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Loyalty Comes At a Price

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They had feared this day would come, the day the Evil Queen would break free from the curse Snow and David had put on her all those years ago. The kingdom had enjoyed twenty-four years of blissful peace. Emma had assumed that her parents had put precautions in place for the Evil Queen breaking free. As it turns out they didn't, why they didn't Emma will never know. Her parents paid for that mistake with their lives.

Emma bursts into their chambers with a blood covered sword in hand to find Lancelot kneeling next to her father and mother, both of them dead. Emma can see a gaping hole in her mother's chest right over where her heart should be. Emma has the suspicion that the Evil Queen crushed her heart. Lancelot turns to her, tears in his eyes.

"We need to get you and Leo out of here," he told her. Emma tears her eyes away from her parents’ bodies.

"What?" Emma asks confused.

"I already sent Grumpy to get your brother. The Evil Queen has us surrounded the castle and has taken over the throne room. She will not hesitate to kill you as well. We'll be lucky to make it out alive," Lancelot says and Emma just stares blankly at him, in shock. He sighs in frustration and grabs her mother's traveling cloak throwing it over Emma's shoulders. He grabs her by the arm and drags her out of her parent's chambers. Emma eyes stay on her parent's bodies for as long as possible. They're dead. They're gone. Emma is still trying to wrap her head around it.

Lancelot leads her down an old servant corridor and down a staircase they no longer use anymore. So far, they hadn't spotted any of the Black Knights. However, they hear clamoring of footsteps coming from the bottom of the staircase.

Without a word of warning Lancelot punches in a brick in the staircase wall, which opens revealing a hidden passageway Emma didn't know about it. The fact seems impossible since she thought she had looked over every possible map of the castle. Once inside the corridor Lancelot pushes the door shut behind them.

"There that should keep us safe for a while. Are you prepared to use your sword?" Lance asks her to pull her down the corridor.

Emma finds her voice again, "Yes, I had to kill three Black Knights who came into my chambers."

"Good, you might have to do that again. Remember what your father and I taught you," Lance nods, leading the way down the dusty corridor which lead to another hidden staircase. The ground was disgusting, covered in mud and what can only be assumed to be rat droppings and Emma really wished she had put on more sturdy shoes besides her slippers. Lance kept up their grueling pace, barely giving Emma a chance to catch her breath.

When she mentions this fact Lance snaps at her, "You can breathe when we get you out of the reach of the Evil Queen." Emma doesn't say anything to this, knowing he's right. When they finally get to the bottom of the staircase they almost have to swim out. They nearby river seems to have flooded the exit to the corridor, probably the reason it's not used anymore. When they make it out a good portion of the council is waiting for them, along with Leo. Emma moves toward him relief flooding through her. Lance stops her and places her on top of a horse.

"You can reunite when you're safe. I'm going to save anyone I can. Red is taking you to a hideout. Listen to her, she knows the plan," Lance says to her without another word. The small group of them take off. Red's cloak over Emma. Red is in her wolf form leading them away from the castle. A few times the wolf looks back at her. Emma glowers back at her. This plan had been in place for many years now. Her parents knew this was a possibility and made a plan for this. No one had ever bothered to tell Emma, or it seems her brother, who looked just as confused as she did. He pulls his horse up to hers.

"What the fuck is going on? Grumpy pulled me from my bed, barely let me put on boots. No one will tell me anything," he pleads with her. Her heart breaks, they left her to tell her brother their parents had been murdered. When she notices he has no cloak and is shivering, she throws Red's cloak over his shoulders.

"Leo, they're dead," she says simply, not sure she can get out much more without throwing up.

"Who?" he says, his eyes searching her face.

"Mom and Dad. The Evil Queen killed them," she manages to choke out.

"No, Emma. That can't be true," he voice raises. Red growls at them in warning, Leo looks shocked by his aunt's action.

"Leo, it's true I saw their bodies. She's right, if we want to make it out you need to be quiet," Emma says harshly, lowering her voice.

"How can you say that?" he snaps, keeping his voice low. Emma rolls her eyes, while she loved her brother, he was always more idealistic than she was.

"They had this plan in place to keep us alive, it would be a shame to let their hard work go to waste," Emma hisses back. Leo just scowls at her. He can scowl all he wants; she wants to keep them alive they're all the kingdom has now. With the Evil Queen on the throne they'll have to fight hard to regain it from her.

The group trudge deeper and deeper into the forest surrounding the castle. After traveling all night with dawn on the horizon they come through the forest to only be faced with the beautiful mountains that serve as the border between Misthaven and Camelot. They pause at the ravine at the base of the mountain to collect some water before beginning their ascent. Red is still in wolf form and Emma leads her horse to the ravine.

"Where the hell are we going? It's certainly not Camelot, Mom could never trust King Arthur as far as she could throw him," Emma muses, looking to her aunt for answers. The wolf just releases what Emma can assume is a chuckle. Grumpy comes up to them.

"From here we'll be on foot. I'd leave the horse here if I were you sister. The trial is too narrow," Grumpy tells her. Emma's jaw drops and she looks down at her slipper clad feet.

"How far?" she asks bewildered.

"A couple miles, where we are going is well hidden in the mountain side," he tells her before running off. Well that certainly confirmed her theory of them not going to Camelot, but it left her with more questions. Emma grabs the supplies off her horse and wraps the cloak around her tightly. The wind was picking up and she was only wearing a nightgown beneath it. She looked out on the group and Red trotted next to her. There weren't many of them, they would need more than this to regain the throne. There were four of the seven dwarfs, Red, Leo and herself. Emma prays Lancelot comes back with more reinforcements. Red nudges Emma's shin with her head, signaling they should move out.

Emma rallies the small group and they trudge up the mountain side. Each step killing Emma's feet, though she tries to not let it show. Eventually she gets used to it. It doesn't take them more than a couple hours to reach a large plateau hidden from the mountain face by a grove of large pine trees. Behind this grove lies a cabin. Well perhaps a cabin is an understatement. There are estate houses smaller than this. The house isn't more than one level to remain hidden behind the trees Emma suspects, but the house looks to be large enough to accommodate their group comfortably. The weather is taking a turn for the worse, so they all hurry inside with their few supplies. The door firmly shuts behind them and Grumpy locks the several bolts on the door. There is a small room with a kitchen, another with a dining room, a formal sitting room, and what look to be many rooms beyond that. They all stand in the sitting room.

Leo drapes Red's cloak over her, a minute later she transforms back into herself. At her full height she turns to face Emma.

"I'm sure you have many questions," she starts, but before she can continue Emma cuts her off.

"You're fucking right I have questions. What the fuck was this plan? How come Leo and I didn't know about it? What is this place? How long has everyone been planning for this?" Emma practically shouts at Red her rage finally boiling over.

"Oh, so we can yell now?" Leo asks annoyed and Emma shuts him up with a look.

"You two have every right to be mad. I was only told about the plan after the fact. You know, I was never that active on the council. All I know is this plan was put in place when your mother became pregnant with you, Emma and was revised when Leo was conceived," Red tells them calmly.

"This has been in place our whole lives and none of you thought to tell us!?" Emma yells.

"Yes, it has. Your parents decided to keep it from you. That was their choice. Look Lance was there when the plan was made. You should save your questions for him. He should be here in a few days," Ruby says pointedly, signaling the end of the conversation.

"What do we do now?" Leo asks, looking around the room.

"Prepare to fight to take back what is rightfully ours and kill the bitch on our parent's throne," Emma says with venom in her voice.

"Long live Queen Emma!" Leo shouts and the rest join in, their chants filling the house and Emma stands there in shock.

True to Red's word three days after their arrival Lancelot arrives with Granny and a few knights, including August, her childhood friend. She immediately pulls him into her arms.

"I'm so glad you made it," she tells him pulling back to see his face.

"I am too, but Papa didn't," August says with a shake of his head. Geppetto was the master woodworker in the castle and was close with her family. He was always kind and sweet to the children in the castle.

"Oh August, I'm so sorry," she tells him.

"Me too. Emma, your parents were well loved. I'll do anything to avenge them," he promises her.

"We might have to do just that," she says solemnly. She notices Lance coming their way and she leaves August to meet Lance halfway.

"Is this all we have?" Emma asks gesturing at the people filling the kitchen.

"I am afraid so. Our army wasn't large to begin with especially during peacetime, but the Evil Queen killed most of them first so there wouldn't be anyone to sound the alarm, she lit their barracks ablaze. Those who I couldn't save are now in the dungeons if not dead already," Lancelot explains.

"Why the hell was this even able to happen? How did she break free? I thought she would die before the curse broke," Emma hisses at Lance.

"I have no clue how she broke free of that. It should've stayed in place until she died," he shakes his head.

"Now, how come my parents didn't tell us about this plan?" Emma ask and she sees Leo slide in next to her out of the corner of her eye.

"They didn't want to worry the two of you. That was the plan if anyone tried to take the castle, not just the Evil Queen. It was very unlikely, but there was always the potential this could happen. I thought they should've told you, but they didn't," he tells them, and Emma crosses her arms.

"Lance, four knights plus you and the rest of us won't be enough to take back the throne. Please, please tell me you have a plan," Emma pleads.

"I have an idea, but you won't like it," he says with a mischievous smile. Emma groans whenever he had this look on his face it meant trouble.

"What is it?" she asks, placing her hands on her hips.

"Mercenaries." He states and her jaw drops.

"Over my dead body!" She shouts at him and the kitchen falls silent. Leo just shakes his head, "Maybe you should hear him out, Emma." He shrugs when she sets her death glare on him.

"Fine, hope you like this house then because unless you can rally an army in a hurry no one will help us," Lance points out.

"They are for hire; they have no loyalty. The first chance they have to screw us over they will. Father always said they were no better than pirates," Emma fires back at Lance.

"You have to incentivize them is all. Some men that means honor and glory, to these men its money. Emma, as your advisor I beg you, consider this for the Kingdom," he pleads with her. Emma runs a hand through her hair.

"We'll talk more about this in the morning," Emma says before storming out to her room. Leo runs out after her. Lance turns to Red.

"How is she doing with all of this?" Lance asks her.

"About as well as can be expected," Red shrugs, standing next to Granny.

"That girl has been through her worst nightmare in past couple of days and you brought up something she is morally opposed to, give her a minute Lancelot," Granny snaps at the advisor. When they were all younger, he was a knight and fought the Evil Queen the last time. As they aged, he took place on the council when his last injury prevented him from being on the battlefield once more.

"Fine, but we don't have much time before Regina starts torturing villagers and soldiers in attempt to find them," Lancelot huffs, that cold truth hits everyone in the room with sickening reality. Misthaven could very well crumble under the rule of the Evil Queen.

The next morning after Emma has calmed down, they are able to talk through the situation at hand. Leo taking charge, knowing Lance may just piss her off.

"Emma, there are only thirteen of us. It would take too long to rally people from the countryside to join an army, even longer to train them. As much as all of us detest the idea we need an army fast and our allies will not leave themselves unprotected with the Evil Queen on the throne. Mercenaries are our best option," Leo says quickly. As much as Emma loathes to admit it, he's right and so is Lance.

"Fine. Since you suggested this Lance, I'm sure you have someone in mind," she suggests with a raised eyebrow.

"I do. There is a group led by a man, who is largely successful. He has helped many of the royals we know, and they like him so much that when his initial task is over, they try to hire him on permanently, but he always refuses," Lance tells her.

"Why does he refuse?" she asks curious. Lancelot smirks, knowing she's warming up to the plan.

"I don't know that you'll have to ask him yourself," Lance says with a knowing smile. Emma glares at him, crossing her arms.

"Fine, do you know where to find this man and his army?" she asks annoyed.

"Yes, last I heard he's about three days ride from here," Lance nods.

"Who needs to go with you?" she asks sharply.

"Myself, two knights, and Leo," Lance fires off. Emma blinks a few times looking from her brother to Lancelot.

"Why do you need me?" Leo asks, just as shocked.

"He needs to know we're serious contenders, but bringing Emma would be showing our hand too soon. Bringing you will pique his interest," Lance shrugs.

"Will you go?" Emma asks her brother.

"Of course, I will," Leo says, surprised she'd even feel the need to ask him.

"I'd never assume you'd go just because I order you too," she snaps, knowing what he is thinking.

"Even if I weren't your brother and I didn't want us to succeed, your Queen now. I'd have little choice in the matter. No one in this room will disobey an order you make. Don't worry about bossing people around, you're good at it," he teases her. Emma fights the urge to stick her tongue out at him.

"He's right. Well if that's settled, we should leave now," Lance says and Emma nods.

"Have a safe journey," Emma dismisses them. Lance chooses two of the knights. They all get ready for departure. Lance pulls Emma aside before they leave, however.

"Your brother will pique his interest, but he won't make a deal until he meets you. He'll know you're in charge of us all. You have to be careful what you offer him when we return," Lance says keeping his voice low.

"What can I offer him?"

"The treasury has been less full than your parents would like, but they managed to keep that secret under wraps. I would promise him and his top men gold and jewels and then whatever gold is required to pay his men," Lance tells her.

"Will that be enough? Do we even have enough for that?" she asks him, uneasy.

"It will be more than enough to entice him, and we may not, but that doesn't matter Regina will pool her resources in the treasury. Despite having little now, in the end we will have enough to pay him. Lying isn't always your strong suit work on what you'll say when we come back," Lance says with apologetic look and she blushes. Emma was never the best at lying, when she did her parents would see right through her and she got in trouble more often than not.

"I will. Don't let any harm come to Leo; I've lost enough family this week," she orders him.

"I'll protect him with my life," he tells her before leaving to gather supplies. She looks after her advisor, hoping beyond hope that it won't come to that.

Emma frankly hates standing still and the week Lance and her brother are gone she is a mess. She helps Granny in the kitchen, cleans the house and its numerous rooms, and collects firewood and kindling. Granny draws the line when she offers to hunt down their dinner.

"You're the queen and frankly Red has a better nose than you and can do it in half the time," The ancient woman tells her. Granny then proceeds to make her tea and sit down for longer than a meal. With staying still for so long she falls asleep. When someone asks if they should move her Granny glares at them.

"That girl hasn't slept all week if you move her now, she might wake up," She tells them. When Red comes back with her kill and sees Emma, she ignores Granny's threats and moves Emma to her bed. Emma doesn't wake and successfully sleeps through the night for the first time since her parents’ deaths.

Early the next morning Emma is woken by Red.

"Rise and shine, your mercenaries are almost here. Get ready then we have to trudge down the mountain to meet them," Red tells her before leaving. Emma groans, but makes her way out of bed. She pulls on a simple dress and the boots the climb will require. Emma runs a brush through her hair and clips it back. Emma has found everything she could possibly need in this house. It is surprisingly well stocked. Emma emerges from her room and walks to the kitchen. Granny, Red, and August are waiting for her.

Granny hands her a bowl of porridge, "Eat up girl." Emma accepts the bowl without compliant and eats it quickly. Once finished the trio begin their descent down the mountain side. It doesn't take them longer than an hour to get down, the descent being easier than the ascent. By the ravine Emma spots her brother, Lance, two knights, and three men she doesn't recognize sitting around a fire enjoying breakfast. As the trio approaches the group of men at the ravine stand upon her arrival.

"She doesn't look like any queen I've ever seen," one of them mumbles.

"Seen a lot of queens have you, Scarlet?" the one with sandy blonde hair asks the mumbler. All three are dressed in fighting leathers with weapons strapped to them. One man with jet black hair, stands taller than the rest and has eyes for only her. His piercing blue eyes assessing her. She holds his stare not backing down. Emma had seen her mother do the same thing countless times and her mother always got what she wanted.

"Pardon them, fine warriors they are, but no manners between them," they both protest at this, but fall silent with a single glare, "I'm Commander Killian Jones. This is Captain Robin Locksley and Will Scarlet." The one with blue eyes introduces them.

"A pleasure to meet you all. I'm Emma, this is Lady Red and Knight Booth," she nods toward the two on either side of her. Lance gives her a look and she's sure to get a lecture later. One she'll ignore.

"I've never met a queen who goes by her given name," Commander Jones comments.

"The throne in Misthaven is mine by birthright, but there has been no coronation, and another currently sits on what is mine. I cannot claim the title of queen without the ceremony," she says with all the grace she can muster. Lance makes a noise to disagree, but she silences him with a look.

"To business then what exactly do you require from my men and I?" Jones asks her. They all eagerly await her response.

"The Evil Queen killed my parents and now sits on my throne. I want her dead and my throne back," she states simply. Scarlet releases a whistle.

"That's quite a large request," the commander is surprised. Emma gives him a bemused look.

"If it's out of your depth I'll send my men to bring me someone suited to the task," she challenges him with an eyebrow raised.

"You won't find anyone better than us. A request of that size will require an equal reward," he says challenging her.

"Once the royal treasury is in hand you and your captains here can have all the jewels and gold that will fit in a small chest, one for each of you," she says hoping this will peak their greed, "and of course whatever is required to pay your men."

"You must be more desperate than we originally thought if that's your offer," Jones whistles.

"I'm merely offering you what would've been rewarded to our army if the Evil Queen hadn't killed them all," Emma says, seeing how easily scared off they are. To see if they're ready for this.

Commander Jones smirks, "We'll need a moment to deliberate."

"Of course, but just one last question, Commander. Lancelot said here many of your clients have tried to hire you on after your mission was completed, but you've never accepted. Why is that?" Emma asks with her head held high.

"Let's just say we've never found a cause worthy enough of our permanent services," he states before turning away. His answer satisfies her curiosity on that score. Emma can respect a man who hasn't found a leader good enough in his eyes, no faith is better than blind faith. She doesn't quite like his smugness, but that can be tolerated. The three men take a few steps away from the rest of them, heads huddled together. Lance and Leo approach her. Emma hugs Leo.

"Oh, stop it I'm fine," he says moving out of her arms.

"Emma, you're playing a dangerous game," Lance warns her.

"Are you kidding me? She's playing them like a fiddle. She has that look mom did when she was trying to get something the council didn't want to give her. And…" Leo trails off.

"She always got what she wanted," Red finishes his sentence, "Lance, she's doing fine you old worry wort." Lance doesn't have time to look offended because the mercenaries are ready. Emma's group turns to face the three men.

"Well Commander what will it be?" Emma says with a tone like she's bored of him and his games.

"We agree to your terms," Killian holds his hand out.

"Excellent." Emma closes the few feet between them. She grabs his hand firmly, giving it a strong shake, which seems to have taken the commander by surprise. He hides the surprise with smirk before bringing her hand to his lips, brushing a kiss across the back of her

"Now, we've been in the open for far too long I'm sure there's somewhere private we can discuss strategy," Captain Locksley points out.

"Quite right. Lead the way," Jones motions to the path up the mountain. Leo and Emma walk side by side up the mountain with the group trailing behind them.

"What do you think of them?" Emma whispers to her brother.

"Well they didn't kill us on sight or take us to Regina, so could've gone worse," Leo shrugs.

"Do you trust them?" Emma asks, still uneasy about using mercenaries.

"You're asking this now? After you've agreed to work with them?" he gives her an incredulous look.

"Oh, shut up. It's fair question to ask and frankly Lance is right we don't have time to be snobs, we'll need all the help we can get," she sighs.

"Fair enough, but be cautious until proven otherwise," Leo warns her. Emma nods.

The Commander catches up with Emma, "I'm afraid I don't know what to call you," he admits.

"I told you Emma is just fine, Commander," she tells him and Leo chuckles.

"Well see you're royalty. I cannot go around calling you by your given name it wouldn't be right. My poor mother would be rolling over in her grave if she knew I wasn't addressing royalty properly," Commander Jones rambles on and Emma raises her eyebrow.

"Since I technically have my old title still, you can call me Your Highness or Princess if it bothers you so much, Commander," she says with a smirk.

"Yes, Princess," he smirks, and he has this glimmer in his eyes that tells Emma he will be nothing but trouble. He falls back in line with his men and Leo gives Emma a knowing look.

"Oh, this just got more interesting," he chuckles. Emma gives him a questioning look.

"Why do you say that?" Leo squints at her. Did she really not understand what that interaction with the Commander was? Did she not notice when a man when flirting with her? His sister could be very dense when she wanted to be.

"If you can't see it then it won't do me any good to tell you," he tells her, and Emma just shakes her head. Leo always got like this when he knew something she didn't. Frankly she has too many other things to worry about other than why her brother is being a smug ass.

It doesn't take them much longer to reach the house. Granny has muffins waiting for them claiming they must be hungry after their journey. The mercenaries look surprised by this kindness, but don't refuse Granny somehow already knowing she isn't to be denied.

They all gather around the wooden kitchen table; the mercenaries gather at one end and Emma takes head of the table. Lancelot leans in to whisper to Emma, "we need to talk after." Emma nods acknowledging him.

"Do you have maps of the castle? We need to get a layout of what kind of fight this will be," Jones starts them off. Lancelot turns to Granny who is already retrieving several scrolls of parchment from the kitchen pantry. Jones looks to Emma blinking in surprise. Emma just shrugs, not entirely surprised that the maps have been entrusted to Granny, no one would dare cross her. Leo looks to the old woman in surprise.

"Lancelot was saving men in the castle that night and I had to retrieve some key items to make sure the Evil Queen never got them," Granny says laying the scrolls on the table.

"Are these all the maps of the castle? Widow Lucas, I could kiss you right now," Killian says in awe. Emma swears she can see a slight blush in Granny's cheeks.

