorrow?" she asked, hopeful, but didn't want to push him.

He grinned as he stood up with her. "Aye."

Returning his smile, she met him for a gentle kiss.

Despite the action being so chaste, she felt butterflies in her stomach, her skin warm where he touched her.

Her smile widened as she pulled away, seeing his cheeks and ears redden, his shyness peeking through.

"I'll be here around sunset," she promised.

"I look forward to it," he told her sincerely.

Pecking his lips one last time, Emma pulled away towards the front door, feeling him following her out.

He leaned against the doorjamb as she walked to her car, watching her as she climbed in and deposited the borrowed books in the passenger's seat.

Starting the car and pulling out into the road, she saw Killian continuing to watch her leave.

Emma followed Henry as he pushed open the door to Granny's, knowing he was headed towards their usual booth.

She took a seat across from him, shrugging her coat off and laying it beside her.

Ruby came up beside them, depositing a couple of menus on their table.

"Don't worry, I already put in your drink orders," she said with a smirk before going to Leroy at the counter.

"At least she knows," Henry said brightly.

Chuckling, Emma grabbed onto her menu.

"Mom was pretty happy yesterday when we came here," Henry told her, wearing a wide smile. "I'm glad you guys worked things out."

"Of course," she replied. "Kid, we both want you to be happy and do what's best for you. That means we'll do what we need to do to make sure of that."

"I know," he responded. "Maybe you guys can be friends."

Taken aback by his suggestion, she shook her head. "I don't know, kid. I don't know if everything that's happened will let us."

"But you'll try, right?" he asked in a small voice.

Not wanting to disappoint her son, she nodded. "Of course."

Satisfied, Henry grinned as Ruby came back around to deposit their hot chocolates and take their orders.

"What do you think about maybe having breakfast stuff next time Killian is over and we have dinner?" he asked suddenly after Ruby came around again with their food.

Emma raised her brow curiously. "What brought that on?"

Shrugging, he poked at his pancakes with his fork. "Well, he does sleep during the day so he can stay awake at night, so it is technically his morning. And he has been trying more food from this world. I thought he might like to try it at least."

Smiling, she nodded. "I think he might like that. We'll see what we can do the next time he's over."

He smiled proudly before proceeding to tear into his meal.

The rain had been unexpected as Emma stepped out of the diner with some lunch for her and David at the station.

Pulling her jacket tighter around her, she hurried over to her car, pulling the door open to set the food in it and out of the rain. She froze as she heard a familiar voice calling her, releasing a small groan.

"Emma," Neal called, the sounds of his footsteps nearing.

She hadn't spoken to him since his botched proposal, not exactly avoiding him, but not speaking to him all the same. The only reason she knew of his displeasure in her relationship with Killian was because she heard it from other people, some of who were her own mother, Ruby, and Belle.

"Emma," he said again as he came up to her, his footsteps slowing, but not before he splashed her, soaking her jeans.

"Damn it," she cursed, looking at the wet spots on her pants in disdain.

"Sorry," he quickly apologized. "I wanted to catch you before you left."

Irritated by her damp clothes and hunger, she gave him a hard stare. "What do you want, Neal?"

He released a hard breath. "You started seeing your dragon?"

"It's none of your business, but yes," she said.

"Right after I asked you to marry me?" he questioned.

Feeling her hackles rise, she crossed her arms, standing defiantly before him. "Neal, we won't ever be together again. We're both different people than we were twelve years ago. Things have changed. I choose Killian. Killian makes me happy."

"But do you make him happy?" he jabbed back.

Emma flinched back. "What do you mean?"

Leaning against the Bug, Neal looked at her as he crossed his arms. "You're the first person he's been around since my father locked him up. You're the one who got him out and brought him to a new world."

"What the hell are you saying?" she demanded.

"Maybe your dragon feels like he owes you," he said. "He feels like he's in debt to you, and feels like he has to do this."

Feeling like she had been struck, she glared at him. "First, Killian. He has a name, even if you refuse to use it. Second, who the hell are you to say that? That's a load of crap and we both know it."

"Is it?" Neal argued. "Come on, Ems. Don't act like you've never wondered that before."

"I haven't, because it's not true," Emma countered. "Killian has absolutely no obligation to be with me, and he knows that."

Before she could give Neal a chance to respond, she quickly climbed into her car, slamming the door shut behind her to return to the station where David was waiting for their lunches.

Her stomach twisted as she drove, doubt creeping up despite her words.


Chapter Text

Emma slowly pulled up to the cabin, turning of the engine and sitting in her car. She had felt uneasy ever since she had saw Neal during her run to the diner, doubt taking root about her and Killian's relationship.

Rain had began to fall just before her drive out, growing heavier until it was pelting her car even through the cover of the trees. The noise drowning everything else out, she knew Killian likely didn't hear her pull up, affording her a few more moments to herself.

She didn't know how to ask him, how to bring up the doubts Neal made her have. She didn't know what she would do if Killian truly was with her out of a sense of debt, only that she would end the relationship on the spot. She couldn't do that to him, make him think that he had to be with her because he owed her. He didn't owe her anything, was free to be with whoever he chose, if he even wanted to be with anyone at all.

Knowing she couldn't remain outside in her car any longer, she inhaled deeply, throwing her door open as she moved to get out. She slammed it shut before hurrying to the door, pushing it open to escape the rain.

Warmth greeted her as she pushed the door closed, making her relax.

"Hey, love," Killian greeted from the tiny kitchen, smiling warmly at her.

She reasoned that if he seemed so happy to see her, he couldn't merely be with her just because he thought he had to be.

A smile moving across her own features, she shrugged her jacket off before moving closer to him. "Hey."

He lightly pecked her lips before backing away to what he was doing previously.

"Ruby?" she asked, peeking around his arm at the large styrofoam containers on the counter, smelling the aroma of tomato bisque.

"Yeah," he nodded. "She came over before I changed to drop these off for us. I have no idea what this is, though."

Emma smiled, grateful to the other woman. "Don't worry. It's good."

Helping him transfer the soup to some bowls, she led him to the table, clearing a small area for them to have their meal.

She watched him as he tentatively tasted his dinner before deciding he liked it, becoming more enthusiastic as he ate.

She never ceased to be amazed as she watched Killian interacting with his new world, seeing his expressions that came with each new experience.

"A lot of times people will have grilled cheese with it," she remarked.

He flashed her a playful smirk. "According to you, everything goes with grilled cheese. Especially your onion rings."

She gave him a cheeky smile in return.

Her solemn mood slipped away the longer she was with him, his presence chasing away most of her doubts and fears, but some remained in the back of her mind.

Trying to push her thoughts away for the time being, she pulled one of the old books toward her after their dinner, determined to continue their research. He followed suite beside her, pulling one he had marked half way through.

She noticed him sneaking small glanced toward her throughout the night that had started during their dinner, but had grown more frequent as the night went on.

"Why don't we take a break?" he suggested after some time. "You look like you could use one, love."

Grateful for the opportunity, she nodded, pushing her book away. She followed him over to the small couch before she suddenly hesitated, choosing to sit closer to the other end, farther away than she usually sat.

"Swan?" he asked, his brow pinched in obvious concern. His voice suddenly grew quiet as he scratched behind his ear. "Did I do something wrong? You've been acting… different all night. Have I done something?"

Guilt slammed into her at full force at his broken expression.

"No," she said quickly, shaking her head. "No, it's not you. You didn't do anything."

"Then what's wrong?" he asked her.

She turned her head slightly, unable to look him in the eye. "You know you don't owe me anything, right?"

She didn't see his expression, but she heard the realization in his voice.

"Of course I-" he began. "Emma, do you really think I'm with you right now because I feel an obligation?"

She closed her eyes before looking back at him. "I don't know."

He moved across the couch so he was directly by her, their sides pressed together. In a move that surprised her, he easily wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer.

She went into him, resting her head in the crook of his neck and her hand on his chest, an unexplainable feeling of safety enveloping her.

"Love, you were the first person I'd seen in a very long time," Killian murmured in her ear. "Yes, you did get me out, and yes, you were the first to show me any kindness in a long time. But me choosing to be with you has nothing to do with that. You make me happy. I care about you, Swan. That's why I'm with you."

Emma couldn't help release a watery laugh, her weight lifting from her shoulders.

"You don't know how glad I am to hear that," she told him.

Instead of responding, he pressed his lips to her hair, continuing to hold her.

"What made you think that, anyway?" he asked curiously, no judgement in his voice. "You seemed fine last night. Did someone say something?"

She stiffened, alerting him to the truth in his words.

"It's no big deal," she said quietly.

He hummed. "Obviously it is, or you wouldn't have been so troubled."

Silently debating, she decided to confess to him. "I was picking up lunch earlier for me and David from Granny's, and Neal came in. He was being his usual charming self, then he said the only reason you're with me is because you feel like you owe me."

Killian's arms were gentle yet strong as he held her tighter. "You know that's not true. Swan, I'm with you because I want to be."

She nodded, feeling the material of his shirt and waistcoat rub against her cheek. Content, she let him hold onto her, peace settling over her as the last of her doubts were chased away.

Searching for her keys, Emma tossed a dish towel onto the far side of the counter, smiling as she saw her blue star keychain. Pulling them so she could retrieve Killian and bring him back over, she caught sight of her mother hurrying toward her from her and David's room, with him following close behind.

"Emma, can we talk to you a second?" Mary Margaret said quickly. "We know you need to go get Killian, but this will only take a minute."

Alarmed at her parents' rush, Emma nodded. "Okay. Is everything okay?"

Despite their hurry, both Mary Margaret and David appeared happy.

"Yeah, everything is fine," she said. She gestured towards the table. "Why don't we sit down."

Suspicious, Emma took her usual seat opposite her parents, suddenly feeling like she was a small child.

"Okay, what's going on?" she asked carefully, watching between Mary Margaret and David.

Mary Margaret smiled widely until she was practically glowing. "I'm pregnant."

Floored, Emma looked between them. "Seriously?"

She knew the moisture in her mother's eyes wasn't from sorrow. "Yeah. With Cora and everything going on, I didn't recognize the symptoms and just thought it was stress, but I'm pregnant."

Releasing a laugh, Emma found herself truly happy for them.

"Wow, congratulations," she said with a wide smile. "I'm happy for you guys. I really am."

Wiping at her eyes, Mary Margaret suddenly stood, rounding the table to hug Emma tightly. Emma returned her hug, laughing even if the situation felt slightly strange to her.

"I'm sorry, and I'm really not trying to dodge you guys, but I need to get Killian," she said, glancing at a window and seeing the last rays of sunlight disappearing.

Quickly nodding, Mary Margaret pulled away. "Right. We'll make sure Henry finishes packing up while you're gone."

Emma nodded, knowing that later after dinner she had to drop Henry at Regina's for their first trade off.

Quickly going out the door, she took the stairs two at a time, eager to get Killian. Traffic on the way out to the woods was light, only slightly heavier than usual for the town because of the longer daylight hours. She made it off the main streets easily, able to go without stopping towards her destination.

As usual she found the door to the cabin unlocked when she arrived, letting her enter without waiting for him.

"Killian?" she called when she didn't see him.

"Here, love," Killian answered as he came out of the bedroom.

An easy grin slipped across her face as she took him in, knowing he had just cleaned up, his damp hair hanging over his eyes. Walking over to him, she gently pushed it out of the way.

Smiling, he kissed her, his hand resting on her waist. She could feel the heat of him through her leather jacket, warming her.

"Ready to go?" she asked, feeling slightly breathless as they broke apart.

He almost looked smug as he caught sight of her. "Yeah, whenever you are."

Emma threw a playful smirk as she turned to let him grab his own leather jacket, wondering if she were maybe seeing more of the man he used to be coming through.

She found herself amazed at how easily Killian had adapted to some of the wonders her realm had to offer, cars being one of them. He was comfortable in her little Bug, at ease while she drove them through the town. He alternated between looking out the window and looking back at her as they talked, never showing any type of discomfort.

She hid her grin as they approached the loft's front door, seeing his curious expression as he sniffed the air. The smell of pancakes and bacon hit them full force as she pushed the door open, revealing David standing at the stove with a large stack of pancakes beside him.

"Isn't that kind of much?" she chuckled, eyeing the plate.

"It's for five people," David replied over his shoulder. "It's a lot of people."

He suddenly looked thoughtful. "Well, kind of six."

Killian's brow furrowed. "Six people?"

David suddenly smiled widely. "Yeah. Mary Margaret's pregnant."

"Well, congratulations, mate," Killian said, grinning.

"Thanks," David nodded.

Gently nudging his hand, Emma led Killian further into the loft.

Keeping with their routine, Emma curled close to Killian on the couch in the loft, resting her head against his shoulder.

Her parents had turned in for the night soon after they took Henry to Regina's, leaving them alone. She was happy to have some time with him, a sentiment he expressed he enjoyed just as much.

"You're having conflicted feelings about your parents having another child," Killian said quietly.

Surprised, Emma lifted her head to look at him, knowing she never said anything about it. "What? How do you know?"

"Open book, love," he said with a tender smile.

She shook her head before resting back against him. "I really am happy for them, but it's just weird, you know? I mean, my parents are practically the same age that I am. Now I'll have a little brother or sister-"

"Younger," he immediately said before looking sheepish. "Sorry. My brother always used to call me his little brother, and I would always tell him younger brother. Sorry."

She smiled, finding it endearing.

"Well then, younger brother or sister," she corrected before continuing. "I'll be thirty years older than my sibling by the time they're here. Henry will be twelve years older, and he's supposed to be their nephew. It's just weird."

He nodded in understanding. "But they'll have a sister who will be someone to look up to and protect them."

Nodding in agreement, she spoke again. "I know. Still weird though."

Chuckling, she felt the movement in his chest.

"Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'm over three-hundred," he told her lightly. "So I'm about ten times your age, love."

Eyes wide, she moved as if shocked to look at him, not completely realizing their age gap.

"I… wow," she said, dazed. "I knew you were old, but when you put it like that…"

He laughed, forcing himself to keep quiet to avoid waking Mary Margaret and David. "You wound me, Swan."

"I didn't mean it like that," she smiled. "How about I say you have a lot more life experience than I do?"

"Better," he hummed.

He drew her back into him, both exhaling contently.

"You know, we still haven't actually gone on a date," Emma remarked.

"Date?" Killian asked, unfamiliar with the terminology.

She quickly scrambled to try to find how to explain it. "Um, it's going out when you're courting. It can just be a day or night out or even staying at home with just the person."

He nodded in understanding. "Oh. No, we haven't."

Biting her lip, she tilted her head up to look at him. "So, what do you say? Will you go out with me?"

"Aye," Killian said, a smile creeping across his face. "Only if you let me plan it."

"A minute ago I had to explain to you what dating was," she pointed out, her brow raised.

"But I can plan an evening out," he responded.

Huffing for dramatic effect, she nodded, unable to resist him. "Alright."

Emma couldn't help grinning as his own smile widened triumphantly.


Chapter Text

Careful not to wake anyone in the loft, Killian quietly pushed his book away, setting it back into the pile Emma had of the volumes they received from Belle.

As with the previous nights, he was unable to find anything, any leads they may have caught turning into nothing.

He glanced over to the clock on the wall, seeing he had a little under an hour before his change took place. Reluctant to leave but knowing he had no choice, he got up from the table to retrieve his jacket.

Grabbing onto his phone, he glanced at the time again, silently debating.

He had every intention of having a night out with Emma and planning their evening just as he promised. Knowing his curse made the planning difficult, he knew he needed some assistance, just to help him set everything up while he was stuck in his other form.

Opening his messages and finding Belle's number just as Emma taught him, he quickly composed a message, hoping he wouldn't wake her.

5:08- Belle, I'm hoping I don't wake you, but I want to ask you if you can come by the cabin later. I wish to take Emma on a date, and I need some assistance.

Shutting the phone, he stuffed it in his jacket pocket.

He looked up in surprise as he heard shuffling from Mary Margaret and David's room, followed a second later by David pushing the curtain away to enter the main area of the loft.

He looked at him in surprise. "Morning."

Killian nodded. "Morning, mate. I'm hoping I didn't wake you?"

"No, you didn't," David replied, moving with purpose towards the coffee pot. "I'd forgotten how much Mary Margaret sprawled when she was pregnant with Emma. I've been getting a reminder of it the last couple nights."

Grinning sympathetically, Killian nodded.

David poured a cup of coffee from the pot Killian made up, leaning against the counter as he took a drink.

"Thanks," he said, lifting his cup, indicating the coffee. "You heading out?"

"Yeah," Killian replied. "The sun will be rising soon."

Nodding, David turned to rummage through a cabinet, pulling a metal cup and pouring his drink into it. "If you give me a minute to change, I'll drive you out."

Shaking his head, Killian waved him off. "It's fine, Dave. I don't wish to be any trouble. I have no problem walking."

David looked at him, crossing his arms in a way that reminded Killian of Emma.

"It's no problem," he said firmly. "It's a long walk otherwise."

"I-" Killian began, only for David to quickly go back onto the bedroom, sealing the deal.

Sighing heavily, he resigned to wait for David. He would have loved to go to say goodbye to Emma, but didn't want to risk disturbing her, knowing how late her nights were because of her determination in staying up with him.

David emerged a minute later, grabbing onto his keys and coffee and pushing the door to the loft open. Killian followed behind, going with him to the brown truck.

"Thank you," Killian said in a low voice as David pulled out into the street.

"It's no problem," David waved him off, clearly not minding. "Are you coming over again tonight?"

Surprising himself, Killian suddenly felt nervous. Before he was cursed, he'd thought nothing of having any woman he pleased. He'd been with his fair share, from bar wenches to noblewomen, some of who were married, before he met Milah. He knew Emma was different, that she was special, and that he wanted to do things properly.

Feeling like an inexperienced teenager, he scratched behind his ear, fully aware he was occupying the same cab space with the father of the woman who held his affections, making a whole new round of nerves wrack through him.

"Actually, Emma and I have a date tonight," he said in a rush, not knowing what to expect from David.

The man in question looked at him in surprise. "Really?"

Not seeing any hint of anger or disapproval on his face, Killian nodded. "Yeah."

David grinned widely. "I'm glad to hear that. What are you doing?"

Killian shrugged. "I'm not sure at the moment. I've actually sent Belle a message to ask for her assistance."

Nodding, David looked back at the road.

Deciding to test his luck, Killian fought to keep his voice calm. "You're alright with this?"

David nodded firmly. "I am. Emma's a lot happier whenever you're around. Plus I don't think it hurts that I like you a hell of a lot more than I like Neal."

Killian released a snort of amusement, feeling lighter as they left the main road.

"So when did she fall asleep last night?" David asked with a hint of laughter.

"About two," Killian replied with a fond smile. "After I was sure she was asleep, I carried her up to her room."

He felt at ease with David, beginning to see the other man as a friend. He almost reminded him of Liam, of someone who was noble but would fight for what they believed in.

David stopped the truck in front of the cabin, letting Killian get out.

"Thanks, Dave," Killian said again as he unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door.

David nodded. "I told you, it's no problem, Killian see you tonight?"

Killian nodded before shutting the truck door behind him, giving him a friendly smile. "Aye."

He watched as David pulled the truck away, going inside the cabin so he could deposit his phone and jacket before his change. He checked his phone, seeing there weren't any new messages on his phone, but he didn't expect any.

He nearly ran out, knowing he only had a few moments before it was time, able to get to his designated spot before the first spasms of pain overtook his body.

Letting the pain overtake him as his form shifted, he felt the excruciating change before he relaxed his larger body, breathing heavily as his muscles twitched, recovering.

Deciding to keep close, he settled in as close to the cabin as possible, hoping that Belle would come sooner rather than later.

He rested his head, wanting to nap in the meantime.

