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Catch Me If You Can

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The early March wind whistles through the buildings in Chelsea as Emma opens the door to her favorite coffee shop. It’s aptly named the Grumpy Café for that’s apparently how everyone is before they have their morning coffee, which she totally and completely gets, especially on days where she’s working. As soon as she steps inside, she can feel the heat running through the building, the bustle of people trying to get their caffeine fix even on a Sunday morning, and she has to dodge a group of teenagers who likely aren’t even old enough to drive but are apparently old enough to spend over eight dollars on whatever drink it is they’re all taking pictures of with their phones.

 

She’s done it before. She’s not judging. Okay, maybe she’s judging a little bit.

 

Whatever. She just wants her coffee with a splash of hazelnut creamer and possibly a muffin that will totally cancel out all of the work that she just did at the gym. What’s the point of working out if she can’t occasionally reward herself with sweets?

 

(The point is being healthy and living longer and being able to fit into her favorite pair of skinny jeans, but she doesn’t always remember that when she feels like she’s dying and would like to murder everyone within a five-foot radius of her treadmill. And running is a much smaller monster than Pilates.)

 

Finally, she works past the teenagers and someone who definitely hasn’t washed their beanie since they bought it, and gets to the counter to put her order in, standing off to the side until Ava, her favorite barista, gives her the to-go cup and small brown paper bag filled with two blueberry muffins, one for both she and Ruby since she’s not interested in having to fight over her muffin when she gets home. After she wishes Ava a good day, she leaves the building, the wind already whipping at her skin, and tries to walk as quickly as possible to get back to her apartment so that she doesn’t die of frostbite or something. It’s not cold enough for that, but it kind of feels like it when all she has on are a pair of black leggings and a white tank top that might as well not exist for how little it protects her from the cold.

 

At least it doesn’t make her sweat.

 

She should have brought a jacket with her.

 

“Hey,” a man yells out at her, and she has to bite her tongue to keep from cursing at him when she has no idea what he wants. Instinctively, she reaches for her keys, placing the sharp edge in between her fingertips as she keeps walking, “you’re that girl.”

 

And immediately she knows that she is, indeed, that girl, and that this man, while slightly obnoxious in his Red Sox cap and t-shirt that he obviously bought from a tourist shop while in Manhattan yesterday, isn’t going to cause her any danger. Just annoyance.

 

“That I am,” she smiles, knowing less is more when she’s been recognized lately, only the slightest bit of resentment simmering below the surface of her skin.

 

“Can I get a picture?”

 

“Yeah, sure.” Emma sighs before keeping that plastered smile on her face as he comes up to her and wraps an arm around her shoulder before holding his phone in front of their faces. It’s quick, easy, and it’s not the first time that it’s happened to her. It used to be solely because of her job, and while this technically stems from that, it’s entirely different.

 

She should have bought a box of donuts or something instead of this muffin so that she could angrily munch away after she gets back home.

 

When she walks up to her apartment building, she presses in the code to get through the gate, before pulling the old creaky thing open, and walking up the four flights of stairs to get to her front door, twisting the key in the knob before quietly opening the door as she figures that Ruby isn’t awake yet. It’s before noon on a Sunday where they’re not working, so Ruby being awake would pretty much be a miracle or a sign of the world ending depending on how you look at it.

 

(A sign of the world ending most definitely.)

 

Toeing off her sneakers, the right one getting stuck, she flicks on the light switch to illuminate the main room of their apartment. It’s a small place, really more suitable for two people than the three that live here, but she likes the location and rent price too much to change anything about her living situation. The kitchen is more of an alcove than anything else, just five white cabinets shoved into the corner with white and gray quartz countertops, and next to the fridge is an exposed brick wall that she’s not sure is real or simply there for aesthetics. But she kind of likes it and the way that it brightens up the room as their television sits on a small black desk with plants framing both sides of it, a multi-colored rug sitting on the floor underneath their white couch that’s full of more throw pillows than anyone has any right owning.

 

The throw pillow thing is definitely her fault, but when she’s shopping and happens to see a good deal on a cute patterned one, she can’t help but buy it, figuring there’s some place for it. Her bedroom is full of them, sitting on top of her white comforter and on the black and white striped chair that’s crammed in the corner with piles of clothes stacked on top of it. She’s sure that designers would hate their place, but it’s their place. They like it. That’s all that matters.

 

She also has this problem with blankets, but that goes hand and hand with pillows, right?

 

The plants too. She and Ruby obviously wish they had a backyard or something.

 

“Morning,” Graham mumbles as he steps out into the hallway into the living room. He’s rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, still dressed in a pair of plaid pajamas pants and an NYPD sweatshirt, his hair curling into wild patterns instead of its usual tamed style. “Have a nice run?”

 

“My legs feel like they’re not actually limbs anymore, but it was good.”

 

“You happen to bring me any coffee?”

 

Emma huffs at that before sitting down at the kitchen table with her cup and her muffin, figuring that she’ll clean up the crumbs later instead of dealing with a plate. “No. I got a muffin, but it’s for Ruby.”

 

“She’s going to be asleep until at least two. I can eat it, and she’ll never know.”

 

“You have been dating her for two years. You know she can sniff these things out.”

 

“Eh.”

 

“I’m serious.”

 

“So am I. I’ve gotten good at hiding things.”

 

“That, my friend,” she starts, opening up her laptop from where she left it here last night, and curling her foot underneath her thigh, “is an awful thing to say to your girlfriend’s best friend.”

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

“Eat the muffin at your own risk.”

 

Graham chuckles before stepping further into the kitchen and flipping the switch for the coffee maker, the machine sparking to life as that all familiar gargle starts up, the smell already beginning to permeate through the apartment and overpower the coffee she already has. He hums, something that she’s noticed he always does in the mornings since moving in with them in January, and she blocks it out as much as she can. For so long, it was just she and Ruby here, but then Ruby and Graham got serious and he moved in. It’s only weird in the fact that she has to wear a shirt at all times when in a public space and she can hear some pretty enthusiastic sex noises happening through the bedroom walls. But rent is now split three ways, which is amazing, and Graham has a penchant for home cooked meals, which is something she thinks she’s really going to like when she’s traveling for work.

 

Graham’s probably going to like it more since both she and Ruby will be gone. Though she thinks he’ll miss Ruby a hell of a lot more than he misses her. She’d at least hope so. It’d be concerning if he didn’t.

 

Her laptop dings several times, and she already knows that she’s going to have at least ten emails from David detailing her schedule for when she flies down to Florida on Wednesday to cover Spring Training and film her segment on Killian Jones.

 

Killian Jones.

 

New York Yankees starting pitcher who has made her life a living hell since October of last year when the Yankees won the World Series. That should have been one of the greatest moments of her reporting career, especially since the team she’s assigned to cover for ESPN won the fucking World Series, but then it all turned her into a viral video online.

 

There are memes about her, okay?

 

(She’s only twenty-seven, but some of the things she’s thinking today are making her feel much older.)

 

And maybe living hell isn’t the right word. At least, not anymore. It was crazy at first, basically a madhouse around her, and she had to log out of all of her social media for two weeks even as she gained hundreds of thousands of followers across every platform where she’s active. She’s now got one of those blue checkmarks next to her name, which she honestly should have had before even if she doesn’t think she’s a celebrity or whatever, and random people stop her on the street for selfies. Selfishly, she kind of wishes that people had recognized her before the incident, but she didn’t get into her job for the fame. Really, that was the thing that held her back when she was offered the promotion, not that her job is really a job that brings much recognition outside of certain circles.

 

But here she is now.

 

“Killian,” she starts, holding the microphone to her mouth as she speaks and Killian wipes the sweat from his brow, pushing back his long hair before placing the World Series Champion cap back on top of his head, a bright white smile between his lips. Her heart is hammering in her chest, excitement over the Yankees winning finally starting to sink in. She can’t believe she got to work the Series. Holy shit. “You pitched an incredible game, and helped to lead the Yankees to their win. You’ve had an incredible season, an even more incredible post-season. How is it all feeling right now?”

 

His grin somehow gets impossibly bigger, the lines around his eyes crinkling, and she recognizes the look in his eyes like she always does. She’s been interviewing him for three years now, even if he wasn’t around much last season after his accident, and following his career around long before she’d actually met him through work, so she recognizes a lot of his mannerisms. It’s odd for her to know every career statistic that he has, to know about all of the publicity around his private life, and yet to have only talked to him while he stands on a field sweating under the glow of stadium lights or in the dimness of the locker room.

 

But that’s her job. She’s a reporter for ESPN, which is pretty damn awesome, and unlike a lot of people she works with, she actually likes to know what she’s talking about. She’s not a former athlete, not some kind of all-star with household recognition, and she’s a woman. Those three facts make her life impossibly harder, and if there’s anything she’s learned in her eight years working for the network, it’s that for every step that one of her male colleagues takes, she has to take ten. It’s idiotic, sexist, and all around wrong, but if she’s on TV spouting out facts that are incorrect, there’s twenty thousand men at home tweeting her and the network telling them to get the “dumb bitch” off their TVs.  

 

Charming, right?  

 

But it’s her reality. Most people only care about how she looks, about how her ass looks in a skirt, but that’s not what she cares about.  

 

(Even if she has a good ass and works damn hard for it.)

 

She cares about the game.  

 

And anyone who cares about baseball, cares about Killian Jones.  

 

He reaches up to scratch behind his ear, which is a tick of sorts that she’s noticed, before he leans into the microphone. “Right now, it’s pretty unbelievable. It hasn’t sunk in yet, not really, but I’m happy to be here wearing this hat, having the trophy, the accomplishment. It’s been a long road for me personally, for the team, and I’m in a bit of euphoria over it all.”

 

“How in the world are you not burning alive?” Ruby says in her earpiece, and she has to keep herself from rolling her eyes with the forced smile on her face. Ruby is a great producer, but she definitely loves giving her live commentary to mess Emma up. “He’s so hot, and I can’t even see his ass.”  

 

Her producer being her best friend is both the best and worst thing to ever happen to her.  

 

“I bet,” she says to Killian, looking up in the blue of his eyes as chants start to ring out across the stadium. Ruby won’t stop talking in her ear, and that’s definitely something the two of them are going to talk about later. “You had a bit of a rocky beginning to the season with your injury from last year still lingering, so how’s that arm feeling?”

 

“Good as new.”

 

“Perfect, it looked like.”

 

Even under his hat she can see the rise of his brow. “You been looking at my arms then, love?”

 

He is such a flirt. It’s ridiculous. At least he’s not one of the creepy ones. She gets it a lot as a part of her job and the general state of men, but she’s thankful for the fact that Jones never crosses the line. And she’s watched his interviews. He seems to simply be a flirt naturally, no trying necessary. It's not something that bothers her when she knows that he's a good guy.

 

“Me and a couple million other people.”

 

He barks out a laugh, his head thrown back a bit, and she can see the sharp underside of his stubbled jaw. Thank goodness the Yankees finally allow their players to have facial hair. Really, it’s for the good of all people. “Well, my sister-in-law tells me most people are looking at my ass, so that’s kind of a relief.”

 

“Oh my God,” Ruby groans, “there are so many things you could say, but don’t bite his head off. Ask him one more question.”

 

“So, Killian Jones, World Series Champion, now that you’ve done something every baseball player dreams of, is there anything else that you want to do?”

 

His mouth snaps closed, his teeth disappearing in exchange of a closed lip smile, and he tilts his head to the side while his eyes flicker up and down her face, very obviously scrutinizing her before his lips part once more.  

 

“Yeah,” he says, adjusting his hat, “I think I’d like to go on a date with you. What do you say, Swan? You want to go out on a date with me?”

 

“Emma Swan,” Ruby grits, her voice yelling in Emma’s ear, “if you do not say yes, I will lock you out of the apartment. Think of the ratings.”

 

Later, she’s definitely going to talk to Ruby about sexual harassment. Not that this is what that is. She could say no. Yeah, he asked her on live television. That’s kind of dick-ish and teetering on the edge, but he’s not forcing her into it. Ruby might be, but that’s an issue for another time. Right now her issue is that she kind of feels like both vomiting on Killian’s shoes and punching him in the stomach for putting her on the spot like this.  

 

Three years of interviewing him, and this is what he’s going to do. The guy is running on adrenaline, but he's also got some things to learn.

 

No part of it surprises her. The next words out of her mouth do since she already knows the repercussions from them are going to be brutal.

 

“No.”

 

She’d been asked out on live television by a player who she covers several times a month since he only plays every few games, and she said no. Of course she said no.

 

They don’t even know each other personally, and realistically, she understands that the whole point of dating is to get to know someone, but she’s not about to say yes on-air simply because she’ll look like a bitch if she says no. And really, she doesn’t think she looked like a bitch. She doesn’t. But apparently, she’s not allowed to have her own thoughts or opinions, have agency over her own life, because even though she was gaining all of that fame online, she was also garnering a lot of hate.

 

Like, an insane amount of hate.

 

People online are insane.

 

She always knew that when she took the step up from being a writer and fact checker who merely listed statistics in articles to being an on-air talent, that it would be a difficult transition. For one, she had to get used to working with a camera, with thinking on the spot, and she also had to get used to how much hate she was going to get for being a woman working in baseball. The world is definitely getting better overall, but that doesn’t mean that tiny, petulant men won’t take issue with her covering games over a former pro who’s only in it for the money.

 

The money is great, much better than she ever could have imagined, but that’s not why she’s in it. Not at all.

 

Growing up, she didn’t have a lot. Really, she had nothing. Her parents gave her up for adoption after she was born, but no one adopted her. Ever. She grew up in foster homes and group homes, never really having anyone or anything she cared about until she was fifteen and moved into Ruth Nolan’s home in Portland, Maine. Ruth was a kind older woman who packed Emma’s lunch for school and bought her new clothes and made her feel like she mattered for the first time in a long time. Emma knew that Ruth had a son, David, who lived in New York City and who Ruth was unnaturally proud of, but she didn’t meet him until six months after she’d been living in the house and he came home for Christmas with his fiancée, Mary Margaret.

 

She’d hated him.

 

Really and truly hated him. She had a good thing going, and him coming home made her realize just how much she didn’t have anything that belonged to her.

 

She had nothing.

 

And it didn’t matter that he was twenty-seven to her fifteen, that he was an adult while she was still a child. The jealousy didn’t stop. It kept festering and festering until she was worried that it would never stop. As an adult, someone who is now twenty-seven herself, she realizes how ridiculous this was, but at the time all she could think about was how terrified she was that having her actual son home would make Ruth realize how much Emma didn’t belong.

 

All of her worry was for nothing because David Nolan is the nicest man on the planet, and he took her under his wings from the moment that he met her. She resisted, not used to knowing what kindness and affection were, but David made her feel comfortable to the point where her shoulders didn’t tense up, where her head didn’t pound, and even though he was a little too much for her until she got used to more genuine care and kindness, David became the older brother she never could have dreamed of.

 

He was the one who took her on her first vacation, a weekend trip to visit he and Mary Margaret in New York. The two of them definitely coddled her a little bit, jam packing the days with trips to anything and everything she wanted to go to, but it was fun. And then David took her to a Yankees game with seats behind third base and access to the facilities and food to die for with his special access, and her entire life changed.

 

Obviously, she’d watched a baseball game before. She knew most of the ins and outs, did for most sports. In all of the homes that she’d been in, sports were pretty much a constant. It was the thing the dads liked, most of the kids too, and even though she hadn’t always enjoyed them (she has some pretty strong feelings about basketball), sports were a constant in her life. Her foster parents would never sign her up to play, never wanting to spend the money on equipment, but watching on TV and understanding what her classmates were talking about made her feel like she belonged.

 

Then she went to an actual game, felt the atmosphere of thousands of people cheering, heard the ding of the ball against the bat, listened to music played during breaks, ate a hot dog like all of the clichés, and a light switched on in her. If David could work at ESPN, could spend his days studying statistics and helping to put together clips and videos of highlights, why couldn’t she?

 

Why couldn’t she dream of more than staying in Portland and working in an office as a receptionist or something else that would inevitably make her lose the light inside of her that has already been diminished?

 

Ruth and David offered to help her take SAT prep courses to boost her score, and they helped her apply to colleges across the country. When she got accepted to NYU, David and Mary Margaret immediately told her that she could live with them, and when David got her an interview at the ESPN offices as an intern the fall of her freshman year, she finally, finally felt like her life was headed somewhere good.

 

Then she met Neal and…that’s not something she wants to think about.

 

He’s not someone who needs to take up any space in her mind when she’s got Jones to deal with.

 

More specifically, an interview with him.

 

Emma,

 

Here’s your flight information as well as your rental car number. Everything is under your name, so it should be easy to get once you’re in Tampa. We’re sending Madden with you, but we’re sending Ruby to other ST games to produce with some of our more inexperienced reporters.

 

Jones can do his segment on 3/09/19 before the game against the Orioles. That’s also who they’re playing on Opening Day, so try to work something in with that. He shouldn’t be pitching that day, so he’ll mostly be free.

 

Come over for dinner before you leave?

 

DN

 

She fires of a quick response before opening up her document filled with the list of questions that she’s been working on for the interview. Jones is a pretty private guy despite how much information on him is out there, so she knows that this exclusive is a pretty big deal. She also knows that despite being the exclusive on field reporter for the Yankees, she got this gig because of what happened after the World Series. It stings, if she’s honest with herself, but she’s learned that sometimes she has to accept things she doesn’t necessarily love for the good of her career. That’s precisely why she, Ruby, and Graham have spent the last six nights sitting in their apartment listing off questions that she thinks resemble more of a speed dating questionnaire than a profile on a professional athlete.

 

At least there’s some questions about baseball. She doesn’t think Jones would be too fond of her if she dug a little too much into the boating accident that broke his arm and ended his season two years ago or the rather prolific dating history that he has. Then again, maybe him hating her would keep him from asking her out again.

 

Pros and cons and all.

 

“Ooh, is that muffin for me?”

 

Ruby stumbles out of the hallway, her shorts riding up her ass and her socks at different heights around her ankles. Her hair is half tied up in a bun, but it’s mostly falling down her back in dark curls, red streaks spread throughout. She’s basically a zombie waking up this early, and when Emma looks over to Graham standing with his back against the countertops peeling open the wrapper on the muffin, Emma can do nothing but smirk.

 

At least she’s not saying I told you so.

 

She’s really tempted though.

 

“Sure, babe,” Graham smiles, opening up his arm for Ruby to fall into his side, her head resting on his shoulder as she picks at the top of the muffin, spilling the crumbs on the floor all the while Graham kisses her temple. “What are you doing up?”

 

“I could smell coffee,” she mumbles, her mouth full. “And my phone kept going off because David wouldn’t stop emailing me about all of my work stuff this week. Does he ever sleep, Ems? I mean, he’s got a wife and a ten-year-old. He’s got a life.”

 

“David can make Mary Margaret swoon and help Leo with his homework all the while emailing us to get our shit together. It’s a talent.”

 

“It’s annoying.”

 

Graham chuckles before rubbing his hand up and down Ruby’s shoulder, the affection so easy between the two of them, and Emma feels her stomach twist. She’s in that weird phase where she couldn’t be happier for her friend, couldn’t be happier that Ruby has this person, her person, but where she also feels a lingering loss over having lost someone who she thought was hers.

 

But again, she is not thinking about that this morning. It’s easier not to.

 

“Sweetheart, I can nearly guarantee that your boss does not get onto you like my boss does.”

 

Ruby’s brow raises before she takes a giant bite out of the muffin. “Are you really going to stand here and try to tell me that I can’t be irritated with my boss because you have it harder?”

 

“That is not what I said at all.”

 

“It kind of is,” Emma adds in as she brings her knees up to her chest and types in a question about Killian’s nieces on her document.

 

“But you understood what I meant? I just meant that – ”

 

“It’s too early for you to keep putting your foot in your mouth,” Ruby laughs, stepping out of Graham’s embrace to get a mug out of the cabinet and pour herself a cup of coffee. “And it’s definitely too early for little miss over there to have been on a run and be back here working. It’s our day off. Let’s do something fun.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Get drunk?”

 

“Oh my God, no. It’s not even nine thirty.”

 

“It’s five o’clock somewhere.”

 

“Okay, Jimmy Buffet.”

 

“Well now I want a cheeseburger and a margarita.”

 

“We could always go to the restaurant in New Jersey.”

 

“There’s a place ten minutes away from here,” Graham interjects, “that sells fantastic cheeseburgers all day long. We go there for lunch a lot.”

 

“But do they have tacky decorations and overpriced alcohol?”

 

“They have good food and a TV that works seventy percent of the time.”