"Yes, boy. I didn't leave any map behind," Granny says returning to the kitchen to mind something in a pot on the stove. The group unrolls the scrolls and tells the mercenaries about each map. They work throughout day discussing strategy, weapons, and potential battle situations. The group rarely breaks for more than the occasional cup of tea. With the sun disappearing beneath the horizon Granny finally stops them when she announces dinner will be ready soon and the table better be cleared for it. With the smell of stew in the air the men spring into action clearing the table quickly leaving Emma and Red to set the table. The group eats quickly and quietly. After their long day many of them are sleepy and Leo actually falls asleep at the table. Emma stands placing her hand on Leo's shoulder shaking him gently. He jolts awake rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

"It's time to call it a night. We've made good progress today, but I think we'll all be better with fresh, well rested eyes in the morning," Emma tells the room. Those who are awake enough nod their heads in agreement. Granny approaches Emma.

"I'm afraid we only have two beds for the mercenaries," Granny says quietly.

"Oh okay. We'll figure something out. Give me a minute," Emma tells her, searching for Commander Jones. Him and his men are huddled in a corner talking amongst themselves. When Emma approaches, they stop talking immediately.

"I'm afraid there are only two open beds for you and your captains," Emma tells them apologetically.

"No matter, we will make do. Won't be the first time Scarlet here has slept on floor." Jones chuckles at Scarlet's protests.

"You won't want to hear him complain in the morning; do you have some spare blankets for him?" Captain Locksley asks.

"Granny knows more about this house than I do I'm afraid. I'm sure she can wrestle up something for Captain Scarlet here," she smiles before running off to find Granny.

"Killian, this could still be a terrible idea," Locksley mutters to Jones.

"Oh, come now Robin, we have certainly taken worse jobs with this. The last one there was an actual sea monster," Jones reassures him. Emma walks back with Granny catching the end of his sentence.

"No creatures of the deep here, but that's not to say we might not have our own creatures running about," Emma tells them with a faint smile and Granny glares at her before turning to the mercenaries.

"Which one of you needs blankets?" she asks gruffly. Will raises his hand she leads him down the hallway in search of some bedding for him. Not long after Emma sees Lance searching for her and she wants to avoid another lecture from him, so she bids goodnight to the mercenaries and vanishes to her room before Lance can catch her.

The next morning Lancelot is waiting for Emma outside her room. She sighs upon seeing him.

"Hoping I'd forget?" Lancelot asks her with a knowing smile.

"No, I knew that would be impossible. I was hoping you'd wait until after I'd ate at least," she scoffs, and he just shakes his head.

"You should be addressed as Queen or Your Majesty, not Princess or Your Highness. You are the rightful sovereign of Misthaven you cannot be addressed as Princess. You are the Queen and you need to start acting like it," Lance lectures her.

"When we have the throne and a crown is placed upon my head, I'll be queen until then you need to cut it with the bullshit. If I was truly queen, we would not be in this situation. By order of succession and my royal blood, yes, I should on the throne, but I'm not," she says getting angrier and angrier with each word.

"Do you feel better?" Lance asks her with a raised eyebrow and Emma shakes her head, "We're going to spar you need to work this out, go change." Emma nods and turns back into her room. A few minutes later Emma emerges in black leather pants, a white tunic and a blue vest with her sword strapped to her waist. Lance is waiting for her in the small grassy area in front of the house. Emma ties her hair back.

"Are you ready?" he asks sword in hand. Emma smiles before unsheathing her own sword, "Now, I am," she says with that competitive gleam in her eye. They charge at each other and the clang of their swords filling the small enclosure. Fighting they fall into a familiar dance. Lance and her father taught her how to defend herself and wield a sword. At first it was to prepare Emma for a potential attack, but then they found out she actually liked sword fighting and moved on to more advanced techniques. Since then she has had at minimum weekly sparring sessions with either Lance or father. With the raising morning sun, they both work up a sweat their moves becoming more aggressive.

"Feeling better, now?" Lance asks her, as they take a step back, assessing each other trying to determine each other's next move.

"No. If my parents wanted a babysitter, they wouldn't have picked you," she snaps, moving forward their swords clashing once again.

"You need guidance more than you can imagine," he snaps back, both of them breathing hard; faces inches from each other.

"Guidance would be fine. You're supposed to be my advisor not my father," she says managing to maneuver his sword out of his hand and onto the grassy ground. Emma can see the hurt look in his eyes, but he was out of line this morning and he needs to know it. She has a lot of important decisions to make and she cannot be worried about whether or not her advisor is coddling her and worrying about trivial things such as titles in war time.

The front door bursts open revealing a shocked Commander Jones, "what the bloody hell is going on here?" Scarlet's head peeking out behind him from the doorway. The commander in his black tight, fighting leathers. Emma can't help, but to run her eyes over him and his evident physique underneath all that leather.

Emma turns to face him with a smile and triumph in her face, "Come now Commander, you've never seen a woman fight?"

"Certainly not a queen, who can disarm a former knight," he says with a cocky grin, moving closer to them. Lancelot clears his throat and Emma glares at him.

"Lancelot, if you truly believe I'm a queen without a throne then you should follow my orders when I tell you to drop the issue," she practically snarls at him. Lance nods and silently picks up his sword.

"Whatever battle plan are made, Commander. I insist on being included," Emma tells him.

"I have to assess the skills of anyone who intends on being part of my army," he says, his eyes not so subtly racking down her body.

"By all means pick up a sword, Commander," she challenges him and Killian shrugs. Lancelot shakes his head, backing up in order to give them some space.

"Oh, I was hoping you'd say that," he comments before unsheathing his sword. They move slowly in circle, clearly both assessing each other and their movements. Moving closer and closer until Killian makes the first move, Emma deflecting him with a simple flick of her wrist then makes a move of her own. It takes a little effort on Killian's part to ward off her advances. He had definitely underestimated her, and she smirks.

"You're going to have to try hard than that," she scoffs, and he frowns. The clash of their swords begin to fill the grove and a small crowd gathers to watch.

"Looks like we have an audience," Killian says with a jerk of his head and she just smiles.

"They're in for a treat then soon they'll see me defeat you," she teases the competitive edge in her voice

"Oh, is that true, Your Majesty?" he asks before advancing once again. She frowns at what he calls her, but wards off his advances once again.

A bead of sweat trickles down the side of his face. Liam always warned him against not judging a book by their cover and he was right. Even though she was royalty she could fight better than some, if not most of his men. But he had finally spied his opening, her footwork was getting a little sloppy under this unrelenting sun, sweat glistening on her forehead.

He surges ahead quicker than he had in a while causing her to trip over her own feet falling backward, some in the crowd gasping. Emma holds her own against him even flat on her back.

"You know there are much more enjoyable things I prefer to do with a woman on her back," Killian winks at her, keeping his voice low so the crowd doesn't hear him. He's able to flick the sword out of her hand. Killian stands over her, one leg on either side of her.

"I'm sure you do Commander," she purrs, eyeing the sword now pointed at her chest before making eye contact with him.

"Do you surrender?" he asks triumphant. There is a malicious tint in her eyes that he certainly doesn't like.

"Never," she snarls before bringing her legs up forcefully. Killian groans before falling to the ground. Emma snatches his sword that he dropped on his fall and points it at him.

"Surrender?" she asks sweetly.

"Oh, you fight dirty. That was bad form, Your Majesty," he groans, his eyes squeezed shut.

"Commander, I was taught to do whatever it takes to survive, not good form," she smirks.

"Aye, I surrender and anyone who has bested me gets to call me Killian," he says making eye contact with him. Emma stabs his sword into the grass near his head.

"Alright, Killian. You have to call me Emma then," she orders, hands on hips. He props himself on his elbows.

"Not a chance. There have been a lot of changes for your life that may be difficult I'll grant you that and accepting your parents have gone is a terrible burden, but you have the grace and command of a Queen. Title or not, crown or not, so it will be Your Majesty," Emma rolls her eyes at this, "I'll include you in the battle plans it'd be a waste not to use you."

"What a waste indeed," she nods then walks off, leaving Killian on the ground. There are a few claps from the crowd, and she smiles at this, shaking her head. Will gives her a hearty clap on the back, commenting that it had been a while since their commander has been knocked on his ass. Leo catches her gaze and shakes his head.

"What?" she asks when she approaches him.

"Oh nothing, just watching this unfold," he smirks, and she squints at him. Leo just retreats into the house before she can ask another question. Lance finds her, "Even the mercenary agrees with me." Emma is uneasy with the fact that he could see through her so easily, could see that she was avoiding the title because it meant her parents were gone. They barely knew each other, but he could tell all of that.

"Fine, you win," she grumbles before moving into the house. Granny is waiting with refreshments and food for them. Red and Leo share a look when Killian returns Emma's sword to her and she mutters a quick thank you. She glares at them, but before she can say anything, they return to planning their attack on the castle.

"We have a few questions to start," Killian says once they have all settled. Emma nods signaling for him to continue, "Do you know how Regina will have organized her forces?" Killian asks and Emma turns to Lance.

"It was utter chaos at first, but as we were slipping out, she was organizing men on every entrance she knew about. I have no idea about guard changes or just how many men she has," Lance shrugs, wishing they knew more. Killian looks to Will, who knowing what he has to do.

"Captain Scarlet will be leaving today then. He knows many people that can help us get more information on her forces," Killian tells them.

"Your Majesty, you said you want her off the throne. How do you want to do that, imprisonment or perhaps…" Robin trails off, leaving the implication hanging in the air. Emma feels all the eyes in the room on her.

"I'll make this exceptionally clear; I want the Evil Queen dead. I wouldn't mind killing her myself. I'm not that picky though anyone can do it," she says calmly. The room is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Leo's first to speak, "Emma, you can't mean that."

"Of course, I do! Leo, the whole reason we are in this mess is because our mother and father couldn't kill her the first time around. I won't let her threaten this family anymore," Emma snaps. Leo was sweet, caring, but above all idealistic. Just like their mother. God he even looked like her with his dark, almost black hair. His softer disposition and charm always came from her. He got their father's eyes and jawline, however.

"Mother and Father would've never done this. They wouldn't want you to do even entertain this thought. We should imprison her again," Leo says shocked.

"It's exactly why they're dead. They cursed her instead of killing her. She terrorized them for years. You didn't see their bodies; you didn't see the gaping hole in our mother's chest because that bitch ripped her heart out. I won't go through all of this just to be afraid she might attack again. I won't live with that kind of fear," she says the anger rolling off her in waves. Leo looks like he was slapped in the face. He clenches his jaw and Emma can tell he's trying not to cry. He's young, too young to have to deal with this. He's only nineteen years of age.

"They wouldn't want you to be murderer," he says in almost a whisper.

"It's too late for that. Three black knights entered my chambers that night and I killed each of them. If they didn't want me to be that than they should've done something about her," Emma says cool rage in voice. She loved her parents and as much as she wanted to mourn them, right now she couldn't. She was angry, so angry that they left her in this situation. Leo opens his mouth to say something else, but then shuts it again. Without saying another word, he storms out of the house. Red head snaps to Emma.

"That was a low blow and you know it. He loved your mother," she says sharply.

"And I didn't? He needed to hear that, and you know it. I won't make the same mistakes they did," she says just as harshly. Red shakes her head before running out after Leo. The door shuts and the room falls quiet again. Granny just places a hand on her shoulder and gives it a squeeze.

"Anyone else have a problem with it?" Emma asks looking around the table.

"We have no qualms about killing her. You're paying for our services after all, you should get what you want," Killian says, understanding in his eyes like he knows her. It's unnerving given the short time they've known each other.

"Good, any more questions?" she asks.

"Oh, many more, Your Majesty. Get comfortable we'll be here for a while," Killian tells her. They sit at that table for hours. Will is sent away around midday to get more information. He makes his goodbyes quick. Leo and Red rejoin them after a while. Both of them still angry with Emma. She can deal with their anger.

After dinner that night Leo runs off to his room without a word to anyone, Emma sighs. She should talk to him, to explain herself better. They don't have time for internal conflict. They need to be a united front, but that is problem that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Emma walks out into the grove for some fresh air and to escape all the people in the house. No moon in the sky tonight she walks over to the edge of the mountain cliff, looking out over the kingdom. Small spots of light could be seen far away, and she hoped Regina hasn't truly hurt her people yet.

A twig snaps and her head swivels around, her hand on her sword strapped to her waist to spot none other than Killian who is a holding a flask. She takes her hand off when she realizes who it is.

"I mean no harm I just figured you'd want a drink after today," he says holding out the flask. She smiles, gladly taking it from him.

"I do, you just startled me," she says before taking a swig from the flask. She recognized the liquor as rum as it burned her throat on the way down. They both look over the view and Emma takes another swig before handing the flask back to him. He takes a hearty gulp.

"Regretting taking this job yet?" she asks him.

"No, not at all. In fact, the more I learn the more intrigued I become. There are a lot of factors at play here," he tells her.

"Even though I injured you today," a blush raising in her cheeks.

"Well as unpleasant as that was, I realized you are quite willing and able to fight for your people even if that means fighting dirty. Most royalty pays me to do their dirty work, you're different," he shrugs.

"I've never been one to delegate efficiently. I enjoy the hard work, unlike most royals I'm not content letting people do my work," she says standing straighter.

"You'll make a great queen for that fact alone," he tells her, looking into her jade green eyes. Emma shakes her head.

"Maybe so. Although the people will have to accept a murderer on the throne," she sighs.

"Ah well. You won't be the first or the last. Many have killed their way toward the throne by killing their own family, you haven't done that. Most importantly you were defending yourself. Your brother may have moral objections to our plan, but it's the smartest plan for your family's future. He'll come around," Killian tells her.

"Do you often give such sage advice to all your clients, Commander?" Emma asks before taking a swig from the flask once again.

"No, just the beautiful queens," he smirks, "I thought I told you to call me Killian." He takes another swig from the flask as well.

"Well you won't call me Emma, so really it's only fair," she says holding her head high and he chuckles.

"It would be improper to, you're the queen," he mutters, and Emma can see a slight blush in his cheeks.

"How about I make you a deal? You call me Emma in private and Your Majesty or whatever in front of the others and I will do the same," she offers, hopefully.

"Only if you tell me why this is important to you," he says, looking directly into her eyes.

"It's just that we were always informal in court, much to Lancelot's dismay and the title makes me feel more important than I am, which is ridiculous. Everyone is important in some way or another," she shakes her head.

"Ah I see. You're wrong, you rule your people you do have more value than they do because you will make the hard decisions. It's not a bad thing," he shrugs. The commander has surprised Emma again. It's certainly not what she wants to hear, but the truth. Far more than most royals hear.

"Thank you for your honesty. So, you take the deal?" she asks.

"Certainly not, Your Majesty," a look of shock crosses her face, "I told you about my poor mother rolling in her grave if I would address you improperly. I can't have that now," he smirks, and she rolls her eyes.

"I guess not, Commander," she says with a mischievous smile on her face, one Killian is sure will get him in trouble. There is a moment where she swears, he leans in slightly and he might just kiss her. Emma wouldn't stop him if he did. He's a handsome, strong man who has a set of values despite his less than reputable line of work. Something stops him from kissing her however Killian bids her goodnight before heading inside. Emma spends a few more minutes looking at the view and what might have been before heading inside as well.

The next morning Emma looks for Leo before their strategy meeting. Emma needs to apologize to him. What she said last night was harsh and as his sister she should apologize. She finds him outside with a bow and a sheath of arrows aiming at one of the trees.

"Leo," she greets him, and he ignores her, "I deserve that after yesterday, but just listen." Leo knocks another arrow on his bow and continues practicing.

"I shouldn't have said any of that last night. It was wrong of me and I am sorry," she exhales. Leo fires his arrow and it finds its spot in the middle of the tree across the grove. He turns to look at her, hurt in his eyes.

"It was all true and you're not going to change your plans," he states.

"No, I'm not, but I shouldn't have said it like that. I won't make the same mistakes as our parents. I'm sure I'll make brand new mistakes, but not this one. I won't have it be the reason for my death or leave my future children in this situation," she says calmly.

"They wouldn't like it," he shakes his head.

"No, they wouldn't, but they also aren't here. I understand this is hard for you, but I need you with me," she says, and Leo looks bewildered.

"Emma, I'm your brother, I am always with you. I just think there is a better way to do this. I forgive you by the way, none of this is easy for anyone us," he tells her before dropping the bow and bringing her into a hug.

"I'm so damn angry," she mutters, and he rubs her back.

"I know you are," he tells her. They pull apart and Leo gives her that particular look she hates more than anything else, his all-knowing look.

"Okay what? You need to spit it out," she sighs.

"Was that future children comment in reference with a certain dashing, charming commander?" Leo asks with a teasing look.

"What? No, why would you say that?" Emma says, blinking several times in confusion.

"Oh please. Emma, you cannot be that blind. You have to see the way he looks at you," Leo says exacerbated.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she brushes off the comment. It's a lie, however. Last night in the grove she thought that they were going to kiss, but they didn't. It was the rum; she blames it on the rum.

"Sure, you don't," Leo says, knowing better than to push his sister on this issue.

Later on, they gather at the dining room table to strategize for most of the day and into the night.

"There are many legends and myths of her powers, do you know the true extent of them?" Killian asks the candlelit table.

"There are many, many things she can do," Red tackles the question, "She can summon fireballs and throw them at you. She can be in one place then transport herself in a purple cloud to another. She is a master of spells, a varied range of them really, but she is famous for the sleeping curse that she used on Snow. She is dangerous and lethal." The room fell silent during her explanation.

"What about her fighting abilities? Will she fight on the battlefield?" Robin asks her.

"She relies solely on her magic, but her fireballs could prove to be an issue if she comes to the battlefield, but that's highly unlikely," Red tells them.

"What makes you say that?" Lance asks her, curious.

"She's not as strong as she used to be, so I don't think she'll be where the fighting is the worst," Red shrugs, before making eye contact with Emma, who is frowning at her. With that look Emma understands all too well how Red knows this.

"How?" Killian asks looking from Red to Emma, understanding there is nonverbal communication going on between the two women.

"You haven't told them?" Red asks, looking at Lance and Emma then Leo, who shrugs.

"That is your story to tell," Emma states. Killian and Robin are waiting for a response.

"I could tell them," Red says with a wolfish grin and Emma laughs.

"Yeah, but you like showing off," Emma grins back at her.

"Ladies, we're waiting," Killian says, slightly strained. Red grins, moving into the kitchen more and nods to Leo, who stands and removes Red's cloak. Red transforms and stands in the kitchen as a wolf with Granny shaking her head, mumbling about how her kitchen was not the place for that. Robin's jaw is on the floor and Killian looks to Emma.

"Didn't think you should have mentioned this before, Your Majesty?" Killian asks her and she smirks.

"As I said before, not my story to tell," she shrugs. Red nods again and Leo covers her with the cloak once more. Red becomes a woman once again the group looks away while she adjusts her clothes.

"As I was saying, she isn't as strong as she once was at the height of her power. With my unusual abilities I can smell things the human nose cannot. Everyone has their own scent and when someone has magic there is a particular smell to it. I don't think she has as much magic as she used to. She smelled different during the night of the siege. That curse must have weakened her," Red explains.

"I trust your nose, Lady Red. I think this will be enough information to actually start moving," Killian says looking to Robin who nods.

"What do you mean, Commander?" Emma asks, unsure.

"I'm saying as soon as tomorrow we can be marching our way back to my forces," Killian says with a smile. Emma nods, but becomes solemn quickly after realizing she could lose some of the people in this room and that thought alone makes her uneasy.

"Then I believe we can adjourn for the night," she commands, and everyone nods before going to their rooms for the night. Emma and Killian walk side by side to their rooms.

"What were you thinking before we adjourned?" Killian asks her. Emma stops walking to look at him and he stops as well.

"That many of us will die and I don't know if I can handle losing anyone else," she says quietly. His gaze feels like something she's never felt before, like he's peeking into her soul.

"That may happen, and it may not. I would be prepared for the worst," he tells her softly. She nods and he walks her to her door before bidding her goodnight. Killian takes her hand in his and brings it to his lips. After dropping her hand, he nods and walks away. It takes Emma a minute or two to gather her thoughts before going into her room. Commander Jones is testing her resolve in more ways than one.

Chapter Text

The next morning there is palpable tension in the air at breakfast. Maybe it was the sense of impending doom or that fact that this would probably be the last time they would all be in the same place together. Either way there was an uneasy feeling in Emma’s stomach. Before they finish Lance turns to her.

“There is one piece of council business we need to take care of before we leave,” Lance tells her.

“What?” she asks, unsure what they could possibly need to take care of right now.

“You need to choose who will be on your council, officially. The council has to be revised with each monarch,” Lance informs her.

“Oh well of course you, Leo, August can be head knight, Red, and the dwarves,” Emma shrugs, not being able to change much about the council as it stands. The people in this room are the only people she trusts. Everyone besides the mercenaries and Emma stands.

“Long live the Queen! Long live the Queen!” Leo begins chanting and the others join in. Emma swears out of the corner of her eye she can see Killian join in as well.

Not long after they clean up and assemble all their supplies. It doesn’t take them long to set off on their journey to the rest of Killian’s troops. Emma and August manage to fall into step with each other.

“I know you were uneasy about the mercenaries, but I think you're doing the what’s best for the kingdom,” August reassures her.