The noise of a car waking him, Killian lifted his head, spying a familiar black car pulling up in the cabin's driveway.

Belle's petite figure emerged from it, her eyes scanning the trees before seeing his large form. She began walking toward him, surprising him with the ease in which she navigated the forest floor in her high heels.

"Hello, Killian," Belle said brightly, no fear in her as she approached the dragon.

Nodding his head, he remained lying on the forest floor. "Belle."

She smiled, her lips pursed. "So you need my assistance for a date tonight with Emma?"

He knew his ears would have been red if he were human. "Yeah. I would do it all myself, but I'm sure you can understand why I need assistance."

"It's not a problem," she replied with a shake of her head. "What are you thinking?"

"Dinner, mostly," he responded. "Isn't that popular in this realm?"

She nodded. "Yeah, it is. But maybe something other than Granny's?"

"Aye, but I don't know what else there is I can take her," he admitted.

Belle was silent for a moment, contemplating.

She suddenly smiled. "There's a little Italian place near the docks."

He nodded, remembering Emma mentioning she liked that type of food. "That's perfect.

"There is one more issue," he told Belle. "I wanted to meet Emma at her place, make this proper. To do that, I was hoping you could procure me a room at the inn so I can get cleaned up before."

She nodded. "Of course."

"I have some gold inside," he added. "If you take-"

She waved him off. "Killian, don't worry. Remember what I told you before? I would make sure Rumple took care of whatever you needed. I'll take care of the room."

He nodded in thanks, grateful for the woman who he could consider a friend.

"Do you know what you want to wear?" she asked curiously.

A small rumbling chuckle shook Killian's chest.

Emma carefully checked her makeup in her mirror, making sure her eyeliner and lashes were perfect and even. Nodding in satisfaction, she moved away to change into her dress.

She felt like a teenager on her first date with her crush, a feeling she was completely unfamiliar with, yet found she liked it.

Touching the material of her new dress, she smiled, thinking of earlier in the day when she and Mary Margaret had found it.

Just as her disastrous date with Neal, she didn't want to wear any of her dresses with Killian, but for different reasons. He was more to her than just someone she would pick up at a bar, actually meaning something to her. While she had no doubt he would enjoy some of her dresses, likely considering them scandalous, she wanted something demure, something that indicated she wanted to have something with him. She didn't feel the need to be flashy with him.

Pulling on the dress, she admired the delicate pink material, seeing it cut perfectly for her figure. It was longer than her others, hitting just above the knee, as well as showing some cleavage yet remaining modest.

Somehow, she knew he would like it.

Pulling on some new heels to go with it, she checked the mirror again, satisfied with her appearance before descending the stairs.

"Okay," she said, calling her parents' attention. "I want honest opinions. What do you think?"

"Wow," Mary Margaret said with a wide smile.

"What your mother said," David agreed.

A bright flash of light surprised her, her eyes taking a second to readjust before she saw Mary Margaret holding a polaroid camera she suddenly extracted.

"I really need to get my own place," Emma said, smiling despite herself. She knew that she would have to soon enough, that the loft would become too crowded once her baby brother or sister arrived.

"Cut your mother some slack," David told her warmly. "It's not like we got to send you to a ball."

She had to fight the urge to wince at the sudden mental image of herself in a ball gown, having to dance with stuffy princes and noblemen and endure having to sit through gossip with the other ladies.

She found herself nearly sprinting towards the door when three knocks sounded through the loft, eager for her date.

"Here we go," Mary Margaret sing-songed.

Emma's smile widened then she saw Killian before she felt a blush rise in her cheeks at his eyes looking her over in appreciation.

"You look stunning, Swan," he said softly.

"You look pretty good yourself," she replied, taking in the deep blue shirt that enhanced his eyes even further than just his usual eyeliner.

She noticed the tips of his ears redden at the flattery.

Taking her by surprise, he revealed a blood red rose he had hidden behind his back.

Accepting it, she delicately touched the petals as she let him in.

He wore a soft smile while keeping his eyes on her as he moved closer to her, making her chest warm.

"We should get out of here before David decides to give you his overprotective dad speech," she laughed, excited to leave as Mary Margaret took the rose from her to put it in water.

"Dave already gave me that this morning," he replied lightly.

Horrified, she looked back at her father, only to see him laughing. "You didn't."

"I'm joking, love," Killian told her with a laugh of his own. "But we can go whenever you're ready."

"Don't worry, he checks out," David added as he continued to laugh. "Sure you don't want me to drive?"

"No thanks, we're good," she said quickly, walking out the door.

She caught Killian throw her father a happy grin, unable to find herself to be annoyed with them. If anything she was glad, happy that Killian was bonding with someone else, especially a guy who he could have guy time with.

"So, where are we going?" she asked, curious if she needed to drive them.

"A little place by the docks," he replied. "It's not too far, so I thought we could walk."

Smiling softly, she nodded.

Her grin widened as she felt his hand brush hers before he intertwined their fingers, finding they fit together perfectly.

She noticed some of the people out staring at them as they walked, and was nearly ecstatic that Killian didn't shirk from their gazes, instead holding his head up confidently, as if proud to be with her publicly. She held his hand tighter, feeling her own pride in him.

A cool breeze met them as they reached the docks, slightly chilling the air. Looking around, Emma saw a couple options by the way of restaurants around them, curious to which one Killian had picked. She found she didn't really care which one it was, happy to even eat at the fish and chips place while wearing her dress because she was out with him.

He led her toward the one small Italian restaurants, pulling the door open for her. She was happy with his choice, particularly because he remembered when she had one said she loved pasta.

"Well Swan, what do you think?" he asked, suddenly sounding nervous as they were led to a table.

"I like that it's not Granny's," she replied before dropping her voice. "It's perfect, Killian."

Before she could get to her seat at their table, he beat her there, pulling her chair for her. Her smile impossibly widened at the gesture.

She wasn't used to having doors opened or her chair pulled for her, especially by a date, but she found she liked it.

He moved to sit across from her, removing his leather jacket and draping it over the back of his chair before taking his seat.

"How did you plan all this?" she asked as the waiter set some menus on their table.

He looked flushed as he answered, embarrassed. "I called Belle and asked her to assist me in setting this up. She even helped to procure me a room at the inn so I had a chance to clean up first."

Reaching forward, she held both of his hands, placing their fingers together.

"But you still planned all of this," she said, lightly squeezing. "It's perfect."

Killian gave her a meek yet proud smile.

"Shall I order us some drinks?" he asked her, changing the subject.

Emma chuckled. "Sure."

She watched as Killian ordered them some wine, smiling as he seemed confident in himself.

Remembering how shy and unsure of himself he had been when she first met him, she found herself to be proud of his progress.

"You know, how you had Belle get you a room at the inn, you don't have to do that," Emma said after the waiter left them alone. "You know I told you about that open area by the loft. If you want, you can always keep some of your stuff there so you don't have to worry about renting a room you'll barely use."

"Your parents wouldn't mind that?" he asked tentatively.

She shook her head, giving him a gentle smile. "No, they wouldn't. If it would be easier for you, why not? You know you're always welcome over."

An easy grin stretched across Killian's lips. "I think I might take you up on that."

Emma walked side by side with Killian back up to the loft, warm in his jacket as he held her hand in his. Even in late May, the weather continued to occasionally carry a chill, especially by the water.

She was happy, a sensation that felt completely foreign to her when it came to men, but she was happy from her date.

"Well, not bad," she teased as they stopped outside her door.

"Oh, just not bad?" he replied playfully.

Laughing lightly, she shook her head. "No. I had a really good time."

"I'm glad to hear that," he responded. "And I as well."

"You wanna come in and have coffee with my parents," she asked before releasing a quiet laugh. "I really need my own place."

"I suppose you'll just have to wait till next time," he replied. "I think this time it would be better if we ended tonight with me walking you to your door."

"Next time?" she asked playfully. "I don't remember asking."

"That's cause it's my turn," he replied smiling before his expression became more hopeful. "Will you go out with me again?"

Emma held his gaze for a moment, leaning forward to kiss him by way of answering. Her hands resting on his shoulders, she felt his own hands go to her lower back, pulling her closer. She felt the warmth of his hands through her borrowed jacket before he removed one, moving it instead to hold the base of her skull.

Reluctantly, she pulled away, opening her eyes to meet his blue ones.

"Okay," she sighed, knowing she had to go in the loft. "Night, Killian."

"Good night," she heard Killian reply as she opened the door before closing it and resting against the other side, thinking about the emotions he was making her feel just by being with him.

She started when she heard Mary Margaret's chipper voice.

"So how was it?" her mother asked, sitting beside David on the couch.

"You guys are still awake?" Emma asked, feeling like a teenager caught sneaking in past curfew.

"We wanna hear everything about the date!" Mary Margaret said excitedly.

"Just for the record, some of us don't want to hear, uh, everything," David replied from beside her, clearly uncomfortable.

"How was the restaurant?" she asked, disregarding her husband's statement. "Did you go anywhere after? Was there a goodnight kiss?"

"That for instance is one of the things I don't want to know about," David spoke up.

Feeling a blush rise up as she thought of them sitting at the docks after their meal, wrapped in Killian's arms as they gazed out at the water, Emma shook her head.

"Night, guys," she said, turning to retreat up to her room.

"She seems happy," she heard Mary Margaret say from below after she climbed the steps.

"She really does," David's voice joined hers. "I think he's good for her."

"I can hear you guys," Emma called down, unable to fight her own wide smile.


Chapter Text

Emma flopped down on the couch in the loft, both wincing and relaxing as she sat down. She had the loft to herself for the night, her parents out for date night.

She felt bad for cancelling on Killian, but didn't feel up to even leaving the loft, the cramps tearing at her abdomen and the headache nearly splitting her head open too severe to allow her to comfortably go drive out to the cabin.

Flipping over the many old movies Mary Margaret possessed, Emma found one of her favorites, turning it on and settling in with a large cup of coffee and a warm blanket.

Just as the opening credits of the old black and white began, she released a small groan as she heard a quick rapping on the door, knowing she had to get up. Praying there wasn't some emergency with the town, she looked in surprise as she saw her boyfriend on the other end holding a bag, looking nervous as he scratched behind his ear.

"You said you weren't feeling well, and I wanted to check in with you," he said with a shy smile.

Despite her previous desire for solitude, Emma found herself inextricably happy to see him.

"Thanks," she said, nodding her head towards the inside of the loft. "C'mon. I was just watching a movie. Mary Margaret and David are out for the night."

He nodded, stepping in. "I'm sorry, love. I know you probably don't want visitors."

She shook her head as she closed the door. "It's fine. I'm not sick or anything. I just started-"

She suddenly stopped, feeling embarrassed.

Seeming to understand, Killian nodding, giving her a small smile. "Ah. Milah would have some that were so bad she wouldn't leave the cabin all day."

A sense of calm washed over her, realizing Killian had been in a committed relationship for ten years before Milah's death, meaning he was familiar with what she was dealing with.

"I didn't know you wore spectacles," he commented as he took in what she was wearing.

She suddenly felt self conscious, realizing he was seeing her in such casual wear, an oversized sweatshirt and leggings, without makeup and wearing her rarely used glasses. She had wanted to take advantage of her solitude, not expecting anyone to come by.

Seeing he wasn't looking at her in with any judgement, instead seeming to like what he saw, she felt her self consciousness slip away.

"Sometimes," she shrugged. "I'm nearsighted as hell, so they make things easier, but I can see without them. I usually wear my contacts, but they were irritating me today."

"Contacts?" he asked in confusion.

She nodded. "Yeah. They're like tiny little round lenses you stick on your eye. I'll show you sometime."

"You stick them in your eyes?" he asked, horrified. "That's barbaric."

Fighting a laugh, she shook her head. "Not really. Sometimes they're a lot easier. You just have to get used to them is all."

Despite her explanation, he continued to look uneasy.

Walking up to him, she lightly pecked his lips. "I promise, I'll show you sometime. They're not so scary."

"I have to disagree," he muttered.

She chuckled, shaking her head and draping her arms over his shoulders. "So what did you bring with you?"

"After I saw your message, I stopped by Granny's before coming here," he said, his expression lighter. "I got you a grilled cheese."

"Thanks," she hummed. "Fries?"

"Onion rings," he replied.

"Just testing you," she grinned, rewarding him with a light kiss.

She helped him unpack the bags containing their dinner, suddenly realizing how hungry she was. Deciding to forgo the table, she grabbed hold of his hand to lead him over to the sitting area, sitting back in her spot on the couch with him beside her.

"Actually, do you mind if I clean up after this?" he asked sheepishly.

She shook her head. "No, go ahead. I told you that you can do whatever you need to."

He relaxed as he nodded. "Thanks."

Deciding to wait to turn her movie back on, she glanced over at Killian. "So how was it today?"

He shrugged. "Same as usual. Found a sunny area and slept most of the day."

Her brow pinched, reading the weariness in his tone though he hid it well.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, knowing his curse was weighing on him.

His smile didn't meet his eyes. "It's not your fault, Swan. Besides, I'd rather be outside than in that bloody cave."

She nodded. "Still."

Nudging her shoulder, he offered her a smile. "Hey, I'd rather this, that way I have freedom at night."

"It's still lonely," she objected quietly.

"Not really," he said, drawing an arm around her shoulders and brushing his lips to her hair. "The company has greatly improved since I got out of that prison, especially with the company I have tonight."

She couldn't help laughing. "Oh really? You're saying that when I'm wearing this?" She gestured to her clothing and glasses. "Smooth."

Laughing, he met her for a kiss.

"Go on, you smell like the forest," she teased when they finished. "You remember where everything is?"

He nodded, chuckling. "Yeah, I do."

Emma stopped him as he moved to clean up the trash from their dinner, moving to do it herself. "I got it. It would be good for me to move around, anyway."

Slowly, he nodded before retreating up to her room and bathroom.

Emma tried not to think too hard about what it meant that even if it was for convenience, she had cleared out one of her drawers for him, as well as made space in her closet.

Throwing everything away from their dinner, she decided to busy herself with making a couple of hot cocoas for herself and Killian.

Forgoing the instant cocoa in favor of making a more traditional recipe, she put the finishing touches on it just as Killian stepped down the stairs, freshly showered and dressed in clean clothes.

"Better?" she asked as she carried over their mugs.

He nodded. "Much."

He pulled her down so she sat with her legs over his, curling into his side.

Grabbing the blanket she had been using earlier, she draped it over both of their legs before turning on her movie.

"What is this?" Killian asked her curiously.

"A really old movie," she told him. "It's sad, but it's one of my favorites."

He didn't respond, instead wrapping an arm around her shoulders so she was completely nestled against him.

Emma found herself watching Killian more than she was the movie, cataloging his reactions as the story of the young widow and the captain's ghost played out. He smiled at the parts that were more humorous, but she noticed that for a majority of the time his brow was slightly furrowed, his expression looking troubled.

"You okay?" she asked him quietly as they reached the part where the captain decided to make the widow forget him so she would have a chance at a normal life with a man who could be with her.

He gave her a small nod, forcing a small smile. "I'm fine, love."

Deciding not to pry, she nodded in return, but kept a furtive eye on him.

"You know, I don't really see why you say this is such a sad movie," he remarked as it ended, the final credits rolling.

Flashing him a look of disbelief, she leaned slightly away from him. "Really? Did you miss the part where he left her and made her forget about him?"

"Only because he knew having something between them would have put her in an impossible situation," he replied with a pensive look. "He did it so she would have a chance at a normal, happy life, all because he loved her. He couldn't have known that the other man was a total cad. But they were reunited in the end, showing that they were meant to be together. I actually think it's a happy ending."

Thoughtful, she shrugged. "That is a way to think about it I guess."

She glanced at her phone, wanting to check the time. Seeing it was just after eleven, she tucked it away, knowing that her parents wouldn't be home for the night.

"Do you want to watch something else?" she asked him curiously.

Giving her an enthusiastic smile, he nodded. "Sure."

Emma grinned back, knowing he was happy being there with her, just as she was with him. She had noticed early on in their evening that her migraine had disappeared a little while after he arrived. Wondering if he was the key to driving her headaches away because they always seemed to go away when he was around her, she knew she had to test the theory sometime.

Reluctantly, she pulled away from him to go retrieve the movie's disk from the player and rifle through the rest of the collection, wanting something more light-hearted.

"I would ask any suggestions, but I know you're limited," she remarked quietly.

She grinned as she passed by one of four movies, debating on turning on the first one on.

"How do you feel about sharks?" she asked over her shoulder, feeling almost giddy at the thought of showing him the series.

Killian raised a curious brow. "They're something every smart sailor tries to avoid."

Grinning, she raised the cover, revealing a large great white beneath a swimmer. "What do you say about the first of four movies about man-eating sharks?"

Clearly interested, Killian examined the cover. "Jaws?"

Emma nodded. "Yep. I love these movies. They absolutely terrified me of going in the water when I was younger."

Giving her a playful smile, he laughed. "Well then, Swan, I'd love to see what was the source of your childhood trauma."

She laughed as she popped the movie in. "Are you hungry at all?"

"Not too much," he responded.

Letting the disc load, she went back to the kitchen with purpose, grabbing her new carton of ice cream and a couple of spoons.

She noticed Killian's raised brow as she returned.

"What?" she asked as she sat back down beside him, offering him a spoon.

"What is that?" he questioned as he peered at the container she just opened.

"Rocky road ice cream," Emma replied as she began digging her spoon into her treat.

She watched as he tentatively took a bite of it, able to tell from his expression that he liked it.

"There was nothing like this back in Misthaven," he remarked as he took a second spoonful.

"The wonders of this realm," she agreed as she hit play on their movie.


Chapter Text

Grinning as he insisted on holding the door for her, Killian let Emma step into the familiar dinner ahead of him, seeing that it wasn't as filled as usual due to the later hour.

They were later than usual to pick up dinner for everyone, her parents insisting they were fine with eating at a later hour so that he could eat with them. He felt guilty that they were doing it for him, even if everyone insisted that they were happy to do it.

"I'm going to go order," Emma told him quietly. "Do you want your usual or something else?"

"The usual," he replied with a nod, ready to procure them a table for while they waited.

She nodded in return to go up to the counter to talk to Ruby.

Just as he was about to sit in the booth he and Emma usually occupied, he saw Neal coming out the back.

Their eyes met, the venom obvious in Neal's dark stare before his eyes drifted unhappily towards Emma's back, knowing she would be with him.

Feeling a strong urge to protect Emma, he watched as Neal approached him, his expression remaining icy.

"What are you doing here?" Neal hissed. "What, are you following Emma around like a little puppy dog?"

Killian didn't flinch, instead met the other man's glare with one of his own. "No, I happen to be here to get dinner with her to take it back to her family."

"Oh, so you're just suddenly a family man?" Neal scoffed. "That's rich."

Raising a single brow, Killian stood his ground. "Funny that's coming from you. Seen Henry lately?"

Neal suddenly looked murderous. "That's none of your business."

Killian smirked. "Maybe."

"You still haven't answered my question," Neal sneered.

"Which one?" Killian asked flippantly. "Because none of them are worth answering."

"Why the hell are you with Emma?" Neal asked.

"Because she wants to be with me," Killian replied simply. "Because maybe we make each other happy."

His voice suddenly dropped, ensuring Neal would be the only one to hear him. "Which by the way, I'm not with her out of a sense of debt. If you know what's good for her, you'll leave her alone."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Neal challenged.

"If you hurt her in any way again, I'll ensure that it will be the last time," Killian promised.

"I'm sure my father will be alright with that," Neal replied sarcastically, his threat clear.

"Oh, daddy dearest can't do anything to me," Killian replied with a dark smile. "Thanks to him, I'm immortal. He can't hurt me. And I can protect anyone close to me easily."

A visible shudder shook Neal.

"Leave Emma alone," Killian repeated firmly.