 

“That sounds perfect,” she sighs, closing her laptop even though she knows they probably won’t leave for a few more hours, “but once the season starts, I’m going to have to swear off burgers and any other concession food.”

 

Ruby guffaws, actually guffaws, her head thrown back and her coffee sloshing around in the mug. “The day you stop eating junk food on game day is probably the day that you go out on that date with Jones.”

 

Her eyes immediately cut toward Ruby, but the woman can’t be fazed and doesn’t care that she’s being stared at by someone with daggers in her eyes. Graham lets out a low whistle, one that doesn’t match up with the song he was humming earlier, and Ruby simply shrugs her shoulders and takes another sip of her coffee.

 

“I hate you for still thinking that’s funny,” Emma finally says as her legs stretch out for her to stand up and toss her empty mug into the trash bin, the cup circling the bag before landing in. “And for telling me to say yes for the ratings.”

 

“To be fair, I always knew that you’d say no, which is honestly probably better for the ratings than you saying yes. I’m so pissed that I didn’t get assigned to you to go to Tampa. I’d pay big money to get to see the two of you get all close and personal, but no, Jeff gets to go with you.”

 

She rolls her eyes and steps forward to condescendingly pat Ruby on the arm, forcing a smile on her face. “I’m not going to tell you anything that happens, which means you’ll never know because Jeff will never tell. We could have sex right there at Steinbrenner, and you’d never know.”

 

“I hate you.”

 

“You wouldn’t have sex with him anyways,” Graham says, and she and Ruby both slap his arm before his lips part in shock. “What? I’m just saying the truth. Emma is a consummate professional, and she’s pissed at Jones for asking her out like that. She’s not going to do anything to mess up her reputation. She’s worked too hard to be taken seriously.”

 

Graham Humbert: loveable idiot but also one very smart man.

 

Because he’s exactly right in what he’s said.

 

“Let’s go get some cheeseburgers,” Emma sighs, wanting to change the subject.

 

“But you just said it was too early.”

 

“Whatever,” she laughs, adjusting her sports bra underneath her tank top. She probably needs a shower before she goes or her sweat is going to mold this bra into her skin. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”

Chapter Text

The moment Killian gets back to his hotel room, he falls onto the mattress and wonders if he can sink into the soft, plush comforter forever. As much as he misses his apartment, misses the fact that he can wander around in his boxers without a care in the world and eat while sitting on his living room couch watching TV, this hotel is one of the better ones he’s stayed at. The rooms are big, he has a small kitchen, and the walls are thick enough that he can’t hear Will or Arthur on either side of him. He doesn’t want to hear Will because he blares music at all hours of the night and Arthur because his wife flew down here with him.

 

Privacy is privacy and all that.

 

It’s funny because he remembers sharing a room with Robin in cheap hotels while they were traveling for games for Vandy and they could pretty much hear what was happening in the rooms on every side of them. Once he swears someone was acting out the movie Titanic while the bed squeaked, and he’s never quite watched that movie in the same way since then.

 

Sorry Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

 

But right now, he never wants to move from this bed, never wants to have to get up to change clothes or eat. He simply wants to sleep for a solid twenty-four hours and then not have to get up to train tomorrow morning.

 

His entire body hurts.

 

His shoulder, specifically.

 

Really, it shouldn’t. He’s in good shape. He knows that he is. When he couldn’t play two seasons ago because his arm was wrapped in a cast and the complications with his shoulder kept piling up, he spent most of his time in the gym trying to work on everything that he could work on. He watched old tapes, watched videos of his games and games from the season that he didn’t get to play, and spent most of his time obsessing about getting back on the field and throwing one more pitch. So, for his team to have won the World Series last season, for him to have played so well, was something that was expected by every single person but him.

 

For a good while, he didn’t think he’d ever get to play the game again.

 

He wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to when it hurt too much to even reach up in his cabinets to grab a box of cereal. He nearly lost his dream, his livelihood, his life, because a group of drunks drove their boat right into his small sailboat. He doesn’t remember much of it, not more than the searing pain and the heavy fear in his gut over whether or not Liam was going to be okay. Everything after that is flashes of hospital visits and meetings with doctors to make sure that his broken arm wasn’t infected since he had an open-flesh wound and spent a significant amount of time in the water. That’s the injury the world knows about, the one that was covered on the news and online, the one that he saw about himself when he was scrolling through Instagram trying to pass the time.

 

No one but his family and his physio know about the rotator cuff tear or the surgery that was required to repair it. He always thought that he would suffer from an injury like that, but it was always going to be something that happened because he has been pitching for most of his life. It was never supposed to be a freak injury that tried to tear nearly everything he cared about away.

 

His shoulder still hurts even though the injuries have been healed, but he’s learned to play with pain, to embrace it. He should have asked to be relieved after the fifth today.

 

There’s a knock on his door, and he groans, unable to form actual words, before rising from the mattress and slowly walking toward his door, wondering who the hell is knocking on his door at two in the morning.

 

Ariel.

 

Of course it’s Ariel.

 

She’s got a cheerful smile on her face, her red hair twisted back into a complicated plait that he’s watched her do several times, and she’s still in her green dress that he saw her wearing this morning. Does the woman ever sleep?

 

If only he could sleep instead of having to talk to her.

 

Twisting the several locks, he swings the door open, propping his left arm up against the frame and hoping that him blocking her entry will keep her from wanting to stay. It doesn’t. She ducks underneath him and walks through, settling down on the couch and kicking her flats off so that they scatter across the multi-colored carpet.

 

He sighs, knowing that she’s likely here to talk about tomorrow, and settles down at the edge of his bed while he rolls his shoulder, trying to work out a few more of the kinks that he didn’t get out during physical therapy tonight.

 

He can already tell that this season is going to be different than last year.

 

“Does your shoulder hurt?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you lying to me?”

 

“No, A, I’m not lying to you. It’s ST. I’m still getting used to playing again after the off season.”

 

Her eyes narrow for a brief moment, and suddenly he feels naked under her gaze. Not that he’s not comfortable being naked. But he’s not exactly a fan of that in front of his manager who also happens to be one of his mate’s wife. And Ariel has this thing that she does where she can break him down and make him spill all of his deepest, darkest secrets just by a good stare and a few words.

 

It’s impressive but also terrifying.

 

And she doesn’t know the extent of his injuries. He never told her, and he doesn’t want her to ever find out. She’d be pissed at him for sure, but she’d also worry too much.

 

She already worries more than Liam and Elsa combined.

 

“So, you’re doing that ESPN interview tomorrow, and I figured we need to go through a few talking points.”

 

He nods his head as he tries to remember agreeing to that. He’s pretty sure that he did, but sometimes Ariel has him doing so much and signing so many papers that it all blurs together. He’d be lost without her.

 

“Emma Swan is the reporter.”

 

Well, shit.

 

No wonder Ariel is coming to talk to him about it instead of letting him simply answer the questions. He doesn’t do a lot of interviews that aren’t completely baseball related, not wanting to let more of his life out into the public eye, but occasionally he’ll do an interview or a funny clip for the team to put on Instagram. Something like this is a little out of his comfort zone, but he now remembers that Ariel talked him into doing it, saying something about making him an even more valuable asset to the team by making him a bigger name outside of baseball. He doesn’t quite understand that since all he cares about workwise is baseball and his contract lasts another five years. He’s fine.

 

But if Emma Swan is doing the interview, he might as well go ahead and tuck his head between his thighs and walk in there licking his wounds.

 

God, he was an idiot to ask her out live on television. He was an idiot who just won the World Series, who had adrenaline pumping through his veins, and who desperately wanted to ask out the woman he fancies before he didn’t see her for several months.

 

A pathetic, asshole idiot who never should have, even in his adrenaline haze, attempted to ask someone out when he knows just how screwed up he’s been when it comes to dealing with relationships in the past few years.

 

Among other reasons.

 

Liam would describe him as a fuck up, but only in the most affectionate way that would get him a slap upside the head from Elsa and then a comforting smile from her as she tried to talk to him about seriously dating again.

 

He wouldn’t listen. He never does.

 

Now he’s having to live with the fact that he screwed up, everyone saw it, and he likely pissed off a woman who has never been anything but professional to him in the few years that she’s been exclusively covering the team. Seriously. Their press has never been better, their exclusives never more interesting, and he’s likely made her uncomfortable all because he can’t seem to stop flirting when he’s trying to cover his nerves.

 

And she’s going to be at his training tomorrow.

 

Fuck.

 

“If the look on your face is any indication,” Ariel murmurs as she tucks her feet underneath her thighs, “you know as much as I do that you screwed up.”

 

“Aye.”

 

“But it happened, everyone on the internet saw it, and we can’t change it. What we can do is apologize for it tomorrow.”

 

“I know how to talk to a woman,” he protests.

 

“At a bar, yes. You know how to charm a woman there, and you know how to talk to women who you see on a regular basis. What you apparently don’t know how to do is talk to a woman who is only talking to you because it’s her job.”

 

“I didn’t do it to be fucking sleazy.”

 

“Killian,” she sighs, her lips curling into a soft smile that he recognizes as the one she uses to talk to kids who have come to visit the team, “I know this because I know you. You’re a good guy with this big heart, but to the rest of the world, you’re kind of, as you said, sleazy.”

 

“That’s not true.”

 

“And it wouldn’t matter if it was.” She waves her hands in the air before settling them down in her lap. “But that’s not the point. The point is that, no matter how charming you are, you asked out someone on TV, and she said no. She’s a woman working in a man’s world, and even if you didn’t realize it in the moment because you were out of your mind happy, you opened her up to a lot of harassment.”

 

Fuck.

 

There are no other words for it than fuck.

 

Maybe fuckity fuck, but that’s not even a true phrase. It might as well be.

 

He knows that he did that. He knows. He wasn’t thinking, obviously, but he still did something to make Emma uncomfortable. He did something to most likely ruin his professional relationship with her and her relationship with others, and even if he knows that there was mostly positive coverage on the whole thing, he knows that he has to apologize to her tomorrow. That positive coverage he saw doesn’t matter because he has no idea how it affected her personally. Who knows if she’ll accept his apology or if she’ll brush him off? Who knows if she’ll even agree to keep working with him or the team? She’s coming tomorrow, at least. That seems like a good sign.

 

Right?

 

His stomach churns, something deep and unsettling, and he wonders if his past is always going to keep catching up to him when he least expects it.

 

Maybe he should stop screwing up.

 

Burying his face in his hands, he speaks. “I’ll apologize tomorrow. I made a dumbass decision, and she doesn’t deserve to have gone through any harassment because of me. That was not at all my intention.”

 

“I know, sweetie. I know. I have the list of questions she’s going to pull from if you want it.”

 

He looks at her though his fingers. “Is there anything on there that’s going to catch me off guard?”

 

“Nah, it’s mostly light stuff. There’s going to be some talk about the boating accident, your broken arm, but I don’t see anything else. It’s actually a pretty fun list. It’s focusing more on you as a man than as a player.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Huh,” he mumbles, falling back against the mattress again. “Interesting.” His lips open as he yawns, and he can feel that one all the way down to his toes. “So, you don’t think she’s totally going to screw me over for asking her out?”

 

“I think Emma Swan is a professional who loves the game. She’s not going to do anything to jeopardize it.”

 

Ariel stays for fifteen more minutes before she leaves, sleep calling her name too, and it takes everything in him to have enough mind to brush his teeth and wash his face, figuring he can shower in the morning before he goes in for a run with his trainer to keep his limbs loose. His alarm goes off at nine, far earlier than it should on a day that would normally be his day off (the perks of being a pitcher), and he groans when he throws the cover off of him and rolls over to check his phone, several messages filling the screen.

 

Liam: Your curveball sucked last night.

 

Liam: Addy and Lucy are very upset about it.

 

Elsa: We can come down and visit on the girls’ spring break. Should we stay at your hotel or find another place?

 

Elsa: Your curveball didn’t suck, btw. But I could see the tension in your shoulder. Take care of yourself.

 

Will: Do you want to get breakfast this morning?

 

He shoots off replies to all of them, griping to his brother and sending his sister-in-law his hotel information as well as a couple others he’s stayed in while down here before, offering to pay for their accommodation since they’re coming down here to see him. Will texted him ten minutes ago, which means he’s probably already down at the buffet getting an omelet, so he sends him a text saying that maybe tomorrow when they’re on a more regular schedule. His schedule is so different than most of his mates. Even though Robin is another starting pitcher, they usually have opposite schedules, the two of them always one or two days off from the other, so most days he’s eating breakfast and doing workouts at different times than the teammates he’s closest to.

 

And he doesn’t really like to break his own routine. Call it superstition. Call it knowing what works.

 

After he gets out of bed and showers, letting the warm water work out a few more aches in his body, he grabs one of his protein shakes and an apple, eating his breakfast on his way to the rental car he’s using while down here. It’s only a ten-minute drive to the facility, but even with the air conditioning blasting, he can tell that it’s stifling outside.

 

When they play here in the summer, he nearly dies.

 

Flashing his player card through the scanner, he enters Steinbrenner and walks down the hallway lined with framed jerseys of retired players. It’s pretty quiet in here, the only footsteps his own, and he figures that everyone else is already in the gym working out and getting any remaining lactic acid out of their systems. The locker room is empty, and he types in his code before pulling out his running shoes and changing into them so that he can run on the treadmill for the next hour or so and then get some physical therapy before showering and meeting Emma Swan for the interview.

 

He’s decidedly trying not to think about that.

 

When he pushes through the double doors to head down to the gym, he can feel the pulse of the bass from the music they’re playing before he even gets to the entrance. When he walks inside, no one pays him any attention, all of them caught up in their own routines, until he gets on the treadmill and starts a slow jog to warm up with Will running beside him. Will would definitely call him out for missing breakfast if he didn’t look to be out of breath.

 

The small blessings in life.

 

Everyone filters out before he does, their routines calling for batting practice or PT or even some breakfast, so he’s left to listen to the pound of his feet against the treadmill and the pounding of music still playing. He likes running once he hits his stride. As a teenager, he despised it, especially when his father would be timing him or pushing him to keep going, but now that he has the inner motivation and can get moving all on his own, it’s almost therapeutic. And it makes him feel that pleasant ache that he often only feels in his arm.

 

When his phone timer goes off, he begins to cool down, walking at a slow pace as he fires back a few texts and approves an edit for Ariel to post online for him. Archie says they don’t have to meet today as long as he does his rotations with the weight bands, so as soon as he gets off the treadmill, that’s exactly what he does.

 

His shoulder is definitely still a little stiff, but it feels good.

 

“Oi, you want to throw today?” Will asks when he’s back in the locker room, stripping out of his clothes so that he can take a shower.

 

“I pitched last night, Scarlet.”

 

“And?”

 

He rolls his eyes. Will is definitely an acquired taste, and his heavy Boston accent definitely doesn’t make him seem nice.

 

“And I’m not twenty-three anymore. I need more rest on my shoulder.” It hurts is what he means but doesn’t say. “Locksley is your pitcher tonight. You should do a few rounds with him.”

 

“He’s in PT right now.”

 

“I’ll throw with you,” Eric offers as he pulls on a t-shirt. “I wasn’t happy with my arm last night. I need the practice.”

 

“See, Jones, that’s a friend.”

 

“I kept you from throwing up in Belle’s lap after a night out last year. There will never be a better friend than me.”

 

Will groans, and Killian smirks. That was a disgusting night after being out too long for New Years, and as much as he wants to forget it, that’s a great story to hold over Will.

 

“How long are you going to use that story?”

 

“Until you have something just as good that equals things out. I’m thinking about sharing it as a toast at the wedding if you two get married.”

 

God, he hopes that he never has something that equals that story. He had to throw away his favorite pair of blue jeans.

 

“I’m coming in the locker room,” Ariel yells before she opens the door, not bothering to give anyone time to get dressed. She rarely does.

 

“Hi, sweetheart,” Eric smiles, walking toward his wife only for Ariel to move out of his way and toward Killian, making Will and August laugh loud enough that they can’t even cover it with their coughing.

 

“Hi, babe.” Ariel waves Eric away before she’s standing just in front of him. She’s decked out in team gear today, her hair under a Yankees cap, and he thinks her barging into his room late last night might actually have affected her. He hates to be haughty about it, but he also doesn’t. “I’ll come see you in a minute. I’m here to tell Killian to shower because Miss Swan is going to be here in twenty minutes.”

 

There’s a collective whistle from all of his teammates, and he has the mind to threaten to hit all of them in the eye during his next game. But then he would probably be arrested, and his friends would hate him. On their first day back at practice in February, his locker was plastered with pictures of him asking Emma out, and he is definitely not going to ever live that down. The fact that they all know she’s coming today makes it worse.

 

“Thanks, A. I was planning on looking like a sweaty caveman.”

 

“To be fair, Emma probably thinks that’s what you are.”

 

He raises his middle finger at Will before moving to the showers, not wanting to get into a negative headspace before his interview. The absolute last thing that he needs is to do something else to make Emma uncomfortable or make himself look like a bigger jackass.

 

That might not be possible.

 

Once his body is scrubbed down, the sweat washed away, he turns the water off and gets out, patting his legs down with a towel before pulling on the gray joggers he brought into the showers with him. The locker room is nearly empty when he renters, everyone but August having gone on their ways, so he takes his time towel drying his hair and going through his shirts to find one to wear. They just got new uniforms and practice gear for the season, but he hasn’t broken them all in yet, some of the dri-fit material still a bit too tight when he likes it to not cling to his stomach and arms. He’s got to have a little bit of room to move.

 

Before he gets a chance to put on a shirt, the doors open again, and he sees Emma Swan walk into the room followed by a vaguely familiar man with a camera, equipment strapped to his chest. His stomach swoops at the sight of her after so long and at the sight of the short blue dress that she has on, the hem landing just above her knees and the sleeves nearly non-existent enough to show the curves of her muscles.

 

Half the men in the MLB would be jealous of her muscles.

 

It’s damn impressive.

 

He quickly pulls on a blue training shirt, and grabs a pair of socks and sneakers to put on as she comes further into the room, her green eyes making contact with him as he smiles up to her from his seat at his locker.

 

“Jones, Booth,” she nods, a slight smile on her face. Good. That’s good. A smile has to be good. “It’s nice to see you both again.”

 

“It’s nice to see you, Swan. I figured you were going to stand me up.” He finishes tying his laces before standing and walking over to she and the man, holding his hand out for the both of them to shake. “And it’s nice to meet you…”

 

“Jeff.”

 

“Jeff isn’t really one for words,” Emma explains, her smile fond instead of forced this time. He wonders if they’re friends, if they’re more, but that’s none of his business. “So,” Emma says, clapping her hands together, “your manager said to come get you in here, and that we pretty much have the entire day with you to do the interview and get you to walk us through what Spring Training is like for you.”

 

He nods as he takes a deep breath to calm down the pounding of his heart. This is ridiculous. He should not be nervous. He doesn’t get nervous like this.

 

“I’m already finished with everything I have to do today, so I’d love to have the pleasure of spending time in your company.”

 

He can tell Emma wants to roll her eyes, but she doesn’t, ever the consummate professional. “Good.”

 

They take a few minutes to hook his microphone up, the pack resting in the back of his joggers while the small piece is pinned into his shirt. Emma runs over what they’re going to do today, setting him out a schedule, and then instructs him to answer as honestly as possible. They’ll send the segment to Ariel before it airs, so he has nothing to worry about when it comes to getting swept under the rug.

 

He kind of feels like it when he’s trying to figure out how to apologize to Emma. He should probably do it now, but he’s not sure how he feels about doing it in front of Jeff.

 

Later.

 

Later, he’ll get to it.

 

Once they’re in the hallway that connects the training facility to the main building, Emma starts peppering him with quick fire questions that he hasn’t really had to think about in years. He mostly gets asked about his stats. 

 

“Favorite player growing up?”

 

“Chipper Jones.”

 

“Because he had the same last name as you?”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Of course. Okay, favorite cheat day dessert?”

 

“Cheesecake but one with fruit flavoring. Chocolate isn’t my favorite.”

 

Damn. Now he wants some cheesecake.

 

“What are you most likely to be doing on a real off day where no training is involved? Not one of your rest days.”

 

“Either sitting on my ass watching TV or spending time with my family.”

 

“Sport you like to watch the most besides baseball?”

 

“Tennis.”

 

“Really?” she huffs, almost like she’s surprised by his answer. Most people are, and he’ll never quite understand why.

 

“Yeah, I like the physicality of it and the strategy behind it.”

 

“Do you have a secret talent no one else knows about?”

 

“I can quote the entire Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.”

 

She laughs, this sweet little sound, and it makes him smile. This interview is oddly comfortable, especially considering their history, and it’s nice to be able to relax his shoulders and answer her honestly as she keeps shooting off quick-fire questions.