“Do you think my parents would agree?” She asks, unsure how one of her closest friends knew this was worrying her.

“Maybe not your father, but your mother would.” August says truthfully. It’s always something she admired about him, his sometimes brutal honesty. It was better than any white lie.

“She definitely would, but do you trust them?” She asks as they approach the forest, lowering her voice slightly.

“Ah well trust is earned isn’t it? Currently they’re motivated by money, but they could be good men. My trust isn’t important here,” he shrugs.

“Oh no? Then who’s is?”

“Yours of course. Emma, you have to accept you’re our Queen now.” He lowers his voice, “this will all be difficult, but I wouldn’t want anyone else leading us.”

“I know that! Why does everyone feel the need to tell me that? I know I’m Queen, but I’m also a daughter who just lost her parents. They died less than a month ago. That’s not something you adjust to overnight. Especially when they were murdered and their murderer sits on the throne,” she hisses at him attempting to keep her voice down.

“You two keep up!” Killian shouts from the front of the group. Emma hasn’t even realized that they had fallen behind from the rest of the group. Lance looks back them an eyebrow raised in concern. Emma shakes her head and they catch up to the group.

“I’m sorry. I think we are all so focused on regaining the throne that is rightfully yours that the other details get lost sometimes,” August mutters as they reach the group.

“I understand.” She says curtly, effectively ending the conversation. That night they find a clearing for all of them to sleep next to a stream. Emma is too restless to sleep. She tries for a couple hours before making August give up his guard shift, so she can watch over them. With the steady trickle of the stream behind them and the occasional sound of other animals stirring in the forest it almost feels peaceful, but then Emma remembers what is waiting for her. War and possibly death. It’s mostly anger that courses through her veins keeping her awake. Killian rises from his sleep and looks surprised to see her instead of August.

“What?” She asks, eyebrow raised. Killian sits on a patch of grass next to her.

“Most queens who hire me don’t stay up for guard shifts,” he comments, keeping his voice low as to not wake the others.

“Most don’t know how to handle a sword either,” she snorts, keeping her voice quiet as well.

“This is also true. Why do you?” He asks his curiosity getting the best of him.

“The Evil Queen plagued my parents long before they had me and into my youth. That made them look over their shoulder, made them slightly paranoid but always prepared. When I was old enough to hold a sword, my parents decided I should know how to use it. My mother spent years on the run, and they claimed you never knew what could happen. Also, I never could sit still, so I think my mother thought it would use up some of my endless energy,” she chuckles.

“Did it?” He asks before he can stop himself.

“No, not even close, but it made me strong and able to defend myself when it was needed.” She shrugs.

“My brother would’ve liked you,” he chuckles softly. The sadness and past tense catch her off guard.

“Was he a mercenary with you?” She asks carefully.

“No, he’d probably hate what I am now. We served together in the navy; he was my captain. He was all about honor and duty,” he sighs. The more Emma learns about Commander Jones the more she wants to know. He’s certainly an interesting man.

“I’m sorry for your loss. I wouldn’t worry about what he thinks of what you do. Stories of mercenaries I’ve heard have always made them seem like ruthless, money hungry men and you don’t seem like that, I don’t think he’d hate it as much as you think,” she says kindly.

“What do I seem like then?” His eyes search hers for the answer.

“A man who’s trying his best to use his skill set in this world. A man despite being for hire still believes in good form,” she says softly.

“That’s awfully kind of you, Your Majesty.” He says the slightest blush crossing his cheeks.

“Only my observations,” she says denying his compliment.

“When was the last time you truly slept?” He asks bluntly. She gaps at him slightly before snapping her mouth shut.

“The night before we met and that was only because Granny forced me,” she tells him honestly, why she doesn’t tell him it’s none of his business she’ll never understand. Sleep has evaded her the nights since the siege on the castle, perhaps it was seeing both of her parents’ bodies, perhaps it was the fact that her kingdoms fate now sat squarely on her shoulders.

“Far too long for Misthaven’s Queen. Try and get some rest, Your Majesty. If you truly cannot sleep, I’ll be here to keep you company,” he tells her. There’s something in his eyes telling her that he understands her pain. Perhaps he does after all he’s lost a brother, if she ever lost Leo she could never recover from that kind of pain.

“Fine,” She grumbles somewhat reluctantly. He just nods. Emma carefully makes it back to her cot, looking at the commander one last time before lying down. Perhaps she could trust him, only time will tell. Emma closes her eyes and the sounds of the river carry her off to sleep sooner than she thought possible.

The next morning Emma feels rest for the first time since the mercenaries joined them. The motley group continues their way through the forest and to the coast. The spring is surprisingly warm for this time of year causing Emma and most of the group to shed some of their layers.

However, their warm and peaceful journey comes to an end when arrows fly through the air. One arrow lodged into the tree where Emma’s head was just a moment ago. August tackles Emma to the ground and keeps her down.

“Dammit, August. I can help them,” she practically growls at him, trying to get free.

“I know you can, but the kingdom needs you alive,” he snaps back at her. She turns her head to see Killian fiercely fighting the Black Knight who was advancing toward Leo who was gladly taking out knights with his bow. Emma rolls her eyes the only reason she’s stuck here is because she’s a goddamn woman. She’s tired of this bullshit. She brings one of her legs up between August’s legs. He groans rolling off her.

Emma mumbles her apology before leaping up and fighting the Black Knight closest to her. She easily kills him with a few blows and her sword puncturing the space between his ribs. She helps her knights and the mercenaries take down the Black Knights. Killian and Emma end up back surveying their enemy at one point.

“Not one to shy from a fight I see,” he comments, slightly out of breath.

“Never, Commander. The only person who saves me is me,” she smiles before pushing off of him and charging her next victim. He simply chuckles and shakes his head before joining the fighting once again. It doesn’t take long after that for the last of the Black Knights to be disposed of. All of them stand in forest looking from one to the other slightly out of breath. Emma sets her sight on August before marching over to him.

“This war will take every single one of us to win it. I don’t give a damn what orders Lance has given you regarding my safety. I am your queen and I will not be shoved to the sidelines while my people bleed for me. Does anyone have a problem with that?” Emma turns looking at all of them, none challenges her. Her eyes land on Lancelot her gaze piercing him, making sure he understood she was not some damsel to be pushed to the side.

“Good. Anyone hurt?” She asks. There are a few minor scratches but for the most part they made it through unscathed.

After bandages are applied on those who need them, they continue on. They find another suitable clearing for the night and a few of the men go off to hunt dinner for the group. Lance stays behind and Emma knows he wants to talk to her.

“Don’t punish August for following orders.” Lance says sitting next to her as she starts their fire.

“I think my swift kick between his legs was punishment enough. Lance, we cannot fight a battle amongst ourselves in addition to Regina. I know you think you know what is best for me, but you need to back off. You and father trained me; you know what I am capable of. Also, the people need to see I’m willing to fight for them, for the throne.” Emma says with a sigh.

“It’s about time you told me to fuck off,” he says with a smile. Emma’s jaw clenches.

“This was a test?” Emma asks, annoyed.

“Yes, the transition between rulers is always rocky at first. You didn’t seem ready to take the lead quite yet and we all understood because you’ve been affected by the death of your parents, but you’re right the people need to see you fight for them. I had to push your buttons enough to force you into making some decisions of your own,” he shrugs. Emma would like nothing more to punch him in the face, but she’s knows he’s right. Emma knows pissing her off was probably the quickest way to get her to act.

“Don’t ever do that again. I am this kingdom’s Queen and you never would’ve pulled this shit with my mother. She wouldn’t have tolerated it, and neither will I,” she warns him.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Lance nods, with a prideful smile. Emma shakes her head and gets the kindling to catch at last.

Killian, August and Leo return with a few rabbits for a stew Granny is more than happy to whip up for them.

“Lancelot seems content to push you around,” Killian whispers as they eat dinner.

“He was testing me apparently. I gave him a proper scolding, nonetheless. He acts more like a father than anything else. All is well,” she whispers back.

“Good, you were right earlier,” when she gives him an inquisitive look he continues on, “this war will take all of us. Which brings me to another point. I know you weren’t keen on bribing some of the Evil Queens men, but it could be easier than killing them all.” He says quietly. She shakes her head. She probably couldn’t even pay him, not that he knows that, much less bribe others.

“I don’t think we’ll get far with that,” he looks perplexed by this, “her knights are controlled by her dark magic I don’t think they’ll be persuaded by a sack of gold,” she explains hoping that will throw him off bribing people.

“Ah well that does complicate things quite a bit. We’ll just have to be smart about this then. There are other ways,” he says, and Emma can practically see the gears testing in his head.

“Yes, there are, Commander,” she nods before returning her empty bowl to Granny.

The next day they finally meet up with Will on the outskirts of a seaside village. The mercenary envelopes Killian and Robin as if they were parted for months not a week. Although Emma has noticed the commander and his captains have a brotherhood of sorts one strengthened by battle, she’s sure.

Will leads them to a small camp he has set up a few miles outside of the village. He proceeds to tell him what he has learned in their time apart.

“The Evil Queen by all reports hasn’t spent much time in her newly acquired castle, she’s been searching the countryside for Emma and Leo. She’s furious they made it out alive. Anyone who might have been imprisoned is now dead from her attempting to torture the truth out of them. She hasn’t gone after villagers quite yet, but has promised the people prosperity under her rule. Despite this the people are resistant to her rule as they can be without being killed. There are whispers among the people that they are waiting for their true ruler to take her place on the throne. These whispers have enraged the Evil Queen and made her search for Emma and Leo even more urgent,” Will tells them.  

“Soon she'll try to draw you out by hurting the people when she gets tired of this search. The attack of her Black Knights will give her a clue you’re not content to hide out for the rest of her days,” Lance tells Emma. The group has their eyes on them. Emma nods solemnly.

“You lot have certainly been busy I take it,” Will says with an eyebrow raised.

“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Robin shrugs.

“Is the ship ready?” Killian asks Will, who nods.

“Ship?” Leo asks shocked.

“Aye, our forces are hidden about a day’s travel by sea from here,” Killian comments. Emma raises an eyebrow at this. There had been no mention of this.

“Not to worry, Your Majesty. The ship is just to cut down on travel time. This many people on foot takes an awful long time,” he assures her.

“Alright, Commander. Let get moving then,” she nods. Killian turns to Will, “You heard her, get your shit together.” Will grumbles, but quickly rolls up his cot and assembles his small pack. The mercenaries lead the group to a beautiful ship at the docks. It’s quite the vessel.

“The Jolly Roger, Your Majesty.”

“Commander, I believe this takes a crew to sail and there only three of you. I’m assuming you’ll need assistance with your ship,” Emma says as he assists her into the ship.

“If your men wouldn’t mind, it would be greatly appreciated,” he says with a twinkle in his blue eyes.

“I’ll gladly lend them for our journey, but they will require some instruction. Misthaven has a strong army, not a navy I’m afraid,” she tells him.

“I suspected as much, Robin, Will, and I can do most of the heavy lifting. We’ll just need a few hands here and there,” he says, “now allow me to lead you to your cabin,” he says offering her his arm. Emma rolls her eyes at his formality, but accepts his arm, nonetheless.

Killian leads her down the hatch, down the stairs and through a dimly lit hallway. They stop at a door which he opens for her. The room has large windows in which the dazzling sunset can be seen through. There is a small bookshelf and bed against one wall, along with a dining table in the middle and a desk in one corner.

“This has to be the captain’s cabin,” she says surprised walking through the space.

“Aye, that it is.” He nods.

“I can’t stay here. This is your cabin,” she says shaking her head.

“Nonsense, I’ll be up most of the night sailing the ship. Someone should have use of this cabin and I can’t have royalty sleeping in the crew’s quarters with the rest of the men,” Killian insists.

“Oh, then where is Leo sleeping? He’s royalty as well,” she crosses her arms, challenging him.

“He has the cabin, next door. Not nearly as nice as this one, but privacy and a better bed than the crew’s quarters,” he says without hesitation as if he was ready for this rebuff.

“Very well then. I never thanked you for when we were attacked you protected Leo. I saw you put yourself between him and danger. It means a lot to me. He’s the only true family I have left,” she says, her voice shaking slightly at the end. She pulls herself together quickly.

“Of course, Your Majesty. You’ve hired me to protect you and fight for you. I also know the pain of losing a brother I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” silence fills the room as they survey each other for a minute, “Now, I have ship to sail. If you are need of anything come find me at once. We should be at my forces by midday tomorrow,” he says quickly.

“Very well, Commander,” she nods, and he makes his way out.

“Will you ever call me Killian?” He asks her, his hand on the handle of the door.

“Not until you call me Emma,” she says with a smirk. He simply shakes his head before leaving the cabin.

Emma gets her few things unpacked in the cabin before heading to the galley to see how Granny and Red are settling in. The ship lurches out of the small bay while Emma is walking, almost causing her to fall over. She’s definitely a little uneasy about being on the ocean.

“Ah there you are. I was beginning to wonder where Commander Jones whisked you off to,” Red says with her wolfish grin.

“No whisking just showed me where my cabin was,” Emma shrugged, and Granny just scoffs.

“Mhm, sure thing,” Red just shakes her head. However, when Red catches a glance at Emma’s face her eyes go wide.

“Are you telling me that you two aren’t...?” Red trails off, shocked.

“Aren’t what?” Emma asks confused, “Why does everyone keep looking at me like that?”

“Red, let her figure it out on her own,” Granny scolds her.

“No, Leo keeps giving me those looks too. I need to know what all these looks are about,” Emma says resisting her urge to stomp her foot.

“Emma, you really haven’t noticed how Commander Jones looks at you?” Red asks softly and Emma blushes at this, “The pheromones are practically rolling off the two of you when you’re in the same room.” Red says with an all-knowing look.

“That is not what is important right now,” Emma says shaking her head. Leo walks in just then.

“What isn’t important?” he asks looking between the three women.

“Emma’s love life,” Granny chuckles before she turns to peel some potatoes for tonight’s dinner. A grin crosses Leo’s face.

“Ah you mean Emma and the commander,” he teases.

“Just stop all of you. We’re in the middle of a war right now. This is not the time for this,” Emma sighs.

“Your mother and father met while your mother was an outlaw, there is no time like the present,” Red shrugs and Leo nods.

“It’s like everyone knows, but the two of you,” Leo snorts.

“Just like your parents then,” Red says with you-know-you-want-him-look. Emma just shakes her head and storms out of the room. Emma is fully aware of how the commander looks at her, sometimes she returns the look. Nothing can come of this. Nothing can come of the stares and the flirting and that almost kiss. She’s fighting with everything she has to get her kingdom back, to avenge her parents’ deaths. There isn’t time for love. Lost in thought she ends up not knowing where she is on the ship. Emma has to wander around for a few minutes before finding a way on deck. Before she can go on deck however, she hears a whispered conversation that causes her to stop in her tracks.

“Killian, I still think this job is a bad idea,” Will says, his voice low.

“I know you do. As I told you we’ll be fine, we always are. Once we’re paid, you’ll forget all about this,” Killian whispers.

“Yeah that’s not the only reward you’ll be getting is it?” Will snaps.

“What the hell are you going on about?” Killian practically hisses at his captain.

“I’ve noticed how close you are with the queen, we all have,” Will scoffs. There’s a moment of silence.

“Close? What on earth are you talking about?” Killian asks.

“Oh, you can’t be that daft,” Robin’s voice interjects, “We’ve all seen you two together. The yearning looks exchanged,” Emma knows she should not be listening to this conversation right now, but she cannot seem to pull herself away.

“There’s not yearning lo-, I- we have more important things to do here,” Killian says quickly before stomping off.

“If we die at the hands of a magic wielding, evil queen all for a dame I’ll come back just to kill him,” Will sighs and Robin just chuckles. The two men walk away, but Emma is rooted to the spot. Was Leo right being Killian and her the last people to notice what was going on between them? Emma shakes her head. Her people need her, they need the rightful Queen. They need a Queen that puts her people’s needs over her own.

Emma manages to find her way back to her own cabin that night and skips dinner all together to avoid Red, which was a mistake because it just makes Red bring her a plate anyway. Her aunt doesn’t say a word, just gives her a smile and the food. Both of which Emma is grateful for. She couldn’t take talking about what is running around in her head right now. After quickly eating Emma falls asleep quickly in the surprisingly soft bed.

When Emma wakes next the sun hasn’t risen yet, but from the shade of the sky, morning cannot be far off. She knows she will not be able to fall asleep again she dresses in a simple dress before going above deck, hoping to catch the sunrise. The only person on deck is Killian. He’s at the helm with the sea breeze in his hair. When he catches her gaze she can’t help, but to move toward him.

“We missed you at dinner, Your Majesty,” he comments as she ascends the stairs to helm.

“I wasn’t feeling well, Red was kind enough to bring me a plate,” she lies, looking around the small platform.

“Are you feeling alright now?” he asks, concern evident in his voice.

“Oh yes. I’m afraid I’m not used to being on a ship, just needed to adjust,” she says, not quite a lie, but definitely not the reason why she wasn’t at dinner.

“Happens more often than you think. One of the dwarves was positively green throughout the meal,” Killian chuckles. There’s a moment of silence where they both look out over the horizon. Emma inches toward the helm, toward Killian. She wants to see the ship from his view.

“You’re just in time for the sunrise, Your Majesty,” he says, and she jumps not realizing just how close she had got to him. Her hand was practically brushing his thigh. Emma knows she should move away. Really do anything else, but she can’t seem to help herself.

“Why do you call me that? The real reason please,” she whispers, looking into his deep blue eyes.

“To remind myself that you’re royalty and that there are some things that can never happen, no matter how much I want them to,” he tells her with a certain kind of longing in his eyes. She wants to move closer to him, but his words hit her as hard as any blow could. She turns away from him and grabs the railing of the ship. The sun is peeking over the horizon causing the sky to be a beautiful shade of orange that fades into a light blue.

“Of course, Commander,” she says, not turning back to look at him. Her hand glides over the beautiful wood of the ship as she walks back toward the stairs.

“Why- why do you call me that?” he asks her. On the first step of the stairs she turns back to face him.

“Because I’m stubborn,” she shrugs with a small smile, “It was a beautiful sunrise, Commander.” Emma turns away once again and returns to her cabin.

A couple hours later the ship comes to a complete stop and when Emma looks out the cabin windows, she can only see the cliff side. Curious as to what the commander is up to Emma heads up on deck. All the men including Leo are hard at work and Emma finds Red with a smirk on her face.

“What is going on? Are we there?” Emma asks her.

“No, according to Robin their camp is down the cavern,” Red says pointing to a small passageway nestled in the cliff side. It’s small and rocky, frankly it’s doubtful the ship is going to be able to pass through that. Emma looks to Killian as if he’s a deranged man. Killian just laughs when he catches the look on her face as the ship advances.

“What the fuck?” Emma calls out, raising her hands in defeat. Many of the people on deck who don’t know her are surprised by her profanity. Killian just chuckles at it. Will definitely mutters something along the lines of are you sure she’s the Queen? No one answers him though.

“Not to worry, I’ve done this a few times before, Your Majesty,” Killian calls back. Emma shakes her head, but continues to watch from her spot with Red. It takes almost an hour and all the sails are pulled in. When they somehow manage to maneuver through the cavern without so much as scratching the ship Emma is shocked. The cavern ends and reveals a large, beautiful lake complete with a dock and a few other ships, just waiting to be sailed. Emma is interested in lies past the dock, however. As far as the eye can see there is a camp set up that must hold thousands of men.

“Oh my god,” Emma mumbles under her breath. Red chuckles.

“Lance definitely picked the right man for the job,” Red says in awe and Emma can only nod. After the ship is docked Emma and her group gather all their belongings. Killian comes by the cabin and knocks on the door. Emma ushers him in. She cannot quite place the look on his face, but he’s nervously scratching his ear.

“Commander, what can I do for you?” she asks, carefully keeping an appropriate distance from him.

“I just wanted to warn you about the camp…” he trails off not quite looking at her.

“What about it?” she asks confused.

“Well my men of course obey my every order, but they will not take orders from outside my forces,” Killian says carefully. Understanding dawns on Emma.

“Oh, you’re telling me that your men will not obey my orders,” she says cutting to the chase.

“Yes,” he says a little relieved.

“Of course, they won’t listen to anyone but you otherwise they would not be your forces. Just because I’m royalty doesn’t mean I expect everyone to bow at my feet. Especially those who I have no authority over. Commander, you need not worry about me,” she shakes her head.

“You would be surprised by how other royalty treats my men then,” he sighs.

“Not surprised at all. Appalled by, definitely, but no not surprised,” she scoffs.

“I must say you surprise me at every turn,” he says with something akin to awe in his eyes.

“Someone has to keep you on your toes,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Indeed, Your Majesty,” he chuckles before leaving the cabin. When ready the group gathers on deck. The commander and his captains lead them into the heart of the camp. Killian commands them with grace and dignity. He orders new tents for Emma and the rest of her council. Even Lance looks slightly impressed with the mercenaries set up.

Once set up in Killian’s war tent they begin to strategize once again. Will has the information to better tell what the Evil Queen’s forces and they have to reshape the plans ever so slightly.

“Emma, are you sure you want to do this?” Leo asks her again. Emma’s jaw clenches.

“For the last time yes, I’m sure. I’m going to kill her,” Emma says jaw set. Leo’s disapproval is written all over his face, but he says nothing else. If they’re successful, if she gets on the throne then she’s not sure Leo will ever forgive her for what she has to do, but the fact of the matter is her brother doesn’t have to do it. She does. He can be idealistic, but she doesn’t have that luxury.