"Killian?" the woman in question asked, her green eyes flashing between him and Neal uneasily.

"Your boyfriend just threatened me," Neal said immediately, ratting Killian out.

Emma sighed. "And what am I supposed to do about that?"

"You're the sheriff," he pointed out.

"I'm not arresting Killian," she said tiredly. "And I really don't want to deal with you right now, Neal."

"So you're just gonna let him get away with it?" he asked in disbelief.

She scoffed in disbelief. "You out of everyone is gonna talk to me about responsibility?"

"That's rich, mate," Killian said, throwing Neal's words back at him.

Emma rested a hand on his arm, both calming and restraining him.

"I'm not your mate," Neal spit out.

"Okay, just knock it off," Emma said in frustration. "Neal, just go back to whatever you were doing before we came in. Just leave Killian and me alone."

Before Neal could respond, Emma quickly pulled Killian's arm so he followed her back to the counter to wait for their orders, away from her ex.

"Not now," she said in a low voice when he opened his mouth.

He raised his hand in surrender, but couldn't find it in himself to regret firing back at Neal. Not if it meant that he finally left Emma in peace.

He noticed that Neal didn't once bring up Henry, even to ask Emma if he could see him.

Ruby arrived a short moment later, giving them a couple large bags containing her family's dinner.

Killian followed Emma out of the dinner after she thanked Ruby, helping her into her vessel before rounding the front to climb into the other side, fully prepared to be reprimanded.

"Do you care to explain what the hell you were thinking?" Emma asked as soon as his door closed. "Threatening Gold's son?"

"I was thinking that he approached me, unprovoked, and immediately started insulting me," he responded calmly as she started the car. "He asked why I was with you, and I told him because I wanted to be, and it wasn't out of obligation. I then told him to leave you alone if he knew what was good for him."

"And what did you threaten to do to him?" she asked with a sigh.

"I didn't exactly say," he said lightly. "I figured he could use his imagination. It's scarier that way."

Despite the situation, Emma released a laugh before her face became serious again. "Killian, you shouldn't have done that. What if Gold decides to retaliate?"

"He can't hurt me," he said quietly. "No matter what he does, it won't hurt me. He made sure of that. And if he tries to go after any of you, I'll be able to protect you."

"He wouldn't," she said firmly. "Henry is his grandson. Gold cares about family, he won't hurt Henry."

He nodded in agreement, knowing she was right. Rumplestiltskin had spent centuries trying to get back to his son, indicating a great love for his family. He wouldn't sacrifice his own grandson for revenge.

"But it still stands, I won't let him hurt you again," he promised her. "I don't regret it, not if it means he leaves you alone."

"I know," she replied just as softly, meaning more than just her understanding his lack of remorse.

Killian wasn't trying to lay claim over Emma, to say she was his and only his, only wanting to keep her safe from the pain Neal had inflicted on her and continued to try to inflict. He had no desire to possess her, only to protect and care for her.

"You know, I might be able to talk my parents into helping us research those books tonight," Emma commented as they pulled into her space at the loft. "Well, David at least. Mary Margaret's been tired lately, so she'll probably go to bed early."

Guilt shot through Killian, knowing Mary Margaret's schedule was being disturbed because of him.

Reading his mood, Emma rested a hand on his knee. "Hey, it's no big deal. We're all happy to do it. We want to do it."

Slowly, he nodded.

As per what was becoming routine, he was nearly knocked off his feet by Henry as he entered the loft right behind Emma, her son happily greeting him.

"Hey, Killian," Henry said brightly, pulling away.

Killian chuckled, ruffling Henry's hair. "Hey, lad."

Both David and Mary Margaret nodded warmly in greeting.

He watched as Mary Margaret moved to the table, seeing it had become more obvious she was carrying a child. Emma had told him more of the townspeople had taken notice, offering their congratulations and excitement for the new royal.

David stayed close beside her, protective as he made sure that his wife didn't have to do anything too strenuous or anything to be considered dangerous.

Killian wondered how much of it was paternal instinct and had stemmed from memories of the curse that had loomed over them when Mary Margaret carried Emma.

"You know, I was thinking," David addressed him as he took his seat beside Emma at the dinner table to eat. "What do you say to a little later to us having a match?"

Feeling his brows quirk, Killian looked back at him curiously. "What type of match are you proposing, mate?"

"Well, you were a pirate, and you did come here with a sword," David smirked as he stabbed a carrot with his fork. "I'm thinking we can see who's the better swordsman."

To Killian's amusement, both Emma and Mary Margaret groaned while Henry suddenly looked excited.

"No way," Mary Margaret admonished, looking at her husband sternly.

"Please don't tell me this is an overprotective father thing," Emma nearly begged.

It was subtle, but Killian caught the way David's face brightened when Emma mentioned him as her father.

David shrugged, looking the image of pure innocence. "What? It's nothing more than a friendly competition."

"Love, it's fine," Killian said, losing the fight with his wide grin. "As your father said, it's merely friendly competition. Besides, I think it would be good to have a sparring partner after all these years."

Emma looked at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious."

He shrugged. "Why not? I'm out of practice, and it's not like he can do any real damage to me."

Groaning, Emma rolled her eyes. "Fine."

He knew she wasn't truly angry, just worried about him.

"So, what do you say?" David asked him. "In an hour?"

"In an hour," Killian agreed, finding himself excited to finally duel again.

Despite his excitement, he found he was slightly worried, wondering exactly how out of practice he was in regards to fighting.

Seeming to sense his unease, Emma rested her arm on the back of his chair, gently running her fingers through the back of his hair. He instantly relaxed under her touch, leaning further into her.

He noticed in amusement Henry nearly bouncing in his seat, clearly excited to watch the two men duel.

"You know, I had forgotten that I'm out of practice," he told Emma quietly after everyone finished their meal.

She gave him a small laugh. "You remember this after you've already agreed to a duel with David?"

"Oh, I'm sure I can still hold my own," he commented. "I just might not be quite as suave as I used to be."

"You'll be fine," she said, taking both his hands in hers. "Muscle memory will take over, and you'll be able to fight just as well as you did before."

He smiled, her confidence in him never ceasing to astound him.

"Well, no matter the results, I expect you to be fawning over me when it's over," he smirked.

Her resulting laughter filled the loft.

Surprising them all, the room illuminated brightly in a flash of white light, followed a second later by the rumble of thunder.

He shared a shocked and confused glance with Emma before looking back at her parents.

"There's not supposed to be a storm tonight," Mary Margaret said, touching her protruding stomach protectively.

A second later, the lights flickered as another flash of lightning hit, followed by darkness.

"Wonderful," Emma mumbled. "Power's out."

Glancing around, Killian saw all of their devices that ran on electricity were completely out, leaving them in almost complete darkness in the enclosed space. He fought the familiar claustrophobia creeping up on him, the centuries of memories of darkness and isolation threatening to take over.

His ears picked up a sound outside, misplaced against the previously calm night.

"It sounds like a bloody hurricane out there," he said just loudly enough for them all to hear.

David went over to one of the windows, peering out into the night with a pale face. "Not a hurricane. It looks like a Dark Curse."

Mary Margaret looked at her husband in disbelief and some fear. "A curse? Regina has no reason to cast one."

Seeing out the window, Killian could make out thick violet smoke, similar to the remnants of magic he'd seen produced from magic users.

"It's impossible for it to be her," Emma said faintly, looking over at Henry in the dim light as proof.

Another lightning strike hit, lighting up the loft again before plunging them back into darkness.

He heard more than saw Emma pause, feeling her eyes on his hidden rigid figure before the sound of her footsteps reached his ears.

"Light some candles," her voice suddenly said to someone else, likely her mother.

Another set of footsteps joined hers before suddenly a couple of twin flames drew his attention, two candles lighting. He began to relax as the small flames provided some light, followed by more as the women lit more of the candles.

As soon as they were done, Emma stood by him, slipping her hand in his and squeezing reassuringly.

"You okay?" she mouthed softly.

He swallowed, embarrassment washing over him. "I'm fine, love."

Reluctantly, he glanced over to David and Mary Margaret, seeing them watching him with Emma with worry and sympathy, seeing to understand the uneasiness he felt just as Emma had.

"You know we have to go out there soon," David said. "After it clears. I don't think it was cast by anyone here."

"I know," Emma responded, clearly not wanting to go. "It's almost like when Gold brought magic here. Nothing's happening to us."

"I think it's stopped already," Henry said. "Listen, it's quiet out there."

David carefully went back to the window, nodding to confirm Henry's statement. "It looks like it's over."

Sighing, Emma nodded.

She turned to Killian, about to say something before he cut her off.

"I'm going with you," he said.

"We don't know what exactly that was," she argued softly.

"Exactly," he responded. "We don't know what it was. I'm not about to stay behind while you go out to something possibly dangerous."

Her retort died on her lips at his determined expression before she finally nodded. "Okay."

He nodded once before moving with her to retrieve their jackets, gently brushing has hand over her back before going back towards her family, Emma stepping away to talk to Henry.

"Will you and Henry be okay on your own here?" David asked his wife quietly.

Mary Margaret nodded, giving him a soft smile. "We will. I've faced worse being much further along. This is nothing, Charming."

The moment too private, Killian tried to block them out, looking in surprise when Henry suddenly stood next to him.

"You'll take care of my mom, right?" the boy asked him.

"Of course," Killian promised him. "I'll make sure your mother is safe and comes home, lad."

Surprising him further, Henry wrapped his arms around his waist. "I know. You stay safe out there, too."

Seeing Henry's concern for his own well being, Killian couldn't help smiling. "You don't need to worry about me, lad."

"Still," Henry replied before pulling away.

Killian caught Emma watching them, wearing a soft smile with a tender look in her eye.

"Are we ready?" David asked, ending the moment.

Emma nodded. "Yeah."

Nodding, Killian followed behind Emma out of the loft, letting her and David lead them to her father's vessel. He climbed in after Emma, letting her sit in the middle between him and David.

He was quiet as they drove down to the sheriff's station, climbing out of the vehicle before offering Emma assistance out and following close behind her, all the while surveying the area around them.

Despite everything that had occurred when they were at the loft and the power outage, Killian couldn't see any real damage to the town. Debris littered the streets, yet the buildings were untouched.

Some people were out on the streets, cleaning up some of the debris as well as trying to figure out what happened.

Emma unlocked the door to the station, pushing it open for them to go inside, letting him and David follow her inside.

Noticing her unease, he rested a gentle hand on her waist.

"Love, what's wrong?" he whispered.

Her brow pinched, she shrugged. "I don't know. Just, doesn't the air feel weird?"

Furrowing his own brow, he shook head. "No, it just feels like a normal night."

"No, it's not like that," she said. "It just feels wrong. Like it's heavy. I don't know, I can't explain it."

He swallowed heavily before speaking, fully knowing what he was suggesting. "Do you think it could possibly be magic?"

She looked back at him, her green eyes wide. "Magic? What do you mean?"

"You have it," he said as he scratched behind his ear. "Maybe you can sense it as well. That storm was a curse, so maybe you're picking up on the magic from it."

Looking at him thoughtfully, she nodded. "Maybe."

David walked towards them, holding out a small black device with an antenna sticking out of the top of it as well and giving them each what Killian recognized as a flashlight.

"We don't have a third one," David told him. "But I figure if you're sticking by one of us, we only need two."

"Okay, but what are they?" Killian asked as Emma took the device.

"They're radios," Emma told him. "They'll let us talk to each other. They're kind of like phones, but they don't need reception."

Killian nodded, knowing he would figure out the object soon enough.

"You don't have any type of weapon on you, do you?" Emma suddenly asked.

Surprised, he shook his head. "No. I didn't think there was a need to bring my cutlass with me to your place."

Biting her lip, she looked over to David. "What do you think?"

David shrugged debating. "He needs something in case he needs to defend himself. And he is helping us."

She nodded before looking back at Killian as David went to one of the back rooms.

"Do you know how to use a gun?" she asked him.

"You mean a pistol?" he asked.

"Yeah," she replied.

He nodded. "Aye. It's been a long time, but I do know how to use one. My aim was accurate."

"Good," she said as David rejoined them.

David passed a couple silver objects along to her before handing some off to him.

He was able to identify the pistol easily, the design changed from the one he had used when he was a pirate, but the shape was familiar. He examined the rectangular he was given with it, unable to figure out what it was.

"These are a bit more refined than what you're used to," David explained patiently.

Holding out his own pistol, he showed him a small lever he pulled, an identical object coming out of it.

"It's called a clip," Emma told him, taking his and pulling a round from it, showing him there were multiple stores within. "It holds the bullets. It's more convenient than having to reload each bullet at once. You just have to change the clip to reload it."

He nodded in amazement, examining the weapon. He quickly found a small switch near the top, looking at it in question.

"That's the safety," David explained. "You can't shoot unless it's off. You just have to push it back."

Killian nodded.

"I'll explain anything else on the way," Emma told him. "We have to go."

"Too right, love," he agreed, pocketing the pistol and clip and following her out.

David drove as Emma filled him in on anything else she could think of, giving Killian as much information as she could.

They all watched the area around them, trying to figure out where the tornado had dissipated.

"You know, it wouldn't be so bad if there were actually some sign," Emma muttered.

David hummed in agreement. "It think we should check towards the forest."

"Wonderful," she retorted sarcastically.

Killian brushed his fingers over her leg to calm her.

He understood her trepidation, the only monsters that had lurked in the forest before being him and occasionally Ruby. There could be a new threat lurking in the trees they knew nothing about.

David stopped his truck at the treeline, turning it off. "We'll have to go on foot from here."

They froze before going to get out, lights suddenly catching them from the back.

Another car pulled up behind them as they stepped out, the lights suddenly going dark as a petite figure stepped out of the black vehicle.

"Regina?" Emma asked.

"I just came from the loft to check on Henry," the other woman said. "I tried calling, but all of the lines were dead."

"Everythings dead," David confirmed.

She released a heavy sigh. "Great. First we have a curse roll through, then all of the power is out."

Emma shared a quick glance with Killian, his theory confirmed.

"You mean this weird feeling in the air is magic?" she asked Regina.

Regina nodded. "It is. Dark magic, specifically from a Dark Curse. I'm not surprised you can feel it."

Emma nodded.

"So we have to travel into the woods and look for who did this then," David sighed.

"Believe me, I'm not thrilled about it either," Regina responded.

"Just stay close," he told her.

Scoffing, she drew a fireball into her hand, reminding Killian of Cora.

"Please," she said derisively before stepping into the trees.

Rolling her eyes, Emma followed, Killian and David trailing close behind until they were both at her sides.

"Do you feel that?" Regina asked, the direction pointed at Emma.

"The air is getting heavier," Emma confirmed.

"I can feel it too, here," Killian said, making both of the women look at him in surprise.

"You were cursed with dark magic," Regina told him. "You're surrounded by it constantly. It would make sense that you can sense when there's a strong presence."

He nodded before returning his eyes back to the forest floor, not used to navigating the familiar woods at night as a man.

"You hear that?" Emma asked after reaching about a mile in.

They all stopped, pausing when they caught the faint noise of voices ahead in the trees. Even at a distance, Killian could tell there was a large number of people. The panic in their voices became more apparent the closer they got until they could finally see some movement through the trees.

He mirrored Emma and David's actions of pulling his firearm, not knowing the threat ahead of them before they finally broke through the trees.

Dozens of people stood in the large clearing, all of them dressed in clothing from the realm they were in, but none were familiar.

"Swan," Killian said lowly, drawing Emma's attention. "At the risk of stating the obvious, I believe that curse brought these people here."

"Yeah," she responded in a low voice. "And things just got a whole lot more complicated."


Chapter Text

They quickly drew attention from the crowd of newcomers, many unfamiliar faces suddenly turned towards them.

"It's the Evil Queen!" someone shouted from within the group.

Surprising her, Emma was suddenly pushed behind Killian, blocking her from the weapons suddenly being drawn as the voices grew both panicked and angry.

"Stop!" a familiar, feminine voice yelled.

A figure dressed in a white sundress suddenly ran forward, long auburn hair falling around her shoulders. "Stop! I know them! They won't hurt us!"

"Aurora?" Emma asked in amazement, stepping from behind Killian.

"Emma," Aurora said, sounding relieved before her eyes passed to the man standing close beside her. "Killian."

A man suddenly appeared at Aurora's side. Emma knew it had to be Phillip, that Aurora and Mulan had found some way to save him. The way he stood by her was familiar, nearly identical to the way David stood beside Mary Margaret, and combined with the faint roundness of Aurora's stomach, led Emma to believe she was pregnant.

"What happened?" Emma asked her. "How did you get here?"

"We don't know," Phillip said. "That curse just seemed to come out of nowhere and swallow us up. We had no warning."

"Did you have any idea who cast it?" David asked.

"No, we don't," Aurora said, examining him before her eyes widened. "You're Prince Charming. Prince James."

He nodded. "And you're one of the people to help Mary Margaret and Emma get home. I go by David here."

Aurora gave him a dainty smile.

"Is Mulan here?" Emma asked her, remembering the other woman who had helped her.

"No," Aurora said with a shake of her head. "She went off on her own soon after we got Phillip back."

Emma felt a wave of sympathy, having a feeling to the reason Mulan had for leaving, the reason Aurora was oblivious to.

"There is something, though," Aurora suddenly said, looking towards Regina uncomfortably. "A witch did take over your old castle."

"What?" Regina snapped.

Stricken, Aurora flinched back.

"Who was she?" Regina demanded.

"We don't know," Aurora told her. "All we know is she's green."

"Green?" Killian asked with raised brows. "As in green skin?"

"Like the wicked witch of the west?" Emma asked in disbelief.

She ignored the puzzled looks from Killian, Aurora, and Phillip.

"We have to get all of these people out of here," Emma muttered to her small group. "They can't stay out here."

Worried, she met Killian's eyes. "Especially during the day. I don't even want to think about what they might try to do if they saw you."

David nodded. "They might not be able to permanently hurt you, but they can still try to hunt you."

"Is there anyway to get a hold of the dwarves or Granny?" Emma asked him.

As if on cue, they heard noises behind them, seven figures emerging from the trees.

"Mary Margaret sent us," Leroy said before completely taking in the people in the clearing. "Whoa. What the hell happened here?"

"Some witch took over my castle then created a curse that sent everyone here," Regina spit out bitterly.

Sighing at the feeling of an oncoming headache, Emma looked back toward the dwarves. "Can you take these people out of the forest and into the town?"

Leroy nodded. "You've got it, sister."

David stepped forward to address everyone, Aurora and Phillip at his side, the royals displaying a show of loyalty and trust.

"I know it's not my place to question, but is this wise?" Killian asked quietly.

"I really don't know," Emma replied with a sigh. "But we can't leave them out here."

"I know," he replied softly, slipping his hand into hers.

She knew it wasn't the most appropriate time, but she couldn't help leaning over to kiss him. He rested his other hand on her waist as her lips touched his, pulling her slightly closer to him. Even as they ended the kiss, they remained close together, resting their foreheads together.

Emma caught Aurora looking at them in surprise but didn't care, knowing that her relationship with Killian had greatly progressed since they last saw the princess.

Most of the group left with the dwarves, leaving them to search the area further. One small group remained, carrying various weapons as well as wearing clothes that were well suited for dwelling in the forest. The group was mostly men, with only one small little boy amongst them, holding onto his father's leg.

A shill cry came from the south, opposite of the direction from where the dwarves led everyone to the town.

A strange creature came into sight closely followed by another, both looking to be about Killian or David's height, but with massive wings. As they neared, Emma caught glowing red eyes and teeth that looked like needles.

"What the hell is that?" David asked before one of the monsters swooped down with another screech, aiming for Regina.

Regina threw a fireball at one, only for it to swerve to the left and completely avoiding the flame. It flew down again, digging its sharp claws into Regina's sleeve and began to pull her off the ground as the other joined it.