 

“What’s the craziest fan encounter you’ve ever experienced?”

 

“A woman threw her bra at me while I was sitting in a restaurant with my nieces. She didn’t ask me to sign it or anything, which has happened before. She simply threw it and never asked for it back. Addy asked me what it was, which was a fun conversation to have.”

 

“I bet. Okay, um, I hear that you picked up a hobby while out on injury last year. You want to talk about that?”

 

“I got really into baking,” he admits, smiling at Emma before walking along the corridor to the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the field. “Which was a horrible idea for someone with one arm who couldn’t exercise his usual amount, but I learned how to make that cheesecake I was talking about earlier.”

 

“Do you bake for your friends and family?

 

“Family, yes. Friends, not so much since most of them are my teammates and avoid a lot of sweets.”

 

Emma nods her head and smiles, looking down at the questions she’s got on her phone. As comfortable as he is, he kind of wishes he could ask her the questions she’s asking him. The one-sided conversation is not his usually forte.

 

“Okay,” she laughs, “what would you do for a living if you didn’t play baseball?”

 

“I was going to enlist in the Navy.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah,” he shrugs, his lips ticking up on the right. “I didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and I couldn’t afford to go to college if I didn’t get a scholarship. My brother was in the Navy, so it felt like the natural conclusion for me. But then Vandy gave me that scholarship, and my entire life changed.”

 

 “You met Locksley there, right?”

 

“He was a senior when I was a freshman, but yeah. We roomed together at a summer training camp, and apparently not much has changed since then except he has a few early gray hairs and an adorable kid.”

 

She laughs at that too before looking down at her phone at her list of questions once more while he sees Eric and Will leisurely tossing a ball back and forth.

 

“So, you’re twenty-eight and a World Series champion for the first time. That’s the ultimate baseball dream. How does that change expectations going forward? Has your life changed at all since then?”

 

Killian hums next to her and taps on the windows. This is something he has to think about as he still can’t quite believe any of it. He almost opens his mouth to make a joke about not having a date with her yet, but that would not be in his best interest.

 

“I don’t think my life has changed. It’s incredible to have that accomplishment, for sure. I’m proud of my team and what we’ve done. But I still wake up and put the work in every day and then spend my free time with my friends, my family. I like being a normal guy. The only reason anyone knows who I am is because I know how to throw a ball. It doesn’t make me special.”

 

“And going forward?” she prods, obviously looking for more.

 

“I want to play the game. I want to have fun and be competitive. Breaking my arm two years ago, not being able to play, it put me in a really dark place personally and professionally. The injury wasn’t serious, obviously, but it could have been. The wreck could have been worse, and I could have lost the sport that has really helped develop my life.”

 

Lies. All lies. It was serious, but no one knows that. Him being in a dark place, though, that’s the truth.

 

“Have you been back on a boat yet?”

 

“Yeah,” he sighs, tapping his knuckles against the glass. “It was a freak accident. It’s not something that’s going to happen every time. I doubt I’ll ever be in a boating accident again, but I’ve had to learn that I can’t let fear dictate my life. And I look damn good in a pair of swim trunks.”

 

“I think it’s time to go get lunch,” she tells him, most likely to change the subject. “Wouldn’t want you to wither away and lose that boat body.”

 

Killian winks, relieved that he didn’t push too far saying that. “I always knew you liked my body.”

 

Why is he the way that he is?

 

He guides Emma and Jeff down to the player cafeteria that they have, paying for all of their meals, and settling down at a table in front of a TV that’s airing a replay of last night’s game. It’s a bit of an awkward silence now that Emma isn’t asking him questions, and Jeff definitely isn’t adding to the conversation, so when he gets up to go get filler footage after he’s scarfed down his sandwich, his absence is not missed too much.

 

Except for the fact that he’s now awkwardly staring at Emma as she pokes around in her salad.

 

It’s now or never, he guesses.

 

“Listen,” he murmurs, reaching up to scratch behind his ear as Emma looks up at him with a piece of lettuce in her mouth, “I wanted to apologize for asking you out like I did, love. It was wrong and inappropriate, and I shouldn’t have done it. I’m sorry.”

 

Her eyes widen, getting larger, and he sees her try to speed up the chewing of her lettuce while a red flush rises on her cheek. He can’t imagine the one on his face. “Thanks,” she mumbles, her hand over her mouth while she’s still chewing. “I was not at all expecting that.”

 

“Yeah, well, I have come to realize that you likely got a ton of shit for it, and it’s wrong of me to have done it. The adrenaline was insane, I’d pitched more of that game than I should have, and I guess I was feeling bold enough to do something that I would have never done otherwise. But you’re a professional who deserves every bit of respect that anyone else would, and I should have never put you in a position like that.”

 

Emma looks gob smacked. He can’t think of another phrase for it, most likely because all he can really hear is the pounding of his heart between his ears.

 

“Thank you, Killian.” She smiles, something soft before her lips flatten into a line. “I mean, you’re right that it was wrong. I’m a woman working in a man’s world, and I already have to field off asinine questions and comments about how my ass looks or if I actually know what I’m talking about. You asking me out kind of opened the door for a flood of harassment, and while I mostly blocked it out, I also am terrified to go into the comments on Instagram. So, yeah, thanks again, I guess. Just…you have a lot of influence. Think about your actions if you can. It’s not just your job out there. It’s mine too.”

 

“I understand. Truce?” he questions, not entirely sure that she’s not still pissed at him.

 

“Truce,” she agrees. “Just don’t ask me out again.”

 

“I think I can handle that, love.”

Chapter Text

“What are you getting David for his birthday?”

 

Emma looks to her right where Ruby is stretched out on her yoga mat, doing a stretch that definitely isn’t anything that’s taught in a certified class. She can’t tell if she’s gotten stuck that way or if she’s simply given up on getting some early morning exercise. They really have to start going back to spin class sometime soon. Maybe tomorrow.

 

“I bought him some new dress shirts.”

 

“That’s boring.”

 

“Have you not gotten him anything, Rubes?” She swipes her blush against her cheek waiting for Ruby to answer. She doesn’t. “The party is tonight. You know that, right? And we’re about to be at work all day editing.”

 

“Why do you think I’m asking so that I have time to get Graham to go get something on his lunch break?”

 

“You have no shame.”

 

Ruby falls onto her mat, star fishing out on the floor before propping herself up on her elbows, her bun coming undone so that it hangs messily on her shoulders. “I know. So, what should I buy him? He’s turning forty. Is he having a midlife crisis? Should I get him some hair dye?”

 

“Only if you want to be murdered.”

 

Ruby grunts before rising from her mat and stretching out. “Eh, it might be worth it. I think I’ll just get him a Shake Shack gift card. I’m not his sister. I can get away with a semi-shitty gift.”

 

She chuckles as she grabs her brush for her bronzer and runs it across her cheekbone, blending it in. “It’s not semi-shitty if he takes us to lunch with it.”

 

“True. Alright,” Ruby claps, picking her mat up, “I’m going to go shower, and then we can go to work. Ten minutes tops.”

 

It’s twenty minutes, which is actually less time than Emma was expecting, before she and Ruby walk out of their apartment, walking the three blocks to their train station and swiping their metro cards to get through the gate so they can take the ten-minute ride to the studios. They rarely have to go into the actual offices before ten. The only time they have to be at work earlier than that is when there’s an early game and they have to make their way across Manhattan to get to the fields. That’s a bit of a bigger commute. But this morning the weather is relatively nice, the trains aren’t crowded or full of people in T-rex costumes, and she and Ruby get to the office and through security before they have to be there.

 

She leaves Ruby on the seventh floor before going up to the tenth to the editing room, her eyes having to adjust from the brightness outside to the dim lights inside the room that’s really only lit by screens.

 

“Anton, how the hell do you live in the sunlight after staying in here all day?”

 

Anton twists in his chair to look at her before turning back to the screen that he’s working on, clicking on a few keys as he speaks. “It’s only dark right now because I’m trying to get the lighting right on this edit. Something is wrong with the shadows. Get Ash to set you up. You’ve got over eight hours of footage to go through, so this probably isn’t going to get finished today.”

 

“He’s only talking in about an hour and a half of that.”

 

“Yeah, but you’ve got to get the filler and then your notes. It’s a whole thing when you have a big segment like this. You’ll get used to it.”

 

She nods even though Anton isn’t paying any attention to her, before stepping into the room and around some of the editors she’s never worked with until she’s sitting down at Ashley’s workstation, picking up the pair of headphones that she uses and rolling up to the screen as she watches Ashely piece together several clips to promote whatever tennis tournament is going on right now. She thinks it’s the one in Palm Springs, but she hasn’t really been able to keep up with things lately.

 

“Sorry about that,” Ashley apologizes, flashing her a smile. “Alexandria had a late night last night, and I didn’t get into work in time to finish this up until you got here. But now my attention is all yours.”

 

“Is she okay?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. She’s teething is all. It’s miserable for all of us.”

 

“I bet. I remember when Leo was teething. David aged about fifteen years.”

 

“That doesn’t make me feel better.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” she laughs, patting Ashley’s arm. “I won’t tell you any other stories about miserable babies. Let’s talk the interview.”

 

Ashley nods and clicks around on her computer until she’s pulling up Emma’s file, all of the hours of footage broken down. Emma has a basic understanding of how all of this works, but it’s mostly above her knowledge and paygrade. That’s why she’s glad to have people like Ashley and Anton, especially when they can easily throw out shaky or unusable footage to narrow things down even more. She tells Ashley that she wants to work on the main interview first, to make sure she can show all of the pieces she wants, and then they’ll work on finding the filler footage and the music to be played in the background. This is the first time Emma has ever worked on an edited segment that’s more than one minute, so it’s all a whole new world to her.

 

“This is good,” Ashley murmurs, her voice a small whisper outside of the headphones. “Like, really good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him be this open before.”

 

“Jones? Jones is an open book.”

 

Her brows raise before settling back down at a regular height. “You are literally the most knowledgeable person on this subject in this building, and you think that Jones is an open book?”

 

“I mean, yeah. He’s baseball player, first and foremost. He’s young, hot, likes to spend his money and go out with every woman with big boobs and a pulse.”

 

Ashley actually laughs at that, rolling back in her chair before rewinding the video to a part where Killian is talking about his nieces and how they collect bobble heads, particularly his, and scatter them throughout their house for their parents to have to pick up. Emma remembers laughing at that, remembers thinking it’s sweet, but she’s not entirely sure why Ashley is showing it to her again.

 

“I know you probably hate him for asking you out like that, which was kind of a dick move, but anyone with eyes can tell he’s a sweet guy. I mean, he spent his injury break learning how to bake and sitting with his nieces so that they didn’t have to go to daycare. Yeah, he kind of had a period where he was pictured with a lot of girls, but that was when he was twenty-four and on top of the world. I mean, when you were twenty-four, you’re telling me you wouldn’t have been all over a pretty baseball player if you met him in a bar?”

 

“I hated all men at twenty-four.”

 

Ashely shakes her head from side to side, chuckling at her again. Emma hates to admit it, but Ashley is right. She knows that he’s not a bad guy, that’s not some sleazy player. No, he did not make the best decisions in asking her out last year, but in a move that surprised her, he very kindly apologized. And she really should not judge him over that time when he was pictured with girls all the time. For one, he probably dates as much as every other guy, but his dates happen to be publicized. She hates when women are shamed for dating, and here she is judging someone else.

 

His incessant flirting in all of his interviews and him asking her out have likely framed her view on him when she should know better than to judge by what appears on the surface.

 

She should also know better than to let a few pretty words make her trust someone.

 

“I met Sean at twenty-four.”

 

Emma sighs, curving her lips into a smile before patting Ashely’s arm. “And you two are wonderful. Let’s keep editing before we get distracted by you showing me a million baby pictures.”

 

“Dammit, Emma,” Anton groans from his seat, “the first rule of the editing room is that you don’t talk about baby pictures.”

 

After letting Ashley show her new pictures of Alexandra and those adorable chubby cheeks, they finally get around to some more editing, cutting questions that have repeated answers and editing out Emma’s laugh or weird coughing sounds so that she doesn’t look like a total maniac. There’s this part in the film where Killian is standing with his back to the camera and in front of a large set of windows that show off the field, and it looks like it could be a part of the Hall of Fame. It’s a gorgeous shot, and it’s where he’s talking about his hopes and dreams for baseball as well as wanting to get to live a normal life full of everything that his brother has.

 

Frankly, it’s beautiful enough to make her tear up.

 

They may just be her, though. As much as sports are about the statistics, about the executions, it’s also about the emotions. In the grand scheme of life, a baseball game doesn’t matter. These men getting paid millions of dollars to play a game don’t change the world. Except that they do. People live and die by the game, by the unpredictability, by the fact that it’s human beings out there pushing their bodies to limits that most people can’t reach. It takes everyone away from the world for a bit, lets them cheer for a happy ending, and even though the losses can be crushing, for just that little while, people feel hope.

 

Killian Jones coming back from injury, no matter how minor, to win the World Series, gave people hope.

 

It’s that thought process that guides her in helping Ashley and Anton edit the segment, and even though they only get about halfway through editing, they stop for the day so that Ashley can go home to her family and Anton to his while she walks down three flights of stairs to get to her office shoved into the corner of the corporate floor. There’s literally not even room in there for her to have an extra chair for someone to sit with her, but considering how little time she spends there now, that doesn’t matter. And it’s a step up from the cubicles.

 

Damn, her segment is going to be good.

 

This is…she knows she complained about it, and for the right reasons, but this is huge for her career. Right now, she’s more than happy doing post-game interviews and the occasional mid-game updates, but one day she might want to commentate or have her own show. One day she might want to move onto things other than sports. She’s getting ahead of herself, she knows. She simply can’t help it.

 

She’s excited, and she actually can’t wait to come into work tomorrow to get it all finished.

After sending a text to Ruby asking her if she’s almost ready to go, she logs into her computer and waits for her email to load, figuring she might as well get some more work done while she waits. Ruby’s timing at work is always so unpredictable when they’re not working together, so she has absolutely no idea when they’ll be able to leave to get on the train to Astoria. If only David was in the office today.

 

She doesn’t have much to sort through, just a few emails asking about the segment, another few talking about food that’s available in the office (she really hates that she missed those), and then another two from Walsh that she immediately deletes. They could be work related, but they’re most likely not.

 

Dating someone she works with was an absolutely horrible idea that she’ll probably never do again. Walsh is definitely an asshole, one that’s worse than all of the others, but he kind of ruined that workplace peace that she had for awhile. They’d both been stat checkers together, spent their days going blind reading spreadsheets and becoming friends, and when they both got promotions to journalists  (ones who actually got to write articles) at the same time, she was pretty sure that it was fate or something crazy like that. They got to have the same job, the same schedule, and she was in that phase of infatuation in a new relationship that it made her stomach constantly feel like it was in those pleasantly painful knots.

 

Then she interviewed and auditioned for the on-air job to work with the Yankees.

 

It’s a moment that’s changed her life in an immeasurable amount of ways, but the first and most obvious – before Killian Jones 2k18 – was that her boyfriend of over a year resented her. He resented her, belittled her for what she did for a living, and it all felt so painstakingly familiar that she had to break up with him before he damaged her beyond repair too.

 

The fact that he was cheating definitely helped that decision.

 

So for him to still work under one hundred feet away from her in the office and still send her emails on a regular basis is a pretty big sting.

 

There is no one who got more enjoyment out of her being asked out on live television than Walsh Osborne.

 

Ruby: I am in the bathroom curling my hair. Meet you by the seventh floor receptionist desk in ten.

 

Emma: Where did you get a curling iron?

 

Ruby: The makeup room in the studio.

 

Of course she did.

 

Closing out her computer and slipping her booties back on, she leaves her office and locks it up before making her way through the cubicles, specifically going out of her way to avoid Walsh’s desk since she knows he’s still in the office, and waits by the receptionist area with David’s present in her hand. There’s no one sitting there, all of the calls being forwarded through the machine, and she idly wonders where in the world Jacob is.

 

“We have got to get whatever curling iron it is they use in hair and makeup,” Ruby sighs as she walks into the room, heels that she was not wearing this morning now on her feet and her hair curled into perfectly styled waves. “Seriously, it’s fantastic.”

 

“It’s, like, over three hundred dollars.”

 

“We can split it. You ready to go? Graham is going to meet us there.”

 

“Does he have David’s present?”

 

“Yep.” Ruby loops her arm through Emma’s elbow, pulling her closer, before walking toward the elevators. “He wins the award for the best boyfriend today.”

 

“Who is he in competition with?”

 

“Your non-existent boyfriend.”

 

She pinches Ruby’s arm, but she doesn’t say anything as the elevator opens and they walk inside. It’s always such a pain to go to David and Mary Margaret’s townhome from the office, if only because of the amount of times they have to switch trains, but it gives she and Ruby time to talk about their days and scroll through their phone, checking up on everything that they’ve missed while working.

 

(She usually finds time to look while at work. Knowing what’s happening in baseball players’ lives is important to her job, right? It doesn’t make her creepy if they put it online.)

 

Plus, it’s a Friday afternoon, and that’s always the best time to see people dressed in odd costumes and eating full on turkeys on the subway.

 

Seriously. That happened once. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving.

 

By the time they get to the townhouse, it’s past six, and she can see cars parked up and down the street, Mary Margaret’s SUV sitting right in front of their home. She insists on driving everywhere, even when she comes into Manhattan, and Emma will never understand that. But she guesses that they live a bit outside of the most crowded parts of the city and the Mary Margaret is always toting Leo around to school and soccer practice or moving all of her crafts that she takes to her classroom. Emma loves her sister-in-law (it’s easier to say than foster mom’s son’s wife), but she is one of those people whose entire life could be found on a Pinterest board where Emma is more thrift store mashup even with her life being more established lately.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with living life like that. It’s simply not Emma’s cup of tea.

 

“So, how many fortieth birthday themed things do you think Mary Margaret has in their house?”

 

“I mean, obviously forty.”

 

“Obviously.”

 

Graham is sitting on the front steps when they walk up, a small envelope in his hand as he stares down at his phone, and Ruby whistles, making him actually jump from his seat.

 

“What the hell?” he grumbles, clutching his hand and the envelope over his heart. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

 

“It depends. Am I the beneficiary of your life insurance plan?”

 

“Oh my God,” Emma chuckles, shaking her head from side to side as she adjusts the box underneath her arm. “You two are disturbed.”

 

“Only my girlfriend is.” He stands from the steps and moves closer to quickly press his lips against Ruby’s. “You two ready to go inside?”

 

“Were you too scared to go inside without us, babe?”

 

“If I’m honest, yes. I’m not entirely sure what kind of party awaits us.”

 

“You and me both.”

 

Emma steps up the stairs and opens the door, knowing that it’s unlocked and that she can just let herself in. She immediately hears the sound of people talking, most noticeably Leo in his high-pitched voice, but everything looks as normal as it always does. The living room is still neatly arranged, a mixture of white and gray furniture, most of it antique, all scattered throughout. The dining room has place settings arranged, but no one sitting there, so she walks to the back of the home where the kitchen is to find everyone all standing around the island eating off of the veggie place that’s set out.

 

Huh. So maybe David turning forty means that everything is low-key. That’s a refreshing change of pace.

 

“Emma,” Leo screeches when he sees her, hopping down from the countertop and running toward her, pushing her back with the force of his hug.

 

“Hey, kid,” she laughs as she moves David’s present so that she can hug Leo back. He’s getting so big, is nearly as tall as she is now, and he’s only ten. She can’t imagine what he’s going to be like when he gets older. She doesn’t really want to. She’s that aunt who gushes about remembering the day that her nephew was born and grossing him out by talking about it. “Why are you letting all of these people eat my food?”

 

“Because you don’t like vegetables.”

 

“I definitely do.”

 

“You never eat collards, and I always have to.”

 

“Well, that’s because I don’t like collards.”

 

Leo scrunches up his nose, his face twisted in disgust like he’s eating those collards, before he grabs her hand and starts trying to tug her back to the entryway. “Come on, Emma, I want to show you my new Captain America shield.”

 

“I’ve got to go say hi to your parents, but why don’t you go get it and bring it down to show me?”

 

“Okay.”

 

He nods his head and then runs upstairs, his footsteps loud, and she turns back toward the kitchen to start talking to people who most likely don’t have Captain America shields in their bedroom. Well, they could. He’s kind of a big deal.

 

America’s ass and all that.

 

David is swiping a carrot through a bit of dip, and she takes the opportunity to put her present on the table before wrapping her arms around David’s stomach. He’s so incredibly warm, as always, and she appreciates the solid nature of him as his hand comes up to cup the back of her head, his lips pressing into her hairline.