A bell tolls throughout the camp and the mercenaries sigh in relief, “That my friends, is the dinner bell. I don’t believe we have anything more to discuss. If there aren’t any objections, we should move out tomorrow,” Killian says looking around the table at all of them.

“I have none. It’s as good of a plan as it’s ever going to be,” Emma says with a tone of finality.

“Good let’s eat. I’m starving,” Will says getting up from the table. They follow the mercenaries to a huge field where all the soldiers are eating, drinking, and talking. A large, long table has been set up for them. Killian sits in the middle of it and directs Emma to sit by his side. Leo sits on her other and the rest of the council finds their seats. Red gives Emma an I-told-you-so look, that Emma ignores.

Once settled in Killian stands with a glass in hand. Immediately every single one of the soldiers falls silent. Their commander has their full undivided attention.

“As I’m sure you’ve heard tomorrow, we will be heading out to fight the Evil Queen,” there is some muttering, but Killian silences them with a look, “She is a terrible plague on this land and thinks she can rule this land. However, she has not met us, our forces, and bravery. We will show her the true power we possess. Rest well tonight for the path to victory will be difficult,” Killian says raising his glass. Everyone follows in pursuit. Once Killian takes his seat once again his men continue eating and talking. Emma stares at him in awe, he’s a natural leader more than he could ever realize. His men respect Killian and follow his commands to the very letter. Emma’s not quite sure how he has managed it, but he has managed it extremely well.

“Something on your mind, Your Majesty?” Killian asks her, breaking her train of thought.

“No, Commander,” Emma says, shaking her head. The rest of dinner is a rather uneventful affair. Red and Emma retire to their tents earlier than the rest of their group. Red slips her arms through Emma’s.

“I won’t push you on the subject of the commander, but I just want to say one last thing. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you fell in love. Your parents would be happy you found someone,” Red says softly. This brings tears to Emma’s eyes, for the simple fact that Red is right. Her parents only ever wanted her to be happy and find a love like they had. She nods, not trusting her own voice. Red squeezes her hand before walking away to her own tent. Emma walks back to her tent, not bothering to wipe away the tears.

The next morning the camp is a flurry of activity as soon as the sun rises. Supplies, food, and most importantly weapons are put into wagons. Emma, Leo, and Lancelot each get a horse for the journey. Killian, Robin, and Will lead their men out of the camp with Emma and her council not far behind them.

The spring day warms rather quickly with the sun beating down on the large traveling group. They don’t stop often because they need to cover as much ground as they can before the Evil Queen’s scouts spot them. Also, there is a lot of ground to cover between the camp and the castle. Later in the afternoon when they come across a large field with a nearby river Killian announces that they will be staying here for the night.

With surprising skill and efficiency, a temporary camp is established by Commander Jones’ men. By sunset Granny and several of the camp mothers are preparing dinner for everyone. To no one’s surprise Killian insists that Emma sit next to him again at dinner. No elegant wood carved table this time, just a spot next to him in the grass.

“I wanted to talk to you about something, if you don’t mind, Your Majesty,” he says carefully between bites of the stew.

“Of course, Commander,” she nods, signaling him to continue on.

“Will is still trying to pin down guard schedules and it would be helpful if we could bribe the head guard,” Killian says lowering his voice. Emma raises her eyebrow, not this again. She’s fairly certain she won’t be able to pay him let alone bribe others.

“This again, Commander. With what?” she asks, plainly. He just blinks at her a few times. “I mean I don’t have much to offer them that we don’t absolutely need. Not to mention the moment they get it they will run to the Evil Queen and tell her about our plans, it she doesn’t already know,” Emma says as calmly as she can muster.

“Excuse me what….?” he asks.

“The Evil Queen can remove your heart and crush it, or she can control you. What black magic spell did you think they were under? Do you really think any of her soldiers have their free will?” she asks him with an eyebrow raised. Killian’s jaw clenches.

“I’m not sure what I thought it was, but sure as hell not that!” he practically yells, “that would’ve been helpful to know.” Half of the camp turns their heads to look at them. Emma remains keeps her face emotionless, despite her annoyance at his outburst.

“Let’s talk about this in private,” Emma suggests quietly. Killian nods, before storming off to his tent. Emma suppresses the urge to roll her eyes at his behavior before following him into his tent. Emma remains composed while Killian paces around his tent.

“You didn’t think that was vital to mention when asked about her powers?!?” he asks exasperated.

“I wasn’t alive when she was at the height of her powers and didn’t see this for myself. At the time I forgot she had this power. None of us were omitting this on purpose it was genuine accident. There’s nothing to do, but move on,” Emma snaps at his childish behavior. This certainly catches Killian’s attention.

“Move on? You’ve hired me to protect you and your family. Not only that but to get you back on your throne. I intend to do just that but when information is held back, I can’t do my job properly,” he quips back. Emma glares at him really done with attitude in this moment.

“You’ve made your fucking point and it won’t happen again. We can’t do anything about it now,” she says through her teeth, anger now rolling off of her. The tent flap is pushed open by Lance and when he sees them his eyebrows shoot up.

“Is there a problem here?” He asks automatically defensive. Killian is all too happy to fill him in on what has occurred. Lance glares at him the entire time.

“We all forgot; we all made a mistake. Throwing a tantrum like a child does no one any good now. We face tomorrow better prepared,” Lance practically scolds him. Killian’s jaw drops at this, but he quickly collects himself. Lance looks to Emma to see if she needs him for anything else. Emma simply shakes her head. Lance makes an excuse for leaving before bowing out gracefully.

“One more thing, don’t ever call me out like that again in front of others.” Emma scolds him with her mouth set in a firm line.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. While you lead these men and they follow your every command they’re fighting for what I want, I need them to respect me. They won’t do that with you shouting at me. If you have a problem pull me aside,” she states clearly. He didn’t even think of that that thought never occurred to him.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” he nods simply.

“Good.” Emma states before striding out of his tent without another word. Emma rushes to her own tent quickly. Once inside she allows herself to be mad at Killian and herself because even though he was bastard about it, he was right. He needed to know that information. Mistakes like this could take someone else from her life. Someone she loves dearly; she can’t afford to lose anyone else. Not now when there are so few of them to begin with. Lancelot was right tomorrow starts a new day and they will be better prepared than the last. That will have to be enough to keep them alive.

At least Emma hope so because in the hours just before dawn the scouts signal that Regina’s forces are attacking at sunrise.

Their camp breaks out into a flurry of activity as soon as the scouts spread the word. Emma dresses quickly into her black leather pants and white tunic with her chainmail on top. Emma quickly braids her hair to keep it out of her face. As Emma is sheathing her sword into the belt at her waist Leo bursts into her tent. He is dressed similarly to her, but instead of a sword Leo has his bow and quiver strapped to his back.

“Ready? We’re waiting for you,” Leo says a sense of urgency in his voice. Emma nods and they both head out to Killian’s tent.

“I heard you two fought last night,” Leo states, watching his sister to gauge her reaction.

“We did, what of it?” she shrugs, not entirely sure where he is going with this.

“Did you reconcile? Do I need to punch him?” Leo asks her.

“No punching please. We’re fine,” Emma says with a shake of her head before pushing the flap of Killian’s tent back and heading inside.

“Oh, good you’re here,” Killian says as soon as he spots her. His tent is overwhelming to say the least. The tent isn’t that large and many of his men, including Robin and Will are in there, along with her whole council. Robin immediately jumps into his plan for the attack. Leo is going to hide in the surrounding tree line, silently taking people out from afar. Emma pleased with this plan, so she won’t have to worry about him too much and Lance will be with him. August has been ordered to guard her with his life. Although that was something he didn’t need to be ordered to do. Emma is to be near the front, a few lines behind where Killian and his two captains will be. Everything is planned and in place, so in the meantime all they can do is assemble and wait.

Killian pulls her aside once a few people clear from the tent, “I just wanted to be sure that you and I were alright after last night,” he says quietly.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t be. We have bigger problems at the moment, Commander,” she says as casually as she can muster, before walking away to rejoin Leo.

“Oh yeah you two are completely fine,” Leo says his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Emma says before throwing her braid over her shoulder. Leo rolls his eyes at his sister.

“I don’t buy that for a minute, but when you want to talk, I’m here,” he responds. She nods ever so subtly not wanting to confirm any suspicions he may have about her and Killian.

Not long after Killian signals to them that now is the time to leave. Lance and August approach them. Emma pulls Leo in for hug, “You better come back in one piece understand?” she warns him. He shakes his head as they separate.

“I do,” Leo looks to August, “Nothing better happen to her.”

“I’ll protect her with my life,” he promises. They part ways here, Emma finds it difficult to leave her only living family.

“He’ll be fine stop being a worry wart,” August teases her. She rolls her eyes and playfully shoves his shoulder. They have to move quickly to fall into their place in the line quickly. Marching out to the battle site chosen only takes about fifteen minutes. Just as the sun raises of the horizon, they can finally see the Black Knights marching toward them.

The actual battle is like nothing Emma has ever seen before. It’s bloody, ugly, and chaotic. Emma relishes every second of it. She has one goal the kill any Black Knight that crosses her path and make it out alive. This type of combat spends her heart racing and she feels more alive than she has since the night of the siege. August is never far from her at any given moment. He has taken his orders seriously and will get her out if this alive, come hell or high water.

Despite his determination a few Black Knights get too close to them. They’re outnumbered and August is fighting two at once when Emma doesn’t move out of the way in time and her thigh catches the Black Knight’s sword. She barely feels it and she makes sure to drive her sword through his abdomen before moving on. Maybe it’s the adrenaline and the high of battle, but either way Emma keeps pushing through.

Killian’s men decimate the Black Knights and the fighting finally ends when there are only a few left. Emma is called to the front by Killian to figure out what to do with them.

“Your Majesty,” he gestures to the group of Black Knights in front of them.

“Bring me the one with the least amount of injuries,” she tells him quietly. Killian nods and has one of his men bring forth a young Black Knight, he couldn’t be much more than Leo’s age. The Black Knight is dropped at Emma’s feet on his knees.

“I’m going to let you live if you deliver a message to your queen,” Emma tells him standing tall with regal posture despite the throbbing pain starting in her leg.

“Wha- what’s the message?” the Black Knight gulps, audibly scared.

“You tell the Evil Queen I’m coming for her,” Emma says menacingly, vengeance and rage filling her voice. The terrified Black Knight nods before running away as fast as he can.

“And the rest of them?” Killian asks her. Emma keeps glaring after the Black Knight she sent back waiting for him to disappear from the horizon.

“Kill them all,” she says her face twinging a bit from the pain. Killian gives her a concerned look before passing along her order. His soldiers execute the Black Knights with skill and precision, it’s so quick it’s over in almost a blink of an eye.

When Emma goes to move once again her injured leg almost crumbles beneath her and she has to grip Killian’s shoulder for balance. His eyes glance over her before landing on her leg, his eyes widening.

“Fuck, you’ve been walking around on this?” he asks her, still cursing underneath his breath as she nods. Emma grips his shoulder tightly while he rips some strips of fabric off of his tunic.

“You said you were fine,” August glares at her.

“I was fine when it happened. It started hurting a few minutes ago,” she shrugs. Both men look exasperated with her.

“You’re bleeding,” he ties one of the strips tightly around her leg causing Emma to curse at him, “You’ve got a worse mouth than some of my men.” He teases her and she just shakes her head. Without a word Killian scoops, her into his arms.

“Commander, this is absolutely unnecessary. Put me down at once!” Emma exclaims, thoroughly annoyed by him. His arms just tighten around her.

“You can’t walk, and you had to use me to hold yourself up. With all due respect Your Majesty, no I will not put you down,” he says lifting his eyebrow challenging her. Emma just rolls her eyes at him, knowing better than raising to his bait. Silence stretches out between them as he effortlessly carries her back to camp.

“How did it happen?” he asks her.

“Got cornered by four men. August and I took two each and I just didn’t move out of the way in time,” she explains shaking her head, “I’ve sparred, been in tournaments, and fought for my life when ambushed, but I’ve never been in battle like that before. It’s something else altogether.”

“You never forget your first time on the battlefield,” he tells her with a twinkle in his eye.

“I can’t imagine I could ever forget,” she says quietly. He smirks as they reach the edge of camp. He shouts for someone to send the medic to the Queen’s tent.

Once inside her tent he carefully lies her on the bed. When the medic bursts in Red does as well. Killian raises his eyebrow at the women.

“I could smell her blood the moment you came to the edge of camp,” Ruby whispers to him and he nods. The medic peels back the makeshift bandage Killian tied to her leg. Killian hoovers near Emma’s head.

“I thought we agreed you’d be careful out there,” Red says trying to distract her.

“Yeah well I tried to be, but you know how the Black Knights can ruin any well thought out plan,” Emma says grimacing. The medic pulls out a bottle of rum from her bag. Opening the bottle, she hands it to Emma.

“You’ll want this, I have to stitch you up,” the medic tells her. Emma grimaces, but takes a big swig of the rum before handing it back to the medic.

“Do what you have to,” Emma says lying back on her cot. The medic cuts away her pants, so she has better access to the wound. She pours the rum over the wound and her needle. The sting from the alcohol causes Emma to curse like a sailor again. Without a word or invitation Killian slips his hand into Emma’s just before the medic begins stitching the wound shut. She clenches his hand tightly and lets out another string of curses.

Red can’t help but notice the looks between the two of them or how easily Emma let him grab her hand. Red wishes her niece could see what she and almost everyone else in camp saw, the beginnings of true love. Red has seen true love before, she had watched how Snow and David had struggled in the early days of their love. From what Red could see they would figure out what they felt for each other soon enough.

When the medic is finished with the stitches, she douses the wound with more rum. Emma clenches Killian’s hand tighter. The medic wraps the wound in a bandage and just when she promises to return to clean the wound again Leo and Lance bust through into the tent.

“What the hell?!? I thought she was supposed to be safe!” Leo practically shouts. Killian’s hand slips from Emma’s and he dismisses the medic, who is more than happy to leave.  

“Leo, I’m fine. It was just a flesh wound,” Emma grumbles, wincing a little as she sit up on the cot. Leo ignores her and turns to August.

“You swore to protect her!” he shouts. Before August can respond Emma snaps, “Leo, I knew the risks of going out there. We were cornered I would’ve died without August. Will you calm down?” Leo just stares at her incredulously and she sighs.

“We need a minute, clear the tent, please,” Emma orders everyone out. They all nod and swiftly leave. Leo will not look her in the eye at the moment.

“Will you please come here?” Emma asks annoyed with him. Leo stomps over and sits on the edge of her cot.

“What on earth is the matter?” Emma asks him.

“I don’t- Emma,” he shakes his head, “You’re the only family I have left,” his voice breaking at the end. Emma takes his hand in hers.

“I know, but I promise I’m alright,” she tells him. Leo nods and it takes him a few minutes to get himself together. Once he does Emma tells him to bring back everything else back in. Killian, Lance, August, and Red file back in quietly. Killian fills the others in about the battle and what happened after. Everyone gives their input on their next moves, at some point Robin and Will came in. Emma is frankly exhausted and fighting to keep her head up and her eyes open.

“I have forces that we need to meet with, so we’ll be heading out in the morning,” Killian tells them.

“What about Emma? She can’t travel with that leg,” Lancelot points out. Hearing her name catches her attention.

“She’ll be fine on a horse,” Red waves away the concern and Emma is grateful she didn’t have to be the reason they were stuck here another day.

“We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, why don’t we call it a night and rest,” Killian suggests. The room agrees much to Emma’s relief. She is about to fall asleep right that very moment. Everyone leaves except for Killian.

“Thank you,” she manages to tell him. He chuckles, “I couldn’t leave a damsel such as yourself in such distress,” he says with a wink. She rolls her eyes at his blatant flirting, it’s just to distract her.

“Goodnight, Commander,” she says with a smile. 

“Goodnight, Your Majesty,” he bows ever so slightly before leaving for the night. The Queen is most radiant with that smile on her face. Her beauty is rumored throughout the land and Killian didn’t quite believe it until he saw her. He was blown away by her, not only her beauty, but how she held herself and treated those around her. She’s one of a kind.

Chapter Text

Traveling all day by horse sure as hell didn’t feel good on Emma’s leg, but around noon the next day they reach their next camp site and Emma couldn’t be happier to be off the horse and in her tent. The commander’s other nameless captain won’t be here until later in the day. Emma takes the opportunity to rest.

There is quite the commotion in the camp when the commander’s other forces join them. Emma leaves her tent and walks slowly to the middle of camp. Killian, Robin, and Will are all talking to an older dark-haired woman. Red appears at Emma’s side.

“Your commander is a better man than he is given credit for,” Red says crossing her arms.

“He’s not mine,” Emma denies and Red gives her an all-knowing look, “What makes you say that?” she asks.

“That woman is his other captain. Not many mercenaries have women in their ranks, the cowards,” Red sneers. Emma looks back to the group and sure enough the woman is dressed similarly to Robin and Will.

“Oh hell, we better go over there. The commander has caught sight of us,” Red says with a playful smirk and Emma comes along rather reluctantly.

“Ah Your Majesty, Lady Red glad you’ve joined us. This is Captain Gale,” Killian introduces them.

“Your Majesty,” she bows slightly toward Emma, “Please call me Dorothy,” the woman says with a smile for Red.

“Only if you call me Red,” she says with her wolfish grin. Will coughs and the two women break eye contact. Finally, Emma can give Red an all-knowing look that Emma has been getting for weeks now.

“Why don’t we get someone to fetch Lancelot and your brother. Dorothy here has rather important information to share with us,” Killian gestures toward his tent and then grabs a young soldier to give orders to.

It doesn’t take long for them to assemble in the commander’s tent. Killian practically forces Emma to sit down to rest her leg. She calls him a mother hen just to get him to shut up and surprisingly it works. Dorothy grabs their attention, so she can share her information.

“We were able to get some spies into the town surrounding the castle. Rumors are everywhere. No one knows what to believe. The Evil Queen rarely leaves her castle. She’s scared and she’s barricaded herself in there. There’s one thing she wants above anything. That would be you, Your Majesty. She wants you dead,” Dorothy tells them.

“The feeling is mutual. My message should have gotten to her by now,” Emma says, not entirely surprised by this revelation.

“Red’s theory about her magic could be valid if she is hiding out in the castle,” Robin says looking around the tent.

“What is the theory?” Dorothy asks.

“That the Evil Queen’s magic is not at full strength,” Red says simply, not sure how much she should divulge to the new captain.

“There haven’t been any big displays of magic since she took over,” Dorothy comments.

“We should still be wary, she could be luring us into a false sense of security,” Lance warns them, and they nod in agreement.

“That will be important for when we take back the castle, but we have a bigger problem at this moment,” Dorothy tells the group.

“What did you find out on your way here?” Will asks her crossing his arms.

“The Evil Queen has Black Knights marching here as we speak, they should reach this camp in two days’ time,” Dorothy tells them. Emma curses she already knows Killian will sideline her with her leg. She needs to be out there fighting for her land, for her throne. Her gaze meets Killian’s, apprehension already there.

“Don’t even think about it, Your Majesty. If I have to station men here to make sure you stay put than I will,” Killian warns her. Leo rolls his eyes, “let’s hope that will be enough.” Emma glares at her brother and nudges him with her elbow. Emma just crosses her arms and says nothing. The captains and Killian leave to survey the surrounding area for the best advantage in battle.

“Do you really think you can fight on that leg?” Lance asks her eyebrow raised.

“No,” she grumbles, “I can’t have people thinking I won’t fight for this land.”

“You’re injured. That’s more than a valid reason to not be there. They will understand,” Lance argues with her.

“You know he’s right,” Leo pipes up. Emma sighs but nods in agreement. Her leg is healing nicely but it will need a few more days before she can fight on it. It’s frustrating to say the least.

With the mercenaries gone Emma and her people leave the Commander’s tent for the night.

The scouts are able to spot the Black Knights the next day. They wouldn’t be able to reach Emma’s camp until the following day just as Dorothy predicted. Emma was still itching to get back on the battlefield. Her leg was healing nicely, and a full day of walking and standing didn’t bother it at all. Despite her protests and assurances that she was fine Killian didn’t buy any of it for one minute. He finally put his foot down and told her nothing could change his mind. Emma sighed and accepted defeat. The following morning the Black Knights were spotted getting closer and closer. Emma was envious of all of her friends and family getting to go off into the fight. She desperately wanted to join them, but she couldn’t she was stuck here. Emma bid them all good luck and farewell before she went to sulk in her tent.

“Your Majesty,” Killian says clearing his throat as he enters her tent. Emma spins around to see him and two of his men.

“Commander, I thought you left,” she says surprised.

“I will be here in a moment. These men will be outside your tent, for protection,” Killian informs gesturing to the two of them.

“Do you really think I was going to sneak out the moment you left? Do you trust me so little?” she asks, lashing out.  Killian’s stance stiffens and Emma crosses her arms. Killian sighs and sends the guards outside the tent, knowing she is going to fight him on this.

“No, when I give an order, I expect it to be followed even by you, Your Majesty,” he snaps and she continues to glare at him, “If they’re smart, they’ll know you aren’t on the battlefield and send someone here after you. I won’t let anything happen to you.” He turns to leave the tent, anger coursing through his veins and Emma grabs his hand stopping him, she shouldn’t have thought that he didn’t trust her. There is hurt in his eyes, but he is trying to mask it with anger, Emma can see through that.