"Regina!" Emma yelled as she grabbed onto her other arm, pulling her away.

David helped her, their combined weight stronger than the beast's. Her sleeve ripping, Regina fell to the ground, knocking her, Emma, and David over.

"It's too fast," Emma said as she scrambled up.

"I'm open to suggestions," Regina panted as she stood.

"Get down!" someone yelled, making them cover themselves on the ground.

A loud boom filled the area, nearly deafening Emma. Glancing up, she saw Killian with his gun drawn, having shot one of the creatures she identified as a winged monkey. The monkey disintegrated into flaming embers before disappearing completely.

An arrow flew, burying itself in the other's shoulder. The creature screeched in pain before flying off and leaving them.

Emma grasped Killian's hand as soon as he reached out to her, allowing him to pull her into his arms as he dropped his gun. He held her tightly against him for a moment before pulling her away to rake his eyes over her.

"Are you alright?" he asked worriedly. "Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," she said quickly, reassuring him. "I'm fine."

He released a heavy sigh before pulling her back into his arms. She wrapped her arms back around him, feeling herself relax as a feeling of safety washed over her.

"My lady," the voice that yelled for them to get down said, much closer.

Turning her head, Emma saw the man who had the little boy clutching him offering his hand out to Regina to assist her up. He wore a shirt, jacket, and scarf of varying shades of green with a quiver rested along his back along with a bow, indicating he was the one to release the arrow. He was handsome, as well as had a roguish air about him.

"You're injured," the man said in concern as he examined Regina.

"It's Your Majesty," Regina said, not wanting any help. "I'm fine."

The man raised his brows, considering. "A simple 'thank you' would suffice."

"I didn't ask for your help," she replied as she got up.

David accepted the man's help up. "Well, we're grateful for the assistance."

"Robin," the man introduced himself. "Robin of Locksley."

Emma had to fight her eye roll, thinking she shouldn't be surprised at them encountering more fairytale characters. She was grateful for the fact that he wasn't a fox or wearing tights at least.

He gestured behind him to some of the men that had moved closer. "And these are my Merry Men."

"As you heard, I'm David," David said welcomingly. "I was known as Prince James or Prince Charming back in the Enchanted Forest." He gestured back toward Emma and Killian. "This is my daughter, Emma, and Killian."

Robin smiled. "There was a time mine and your wife's faces graced wanted posters side by side."

"If you're really Prince Charming, why are you with her?" one of the burlier men asked, nodding towards Regina.

"Her?" Regina asked indignantly. "Show some respect. Or at least some restraint at the buffet."

"You'll have to excuse Little John," Robin said with an edge to his voice. "But before you cursed our home, we spent many a day running from your black knights."

"Well I'm sure you deserved it," she responded carelessly. She looked back toward the skies. "What the hell were those things?"

"I have no idea," he replied with a small shake of his head. "We haven't encountered the likes of them before."

"It looked like a sort of simian with wings," Killian said.

"Flying monkeys," Emma sighed. "Great, we really are dealing with the wicked witch of the west."

Barely able to keep her eyes open, Emma pulled her jacket off, tiredly hanging it on the wall.

She, Killian, and David were all able to help all of the newcomers get situated for the night, with only the Merry Men choosing to remain in the forest. They were allowed to after receiving certain conditions, being made aware of Killian's other form.

Glancing at her phone to see it was nearly four in the morning, she fought a groan, not wanting to possibly wake Mary Margaret or Henry.

"I'm turning in," David announced quietly. "Good night."

He suddenly looked toward Killian. "And Killian? Thanks for everything tonight."

Killian gave him a meek smile as he scratched behind his ear. "You're welcome, mate."

David clapped him on the back before retreating into his and Mary Margaret's room, leaving him alone with Emma.

"You should retire too, love," Killian told her softly. "I know you're exhausted."

Practically feeling the bags under her eyes, she nodded. "I know. I'm sorry, I know we planned to go through more of those books tonight."

"It's alright, Swan," he replied. "I know duty called."

"Still," she said tiredly.

He gave her a smile that could only be described as tender as he leaned forward to kiss her.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Emma let him support her weight, wanting nothing more than to stay up to have more time with him.

"Love, go to bed," he said as they pulled away. "I have to go. The sun will be coming up soon, and I want to be in the forest when the time comes."

Nodding drowsily, she reluctantly released him from her hold.

"See you later tonight?" she asked hopefully.

"Of course," Killian grinned at her. "Good night, Swan."

Emma hummed as she moved to kiss him one last night before he left.

Trudging up the stairs, she didn't even bother changing as she rested on her bed, exhaustion taking over.


Chapter Text

Emma collapsed down on the couch in Killian's cabin, waiting for the ancient coffee maker to finish brewing. She needed another caffeine fix, tired despite sleeping in so late.

She had found David had gotten up just before her, both of them sitting at the island unhappily as they grabbed a couple of bowls for cereal, ignoring Mary Margaret's amused expression at the pair of them. Her mother's smile had quickly slipped away once she became aware of the new threat they faced.

The comforting smell of fresh coffee filled the room as Emma got up to make herself a cup, glancing outside as she went to see how much longer until Killian would walk through the door. The warmth of the drink was comforting, even if the caffeine didn't provide an immediate effect.

Resuming her seat back on the sofa, she settled in to wait.

She started when she felt a gentle hand on her arm, not realizing she had dozed off.

"Sorry, love," Killian said as he leaned above her.

Emma shook the last vestiges of sleep from herself, sitting up and noticing his damp hair, signifying he had let her sleep while he came in and cleaned up.

"It's fine," she said, reaching for her cooled coffee. "Sorry I fell asleep."

He shook his head, moving back to allow her to get up. "It's alright."

Standing, she downed the last of her coffee. "You would think that with last night, we would get a small break to recharge."

"Rough day?" he asked sympathetically.

"Oh yeah," she said. "We made a list of everyone's names for possibilities for who the witch is."

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said genuinely, his arms slightly held out in an invitation.

Shaking her head, Emma took his offering, resting against his chest as his arms wrapped around her. Inhaling Killian's scent, she felt some of her tension from the day leave her, taking in the smells of leather and the ocean that never seemed to leave him.

Picking her head up, she leaned up just enough to kiss him, burying her fingers in his damp hair.

Before either of them could deepen the kiss, her phone chimed, making her groan.

"It might be important," Killian muttered before lightly kissing her forehead.

Emma nodded as she pulled her phone, seeing the message from her mother asking her to pick up a couple things from the store on her way back to the loft with Killian.

"Mary Margaret just wants us to go by the store to get her some teas," she groaned before looking back at him, feeling traces of concern. "Are you okay with that?"

He nodded. "I'll be fine, Swan."

She knew she was babying him, but knew he remained reluctant to go do certain things on his own, the reason being the realm was still new and unusual to him meaning he had to get used to it, and the other being that his novelty to the town had yet to wear off.

Moving to grab another cup of coffee for the road, she led him out to her car.

Killian had only accompanied her to do grocery shopping a couple times before, making her smile fondly at his wonder. She had to fight a laugh at his disbelief at seeing the butcher, that people didn't have to kill their own food to eat.

Pulling back up the list her mother had sent her before leaving her car, Emma walked contently hand in hand with Killian into the area.

"Just because I know tales of how some women are while with child, did she tell you exactly what she wanted?" Killian asked.

Emma smiled at the slightly nervous edge in his voice, amused.

"Yeah, she did," she told him as she pulled a couple boxes of herbal and fruit teas.

Her phone dinged again, letting her know she had another message. As soon as he silently offered, she passed Killian the boxes, allowing her to pull her phone.

He raised his brow curiously as she released a snort when she looked at her message.

"Can't get anymore stereotypical than that," she chuckled fondly, remembering the cravings she faced herself while carrying Henry. "She asked for us to grab some pickles and peanut butter."

"She's not planning on eating those together, is she?" Killian asked, his tone carrying a hint of disgust.

Fighting a laugh, she led him further down the aisle. "I wish I could tell you no."

His expression broke her resolve, making her laugh.

She dragged him with her as she grabbed the last few items she needed, checking out and returning to her car.

Her mother was happy to receive her items, looking at Killian curiously as he kept looking at the two items in disdain.

"Should I ask why Killian's looking at the pickles and peanut butter like they're the grossest things he's ever seen?" she asked Emma quietly.

Emma grinned widely. "I told him you were going to eat them at the same time."

Mary Margaret laughed. "Believe me, I would have killed to have this back in the Enchanted Forest when I was pregnant with you."

Nodding, Emma sipped at her cup of coffee. "I know. With Henry, all I wanted was pickles with ice cream or onion rings."

Raising her brow, Mary Margaret's eyes followed the path of Emma's coffee mug. "How much have you had today?"

"I don't know," Emma shrugged. "I think this is my fifth cup."

Mary Margaret's brows only climbed higher.

"I think I'm on my sixth," David added from beside the table.

"You guys are gonna crash," Mary Margaret commented as she filled her own mug with hot water to steep her tea. She looked over at Killia, raising her voice enough to call his attention. "Killian, if you get any, make sure they don't steal it."

Killian chuckled as he came up beside Emma, resting a hand on her waist. "Wouldn't dream of it, your highness."

Feeling the warmth of his hand on her through her shirt, Emma leaned further into him.

"Come on," Mary Margaret called them. "We need to get them to eat something. You don't want to deal with David when he's had coffee on an empty stomach."

"Hey, I've eaten today," David argued lightly.

"When?" she challenged. "And what was it?"

The fight suddenly left him. "I think it was around four, maybe three. And it was a leftover donut from this morning."

Emma lightly elbowed Killian, trying to prevent him from laughing.

Feeling her eyes begin to droop, Emma rubbed at them furiously, the letters of the book beginning to blur.

She knew better than to go for more caffeine, that Killian would literally keep it from her.

She felt guilty, not helping him to go through more books of curses the previous night, followed by being too tired to function the next night.

Seeming to know what she was thinking, Killian's soft voice was the only sound in the otherwise quiet loft. "Swan, go to bed."

She shook her head. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not," he responded. "You're exhausted."

"I'm supposed to help you with this," she said, gesturing to the books in front of them.

"I'd rather you got some rest," he replied softly. "It's alright, love. Just get some sleep."

"I don't want to just leave you down here by yourself," she protested weakly.

His blue eyes remained focused on her for a moment longer before finally tearing his gaze from her. Marking his book, he set it atop a small stack, easily lifting them as he stood. He stopped beside her, offering his hand to her.

"Come here, love," he said gently.

Slowly, Emma placed her hand in his, letting him pull her with him over to the couch.

Killian set the books on the end table before sitting, pulling her down with him. She easily curled into his side as he pulled the throw blanket from behind them, draping it over her.

Sighing contentedly, she rested her head on his shoulder.

"I know what you're doing," she accused tiredly, leaning further into his warmth. "You're trying to make me fall asleep."

She felt his chuckle deep in his chest, smiling as his hand tenderly rested on the back of her head, his fingers weaving through her hair.

"Good night, Emma," he whispered in her ear.

Her response was barely audible as she slipped under.

Sliding into the booth beside Henry, Emma grinned as Mary Margaret slid her a cup of hot chocolate.

"We already ordered for you," Mary Margaret told them as David sidled next to her. "I hope that's okay."

David nodded. "That's fine."

"So how is it today?" she asked.

"Long," Emma replied. "It might be a late night. We're still going through the list of everyone."

Mary Margaret nodded sadly, gently placing a protective hand on her stomach.

"How are you feeling today?" David asked her.

"Okay," Mary Margaret said, rubbing her belly. "They're really moving around in there today. I actually saw them move through my shirt."

David's face marginally brightened.

"You know, I was thinking about looking for a midwife," she said tentatively. "When it gets a little closer to the time."

"Do you really think that's necessarily?" David asked doubtfully. "I mean, I know you had people back when you were carrying Emma, but do you think we need it here?"

Emma fought a laugh at the stubborn set of her mother's jaw, recognizing the inherited tick.

"Yes, I do," Mary Margaret told him. "I know we have time, but I don't want to start planning everything the month before they're due to be here."

David raised his hands in surrender.

"So any ideas on who brought everyone here yet?" Henry asked after their food arrived.

Emma shook her head. "Not yet, kid."

He looked unhappy before looking at her curiously. "You think they don't look the same here?"

She nodded. "No, I don't. Even in a fairytale town, green skin would stick out."

He nodded. "Do you have any ideas how to find them?"

Shaking her head, Emma sipped her coffee. "Not yet."

Henry was quiet for a minute before he looked up at her with wide eyes, letting her know he was trying to wear her down.

"I know we have a witch running around, but do you think I can help you guys look for a way to help Killian?" he asked hopefully. "Do you think he would mind?"

Emma smiled down at her son. "I think he'd really like that."


Chapter Text

Crossing another name from the long list of the newcomers, Emma rubbed at her eyes, wondering how much longer she was willing to stay by herself. David had taken off earlier, Mary Margaret wanting him home after talking to some of the potential midwives. She didn't begrudge him leaving, knowing Mary Margaret needed help. She had offered to stay behind for a few more hours, wanting to eliminate as many more people as possibilities.

She sighed as she heard the front door to the station open, praying it wasn't one of the dwarves coming with another complaint.

Turning to see who had come in, she looked in surprise when she saw Killian rounding the corner. Looking at the clock, she saw it was after eight.

"Crap," she said apologetically as she stood up. "I'm sorry. I didn't notice what time it was-"

She quieted as he stepped over to her, pressing his lips to hers.

"It's fine, Swan," he said with a gentle smile.

He set a bag on a small open area of her desk, making her notice the smell coming from it.

"I had assumed you haven't had dinner yet," he said knowingly.

She smiled guiltily, thinking of the couple granola bars she had for lunch hours ago. "No, I haven't."

He indicated to the bag, making her grin as she quickly moved to clear more of her desk off for them.

"So how'd you know I was here?" she asked curiously.

He shrugged as he began pulling items from the bag. "You didn't call, so I assumed you were busy. I decided to come by myself and saw the lights in here were on, so I decided to stop by Granny's before I actually came in."

Unable to help herself, she reached over to kiss him.

"Thank you," she told him.

He gave her a shy smile as the tips of his ears reddened. "It's nothing, love."

She grinned in return before sitting back at her desk, watching as he pulled a chair from an unused desk.

"Still going through the list of the new arrivals?" Killian asked her curiously as he peered at her work.

Emma nodded as she bit into an onion ring. "Yep."

Seeing the list, he grimaced. "Is there any way you could speed up the process?"

"Not that I can think of," she replied. "If you have any ideas, I'm all ears."

Raising his brows as he looked at the list, he shook his head. "Have Regina throw a fireball and see who deflects it?"

She gave an amused snort in response.

"How much longer are you gonna stay tonight?" he asked her.

"I was actually thinking about leaving pretty soon right before you came," she admitted. "Then again, I didn't even realize what time it was. I thought it was closer to seven if anything."

He chuckled. "Well, maybe I came at a good time, then."

She stole one of his fries from his plate.

"So, you up to looking through I don't know how many more curses tonight?" she asked him.

His brow quirked. "You're really willing to do more reading and lists?"

She nodded firmly. "Yeah, I am. Finding out some way to break your curse is important. There's no reason we can't do both."

He gave her a small but grateful grin.

Despite her weariness, Emma felt content, even in the station with an ever growing list of people who had come from the Enchanted Forest beside her.

Throwing away the boxes from their dinner, Emma perched herself on the edge of her desk, watching Killian moving around to neaten up one of the desks. She fought a small laugh, knowing it had to be a habit that stayed with him from when he was in the Navy.

He came to stand in front of her when he was done, lazily resting his hands on her legs. Easily reaching up, she draped her arms over his shoulders.

"We should get going," she hummed before closing the distance to lazily kiss him.

"And yet it appears you have no intention of moving," Killian chuckled when he pulled away slightly, his blue eyes bright.

"Are you complaining?" she teased.

He hummed before going back in to kiss her. "Not at all."

Pulling him closer to him, he stepped between her legs, running his hands up until one rested at her waist while the other cupped her head. Her stomach flipped as she suddenly felt calloused fingers at the skin just under her shirt, making her kiss him deeper.

They had yet to be intimate, merely content to just be together. Between everything, they hadn't had the best opportunity, yet Emma found she had been okay with it. It had been a while for her, much longer than she had ever gone before she came to Storybrooke, but she found that with Killian, she hadn't wanted to rush.

Knowing that they actually had an opportunity, she arched her back so her chest pressed against his, dragging one of her hands down to the unbuttoned portion of his shirt. The hair that smattered his chest was softer than she thought it would be as she ran her fingers along the exposed skin.

They both started as the sounds of the front door opening traveled to them, followed by the light shuffling of feet.

Quickly breaking apart to put distance between them, Emma felt her cheeks flame, realizing the compromised position she was in with Killian, him standing between her legs with one hand on the skin of her back while she had her arms around him in a vice grip, running a hand under the front of his shirt.

"Um, are we interrupting?" Mary Margaret asked nervously from her spot at the entrance of the hall.

"No," Emma said quickly, feeling herself flush further. "We were going to head out back to the loft in a minute."

"Sure," David said skeptically, just as uncomfortable as Mary Margaret. "We'll, uh, we'll meet you out front."

They quickly walked back out, the tension in the room leaving with them.

"Oh god," Emma groaned, burying her face in Killian's shoulder. "That was embarrassing."

She felt Killian chuckle beneath her. "Aye, but they don't seem too perturbed. At the very least, I think your father still likes me."

Releasing a laugh, she looked back up at him. "That's what you're worried about? Not that my parents just walked in on us making out like horny teenagers?"

"Well, yes," he replied, his face flushed from embarrassment. "Believe it or not, Swan, I do actually wish for your parents to like me and approve, even if it is old fashioned."

"Really?" she asked in amazement, finding herself smiling.

Her relationship with Killian was unlike anything she ever had before, not just because she had her parents who actually took an interest in who she was seeing, but because Killian wanted to court her properly, as well as build a relationship with her and her family.

"Of course," he said before lightly kissing her again. "Now, we should probably go out with them so they don't come back in here."

Chuckling, she nodded as she pushed him away enough so she could get off her seat on her desk. "C'mon. I just have to kill the lights and lock up."

Emma set a cup of coffee down beside Killian before taking her own cup to her seat beside him.

"Thanks," he said softly.

She nodded as she grabbed at the book she had just been reading, pushing her glasses further up the bridge of her nose.

"You know I never thought I would say this, but I wish Maleficent was still around," David said as he closed one book and grabbed another, helping them. "She was older than Regina and she could change into a dragon. Maybe she would have been able to tell us something."

"What happened to her?" Killian asked, looking up at the other man.

"Before the curse, Gold had me hide something in her," David told him. "Some gold egg, right behind her ear."

"And I had to get it from her right before the curse broke," Emma continued. "I threw a sword into her chest."

"So she's dead," Killian said sadly.

She reached across the small distance between them, gently squeezing his arm.

He reached up, covering her hand in his.

"We can try asking Regina again," David suggested. "I don't know if she'd be willing to do it because of this witch."

Emma bit her lip unhappily. She knew the witch was the priority, but couldn't help feel frustrated, knowing that finding a way to break Killian's curse would again be taking a back seat. Even with her own determination, she knew she wouldn't be able to completely focus on it.

"Is there any way we can find something from asking Gold?" David asked. "He's the one who placed this curse."

"Belle's already asked him," Killian replied. "Unfortunately, even she couldn't get any answers from the Crocodile."

David sighed.

"This is the only thing we've been able to do," Emma added.

Nodding, he rubbed at his face unhappily.

"Thank you though, mate," Killian said quietly. "You don't have to do this. You or Emma."

She gently squeezed his arm again, his hand still resting over hers. "I told you I'm helping you with this. You've done all of this alone for too long."