 

“Happy birthday, old man.”

 

“Excuse me. I am in the prime of my life.”

 

She rolls her eyes, unable to help herself before pulling back and patting his chest. “Sure, if you think so.”

 

“I do. I’m glad you made it today.”

 

“And miss your  birthday so that I have to hear it every day at work? Never.”

 

“That wouldn’t happen.”

 

“It would,” Ruby adds in. “It would be one of those things that you’d bring up every opportunity you get. You’d feed it into her earpiece while she was on air so that she’d do that thing with her nose where it scrunches up all weird to make her look like a mouse.”

 

“I do not do that.”

 

“You do, sweetie,” Mary Margaret adds in, opening up the refrigerator and grabbing a bowl of what Emma sincerely hopes is Mary Margaret’s pasta salad. “It’s so, but it does make you look like a mouse. Or like you smelled something bad.”

 

“Well, I am next to a bunch of sweaty men. I could smell something bad.”

 

“True.”

 

“And Ruby, you can’t say anything. You talk in my earpiece all of the time.”

 

“That’s my job.”

 

“It’s not your job to talk about assess in pinstripes.”

 

“Eh,” she protests, clicking her tongue and tilting her head to the side. “I think it might be.”

 

“I’m sorry,” a woman Emma doesn’t know says, breaking Emma out of their little bubble to remember that there are other people in this house. “What is it that you do?”

 

“Oh,” she sighs, her mouth suddenly dry. She’s not conceited, she doesn’t think, but it’s been awhile since she met someone who wasn’t in her circle and didn’t know about her job. “I’m a reporter for the Yankees. Emma Swan. It’s nice to meet you – ”

 

“Jasmine Anwar. I teach with Mary Margaret.”

 

“She’s my teacher,” Leo adds in, running back in the room with a shield that’s nearly bigger than his body. “But I get to call her Miss Jasmine when she’s here, which is super cool because my friends don’t get to do that.”

 

“That’s our secret, though, Leo.”

 

“I know, I know. Emma, look at my shield.”

 

“Leo, it’s time to eat,” Mary Margaret says. “You can show off your shield afterwards, okay?”

 

“I thought we were eating cake afterwards.”

 

“We are.”

 

“So, when can I show off my shield?”

 

“After the cake, Leo,” David sighs before clapping his hands together. “Let’s eat.”

 

Inside the bowl was, indeed, Mary Margaret’s pasta salad, and in the oven was a tray of baked chicken, rolls, and macaroni and cheese. It’s the kind of meal that Ruth would make on the weekend or whenever David came home for a holiday, and for someone who eats cereal and Chinese takeout when Graham doesn’t feel like cooking, this is absolutely the best case scenario for her.

 

Thank goodness for David turning forty and Mary Margaret deciding to keep it low key with just a few friends instead of everyone from both of their offices.

 

(His thirtieth birthday was insane, especially when she thinks about the fact that Mary Margaret planned it while seven months pregnant.)

 

Most of the conversation halts with everyone eating, just a few murmurs here and there, but then Ruby gets a glass of wine in here – possibly two – and while Ruby can deal with liquor no problem, red wine gets to her. It’s the strangest thing, but Ruby’s already loose filter becomes, well, looser.

 

“No, do you guys remember the time,” Ruby hiccups, sipping on her drink while Emma very gracefully shovels more macaroni and cheese into her mouth, “that we were out in LA for work, and David nearly got arrested for walking out of a Walmart with a boxed fan because he threw away the receipt at self-checkout and they checked him at the door?”

 

“This is not that great of a story, Ruby,” David huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and tipping his beer bottle up to his lips.

 

“But it is,” Graham protests. “It was a twenty-dollar fan, man. All you had to do was pay for it again, but instead you were one more protest away from getting taken off to jail.”

 

“I paid for the damn fan. It was on the security video.”

 

“Yeah,” Emma sighs as she slides her plate onto the coffee table, “but we only know that because you literally demanded to speak to the manager, had to sweet talk your way into the security office, and we spent three hours inside that building all because you can’t sleep without a fan in the room.”

 

“To be fair, you and I did have a great time while we were waiting. We bought that purple hair dye and streaked your hair.”

 

“Which was really dumb because I had to be on camera the next day.”

 

“It washed out.”

 

“Really? Because I swear I still have purple in my hair if it’s in the right light.”

 

She tugs at strands of her hair to prove a point while laughter bubbles in her stomach. God, she loves her friends. They’re the actual best. She doesn’t know how she got lucky enough to have them in her life.

 

“Your purple streaks are probably what made Jones ask you out. He saw that you had a wild side and couldn’t pass that opportunity up.”

 

She takes that thing about loving her friends back.

 

She groans, sinking down further into the couch and wishing that she had Leo’s Captain America shield to hide her face so that no one can see the blush that’s rising from her cheeks. Today is apparently a day to bring this up once every hour. It might as well go on her grave stone at this point.

 

Okay, that’s a little dramatic.

 

It can at least go in her obituary.

 

That doesn’t make it any better.

 

“Emma, can you get me Killian Jones’s autograph?” Leo questions, looking up at her from where he’s very enthusiastically scarfing down another plate of macaroni. He’s not going to have any room for cake at this rate.

 

“I’m not sure if I can, kid.”

 

“But you know him! He asked you on a date!”

 

She’s going to dye all of her hair purple, change her name, and move countries. That’s even more dramatic, but she seems to be on a role with being dramatic tonight.

 

Italy would be nice. There’s lots of pasta there.

 

“I’ll ask, kid.”

 

“I want it on a hat.”

 

“Leo,” Mary Margaret scolds, “use your manners.”

 

“I want it on a hat please,” he corrects before shoveling more food in his mouth. “Can we have cake now?”

Chapter Text

He has two cakes cooling on racks in his kitchen.

 

Two.

 

He thought about making three.

 

Killian’s not exactly sure when he turned into Betty Crocker – okay, that’s a lie since he knows it was during his injury when he couldn’t do much of anything but hang around his apartment, watch old tapes, and feed himself – but if it doesn’t stop soon, he’s going to have to go up a size in his uniform. He refuses to be one of those players who have a beer belly.

 

Absolutely refuses.

 

So instead he’s going to have a coffee and coconut cake belly. Not together, obviously.

 

They’re separate cakes, though they could go together…no, those two should stay separate.

 

Definitely.

 

Why the hell is he having a meltdown right now?

 

It’s Opening Day, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest days of the year for him, for sports in America, and he is doing anything and everything not to think about it even as he runs over pitches he needs to do against every player on the Orioles, even the ones who aren’t in tonight’s batting lineup.

 

His calm mind is obviously back in Florida somewhere, probably melting away with the heat and being eaten by an alligator.

 

How many stereotypes can he think about an entire state all at once?

 

Probably more, but that’s a road he doesn’t really want to drive down. There’d be too many potholes.

 

His stomach twists, the nerves radiating over every inch of his flesh, and he wonders if Liam and Elsa will take these cakes off of his hands and turn off the power in his apartment so that he’ll stop stress baking. Honestly, he should have come up with a different hobby while out on injury, but there’s only so much he could do with his non-dominant hand. Even baking or reading or getting pants with a zipper on were full of struggles for those first few weeks.

 

Becoming an expert in every television show in the past three decades might have been a good idea. Or even taking online courses to see if he can finish out his degree, or, at least, start finishing his degree.

 

He’s always wanted to do that.

 

One day.

 

And maybe he’s anxious about his shoulder for today. Maybe he has razor sharp knots in his stomach because they came back and won the Series last year when they had no business doing that, and this is the first time he’s ever really had to defend something. He’s used to eyes being on him, to pundits watching his stats and debating his skills on their shows, and he’s honestly never given it much thought. What someone behind a desk says has no merit on how he plays on the field, but all of the sudden he’s worried about it all.

 

His heart may as well be pounding between his ears as loud as the speaker system in Yankee Stadium.

 

He reaches up to mess with the silver chain around his neck, his mother’s favorite ring cool against his chest, and he tries to take a deep breath. Then another one. His mom would want him to be calm, to think things through. She would tell him that it’s all going to be fine, that he will be fine if he simply calms down.

 

Every part of him hopes that it’s true.

 

Every part of him hopes that she’s proud of him.

 

His phone rings, and he turns off the mixer to answer it.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Are you stress baking?” Elsa asks him as he hears Lucy ask for a glass of water in the background. “One moment, sweetie.”

 

“Aw, I’m your sweetie,” he jokes, swiping some icing from the bowl and boosting himself up to sit on his kitchen counter.

 

“I’m obviously not talking to you.”

 

“Obviously.”

 

“But seriously, are you stress baking?”

 

“I am making both you and Liam a cake, and it doesn’t have anything to do with stress.”

 

Elsa sighs on the other end of the line, and he’s not sure if it’s because of him or because she’s trying to get the girls ready for school while also getting ready for work. He knows for a fact that Liam was on call last night, so he either spent the night in the hospital or got up early and left to do rounds. Either way, he’s not home.

 

“So, you’re currently freaking out then?”

 

“A little bit.”

 

“Killian.”

 

“Elsa.”

 

“Killian Jones.”

 

“Elsa Jones.”

 

“Oh my God.”

 

“What?” he laughs, flexing out his ankles and moving his toes underneath his socks.

 

“You are being ridiculous,” she huffs, Addy’s voice coming in through the speakers. “Hold on, Addy wants to talk to you.”

 

“Uncle Killian,” Addy squeaks, her voice loud in the speaker.

 

“Addy Jones! What’s up, my girl?”

 

“Today is Opening Day,” she squeals, and he can’t help but chuckle at the most mature, yet playful five-year-old girl on the planet. “I’m coming to your game tonight.”

 

“Are you? Are you going to watch the game? Or are you just going to play in the playroom with your friends?”

 

“I’m going to watch, duh,” she grumbles, and he can imagine her nose scrunching up and making her freckles all blend together. “I’m wearing my Jones jersey. Number twenty-nine.”

 

He never cared if his name was on the back of a jersey until the rule was changed for names to now be allowed instead of it all being simply numbers. It was just in time for him to get his nieces to wear his, and they’ve been stuffed in oversized jerseys of his since each of the days they were born.

 

“Hey, that’s what I’m going to wear too.”

 

“I know. That’s why I’m wearing it, Uncle Killian.”

 

“I love you, Addy,” he laughs, moving his phone and putting it on speaker so that he doesn’t have to hold it up to his ear. “Can you give the phone back to your mom?”

 

“I love you too.”

 

He hears the line disconnect, Addison very obviously having hung up on him, but Elsa’s already calling him back, a picture of her with the girls popping up on his screen, before he can press her contact number.

 

“Sorry about that,” she sighs. “They’re crazy this morning. I think it’s because they have an uncle who is a pretty big deal, and they’re proud of him. They both have on their jerseys today. Super proud.”

 

Blush rises to the tips of his ears, and he reaches up to brush his hair back, a few pieces of fringe falling onto his forehead. He had to get it cut last week, the length of it annoying him, but he still doesn’t like for his hair to be too short. Personal preference and all that.

 

“Well, really, those jerseys have their names on them too.”

 

“Yes, but it’s yours. Killian, take a deep breath. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to kick ass, really. I know it. Be excited. This is what you love. Remember that?”

 

“I know,” he smiles, toying with his chain again. “I know.”

 

“We will all see you tonight after you win, okay?”

 

“That’s not any pressure at all, El.”

 

“Love you.”

 

“Love you too.”

 

His brother hit every damn jackpot in the world when he met that woman on his first day of residency because he was on the wrong floor to sign in, and she had to show him where to go. He may have looked like an idiot, but he met the love of his life.

 

It all evens out in the end.

 

Or so he hopes. He hasn’t quite found that yet, but there’s always that little glimmer of light telling him that.

 

After all, he hasn’t been struck out quite yet. Then against, it’s been a good while since he was at bat.

 

The fact that he’s making baseball puns in his head about his failed relationships is deeply disturbing to him, and he can’t quite believe that he’s sunk to this level. At least he’s not thinking about the game.

 

Oh shit. He’s thinking about the game.

 

Carefully getting down from the counter, he turns his music on, letting Queen play through the speakers hooked up all throughout his apartment, and gets back to whipping the icing for his coffee cake, figuring that if he focuses on one task at a time, today won’t seem so impossibly long.

 

And it’s true. He spends his morning working on his cakes, frosting them and putting them away in containers to take to the fields so that he can put one in the management’s office and give another to the ladies who cater for them, knowing that they like them. He’s sure that since he’s not giving them to Liam and Elsa, they’ll actually ask for them this time, but that’s simply a risk that he’s going to have to take.

 

He’ll have until Wednesday to play again, so it’s not like he won’t have the time to bake some more.

 

Or pick up another hobby. That’s still a possibility. He should really tackle the stack of books that he has on the shelf in his guest bedroom.

 

After he puts the cakes in his refrigerator, he walks down the hallway to his bedroom and picks up the basket of laundry that he washed last night and starts folding them, putting away his practice shirts in one pile, his generic workout shirts in another, and hanging his button-downs and henleys in his closet, adjusting a pair of his loafers on their shelf. He doesn’t always think that his apartment is that much of a bachelor pad, but sometimes it hits him how much it is, even if he has more than one bedroom. He’s got plenty of color, even if it’s mostly blues and greens and brown leather with white comforters and pillows. Decorating has never been his thing. Growing up, they didn’t have a lot of decorations, even if his mom’s paintings were on a lot of their walls, and when he was in college, his dorm room was legitimately just a bed with a checkered blue comforter and two pillows, absolutely nothing on the walls.

 

The height of home décor.

 

The only reason his place looks nice today is because Elsa’s sister, Anna, is an interior designer, saw his apartment once, and then forced him to go shopping with her the very next day. He swears she tried to max out his credit card on throw pillows. He’ll never understand why anyone needs so many but to each their own.

 

She did pick out several fantastic blankets, though. He most definitely brings one with him on road trips because it’s that damn comfortable.

 

He should probably buy another one.

 

Ariel: Your segment is airing at 3 PM on ESPN. It’s 30 minutes.

 

Ariel: Do you want to watch it in the clubhouse, or should I try to commandeer a private room for just you and me to watch it in?

 

Shit.

 

He nearly forgot about his segment. How the hell could he forget about that? He spent an entire day being filmed for it, a day talking to Emma Swan and letting her ask questions about his private life for him to answer and be aired. She never got to invasive, never asked for anything he would hate to be aired, and since he knows Emma Swan and the integrity that she shows every time she reports, he let Ariel approve the segment without him watching it.

 

That was probably not his brightest idea.

 

His teammates are going to give him hell.

 

They already do, especially when it comes to anything having to do with Emma or any girl that he’s seen with, and he already knows that every single one of them is going to be watching in the clubhouse if they’re not at batting practice or warming up for the game.

 

God, he hopes they’re all warming up for the game.

 

He needs to text Will and make sure that he’s ready to warm up with him later, see if he can get Eric to hit a few balls off of him, let him actually pitch to a batter today before the game starts.

 

So much to do, so little time even though he feels as if time could stretch out forever.

 

He takes a shower, washing his body down, before getting out and cleaning up his scruff, dressing in his warm up clothes and moving to the kitchen to eat the chicken and spinach he already had cooked and packed away into a container, before grabbing his keys and taking the elevator down to the parking garage, loading up into his car and beginning his drive through the city to the stadium.

 

Sometimes he thinks about moving closer, about being closer to work so that he’s not constantly in a car or on the train, but he likes his apartment. It’s a good location in the city, only three blocks from Central Park, and honestly, he doesn’t mind the drive out to the stadium. Sometimes he even takes the train, wanting to blend in with the crowd and be normal, even if it means seeing some pretty interesting things that he swears would never happen anywhere else in the world. That’s probably what he should have done today with his headphones and music drowning him out from the world, but instead he’s sitting in traffic and fiddling his thumbs, wishing that he could stretch out his legs as he runs over several plays in his head.

 

Will is going to signal him tonight. He doesn’t need to do that. He knows want to do, how to do this. He’s been doing it for his entire life, even if he did once play first base instead of being a pitcher.

 

But that’s all up to dear old dad, and his commanding and overbearing tendencies.

 

No. He will not go down that road today.

 

Today is a good day.

 

And he’s got Addy and Lucy wearing his number as they go to school because they’re proud of him. What more could he possibly ask for out of life? Those girls are the best, and he wants to make them proud. Liam and Elsa too.

 

His mom as well.

 

He finally gets to the stadium and pulls into the private parking deck, flashing his ID and parking before going through the tunnels to get to the locker room so that he can do a few stretches and meet with Archie to massage his shoulder while he’s watching the segment. He’ll probably be the most stressed then, and at least that way it can be in private.

 

Damn. He forgot the cakes at his apartment. How did he do that? He literally looked in the fridge right before he left.

 

“Jones,” Robin calls out, his mini me following right behind him with his mop of curly hair. “I have been reliably told that your biggest fan is here.”

 

“My biggest fan?” he laughs. “Would that be a young master Locksley? I thought his dad was his favorite player?”

 

“He’s not starting, so it’s you,” Roland laughs, running forward and wrapping his arms around his legs, nearly tugging his joggers down. “It’ll be Dad tomorrow.”

 

“Well okay then.” He squats down to hug Roland, ruffling his hair, before standing back up.

 

“Good to know that your old man will be your favorite player tomorrow. He might be mine too.”

 

“What about me?” Will questions, walking through the doors from the locker room, his shirt rolled up to wipe sweat from his brow. “I thought I was always your favorite.”

 

“You’re all my favorite,” Roland huffs, his nose scrunching up in conversation as he obviously gets frustrated. “Dad is making me go back to school, so I don’t like him right now.”

 

“Why aren’t you in school, kid?”

 

“Dentist appointment.” He flashes his teeth. “I didn’t have any cavities.”

 

“Good job.” Killian holds out his hand, and gives him a high five. “Will? You want to let me practice a few pitches around four?”

 

“After your girlfriend’s segment? Sure.”

 

“Not my girlfriend.”

 

“That’s because she said no.”

 

“As she had every right to.”

 

Will shakes his head from side to side, brushing his hands over the slight fuzz that resides on his head. “Listen, I’m just saying. You took your shot, and she shot you down. It was epic.”

 

“I’m going to peg you with a ball tonight.”

 

“Dirty.”

 

“There is a six-year-old in the room,” Robin sing-songs, placing his hands over Roland’s ears. “Roland, say goodbye to your crazy favorite players. You’re going to take your spelling test.”

 

“Bye,” Roland waves, a cheesy little, non-cavity filled smile on his face. “I’m going to eat a hot dog tonight.”

 

“I feel like there’s another dirty joke in there,” Will laughs, and everyone cuts their eyes at him, the lovable idiot. “What? Hot dogs are disgusting. That was the dirty joke.”

 

Okay, maybe just an idiot.

 

Everyone goes about their business as they warm up for tonight’s game. He runs for thirty minutes, a slow and steady pace, just to loosen up his muscles and make him feel like he’s done something today, before meeting Archie and having his shoulder massaged. He couldn’t meet at three, so Killian has to have it done with everyone else in the therapy room, before he does a few stretches with bands. He’s always worried about how it will feel, especially after a few pitches, but he knows that Al will only keep him in the game through the fifth inning today. It won’t be like the Series where he pitched nearly the whole damn game.

 

He still can’t believe that he did that.

 

Liam: I had a patient today who was frantically checking all of the channels to make sure the game was on tonight. I asked him if he’s a fan. He is…of the Orioles.

 

Killian: Oof. Way to boost my spirits.

 

Liam: I try. See you tonight. Are you going to come watch from the box when you’re finished?

 

Killian: As long as the game isn’t over before I finish my cool down, yeah.

 

Liam: Good.

 

He’s just about to put his phone back in his pocket when it dings again, Ariel’s name popping up.

 

Ariel: Al is letting us use his office. Come on up. I want you to look at your graphics for Instagram for tonight too.

 

Killian pockets his phone then, and walks through the doors to get to the offices, winding in and out of offices full of all of the administrative staff that work here, until he gets to Al’s office, a place he has been far too many times. He might as well pitch a tent and live in it, honestly. For as much tape as he watches and as much research he does into statistics, nothing compares to their manager.

 

Nothing.

 

“Hey,” he greets as he walks into the room, only Ariel sitting in there typing away on her laptop.

 

“Hey, give me a minute, okay?”

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Killian.”

 

“Seriously.”

 

“You’re so annoying.”