“Thank you, Commander,” she slips her swan pendant off her neck and presses it into his palm. Killian gives her a questioning look, “For luck,” she says with a shrug. Killian takes her hand and brushes a kiss across the back of it.

“I’ll bring it back to you,” he says with a smile before ducking out of her tent.

“You better,” she calls out after him. Emma hopes everyone comes back from this battle uninjured.

Red stays with Emma while they wait for the battle to be over. Emma was pacing back and forth in her tent, but Red made her sit down.

“You know the commander is using all his resources for you,” Red attempts to say nonchalantly. Emma raises an eyebrow at this.

“What do you mean?” she asks, unsure of what Red is getting at.

“While Dorothy is his captain, he usually doesn’t bring her in to help. She works on her own and brings in a lot of gold doing so. She seems to think that you mean something to him,” Red says waiting for Emma’s response.

“Maybe he isn’t used to taking on murderous queens with magic,” Emma says trying to brush it off. He is in this for the money, not her. Emma shakes her head.

“Perhaps, but it is interesting,” Red says with a mischievous smile.

“How did you find all this out anyway?” Emma asks, effectively changing the subject.

“Dorothy. I didn’t think she’d answer my blunt questions, but she seemed unfazed by them,” Red shrugs not quite looking at Emma.

“Interesting, have you two been spending a lot of time together?” Emma asks carefully. It was no secret that Red preferred the company of women to men. None in the castle ever cared, certainly not Emma.

“Perhaps,” Red says casually.

“Hmm you know mom and dad would be happy you found someone,” Emma says casually. Red’s head snaps to Emma.

“I never said it was like that!” Red exclaims.

“You didn’t have to! I was there when you two met, there were practically sparks flying,” Emma chuckles.

“That’s true,” Red says with a smug smile, “I’ve never met anyone like her.”

“That’s not surprising, there aren’t many women mercenaries. As long as you’re happy that’s all that matters to me,” Emma smiles.

“I know,” Red shakes her head, “Anyway I’m going to get to food, do you want anything?”

“No, I don’t think I could eat right now,” Emma tells her. Red gives her a small smile, “They’ll come back, and everything will be fine.” Emma nods and Red leaves.

The day wears on with no word from the battlefield. It makes both Red and Emma nervous. Just after the sun sets Red leaves in her wolf form to see if she can help them. Emma worriedly paces around her tent.

Emma hears the guards unsheathe their swords and Emma immediately dives for hers. Two bodies thump to the ground as soon as her sword is in hand. Three Black Knights storm into her tent and Emma waits for them to charge before she attacks. They are here to kill her once and for all. They’re going to have to try harder than this, however. She takes the first one down easily with his quite terrible footwork and a well-placed blow with her sword. The last two take her at the same time, which is tricky with her leg that is bothering her quite a bit. She’s able to land quite a few blows, but they aren’t going for the kill quite like she expected. In a particularly tough spot Emma quickly dodges causing one Black Knight to kill another. She able to regain her stance before the last one standing lunges for her. His movements are sloppy and tired and despite the throbbing pain in her leg Emma manages to get past his defenses and sink her sword into his gut. She pulls the sword out and stubbles backward a few steps. In the end Emma collapses on the floor due to the pain in her leg.

There is a large commotion in the camp and Killian comes bursting into her tent, blood and dirt stained from fighting. He scans the room before rushing to her side.

“Are you hurt?” he asks concerned, practically collapsing to his knees in front of her.

“Nothing new. My leg hurts, you were right I wasn’t ready to fight again,” she says shaking her head, sure he will love the fact that she said he was right.

“May I look at it?” he asks her carefully. She nods, grimacing. He pulls up her dress to examine her wound. There is some blood trickling from the wound, but the stitches are still managing to hold it together thankfully. Killian takes a cloth from her wash table and wipes away the blood.

“Commander are you hurt?” she asks, her eyes now scanning him. She’s trying to see if the blood is coming from him or not.

“No injuries, the blood isn’t mine,” he sighs, still looking at her wound. She places a hand on his cheek and makes his gaze meet hers.

“I promise I’ll be fine. The pain will pass,” she says quietly.

“They slipped away. We thought everyone was rounded up, but they managed to escape and when they didn’t retreat… I feared the worst. That I hadn’t protected you, that I failed,” he says frantically.

“Your put guards here. I knew this could happen and I was ready to defend myself. You didn’t fail,” she reasons with him.

“Guards who were killed. It wasn’t enough I should’ve known you would need more protection.”

“Stop blaming yourself for the Evil Queen’s actions. You did what you could and so did I. We’re doing what it takes to survive this. We will be better prepared next time,” she tells him. He nods slowly before resting his forehead against hers.

“I can’t lose you,” he whispers so softly Emma is sure she imagined it for a moment.

“You won’t,” she replies just as softly. Emma revels in how close they are how natural it feels to be with him like this. There is a moment once again where Emma thinks he might kiss her, but Leo bursts through the tent and the jump apart. Leo rushes to Emma’s side and makes sure she isn’t hurt. Killian excuses himself, knowing Emma is capable hands. Killian casts a look of longing before leaving, a look she definitely returns. She can’t deny how she feels about him anymore.

“Are you sure?” Leo asks again as he helps Emma onto her cot.

“Leo, they’re dead. If you want to help get someone to get them out of here,” Emma says exasperated. Her brother just sighs.

“Are you okay?” she asks him. He shakes his head slightly.

“No, you were right,” he says quietly.

“Of course, I am, but about what exactly?” she chuckles.

“The Evil Queen, she should die for what she’s done,” he says anger creeping into his voice. Emma is slightly surprised by this; he was so adamant about being better than the Evil Queen.

“What changed your mind?”

“These battles, the rumors,” he tells her.

“What rumors?” she asks, concerned.

“They’re saying she’s starting to terrorize the villagers around the castle trying to information on you, on us. Ems, this isn’t good,” he shakes his head.

“We knew this would happen. She’s done this before, and they know that too. We’re fighting to get control, to end this once and for all,” she tells him. Leo nods before leaving to grab some people to help clean up the mess in her tent. The medic comes by examining her wound, slightly exasperated that it was bleeding again.

“Rest on it tonight and tomorrow if you want it heal in time,” the medic orders her.

“In time for what?” Emma asks her.

“The final battle, I know you’re anxious to get back out there, most of the men I take care of are. You have that same restless look in your eye. Rest it, that’s how you’ll get there,” the medic says while packing up her bag.

“Fine I’ll rest,” Emma mumbles and the medic just smiles before leaving the tent. Leo and some men take the bodies away rather quickly much to Emma’s relief. Leo checks on her one last time before heading back to his own tent for the night.

Killian come by her tent not long after Leo leaves, “Sorry I had to leave quickly earlier I had to attend to my men.”

“I understand, Commander,” she states simply. Killian takes off the chain with her swan pendant from around his neck. He approaches her bed.

“I wanted to give this back to you. I figured if it made it out of the castle with you the night of the siege it must mean a great deal to you,” he says, pressing the pendant back into her hand.

“It does, my father gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday,” Emma says, ducking her head to place the chain back around her neck.

“Just out of curiosity, why a swan?” he asks her and Emma smiles.

“My father always said I was a swan. Beautiful, elegant, and ready to attack if disturbed,” she says with the glint of mischief in her eye.

“Fitting to be sure, Your Majesty,” he smiles, “I’ll let you rest, we’ll have to discuss strategy in the morning,” he nods to her.

“Of course, Commander,” she nods, and he leaves for the night.

They stay at their camp for the next couple of days. Many of the men were injured in the battle and need a few days to recover before they can move closer to the castle. Emma needs the rest as well. Her leg is healing well and being completely off of it for a day did it a lot of good. The medic tells Emma should be able to fight in a couple days.

They finally move closer to the castle and it all feels surreal to be this close to the castle and not going to it. The castle is Emma and Leo’s home. Even with their parents gone Emma hopes it can feel like their home once again.

Most of the day they plan for the final battle until everyone is practically blue in the face from arguing their best ideas. After making changes to their initial strategy made the cabin the group finally reaches a consensus on the that day. Or so Emma thought until the scouts tell them that forces are approaching. They aren’t the Evil Queen’s forces, however.

“What banner are they carrying?” Lancelot asks.

“Black with a gold castle,” the young scout describes to the tent. Emma rolls her eyes and Leo laughs. Everyone in the tent looks to them with confused looks.

“Who is it?” Killian asks simply, looking from Emma to Leo.

“Queen Katherine, or her son I presume,” Emma explains.

“Your betrothed has finally arrived it seems,” Leo teases with a smile.

“Betrothed?!?” Killian asks clearly taken aback.

“Oh, Commander don’t listen to my brother. Prince Jonathan is not my betrothed,” Emma shakes her head, annoyed with her brother.

“Jonathan simply wishes he were. He’s been after Emma since her coming out ball. Poor man has proposed four times, she turns him down each time,” Leo shakes his head. Killian raises an eyebrow at this.

“Will he help us despite such rejection?” Killian asks, studying Emma’s response.

“He’ll definitely help. Our parents were great friends. He’s probably hoping this will finally win over Emma,” Leo says with a snicker.

“It won’t, but Jonathan will never learn until I marry someone else. He’s lucky Katherine is too stubborn to die,” Emma says casually. There’s an intensity in Killian’s eyes when Emma meets his gaze and my gods it almost stops her heart.

“Very well. Welcome them to camp and bring his Highness here immediately,” Killian orders the young scout, who nods before running out.

“Emma be nice to the man he’s here to help,” Lance says carefully.

“I am always nice to him!” Emma says taken aback.

“Last time he proposed you threw him in the lake!” Lance snaps back. Killian and Robin cackle at this. Will mumbles something like are you sure she’s a queen?

“I have no idea what you’re talking about he slipped halfway through that proposal and fell in,” Emma says, choosing not to look at Lance.

“Oh of course how could we forget that,” Red says with a pointed look.

“Your Majesty remind me to always be on your good side,” Killian bows slightly.

“You better be, Commander,” she says with a mischievous glint in her eye. Prince Jonathan and two guards come into the tent not long after. Jonathan has a tall lanky build with blond hair that falls to his shoulders. He moves to embrace Emma and she has no choice but to accept it and awkwardly pat his back. He lingers much longer than Emma would like before stepping back. He simply nods towards Leo.

“Emma, we were worried about all of you. Mother has been distraught for weeks. We were devastated to hear about your parents,” he tells her.

“Thank you, Johnathan. What brings you here?” Emma asks, cautiously.

“To provide aid of course. Our army isn’t large, but mother and I couldn’t stand by and let you face that monster alone,” he says passionately.

“That is most kind. I must send something to your mother when this is all over. Jonathan, this is Commander Jones and his captains,” Emma gestures towards Killian, Robin, and Will, “You can discuss where your men will best fit in with our forces.” Killian is outright glaring at Jonathan, but Emma ignores it.

“Of course,” Jonathan nods, before turning his attention to the men. Killian quickly figures out where to fold in Jonathan’s men the best. Killian is polite, but brief with the new royal. When their business is concluded Jonathan turns to Emma, “Would you like to join me for a drink in my tent?” he asks her with a smile. Emma can watch Killian stiffen behind Jonathan

“I have some more business to attend to with the commander. Another time perhaps,” Emma quickly brushes him off. Jonathan’s face falls slightly.

“Of course,” he nods slightly before leaving the tent. After a few seconds Emma releases a sigh and Leo chuckles.

“I’m starting to understand why you pushed him into a lake, Your Majesty,” Killian says with a smirk.

“He’s a good man, he’ll be a good ruler, but…” she trails off shaking her head.

“He’s annoying,” Leo fills in for her. Emma tempted to correct him, but doesn’t. They all stay for a little while to keep up the pretense, but when Robin, and Will are called away by Dorothy the tent quickly empties out. Except for Emma, she stays.

“This prince do you trust him?” Killian asks his back turned, not realizing it was just the two of them.

“He’s an ally,” she nods, before sipping some wine out of the goblet in front of her.

“That’s not what I asked,” Killian states turning to face her. There’s a look in his eyes and Emma can’t help but feel drawn to him. Emma stands tired of sitting for too long.

“He’ll deliver on what he’s promised. While I know he’s not here to harm us, I don’t trust he won’t ask for my hand again,” she says thoroughly annoyed, shifting her weight from one foot to the next.

“Not to be insensitive, but most princesses are married off much younger than you. Why did you never say yes to him or any of the many suitors I’m sure you had,” he teases her, moving closer to her.

“My parents married for love and were quite adamant that I do the same. I thought then that I should’ve been married off to someone with something to offer the kingdom, but they turned down any marriage proposal of the sort,” she chuckles.

“What do you think now?” he asks, his curiosity growing more and more.

“That it wouldn’t be terrible to marry for love if given the choice,” she says a little breathless. Killian could move mountains with the intensity of his stare. Emma is about to close what little space is left between them when a soldier runs into the tent. Emma and Killian jump apart. Killian is annoyed with his soldier’s poor timing, for once he was about to say fuck it and finally pull her into his arms, to have her where he wanted her at last. Unfortunately, Killian is needed elsewhere in the camp and has to follow the soldier out of his tent. Killian can’t help but notice that Emma has the same disappointed look in her eyes as he does.

The next morning the group moves the camp to hopefully their last resting place before the final battle. In the cool morning air Emma adorns herself with clothes for sparring with the hope that either Lance or the commander is free. To Emma’s surprise in the clearing in the middle of camp she finds the commander sparring with some of his men. Despite the cool breeze in the morning air Killian was worked up a sweat. Emma stands to the side with the others, her hand perched on her sword’s handle.

His fighting style seems almost effortless to the commander. The natural, fluidity of his movements is what gives him his effortless look. When Killian unarms his last soldier and his eyes turn to the few people gathered. When he spots Emma, a smile crosses his face.

“Your Majesty,” he says as he approaches her, “I see you’re dressed to spar. Are you looking for a rematch?”

“A rematch, no I don’t think so. If you recall Commander, I won our first spar,” she teases.

“Ah technically you did, but you didn’t play fair,” he teases her right back, “If not a rematch then why are you here?”

“I need to make sure my leg is ready for tomorrow. So, don’t hold back Commander,” Emma says, stepping soundly out into the clearing, unsheathing her sword.

“Oh, I certainly don’t intend to,” he says with a playful smile. Killian charges her and she swiftly blocks his attempted blows.

“You’re going to have to try better than that,” she teases advancing forward for a few blows of her own. Killian frowns, but then determination crosses his face. Killian blocks them effectively and almost knocks her down. Emma regains her footing and smiles, “That’s more like it.”

The pair go around and round, each of them pushing the other. Emma’s forehead glistening from sweat, it feels good to be moving like this once again. Emma suspects that Killian was holding back the first time they fought, but he isn’t now. His footwork and movements are impeccable. While examining him she missteps and Killian pounces on the opportunity to attack. With a flick of his wrist her sword lies in the grass and Emma stumbles backward, falling onto the grass. She lies there on the grass for moment the warm sun beating down on her. She takes a deep breath before propping herself on her elbows to look at the commander, who looks victorious.

“Well played Commander,” she concedes. He walks over to her side, looking down.

“Thank you, Your Majesty. Now, if I help you up are you going to do what happened last time?” he asks her. Emma chuckles remembering their first fight.

“No, I won’t. You’re not standing in the right spot,” she whispers. He shakes his head and offers her his hand. She takes it gladly and he helps Emma to her feet.

“How’s your leg feeling?” he asks her. His blue eyes searching hers.

“Never better, it held up just fine,” she tells him, still holding onto his hand not wanting to let go. Dorothy approaches and grabs Killian’s attention.

“I’m afraid I’m needed elsewhere. We’ll have a last strategy session a little after midday, Your Majesty,” he informs her before brushing a kiss across the back of her hand.

“Of course, Commander,” she nods. Killian drops her hand and follows Dorothy. Emma turns and walks back toward her tent.

“So, are you going to do something about that or not?” Dorothy asks Killian as they walk to another part of camp.

“Excuse me?” Killian asks shocked that Dorothy would ask such a thing. He expects it from Robin and Will, but Dorothy doesn’t really get involved in personal matters.

“Still in denial I see, that’s fine for now. I’d act fast if I were you, she won’t stay unwed forever,” she advises, and Killian is still shocked she would solicit free advice. Killian shuts his jaw before he says anything stupid.

Their strategy session was supposed to be short and really just confirming what they previously planned. However, all potential plans and strategies were gone over just one more time. They had to be sure. They had to know this was the best plan possible. The final battle will take place tomorrow morning. With being so close to the castle a curfew will placed on the camp tonight in case they have any unwanted visitors. The only person who seems to have a problem with the plan is Prince Jonathan. Now more than ever Killian understands why Emma never accepted his proposal.

“I still think it’s too dangerous for Emma,” he says, again. He directs his concerns to Killian. Not Emma herself. If he wasn’t helping them Killian would’ve personally told off this moron well before now.

“Jonathan, that’s not your decision to make. I can handle myself as you well know. I’ve certainly bested you many times to show that,” Emma says her tone icy.

“I just have your best interests at heart,” he says shocked.

“No, you don’t,” she scoffs, “That witch killed my parents and took my throne. I will do whatever it takes to gain avenge their deaths. If you have a problem with my methods then there is no need for you to stay,” Emma says, finally snapping, “Also, Commander Jones doesn’t make decision regarding my welfare, so stop addressing him. I make those decisions.”

“It seems I have overstepped. I’m sorry, Your Majesty. It’s been a stressful time. I’ll be adjourning to my tent for the rest of the day. See you all in the morning,” he says quickly standing. Everyone, but Emma nods before he runs out.

“Relations with their kingdom may be strained now,” Lance mutters.

“Not while Katherine is on the throne, he’ll get over it when his time comes,” Emma scoffs.

“You practically crushed him, Ems,” Leo chuckles.

“Good, I hoped he learned from it. I’m tired of every man thinking he can do my job better than I can,” she huffs. Every man in the tent falls silent and Red smiles.

“You’ll be putting them in your place their entire life,” Red muses.

“So, it seems,” Emma sighs and looks to Killian, “Anything else, Commander?”

“No, unless anyone else has an objection?” Killian asks the room, and everyone shakes their heads, “Good, then let’s call it a night. We’ll need all of our strength for tomorrow.” They all nod and slowly they file out of the commander’s tent. Despite what he said he doubt many of them would rest tonight. Tomorrow could be the end of all of them.

The cool night air causes Emma to pull her cloak around her tighter before carefully pushing back the opening to Killian’s tent. She could see the lights from the outside and knew he was still awake. Even after they long, trying day they’ve had in the late hours of the night he’s pouring over maps and potential plans. He looks up and locks eyes with her.

“Your Majesty come in please. Sit down,” he gestures to one of the many chairs at his table. She nods and takes a seat.

“Would you like a drink?” he asks her

“Please,” she says, finally trusting her own voice. Killian stands and gives her a worried look before turning to pour them some rum.

“Is there something I can help you with?” he asks turning back handing her a glass. She accepts it, taking a large gulp from it.

“No, not really. I just couldn’t sleep. I was out walking around the camp and saw the lights on in your tent….” she trails off seeing the look of anger on his face, “What?”

“There’s a curfew for a reason. You know you’re not supposed to wander around the camp on your own,” he says shaking his head, “What if the Evil Queen shows up, or Black Knights. It’s not safe!” Killian runs a hand through his hair.

“She could show up at any time, me hiding in my tent won’t remove the threat,” Emma says exasperated. This is a conversation they’ve had before. Emma grows tired of men being worried for her.  

“You like to throw yourself into danger, but you can’t once you’re on the throne,” Killian tries to reason with her. Emma stands at this.

“I won’t hide like a scared coward either,” she practically hisses at him. He shakes his head, frustrated by her. Emma moves to him and places a hand on his shoulder.

“Killian, I can protect myself. Something you know all too well. Right now, there are more important things to worry about,” she tells him. He stares at her in shock, blinking a few times.

“Say that again,” he tells her when he finally finds his voice again.

“That I can protect myself…?” she says confused and he shakes his head.

“My name,” he whispers, and she blushes. Emma hadn’t even realized that she’d said it. She didn’t realize it would affect him this much. She’d come so accustomed to the little game they were playing of not calling the other by their given name, but she was frustrated, and his name just slipped out. Emma moves closer to him and places a hand on his cheek.

“Killian,” she whispers, and he closes his eyes reveling in hearing how his name sounds coming off her lips. His hand falls to her hip. Her thumb sweeping back and forth across his cheek. He surges forward and his lips capture hers. Gods their softer than she could ever imagine. He wraps an arm around her waist pulling her closer. This causes her to gasp and he slips his tongue into her mouth. She grips onto his shoulder, never wanting this to end. She had imagined kissing him many times, but damn she never imagined it would as good as this.

Emma’s eyes spring open when her calf hits his cot, not realizing they had crossed the room. She allowed herself to be lost in their kiss. His eyes are open gazing into hers. Emma unties her cloak and let’s it fall to the ground. Underneath she was only wearing her thin white shift that she sleeps in.

“Emma,” he says breathless. Her heart skips a beat, her world stops.

“Say it again,” she whispers in awe, her heart thundering in her chest. She understands why he was so flustered before because my gods to hear him say her name is like nothing else.