"She's right," David continued. "You have people here now to help you."

Killian gave them both a small, sad smile.

"We'll figure something out," Emma promised him.

He returned the pressure on her hand.

Chapter Text

Emma shut her Bug's door, glancing toward the cabin before moving deeper into the forest. She had taken the day off, needing a break from the station that she had been in for two weeks straight. David had happily agreed, deciding to spend the day at home as well, both of them remaining on call if they were needed.

Even with the new threat looming, including the flying monkeys they saw the night the newcomers of the town came, Emma didn't find herself fearing the forest. She felt safe wandering by herself.

Knowing it had been a possibility, it took her awhile to find Killian, checking a few areas she knew he liked to frequent.

He slowly opened one bright blue eye when she stepped into the small meadow he had settled in for the day.

"Swan," he greeted tiredly.

She gave him a small smile as she continued to walk over. "Hey. Sorry to wake you."

"It's fine, love," he replied. "Not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the station?"

"I decided to take a day off," she told him. "I felt like I was going crazy in there."

She stopped when she was close enough to touch him. "I needed a break from that and the town in general."

Suddenly nervous, she met his gaze. "Do you mind me being here?"

"Not at all," he said lightly, almost looking like he was smiling.

Returning his grin, she sat so she was leaning against his shoulder, resting against his warm scales.

"You can go back to sleep if you want," she told him.

He moved his arm so she was more nestled into him, so that he was holding her. Moving his head, he was closer to her, blocking her from view if anyone were to come by.

Her stomach flipped as she realized what he was doing, that he was doing what he could to hold her in his sleep. Smiling, she let him do it, feeling protected.

She thought it ironic, considering their positions. Being the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, she herself was a princess, and she was letting a dragon cuddle up with her, one she was in a happy relationship with. It was the opposite of any fairytale of a princess and a dragon she'd ever heard of. Instead of guarding her, her own dragon was her protector. Instead of fear, they cared about each other.

Smiling, she gently ran her hand across his scales, listening to his breathing even out.

Emma smiled as she felt Killian stir, his eyes lazily opening as the afternoon neared. "Hey."

A low rumble came from his chest as he shook his head, waking up. "Hey, love."

"How was your nap?" she asked him.

The growl he released sounded content. "Pleasant. You were awake this whole time?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Wasn't tired. Figured it wouldn't hurt to keep watch."

"Sorry," he said apologetically. "To be fair, nothing ever bothers me out here."

"Don't be," she replied immediately. "And I know, but now we have flying monkeys running around with that witch."

She ran a soothing hand along his shoulder before getting up, moving closer to his head. He lowered it, closing his eyes as she began stroking along his cheek.

"You don't need to worry about me, love," he said gently.

She released a small snort. "Still. I can't help it if I preferred you didn't have any run ins with monkeys out here."

He carefully bumped her hand, aware of how much stronger he was.

"We need to start heading back," he told her as he glanced toward the sky. "Unless you would rather we be navigating these woods after sundown."

At her disdainful expression, he chuckled. "I thought not."

He suddenly sunk back to the ground. "Come on, love."

Emma's brows raised in surprise. "Seriously?"

"It'll be faster this way," he told her.

Releasing a breath, she climbed up so she rested just above his shoulders. He began walking as soon as he was sure she was secure, his stride quickly putting them in the trees.

Traveling with him was different, even from when he had flown them in the Enchanted Forest. She wasn't uncomfortable, even feeling him moving beneath her through the forest.

"Is this really comfortable for you?" she asked him curiously.

"I barely even feel you," he told her. "You barely weigh anything."

She hummed.

Much quicker than her trip out, she caught sight of the cabin through the trees, barely visible in the setting sun. Moving to the spot he designated for his change, Killian sunk down, allowing her to slide off him.

Instead of moving to go inside, Emma kept near him, surprising him.

"You should go inside, Swan," Killian reminded her gently. "The sun is just about to set."

"I know," she replied just as softly. "Unless you want me to go inside?"

Silently, he watched her, the moment stretching out before he finally answered. "No."

She gave him a small, tender smile before stepping close enough to brush her fingers along his cheek.

Only moments later did his body convulse, the sounds of breaking bones filling the space. It was easier to watch his transformation, but just barely, the sight just as horrific as the first time she'd seen it.

Despite the grotesque change, she wanted to be there with him, to be able to to go to him immediately as soon as he was a human again, to wrap her arms around him before this tremors even stopped.

She knelt down in front of him as soon as he was in his human form again, soothingly touching his hair as she pulled him to her.

"Just a moment, love," he said breathlessly.

Patiently she waited, letting him get a hold of himself before he finally nodded. He pushed himself up before extending his hand, pulling her up and walking beside her into the cabin.

"Go do what you need to," she told him as she released his hand to turn on one of the lamps. "I'll wait out here."

He gave her a small nod before lightly kissing her and disappearing into the bedroom.

Emma moved to the stack of books at the table, picking one up she knew Killian had been looking through. Taking in the writings, she shut it, knowing she had no chance of deciphering the runes before grabbing another.

Killian reemerged soon after, running a hand through his damp hair.

"Think you can teach me some of this stuff?" she asked hopefully, holding up the first book.

Smiling easily, he peered at the tome she was holding. "Ancient Druid runes? I think I can fit in a lesson some time."

She grinned as she got up, marking her page. "Ready to go?"

"Yeah," he replied as he slipped on his jacket.

Raising her brow, Emma looked at the jacket in disbelief. "Seriously? It's not even cool out."

"It's the principle," he replied indulgently. "I'm not going out half-naked."

She raised her hands in surrender, playfully shaking her head. "You're old."

"Yet I've retained my youthful glow," he teased back.

A laugh escaped her.

Emma lightly bumped Killian's hip with hers as she rinsed a plate in the sink before handing it off to him, making him roll his eyes dramatically.

"Really, Swan?" he asked with feigned exasperation.

She hummed in response. "Really."

As soon as he wasn't looking, she splashed his arm with some of the water.

"Don't make a mess in there," Mary Margaret called from the table, her voice not carrying any bite.

If anything, as Emma glanced back at her mother, she saw her about ready to squeal in delight.

"She seems happy," Killian commented quietly as he dried another plate.

Emma nodded. "Yeah she does."

Glancing back, she saw David quickly kiss Mary Margaret as he walked by her.

"So are you up to going through more books?" she asked him as she turned off the water and pulled the drain.

"Yeah," he replied as he set the towel on the counter. "Are you?"

"Yep," she said simply as she started to lead them to the table where some of the old books sat.

Seeing what they were doing, David moved to join them, settling in beside Mary Margaret.

Henry looked up from his own schoolwork, trying to covertly move his math book away in favor of one of the old spell books.

"School first, kid," Emma reminded him without looking up.

She caught Killian's amused expression as Henry huffed unhappily.

"What about true loves kiss?" Henry suddenly asked. "That can break any curse."

His expression solemn, Killian's voice was soft as he answered Henry. "Aye, lad, but that's not possible. My true love died a long time ago."

His brow pinched, Henry nodded before resting his head on his arms.

Trying to comfort them, Emma reached over to lay a hand on both the man and boy's arms.

"We'll find something else out," Mary Margaret said firmly. "Even if in this case that won't work. All curses can be broken."

David nodded from his spot beside her. "She's right. We've faced impossible situations before and beat them. This is just another one."

Silently, Emma tightened her hold on Killian's arm. He rested his hand over hers, returning the pressure.

A loud pounding on the door interrupted the moment, everyone looking back toward it.

David stood to get it, moving cautiously to open it. As soon as it was cracked, Leroy and a couple of the other dwarves pushed their way through, their faces ranging from anger to nervousness.

Leroy pointed an accusatory finger at Killian as he addressed Emma. "Your boyfriend's been eating people. People going in the forest have started going missing. We're down to five dwarves."

"Four, actually," Happy amended looking down at his old cell phone. "Bashful's not answering."

"Whoa, whoa," Emma said, raising her hands for silence as she stood. "Killian hasn't done anything. And what do you mean people have gone missing?"

"Exactly what I just said," Leroy retorted. "He hangs out in the forest all day, and people are going missing out there."

"I may have been adventuring in my diet since my release, but rest assured that I've never thought to add people to the menu even as a dragon," Killian said flippantly before smirking. "Or dwarf. Even starving, my taste wouldn't be that bad."

Leroy looked enraged.

Fighting rolling her eyes, Emma sighed. "Where in the forest have people been going missing?"

"Near the western area," Happy quickly answered. "Near the town line.

She turned back, sharing an unhappy glance with Killian. "So you wouldn't have heard anything. You're to the east."

He shook his head.

"Unless-" Leroy began.

"Look, I was with him all day today," she quickly cut him off, frustrated. "I think I would have noticed if he'd gone off."

"Wait, love," Killian suddenly said, trepidation slipping into his tone. "Those flying simians that tried to attack you and Regina that night, they came from the forest, right?"

"You think flying monkeys are picking people off?" David asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

"You guys did fight them off," Mary Margaret pointed out. "You don't know what they were going after you for. It's possible."

David sighed tiredly. "When was the last disappearance?"

"Less than an hour ago," Leroy grunted.

"And no one thought to call those in?" Emma nearly yelled in disbelief.

"We don't know who's missing and who's not half the time," Leroy argued. "There's too many new people to keep track of them all right now."

Fighting back a scream of frustration, Emma yanked her jacket from its hook, pulling it on. Killian silently followed her, grabbing his own jacket.

"You don't have to come with us," she murmured gently. "You can stay here if you want."

He gave her a knowing look, raising his brow.

Despite the situation, she smiled.

The headlights of David's truck illuminated the dark road, revealing the profiles of several men just ahead of her at them, Emma recognized Robin and his men, all near the town line.

She killed the engine, both her and Killian getting out quickly. David moved just ahead of them, setting a fast pace over to the men.

"I wouldn't step over that town line if I were you," she called as she saw Robin edging closer to the fluorescent orange line.

"Little John was carried away because he attempted to cross the town line?" Robin asked them.

"Makes sense," David replied. "Leroy said the dwarves were checking the line to see if anyone was coming or going when they disappeared. What took Little John?"

"One of those beasts that revealed itself the night we came here," Robin replied, frustrated.

"You think that thing's responsible for all of the disappearances?" Emma asked the two men beside her. "That it's taking them off somewhere?"

"It stands to reason," Killian responded.

Biting her lip, Emma nodded before looking back at David. "Can you run a search grid and see if you can find a sign of this missing guy?"

Her father quickly nodded. "Yeah. What are you going to do?"

"You're not joining us, love?" Killian asked.

"Not yet," she replied. "I'm going to talk to Regina to see if there's a way to talk to everyone at once."

"Try to flush the witch out?" Killian inquired in a low voice.

She nodded. "That's exactly what I want to do."

He gave her a knowing smirk.

David gave her a confident nod before going to Robin to organize his men.

"What would you have me do?" Killian asked her quietly.

Loosely intertwining their fingers, Emma lightly tugged on his hand. "Make sure my dad's safe."

He gave her a soft smile. "Of course. I'll make sure he comes home alright."

"I know you will," she replied, her smile matching his. "You better come back safe, too."

Releasing a small laugh, he gently stroked her cheek with his free hand. "I will, Swan."

"Good," she responded.

Killian gave her one last smile as he leaned forward, tenderly kissing Emma's lips before pulling away to join her father as Robin.

She watched him go before turning away to go back to her car, hoping they wouldn't be put in danger.

Chapter Text

Seeing the lights on in the small mansion, Emma knew Regina was waiting for her. Steeling herself, she turned off the car, stepping out to go into the intimidating house.

She only knocked on the door once before it was pulled open, Regina ushering her inside.

"What's going on?" Regina asked her, leading them to the living room

Emma crossed her arms as she leaned against the doorway. "We were just made aware that there's been disappearances, mostly from people camping or going near the town line."

Eyes widening, Regina's voice raised. "How were you just now made aware of this?"

"Because there's too many new people," Emma defended. "The dwarves just came to us telling us about how three of them are missing. And you're the mayor. How come you didn't know about this?"

Hackles rising, the other woman stared back at her with venom.

"We went to the site of the most recent disappearance," Emma continued, forcing herself to calm down. "It was one of Robin's men. He told it us it was one of those flying monkeys that attacked us that one night."

Regina's dark brows raised. "So they're picking off people out there?"

"We don't know yet," Emma replied. "David and Killian are out running a search grid with Robin's men and some of the dwarves right now."

"Okay, but what do you suggest we do?" Regina sighed unhappily. "Obviously you came to me with something in mind."

"Yeah, I did," Emma nodded. "Is there some way we can use a spell or potion or something to reveal someone's true form?"

Seeming unconscious of the action, Regina walked towards the mantle above the fireplace. "Nothing comes to mind right now. We'll have to ask the bookworm tomorrow."

Huffing in frustration, Emma pushed herself out of the doorway. "So nothing can be done tonight?"

"In case you haven't noticed, Miss Swan, it's almost two in the morning," Regina pointed out in annoyance. "You might stay up all night with your boyfriend, but most of us are asleep right now. The only reason I'm up is because you called me with a new crisis."

Emma flinched back, feeling her defenses rise.

Before she could respond, her phone rang. She felt her pulse quicken as she reached within her jacket for it, hoping that David was calling with good news.

"David?" she answered quickly.

"Emma,we're on the way to the hospital right now," David said frantically over the line. "We found the guy. We're almost there."

She nodded as she turned to run out the door. "I'm coming."

"They found one of the missing people?" Regina asked, hurrying after her.

"Yeah," Emma called back. "They're almost at the hospital right now."

Regina followed her to her car, climbing into the passenger side.

Knowing she was breaking the speed limit, Emma drove through the quiet, dark streets, wondering what she was about to be met with at the hospital.

"Where did they find him?" Regina asked.

Emma shook her head. "Didn't say, only that they found him and were almost to the hospital."

Regina released a heavy sigh.

Emma pulled up beside David's truck, yanking her keys from the ignition and throwing her door shut before jogging to the hospital's doors, Regina right behind her.

She felt a rush of relief as she saw David and Killian rounding the corner into the waiting room as she passed the doors before she felt herself tense at their weary expressions.

"What happened?" she asked as the men stopped in front of her.

"It might be best to take this conversation elsewhere," Killian told her quietly.

Her unease grew, sinking into her stomach as she took in their solemn faces. Quickly deciding to leave, she nodded, turning to exit through the doors she had just entered. She didn't even think about it as her hand found Killian's, threading her fingers through his.

He moved beside her to her car, Regina going with David to his truck.

"What happened?" Emma asked him as soon they were in her car, desperate for answers.

Pinching at the bridge of his nose, he sighed tiredly as she began driving. "We found Little John in the forest a few miles away from where he was taken. We saw he was bitten by the monkey that had taken him, so we assumed he had fought it and it bit him."

Sensing his unease growing, Emma reached out, grasping his hand in hers in to sooth him.

He gently squeezed her hand before continuing. "We brought him to the infirmary, and as soon as your doctor began questioning us, Little John woke and it looked like he was having a fit. Then he changed into one of those winged monstrosities."

Emma was grateful David was ahead of her, knowing he would have rear ended her otherwise as she slammed on her break in shock.

"He- he turned into a monkey?" she asked in disbelief.

He nodded seriously. "Aye. He turned into one of those monkeys that attacked you and Regina."

She felt sick as realization crept up within her. "So all of those missing people… they're those monkeys now."

"It seems so," he replied quietly. "I'm sorry, Swan."

Swallowing, she shook her head. "We need to get back."

She was silent the rest of the way back, feeling a splitting headache coming on. She had no idea how they were to handle their newest crisis. The fact that the numbers of flying monkeys had likely grown made things worse, as well as adding on that they were actually people transformed.

A small part of her mind went back to the monkeys from the first night, wondering who Killian shot. She didn't blame or hold it against him, knowing that as well as him not knowing they were people, she would have done the same thing had she been in his position.

"Do you think they can be changed back?" Killian asked as they pulled into her spot at the loft.

Pulling her keys from the ignition, she leaned back in her seat. "I don't know. I don't know if it could be a curse or infection, or if we're facing the fairytale version of Outbreak."

He nodded, looking troubled.

Emma shared one last guilty glance with him, knowing that in light of just how urgent the new threat to the town was, they wouldn't be able to search for a way to break his curse as freely as they wanted.

She pushed her bleary eyes open as she felt herself being lowered into her bed, feeling a gentle, calloused hand brush her hair from her face.

Voice raspy from sleep, Emma focused on Killian's figure slightly bent over beside her bed. "Killian?"

She could see his soft smile even in the dark of her room. "Sorry, love. You fell asleep downstairs earlier. I thought it was a good idea to move you up to your bed before I left."

Pinching her brow, she glanced to the window, seeing the sky beginning to lighten on the horizon.

"Sorry," she apologized quietly.

"What for?" he asked, puzzled as he sat at the very edge of the mattress.

"For falling asleep on you again," she replied sheepishly.

Giving her a small, sad smile, he reached to gently brush his fingers along her cheek. "Swan, you were exhausted. It was a long night and you kept pushing yourself to stay awake to pour over those bloody books."

"I still want to find some way to help you," she argued weakly, sleep threatening to pull her back under. "Even if we have to deal with a crazy witch and her monkeys, I don't want to stop."

He stroked his thumb across her chin. "I'm not the priority, love."

"Yeah you are," she responded.

Giving her a tender smile, he softly kissed her lips.

"I've got to go," he said regretfully.

"Will you keep close?" she asked. "I know you don't like being in the town during the day, but we might need your help. We're going to call Belle as soon as it's a decent hour."

"Of course, Swan," he replied.

She gave him one last small, tired smile before she kissed him again, sinking tiredly into her bed. She felt his loss as soon as his hands released her, suddenly feeling cold.

Emma couldn't help feeling a pang of regret, wishing that Killian didn't have to leave, that he could climb into her bed with her and sleep beside her.

Breaking their usual routine, Emma stood close beside Killian's large form in the alley behind the loft, her parents and Regina with them while they waited for Belle to arrive.

"You doing okay?" Emma asked Killian in a low voice, brushing her hand along his muzzle.

"Fine, love," he told her, gently nuzzling into her, mindful of his size and strength.

She gave him a small smile.

"When is the bookworm supposed to be here?" Regina asked shortly, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'd prefer to be inside at the very least."

Before Emma could retort, Mary Margaret spoke up. "In case you haven't noticed, we can't exactly fit a large dragon in the loft. And Killian's here because he's one of us and should hear everything, too."

Glancing over, she saw Killian looked happy, relieved at being considered as part of their group.

Regina huffed in annoyance.

An old black car pulled up a second later, a petite figure leaving the driver's side. Belle walked toward them with purpose, her heels clacking on the ground.

"Sorry," she said by way of greeting. "I had to look for this as soon as you asked for an object to help you."

She went to the passenger's side, pulling an ornate gold mirror from the seat. "It's called the Mirror of Souls. It saved me once from getting into a bad marriage."

She handed it over to Emma, letting her inspect the artifact.

Gazing into the glass, Emma saw herself with one of Killian's eyes reflected into it. It appeared normal, as if she was looking into any regular mirror.

"What does it do?" she asked, unable to help feel underwhelmed.

"It shows you anyone with an evil soul," Belle explained. "Their eyes will appear to glow red in their reflection.

"We can find our witch then," Killian murmured.

Feeling a smile creeping up, Emma nodded.

"How do we know it will work?" Regina asked as she examined the mirror.

"We can always have you look into it to test it," Killian replied. "You are the Evil Queen, after all."

Emma bit her lip to fight a laugh, the feeling intensifying as she caught Regina's sharp glare.

She caught sight of her parents and Belle, noticing both Belle and David were holding back laughs of their own.

Mary Margaret stepped forward to diffuse the situation. "Won't the witch notice if we have everyone go in front of a mirror and they see they have red eyes?"