 

“Hey, you can’t insult me in the same ways that I insult you.” He plops down onto Al’s old, cracked leather couch, nudging his shoulder into Ariel’s. Sometimes he thinks that they’re too close, but then again, he’s not going to complain about having someone in his life like Ariel. He often doesn’t know what he’d do without her. “I still don’t know how you balance things when your husband is playing tonight, and you’re stuck dealing with me all day.”

 

“I’m a very talented lady.” She types a few more things into her email, signing it off, before switching files to a video that’s paused on a still of he and Emma walking down a hallway in the training facility in Tampa. His hair is far too long in it. It’s a good thing he got it cut. “So, I’ve been thinking.”

 

“Always a rough thing.”

 

“You’re really telling horrible jokes today.”

 

He winks, and she bites her bottom lip, probably trying to resist calling him a jackass.

 

“Anyways, I’ve been thinking that, for today, we post this promo video for the interview. Then once it’s aired, I’ll link the video in your story. But that’s all pretty business-like, and I don’t want you to seem to stilted so I – ”

 

“Do you ever think we worry too much about my social media presence?” he ponders, leaning back on the couch and stretching his hands above his head, cradling his head in his hands.

 

“Aren’t I really just here to play baseball?”

 

“Yes, but it goes beyond that, knucklehead.” She taps his head, almost like he’s a small child, and he can’t help but chuckle. “You’re a public figure whether you like that or not, and so you do have to do things like this. Anyways, tonight, we’ll either get a game photo or you can post a private one that’s more personal.”

 

“Whatever you want.

 

“And I balance you and Eric because I love you both, and it’s something I want to do. And he’s not quite as difficult to manage as you are.”

 

“Please,” he scoffs, “that’s not true.”

 

“It is. Eric listens to me more.”

 

“Well, he does have more to lose.”

 

“I’m not even going to comment on that.”

 

She reaches over and picks up the remote off of Al’s desk, pressing a button before the black screen comes to life, Emma Swan sitting behind a desk the very first thing that he sees. She’s got her hair pulled back into a ponytail, and she’s dressed in a fitted navy and white striped shirt tucked into either a pair of pants or a skirt. He can’t tell. Maybe he’ll see her tonight.

 

Does he want to see her tonight?

 

Why would he want to see her tonight?

 

There’s absolutely no way that he still fancies her, none at all, and as much as they get on, he wants to be nothing but professional with her. He doesn’t want to make her life any harder than he already has by being an idiot.

 

He watches as she introduces the segment, her hands moving all over the place now that she doesn’t have a microphone in her hand, and before he knows it, the screen is transitioning into a video of him practicing his pitching, Will standing behind home plate catching each ball before throwing them back. It’s something he’s seen first-hand a thousand times, but then it changes to shots of Steinbrenner, both interior and exterior, before showing him talking with Emma. It’s…simple. That’s the only word he can think to describe it. It’s simple but straightforward, and he freaking loves it. There is no glossing things up, no trying to create an angle where there isn’t one. It’s simply the two of them talking like it was on that day.

 

It’s refreshing in every single way.

 

He’s grown used to reading magazine articles and gossip site clickbait all about how he can’t seem to date a woman for more than one night and how he’s playing too much off the field than on it.

 

Seriously, there was an article title like that once, and he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to throw a baseball at every single so-called reporter’s face who spent all of their time taking pictures of him in a private capacity to post it publicly. And he gets it. he went through a phase where he was going to too many bars, where he was casually dating a little loosely, but he was heartbroken and trying to compensate for all of that. His personal life was in actual shambles, but it didn’t affect his game. He wasn’t playing great, but he wasn’t necessarily playing horribly either.

 

Now it’s been four years since he was so much as pictured with another woman, and yet people still try to paint him in some kind of negative light.

 

Not Emma Swan even though she had every right to from his screw up.

 

A breath of fresh air.

 

That’s what all of this is.

 

“Your hair is too long there,” Ariel points out. “It’s doing that little flippy thing.”

 

“I got it cut.”

 

“I know. I’m just pointing it out.”

 

“You’re like the older sister I never had, A.”

 

“I am one month older than you, asshole.”

 

“And yet born in an entirely different year.”

 

Ariel huffs and crosses her arms over her chest, rolling her eyes before propping her feet up on Al’s desk, the heels of her boots clicking against the wood. “If only you were as charming in real life as you are in this segment.”

 

“First you say my hair is too long, as if I’m not devilishly handsome no matter how my hair looks, and now you’re saying I’m not charming? You wound me, darling.”

 

“I try.”

 

He reaches down for his water bottle, taking several large sips as he watches he and Emma talk about the craziest fan encounter he’s ever had, which probably isn’t the craziest but is still pretty damn funny. She’s laughing at him, or at the story really, and it’s kind of nice to see that she maybe didn’t totally hate him before they went into this, especially since he didn’t get a chance to apologize until they were eating lunch and her cameraman went to the restroom. He’s pretty sure she accepted it, that she may have forgiven him for that, and as long as he doesn’t put his foot in his mouth again, they should be good.

 

To think that this is the one member of the media who he cares about, and he’s the one who screwed her over.

 

That is not something he needs to keep harping on and focusing on. He has to move on from it.

 

When the segment is over, he reaches to turn the television off, but then they cut back to ESPN’s studio with Emma still sitting behind the desk with Sydney Glass, who is most definitely not his favorite person in the world. He’s always telling Killian that he should retire any time he pitches a poor game.

 

It’s a bit (a lot) ridiculous.

 

“Well, that was certainly something,” Sydney says, spinning in his chair to look at Emma.

 

Her jaw clenches before she relaxes, and he imagines that she doesn’t like him much either.

 

“He’s certainly something of a player.”

 

“You would say that.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“You would say that,” he repeats, tapping his fingers against the desk. “After all, he did ask you out on a date? Did you ever go on it? I don’t see how someone like you could pass that up.”

 

“Bloody hell,” Killian grumbles, sinking down on the couch before running his hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What a jackass.”

 

“I told him no,” Emma says, a very obviously forced smile on her face as she tries to keep things jovial, “so, no, I did not go on a date with him. And, really, the only date that Killian Jones is concerned with is his date with the mound tonight, so let’s go ahead and preview tonight’s game.”

 

He turns the television off then, not caring to see anymore, and runs his hands through his hair, making it stick up as Ariel pats his back.

 

“Did you apologize to her?”

 

“Yes, Mom, I apologized, but her life is obviously never going to go back to normal as long as she’s associated with me. I still can’t believe I did that. What’s wrong with me?”

 

“That’s a loaded question.”

 

He chuckles and leans back into the couch before standing up, adjusting his joggers. “Well, since I certainly don’t have time to get into that right now, I think it’s probably time that I went and did my job, don’t you think?”

 

“I don’t get paid if you don’t.”

 

“Ah, now I know why you want me to be successful.”

 


 

 It’s the top of the fifth, and the sun is setting over the stadium as sweat drips down his brow and his back, his shirt soaked from the unseasonable humidity of the day and of the city. It’s almost like they’re back in Florida training, and he’d think that it would make him comfortable to throw like he was during all of the practice games.

 

It does not.

 

He’s miserable out here, his body aching, and he desperately wants to go inside and cool down.

 

This is not at all how Opening Day is supposed to be, and he knows that it’s all chalked up to his nerves and nothing else. The weather isn’t great, but he’s been getting in his own mind all night.

 

The fact that they’re up 5-1 doesn’t seem to stick in his mind.

 

“Get it together, Jones,” he murmurs under his breath as he looks to Will to see what signal he’s giving.

 

God, he hopes they don’t pick that up on the camera.

 

He nods his head, gets his body into position, and throws.

 

A swing and a miss.

 

Strike three. He’s out.

 

And the inning is over, everyone running back into the dugout. He gets a few claps on the back, a few more on his ass, and he sits down on the bench, reaching down to pick up his Gatorade bottle only for Al to look at him with a raised brow.

 

“You telling me I’m done for the night?”

 

“You look like you’ve been done for the night since you got out there.”

 

He nods his head, taking a long sip of his drink and letting it cool him down, before twisting the top back on and standing up and patting Will on the shoulder.

 

“I’ll be in a better mood next time.”

 

Al nods his head, a firm smile on his face. He’s usually a much more pleasant guy, someone they all want to be around, but sometimes during games, he won’t look happy no matter what happens. Then again, his job relies on a bunch of overgrown teenage adults playing a game well, so he’s probably a little tense.

 

Before he leaves the stadium, he sees Eric hit a foul ball, the ding of it ringing through the stadium, but then he’s walking through the dugout door and walking through the tunnels that lead him back to the locker room. It’s empty, not a soul to be seen, and he pushes through the doors to go to the gym, hopping on a bike and riding it for fifteen minutes while he watches the game on one of their television screens. They have tonight in the bag, he thinks, but it could depend on how Roseman closes things out, if he even closes things out.

 

He will. It’ll be fine.

 

Killian runs through the rest of his routine, doing a few stretches for his shoulder before heading to the showers, washing the dirt and grime off of him as he hums to himself. The shower makes him feel better than he did the entire time he was out on the field.

 

“Jones,” Archie calls out as Killian wraps a towel around his waist. “Are you planning on ever coming to see me?”

 

“Don’t be so desperate, Arch,” he teases, picking up his uniform and carrying it out of the room to place in his locker so that it’ll be washed. “I was just about to come by. I don’t think I need much more than a quick massage, though. I felt bad, but my shoulder doesn’t.”

 

“Are you lying to me?”

 

“Nope. I’d tell you if I was hurting, wouldn’t I?”

 

Archie crosses his arms over his chest, his sweater tugging at him. He looks more like a fifth-grade teacher than a physical therapist, but the man has magic hands. Magic.

 

“Like you tell the rest of your teammates?”

 

His stomach drops, but he ignores it. “I tell you, and no one else needs to know.”

 

Archie’s jaw clenches. “Let’s get you on the table. I bet your family is waiting for you up in the suite.”

 

They are, and as soon as Archie finishes massaging his shoulder and this niggling place in his calf, he takes the elevator up to the private suites, having to pass through the press hallway on his way there. The inside of this stadium can be like a maze, but he’s got a good grip on it.

 

And then he sees Emma Swan walking down the hallway with a giant soft pretzel in her hand, a large chunk of it in her mouth. She’s wearing the same thing that she was wearing earlier, but he can now see that she has on wide-legged pants instead of the skirt he thought she had on and that there are heels peeking out underneath them. She doesn’t see him yet as she’s staring down at her phone, but then she looks up and he swears she nearly spits out the pretzel in her mouth.

 

Always the reaction you want to see from a woman.

 

Whatthefuck,” she mumbles, all of her words blending together as he sees her furiously chew.

 

He has never been more charmed by her.

 

“Is it pretzel day then, Swan?” he questions, fidgeting with the hem of his t-shirt.

 

She covers her mouth with her hand, the one holding the pretzel, but he still sees the blush rise on her cheeks. “Was that an Office reference?”

 

“Of course. Pretzel day is the best day. I like pretzel day.”

 

“Obviously.” She puts her hand down as she stuffs her phone into the waistband of her pants. It’s then that he realizes she doesn’t have any pockets. Why do women’s clothes never have pockets? “Why did you look like you hated life out there?”

 

Ah, shit. He really must have looked miserable if others besides Al are noticing. He thought he at least faked it for the crowd. Reaching up to scratch behind his ear, he hums, “Because it’s humid? And maybe I really hated a segment that aired about me earlier today.”

 

“Oh. I didn’t – I thought…”

 

He reaches forward to touch her arm, squeezing as he smiles down at her. “I’m kidding, Swan. It was great. All of my interviews are going to have to be done by you or something because I don’t think I’ve ever been so charming.”

 

Emma scoffs, the slightest smile forming on her face. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of editing that went into making that happen.”

 

“So none at all?”

 

She slaps against his arm. “You keep thinking that, Jones. I’ve got to get back out to my seat. Not all of us finish our jobs halfway through the game.”

 

“Is that a jab at my position, love?”

 

“Most definitely,” she winks. “I’ve always preferred third base. It’s much more fun.”

 

She walks away then, taking another bite of her pretzel, and he’s left standing there trying to figure out if Emma Swan was just flirting with him. There’s no way, absolutely none. If anything, he’s pretty sure that she still hates him, but who knows? He certainly doesn’t, and with what he saw her have to deal with on TV today, he wouldn’t bet on her flirting with him.

 

When he finally gets through the media corridor and into the private suites, he quickly opens the one where his family always stays, and he’s greeted by his brother who is biting into a slider in the kitchen.

 

“You looked like shit out there,” he mumbles.

 

“Funny. You look like shit all the time.”

 

“It’s a gift.” Liam steps forward and wraps him up in a hug, patting his back. “You feel okay, Killian? Your shoulder?”

 

“I’m fine. I promise.”

 

“And that blush on your cheeks – what is that from?”

 

“You’re getting old. I think that eyesight is going if you think there’s blush on my cheeks.”

 

He hums, pulling back from the hug and placing his hands on Killian’s shoulders as Liam’s eyes scan over his face. “You wouldn’t have happened to see a pretty blonde out in the hallway, there?”

 

“Bloody hell, do you have eyes everywhere?”

 

“Blind ones apparently. But nah, Ariel was in the Fox booth, and she saw the two of you talking. That was some piece that she made about you. I watched it with one of my patients today.”

 

“The Orioles one?”

 

“Nope, this woman was on the right side. She thinks you two make a cute couple.”

 

Killian groans, pinching the bridge of his nose again. This is going to be his legacy. It really is. It doesn’t matter how well he plays or what good he does in the community. Asking a woman out on TV is going to be his legacy.

 

It’s starting to move up his list on the dumbest decisions ever made.

 

“Shut up, you idiot. I want to go see my nieces.”

Chapter Text

 “How hot is it in Texas right now?”

 

“Hotter than here, but not all that bad. Seventies, I think.”

 

“Well, that’s probably because that weird heat wave is over, and it’s back to being fifty degrees outside.”

 

“True,” Ruby sighs, pulling a dress out of Emma’s closet. “You should wear this dress. It makes your ass look fantastic.”

 

“No one sees my ass.” She walks over to Ruby and grabs the red dress anyways, folding it up since she knows that it won’t wrinkle. She pulls up the weather app on her phone, scrolling through the thirty cities she has saved, and finds the week’s forecast for Houston, seeing that the high is indeed mostly going to be mid-seventies. That’s good. That’s far better than it is when they have to travel during the summer. “Should I bring heels or embrace flats for the week?”

 

“Bring your nude pair.” Ruby chunks them at the bed, about two feet away from taking Emma’s eye out. “Oh, and the turquoise if you’re going to wear that green pencil skirt.”

 

“You just want to borrow them if we go out, don’t you?”

 

Ruby pulls her turquoise pumps out of her closet, which really needs to be organized but that’s a story for another time, and tosses them on the bed before she grabs several more shirts and pants for Emma. “You know me so well, even if we mostly go out in Texas simply to eat their food.”

 

“Ugh,” she groans just thinking about it. “If we’re going to do that, I need to bring looser clothing. I don’t want everyone to think I’m pregnant when it’s just a food baby.”

 

“I bet you everyone would think it’s Jones’s baby.”

 

Her eyes cut over to Ruby as she picks up her turquoise heels and places them on her striped chair. How can someone be both the worst and the best friend? “For that, I’m not bringing these heels.”

 

“You’re evil.”

 

“You shouldn’t be mean to me if you want to borrow my shoes.”

 

“Being mean is kind of in her wheelhouse,” Graham adds in as he pokes his head through her bedroom door, eyes glancing over the mess that’s currently happening. He’s totally judging. “Do you two realize that your flight is at six in the morning, and you’re up at two in the morning packing?”

 

“Do you realize that it’s two in the morning, and you have to take us to the airport at four?” Graham rolls his eyes before Ruby walks toward him and presses up on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck and slide her lips over his. “Thank you for doing that, by the way.”

 

He presses down to kiss her once more. “You’re going to be gone for three days. I’m going to miss you.”

 

“Cheesy,” Emma grumbles, tossing a rolled-up sock at the back of Ruby’s head. They’ve really got to stop throwing clothes. She’s never going to be able to find anything. “Can’t you two go make out in your room or something?”

 

“I kind of like that idea.”

 

“Me too. Ems, pack the damn turquoise shoes and some spanx so that you can eat and people won’t think you’re having Jones’s baby.”

 

“Wait, what?” Graham mutters. “You’re having Jones’s baby?”

 

“No one is having anyone’s baby, and it better stay that way. Use protection.”

 

“Pack the shoes.”

 

“I still don’t understand what’s going on.”

 

“You’re not supposed to, babe,” Ruby laughs, backing Graham out of the room and pulling Emma’s door shut behind her.

 

Those two are ridiculous, and if she didn’t love them so much, living with them would be nearly impossible. Seriously.

 

Emma gets an hour of sleep after she finishes packing (thanks late night games and early morning flights), and she’s basically a zombie as she and Ruby load into the back of Graham’s squad car as he drives them to JFK. She knows that it takes awhile to get there, but she’s pretty sure that she slept the whole time because before she even realizes it, she and Ruby are checking into their flight at the kiosk and going through security. It’s the emptiest she’s ever seen the place, and she would know. She spends far too much time in airports for her job.

 

When the team travels, she travels. Most of the time. Some trips she doesn’t work, and it’s glorious.

 

It used to not be that way. She’d only travel for the games that were actually shown on ESPN or sometimes Fox, but now that ESPN has an entire online streaming service, she’s traveling nine games out of ten and working all home games. It’s exhausting, to a point, but she has a hell of a lot of travel miles and rewards programs that she gets to keep even though the network pays for her flights and hotels. Sometimes that means she gets six am flights when she doesn’t have to be in Houston until seven in the evening, but it’s not always that bad.

 

And one day she’s going to use those points to travel to Italy or something.

 

Pasta would be really good right now.

 

So would coffee, but if she has coffee, she won’t sleep on the plane. And sleeping on the plane is kind of important if she wants to not look like a zombie tonight. Her face may look like a zombie, but at least her ass will look great.

 

She doesn’t want anyone to comment on the state of her ass. She’s the only one allowed to do that.

 

Okay, she’s lost her mind.

 


 

 The Yankees win their sixth game of the season that night.

 

She eats the best barbecue sandwich she’s ever had, and a clip of her eating ends up on Sports Center.

 

Sometimes she wonders if people actually watch baseball for the game or if they simply watch because there’s always something weird going on in the crowd.

 

The sandwich was worth it.

 


 

 Emma’s feet hit against the treadmill as Queen blares in her headphones and a tennis match in Monte Carlo plays on the television in front of her, Rafael Nadal sliding back and forth on the clay as he absolutely dominates his opponent. If every athlete was as good as Rafa is on clay, they’d all be dominant, but that’s likely a story for another day.

 

She’s got twenty-three minutes left on her run, especially since she’s going at a slow pace with a slight incline, but she can already feel the incline starting to kill her, her calves burning the slightest bit with each step that she takes. Her face is red, her hairline slicked back with sweat, and she can already tell that getting her sports bra off is going to be an impossible task. She gets that it’s for the support and all, but there should really be an easier way for her to free her boobs from their confines.

 

Free the boob.

 

Unless she’s running or walking down stairs or doing anything more than some light walking.

 

Her phone buzzes on the machine, and the man on the treadmill looks over at her like he’s annoyed by the fact that her phone made some kind of noise. It’s not her fault that he didn’t bring any headphones, and really, if he’s so bothered by her, he can move two treadmills down. This hotel gym is plenty big enough. 

 

Ruth: I saw you eating a sandwich on TV last night! That’s too funny!

 

Ruth: I hope you’re having fun!

 

Ruth: I miss you, sweetie!!!

 

For Ruth to be sixty-five, she has a fantastic grip on technology. She knows that it’s because she and David have taught her how to text and find clips of their segments and articles online, but still. She knows how to use emojis and gifs and even has an Instagram, which is only slightly terrifying most of the time. But she knows it’s simply to keep up with she and David’s lives since they don’t always tell her everything.

 

Okay, that’s mostly her.

 

But David has a much better relationship with Ruth, which makes sense considering she’s his mother. She’s Emma’s…quasi mother. She’s never been too sure how to go about it. Calling David her brother is much easier than calling Ruth her mom, and she knows it’s because the word mom has more heavy meaning behind it.

 

Emma: It was a good sandwich! Only a little time for fun since I’m here for work. I miss you too!

 

Ruth: There’s always time for fun!

 

Ruth: David and MM are driving up to visit me next weekend for the holidays. Are you coming too?

 

Emma: I don’t get vacation days like David does, so I’ll be in LA. I wish I could.