“Emma...” She stands on her tiptoes, capturing his lips with hers. Her hands make quick work of getting underneath his fighting leathers that he is never seen without. Her hands roam his chest, her fingers moving through his chest hair, she never would’ve expected it to be as soft as it is. Killian palms her breast through the thin shift, which certainly catches her attention and causes her to moan into his mouth. Her eyes snap open and catch his. All these weeks of teasing and flirting has kept her on the edge of her seat, made her wound up. She wants him more than she can ever explain. That look of wanting is in his eyes, the eyes that are always able to see through her regal composure to her, to Emma.

Silently Emma grabs the end of her shift and pulls it over her head, making her bare to him. His pupils dilate, but he says nothing before sweeping her into his arms to gently lay her down on his cot. Killian places a kiss on her thigh. He moves silently over to her other and placing a kiss on her healed wound. The action sends a shiver up her spine.

“Beautiful, My Queen. Nothing could compare,” he whispers. Emma won’t deny that her heartbeat quickens when he calls her that.

“You liked being called that ?” he asks a seductive glint in his eye as he trails soft kisses up her thighs. Emma nods, not trusting her own voice at this exact moment in time.

“Hmm I’ll have to keep that in mind,” he says before gently kissing her outer lip, “I’d follow you to the ends of the world, My Queen.” When his tongue reaches her clit, she almost lets out a moan right there. He pulls away and she whimpers at this.

“Emma, I want to hear every delicious sound you want to make. Don’t hold back,” he tells her a lustful look in his eyes that Emma could certainly get used to seeing. He tongue returns to its previous spot and Emma releases a moan. His tongue moves faster and faster, in small tight circles around her clit. He slips a finger inside of her and moves it in and out slowly at first then increasing the pace. Emma’s embarrassed by how close she is to her release already, by the desperate sounds she’s making.

“Killian,” she cries out. He hums his approval, but never stops what his tongue is doing. He wants to give her pleasure like she’s never known. Especially when that pleasure makes her say his name like that . He slides another finger inside of her with the other.

“Killian, I- I’m...” she says breathless, not sure how much longer she can hold back her release. His thumb replaces his tongue and Killian looks deeply into her eyes.

“Emma, let go. I’ve got you,” he whispers to her. Those words alone send her over the edge, her walls clamping down on his fingers. Bliss and ecstasy rolling through her in waves. She’s been with other men before of course, but that was scratch an itch. It has never been like this; it’s never felt like this. Killian slowly withdraws his fingers and licks them clean.

“You taste divine, My Queen,” he practically purrs.

Emma pulls him down on top of her. Her hands fly immediately to his pants trying to get his sinful leather pants off. He chuckles at her feverish attempts before he swiftly pushes them down his legs, finally letting his hard-throbbing cock spring free. Emma bites her lip at the sight of him. Once he’s free of his clothes Emma pulls him down with her.

“Eager, My Queen?” he teases her with a devilish grin.

“Only as much as you are,” she smiles. Emma takes his cock in her hand and pumps him slowly. Killian lets out a string of curses at her touch, how badly he wants to be inside of her.

“Emma, I need-” he hisses as her hand starts moving faster.

“What do you need, Killian?” she asks with a knowing smile on her face. Hearing her say his name again almost breaks him then and there.

“You, only you,” he tells her a little breathless. She releases him and Killian swoops in kissing her before she can say anything. Emma’s legs spread open the invitation clear as day, “I need you more than you’ll ever know.” Those final words break his restraint and he pumps his cock once before sliding into her slowly. They both release sounds of pleasure. She’s tight and wet around him. Killian is moving ever so slowly, allowing Emma to get used to him. Emma wraps her legs around him, bringing them even closer.

“Killian…” she sighs, needing more.

“Emma?” he says dragging back his hips ever so slowly. She’s writhing beneath him and it’s something he could watch for the rest of his days.

“I need you to move!” she practically cries out as he snaps his hips forward.

“With pleasure,” he whispers in her ear. Killian increases the pace, his cock hitting her deeper and deeper. Emma lets out a series of curses and sounds she didn’t know she had in her. Each of them seeming to add more fuel to Killian’s fire. He marvels at how she feels around him, the sounds he can elicit from her. Her fingers grip at his back harshly, digging into his skin. Emma wants to leave a mark on him and he’s fine with that. She can stake her claim on him; she doesn’t need to because he is already hers and has been for some time now.

Killian can feel her walls beginning to contract around him. His fingers fly to her clit, moving furiously. He wants her walls to clench him, to make him fall into ecstasy with her.

Emma calls out his name once again, his hand on her clit and how deep he hits inside her becoming too much. It’s all so much. No man has ever made her come twice, but gods she’s never felt like this about any man before. She kisses the side of his neck, her hands moving into his hair and pulling tightly.

“Killian!” she cries out as her walls clamp around him as she falls over the edge again and again. Her orgasm triggers his. Killian’s hand falls away from her clit to stabilize himself as his hips jerk forward a couple times before he spills inside of her, calling out her name. He falls down on top of her his arms, hell, his whole body shaking from his orgasm. Killian’s eyes catch hers and she looks equally spent as well. He kisses her softly before slowly pulling out. She whimpers at the loss and Killian kisses her forehead. He gently brings her into his arms, holding her to his chest before drifting off to sleep.

Emma wakes up feeling much warmer than she usually does. The tents don’t provide much warmth. She opens her eyes and realizes she’s chest to chest with Killian. She remembers the night’s previous activities and blushes. Her legs are tangled with his. Emma wishes she could never leave this place to just stay with him here. They have to leave this tent. They have to face today. From the lack of noise coming from outside of the tent, Emma guesses it is still the early morning hours. Knowing she should return to her tent before anyone thinks she’s missing, Emma kisses Killian’s cheek and disentangles herself from him. He stirs slightly in his sleep, but doesn’t wake.

Emma quietly dresses and scurries back to her tent. The sun is barely pushing over the horizon. Once in her tent Emma washes herself and prepares for the day ahead the best she can. Red comes by with a peculiar look on her face.

“What happened last night?” Red asks, unsure of Emma’s mood.

“Nothing happened, what makes you think something happened?” Emma says rather quickly.

“You finally took him to bed, didn’t you? There’s no use denying it, I can smell it all over you,” she says with her wolfish smile. Emma doesn’t say anything, just averting her gaze from Red.

“We have more important things to do today then gossip,” Emma says, dismissing her entirely. Red knows better than to push Emma when she isn’t ready. Red drops the subject and helps Emma prepare for the upcoming battle.

Their plan is to attack the castle from multiple sides, so the Evil Queen cannot escape. Killian and his forces will attack the front gates. Will and Robin’s will attack from the sides, and Dorothy will attack from behind. Jonathan’s men will be with Will’s forces seeing as a fair few of his men were lost in the last battle. Leo and Lancelot will be with Killian’s forces. This thought brings Emma some comfort knowing that Killian will watch out for Leo as much as possible.

Before they head into their positions in the early morning hours Killian isn’t able to find Emma. He knows she’s somewhere, but they have a million things to do before the battle. He hasn’t seen her at all this morning. He simply doesn’t have the time and damn he wishes they did have it. He wishes he could tell her everything, that he could tell her how he feels, how he wants it all with her, Emma.

At some point she crept out of his bed without so much of a farewell. Perhaps she didn’t want more than one night from him. Perhaps she couldn’t bare saying farewell. Either way his heart ached slightly. He was looking forward to waking with her in his arms. He was looking forward to telling her his hopes and dreams for them. Although they have more important things to deal with at the present time. Maybe she had the right idea, maybe this wasn’t a conversation to be had now.

When they assume their positions, Leo finds him and gives him a curious look.

“Whatever is bothering you isn’t important now. Only one thing matters now,” Leo says sternly. Killian shakes his head.

“You’re right, Your Highness. Don’t worry about me. My men and I have not lost a battle yet. I don’t intend to start now,” Killian says with a prideful glint in his eye. Leo smiles while he takes his bow off his back.

Emma and August approach the castle with Dorothy’s forces in order to sneak in through the same passage that Emma and Lance used the night of the siege. As the battle is beginning Emma and August break off from the group and creep along the castle wall hoping the guards are too distracted to notice two people. They finally reach the stream where the secret passage exits and they silently wade through the stream and back into the castle, back into Emma’s home.

Once safely inside the castle without a guard in sight Emma releases a sigh. Much of their planned hinged on her and August getting in here undetected and so far, they seemed successful.

“Out with it, what’s bothering you?” August whispers as they creep through the old, dark passageway.

“Nothing,” she whispers back, not looking at him.

“Emma, I’ve known you for our entire lives I know when something is bothering you. Is it about killing the queen? No one would blame you if you couldn’t,” August tells her as they begin their ascent up another flight of stairs.

“No, it’s not about that. I’m prepared for what I have to do,” she shakes her head.

“But there is something…” August trails off patiently waiting for Emma to tell him. She sighs, they do not have time for this right now. They hadn’t seen any guards yet, but they could at any moment.

“There is,” she whispers again, “The commander and I…” she starts not even sure where to begin.

“Oh, I see it has to do with him,” August acknowledges.

“Yes, it does. I may have truly ruined things,” she cringes at her actions this morning, sneaking out when she should’ve stayed. They move down another dark, dank passageway.

“He worships the ground you walk on; I highly doubt you’ve done anything that cannot be redeemed,” August snorts. Emma shakes her head.

“I’m not sure about that,” she says quietly. August gives her a harsh look.

“Do you love him?” he asks her bluntly. She blinks a few times, no one had asked her that before.

“Yes,” she says shakily, not meeting her oldest friends’ eyes. It was something she had barely admitted to herself let alone anyone else.

“That’s all that matters. Whatever happened can be redeemed,” he tells her, and Emma just nods in agreement. They reach the door of that will lead them to the old servant’s corridor that was no longer in use. This was another flaw in their plan. Plenty of guards could be waiting for them behind this door, even with the door hidden on the other side. They wanted to go undetected as long as possible. Emma sucks in a deep breath before opening the door, both of them at the ready. The door swings open slowly and there is no one waiting for them. Emma and August share a surprised look. The plan was to draw all the guards away from the castle and into the battle. So far that seemed to be working. Emma always had faith that the plan would work, but no plan ever went perfectly. They enter the staircase and shut the door behind them.

With both swords drawn and at attention Emma and August ascend the stairs. When they reach the next exit August moves to the front and peers out before allowing Emma to follow him. They haven’t seen a guard yet and a bad feeling is growing in the pit of Emma’s stomach. It has been too easy, too quiet.

They swiftly move through the castle, making their way towards the throne room where they hope the Evil Queen will be. They use a side entrance to the room. There is not even a single guard left to protect the Evil Queen. The bitch has her head held high sitting on her mother’s throne, Emma’s throne.

“You two finally made it, I was wondering when you’d get here,” the Evil Queen says with prideful smile. Emma can’t understand why. Until Emma sees the heart clutched in her hand. Emma turns to August, fear and disbelief in her eyes. He advances on her and she raises her sword just in time to block his blow. Tears form in her eyes.

“Emma, I’m sorry. I never wanted to hurt you,” he manages to choke out. The tears flow down her cheeks.

“I know you didn’t,” she sobs. The night of the siege he never made it out of her clutches she planted a spy with Emma. Why didn’t the queen attack sooner? She knew their plan, why not stop it? Emma’s doing her best to fight off August without actually hurting him. It’s not an easy task

“I can see the questions spinning through your head. I wanted you to come here of your own free will. I wanted your people to see you try and defeat me and see how you failed miserably so no one would ever challenge me again,” she cackles. August is able to get in a few blows while Emma’s distracted, knocking her to the ground. He charges forward and she rolls out of the way before his blow hits her.

“Emma, you have to kill me. It’s the only way to kill her. She’s not strong enough to fight you on her own,” August manages to tell her before falling to his knees.

“I can’t-” she says frantically, her eyes search his. He clutches his chest in agony.

“Please,” he pleads with her, “let me die a hero. Let me protect you in ways I haven’t been able to in weeks,” His words break something in her and she kicks his sword out of his hand. In one swift motion she plunges her sword deep into his chest.

“All of Misthaven will know of your sacrifice,” she sobs before withdrawing her sword. A sense of peace seems to wash over her lifelong friend and not long after the life leaves his eyes.

“Well, I was hoping he’d fight for life until the end, but clearly he loved you too much for that,” the Evil Queen snarls, clearly disgusted. A new sense of rage fills Emma. The woman before her has taken almost everyone she holds dear, her parents and now one of her closest friends. Not to mention the terror she has inflicted on the people of Misthaven.

Emma takes a closer look at her and realizes August was right. The Evil Queen was weak. Her face aged far beyond her years, purple bags beneath her eyes. A frail hand holding a no longer glowing heart. The Evil Queen quickly drops the heart as if it offended her.

“He may be the only man that does. Your commander certainly doesn’t,” she snarls at Emma, who stops in her tracks, “I should say he won’t be once he realizes your kingdom is broke. That’s mercenaries care about you know. Their loyalty is bought,” Emma drops her blood covered sword and pulls the dagger from her boot. She throws the dagger and it flies the short distance between the two women and sinks into the Evil Queen’s chest. Blood begins to trickle from the wound. Emma stands in front of the woman who has taken everything from her.

“You didn’t even fight…” Emma says stunned.

“My magic is gone, has been for weeks now. I used the last of it the night of the siege. Without it there isn’t much to live for. I thought August would kill you,” she says her face contorted in pain. Emma shakes her head, yanking out the dagger.

“You took everything from me, you deserve everything that has happened to you,” Emma glares at the dying queen, blood now rushing from the wound.

“That might be true, but you’re not prepared for what is coming for you,” she cackles with her last dying breath. The Evil Queen’s last words fill her with a sense of fear.

“Well, well Dearie. It looks like you got exactly what you wanted,” a sickly-sweet voice chuckle from behind her. Emma turns slowly to find a short man with iridescent pale green skin. A man she’d only heard about in her parent’s stories.

“You must be Rumpelstiltskin,” she says still trying to size him up, dagger still in hand.

“You would be correct, more than just a pretty face I see,” he chuckles.

“What do you want?” she glares at him, knowing better than to trust him.

“Your parents wouldn’t give me what I wanted, so I released Regina from her curse, she promptly killed them and retrieved what I wanted,” he tells her as he walks over to the body.

“You’re the reason they’re dead,” she says through gritted teeth.

“No, I released Regina and told her she only had to retrieve what I wanted. She decided to kill them, to get her revenge, Dearie.” He says while plucking a vile from Regina’s cleavage.

“Why tell me any of this?” she says shaking her head.

“Your parent’s debt is now paid. I’ve been watching your efforts over the past weeks, you’re a force to be reckoned. I’m immortal, so you can’t kill me, but I have other matters to deal with and rather not worry about you coming after me.”

“Who says I won’t?” she asks with crossed arms.

“You’re smarter than your parents were, and you have a kingdom to rebuild,” he says before vanishing in a plume of red smoke.

With the reality of has happened, of what she has done washes over Emma and she collapses on hard stone floor. What feels like minutes, but could be hours later the throne room doors burst open. Killian, who is soaked in blood with terror in eyes, frantically looking around. When he finds Emma there a small moment of relief. He rushes to her side, “My Queen, are you hurt?” he asks her, his eyes searching hers.

“No,” she lets out a sob, “I had to kill August, she had his heart. He was spying on us.” Killian pulls her into his arms.

“We kept finding Black Knights on the edge of camp I could never figure out how they knew where we were,” Killian mutters and Emma eyes go wide.

“You never said anything,” she says, shocked.

“You had bigger things to worry about, your safety was mine to worry about and no one else’s,” he tells her.

“So noble,” she says shaking her head. A pained look crosses his face.

“Emma, we have to go,” he says quietly. Worry and panic fill her.

“What happened?” she asks as he helps her to stand firmly on her feet.

“It’s Leo, he was hurt. My medics are seeing to him now,” he tells her, and she grips his hand tightly.

“Take me to him now,” she says her voice as steady as she can keep it. Killian simply nods and he leads her out of the throne room and up the staircase to their old rooms. From the looks of it Regina hasn’t touched anything. Killian pulls her into Leo’s room.

Her brother’s chest is covered in blood, an arrow sticking out of his shoulder. Two medics looking over him. Emma gasps. Leo and Lancelot turn their heads towards her. Leo then groans.

“You shouldn’t have told her until I was fine,” he grumbles, and her eyes go wide. Emma rushes to his side, dropping Killian’s hand.

“If you weren’t wounded right now, I’d hit you! Are you out of your mind? What, was he just not supposed to tell me my brother was bleeding out with an arrow in him!” She yells and he cringes, “That’s what I thought,” she turns to one of the medics, “What are you doing for him?” The medic looks a little shocked that she was addressing her.

“The blood flow to his arm has been compromised, but once we remove it the blood flow should return. We are taking good care of him, he will be fine, Your Majesty,” the medic tells her calmly. Emma nods, tears flowing down her face. She squeezes Leo’s good hand before Killian pulls her back so the medics can do the work they need to. They quietly file out of the room and into the hallway.

Emma immediately turns on Lance, “Did you know?” she asks with venom in her voice.

“Know what?” he asked, confused.

“Did you know they made a deal with the Dark One? Did you know we’re in this mess because they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain?” she hisses at him. Emma’s practically launches herself at him, Killian has a hand wrapped around her arm holding her back.

“What the hell happened in the throne room?” Lance asks her in confusion, still not understanding her. Emma rolls her eyes and sucks in a deep breath before telling them the story of what happened in the throne room.

“And then he just disappeared in a cloud of red smoke,” she shakes her head, “I need to know what the hell happened the weeks leading up to the siege. I need to know how we got into this mess.”

“Are you going to heed his caution about trying to kill him?” Lance asks her carefully. While revenge has driven her these past couple weeks, Emma can’t deny how tried she is and how much she just wants to rebuild her kingdom.

“He’s immortal what’s the point?” she sighs.

“Your Majesty, do you want my forces to go after him?” Killian asks her, sternly.

“There’s no way to kill him, how would you even accomplish such a task?” she snaps back.

“Emma, I asked what you want , not what’s practical,” he says frustration in his eyes. She’s shocked he’s used her given name especially in front of Lancelot, who noticed as well.   

“No, I don’t want to go after him, Killian! He’s the damned Dark One, that’s a suicide mission. I’d rather rebuild my broken kingdom and be prepared for if he returns,” she says exasperated.

“I’ll get our people researching about him and what happened exactly,” Lance reassures her. Emma just nods, leaning against the wall her eyes shut. Lance nods to Killian before walking off to take care of business.

“You should rest, the medics could take hours,” Killian tells her.

“Or they could done in a few minutes,” she counters, keeping her eyes closed, exhaustion starting to weigh on her. So, she’s going to be stubborn and avoid looking at him, that’s fine she can do whatever she pleases. She clearly does that already since she slipped out of his tent last night.

“Fine,” he says, and she opens her eyes and can see his jaw clench, “I’ll make sure Will and Robin managed to secure the castle.” Killian gives her a longing look before he leaves. He didn’t say anything akin to farewell, he didn’t bring up the night before. Perhaps he just wanted one night with her, one night with a Queen.  

Once he vanishes from sight she sinks down to the floor and sitting with her back against the wall. It was many hours before she could see Leo again. He was healed and healthy with his arm functional, she burst into tears at the sight of him. He just rolled his eyes telling her he was always going to be fine.

Not long after her teary meltdown Leo has a maid lead Emma to her chambers for some much-needed rest. The maid helps her out of her blood-stained clothes and into a thin shift. It’s surreal that she’s in her room once again. The Evil Queen hadn’t touched any of her possessions it seemed, but the maid told her that her parent’s suite had been demolished, only a few things were recognizable. Silence fills the room as Emma realizes how much she’s changed since her last night in this room. The maid leaves bidding Emma goodnight. She climbs into bed and sleep washes over Emma quickly.

Chapter Text

Queen Emma of Misthaven paces her throne room waiting for a certain charming mercenary to visit her for his reward. The reward she promised him for helping her avenge her parents’ deaths by killing the Evil Queen who tried to take the throne in the process. A reward that he had worked hard for over these long few weeks. At the final battle he pulled out all the stops for her, called in favors for her, killed for her. Hell, he offered to go after the Dark One for her. Now she owes him a pretty penny and after looking over the Kingdom’s treasury she realizes why her parents were so vulnerable to the Evil Queen’s attack. They had little money and didn’t wish to tax their people to death. Instead they scaled back on the number of guards protecting the castle that horrid night. Lancelot had warned her the treasury was low, but she didn’t know it was this low. Even though Emma took all of the Evil Queen’s riches and put that toward repairing the castle and surrounding villages from the final battle. Emma doesn’t have enough to pay Killian or his captains, sure there is enough gold to pay his men, but it can’t be enough for all they’ve done. God, one of her first acts as Queen to Misthaven will be to grovel to the mercenary who got her on the throne.

The guards announce his arrival and Emma takes her rightful place on the throne, her back straight and head held high. All her money had gone to her people and to actually having enough guards to protect her and Leo, especially after his injury in the final battle. He was the only family she had left; she had to protect him at all costs. She won’t make her parent’s mistakes.

The doors swing wide open and Commander Killian Jones strides into the throne room in his fighting leathers with his sword strapped to his waist. No matter the situation Killian always looked like he was ready to fight anyone at any moment. Emma has never seen in him in anything more casual. She once asked him why he never did, and he told her that he always liked to be prepared.