"Not necessarily," Regina said as she examined the mirror. "It's enchanted?"

Belle nodded. "Yeah, it is."

Regina's dark eyes suddenly shifted to Emma's. "If we can figure out what the enchantment is, we can replicate it and use it on some larger mirrors."

"And call a town meeting," Emma finished. "That way we can check everyone at once."

"Exactly," Regina said. "In the meantime, we can say we're close to figuring out her identity, and that could possibly flush her out even sooner."

"How are you gonna do that?" Belle asked curiously.

"That dwarf of yours is loud enough," Killian pointed out. "He was yelling when that giant attacked. He even did it once when he saw me."

Mary Margaret tilted her head, considering. "You know, he did start yelling when your curse was coming."

"We just have to say something in passing by him and let him do the rest," David added.

"It looks like we have something to do," Emma said, feeling relieved that they finally had a direction.

"Well, Miss Swan, I believe you're about to get a crash course in magic," Regina said, raising a brow at Emma.

"I'll stay here," Killian told them. "I can help keep Mary Margaret safe if anything were to happen, and I'm closer if you need my assistance."

Emma nodded gratefully. "Thanks."

"Actually, before you go, I did find something else," Belle said quickly.

She pulled a bag from her coat, just cloth tied around whatever it contained. She held it gingerly, weighing it in her hands before looking at Killian.

"I came across this on my search," she said, sounding nervous. "Killian, I don't know if this will work, but it's up to you if you wish to try it or not."

"What is it?" Emma asked eagerly, feeling something rising up in her.

"Anti-Transformation Powder," Belle informed them. "It might be able to revert you back to human."

"What do you think, Swan?" Killian asked, a trace of excitement in his voice.

"It's not up to me," Emma responded, smiling as she stroked her hand along his neck.

He nodded, turning his bright gaze back to Belle. "Alright love. Give it a go."

Loosening the knot, Belle tossed it at him, releasing a cloud of powder as it hit his chest. They waited, all of them visibly deflating as they saw nothing happened.

Emma realized the feeling within her was hope, that she was hoping that they had found a solution to Killian's curse.

Visibly distressed, Belle shook her head. "I'm sorry. I really thought that would work."

"It's alright, love," Killian told her.

Barely conscious of deciding to move, Emma rested her hand again on his neck.

"We'll find some way," she promised him.

Solemnly, he nodded his head.

"Miss Swan?" Regina called, urging her to leave.

Suddenly torn, Emma looked between her and Killian, wanting both to find something to find their witch and to stay with Killian.

"Go on, Swan," Killian gently urged. "It's fine."

"Go with her," Mary Margaret suddenly said quietly. "I'll stay here with him. Regina needs your help."

Reluctantly, Emma nodded, pausing to press her forehead to his cheek before turning to leave with Regina.

Chapter Text

Pushing her hair out of her face, Emma grabbed her jacket, the leather comforting after her afternoon with Regina. She felt exhausted, having had to rifle through various books and disturbing ingredients in hopes of recreating the original enchantment on Belle's mirror. Longing to return to the loft and take a hot shower, take out her contacts, and eat dinner, she stuffed her phone in her pocket, knowing she would be returning the following day for the same purpose.

During her brief breaks from finding a way to replicate the enchantment, she continued to read and riffle through books, wanting to find something for Killian.

Seeming to read her mind, Regina called over to her before she could reach the door. "Emma, I have still been looking for what Gold could have done to Jones. Henry told me some more things about him, like how bad his change is supposedly."

Emma stilled, slowly turning to face the other woman.

"I haven't been able to find anything," Regina said regretfully. "But I just wanted you to know that I am looking."

Surprised at Regina's voluntary help, Emma nodded, unable to help the heaviness in her chest that even with multiple people looking for a solution to the curse, they weren't any closer to breaking it than the day Killian arrived in Storybrooke.

"Thanks," she said with a faint smile.

Leaving, she went down to her car, tiredly starting it to go home. Taking in the sky she saw the orange tint, meaning twilight was approaching, as well as Killian's transformation. She wondered if he had stayed by the loft the entire day or if he took refuge in the forest, hoping for the former.

She noticed that people were out as usual, walking the streets of the town even if most wore weary expressions. News of the disappearances had to have gotten out, lending to people being cautious, even out on the streets.

She felt herself begin to relax as she parked in her spot, knowing she was going to soon be able to unwind for the night, or hoped to be able to. She turned the corner before she reached the entrance of the building, feeling herself smile as she reached the alley, seeing the large form resting within it.

He shifted slightly, his reptilian face brightening as he saw her. "Swan."

Her smile stretching, she moved closer to Killian until she could rest a hand on his nose. He bumped it gently, releasing a low growl that sounded more like a pur.

"How were you doing in here today?" she asked, genuinely wanting to hear from him.

"Eh, can't complain too much," he replied. "Slept mostly. Your mother came down to keep me company. Henry, too, after he returned from his studies."

His eyes suddenly brightened with mirth. "Leroy did wander down here earlier. I'm proud to say I gave him quite a fright."

Despite her exhaustion, Emma laughed.

"What's better is he actually tried calling your father," he continued. "He seemed to believe it was a matter for the sheriff."

She was hit by a new round of laughter.

He nudged her with his nose. "I can't best tell out here, but I know I'll be changing soon."

Her laughter dying down, she nodded. "It's almost twilight."

"You can go inside, love," he told her. "There's no need for you to wait out here with me. I'm sure you want to go in and relax."

"It's fine," she told him.

He sighed, making her hair flutter. "You don't have to stay out here just for me. You should go see your boy and your parents."

She smirked at him. "I'll save you some hot water."

His chest rumbled in a chuckle. "Thanks."

Touching him one last time, she left the alley to go into the loft, immediately greeted by the sounds of her parents preparing dinner as Henry sat at the table doing homework.

"Wow you look tired," Mary Margaret said by way of greeting.

Emma groaned in response, prompting a laugh from her mother.

"Rough day?" David asked sympathetically.

"Oh yeah," she replied. "Do you guys mind if I go shower?"

Mary Margaret nodded.

Ruffling Henry's hair as she passed by him, she pulled a thin sweater and some softer jeans before retreating to her bathroom, wanting a few moments to herself to relax and get cleaned up. She barely bothered to do her hair after, just towel drying it once she had it tamed before brushing it through again. She smiled as she put on her glasses, remembering Killian's reaction when he discovered she wore them. She made sure Killian's toiletries were set out for him but left all of his clothes in the drawer she had designated for him, knowing he was perfectly capable of getting his own clothes.

She caught her mother's look of surprise when she descended the steps, her dark brows raising.

Emma simply shrugged in response, wearing a small smile.

Killian came in a few moments later, going straight to her and lightly kissing her in greeting.

She caught Henry's dramatic retching noises from behind them, making her grin as she and Killian broke apart.

"Your stuff is all set out for you," she said, tilting her head towards the upstairs. "And there's still plenty of hot water."

"Thanks," he grinned, kissing her again before moving to head up stairs.

She fought a smile as she moved to get herself a cup of coffee.

"I'm kind of surprised," Mary Margaret said quietly from beside her.

"Why?" Emma asked, raising a brow curiously.

Mary Margaret nodded to her, indicating her clothes, glasses, and lack of makeup. "Just that you're letting him see you like this. Isn't it kind of intimate?"

Emma shrugged. "I guess, but he's already seen me like this."

"When was that?" her mother asked in surprise.

"Um, I think about a week after our first date," Emma replied. "It was that day I wasn't feeling good cause of, you know." She eyed David and Henry conspicuously, who were both unaware of the situation. "I canceled on him telling him I wasn't feeling good, and he came over with food from Granny's. He just stayed with me watching some movies and hanging out and trying to help take care of me."

Mary Margaret grinned brightly. "That's sweet."

Emma nodded, her chest feeling warm.

Mary Margaret's smile softened before leaning in closer to Emma, her voice dropping. "Have you slept with him?"

Emma nearly choked on her coffee, to her horror drawing the attention of both her father and son.

"Wrong pipe," she said quickly, trying to explain her reaction and prevent any further embarrassment.

Both of the men shrugged before returning to their tasks.

"Well?" her mother asked expectantly.

Emma sighed. "No, I haven't."

Mary Margaret looked at her in surprise. "Really? Why not? Because I seem to remember you saying before the curse broke-"

"I know, I know," Emma whisper yelled, feeling embarrassed as she remembered the conversations she had with Mary Margaret before she realized who she was.

Shrugging, Emma bit her lip. "I don't know. We just haven't. It just hasn't felt like the right time, and it's been a long time since he's had anyone. I don't want to mess this up."

Squeezing her arm, Mary Margaret gave her a small, motherly smile. "That's good, though."

"What do you mean?" Emma asked her as she raised her brow.

Mary Margaret shifted so she could wrap her arm around her. "I mean that I think you and Killian are good for each other. The fact that you're afraid you might mess it up means that this means something to you. That he means something to you."

She squeezed her once more as Killian came down the stairs, hair damp and eyes lined in kohl, before leaving her alone as Henry called Killian's attention.

She helped her parents set everything out on the table, nearly collapsing in her chair so she could eat dinner with everyone.

Killian applied a gentle pressure on her hand with his, taking in her tired state.

"Long day?" he asked sympathetically.

She nodded. "Yeah. You wouldn't believe some of the ingredients Regina had laying around. I didn't know it was possible for ground wyvern horn to smell so bad. I didn't even think it would have a smell."

He chuckled. "You think that's bad, try it's poison. Some of the men I was in the Navy with thought it would be a good idea to inhale with a vial of it beneath their noses."

"What happened?" Henry asked.

"I'd never seen such a quick gag reflex before," Killian said simply.

Mary Margaret closed her eyes as she placed her head in her hand while David was thrown into a fit of laughter.

"No way," Mary Margaret said in disbelief, fighting a laugh.

"What's a wyvern, anyway?" Henry asked.

"It's kind of like a dragon," Killian explained. "It only has two legs and wings, but it spits poison instead of breathes fire."

Henry nodded.

"So are you going back to Regina's tomorrow?" David asked.

Emma nodded. "I have to. That thing is gonna take a while to do."

"What does it involve exactly?" Killian asked her.

"More books," she shrugged. "Going through Regina's store of ingredients. I don't know exactly how she's seeing what the enchantment is."

He nodded.

"Hey, at least the dwarves have calmed down," David told her. "I havent had to break up any fights."

She snorted.

She moved to take care of the cleanup after dinner, wanting to do it because her parents cooked dinner. She smiled as Killian automatically moved to join her, lightly brushing against her.

"I don't know how long of a day it's gonna be tomorrow," she said quietly. "I wish I could have a day off again."

Her schedule had become busy as soon as the new people had arrived in the town, and knew it would only get worse. She briefly remembered how bad things had been when Katherine had disappeared, trying to solve a potential murder, and knew that it would be simple compared to what she knew was about to come.

"Soon, love," he told her. "You'll figure this out soon."

She gave him a small smile. "I was thinking it might be nice to go by the beach again. I'm just afraid it will get too cold by the time I get any time off."

She felt warm at the memory, how as soon as the weather was warm enough, she went with Killian to the shores, watching his expression lighten as he was finally able to be near the sea again. She had laughed as he threw her a mischievous look, taking flight only to dive in the water and resurfacing a couple moments later. She had regretted not taking him earlier, for the first time seeing him truly carefree.

He gave her a gentle, understanding smile. "It's fine if not, Swan."

"Still," she replied.

As soon as they finished the dishes, Emma sunk into him, loosely draping her arms around his waist. His arms wrapped back around her, making her sigh in contentment.

"I'm thinking about asking Regina to give me some magic lessons," she told him quietly.

She caught him raising his brow in surprise just above her.

"Oh?" he responded.

She nodded, pulling back just enough to meet his eyes while keeping her arms around him. "I mean, if I have magic, I should probably learn to control it and use it. I don't want to have to rely on it just deciding to make a random appearance."

Her voice dropped, suddenly finding herself nervous. "What do you think?"

He looked at her in surprise, not expecting her to take his opinion into account.

"I think it would be a good idea," he responded genuinely. "Swan, it would be a waste for you to not use it."

She gave him a rueful smile. "I know you're not a big fan of magic, but I wanted to know what you thought."

"I'm a fan of every part of you," he responded softly. "Including your magic. You know you have my full support."

Smiling tenderly, she reached up to kiss him.

Chapter Text

Emma sagged into the booth as soon as she sat down, relaxing as Killian slipped his hand through hers. Her family had decided they would end up at Granny's for dinner before Emma had to go back to Regina's, both women having success enough that Emma told David to mention something to Leroy. Knowing it could possibly be a late night due to her and Regina's stakeout, Emma planned on taking as much coffee with her as possible.

Killian had offered to accompany her, making her smile as he did, knowing that aside from being protective of her, he wanted to in some way help. She had declined, but just barely, telling him she felt better if he stayed to help keep Henry safe. While she didn't doubt her parents, she knew Mary Margaret was in no condition, and that David could use help.

"What time do you have to be back?" Mary Margaret from across the table.

"About an hour," Emma replied before taking a huge gulp of coffee. "I need to pick up Regina first."

"Can you guys handle this?" David asked worriedly.

She nodded. "Yeah, we can. Regina set up some trap so no one can get in. We can handle her."

Reluctantly, David nodded. "You know if you need backup or anything, you just have to call, right?"

Killian silently squeezed her hand, letting her know she could call him as well.

"I know," she replied, returning the pressure on Killian's hand.

Emma grinned as the waitress brought their food, noticing that her family had ordered her her usual grilled cheese, having not arrived at the diner when they ordered.

She would have been embarrassed at how fast she ate were it not for the fact of how hungry she was, having skipped lunch while she worked with Regina.

Seeming to just know, Killian subtly pushed his plate closer to her, letting her pick off of it.

She ignored the seeming delighted expression her mother wore.

"So will you have to do all of this again tomorrow?" Henry asked from Killian's other side.

"Hopefully not," Emma told him with a small smile. "If everything goes according to plan, we'll have whoever's been doing this."

Her smile grew at her son's hopeful expression.

Emma found herself wanting to hit something as she climbed the stairs to the loft. Furiously, she pushed open the door, Regina following right behind her.

Three pairs of eyes snapped to them, followed by the shuffling of each of the owners rising up.

Emma felt herself begin to relax as she felt Killian sidled up beside her, his presence comforting.

"What happened?" Mary Margaret asked with a hint of hysteria in her voice, taking in the mood.

"She got away," Regina said.

"What?" David snapped. "How's that possible?"

"Turns out they're related to me in some way," Regina said slowly. "I used blood magic to seal the room, and that's the only way they could have broken in."

"So the mirror?" Killian asked, already knowing the answer.

"Destroyed," Emma replied in defeat.

He blew out a hard breath.

"So what now?" Mary Margaret asked.

"Do you have any ideas?" Regina asked in annoyance.

"I'm just asking," Mary Margaret snapped. "We need to figure something out."

"Well, I'd like to hear any plans you have," Regina replied snarkily.

David quickly stepped between them to try to calm the situation. "Look, it's late. Everyone's tired and there's nothing we can do right now. We'll meet again tomorrow and make a new plan."

"Let me know where," Regina snapped before turning on her heel and nearly storming out of the loft, her high heels clacking harshly on the wooden floors.

Emma found it easier to breathe once Regina left, most of the tension in the room going with her.

"Regina has more family?" Mary Margaret immediately asked her.

"It looks like it," Emma replied as she rubbed at her forehead.

Killian silently pulled her with him to the sofa, pulling her close beside him. He blessedly began rubbing at the base of her scalp, making her smile tiredly as she relaxed.

"Cora didn't have any other children," Mary Margaret said as she sat in an armchair near them. Dark shadows circled her eyes, betraying her own exhaustion.

"That we know of," David added. "With the secrets Cora kept?"

"Guys, can we just take care of this tomorrow?" Emma asked. "It's been a long day. You said it yourselves that there's nothing more we can do tonight."

Slowly, both her parents nodded in agreement.

Mary Margaret suddenly yawned.

"Actually, I think I'm gonna go to bed," she announced.

David nodded. "Me, too."

They bid a quick goodnight, leaving Emma and Killian alone.

Emma sighed, moving to get up. "Let me get a cup of coffee first then we can start looking at more of the books."

"Wait, wait," Killian replied quietly. "Swan, you're exhausted. Go to bed, I can look on my own. You don't need to lose any more sleep over me."

She defiantly shook her head, her voice sounding slurred to her own ears. "No, I told you I would do this."

"You're nearly dead on your feet," he told her. "You'll just fall asleep in your book."

Exhaling, she knew he was right.

"Okay, but I'm staying down here with you," she said stubbornly.

"You'd be more comfortable in your own bed," he pointed out quietly.

"I know, but I don't want to leave you down here by yourself," Emma told him before getting up.

It took her little time to change, throwing on some of her better pajamas and scrubbing her face free of makeup. Knowing it would be warmer, she pulled one of the blankets from the trunk at the foot of her bed, dragging it with her down the stairs.

Killian was prepared for her when she got down, sitting at the end of the sofa with a sizable stack of books on the table beside him.

She settled in beside him, sinking into him as she rested her head on his leg. He moved her so she was better on his lap before helping her tug her blanket over her on her makeshift bed.

They both knew their relationship wasn't a normal one, but it worked for them, finding ways they could be close to each other in the limited time they had each day. Emma couldn't deny she wanted something more like everyone else's, where they could go out during the day and have lunch or small dates and go to bed together, but she also knew she would never trade Killian to have that chance. She wished his curse could be gone, that they could be curled up together in her bed ready to fall asleep instead of on the couch, her fighting falling asleep while he stayed up to study old books.

Seeming to know what she was thinking, Killian threaded his fingers in her hair, gently scratching at her scalp.

"I know, love," he whispered.

"This just isn't fair," she whined quietly.

"I know," he repeated just as quietly. "Just rest. I'll stay here with you until I have to leave."

Emma smiled at his promise, feeling her eyes close.

Emma nearly slumped against the counter at Granny's as she waited for her and David's morning coffee, silently berating herself for forgetting to fix the coffee maker at the station. She had wondered at just replacing it, the old machine outdated by a couple of decades.

She barely noticed the person moving to sit beside where she waited, not paying them any mind until they spoke.

"You're the sheriff, right?" he asked. "The one everyone calls the Savior?"

She nearly flinched at the title, forcing herself to appear friendly as she turned to face him. "Yeah, that's me. Emma Swan."

He gave her what she supposed was a charming smile, but it had no effect on her. He was tall, almost lanky, with a mop of brown hair over dark eyes.

Something about his eyes made her want to be on her guard, silent alarm bells going off despite him seeming harmless.

"I'm Walsh," he introduced. "I'm new here, came over with the curse."

She gave him a polite nod. "Well then, welcome to Storybrooke."

His smile widened. "Thank you. You know, we heard stories of the Savior. I just hadn't expected her to be so pretty."

The urge to roll her eyes was almost impossible to resist, having heard similar lines coming from countless sleazy bail jumpers, usually ones who skipped out on child support.

"Maybe you could show me around?" he proposed, his smile widening.

"Sorry, but I can't," she said quickly, thankful that she just spotted a waitress carrying out her coffees. "I have a lot of work to do, and I don't think my boyfriend would enjoy having someone else with us tonight."

Walsh flinched back, nearly making her grin in smug amusement.

"Sorry, but I gotta get to work," she said as she grabbed onto the cardboard tray.

She left before he could reply, releasing a breath of relief when she was out of the diner.

David raised a curious brow as she entered the station and handed him his coffee. "Why do I get the idea that something happened while you were out?"

She shook her head as she sat in her desk with her own cup. "One of the people from the new curse tried hitting on me."

"Oh," David said in surprise. "And that… I thought it was pretty obvious you were taken. I mean you and Killian weren't exactly subtle in that field when we found everyone."