 

Her music stops between songs, and she hears the roar of the crowd on the television, seeing that the match just ended, and her treadmill starts to slow down, the time ticking down past five minutes so that it’s time for her to cool down with a slow walk while she keeps texting Ruth about the fact that she’s working over Easter weekend. She pretty much doesn’t have days off, except for days the team has off, until the season is over in October. Or early November. It depends. And then she’s back working in the office writing articles and doing prep work and occasionally having to suffer through covering basketball.

 

Bills must be paid, but at what cost to her having to listen to sneakers squeaking?

 

Ruth never seems to understand that because she thinks that she and David have the same job even though David has never once been on camera. He’s behind the scenes all the way.

 

When her treadmill time officially runs out, she steps off and gathers her things before finding a towel to wipe down the handles from where she touched them. Angry man is still eyeing her as she cleans up, and she seriously hopes that he is not going to be there tomorrow.

 

If he is, maybe he’ll be happier.

 

She doubts it.

 

He seems to just be one of those people who is particularly unpleasant all the time.

Sweat sticks to her skin as she walks through the hotel hallways, casually airing out her tank top and wiping sweat back into her hair to get it off of her face, and she very nearly walks up the stairs to go back to she and Ruby’s room when she sees people milling around the dining room with breakfast on their plates.

 

Breakfast would be good.

 

Mostly water. And coffee. She’s not entirely sure if she’s recovered from her lack of sleep yesterday, which made her question her sanity when her alarm went off for the gym this morning, but she knew if she didn’t work out then, she wouldn’t work out at all. And she needs that push of adrenaline and endorphins.

 

Grabbing a plate from the buffet line, she walks through and fills her plate with fruit and scrambled eggs, even if she knows they’re from a bag and not a shell, and a half of a waffle from the waffle maker. She always loves when they have those at hotels. Good continental breakfasts are her jam…especially if they have jam.

 

“Got enough toppings there?”

 

Emma nearly drops her plate when she hears his voice, and when she twists her head to the side, she sees Killian Jones standing next to her, his own plate full of food in his hand. Seriously. Why is she always running into him when she’s eating?

 

And sweaty.

 

“Not enough if you ask me.”

 

He adjusts his hat, a Vanderbilt one that is very obviously a decade old. “I was  asking you.”

 

“I like toppings,” she sighs, putting some more fruit onto her waffle before grabbing the whipped cream can and spraying some of it onto her food. Her workout is yelling at her for this. “What’s the point of a waffle if you’re not going to load it down with toppings?”

 

“I’m more of a pancake man myself.” He reaches into the buffet and grabs a yogurt, which is definitely not a waffle or pancake. “But considering I’m playing tonight, I’m supposed to be watching what I eat.”

 

“You have an entire plate of eggs.”

 

“Protein, Swan, protein. You would know all about that with all that barbecue you ate last night.”

 

Just let her sink into a hole right now and never come back up. The internet is ruining her life.

 

“Weren’t you supposed to be tracking Roseman’s pitches last night or something?”

 

She turns on her heel and walks away from the buffet to a table, knowing that Killian is walking behind her. They have the weirdest relationship. It doesn’t even feel right to call it that, but they’re somewhere between a working relationship and reluctant friends, and the fact that he’s placing his plate down on the table across from hers makes her lean more toward reluctant friends who see each other occasionally enough to have a bit of a rapport.

 

Her life gets weirder every day.

 

Killian Jones has one brave set of balls.

 

Baseball, testicles, whatever. Both work. At least, she thinks.

 

“You can eat right after you work out?” he questions, twisting the knob on one coffee machine while she does it with the other, the promise of caffeine already invigorating her.

 

“How do you know I was working out?”

 

He raises a brow before his eyes look over her, lingering a second too long at her breasts, before a slow smile creeps from one side of his lips to another that has her stomach twisting inside. “Well, it’s not because of your outfit. People dress more like they’re working out when they’re not every day, but the sweat still soaked into your clothes and in your hair are kind of a dead giveaway. Your face is flushed as well.”

 

“Observant.”

 

“I try, but it’s easy when you’re an open book.”

 

Totally not acknowledging that one.

 

She twists the knob on the machine and reaches over for the hazelnut creamer while Killian simply puts the top on his. He drinks black coffee? That’s disgusting. “Black coffee? Do you not have taste buds?”

 

He shrugs. “I don’t like to drink my calories. You want a water?”

 

She nods her head, and he grabs two bottles before following her to sit back down at her booth like it’s totally normal for them to be sharing a meal together. They’ve done it before, but that’s because she was working with him. It was not because they’re staying at the same hotel and happened to run into each other at the buffet.

 

Weird.

 

But she’s not about to be bitchy and ask him to leave when she has no reason to other than her own reluctance to talk to people before noon.

 

They sit in semi-awkward silence as they work through their plates. She definitely overloaded her waffle, but she would never admit that after earlier. That would be admitting defeat, and she doesn’t take too kindly to admitting defeat. Killian eats at lightning speed, scarfing down eggs and sausage, his yogurt untouched, and she wonders what it must be like to be a professional athlete and eat more than the average human being, even if it’s not all good food like pizza and onion rings and loaded down waffles filled with chocolate chips.

 

Her phone buzzes on the table, and she leans over to read the text from Ruth still trying to convince her to come home for the weekend when she’s already explained that she cannot.

 

“Boyfriend?”

 

“Huh?” she hums, texting a message before looking up and seeing Killian staring down at her, his eyes shaded under his cap. She’s so distracted by the fact that he asked her if she was talking to her boyfriend that she doesn’t pay attention to her answer. “Oh, no boyfriend. It’s my…um, quasi mom.”

 

“Quasi mom?”

 

Shit. She should have just said Mom. Maybe she’s a little flustered by all of this.

 

“She was my foster mom,” Emma explains, stuffing some eggs into her own mouth to give her some more time to talk, “when I was a teenager, but we’re still in touch because her son, David, is kind of like this big brother to me. I work with him and am close to his wife and kid and all.”

 

That was word vomit that she should not have shared. That is not information that she should just give out, and yet here she is. Obviously, all of the blood hasn’t returned to her brain since her run. Hopefully it’ll all come back soon so she can stop looking like an idiot with a messed up past who shares too much at a breakfast.

 

“David Nolan, right?”

 

“Y-yeah. How do you know that?”

 

He shrugs his right shoulder before taking another forkful of eggs, chewing and smiling in a way that reminds her of that scene in Thor where Chris Hemsworth is in the diner and throws the mug down asking for another one. Why the hell did they dye his eyebrows and his beard in that movie? That was a mistake.

 

“Ariel, my manager, is super hands on with me. She’s talkative, like extremely, and she shares all kinds of information that I never need to know. So, I’ve heard a bunch of random shit that I literally never need to know about. David sends her a hell of a lot of emails that I get forwarded.”

 

“So, do you just know my entire life story then?”

 

“If you’re entire life story involves you liking pretzels and waffles, and being asked out by a jackass on live television, then yeah.”

 

She barks out a laugh, her lips curving upward, and reaches down to take a sip of her coffee. “I mean, that’s it. There’s nothing else to know about me.”

 

“You sure about that?”

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

The smile on his lips fall into a straight line, his gaze intense, and he lifts the bill of his hat up before adjusting it back down. “Perhaps I would.”

 

“So, nosy,” she starts, still a little annoyed that he asked if she had a boyfriend and most definitely trying to lighten the conversation up again, “I’m going to be very self-indulgent and ask if you liked your segment. I want a more truthful answer than the one I got in the hallway.”

 

His lips curve up, pretty much taking up his entire face, and she can see the crinkle of his eyes as his long lashes land on his cheeks before opening back up to show his baby blues. Damn his eyes are blue. How is that even possible? Maybe they’re contacts or something.

 

No, that would be ridiculous.

 

“I freaking loved it. I mean, it was great. It was so simple, you know? You didn’t try to create some other angle, didn’t try to paint me as anything other than a normal guy. I really appreciate that. You have no idea,” he chuckles, reaching up to scratch beneath his ear. Is he nervous? Why the hell is he nervous? “I saw afterward, your cohost, he was a bit of a dick, wasn’t he? I know we talked about it a bit, but it seems like you just…well, it seems like the shit show is never ending for you.”

 

That is – that is not what she was expecting at all. She figured his apology was a one and done and that she’d never hear about it again.

 

“With my friends,” she starts, tapping her nail against the table, “I don’t mind. It’s funny. It’s something we can joke about, that I, myself, joke about, but when it happens in my professional life, it pisses me off. So many men have seen me as a joke in the past, have tried to tear me down that way, and it’s not something I like having to deal with now. I mean, it’s not like I can go off on them. That’s a great way for me to lose my job because I’m no longer,” she holds her fingers up and does air quotes, “likable.”

 

Killian lets out a low whistle as her heart hammers in her chest, her annoyance at this whole thing making her cheeks heat. It’s all so dumb, and really, she should hate him for it. She doesn’t though. She’s not always his biggest fan, but he apologized and obviously feels actual remorse. How was he supposed to know it would be like this?

 

And if she knows all of this to be true, why does she still get slightly irked by him sometimes?

 

Is that just because she’s so damn stubborn herself?

 

“Is there anything I can do to make it better for you? I mean, I put you into this situation. The very least I can do is try to get you out of it.”

 

“Nah, there’s nothing you can do more than treat me like a professional and go on as if you didn’t make an ass out of the both of us with millions of people watching.”

 

“I think I can do that. However I can’t promise not to keep making an ass out of myself though. My brother tells me it’s my natural state of being.”

 

“Your brother sounds like a smart man.”

 

“He likes to think so. His patients sure as hell hopes that he is.”

 

“I mean, I would hope so. Does he get to come to a lot of games?”

 

“He and Elsa and the girls try to make it to some of them, but it usually depends on if Liam is on call or if the game is too late, so it interferes with the girls’ bedtimes and school. But no matter what I always have a string of texts waiting for me afterwards.”

 

“They sound great. Your nieces are so cute. Like, adorable. When you posted that photo of the two of them wearing your jersey, my heart melted. That was cute, twenty-nine.”

 

“Twenty-nine?”

 

“Your number,” she says slowly, looking him over.

 

“Aye, I know. It’s just that I’m not used to being called that.”

 

“Oh, sorry.” She covers her mouth and takes a sip of her coffee. She’s never going to finish her food if they keep talking like this. “I call most of you guys by your numbers half the time. It’s faster, sometimes, for our stat-keepers. It’s a force of habit from back before the Yankees had names on their jerseys.”

 

“I like it,” he smiles. “You ever play any sports?”

 

“Nothing official. Why?”

 

“Just looking to see if you have a number I can call you, love.”

 

“Ooh, for a second I thought you were going to ask for my number, so that was a nice save.”

 

“Well, I mean, I could,” he shrugs, flashing that winning smile again.

 

“Not going to happen, twenty-nine.”

 

“Damn, I thought I’d stumbled myself into something. I guess that’s strike two for me.”

 

“Do you always speak in baseball puns?”

 

“Says the woman who made a joke about oral sex using a baseball pun.”

 

“Never claimed that I didn’t use them. I’m a fan of a good pun. If you can make it a clever innuendo, all the better.”

 

“I do love a good innuendo.”

 

“Yeah, I can tell with the whole tall, dark, and broody thing that you’ve got going on half the time before you whip out a smirk and do that thing with your eyebrows.”

 

“Why, Swan,” he sighs, waggling those damn eyebrows, “have you been watching me?”

 

“It’s literally my job.” He does his eyebrows again, and she flicks an apple chunk at him. “Shut it, twenty-nine.”

 

They sit in the booth and talk, the both of them going through two cups of coffee, before Killian gets a call that he needs to be on the bus to Minute Maid Park, which they both agree is an awful name for a stadium. It’s on the tip of her tongue to start naming off other awful names and major sponsors, but she doesn’t, holding that back as he gathers their plates and walks over to put them all in the bin, his mind seemingly having switched from casual conversation to baseball. She wonders how often he does something like that, just turning everything off to focus on his job.

 

She can do the same.

 

“So, Swan,” he sighs as they both walk toward the lobby, Killian to get on the bus and for her to walk toward the elevators, “you going to be around to interview me tonight when I walk off the field?”

 

“Only if my producer thinks that we need an interview from you.”

 

“Does this mean I need to play a damn good game?”

 

“Or a really bad one.”

 

“I’ll try for one of those.”

 

“Okay,” she laughs, backing away from him as she sees Scarlet and Fisher walk down into the lobby, “break a leg then.”

 

He raises a brow. “I’m not sure if that works in sports.”

 

“Guess you’ll be the first to try it out.”

 

Emma raises her hand to wave to him, before turning on her heel and walking toward the elevator, her mind trying to piece together all of the elements of her morning while her heart keeps beating like she’s still on the treadmill and not like she’s been sitting in a booth eating for the past two hours.

 

What the hell just happened?

 

When she gets back to her room, she quietly opens the door, not knowing if Ruby is awake or not yet, but as soon as she’s inside the room she sees Ruby sitting on the floor with her laptop in front of her with some kind of hair tutorial video on the screen. And whatever it is, Ruby is not succeeding at it, which is pretty much an impossibility with how good Ruby is with hair.

 

“What’d you do? Run to Manhattan and back? You’ve been gone for forever.”

 

Putting her phone and hotel key down on the dresser, she slides down onto the floor to sit with Ruby. Her legs are starting to ache, and she desperately needs a shower. She got a look at herself in the mirror in the elevator, and damn does she look rough.

 

“How long have you been awake?”

 

“Well, I woke up when you got up because you’re not quiet,” she huffs, tugging at her braid, “and then I woke up an hour ago. You’ve been gone for, like, three hours.”

 

“I spent a long time at the gym.” That’s not a lie, not really, but it’s not exactly the full truth. She’s not sure why she’s not being honest with Ruby, but it’s…it’s just what her brain has apparently decided on. That breakfast didn’t mean anything, right? So why would she hide it? Probably so no more jokes will be made about them. Yeah, that’s it. That has to be it. “And then I ate breakfast.”

 

“And you didn’t bring me anything?”

 

“Not supposed to take the food out of the restaurant area.”

 

“You could have stolen a banana.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

Ruby groans, twists her hair into another braid as the video ends, and then closes her laptop before looking at her, her eyes scanning over her outfit. “Let’s go get something from a café or something. What was that place we went to last time we were here?”

 

“Snooze, maybe?”

 

“Yes,” she hums, falling back against the floor before she very obviously remembers her slightly okay braided hair, “let’s go there.”

 

“I just ate, Rubes.”

 

“You can keep me company while I eat, and then we’ll go shopping before we have to come back and get ready for work.”

 

“Can I at least take a shower first?”

 

“I would prefer if you didn’t smell, so yeah.”

 

Emma reaches forward and slaps Ruby’s shoulder before getting up. “You’re the worst.”

 

“But I’m your best friend.”

 

“Unfortunately.”

 

“No, very fortunately.”

 

“Will you do my hair for tonight’s game?” she asks as she strips out of her tank top, sweat having practically dried it to her skin.

 

“If you let me wear your turquoise pumps.”

 

“You were going to wear them anyways.”

 

“Semantics.” Ruby waves her away. “Go take a shower. I’m starving, and I will absolutely perish if I don’t have food in my stomach in the next hour.”

Chapter Text

“You’re almost out of milk,” Killian tells Liam as he grabs the gallon out of the refrigerator and pours it into his bowl of Lucky Charms. It was either this or Wheaties, and while Wheaties make more sense for him, Lucky Charms are magically delicious…he’s watched too much TV lately if he’s quoting cereal slogans. “And you guys really need different brands of cereal.”

 

“We’re running low on groceries because you keep eating everything.”

 

Liam picks up the box of Lucky Charms between them and places it back in the cabinet, slamming the door shut before he returns to his seat on the barstool on the island. “And because neither Elsa nor I have been able to go to the store in the past two weeks. You should have seen the girls’ lunches this week. It was rough.”

 

He swirls his spoon around in the cereal, trying to pick up the little brown bits instead of the marshmallows. Isn’t that how everyone eats this? “You do realize there’s such a thing as having your groceries delivered? I do it all the time.”

 

“Addy likes to come with me, so I like going with her. We have very serious discussions about the branding on food.”

 

“Of course you do,” he chuckles, taking a bite of the cereal while he flexes his ankles out a bit from the jog that he did before he practiced a few pitches with Will this morning. He still needs to go over his stats and notes tonight and tomorrow for the game, but he’s feeling pretty prepared. It’s their sixteenth game of the season, and while he’s only pitched four games, they’ve won all of those games. They may have a losing record so far, but he doesn’t.

 

After his first game, that surprises him.

 

That’s always a good thing when they have to play the Sox on Tuesday. Realistically, he knows that the toughest team they’re going to play this year is the Astros, but the history that’s behind playing the Red Sox is out of this world. Those games are always crazy intense, the atmosphere like nothing he’s ever experienced before, and as much as his nerves rile him up, he thrives in conditions like that.

 

The fact that they get to go to London to play this year on top of their usual games is fucking amazing.

 

He’s only geeking out the slightest bit because a boy from Cincinnati should not be allowed to do something like that.

 

“She’s also very particular about what I buy. Sometimes I swear she’s your child and not mine.”

 

“Well, I do have a type,” Elsa hums as she walks into the room still dressed in her pajamas, as most everyone should be on a Sunday morning, “but I promise you that those girls are yours, Liam.” She leans into her husband and presses her lips against his temple, making Liam close his eyes and smile. True love and all that. “But if I had to have another baby daddy, I guess we could keep it in the Jones line.”

 

“That’s really messed up,” he groans, picking at his cereal. “Like, seriously. That is not happening.”

 

“What? You don’t find my wife attractive?” Liam looks so put out, his lips curved downward and his brows furrowed as he pulls Elsa back to his side, her leg half sitting on top of his.

 

“I feel like there’s no way for me to answer this question.”

 

“I think you embarrassed him, honey,” Elsa teases, patting Liam’s hands over her stomach. “His ears are all red. You can see it even though his hair is growing out.”

 

“It’s just like when he was a kid.”

 

“I hate both of you,” he grumbles, taking another bite out of his spoonful of Lucky Charms, which does not at all help his cause. “I come over here to spend time with my family on a rare day off, and you guys treat me like this.”

 

“You play every five days. You have days off.”

 

“I work during them.”

 

“For like an hour.”

 

“Plus, all the time it takes me to get to the stadium. Plus, I’m always on a plane even when I’m not playing. Only occasionally do I get to sit on my ass at home, which I’ve never understood. I feel like I don’t need to go on nearly every road trip.”

 

“Comradery or something.”

 

“Eh.”

 

“We’re just teasing,” Elsa sighs, getting up from her spot in Liam’s lap to lean over the counter and press a kiss into Killian’s cheek. “Of course we’re happy to have you here. Me especially. I swear Liam goes into withdrawals when he doesn’t see you for a couple of days. I’m going to go check on the girls, but I’ll be back, okay?”

 

“Bye, Els,” he hums, waving her away as she squeezes Liam’s shoulder and walks out of the room to go upstairs to spend time with the girls in their playroom. They know that he’s here, but they apparently are too engrossed in their toys to want to come see him. It’s fine. It doesn’t bother him at all. Definitely not. “So, you really miss me that much, do you? I had no idea. The daily calls and texts weren’t enough.”

 

Liam rolls his eyes in that particular big brother fashion where it’s just patronizing enough for it to slightly rub Killian the wrong way. He loves his brother, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their moments. Eight years apart and different life styles can lead to that.

 

“So, I heard from Dad yesterday.”

 

Killian drops his spoon into his bowl, the metal clanging against the glass, and his heart pounds in his chest as he tries to wrap his head around what Liam just said. He tries to speak, but it comes out as more of a cough, something that gets stuck in his throat and makes him feel like a lung is trying to escape him.

 

“W-what the…how did he get in contact with you?”

 

“Through my patient portal of all things.” When Killian raises his brow, Liam explains. “How people make appointments with me. There’s a place for notes at the bottom. He made an appointment and left one asking if we could meet.”

 

“Did you reply?”

 

“No. God no.” Liam runs his hands through his hair, his fingers getting stuck in a tangle in the curl, and that’s weirdly how Killian feels right now. “I had to refer him to another doctor since I don’t treat family, at least that’s what I told my nurse, but I’m not replying to that. He doesn’t deserve the time.”

 

“He’s a bastard.”

 

“He is. I’m not sure what he wants.”

 

“Money,” Killian scoffs, tapping his fingers against the countertop before reaching up to grab the chain around his neck while anger and resentment boil up in him over their father and how shitty he is. “It’s always been money for him so that he can buy more booze and gamble some more. I’m pretty sure the only reason he doesn’t try to make money off of the press about me is because he makes enough gambling on the games.”

 

“It’s a good thing he doesn’t do that.”

 

“I wouldn’t put it past him to start one day.”