Killian drops to one knee and bows his head before her, “Your Majesty,” he greets her. The guards shut the doors, leaving the two alone.

“Commander,” she nods as he stands to his full height.

“The throne, it suits you. All of our hard work seems to have paid of splendidly,” he smirks. She smiles sadly.

“It would seem so, however that is not why I brought you here today,” she says with all the regality she can muster, and Killian raises an eyebrow. It feels wrong to sit on this throne, that once belonged to her parents and tell him she doesn’t have what she offered him, what she promised.

“Why did you bring me here, Your Majesty?” Killian asks and Emma stands, quickly closing the space between them with a few steps.

“Killian, I have nothing to pay you with,” the queen tells him, “I lied. I thought- after I took the throne, I would be able to compensate you, so It would be fine, but I have nothing -”

Killian breathes heavily out through his nose “Emma, you really think I couldn’t figure that out for myself, after you’ve put me out of my way to avoid bribing anyone?” His anger bubbles to the surface, clear by his break in protocol in calling her by her given name. He only ever called her Emma in private, never wanting to give the impression of anything indecent between them. Despite the fact that half of her court called her Emma.

“What?” says Emma, snapping her jaw off of the floor “I thought-”

“You think I’m here for money? After all this?” Killian says closing the existing gap between them, his arm wrapping around her waist.

“I-” she stutters due to their proximity; they haven’t been this close since the night before the final battle in his tent.

“I don’t know what that night meant to you, but I meant everything I whispered into your ear. I would follow you to the ends of this world. My sword, my men are yours, Emma,” he whispers. Her hands were against his chest, the leather soft beneath her hands. How could he know she was thinking of that night?

“I have nothing-” he stops her with a finger to her lips.

“Emma, I have no interest in gold or jewels. I don’t seek payment from you. I’ve never met a royal who wasn’t corrupt, so their cause was never worthy enough for me to pledge my sword. Your cause is a worthy one. I’ll protect you until my dying day. At this point you’ll have to send me away to get rid of me. Not to mention you’ve stolen my heart, so my sword and heart are yours if you’ll have me,” he tells her, his piercing blue eyes searching her vibrant green ones. He hasn’t sought her out since that night in his tent, she thought he wasn’t interested. That perhaps he just wanted one night from her, perhaps with the possibility of death on horizon he needed to feel alive. It hurt to accept that, but then she had a kingdom to fix and she had about twenty other things to worry about.

“How could I have stolen your heart when you already have mine?” she says, unable to form more coherent thoughts. He blinks a few times.

“What?” he asks, confused now more than ever. He thought that night in his tent was a fluke of nature. He was convinced he imagined it until that next day when she’d barely look at him when they were alone.  

She shakes her head before placing her lips on his, tentatively at first, but she surges forward her arms wrapping around the back of his neck. Their lips glide across each other, one of his hands on her low back and the other tangled in her hair. Gods, he never wants this end. Being in her arms is something he wasn’t sure would happen. He was convinced she’d laugh in his face when he said his heart was hers. Killian has never been so happy to be completely wrong about something. They pull apart and Emma rests her head on his shoulder. Killian savors this moment of having her in his arms. Her eyes catch his.

“I thought since you never came to me after that night, that perhaps well you wanted nothing more from me,” she blushes, and he sighs.

“Oh no, My Queen. Between the final battle, Leo’s injury, your coronation, and rebuilding your kingdom that perhaps you were too busy for matters of the heart. Foolish of me, I assure you it won’t happen again,” he smirks. She smiles and Killian swears he will do everything in his power to keep it on her face. He kisses her softly and she swears she melts in his arms.

Unfortunately, her next appointment arrives, and Killian has to leave, and Emma has to somehow look presentable. Before he leaves her Killian whispers a promise to find her later. The promise is what allows her to push through the day. It seems that one thing after another needs to be dealt with and she just can’t get away. Her patience grows shorter and shorter throughout the bothersome day.

Finally, long after the sun has set Emma collapses with a sigh into the plush armchair in her private study, a study that used to be shared by her mother and father. She can still faintly smell her father’s scent in the fabric of the armchair.

A knock at the door breaks her from her reverie and really all she wants is to be a lone with Killian, it better not be Lance behind that door. She clears her throat before uttering, “come in.” When the door swings wide she’s met with the stormy blue eyes of her mercenary. Emma releases a sigh she didn’t know she was holding. Killian simply lifts his eyebrow and the door shuts behind him.

“I’m just glad it’s you and not anyone else,” she tells him as he approaches her at the side of her armchair.

“As I’ve seen you’ve had quite the busy day,” he nods, reaching down to take her hand in his. Slowly he brings it up to his lips pressing a kiss into it. A faint blush and tentative smile crosses her face.

“You saw my day?” she asks intrigued. Killian nervously scratches just behind his ear.

“Ah well yes. I made several attempts to see you once more, but I’m afraid I could never catch you alone,” he tells her, blushing now as well. Emma stands and takes his face in her hands before kissing him softly. She’s never felt this way about any man before and she now knows why her parents insisted she marry for love because without a doubt she did love this man. He made her heart beat faster with his gaze alone. Now his hands were roaming over her body and gods she never wanted him to stop. Her hands are on him too, in his hair, over his chest, clutching his back. They move until her backside touches the desk and without a word Killian pushes her on to the desk. Immediately her legs move to wrap around his waist, and she gasps when she feels how hard he’s become underneath her. She pulls away her eyes flicking open to meet his almost black eyes, full of desire. They don’t need words to communicate what comes next.

Killian hastily pushes his pants halfway down his legs before she pushes him into the chair. His eyes wide with wonder as she takes him in her hand, pumping up and down slowly. He hisses at her contact, “Emma, please.” His hand searches underneath her simple gown and he finds her folds slick with want.

“All for me, love?” he asks her with a sly smile.

“Yes, all for you, only you Killian,” she cries out as his thumb finds her clit. Her hand loosens its grip on his cock.

“Good. Have you been thinking of me? About what I would do? About how I can make you feel?” His voice husky and demanding, making her want him even more.

“Yes, I’ve thought of you all day,” she whimpers as he slips a finger inside her. Emma has to grip the back of the armchair for support fearful her legs won’t support her. She takes him back in hand pumping him harder and faster than before. His ministrations on her come to halt, like he can’t think when she touches him. Quickly shifting positions, Emma pushes up her skirts and slides down over him, enveloping his cock. Both of them moan in pleasure. Once she takes in every inch of him, she begins to move. Killian unties the laces at the front of her dress, so he can gain access to her breasts.

“Emma,” he moans, rolling her nipple between his fingers.

“Killian don’t… stop,” she says breathless. He meets her thrust for thrust loving the feel of being inside her, of hearing all the sounds spilling from her mouth. There is a brief pause in her movements, and he takes the opportunity to switch positions, wanting to be as deep inside of her as possible. Killian holds onto her tightly while he stands, he slips out of her. He looks into her deep green eyes, surprise and arousal there.

“Do you trust me?” he asks her, and she nods, not sure she could find her voice in this moment if she wanted to. He sets Emma on her feet.

“Turn around, lay down on the desk, and grab the edge,” he whispers, his breath brushing against the shell of her ear. A shiver goes down her spine as she lies with her chest flat on the desk, her hands gripping the edge of the desk. Killian places both hands on her hips before sliding into her, from this position the angle is completely different and marvelous. Emma can feel him so deep inside her, “Killian,” she practically whines.

“Yes?” he smirks.

“Move!” she practically growls, search for some kind of friction. He draws back before slamming into her. She cries out, practically seeing stars. He begins a steady rhythm and Emma completely understands why he wanted this position here, splayed out on the desk. The fast pace exactly what she needs after today. Killian pulls her back to the edge of the desk his fingers finding her clit, moving furiously. Emma cries out his name as she falls over the edge her walls clamping down on his cock. A few sloppy thrusts later he follows her, practically collapsing on top of her.

After they both recover Killian carefully removes himself from her, Emma practically whimpering at the loss. He can see his seed spilling out of her and he can’t deny how much he loves the sight. He pulls his pants back up all the way before he helps Emma to stand. She adjusts her skirts before taking his hand again.

“You know I was actually planning on us talking and making grand sweeping gestures, but…” he trails off shaking his head.

“But what?” she asks, curious.

“That kiss distracted me from my plan,” he says taking her in his arms again.

“You didn’t seem to be complaining,” she chuckles.

“With the love of my life in my arms, how could I?” he chuckles before realizing just what exactly he said to her. Emma goes stiff in his arms.

“You love me?” she asks him, in complete wonder. His hand comes to cup her cheek and she leans into his touch.

“With all my heart, Emma,” he tells her. Her eyes glisten slightly as a smile blooms on her face.

“I love you too,” she says never taking her gaze off of him even for a moment. He pulls her in for earth shattering kiss and they can’t help but to get lost each other for a few minutes. They pull apart both breathing heavily and gripping tightly to one another.

“A bed. We need a bed,” she says breathless, her forehead leaning against hers.

“Aye, we do. Lead the way, my Queen,” he says, his voice raspy. Their hands intertwined. No one dares to say a word when Emma leads Killian to her chambers. His belongings are sent to her room the next day and no one says a word then either. Although the subject of Killian comes up over the next couple of weeks as Emma and her council attempt to rebuild the Kingdom. Killian has been sitting in with her on these meetings over the last couple of weeks, but mysteriously today he is nowhere to be seen.

“What of Killian’s title, Emma?” Lancelot asks her. Something only to be described as cold rage settles in the pit of her stomach.

“Is that why he isn’t present today because you wished to discuss him?” Emma snaps. These past weeks have been hard on all of them, but Lancelot acts like a father with hers gone and a queen can’t be seen having someone else making decisions for her. She thought she had made this clear when they were fighting for the kingdom, but clearly not.

“There has been some unrest between with his men. I sent him to settle it, whether or not he knows it he’s a natural born leader,” Lancelot glares are her, “which brings me back to my original question. What would you like his title to be? Prince Consort?” The question hangs in the room and no one else dares to even make a noise.

“No, of course not. He should be General of my army,” Emma states clearly. Leo lets out a chuckle from beside her. Emma chances a glance at her younger brother.

“You always did like a challenge.” Leo shakes his head.

“We’ll table this discussion for the next council session when Killian is present,” Lancelot says, his voice stern. Emma has known him long enough to know he is surprised by her action and looking for a way to hide his shock.

“How it should’ve been done in the first place,” Emma comments before the council moves on.

“The wedding, have you given thought to planning it?” Lancelot asks her. Emma glances down to the emerald that now sits on her left hand. Killian had asked for Leo’s help when he picks the ring and her brother did not disappoint. The night they had to flee the castle after their parent’s death, Granny had retrieved Snow’s engagement ring and hid it in the kitchen. The Evil Queen hadn’t been able to get her hands on it there and therefore it remained safe. Once they were in the castle once more Granny gave the ring to Leo. Emma strongly suspects that Killian asked for Emma’s hand from Leo, but neither would confirm her suspicions. Two nights ago, Killian had taken Emma on a moonlit horse ride out to a nearby lake where he got on one knee and presented the ring to her, asking her to marry him. She began to cry when she realized it was her mother’s and said of course she’d marry him.

“No, I’ve been more focused on our people at the moment,” she bristles.

“Maybe you should. A royal wedding would bring people in from far and wide, might give them some hope during rebuilding, bring in business to those who need it,” Lancelot shrugs.

“I’ll give it some thought over the next few days,” Emma nods. Dreading the thought of having to plan a royal wedding, she could barely stand going to balls and other royal weddings and now she’ll have to plan her own. She’d rather be in battle again, much easier than wedding planning. If it were up to her, they would be wed in front of the council and whomever Killian wished to invite. Something simple.

The meeting drones on Emma getting more agitated with Lancelot’s meddling by the minute. When the council meeting is over everyone files out aside from her, Leo, and Lancelot. The door slams shut, and Emma stands from her seat at the round table.

“How dare you undermine me like that!” Emma practically hisses at Lancelot.

“The topic had to be discussed, Emma. The man cannot simply be your husband. You are the Queen!” He raises his voice.

“I am aware of my title. Are you aware of yours?” she snaps and Lancelot reels back as though he’s been slapped. Leo steps between them.

“Emma, that was a low blow. We don’t pull rank,” Leo says coolly to her.

“Leo, what do you think he is trying to do to Killian? He’s trying to make sure his rank doesn’t advance more than it has to. You’re worried he wants to be King correct?” Emma says her head snapping to Lancelot.

“Of course, I am! We worked hard to get you on the throne I won’t let him take it from you,” Lancelot finally shouts. Emma’s jaw drops.

“Take it? Lance, that’s ridiculous. Killian loves Emma, he doesn’t want the throne.” Leo looks stunned.

“I was sworn to protect you two and I will do that no matter how much you despise me for it,” he tells them anger radiating off of him.

“You are not my father, your approval is not needed or wanted in this regard. Killian has no aspirations for the throne. If you had bothered to ask me in private and not ambush me in such a manner, I would’ve told you as much. Killian and I have discussed the matter of him being king. Believe me when I say he doesn’t want it,” she says coolly.

“Greed and power have motivated h-” Lancelot begins.

“Get out, Lance before you say something you’ll regret,” Leo says harshly. This takes Emma by surprise because Leo is the second born, he’s always been carefree and charming. He didn’t have the weight of the crown on his shoulders. He’s fiercely loyal, but never harsh. Maybe the battles changed him more than she thought.

Lancelot bows to them before storming out and when the door shuts Emma composure finally drops. A single tear rolls down her cheek before she wipes it away.

“Thank you, Leo,” she mumbles, and he turns toward her.

“Anytime. He was out of line. Not only was he insulting you, but me,” Emma is perplexed by this and her brother continues on, “I told Killian he had my blessing to marry you. I know you’re the Queen and it’s unnecessary, but it’s tradition. Lance said those things and if he thinks I would let you marry someone like that is a new low.” Leo is now pacing around the council chambers due to his frustration.

“I knew you gave it to him, despite refusal of the fact from both of you. Lancelot was completely out of line, he’s not our father and should stop acting like it,” she snaps. The doors swing open again and Killian strides in, his eyes with a slightly panicked look.

“My Queen, Leo,” he greets them, “Granny told me that the council meeting should not have been missed.”

“Of course, she told you that. She’ll tell you anything,” Emma grumbles as Killian approaches.

“It’s not my fault Widow Lucas is charmed by me,” he smirks before kissing Emma’s cheek, “What did I miss?” Emma tenses, which Killian notices and Leo gives her a look that screams tell-him-now. Emma explains the meeting and Lancelot’s alarming behavior. Killian’s mood sours quickly.

“Perhaps I should go have a word with your advisor, he clearly has some issues with me,” Killian sighs. Emma grasps his hand in hers.

“It’s not necessary,” Emma shakes her head.

“It might be, Lance might be trying to slip into a father role,” Leo shrugs.

“We had a father and I’m a grown woman fully capable of making decisions regarding my life,” Emma says crossing her arms. Leo flinches at mention of their father.  

“No one doubts you,” Leo tells her, and Emma rolls her eyes, “He did bring up a good point… what do you want your title to be?” Leo asks Killian who looks surprised by this question.

“I hadn’t given it much thought. I wasn’t aware that I would need one,” Killian says nervously scratching his ear.

“You could be Prince Consort,” Leo offers and Emma scoffs.

“My Queen, you don’t seem thrilled by that title. What does a Prince Consort do?” Killian says his gaze passing between the siblings.

“Nothing essentially, to stand next to me and look pretty,” Emma scoffs. Leo looks like he’s about to argue her point, but then shuts his mouth and nods in agreement.

“I already do that,” Killian says with his usual swagger, “What title do you think would be more appropriate, love?”

“General of my army. It would be a waste to put you anywhere else,” Emma says plainly. Killian looks to be in shock.

“You’d make me your general? Are you sure?” he asks, placing a hand on her shoulder. Emma can see the doubt in his eyes.

“Only if you want it,” she says, “I think you’ll get bored with anything else and not to mention it would be a shame to waste your military mind.”

“Of course, I bloody want to. I told you before my sword is yours, My Queen. I thought perhaps you’d use someone from your parent’s reign,” he tells her.

“Their general and a few of their advisors were killed the night of Regina’s siege on the castle,” Leo points out.

“Emma, wherever you need me I’ll gladly go,” Killian tells her. Emma slides her hand into his and nods.

“It’s settled then, General of Misthaven’s Army.”

“Are you actually considering plans for a wedding or were you just planning on eloping?” Leo asks, casually and this catches Killian’s attention.

“We’ve been engaged for two whole days, sorry I haven’t given thought to planning yet and you know eloping isn’t sounding bad right now,” Emma rolls her eyes.

“We can’t elope,” Killian looks at her concerned, “You’re the Queen people will expect to see your wedding.” Emma sighs knowing he’s right and Leo just chuckles.

“You know I would plan it for you if you bothered to ask,” Leo raises an eyebrow. Emma’s gaze meets her brother’s.

“You want to plan it?” she asks, surprised.

“Unlike you, I enjoy a good ball with plenty of people, wine, and food. That’s all a royal wedding is, anyway, it’s starts with a ceremony and turns into a ball. Anyway, I helped mom plan the last five of your birthday balls, I know what you like,” Leo points out. Emma considers it. Leo did always take after their mother more than she did. With his dark hair and soft smile, he often looked like her too. He was much better with a ball than Emma was. It would only make sense he could plan a ball like their mother. The only problem with the treasury.

“I’m not sure we should have one to begin with,” Emma sighs, looking at Killian. He knows why they might not be able to have one in the first place, lack of money never helped anything. Killian wraps an arm around her shoulders and brings her close, he could always read her like an open book.

“Ah you mean our less than full treasury,” Leo sighs and Emma confirms.

“If I find a way to do it for little cost will you let me?” He asks her and Emma is immediately suspicious.

“As long as I approve the cost,” Emma says sternly.

“Fine,” he smiles, “You won’t regret this,” he calls out as he leaves the council room.

“Why do I have the feeling that isn’t entirely true?” Emma asks, glaring after her brother. Killian pulls her in his arms and brushes his lips across her temple.

“I have an advisor to see,” she sighs, taking comfort in this moment in his arms.

“Do you want me there?” he asked, his shoulders tensing the same way they did before battle. She shook her head.

“This might seem like it’s about you, but it’s not. It’s between him and I,” she says before kissing his cheek. He smiles.

“Of course, Emma. I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done.” She catches his gaze as she walks out, and her heart skips a beat.

Emma finds Lance in his office and he springs to his feet when she enters.

“Do we have a problem?” Emma asks him with a glare.

“You don’t know his intentions. The crown, the kingdom must be protected,” Lance glares back at her.

“No, I know his intentions. The crown is safe. He’s a warrior, not a politician. This is about more than that. For some reason you seem to think I need you to be my father. I don’t, I had one. He’s dead,” Emma says sharply. Lancelot flinches at her harsh words.

“I’m well aware of that. You saw the night of the siege I was able to reach your parents. Your father was barely holding on, all while still clutching your mother, who was already dead. With his last breath he asked me to watch out for you, to protect you and your brother. You may not like it, but that’s what I’m doing,” he tells her, tears pooling in his eyes. Lance was one of her parents most trusted friends. He helped them when the Evil Queen was terrorizing the kingdom when Emma was younger, he even officiated their wedding. Lance must miss them just as much as her and Leo did.

“I didn’t know that,” Emma wipes away a stray tear, “Lance, I am Queen and twenty-four years of age. I don’t need a father; I need an advisor. I appreciate and value your advice, but if you ever manipulate my future husband and I again I’ll find a new advisor.”

“I understand completely, Your Majesty. Your parents would be proud to see the woman, the queen you’ve become,” he says softly.

“Thank you. My parent’s and I fought about who I should marry many times, you know. I thought I should marry to strengthen the kingdom, but they insisted I marry for love. They wanted me to have what they did. I wish they were here to see that I have chosen someone I love. If you want to know more about Killian and his intentions, you could just ask him. He’s not shy,” Emma shrugs. Lancelot just grunts and she rolls her eyes.

“Do you believe it is true love between you and him? Like it was for your parents,” Lance asks her, curious.

“I don’t know if it is, but I know it is love. I’ll let you get back to your work,” she nods, and he takes his seat once again, “If it helps any, he pledged his sword to me before he proposed,” Emma comments before leaving, knowing that sometimes actions are more important than words.

Emma walks quickly back to her chambers, all the emotions from her conversation with Lance hitting her in waves. She dismisses all her servants before allowing herself to collapse on the floor, tears streaming down her face.

Before the siege, before the war the plan was for Snow to step down when Emma became twenty-six years of age. Her mother wanted to be at her coronation, to be by her daughter’s side while she adjusted to being queen. Now she could never have that. The Evil Queen took that from her. Despite seeking vengeance for her parent’s death and killing the Evil Queen she couldn’t get back what she lost. She missed her parent’s advice and sparing in the courtyard with her father. Emma missed everything about them. She had been preparing to be queen her whole life, but she was supposed to have the support of her parents. They were supposed to be on the council with her. Now, it was just her.

Her door swings open and Killian strides through. When he spots her, he rushes to her side and kneels before her.

“My love, what happened? Do I need to have words with Lancelot?” Killian asks concern written across his face. Emma shakes her head and tries to stop crying long enough to talk. It takes a minute or two, but Killian patiently waits for her.