"Thanks," she said sarcastically. "But I don't know. Something tells me to stay away from this guy."

He nodded, his face drawn. "Do you think he's connected to the witch or the disappearances? What was his name?"

"Walsh," she told him. "And I don't know. It was just, uncomfortable around him. Not like he was a usual creep, but there was just something about him."

David nodded. "Okay. We'll keep an eye on him, just to be safe."

Emma nodded, thinking that was one of the things she loved about David. Now matter the situation, he always took her concerns seriously, listening to her when she said something didn't seem right.

The only one who was possibly better in that way for her was Killian, but she couldn't confide in him at the moment.

She stretched in her chair, her back aching from sleeping on the couch, but she couldn't bring herself to regret it, having gotten to sleep beside Killian.

"So, back trying to figure out how to find this witch?" David asked with false bravado.

"Back to it," Emma agreed.

Chapter Text

Emma stepped out of the station with David beside her, happy to be done with work.

"I want to pick something up for Mary Margaret before we get back," David said as they moved to her Bug.

She nodded. "Granny's?"

He nodded in return. "Yeah."

Sitting in the driver's seat, she drove them to the small diner, deciding to wait outside while her father ran in. Wanting to enjoy the early autumn air, she got out of her car, leaning against the side.

Exhaling, she found herself looking forward to going down to the cabin to get Killian, wanting them to be able to have a moment alone together. She wanted to be able to have a normal evening with him again, to go on a date and just spend time together.

A small smile curling her lips, she thought of what they could do, entertaining the idea of possibly going by the water again, something she knew Killian had liked when they had gone before.

She was snapped out of her thoughts as she heard footsteps approaching her from the sidewalk. The noise drawing her attention, she saw the man from earlier, Walsh, approaching her.

"Emma," he called. "I need to talk to you."

Studying him, he appeared calm, but something told her to be cautious.

"The missing people," he said as he came up to stand before her. "I found something that will help you."

Emma stiffened. "You mean the people that have been attacked and turned by the witch's monkeys?"

He nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah. I know where they're hiding."

Everything about the situation screamed not to trust him. "You couldn't have told me earlier?"

"I didn't know earlier," he said with a shake of his head. "We have to go."

"Hold on," she said, glancing towards the diner in hope that David was about to emerge. "I want to wait for David. We should both-"

"There's no time," Walsh said impatiently. "We have to go now."

Every alarm bell in Emma's head was screeching.

Backing away slowly, she kept her eyes on him, feeling like she was retreating from a venomous snake.

He suddenly sighed, looking irritated. "I can't make you come willingly, can I?"

She looked at him in confusion before it became one of horror as his eyes suddenly flashed red for a brief second before green smoke enveloped him. The smoke quickly dissipated, leaving a winged monkey in his place.

The thought quickly running through her mind, she thought that the monkeys looked even more disturbing up close in daylight, the red eyes unmistakable.

It loudly screeched as it lunged at Emma, brandishing its claws.

The sounds of people on the streets screaming and running were lost to the noises the monkey made, its horrific screams grating on her ears.

She moved to dodge it, its claws just barely missing her.

She wasn't as quick on its second strike, claws slashing her ribs. She couldn't help crying out at the white hot pain burning her torso as her white sweater turned crimson.

David's voice registered in her ears as she stumbled.

In a brief moment of clarity, she pulled her gun from her belt, focusing as the monkey moved to either strike again or grab her. She fired a shot, the kickback vibrating through her arm into her injured side, causing a fresh wave of pain.

The monkey screeched one last time before it disappeared in a cloud of ash, the bullet landing square in its chest.

"Emma!" David yelled, falling beside her to look at her wound. "Come on, Emma. It's okay, it will all be okay."

Gritting her teeth, she nodded. Cautiously, she looked at her side, able to see her injury through the slashes in her sweater. Red blood shone through the lacerations, further staining her skin and sweater.

"Damn, that hurts," she said, breathing heavily.

She saw a couple people step out of the dinner, Granny and Ruby amongst them. The two women were hurrying toward them, the former carrying her crossbow.

Focusing on breathing evenly and not passing out from the pain, she didn't catch what David was yelling, only seeing Ruby nodding before running towards behind the diner into their private lot and Granny rush back into the diner.

"Emma, we need to get you to the hospital," David said, forcing his voice to remain calm, but she could hear the fear and worry he felt. He ripped off his jacket and flannel, leaving him in a tee shirt as he tied the flannel around her waist to staunch the bleeding. "I need to move you, baby. You'll be okay. We'll get you help."

Emma nearly pierced her lip with her teeth as David lifted her and carried her into the passenger's side of her car, carefully buckling her in before sprinting to the driver's side.

Killian opened his eyes as he felt something churning in his gut, knowing something was wrong. He had no way of explaining it, but just knew.

Quickly making a decision, he navigated through the trees away from the clearing he had been sleeping in back to the cabin, following the instinct to be there.

He heard the sounds of a vessel nearing the cabin, making him look through the trees to catch a glimpse of who was approaching. He knew it wasn't Emma, knowing the sounds of her yellow vehicle.

His senses enhanced, he heard the driver's heartbeat racing, confirming his suspicions that something had happened.

Seeing the long red car pull haphazardly in Emma's spot, he recognized it as Ruby's, the woman in question clamoring out in a near panic.

"Killian!" she called out frantically.

Before she could call him again, he was there, emerging through the trees. "Ruby? What's wrong?"

"It's Emma," she said quickly, looking pale.

Emma's name alone was enough.

"David sent me," Ruby explained quickly. "Emma was attacked by a monkey."

Killian released a shaky breath, feeling both numb and enraged. "Is she alright? Where is she?"

"David was taking her to the hospital," she told him. "They should be there now."

Killian extended his wings, pushing himself off the forest floor.

Taking flight was anything but freeing, merely a way to get to the infirmary faster. He didn't care that he was in full view of the entire town, of the ramifications he might face for flying over. All of his thoughts were on Emma, praying that she would be alright. He didn't know what he would do if something happened to her.

He landed just beside the building, just far away that he would be able to easily conceal himself for his transformation.

He noticed angrily that he had approximately an hour before he would be back in his human body, leaving him to wait. Breathing out a hard breath of air, he settled on the ground and prepared to wait.

Nearly straining his ears, he desperately searched for any news, something said in passing, anything to let him know how Emma was doing.

He never felt such relief as pain overtook his body when his transformation began, meaning he could finally go in to find out if Emma was alright. Ignoring the tremors that ran through him at the end of his change, he pushed himself up to go into the infirmary.

Faintly remembering the place from when he and David brought in Little John, Killian went to a large desk to find out where to find Emma.

Forgoing formalities, he called the attention of the nurse. "I'm looking for Emma Swan."

"What's your relationship to the patient?" she asked sternly.

He looked at her in confusion. "Pardon?"

"I can only let family in," she told him coolly. "I need to know what your relationship to the patient is."

"She's…" Killian trailed off, his emotions and stress finally catching up to him as he tried to think of what Emma was to him. "She's all I have."

Whatever the nurse was about to say was lost, David's voice calling out.

"He's with us," he said as he came into the waiting room. "Let him through."

Killian just quickly nodding, walking briskly to where David was and following him through the halls.

"How is she?" he asked worriedly.

"She's awake," David told him. "That thing cut her up pretty bad, but it didn't bite her. She lost some blood, but nothing life threatening."

Killian exhaled a sigh of relief he didn't know he'd been holding.

"She was asking for you the second she was stitched up," David told him quietly. "Hell, she was actually constantly looking out the window to see when you would be changing."

A small, tender smile curled Killian's lips.

David took a sharp right, leading them into one of the rooms.

Killian nearly froze at the sight before him, making his heart seize. Emma laid back in the hospital bed, her normally fair skin pale against the yellow shift she wore. Various tubes stuck out of her left arm, connected to strange contraptions at her bedside, one of them emitting a loud rhythmic beeping that filled the room.

She had never looked so fragile, the severity of what she just faced fully hitting him. He saw in his mind's eye what could have happened, as well as saw what would eventually happen.

As if sensing him, her green eyes found him, her tired face smiling brightly. "Killian."

He found himself walking toward her, unable to resist the gravitational pull she had on him.

Her hand quickly found his as he reached her bedside, clasping his with a strength that surprised him given her state.

"Hey," she said with a small but happy smile.

Giving her a small smile in return, he sat in one of the chairs beside her bed. He didn't let go of her, instead gently running his thumb along her knuckles.

"What happened?" he asked her quietly.

"Some guy I met this morning was trying to get me to follow him," she shrugged, making her wince in pain. "When I didn't, he turned into a monkey and attacked."

She gave him an easy smile. "It's nothing really bad, just some scratches that hurt like hell. I wasn't bitten or anything."

"Which is a relief," Regina said suddenly, making him aware of the other people in the room.

Mary Margaret sat near where David stood, her hands draped protectively over her rounded stomach, while Henry sat beside them, his arms folded on the edge of Emma's bed. Regina stood off in one of the corners, her expression of concern hidden by a mask of indifference.

"We don't need our sheriff and Savior sprouting wings and attacking people," she added.

Emma rolled her eyes.

"Whale wants her to stay in here for a couple days," Mary Margaret told him. "Emma won't admit it, but she is in some pain and could have bled out and they want to make sure she's fine."

Groaning, Emma leaned her head against her pillow. "I'm fine. Just give me some aspirin and I'm good to go."

"Mom, a monkey dug its claws into you," Henry pointed out. "You should rest. You deserve it."

"Your boy's right," Killian agreed. "You've been nearly running yourself ragged, love."

She sighed tiredly.

Killian never thought her to be weak, but Emma never looked more delicate, so breakable.

"Look at it this way," David offered with a chuckle. "It gives you a break from having to answer all of Leroy's calls."

Emma laughed. "That alone makes staying here worth it."

Killian took in the sound, reminding himself that though injured, she was alive and would recover. The reminder alone would be enough to keep the dark thoughts at bay for a little while.

The doctor he recognized from his visit a few days prior entered the room, standing careless expression.

"Sorry to cut things short, but visiting hours are over," Whale said. "As it is, all of you aren't supposed to be in here at the same time. One of you can stay overnight. Whoever that it, call me or one of the nurses if anything happens."

They were all quiet until he left, leaving David to break the silence. "Well, we can't say a whole lot of his bedside manner."

Mary Margaret shrugged, delicately lifting her shoulders. "Who's staying here with Emma?"

A chorus of "no" sounded as soon as Henry opened his mouth to speak.

"Why not?" he asked instead.

"Kid, you'd be safer at the loft or Regina's," Emma replied. "If anything were to happen here, I'd be nearly useless."

Regina nodded. "She's right. I know you want to stay here, but we're not risking your safety."

"I'll stay," Killian said quietly.

Emma silently applied pressure to his hand as the others looked at him.

Feeling nervous at all of the eyes on him, he shook his head. "I can protect her if anything were to happen. Mary Margaret would be better off in her own bed, and we all know Dave won't want to leave her alone, either."

"Are you sure?" Mary Margaret asked him.

He nodded. "Aye."

David nodded in return. "Do you need anything before we go?"

Killian shook his head, not feeling a bit hungry or tired, if anything feeling slightly sick. "I'm fine, mate."

Her father nodded again, silently telling him that he trusted him.

After some quick goodbyes, Mary Margaret and David walked out of the room, his hand resting at her waist. Regina followed them with Henry trailing behind her, the boy looking back at them and giving them an encouraging smile.

"I'm sorry," Emma said after a few moments of silence.

Killian looked at her in surprise. "What for, love?"

"For not being more careful," she replied quietly. "For Ruby having to be the one to tell you. For making you wait without any word until you changed."

He was shaking his head as soon as she mentioned being careful. He leaned forward, gently kissing her.

"None of that is your fault, Swan," he told her. "You have nothing to be sorry about."

"Still," she said. "Thanks for staying with me."

His smile was soft. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be, love."

Giving him her own tender smile in return, she suddenly began moving away from him, creating a gap on the bed.

"Here," she said. "I know it's not the most comfortable, but it's got to he better than that chair."

He hesitated a moment before moving to the offered spot, making himself fit into the space. He didn't think he was supposed to be there with her, but he wasn't going to deny her, as well as had his own reason to lie beside her. The rail pressed uncomfortably into his back, but it was an insignificance as soon as she curled into him.

He could practically feel how tired she was as she rested her head on his shoulder, making him wrap his arm around her waist to keep her close to him.

"These are annoying," she complained tiredly, glaring at her left arm where various tubes stuck out of it.

"Yeah, but you need them," he said to placate her, not knowing what they even were.

She gave him a knowing smile, silently calling him out.

"Go to sleep, Swan," he murmured as he buried his nose in her hair. "I'll be in here with you."

Exhaling, Emma relaxed into him. Shifting slightly, she rested her head on his arm, ignoring her pillow altogether.

"Thanks, Killian," she breathed out, her voice becoming more slurred. "For staying with me."

Swallowing, he pressed a feather soft kiss to her forehead. "I'll stay with you until I have to go, just rest."

He didn't think it would be possible, that he was too broken, but he loved her. He didn't think it would have been possible to move on from Milah, but he somehow had with the woman sleeping in his arms.

Killian watched as she slept, her face peaceful, fighting to keep his emotions controlled. His mind raced, knowing what he would have to do come dawn.

Chapter Text

Taking a deep breath of open air, Emma felt herself relax, thankful to be away from the smell of antiseptic from the hospital. She was dying shower and wear her own pajamas to get rid of the memories of the uncomfortable gown she had had to wear.

"Good to be out?" her mother teased from beside her.

"Oh yeah," Emma replied.

Mary Margaret chuckled. "Come on. We'll make you something good at home."

She directed Emma to the passenger side of the car, insisting on driving. Despite being discharged, her parents wanted her to take things slowly, including taking a few more days off before she returned to the station.

Even with her days off, she knew she would be working, dividing her days between looking for a way to stop their witch and finding a way to get rid of Killian's curse.

Immediately planning to shower as soon as she got in, she relaxed as Mary Margaret took them back, watching buildings pass by them.

"You need help getting out?" she asked before leaving the car.

Mary Margaret shook her head, smiling in amusement. "I'm fine. For now, at least."

Smiling in return, Emma pushed herself out, only slightly wincing slightly from the pain in her side.

She nearly collapsed on her bed as soon as she entered her room, only refraining to go get cleaned up in her own shower.

Almost reluctant to turn off the water, she quickly dried off and dressed in her most comfortable pajamas, mindful of her bandages, before sprawling on her bed.

Grabbing on to her phone, she silently debated for a moment and breaking down to send a message.

10:41- Hey, think you want to come over or I go see you tonight?

She hit send before she could second guess it.

Killian hadn't been by the night before, sending her a message apologizing and saying that the hospital had been too much for him, too many people in a place that was too strange. She wasn't angry or even really hurt, knowing that as good as he'd been, he was still adjusting.

Knowing she wouldn't be getting a response anytime soon, she got up to find something to eat, dying for anything other than the bland hospital food.

The aroma of chicken pot pie cooking filled her senses as she descended the steps, making her stomach growl loudly.

"Your first day of freedom," Mary Margaret said from the counter, a steaming mug of tea in her hands. "What are you gonna do?"

Emma shrugged. "No idea."

"No word from Killian?" her mother asked.

Shaking her head, Emma moved to gather what she needed for hot chocolate. "No, not yet. But he can't exactly answer any calls right now."

Mary Margaret nodded. "He will later."

Finishing making up her drink, Emma pulled up one of the chairs at the breakfast bar. The warmth of her drink chased away the chill in her hand, giving her a sense of familiarity.

"Regina wants me to meet her tomorrow for another magic lesson," she told her mother.

Her brow raised in surprise, Mary Margaret leaned back against the counter. "Do you think you'll be up for that?"

Emma shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. I have to be. I need to learn to control my magic and defeat this witch."

"But isn't it too soon?" Mary Margaret questioned.

Shaking her head, Emma took a sip of her drink. "Doesn't matter."

Mary Margaret sighed unhappily as the timer went off, signaling her to pull the pies from the oven.

Emma found herself nearly bored out of her mind before groaning, remembering it was only her first day out.

She knew it would be one thing if she chose to do nothing, but being left no choice in the matter made her ready to climb the walls. She couldn't go out because her side was still tender, as well as painful if irritated, and was to stay away from the station for a couple days. She had no idea how to pass the time aside from shadowing her mother, but knew it wasn't the most appealing option, given that even pregnant, Mary Margaret insisted on Emma taking it easy.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Mary Margaret said suddenly from her spot on the couch watching an old movie. "Later on I have a midwife coming in for an interview."

Emma looked up from her book of curses in surprise. "You're still wanting to do that?"

Mary Margaret nodded. "Yeah, I am. I think it would be a good idea to have some more help. She wants David here when she comes over so she can meet us both."

"Isn't that kind of demanding?" Emma asked with a raised brow.

"She said it's best she meets both the parents at the same time, to get a read on them and determine how best to assist the couple," Mary Margaret responded calmly.

Guilt suddenly shot through Emma, realizing the difficult situation David was in. "Does me being off make it too hard on David?"

Mary Margaret shook her head fiercely. "Emma, don't even worry about that. David would be saying the same. You need time to heal, and it's okay. Just let us take care of you."

Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, Emma nodded, not used to being taken care of. It was a slow process, but she was slowly becoming accustomed to it from her parents and Killian.

"Do you want me out when she comes?" Emma asked, keeping her emotions in check.

"No, you can do whatever you want," Mary Margaret responded. "Just relax, Emma. You can be upstairs sleeping, you can meet her, or whatever you want. Just take it easy."

Slowly, Emma nodded. "Okay. Who is she, anyway?"

"Her name is Zelena," Mary Margaret replied. "She just came over here from the last curse. She was a midwife back in the Enchanted Forest. I met her the other day in Granny's, and decided she might be what I'm looking for."

Feeling uneasy, Emma bit her lip. "Are you sure about her? I mean, if she came over here with the new people, don't you think that's a risk?"

"I did think about that," Mary Margaret admitted. "But why would the Wicked Witch be interested in becoming a midwife? I think she's safe."

Not able to completely shake the feeling, Emma nodded.

"So when will she be over?" she asked.

"Around five," Mary Margaret hummed. "I'm gonna call David in a little bit to make sure he remembers."

Emma nodded. She glanced at the clock, seeing it was just after three. Knowing there was a while before the midwife would be arriving, much less the sun would be setting, she debated on napping. She felt tired, knowing it was from her painkillers and from finally being home.

"Do you mind if I go up and sleep for a bit?" she asked her mother.

Mary Margaret nodded, smiling warmly. "Of course. You need to heal. Sleep is good for you right now."

Smiling in return, Emma retreated to her room. Before collapsing on her bed, she quietly crept over to her dresser, pulling open one of the drawers she cleared for Killian and pulling a soft black tee shirt from it. Bundling it up beside her pillow, she let his scent envelop her as she pulled the quilt over her and set her phone up by her pillow, the warmth of her own bed quickly pulling her under.

Jerking awake, Emma's eyes immediately made out the figure of her mother from the top of the stairs, realizing Mary Margaret had woken her.

"Sorry," Mary Margaret apologized. "I wanted to make sure you ate something. How are you feeling?"

"It's okay," Emma replied, pushing herself to sit up and ignoring the pain on her side. "I'm fine, just hurt a little bit."

Mary Margaret nodded. "Well, we saved you some dinner. Why don't you eat and take some more of your medication?"

Glancing at the clock beside her bed, Emma flinched in surprise, seeing it was after nine.

"Yeah, great," she said, suddenly wanting nothing more than to check her phone. "I'll be down in just a second."

Mary Margaret left her alone, her soft footfalls reaching Emma's ears as she descended the stairs.