 

“I don’t know – I’m not sure that I understand him. If he wanted money, all he has to do is sell stories about you to the press. It wouldn’t be hard for him.”

 

“He hasn’t talked to me since I was nineteen years old. He has no fucking stories.”

 

Liam nods his head, his lips pressed together in a tight smile. “I’m sorry. I didn’t – I didn’t want to tell you, but I figured you deserved to know that he’s trying to get in contact with me. He could try you next.”

 

“Aye, I know.” He tightly closes his eyes, willing away the tears that want to come. He will not get frustrated over Brennan Jones. He will not. He hasn’t been in his life for nearly ten years, and he’s not going to rent space in it now. “I’ll let you know if he does, but you know he’s more likely to talk to you anyways. You were always much more agreeable than me.”

 

“You are a bit of a pain in the ass.”

 

“Whatever,” Killian laughs, picking up his spoon again to eat some more of his cereal. If Liam is joking, that means this conversation is over, and he’s more than glad for it. “Are Elsa’s parents still coming over for dinner?”

 

“It’s Sunday. That means the entire Karlsson family comes for dinner at one our places. You want to stay for tonight?”

 

“Nah, I think I’ll probably make something at home. Next week is the week at Anna’s though, right? I’ll come for that.”

 

“You sure?”

 

“Hell, yeah. Anna is by far the best cook out of all of you guys.”

 

“That’s a good point.”

 

There’s a pounding down the stairs, little feet making big moves, and before he knows it, there’s two blonde heads crashing into the kitchen, their socks making them skid across the tile floor.

 

“Daddy,” Addy squeaks, running up to Liam’s barstool and practically climbing on top of him as she gets in his face, while Lucy is just a few steps behind, “Mommy says that you will take us outside to draw on the sidewalk with our new chalks.”

 

“Did she now?” he chuckles, grabbing onto Addison so that she doesn’t fall. “And what is Mommy doing that she is not down here to tell me this?”

 

“She’s on the phone with Anna. I think she is angry with Uncle Kris,” Addy whisper-shouts.

 

“Hi, Killian,” Lucy whispers, tugging at the hem of his shirt. She’s much more reserved than her older sister, a quiet little thing even when she has her moments, and he can always count on her to want to sit and read a book with him.

 

“Hi, sweetheart,” he sighs, reaching down to pick her up and place her on his knee, giving her his last spoonful of the cereal. “Do you want to go draw outside? You guys have new chalks?”

 

“We have a new blue one and pink one and a thousand orange ones.”

 

“A thousand? That’s a lot of orange.”

 

“It’s not really a thousand orange ones, Lucy,” Addy groans, always the one to correct her little sister. “It’s more like seven, Uncle Killian.”

 

“Seven is pretty close to a thousand, I think.”

 

“You always were bad at math,” Liam chuckles.

 

“I was getting a degree in Physics. How does that make me bad at math?”

 

“What’s Physics?” Addy asks.

 

“Something you never want to have to deal with.” Liam clasps his hands together. “Alright, who is ready to go outside and draw with some chalk?”

 

There are actually eight orange chalk sticks, and he uses them to draw Lucy several tigers and a few orange sea lions. They apparently went to the zoo last week, which is something he didn’t know about, and animals are all the rage right now. Maybe not accurate animals, but animals all the same. Lucy is into tigers and penguins while Addy is far more interest in elephants and their “gigantic” ears, and he and Liam try to help draw out the zoo for them across the sidewalk in front of their townhouse. He’s sure someone will take issue with it, but their neighbors never complain when they do this, always complimenting the girls on their art and playing along.

 

It’s how they should be.

 

Addison gives him a lecture on everything she learned about lemurs while Lucy tells him that she thinks sea lions are slippery, and he can’t help but laugh at the two of them and the child-like innocence and joy that they bring into his life. They don’t have real worries, not really, and even when he feels like he’s spiraling out of control, they often bring him back to earth with their sweet gestures and funny bickering and inability to decide whether they can call him Uncle Killian or just Killian.

 

Plus, without a doubt, they are his biggest fans.

 

He likes that a lot.

 

And he likes getting to do things like draw with them. His mom used to do this with him, Liam too when they could get him to come outside and draw – he always claimed that he was too old for it, but he’s now currently got purple chalk on his nose – and this always reminds him of those times. Amelia Jones deserved every chance to get to know her grandchildren and draw on sidewalks with them, and he’ll forever hate that cancer took her away from all of this.

 

“Oh my goodness,” Elsa gasps as she comes out onto their front steps, now dressed in jeans and simple white sweater with her hair pulled back in a braid, “am I at the zoo? I don’t remember buying a ticket.”

 

“It’s free for you, darling,” Liam says, and Killian does not roll his eyes at that. Definitely not. “Would you like to come see the orange sea lion exhibit?”

 

“Of course.” She walks down the stairs and avoids every drawing, swiftly walking along the path that he left open for this exact purpose. “Oh, Lucy, your butterfly is very pretty. Does it have a name?”

 

“Anna.”

 

“Like my sister?”

 

“And grandma. When are they coming to our house?”

 

“Anna is coming right now, actually,” she hums, still stepping along while he continues to work on a rather magnificent lion if he does say so himself. “She and Kris had their lunch plans cancelled, so they’re coming to invade our zoo.”

 

“They have to buy a ticket,” Addy says, standing from the ground and wiping her hands on her pants, which only smears the chalk everywhere.

 

“Addy, I didn’t know you were a business woman.”

 

“I’m not a woman, Killian,” she scoffs, placing her hands on her hips. “I am a girl.”

 

“My bad,” he laughs as he holds his hands up in defeat. “I didn’t know you were a business girl.”

 

“I am. I want to make money to buy a bicycle.”

 

He knows for a fact that she’s getting a bicycle from him for her birthday at the end of June, but he is certainly not going to say anything to her now, the little spitfire charging her aunt and uncle money to view their sidewalk zoo. Next thing he knows she’s going to be charging him an entrance fee to go back into the house.

 

“I spy someone with blonde hair and blue eyes.”

 

Killian whips his head to the side to see Anna and Kris walking from down the street, obviously having taken the train to get here, and both Lucy and Addison get up from where they are and shoot down the sidewalk to run into Anna’s arms. Anna is far too small to pick both of them up, but she manages it, even if it takes a little help from Kris, and she’s got the both of them in a frenzy of laughter and giggles and maybe even a bit of kicking and screaming. As good as he is with the girls, there’s no one like Anna.

 

It helps that she’s a bit of a child herself, but that’s only meant in the best way.

 

“I see we’ve put the adults to work,” Anna laughs as she hauls the girls over to where they are. He stands up, Liam doing the same, and it’s a bit of a mess to have to avoid all of the chalk even with the path that he left out. “As they should be.”

 

Liam and Elsa hug Anna and Kris first, a flurry of exchange of words and hugs and laughter. It’s always so much when they’re around, especially with all of the talking that never seems to end, but it’s always worth it. His family was so small for so long, and while it’s not huge, it’s more than enough.

 

“I didn’t know I was going to see you,” Anna gasps at him before her arms come to hang around his neck. “I’m sorry we haven’t been able to come to a game yet.”

 

“If you guys came to every single game,” he whispers in her ear as he pats her back, “I’d be worried about you. There’s a lot of them.”

 

“We’re coming on Tuesday, though. Right, Kris?”

 

“Right.” Anna pulls back just for Kris to step into the hug. “There’s no way in hell that I’m missing the first Red Sox rivalry game, especially when you’re the starter.”

 

“You’re not supposed to use that word, Uncle Kris,” Addy point out.

 

“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean it.” He looks back to Killian then, whispering, “I totally meant it. I can’t wait. And it’s a night game. That’s just – that’s the best.”

 

“Sometimes I think Kris only loves me because of you, baby Jones,” Anna sighs.

 

“I hate that nickname.”

 

“It’s better than calling you BJ.”

 

“There are children around,” Liam sing-songs.

 

“What’s a BJ?” Lucy asks.

 

“Oh my God,” Elsa mumbles.

 

“See,” Anna laughs. “Baby Jones is much better.”

 

“I do not only love you because of Killian. I asked you out before I even knew he was your sister’s brother-in-law.”

 

“But you stayed because you knew that.”

 

“That is not true.”

 

“It is.”

 

“You are so ridiculous.”

 

“It’s kind of my number one personality trait.”

 

“Wait,” Addy gasps, making them all look away from the playful bickering to see her standing at the front door, “Anna and Kris didn’t pay to look at our zoo.”

 


 

 “How many do you want to do today?” Will asks as they walk through the tunnels to make their way out onto the field.

 

“Twelve.”

 

“That’s oddly specific.”

 

“I’m an oddly specific guy.”

 

“That is very true. If I didn’t like you so much, I’d probably hate you.”

 

“Thanks?” Killian laughs, not entirely sure what to say back to that. Scarlet is such a character, but man is he glad to have him as a friend. Road trips wouldn’t be quite the same without his inability to listen to music at a normal volume and shut up when everyone else on the plane is trying to sleep. It’s the same with gamedays. Will curses more under his breath than anyone, and he swears any umpire they have is always five seconds away from fining him for something, pretty much ready to fine him for existing. “Are you ready to get booed when we walk out here.”

 

“It is not my fault that the Sox didn’t want me,” Will groans, adjusting his helmet in his hands and hitting his knuckles against it. “I obviously wanted to play for my home team, and now every time we play them, it’s like I’m Edward Snowden.”

 

“Look at you and your references.”

 

“I know things.”

 

“Of course you do.”

 

“And I like living here, playing here, by the way. And I kind of get this kind of sick satisfaction out of beating them, you know?”

 

“Absolutely. It’s the best feeling.”

 

“Exactly. I expect a no-hitter from you tonight.”

 

Killian barks out a laugh, tilting his head back as they come closer to the door to lead them to the bullpen. “Maybe if Al takes me out after one inning, I’ll get that.”

 

“I was thinking more like you playing your full five. Rodriguez is your relief pitcher tonight, and he gets all nervous.”

 

“It’ll be fine, Scarlet. Have some fun. That’s why we’re here isn’t it?”

 

Killian pushes open the doors that lead to the bullpen, Will following right behind him, and when they walk up the stairs and onto the field to make their way fully into the bullpen, there are already a few hundred fans crowding in the bottom of the stadium, most of them not in their seats. Sure enough, the cheers that sound out after he walks out are soon replaced by boos for Will (the fans only hate him on days like this, but Will acts like it’s all the damn time), and he takes a few minutes to sign a few autographs for the kids that have hats and balls. He knows that a lot of times their parents are going to sell them off, but he holds out hope that some of the kids really just want his autograph for themselves.

 

The fact that there are children wanting his autograph in the way that he wanted players’ autographs growing up absolutely blows his mind.

 

Really.

 

So that’s why he usually goes for the children, making sure to get all of them before focusing on a few adults. But he can’t stay doing that forever. He’s got to warm up now that he’s had his shoulder massaged and iced, and he doesn’t want to be too tight at the start of the game.

Once he’s finished signing autographs, he and Will toss the ball back and forth just to warm him up a little bit more before he starts to actually practice his pitches. Journey music is blaring through the stadium’s speakers, and he can hear the place getting louder and louder minute by minute as more people fill in and the sky continues to darken with an orange glow as the sun starts to set. This is the kind of night any player lives for. Sure, there are bigger nights. There are game seven of the Series kind of nights and nights where your niece has told you that her teacher is watching so you have to win. Those are big, maybe one more than the other, but rivalry nights, rivalry series, those are the things to live for.

 

And being on their home field for it makes it all the better.

 

As he throws his practice pitchers, stretching is arm out when he needs it, the crowd begins to fill in, the noise level getting louder as the sun sets further and their start time gets closer, stadium lights coming to life an adding an entire other type of buzz to his ears. It’s a bit humid tonight, but still a comfortable April evening, and he can feel sweat forming at the back of his neck as he throws his last-warm up pitch with Will before they grab their things and head back inside, jogging down the hallways to get to the dugout so that he can get to the mound, everyone else in their place.

 

The anticipation builds within him, his heart hammering in his chest and making is throat a little dry as he nods at Al and Leroy, a slight smile on his face to reassure them that everything is going to be fine.

 

As always, he steps up to the mound and looks at the stadium full of people around him.

 

Ready.

 


 


Two hours later, it’s six runs to none for the Yankees when he steps off the mound and into the dugout, Al telling him that he’s done for the night. It’s what he expected, especially when they’re winning the way they are, and he grabs a cup of water from the cooler, and walks through the door to go into the hallways to take him back to the locker room.

 

Except right when he steps inside, a blast of cool air hitting him, he sees Emma Swan and Jeff…something. He honestly can’t remember the man’s name at the moment, but he’s pretty sure it was Jeff, last name unclear. They’re very obviously waiting for him, and he stops walking to gulp down the water, letting it cool him down a bit as he takes Emma in.

 

She’s wearing black jeans that hug the curves of her legs and a white button down that’s tucked into the front, white sneakers gracing her feet. Her hair is down in loose waves, and his mind wonders if it’s as soft as he imagines it is.

 

Is it wrong for him to imagine that?

 

Does he have any reason to think that he should?

 

It’s been a week since he saw her last. Scratch that. It’s been a week since he talked to her last. He saw her on the jumbotron during the White Sox game on Friday. She was eating a hot dog, and he wonders if it’s now a thing to show her eating during games. Someone in the broadcasting office either has it out for her, or one of her coworkers has bribed someone. He can’t think of any other reason why that would keep happening.

 

(Even if he does have to admit that it can be funny at times since she’s not the most graceful eater.)

 

But he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her in the week since he ran into her at the hotel in Houston and pretty much invited himself into eating breakfast with her. It was a bold move on his part, one that he can’t quite believe that he did, but then again, he can. When it comes to Emma Swan, he seems to both not think and overthink things all at once. He wonders if he’s allowed to admire the way her ass looks in her jeans while also sitting down at breakfast with her without any invitation and talking for two hours, only a few silences between them. It was…wonderful, actually, to truly get to know her and talk to her and know more about who she is.

 

He had no idea that she was a foster kid, that she doesn’t know her parents outside of David’s mom. His heart stung for her, stings for her, and how much hurt he’s sure she went through. He can’t pretend to know what that’s like. He has his own issues with losing his mom and cutting his dad out of his life, but he at least knew them.

 

Besides that, he had no idea that she was as witty and charming as she is, and he has no idea how he ever lived not knowing that she likes sugar too much and calls him twenty-nine. That is entirely too dramatic, but that’s how he is.

 

It’s been a long damn time since he’s fancied a girl for more than just her looks, and while that is what he was attracted to her at first, he actually wants to get to know her now.

 

If that’s what she wants. He’s not pulling any more shit like he did after the Series. He can’t do something like that again when it was such an asshole move.

 

“Twenty-nine,” Emma smirks, looking his way with a bright white smile on her face. That’s a smile he’d kind of like to get used to even if he knows that he can’t.

 

“Swan,” he nods, wiping some more sweat off of his brow and adjusting his hat, knowing better than to take it off to show the awful sweaty hair that he has going on right now. “Jeff. Am I doing an interview? Is it live?”

 

“It’s not live,” Emma tells him, stepping over to his side as Jeff moves around. He’s been through this routine enough times before, so he knows to back up to the wall with their roster written across it and stand on the side as Emma stands next to him. He can smell the vanilla of her perfume. “But it is an interview. You ready?”

 

“Always,” he winks.

 

She rolls her eyes before waving at Jeff for him to start the camera. “You didn’t give up any runs in five innings against the Sox. The last time you did something like that you were twenty-two years old.”

 

“Are you saying I’m old now?”

 

“Obviously. Anyways, that’s an important stat if only because this is the first of many series against your biggest rivals. Does that give you confidence for the rest of the season?”

 

“Eh,” he clicks his tongue, scratching behind his ear, “not really. It’s an incredibly long season with a hell of a lot of games, and this one’s not quite over yet. And what happens today can be the complete opposite of what happens tomorrow and for every game that we play after that. If anything, it gave me confidence in my arm. I think that’s the most important thing.”

 

Emma nods and smiles at him, listening to each of his words, and she asks him two more questions about some of his stats for tonight as well as for Eric and Arthur, and he has to run back through the game to answer them, trying to remember everything that happened. In the moment, it’s easy for him to remember everything, cataloging it all and working through it, but once all of the adrenaline has died down a bit, it’s sometimes difficult for him to recall everything.

 

It's a good thing Emma has a stat sheet, one she seems to have written herself.

 

“Thank you,” Emma sighs when they’re finished, the bright light on Jeff’s camera going off as he backs up. “Sorry for stalking you in the hallways.”

 

“I don’t think doing your job counts as stalking.”

 

“It does if I get really creative with it.”

 

“Well, okay then, love,” he laughs, grabbing his shirt and pulling it up to wipe some more sweat from his chin. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the game. Maybe don’t eat any more food while you’re working.”

 

He hears Jeff snort before the man walks away, not bothering to say goodbye to either of them. Killian is about ninety percent sure that he and Emma are friends, or at least co-workers who are fond of each other, but he has no idea when they talk. None at all. The man has to talk at some point.

 

“Does he speak?” Killian asks before Emma gets the opportunity to say something back to his jab about her continuously being caught on camera while eating.

 

“Who? Jeff? I mean, he’s not a mute,” she laughs, flipping her hair over her shoulder and sticking her microphone into the back pocket of her pants. He imagines that can’t be comfortable. “He’s just…well, he talks when he needs to and very rarely otherwise unless he’s super comfortable around you. I’ve spent years breaking him out of his shell.”

 

“You have?”

 

“Don’t be so surprised, twenty-nine. I have friends.”

 

“What makes you think I’m surprised?”

 

Emma waves her hand in the hair, circling around his face. “Your eyebrow is, like, in your hairline, and you’ve got that smirk thing that you do when you’re being all cocky and smug.”

 

His lips tick up a little more, and now he knows that he’s smirking. He wasn’t before, but he is now as he sways a little closer into Emma’s space, barely a foot between them. When did they get so close?

 

“Swan, I think you’ve been watching me, studying me really.”

 

Her own brows raise as her arms cross over her chest. She could kick his ass without question, and he has got to be incredibly disturbed to be fascinated by that fact. He is not supposed to be attracted to Emma Swan, not after what he did, and yet here he is.

 

“Yeah,” she huffs, “that’s my job. I feel like we’ve discussed this.”

 

“Sometimes I need a little reminding of things.”

 

“I thought you were smarter than that.”

 

“I like to surprise people. Don’t change the subject, darling,” he teases, angling his shoulder forward and invading her space as his heart ticks up a few beats. “You’ve been paying particularly close attention to me.”

 

“You make a good story.”

 

“So you’re saying I make your job easier?”

 

Emma scoffs, but he can see the slightest smile on her face, the annoyance simply not there. Maybe he doesn’t annoy her anymore after they had breakfast. And maybe he is being just cocky enough to make this flirting work.

 

That is what he’s doing, right? Flirting.

 

“You could say that.”

 

He’s an idiot, a complete idiot, who pushes his luck too far, and he’s going to blame everything on the adrenaline from here on out. There’s no other excuse for how he’s acting.

 

“Perhaps gratitude is in order,” he teases as he taps his bottom lip, fully expecting Emma to slap him.

 

Instead he watches as her lashes flutter, her eyes glancing over his lips, before she looks up to him with a challenge written across her face. “Please. You couldn’t handle it.”

 

She’s right. He couldn’t.

 

“Perhaps you’re the one who couldn’t handle it.”

 

Her lips part for her to speak, but no words come as she’s leaning forward and gripping her hands into his uniform, pulling on his jersey and pulling him into her until their lips are crashing together. Despite his teasing, he was in no way expecting this, and it takes him a moment to kiss Emma back, to move his lips over hers. His hands immediately find her hair, fingers threading through the soft strands, and he exhales into her mouth as he tugs on her upper lip with his mouth, listening to her moan.

 

Damn.

 

Emma Swan just moaned because of him.

 

She tastes like peppermint, strongly enough so that he imagines she just finished one, but he can’t really focus on that when the softest lips he’s ever felt are moving over his and the soft curves of her body are pressed into him. It’s intoxicating and exhilarating and everything all at once, and he can feel his heart pounding between his ears, the organ very obviously switching with his brain at some point because he’s forgotten how to think.

 

His legs shake when Emma’s tongue runs at the seam of his lips, and when he opens up to her, tilting her head to the right, her hands trail up his neck and into his hair until his hat is toppling off of his head and crashing onto the floor.

 

Whatever spell is between them is broken with the sound of his hat collapsing against the cement, and Emma pulls back from him with a gasp, her forehead still pressed against his so that he can feel the heat of her breath moving over his mouth.