“They’re gone, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be here,” Emma manages to get out, tears still streaming down her face. Killian looks confused, but then the realization dawns on his face and he pulls her into his arms. His hand moves up and down her back and she buries her face into his chest, her tears rolling off his fighting leathers.

“Oh Emma, I’m so sorry. I wish I could ease your pain. Losing family is the worst pain there is,” he whispers into her hair. He wraps her up in his arms and carries her into bed. He holds her in his arms for a long time, her grief hitting her long after the fact. When people come knocking about her next appointments Killian leaves her in bed and sends them all away. Telling them the queen is feeling unwell today. When news gets around to Leo, he storms through the door to see what is wrong. When he spots a puffy eyed Emma curled up in Killian’s arms, he stops looking worried and instead sadness crossing his face. Emma speaks for the first time in hours.

“They’re gone, Leo. How am I supposed to do this without them?” she asks him, her voice nasally from crying. Leo perches himself on the edge of the bed.

“Ems, you’re not alone. You have Killian and I. They are gone and they were supposed to help you through this, but they can’t. They raised you to be queen, you’re more prepared for this than you can ever imagine,” Leo tells her.

“Love, he’s right,” Killian says before pressing a kiss into the top of her head.

“It doesn’t feel like it,” she shakes her head.

“No, I’m sure it doesn’t, but you have people who care about you behind you and the people love you,” Leo reminds her. She nods, even though she still feels slightly hopeless.

“You know that’s all mom and dad had too. They had no parents to lean on, just what their parents taught them. If they can do this you certainly can,” Leo encourages her. She leaves the comfort of Killian’s arms to jump into Leo’s. He grunts at the impact, but holds his sister for a few minutes when they part, he tells her that he’ll take over her appointments for the rest of the day before leaving. Emma curls up in Killian’s lap his hand running through her hair, which lulls her into sleep.

Somewhere around midnight Emma wakes with her stomach growling. Killian kisses her softly before rushing down to fetch them some bread and cheese. They eat in silence when he returns until inevitably their soft touches turn into something else and the food is forgotten.  

When Leo asks to discuss her wedding the next day Emma just internally groans. This is possibly the last thing she wants to talk about, especially when people are hungry, and houses were destroyed by the Evil Queen and her Black Knights. Emma is still trying to convince Killian to elope with her, but he keeps telling her no.

Leo finally tracks her down in her office and intends to make her listen to what he has to say.

“Have you been avoiding me today?” he asks with a lifted eyebrow.

“What gave you that impression?” she asks evading his question, not quite meeting his gaze.

“You quite literally ran from me earlier,” he chuckles. Damn, she really thought he hadn’t seen her.

“It’s not you I just hate party planning,” she grumbles.

“I’m well aware, but I just need approval for these plans,” he says sternly, annoyed with his sisters’ antics.

“I know, but I’d rather this be private. I want to focus on our people, not me,” she sighs.

“Emma, the people want to see you happy. They know you’re working night and day to rebuild. They know the sacrifices you’ve made,” he tells her sincerely.

“I know,” she sighs, “Alright, tell me about your plan, most importantly the cost.” Emma sits in her armchair, having to suppress a smile at the memory of her and Killian in the chair.

Leo pulls out several lists of what they will need and a proposed guest list. Emma looks over it and it is surprisingly reasonable. However, many items are missing from the list.

“What about flowers, food, and wine? There’s a lot missing from list,” she says lifting her head to raise an eyebrow at her brother. She was surprised he could forget wine.

“Many vendors wished to donate what is not listed. I insisted we would pay for it, but the people want to thank you for saving the kingdom. Not to mention they will make money off all of our visitors,” he tells her.

“Try and pay them anyway, I don’t want to take advantage of our people,” she mumbles glancing over the list.

“Of course, but you know they won’t take it,” he tells her.

“I know, but it’s worth a try,” she responds.

“I know you are eager to get married, but I need at least two months to plan this properly and give the dignitaries and royalty to respond accordingly,” he says cautiously.

“Fine,” Emma says, suppressing an eye roll, “do I have a million dress fittings to attend?”

“Not a million, but a few yes, you’re so dramatic. Actually, you have one now, so move it we have places to be,” Leo says ushering her out of her chair. Emma groans, but gets up. In her chambers their seamstress, Lydia who has been making clothes for them since they were babes. Lydia stands at barely five feet tall with bright red curls with a few strands of grey scattered throughout, showing her old age. The women is petite, but carries herself as someone who could kill you if you crossed her.

“My dear, did you seriously think I would not be your first appointment? Please your dress will be what everyone will be talking about for the whole season. Now, I’ll measure then we’ll talk about what you want,” she says with a curt nod. Emma nods knowing better than to argue with Lydia. The time passes rather quickly and painlessly, much to Emma’s surprise.

“Don’t worry your commander will have many appointments with me as well, you two will be the best dressed couple throughout all the realms,” Lydia says with a smirk. Her teasing tone makes Emma smile.

Besides dress fittings wedding planning is a fairly easy for Emma, mostly because Leo does everything and if she is absolutely needed somewhere (which is rare) he lets her know. As the days pass on however she gets more irritated. Finally, one night as they are getting ready for bed Killian finally has enough, “Emma, what’s wrong?” he inquires after another round her muttering to herself. From her place in front of her vanity her head snaps toward him, concern etched over his face.

“Do you not want to get married now? Because we can wait until you’re ready. I’m not going anywhere, love,” he says softly, hoping beyond hope he’s wrong about her cold feet.

“What?” she says her heart skipping a beat. Killian is at her side in an instant.

“I know our engagement was quick, maybe too quick. I just thought we were ready,” he says a hand cupping her cheek. She stands quickly both of her hands lying flat on his chest.

“We are ready! Killian, I’m not questioning us, waiting any longer frankly would make this worse. I want the bullshit of royal wedding behind us. I don’t want to look at another seating arrangement or flowers or suffer through yet another dress fitting. If I had it my way we would be married tonight, fuck the politics,” she sighs resting her head against his shoulder. He releases a sigh of relief.

“Oh, thank god. I thought you finally realized you are far too good for me,” he says, holding her tighter.

“Killian, never. You’re mine just as I’m yours,” she says pressing a brief kiss onto his lips. She rests her forehead against his. He pulls back quickly, his eyes wide.

“You know we could do it tonight,” he says with a knowing smirk. Realization dawning over Emma, “What? Elope?”

“Not necessarily, but get married here, in the dead of night. You, me, your brother so he doesn’t murder us for getting married without him and then have the royal wedding for all the political bullshit,” he explains.

“My parents did have two weddings, we could too,” she smiles.

“Aye, maybe it just runs in the family,” he smirks.  

“Lancelot can marry us, I’ll get him, you go get Leo,” she tells him. Killian nods, kissing her forehead and they dress quickly before heading their separate ways.

In under an hour the four of them are assembled in the throne room. Leo mumbling about how this is ridiculous to do in the middle of night when they get married in two weeks. Lancelot just has a knowing smile on his face as if he’s seen this before because he has with her parents. Leo stands as a witness to their secret ceremony. Their vows are personal, much more than they will be for the royal wedding. Their hands clasped tightly together.

“Killian, I know I can be difficult at times, some might say stubborn, but you always seem to know the right thing to say to me. You’ve always seen me through the mask of royalty, which is rare. You’re a kind, loyal man who I love with all my heart. I accepted when I was young that I would never find my true love because I thought I would be married off for an alliance, but my parents insisted that I wait, perhaps they knew you were out there waiting for me. I wish they could be here to see this, to see the wonderful man I’m marrying,” Emma says a tear slipping down her cheek when she mentions her parents.

“Emma, for the longest time I was roaming around fighting battles for royals never finding someone who was worthy of my loyalty. I believe in trust, but not blind trust. Then you came into my life and my gods your beauty swept me away and then you spoke and there was a fire in you that I had never seen before. Your kindness and fierce devotion to your people made me fall for you and made me want to pledge my sword to you. I had given up on love a long time ago, but you turned my world upside down and proved me oh so wrong. I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. I will love you for the rest of my days,” Killian tells her, his eyes glistening. Leo shakes his head, tears spilling down his cheeks. Lancelot has to compose himself.

“By the power vested in me by Her Majesty I declare you two husband and wife,” he says steadily and Leo claps, “You my kiss the bride.” Killian pulls Emma into his arms, kissing as if for the first time. When they part Emma is rather breathless and clutches him tightly. Lancelot and Leo congratulate the couple before they all return to bed. Killian insists on carrying her across the threshold before laying her in their bed. They don’t get to sleep until the early morning hours, Killian claiming they won’t have another wedding night with a wiggle of his eyebrows. Emma just shakes her head before kissing him soundly.

The next two weeks ago by with much less irritation on Emma’s end. None of these frivolous things are keeping her from marrying the love of her life. The only aspect of this that does not get easier is the dress fittings it’s the three days before the wedding and Emma has to worry about other royalty coming tomorrow and now there is a dress emergency.

“Lydia,” Emma says panic raising in her voice, “It doesn’t fit.” Lydia whips around the screen finding Emma with two assistants unable to button up the dress. Emma feels a wave of nausea wash over her. Lydia points at the one of the girls, “Get her a bucket she’s not puking on this dress.” The assistant runs out and quickly returns with a basin.

“Lydia, I am not puking. I’m just nervous with the everything going on,” Emma says waving a hand around her.

“Cold feet?” Lydia asks eyeballing her.

“No! I love Killian. It’s about dealing with all the other royalty arriving tomorrow,” she sighs the nausea subsiding.

“Good because you’re having that commander’s baby,” Lydia says offhandedly. Emma gasps before yanking the basin from the young girl’s hand, her breakfast coming back up. Once she finishes and is handed a cloth to clean her face with Emma turns on Lydia.

“Lydia, he’s my General not commander… wait excuse me? I’m not with child,” she says surprised.

“Honey, that dress fit you like a glove last week, now you cannot button it. You just threw up and you’ve got that glow, which I thought just came from you being in love, but clearly, it’s from child. If I’m wrong tell me when you last bled,” Lydia says, crossing her arms. Emma thinks back, surely it wasn’t long ago, but between rebuilding the kingdom and coordinating a wedding with Leo she simply well forgot about it. Emma blinks a few times, “I don’t remember, maybe no… about three months ago?”

“I suspected as much. Now, don’t worry about the dress. I have extra fabric; we’ll get to work on letting it out. You will look beautiful. Once my work is done no one will know. I insist you rest until your next appointment and tell that man he’s going to be a father,” Emma looks nervous and Lydia grabs her hand, “Don’t worry about the girls and I, we will keep this quiet until it’s time.” Emma nods grateful. Lydia makes some measurements before they help her out of the dress. Once she’s in her normal dress again, she notices it’s tight. She looks to Lydia who is already nodding, “I’ll have some everyday dresses made as well.”

“You’re the best,” Emma says grasping her hand, “thank you.” The older women smiles warmly.

“You are like the daughter I never had. Don’t get me wrong I love my sons, but they are men and it’s not the same. I watched you and Leo grow up, I’d do anything for you two. Now, I insist rest,” she lectures Emma who simply nods. A baby. My gods, Killian and she had discussed children. Both of them thrilled to be parents, but they never expected it to be this soon. Emma knows she should tell him right away, but she barely has two seconds to herself before she’s swept into meetings for the rest of the day and when she makes it back to her chambers Killian is already asleep. She kisses his head before snuggling close to him and drifting off to sleep.

Emma is nauseous the next morning and really how didn’t she notice this before. With all the other royalty and dignitaries arriving today they barely get two seconds to themselves before servants flood their chambers ushering them to get ready for the day. They share a longing look and Killian presses a kiss into her lips.

“Soon we’ll have a proper honeymoon and not a damn person will be around for miles,” he whispers making her cheeks blush.

“I’m holding you to that, General,” she smiles. One of Lydia’s assistants scurries in with a new dress, interrupting their moment.

“Sorry, Your Majesty. Lydia needs to know if this is to your liking,” the young girl says with a knowing look. Emma sighs, but understands.

“Of course,” Emma says finally sliding out from bed, “Let’s get this over with then can’t keep her waiting.” The assistant nods with a smile. The dress is a vibrant red the skirt expertly hiding her stomach. It fits beautifully.

“Tell Lydia this is perfect,” Emma says with a subtle nod, the girl smiles before curtsying and running out the door. Her crown is nestled into her hair and makeup applied to her face. When she sees Killian, he is dressed in a white tunic and black pants with dark brown jacket and of course a sword strapped in at his waist. Emma takes in the sight of him for what feels like a very long minute.

“General, you look…” she says a little speechless. He smirks.

“My Queen, you can say it, dashingly handsome,” he teases her. Killian strides to her side, offering his hand. She places her hand in his. Killian brings it up to his lips.

“We know you’re the real beauty here,” he tells her seriously. A smile and a blush creep across her cheeks.

“I must say I do miss your usual leather,” she tells him with a seductive glint in her eye.

“Oh, I know how found of it you are. Don’t worry the minute our visitors are gone it’ll be back,” he winks at her. Emma want to tell him right then and there, but with about ten other people in their room it doesn’t seem like the right moment.

“Good, now let’s go. I’m sure we have a schedule to keep,” she tells him, and they walk hand in hand to the door.

“Are you sure we can’t be late? Because I am only a man, My Queen and that dress well it’s stirring up my husbandly duties,” he whispers the last part in her ear. Emma keeps her composure as they walk down the corridor despite the growing heat pooling between her legs.

“Your wife would love to indulge you, but I’m afraid the Queen is going to make you wait,” Emma whispers back.

“That’s fine, you’ll just have to think about me all day long and what we could be doing,” he winks, and she curses him. He knows she’s impatient and waiting will torture her.

“Who says I’m not already?” she throws back at him and she watches him curse under his breath.

“These damn people need to leave already, I want my wife to myself,” he says so only she can hear. Emma chuckles and kisses his hand, anymore would ignite them even further. They are in for a long day indeed. The days fly by with all of the duties they have assigned to them, the couple are rarely together. Suddenly and exhaustingly it’s the night before the wedding and Leo insists that they sleep in separate rooms. Emma might punch her brother at this suggestion. She hasn’t seen Killian all day, she’s missing him terribly and her raging hormones aren’t helping. She really needs to tell her husband about their child, which she was planning on doing tonight.

“Emma, we’re doing this the right way. For once in your life listen to me,” Leo says, looking just as exhausted as the rest of them. She huffs and kisses her husband.

“Love, it’s one night then you won’t be without me for the rest of our days,” he chuckles softly when she buries herself into his chest.

“I know, I just… it’s fine,” she shakes her head. Killian grabs her chin, “Are you sure? Because no offense Leo, I’ll stay here if it’s that important.” he searches her eyes, looking for something.

“No, Leo’s busted his ass for this wedding. If you don’t listen to him, he may combust,” she chuckles. Leo just crosses his arms, clearly annoyed.

“That’s very true. Goodnight, love.” He kisses her head before allowing Leo to lead him out of the room. Killian looks back at Emma once more, concern lingering. She gives him an encouraging smile before he disappears. Emma flops onto their bed with a sigh she might not tell him about their child until their honeymoon at this rate. Exhaustion sweeps over her lulling her to sleep.

Lydia comes with the dress the next morning to insure it fits her perfectly which it does.

“Ah you’re beautiful! Your general won’t be able to resist you,” she cheers. Emma shakes her head, but admire the dress it is truly beautiful, and Lydia is right no one will be able to tell she’s with child. Leo comes to her rooms when it’s time, he will be the one to walk her down the aisle. The servants clear out of the room to give them a moment alone.

“I know you’re technically married, but are you nervous?” he asks her.

“No, he’s already mine,” she shakes her head. Ever since their midnight wedding she’s felt lighter and much more at ease with the fanfair.

“But? I sense a but coming,” he says with a smile.

“I just need some time alone with him. I know we’ve been close, but I haven’t had any time with him,” she admits hoping to change the subject.

“After last night I moved some things around and you have an extra five days at the summer place for your honeymoon,” he tells her. She hugs him tightly.

“Thank you. For that, for everything, really, I couldn’t do this without you,” she says.

“I’m well aware, now we need to get a move on. You will not be late to your own wedding,” Leo orders practically pushing her out the door.

“So, I noticed Prince Eric is here,” Emma comments as they descend down the staircase.

“Yeah, him and Princess Melody came, their parents stayed behind they had to deal an urgent matter. What of it?” Leo asks her cautiously. Prince Eric and Princess Melody were the children of King Eric and Queen Ariel, who were some of their parents’ closest friends. They all practically grew up together. It was no secret that Leo was completely smitten with his best friend and well Eric didn’t quite hide his own feelings either, but both of them were too unsure of the other’s emotions to act on them. Snow thought they would make a handsome couple, she mentioned it to Emma several times.

“He grew up handsomely wouldn’t you say? He’s a good man,” she prods him just as their mother would’ve. They stop in front of the chapel doors and Emma adjusts her skirt.

“Your point is?” Leo asks her, clearly taken aback by this conversation.

“Court him before someone else does. Tell him you love him while you’re at it,” she whispers before the doors swing open. Leo has to quickly hide his shock in front of the crowd assembled before them. Emma slips his arm through his and he leads her down the aisle. Emma catches sight of Killian and the breath catches in her throat. He’s handsome as ever. He always is, but his outfit is composed of all black and it brings out his striking blue eyes. Eyes she regularly gets lost in. His mouth is slightly ajar. Killian is taken back by her beauty always, but Emma is a vision in white. He wishes he could clearly see her face, her fierce green eyes, but the veil is between them. Leo deposits her at the altar and swiftly lifts the veil over her head. Leo kisses her cheek before taking his seat in the first row.

Killian takes her hand and suddenly it doesn’t matter there is a crowd watching them. It feels like it is just the two of them and Lancelot, who guides them through the ceremony. They say the standard vows, both of them have a glint in their eye knowing that the words that truly matter to them have already been said. This wedding is for appearances.

“By the power vested in me by Her Majesty, I declare you two husband and wife,” Lancelot says with a beaming smile, “You my kiss the bride.” Killian sweeps Emma into his arms and gives her more chaste kiss than she is used to, which annoys her, but she accepts it. Emma gets to spend the rest of her life with this wonderful man.

“Don’t worry there is more for you later, My Queen,” he smirks knowing she wasn’t satisfied.

“There better be,” she whispers, clasping his hand as the walk down the aisle.

If Emma doesn’t tell Killian about their child soon, she may burst. She can tell he knows something is amiss. She didn’t drink from her wine during the toast, just pretended. Her mother always said that spirits won’t good for a growing child. Killian raised an eyebrow and she just squeezed his hand to indicate they would talk later. However, they don’t have a moment alone until after the feast when the dancing begins. Killian sweeps her out on the dance floor a determined look on his face.

“You can waltz?” she whispers as the music starts.

“Don’t look so surprised, I was a naval officer once. We had to attend balls,” he smirks at her.

“You’re quite good at this, good thing you’re my dance partner for every ball in the foreseeable future,” she smiles.

“Yes, I am. Lucky me, I have the most beautiful partner. Now, you’re distracting me from my current mission,” he shakes his head ever so slightly. Emma raises an eyebrow, “What mission would you have on a dance floor, General?”

“What is the bothering with my beautiful wife? You looked miserable when we couldn’t spend the night together and you haven’t been feeling well and you didn’t drink your wine tonight. All very peculiar for you. Is there something wrong with you? Are you ill? Should I be worried?” Killian asks quickly and quietly, keeping a faint smile on his face.

“My sweet, dear husband, I’m not ill, but you’re perspective and I have been trying to tell you for days now,” she sighs.

“Emma, please,” he begs her.

“I’m with child,” she whispers in his ear to guarantee no one else hears her confession. When she pulls back to see his eyes once more, surprise and elation are in his eyes.

“Truly?” he asks her, and she nods tears in her eyes.

“Yes, I wanted to tell you since I found out and thought we would have a moment last night, but-” she abruptly cut off with kiss from her husband. His strong arms lift her off the dance floor and spin them in a circle. When he releases her they resume dancing once more.

“Gods I feel so much better now,” she tells him, holding onto him as she regains her balance.

“Why’s that?” he asks her, slowly moving them around the dance floor.

“I felt guilty for not telling you immediately, but we haven’t had one moment to ourselves in days,” she sighs.

“No, we haven’t…” he agrees.

“We will soon though and Leo added five days onto our honeymoon,” she says with a seductive smile.

“Good, I fully plan on using those days to make my wife happy. We aren’t leaving bed for many many days,” he tells her.

“Good, I need to make my husband the happiest man,” she copies him and winks.

“I already am,” she rolls her eyes at his cheesy line and he just laughs, “Now, who is the man smitten with Leo?” With a twirl Emma catches a glance of Leo and Eric hands intertwined.

“Prince Eric. Looks like he took my advice,” Emma grins.

“Is that the Eric he constantly talks about?” Killian asks curious.

“Yes, it is. We all grew up together and Leo has been in love with him for so long. He deserves to be happy, they both do,” Emma sighs, “You’re not surprised about them?” Emma searches her husband’s eyes.

“No, your brother has never once mentioned a girl who wasn’t you or Ruby, but he brings up Eric every chance he can. It wasn’t hard to figure out. He deserves happiness,” Killian says before twirling her once again.

Emma never thought she could be this happy, she never imagined she would have the kind of love her parents did. Emma knows what they share is rare and not many royals are able to marry for love, but she’s glad her parents made her wait for this. Emma kisses Killian and smiles knowing that her future will be bright with this man by her side.