Emma nearly dove for her phone, exhaling in relief at the notification that she had a message, Killian's name displayed on it. She felt her heart sink as she opened it, the written words not what she had hoped.

8:17- Sorry love, but not tonight. I still need some time.

Her disappointment didn't surprise her, but she wasn't annoyed with him, only wanting to be able to see him again. She wanted things to return to normal as possible, including being able to see Killian as much as their circumstances would allow. She missed him, even if it had only been a few days.

Checking the time again, she quickly wrote out a response.

9:23- Ok. Just let me know how you're doing and when I can see you again?

She didn't receive a response back.

Chapter Text

Emma couldn't help checking her phone, even knowing there wouldn't be any new messages for her, at least not from who she wanted to hear from.

She could barely say how much she missed Killian, not having any idea on how badly his absence would affect her. She wanted to give him the space he desired, wondering if she had pushed him too much. He'd been doing well, handling the town and the crises so easily that she hadn't given it a thought that he was slowly becoming overwhelmed. Wanting to do what was best for him, she had agreed to let him have his space away from everyone, including her.

She just hadn't realized how much she had come to rely on Killian, whether it was his unwavering support of her or the gentle way he would touch her or his smiles. She never expected the painful hole in her chest that him not being with her would bring.

Worry had constantly twisted her stomach in the week since she'd seen him, wondering how he was doing. The couple messages she had received from him did little to calm her. She had gone by the cabin once a couple days before during the day to see what he needed in way of food, only to discover with a pang that he'd barely returned, the food mostly left untouched. Already knowing he had not been to his usual spots that he frequented, she wanted to at least see him, to at least have some way to know that he was okay, even if she couldn't actually be with him.

She missed her dragon.

Hardly able to focus on the book in front of her, she rubbed at her eyes, wondering when David would be back from patrol.

None of them could find anything to identify the exact identity of their witch, putting them all on edge. Regina had grown impatient with both the situation and Emma's magic lessons, snapping at everyone in sight. Henry was the only one safe from her, but it didn't prevent him from being cautious around her.

Henry and even David had become more solemn, both of them missing Killian. Mary Margaret had even lost some of her light, her smiles not coming as easily.

Emma knew that besides the witch, it was because they were missing someone.

Refocusing on her book, she tried reading another passage before feeling herself snapping, throwing the book across the room.

David looked at her in surprise, the object nearly hitting him as he walked into the station.

"Sorry," Emma said as she rested her forehead in her hands.

He nodded in understanding, picking up the book and setting it back on the edge of her desk.

"I know," he said quietly. "I know we're supposed to be looking for the witch, but I've been looking for something to help Killian, too."

"There has to be something," she sighed. "I wish he would talk to me at least. That I can at least know he's okay."

"You miss him," he responded gently.

She nodded. "Yeah, I do. I get it, that maybe he finally just got so overwhelmed with everything he needs a break, but I want to know he's okay."

She caught David's helpless expression, making her own emotions sink further.

"I know he wanted space, but I think I'm gonna try to go over there tonight," she told him.

Sighing, he nodded. "It's all you can do. And what's bad is you can't even really be mad at him. With everything Gold did to him, sometimes I'm amazed that Killian's done this well."

She nodded in agreement, thinking of the man she met in the prison Gold had designed for him.

"You wanna take off?" David asked her. "Get some food or something. It'd do you good."

After silently debating, she nodded. "You sure?"

"Go ahead," he said, moving to hug her as she stood.

Emma relaxed into his hug, feeling comfort at his hand cradling her head like she imagined he did when she was a baby before they were separated.

"I'm sorry," she murmured.

"Don't be," he responded just a quietly.

She sighed as she pulled away. "I didn't think I would ever take off work like this because of relationship problems."

"Hey, at least you're not risking starting a war," he replied lightly.

She laughed despite herself. Nodding once more in thanks, she left the station, suddenly feeling lost. She didn't know where she was supposed to go, her usual refuge unavailable.

Inhaling, she decided on the next best thing to let her be close to Killian in some way.

The cool air of the docks was a comfort, the smell of the sea engulfing her. Idly, she found the bench she and Killian had sat at during their first date. Sitting, she wrapped her jacket more tightly around herself, letting the sound of the waves and gulls wash over her. Part of her idly wondered when the weather would change, the early October air carrying a bitter chill.

Sitting there, she made a plan, deciding to go to the cabin just after sunset, praying that he would be there. She had no idea what she would say if she got the actual opportunity to talk to him.

She smiled sadly, thinking how Killian was the one that was good with his words.

Seeing the sun beginning to descend below the horizon, she rose from her seat, ready to walk back to the sheriff's station to retrieve her car. She found herself mentally steeling herself the entire time, unsure of that she would face if she saw Killian. She quickly ruled out getting anything for herself to eat, her stomach twisting too much from nerves to think about getting anything down.

Somehow the drive seemed much longer than usual, the path darker. The back of her mind reminded her it was a new moon, telling herself it wasn't an omen.

Emma nearly laughed in relief as she caught sight of a low light in the cabin, meaning he was there. Her joy quickly faded as she killed the engine, wondering how she would be received.

Nervously, she left her car, moving slowly up to the cabin. She was surprised as she moved to open the door, finding herself unable to turn the knob.

Killian never locked the door, always leaving it open for her.

Biting her lip, she swallowed the little bit of hurt she felt.

"Killian?" she called as she knocked. "Killian? It's me."

She silently waited, hoping she would hear something from him. Relief washed over her as she suddenly heard movement behind the door. The knowledge that he was so close was enough.

"Killian," she began again, fighting to keep her voice steady, "I just wanted to know you're okay. Just talk to me? I've…"

She suddenly trailed off, speaking becoming difficult. Her voice was faint as she forced the words out, knowing they were true. "I've missed you."

She closed her eyes as she waited, feeling defeated. She knew he was just on the other side of the door, just out of reach.

Sighing, she moved to pull away right before she heard the faint sound of a lock clicking, followed by the noise of the door being opened.

Her breath caught as she spun around, seeing Killian for the first in what she felt like was a long time.

His eyes appeared to brighten for a beat before he became guarded, closed off.

Tentatively stepping forward, she saw he looked exhausted, dark shadows dimming his normally bright eyes. He was pale, yet she didn't notice any physical changes to indicate he wasn't well.

He lacked his jacket, usually keeping it on despite being inside, a custom she guessed that had come from years ago. Instead, he wore his waistcoat unbuttoned, hanging open over his shirt with his sleeves rolled up. She had never seen him so undressed before.

Despite everything, she found herself moving forward until she was able to wrap her arms around him, his scent surrounding her as her body pressed against his. His arms held her just as tightly, making her smile as she felt him bury his nose in her hair.

"Swan," he whispered, his voice a caress.

His arms suddenly loosened, pulling away from her.

"We were all worried about you," she told him quietly. "I was worried about you."

He smiled, but she knew it was a facade. "I'm fine, love."

She eyed him, suddenly feeling on edge, somehow knowing something was about to happen. "No, you're not. What's wrong?"

"It… just all became too much," he replied. "Too many people, too much happening, it became too overwhelming."

Emma swallowed, her superpower telling her it was only a half-truth.

Her uneasiness growing, she forced herself to smile. "That's okay, you know? We can take things slow again, like when you first came here."

Killian's expression suddenly became pained as he shook his head, moving farther away from her. "No, no. I'm sorry Emma, but I can't do this. Any of it. Not anymore."

She froze, shocked as the meaning of his words sunk into her. "You're- you're breaking up with me?"

Out of every scenario she imagined, none had consisted of Killian wanting to end things with her, to completely retreat in on himself.

"Aye- no," he said before violently shaking his head as he kept his back to her. "I don't know."

Her limbs felt like ice as she stared at him. Unexpected pain rose in her unlike anything she had ever experienced, settling right beneath her breastbone. She had only felt a similar feeling once before, when the man who was supposed to love her sold her out.

That incident had been tinged with anger, helping to lessen some of her pain. Standing across the room from Killian, all she felt was hurt.

"Why?" she asked in a tight voice. "What happened? What changed? Killian, please, just talk to me."

"I forgot!" he suddenly yelled as he rounded back on her. "You're mortal, Emma! I forgot about it until you were in that bloody hospital almost killed by that bloody beast!"

Taken aback at his outburst, she stared at him in shock. "What?"

"I was foolish enough to think that I might actually have a chance here," he said in a broken voice. "That day, seeing you hurt like that, then you looking so fragile in that hospital, I remembered everything. What this curse really is."

Emma forced herself to move, wanting to go to him, but he held up a hand, halting her.

"When Rumplestiltskin first cursed me, I didn't think about how long I was in there," he forced out. "I marked each cycle I had, but I didn't think anything of the time passing. I had no way of telling the days. I didn't even know originally the transformations went with the sun.

"He kept an eye on all of the members of my crew," he continued, moving to sit so he was in front of the fire in the hearth.

Emma knew the chill he was feeling had nothing to do with the temperature, familiar with the feeling herself.

"He would tell me when each of them died," Killian told her. "Some in battle, one in a fight in a tavern. Some of them managed to settle in and have families, getting to die in their own beds.

"I finally understood when the last member of my crew had died. He had only been a boy when we took him in, and he died of old age in his home surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I finally understood that I'd been cursed with immortality. That I would never get to be with Liam and Milah again, that I lost everyone I'd ever known."

Her throat tight, Emma could only stay where she was, watching him as she realized she was finally seeing all of Killian, including everything he had ever hidden from everyone.

"I wanted it to end," he said faintly. "I tried everything, but nothing worked."

"What do you mean?" she asked, already knowing what he was about to tell her.

"It wasn't for lack of trying," he said, unable to meet her eyes. "I tried everything I could think of. My neck would break only to instantly heal. Same when I tried to bleed myself out. Any injury, no matter how fatal, just healed, like nothing ever happened.

"I tried some more unconventional methods. The Crocodile left an enchantment, providing food everyday. He thought it would be amusing, leaving a live sheep for his pet dragon to slaughter and kill for food. One day, I decided to stop it. I tried starving myself. I kept a clear head despite the pain, realizing that even as long as I went without sustenance, I never weakened or thinned. I was only causing myself pain for no reason."

Tears stung at Emma's eyes, her chest aching for him, hating that she never saw how much he was hurting behind his facade.

She never cared much for Gold, even disliking him, but she had never truly hated him until that moment.

Shame filled Killian's voice, his eyes refusing to meet hers. "I stopped after a while. There was no point. I knew I was never gonna get out of there. Then, you came, and I thought that maybe if I couldn't do it myself, someone else could do it for me."

Emma felt as if she had ice water poured over her, his words sinking in. All of his actions the day they met suddenly made sense, his taunting, how he always remained close enough for her to strike but never moving to attack her, only egging her on.

She knew she should have been absolutely furious at him for trying to use her, but she couldn't find herself to hold any anger at him, instead only feeling pain for him.

The feeling doubled when she realized he expected her to be angry, to storm out and leave him.

Moving suddenly became easy, her feet carrying her to his side where she suddenly fell down so she was with him. Afraid to scare him, she slowly raised her hand, gently resting it against his cheek.

He leaned onto her touch, bringing his own hand up to cover hers. "I can't lose you, too."

"You won't," she told him, her voice soft yet fierce.

He shook his head, keeping her hand to his cheek. "I will. It might not be by this witch, but one day I'll lose you."

Opening his eyes, Emma's breath was nearly taken away at the hurt and desperation in them.

"You know any monster that comes I can help protect you from," he said. "I can protect you from any witch, any monster, anyone that wants to hurt you. But I can't protect you from time."

Feeling the threat of tears burning her eyes, Emma leaned into him, pulling his face to hers. The kiss was unlike anything she had ever experienced before, hurt making them clutch each other.

Instead of letting her take control like he usually did, Killian nearly crushed her to his chest, tilting their heads to deepen the kiss. His tongue ran along the seam of her lips, to which she gave him entrance with a small moan, burying her free hand in his dark hair.

It felt good to hold him again and kiss him, but it was far from the reunion she imagined.

Both their breathing was heavy when they finally broke apart, their arms holding each other too tightly to pull away.

"You deserve more than I can give you," he whispered. "I want you to have everything, Emma. To have a husband who loves you more than anything and you can grow old with. To be able to have a family. I can't give you any of that. That's why I disappeared. I had hoped that if I weren't there, you would have a chance."

Releasing a shuddering breath, she forced herself to meet his eyes.

"You told me once you've yet to see me fail," she reminded him. "Trust me when I tell you we'll find some way to end this. I don't care if it's the last thing I do. We'll find some way to break this curse."

"I do trust you," he exhaled. "But I don't want you wasting your life for me."

"Isn't that for me to decide?" she asked him. "And I wouldn't be wasting it."

She kissed him again, her body rocking into his. He pulled her impossibly closer, right into his lap, pushing his palm against the small of her back.

Heat that had nothing to do with the fire warmed her, making her rock into him again.

He suddenly stilled beneath her, pulling away slightly. His eyes met hers in silent question.

She nodded, moving back to kiss him again.

His hands hesitantly went to her jacket, pushing it from her shoulders until it fell behind her.

"Wait," he suddenly said quietly, pulling away slightly as her hands went to push off his waistcoat. "Not here."

She looked back at him in confusion, unable to help feel some slight rejection.

Killian stood up before suddenly pulling her up to stand with him. She was taken by surprise when he suddenly lifted her, prompting Emma to wrap her legs around his waist and her arms around his shoulders. She could feel the strength of his arms and back beneath her, belying his true strength, as well as feel evidence that he wanted her.

"I don't want us to do this right here," he muttered against her lips. "You deserve to have a bed, for us to do this properly."

Sighing, she kissed him again, letting him carry her to the bedroom he only used to store his clothes. She suddenly felt a wave of self consciousness, realizing she hadn't shaved her legs or was wearing the most exciting underwear or that it had been a while for her when she realized it didn't matter. Killian wanted her and she wanted him, and he'd been celibate much longer than she had. It was about him just as much as her.

He didn't stop her as she finally pushed his waistcoat off, the material falling to the floor. Feeling his hands creeping under her shirt, she lifted her arms, letting him tug it over her head and toss it away. She reached behind her back to unsnap her bra, letting it fall away before he could ask her how to undo it.

She smiled when he groaned as he looked at her, pulling him back in to kiss him again.

Trying to keep focused on removing him of his own clothes as his hands and lips began to wander over her skin, down to her neck to her shoulders and lower, she managed to undo the rest of the buttons of his shirt, pulling it free from the waist of his pants and pushing it off. She delighted in the feel of his skin pressed to hers, of the hair that smattered across his chest lightly scratching against her skin.

She ran her hands up his strong arms, feeling the muscles in his biceps as she reached up to his shoulders before shifting down towards his back. She noticed with a small start that his skin was textured with what felt like multiple long scars.

Killian suddenly froze, gently pulling away as he released her to stand on her own.

"Sorry," he said, sounding almost ashamed.

Reaching behind him, he grabbed onto the shirt, careful not to expose his back to her as he began to shrug it back on.

Emma stepped forward, resting a hand on his shoulder to stop him. She met his eyes as he stilled, uncertainty battling with desire in his own as he stared back at her. Silently, she moved behind him, gentle as she pulled the shirt away again, revealing his back to her.

Scars ran across the expanse of his back, starting at his shoulders and disappearing just under the top of his jeans. There was no particular pattern, only long lines, some of which were jagged. They were pale in the moonlight, long since healed.

Feeling her breath caught in her lungs, Emma raised her hand to lightly run her finger along one of the worst, a jagged line that crossed his spine as she saw she was looking at evidence of multiple floggings.

She swallowed, realizing just how hard Killian's life had been.

She pressed a tender kiss to the scar she had just traced, feeling him relax under her touch.

"It's okay," she murmured. "I have scars, too."

He shifted under her hands, turning so that he was facing her. His hand cradling her head, he pressed his lips back to hers. She could taste relief and something else in his kiss, something she wasn't sure she was ready to name.

They made quick work of their remaining garments, with him helping her out of her boots and the both of them helping discarding the others pants, leaving them bare to each other. Looking down his body, she saw other various scars decorated his skin, more evidence of a difficult life. Slowly so he could see her movements, she gently touched a long scar over his ribs, knowing from the pattern it to be from a stab wound.

She swallowed hard as she felt his hand rest against her cheek, making her look up at him. She watched his face relax as he saw her eyes, knowing he wouldn't see anything but affection and even some sadness and anger that he had ever been hurt.

Keeping her eyes locked with his, she felt them flutter closed when she pressed her lips to his. His hand shifting to thread through her hair, he pulled her closer to him. He guided her to the bed where she collapsed back, pulling him down with her.

Gripping onto his back, she tried to pull his warm body closer to hers, wanting to feel his skin pressed directly against hers, when she felt his hand drift down her body. She released a strangled cry when she suddenly felt him begin intimately stoking her, causing her to dig her nails into his back.

He stopped her as she reached to grasp him, shifting his hips away.

"I'm afraid I won't last long if you do that, love," he whispered against her lips. "It's been a long time since I've done this."

She couldn't help her tender smile, understanding that he was taking care of her first. It was unlike anything she'd ever experienced, all of her previous partners only worried about taking their own pleasure before deciding they were done.

He tore his mouth from hers, moving to kiss along the line of her neck before trailing down until he reached her breasts. One of her hands moved to his dark hair, her nails lightly scratching at his scalp as he continued to kiss and stroke her until she felt herself fall, her grip tightening on him as her legs wrapped around him.

Killian quickly moved back up so he could kiss her again, helping to quiet her cry. Resting his forehead to hers, he released a shuddering breath as she helped to guide him into her.

Emma sighed, feeling his body pressed to hers with him inside of her. She finally understood all of the cliches she'd always scoffed at, feeling how they fit perfectly together and how it felt so right being with him, that she never felt more complete than she did in that moment.

Opening her eyes, she saw his own bright blue focused on her, watching her reactions. She lightly traced his brow with the tips of her fingers, smiling when he leaned into her. Reaching up, she drew him back in for another kiss while pressing her hand to his scarred lower back to urge him to move. It was impossible for be closer than they were at that moment, but she felt it was nowhere near close enough.

She felt herself building up again with each of his thrusts until the moment she fell, with him following her with her name on his lips.

His head falling to her shoulder, she felt his chest heaving against hers as they tried to catch their breath.

"Was that okay?" he asked quietly, the unsurety in his voice warming her chest.

Smiling gently, she kissed him before responding. "More than okay."

Killian gave her a toothy grin before she kissed him again.

She missed his weight as soon as he shifted off of her, only for him to pull her to his chest as he settled on the bed. She nestled happily against him, feeling secure as his arms wrapped around her.

Emma was breaking all of the rules she'd ever made for herself, including cuddling and knowing fully well that she was staying the night in his bed.

He released her only to draw a blanket over them, knowing they would become chilled without it.

She drew him closer to her so she could kiss him again. "Is this okay?"

He nodded. "Aye, love. It is."

Relaxing, Emma felt his heart beating beneath her cheek, the sound one of the most calming things she'd ever heard.

"Sleep, Swan," Killian murmured against her hair. "I be right here with you."

His words pulling her under, she slipped her eyes closed as she cuddled closer into his warm body.

Slowly opening her eyes, Emma smiled, memories of her and Killian's activities at the forefront of her mind. Taking in her surroundings, she saw it was still dark, letting her know it was still late, as well as realizing she wasn't alone in the bed.

Peering down, she saw Killian laying with his arms wrapped around her, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Her smile widened as she realized he was asleep, that he was sleeping with her. For the first time since she met him, he looked truly at peace.

Cautious not to wake him, Emma settled back into the position she had been in before she woke, resting her head back on his chest where she could feel his steady heartbeat. His hand covered hers on his chest even in slumber, holding her close to him.

She let the gentle rise and fall of his chest as well as the beating of his heart lull her back to sleep.