 

What the hell just happened?

 

And can it happen again?

 

“That,” he starts, at a loss for words.

 

“Can’t happen again,” Emma finishes for him, releasing her grip on his hair and backing up so that he immediately feels chilled from the loss of heat. “I’m sorry. I – I’ve got to go.”

 

“Emma,” he calls out, reaching forward to grab her hand, but she’s already walking away, her strides larger than her natural gait as she moves down the hallway and disappears around the corner all the while he’s left standing there with his fingers unconsciously pressed to his lips.

Chapter Text

One. Two.

 

One. Two.

 

One. Two.

 

It’s a repetitive motion that Emma can’t stop, her fist continuously hitting against the punching bag in front of her until she’s finished with her reps and every inch of her body feels like some kind of expired jell-o that’s at the bottom of her kitchen cabinets.

 

Why did she ever even buy jell-o? That is not something that she usually would have even bought unless she was randomly trying to attempt to make a recipe to take to dinner at David and Mary Margaret’s.

 

That must have been an odd day. What would she even have been making?

 

Emma drops the gloves she borrowed from the hotel into the basket, her hands slicked in sweat, and wipes her forehead down with the back of her forearm before bending down to pick up her phone and walk out of the gym. She can already feel that she overdid it today, that she’s barely going to be able to move tomorrow, but in the words of Elle Woods, happy people don’t kill their husbands.

 

Wait. What?

 

She definitely skipped forward on the lines there. She was most definitely leaning more toward exercise giving endorphins and making people happy or marginally less frustrated with the state of their lives. She’s on the second half of that spectrum, and she’s not afraid to admit it.

 

To herself at least. There is absolutely no way that she’s telling someone else what exactly it is that’s going on in her head. That’s probably unhealthy, but she’s not going to worry about that right now.

 

Ducking out of the gym, she immediately moves toward the back staircase of the hotel she’s staying in, avoiding the breakfast buffet area no matter how much she wants a bottle of water and something to eat. She bets they have waffles. But nope. No. She is not entertaining the idea, and she is not going there. The team is staying at this hotel (thanks David for nearly always booking them in the same place when that’s most definitely not necessary), and she is avoiding Killian Jones at all costs.

 

Because she kissed him.

 

(And he kissed her back.)

 

She fucking kissed Killian Jones, who is most definitely high on the list of people she should not be kissing, and yet she knows exactly how soft his lips are compared to the scruff on his chin. She knows that he makes this deep growl noise when she bites his lip, and she knows that he likes to focus on one lip at a time, specifically her upper one.

 

She knows that it feels damn good.

 

She knows a lot more than she should because she should never know how it feels to kiss him.

 

After he asked her out, after all of the fame and harassment and annoyances that came with that, she told herself that she would be pissed at him, that she would hate him and be annoyed and absolutely have nothing to do with him outside of a professional capacity.

 

That lasted for a solid two minutes once she saw him again.

 

It’s this…tether of sorts between them, and she doesn’t understand it. Their conversations are easy, even if they’re not always fluid, and she flirts with him. She knows that she does. She’d have to be blind and deaf and incompetent not to realize this, and she kind of hates herself for falling into the trap that so many others have fallen into. And it’s not that he has a full dating history, that he was once more known for who he was sleeping with than how his arm was working. That’s not it at all.

 

(Though she does have thoughts and questions and worries because she can spot a man running from something from a mile away, and that’s exactly what all of that had to have been. He was not sleeping around like that simply because he could.)

 

It’s her job.

 

She hates that she’s been flirting with him because of her job. She hates that she kissed him because of that.

 

Professionalism is important to her, and she’s hated how she’s rarely been taken seriously. A female working in sports, especially male-focused sports, is a rarity. Most women are shoved off to the side to only commentate on softball or women’s soccer (which is just soccer, by the way) or the WNBA. They’re not allowed to work with the men, the networks not promoting them, but Emma was promoted. She got the job even without much on-air experience, and even if it was partially because of David, she still did that for herself.

 

And she worked hard to make sure that she was taken seriously.

 

Then Killian Jones asked her out, and eighty percent of that effort went down the drain in one quick motion under the loud cheers of the stadium crowd and the rapid beating of her heart.

 

So, she can’t be kissing him in tunnels in the stadium or flirting with him over breakfast. She simply can’t. Because then there’s a picture of them somewhere, that picture makes its way to her bosses, and she’s having to sit in an HR meeting even though it’s not actually against the rules for her to date a player. But the rules don’t matter when it’s the rumors that will kill her.

 

Rumors make the world go round while also destroying lives all at once.

 

People will wonder if she’s been sleeping with Killian since before he asked her out. That’ll make them wonder if she slept her way to her job, which would validate the thoughts of so many people. If they date and break up, she’ll never be known for her job again. She’ll always be known as Jones’s ex, and no part of her is under the impression that she’ll be transferred to another team. She’ll be forced to interview him and record segments and commentate on his games.

 

All of her credibility will disappear, and she simply can’t do that.

 

Not when she’s been working so hard to build it up.

 

Neal was always making fun of her for her job, for her major, for her love of baseball, of tennis, of soccer, of anything. She put up it with it at first, being young and so stupidly in love that she thought he could walk on the moon without any help, but as the years dragged on, as she continued to work at ESPN while in college, it really started to take a toll on her that her boyfriend diminished her choices as if her career was a silly little hobby that meant nothing. She gets it. She’s not a doctor or a human right’s lawyer or a teacher. She’s not changing the world. But this is what she does, what she enjoys, and no one should ever be allowed to make her feel bad for that.

 

If you love someone, you don’t diminish their interests.

 

Neal made her feel like the shittiest person in the world every single time she put her job or school above him. Even if it was simply that she couldn’t go out to a bar with him because she needed to study, he made her feel like she was doing him some kind of disservice, like she owed him her time instead of giving it to herself.

 

The two of them had so many issues, some that she never got to resolve, but the biggest was that he consistently made her feel like she was nothing but a girl playing pretend in having a career and a family just like she’d been doing her entire life.

 

Asshole.

 

Walsh was the same way, but even he didn’t mess her up and make her question everything in the way that Neal did. If he did, she imagines her work experience would be even more different now, that having to see him occasionally would be more than a little annoyance.

 

Another reason dating someone she works with is a horrible idea.

 

Emma does all of this for herself because she loves it, but at the back of her mind, she can still hear his voice telling her that she’s not good enough and should leave all of this to the professionals. All she wants is for that voice to go away, for him to stop taking up space in her mind. 

 

And that’s exactly why she can’t make out with Killian Jones again. It would be a horrific idea in every single way. Her body says yes, her mind says hell no.

 

Okay, it could be that her body says hell yes and her mind says a very quiet no, but that’s not at all what’s supposed to be happening. Signals are getting crossed somewhere.

 

Once she’s to her hotel room’s floor, she pushes open the stairwell door and checks to make sure there’s no one around like the paranoid person that she is, before jogging down the carpeted hallway to her room. Ruby isn’t with her for this trip, so she’s got the room to herself. It’s quiet, and while Emma can appreciate that, she kind of misses Ruby. They’re pretty much attached at the hip at all times, so the few times a year where Emma travels and Ruby doesn’t or vice versa are a little lonely. At least she doesn’t have to room with someone she doesn’t really know. That happened once, and that’s an experience Emma never wants to have again.

 

Her phone rings in her hand, and she nearly drops it from the shock, only pulling herself together enough to answer and place it on speaker so that she doesn’t have to hold it up to her sweaty ear.

 

“Mom is pissed at you,” David practically yells to her, something he does whenever he’s walking outside the office. Sure enough, she can hear the faint sounds of traffic and construction.

 

Ignoring the fact that he just called Ruth her mom, something he always seems to do, she sighs and flops down on the bed, not caring how sweaty she is. “Because I missed Easter? I told her that was happening ahead of time. I’m literally across the country, David.”

 

“She misses you.”

 

“I talk to her all of the time.”

 

“That’s not the same as going home, and you know it.”

 

Emma huffs, kicking her foot against the carpet. “I know that, but I don’t have several days off until a few weeks from now. I can go spend a month up there once the season is over.”

 

“That’s not entirely true. You still work for us full time, technically. Not the team.”

 

“I know that.”

 

“I’m just saying – ”

 

“David.”

 

“What?”

 

“Is she really pissed at me?”

 

“No,” he exhales, the background noise disappearing in the way that she knows that it does when he’s walked back into the office. “It was different having a holiday without you is all. Maybe I’ll invite her to come stay with us when you’re home for a bit. That way it’s the best of both worlds.”

 

“Okay, Hannah Montana.”

 

“We are both too old for that reference.”

 

“I’m only a year older than Miley Cyrus.”

 

“That makes me feel ancient.”

 

“Well, you are.” Emma twists her hands in the sheets on the bed, causing them to wrinkle before letting go. “I have to be at the stadium in two hours, but I promise I’ll call Ruth tomorrow before I get on the plane to go to San Francisco.”

 

“She’d like that. How are you? How’s California? I feel like we never get to talk when you’re on the road.”

 

“I freaking love California,” she sighs, putting her phone to the side so she can get out of these sweaty clothes and into a robe. “The weather is so nice this time of year, there’s a beach, the food is great. The traffic sucks, but the traffic sucks at home too. I don’t know. I feel like if I had to live somewhere else, it’d be out here.”

 

“I’m pretty sure Mom will be even more annoyed if you move across the country.”

 

“That’s what you got out of that?”

 

“Pretty much.”

 

Emma groans as she struggles to get her sports bra off, having to tug and pull until it snaps free and slaps against her skin. “I would never leave you guys. Or Ruby and Graham. I need someone to cook all of my meals for me. I’m too dependent on that.”

 

“Like the adult you are.”

 

“Exactly.” She finally gets her bra off, which feels like some kind of triumph, and tosses it onto the desk where all of her notes for today’s game. “David, I’ve got to get ready for today, but I’ll talk to you later, okay? Tell Marg and Leo that I’m invading the house on my off day when I get home.”

 

“They’ll both be at school that day.”

 

“After they get home. I’m obviously going to sleep throughout the entire morning.”

 

“Obviously. I’ll talk to you later. Love you.”

 

“Love you too.”

 


 

 The Dodgers absolutely obliterate the Yankees that afternoon. 11-2.

 

Killian gets pulled in the bottom of the third.

 

Will Scarlet nearly gets thrown out for arguing with the umpire.

 

August Booth loses his footing and falls against third base in a move that has everyone saying he has a wooden leg for all of his flexibility.

 

It’s an all-around disaster of a game, a horrible way to close the series, and when she goes into the clubhouse to try to talk about it and break down what happened, the only man who will even acknowledge her is Eric Fisher. He barely gives her anything.

 

Not a great day at the office for anyone.

 


 

 It’s two hours after the game is finished that she finally gets back to the hotel. There’s a sour feeling in her stomach over it all, frustration with the loss and with her coverage. The guys are usually pretty good at talking to her, coaches and managers included, but sometimes when there’s a loss like that, no one feels like acknowledging her presence. It’s fine. Honestly and truly it is. She wouldn’t want to talk to an annoying reporter after having her ass handed to her on a silver platter either, but that doesn’t make her feel any better about anything.

 

Maybe the sour feeling in her stomach has to do with the fact that she hasn’t eaten anything other than a granola bar all day. She knows not to do that, honestly and truly, but since she’s trying not to eat in front of a camera after the last few games that she’s worked, she didn’t get something to eat at work today. She definitely should have stolen some of the fruit from the craft services table inside of the press box when she went up there to get her microphone.

 

After flipping through the room service catalog and deciding that there is no way in hell she’s paying that much for a bowl of pasta, she orders a box of pizza to be delivered, and starts scrolling through the channels on her television trying to find a movie to watch. She needs to pack up for her early flight tomorrow, but since she’s already in her sweatpants and has taken her bra off, that seems like far too much effort. She’ll do it in the morning. Working under pressure has always kind of been her thing.

 

Finally, she decides on Titanic. It doesn’t matter how many times she’s seen it before. It’s a classic, and it’ll keep her entertained. Just as Rose and Jack are standing at the helm of the boat with their arms in the air, her hotel phone rings.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Miss Swan,” the voice says, “your pizza is here, but you have to come to the lobby to get it.”

 

She groans a little before speaking. “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll be right there.”

 

Emma rises from the bed and hastily puts on her sneakers, tucking the laces into the shoes instead of tying them, and walks out of her hotel room so that she can go down to the lobby to get her pizza. This better be good pizza, but it probably won’t even matter with how hungry she is.

 

She finds the guy easily, handing him his tip as he hands her the small box, and she thinks she’s made it home free until she turns around and practically runs into Ariel Fisher.

 

“Hi, Emma,” she smiles, as bright and friendly as she always is. Seriously. She’s always friendly and polished, and Emma is literally wearing sweatpants and a tank top with no bra. Her shoes aren’t even tied. “How are you?”

 

“I’m great,” she says, forcing a smile. “How are you? How’s Eric? He didn’t seem to be having too great of a day.”

 

Ariel shakes her head from side to side and rolls her eyes. “They’re all a bunch of oversized children. Seriously. They lose nearly as much as they win, but they never quite stop complaining.”

 

“I think that’s all men, if I’m honest.”

 

Ariel barks out a laugh, her red curls falling back behind her shoulders as her hand lands on her chest over her heart. “Absolutely true. Hey,” she starts, eyes glancing over Emma in a way that makes her stomach twist, “a few of us are sitting up on the roof right now. They have a bar and this charming little firepit. Why don’t you join us?”

 

“Uh,” she stutters, pulling her bottom lips between her teeth and trying to think of an excuse as to how to get out of this, “thank you, but I think I probably shouldn’t intrude. I was fully planning on kind of vegging out on my pizza.”

 

“You can do that up with us! It’s fine! If any of them try to take your food, swat them away. They’ve all eaten. Come on. It’ll be great.”

 

She has the word no on her tongue but never gets to say it as Ariel smiles at her again and grabs onto her elbow, pulling her along with her. Emma could easily say no again and walk away, but she finds herself following along in the elevators and listening to Ariel go on and on about how much she loves when they get to be in California for a week like this, even if they don’t get to stay in the same city the entire time. Emma can wholeheartedly agree with this, so she continues to make small talk as the floors tick off and the elevator door opens up to the rooftop.

 

The sun hasn’t quite set all the way, so there’s an orange tint to the darkness of the sky that reflects off the stringed lights that move across the roof. The noise level up here is already much louder than downstairs, and she can see the bar full of people as well as the large firepit with chairs surrounding it. Immediately, her eyes scan over the group, and she recognizes Eric, Will, Arthur, Robin, Phillip and Killian. Of course he’s there. Why would he not be? She also sees Arthur’s wife, Jennifer, and Belle French, Will’s girlfriend. It’s odd to know all of these people without really knowing them, and she feels like an intruder coming up here to sit with them.

 

At least everyone is dressed the way she is, and she doesn’t look like a total slob.

 

Okay, maybe she does.

 

Shit, she doesn’t have a bra on, it’s kind of chilly up here, and her tank top is far too thin. Idly, she wonders if she can make a break for it and run right now, but everyone has already seen her.

 

“I found a stray in the lobby,” Ariel sighs as she walks into the circle and sits in a chair next to her husband. “I pretty much dragged her to sit up here with us, and no one ask her for her pizza. That’s hers, and she’s not sharing.”

 

“That makes me sound great. Thanks,” she chuckles awkwardly as her eyes scan the circle for a place to sit, and because the world hates her, the only open chair is right next to Killian Jones.

 

Of-fucking-course.

 

He’s very pointedly not looking at her, which she both appreciates and hates, and maybe that’s what drives her to walk around the circle, the fire warming her a bit, and sit down into the lounge chair next to him, her pizza box sitting on the table in between them.

 

“Your attire is a little different there than usual, Swan,” Will points out, dangling his beer bottle in the air.

 

“So is yours. It’s probably a good thing they make you wear a uniform because your clothes don’t match at all.”

 

The conversation dies down around her, everyone stopping what they’re saying, and she can feel the blush rising to her cheeks until Belle starts giggling, her hand covering her mouth as her wine sloshes around in its glass in the other.

 

“She’s right, babe. Your outfit is awful.”

 

“What’s wrong with it?”

 

“You have on a Hawaiian shirt, Scarlet,” Robin yells from his seat. “That isn’t even in style in Hawaii. All you need is a fanny pack.”

 

“I’ve heard those are coming back in style, actually,” Eric adds.

 

“Absolutely not,” Ariel laughs.

 

“Why do they call them fanny packs if they don’t go on your ass?” Emma questions in as she leans over and takes a slice of her pizza out of the box, figuring if she’s eating, she won’t have to talk as much.

 

“They’re supposed to be worn on your ass.” She twists her head to look at Killian at the same time that he looks at her, quickly glancing away and adjusting his faded Vanderbilt sweatshirt. “But people are assholes and steal shit, so everyone wears them on their stomach now.”

 

“Thank you, professor Jones,” Will mocks, doing a fake bow.

 

“I hate when you call me that.”

 

“It’s very fitting. You’re a know-it-all.”

 

“That is decidedly untrue.”

 

“I agree with Will,” Arthur adds in, and Emma can practically feel the tension between he and Killian simply by the tone of his voice. What the hell happened there? “You do act like you know everything.”

 

“I can guarantee that I don’t,” Killian grits out all the while she takes another bite of her pizza. She should have gotten popcorn instead because this is honestly like a show.

 

“It’s the way you talk,” Robin says kindly, and she subtly twists her head to the side to look at him. “You can’t help it. Your brain is always running through scenarios and coming up with questions and looking for more information. The way you look at stat sheets is insane. I think it all stems from your physics degree.”

 

“You have a physics degree?” she blurts out, and she can feel every head in the circle turn to look at her.

 

Outsider.

 

“No,” Killian says quietly, propping his jean covered legs up on the concrete rim of the fireplace. “I have most of one. I didn’t finish school before I got called up.”

 

“Huh, I didn’t know that.”

 

“There’s lots of things you don’t know about me, love.”

 

All of her intestines twist within her stomach, and she smiles at the intensity of his gaze before biting into her pizza crust. This is all a bit overwhelming yet fascinating, and this is probably the first time she’s ever spent time with all of these people outside of a baseball stadium. Well, except for Killian, but she’s decided that he doesn’t count.

 

“And most of them are not good,” Eric teases, only for Killian to hold up his middle finger at the man.

 

“Killian is fantastic,” Ariel gushes, betraying her husband. “Seriously. I love him, and you guys are all assholes to him sometimes.”

 

“Babe, I don’t think defending him like he’s in kindergarten is going to help his case. I don’t think he even has a case with Emma. Really, I’m surprised she’s even willing to be in a five-foot radius of him.”

 

“We can beat him up for you, if you want,” Will supplies.

 

“If you hit him in the face, though, he won’t be marketable anymore,” Belle laughs. Emma’s never really talked to her before, but she’s funny. That’s a good match for Will.

 

“I take offense to that,” Killian huffs, crossing his arms and letting his muscles flex under the material of his sweatshirt. “I am marketable for more than just my face.”

 

“Your ass is another one.”

 

“And technically your arm.”

 

“I’ve heard things about his thighs.”

 

“Oh, and his eyes.”

 

“That counts as part of his face.”

 

“You are all fucking assholes,” Killian laughs, his eyes crinkling as his head tilts back. “I spend all of my days with you people, being kind, helping with presents to buy for your wives and girlfriends, helping you win games, and all you do is give me shit in front of Emma when she already thinks that I’m the biggest ass in the world.”

 

“Not the biggest,” she corrects, the words flowing before she stops herself. Did she have wine or something today? Because she is not in her right mind. “I know at least a handful of people who I would put above you on that list. Will, for instance.”

 

A smile starts on the left side of Killian’s lips and stretches to the other, his white teeth on display as the now nearly completely fading sun sets a soft glow over his skin, making his tan deeper. She’s never going to deny that he’s attractive, that she’s attracted to him, but she has to deny the feeling of attraction that’s not physical. She’s kissed the lips making that smile, and her body tells her to do it again. But she can’t. Simply sitting up here with him is probably dangerous enough.

 

“You are much more fun outside of work, Emma Swan,” Will sighs, and it’s his voice that has her looking away from Killian and the way that his blue eyes were focused on her.

 

“I’m fun at work too, thank you very much. It’s just that with some of you guys, it’s like pulling teeth to get an interview. Eric was the only one who would even give me one today.”

 

“To be fair,” Robin sighs, “I wasn’t there.”

 

“No, no,” Eric laughs, kissing his wife’s head. “Don’t try to take this away from me. I got the gold star today. Maybe you’ll get it tomorrow.”

 

“Maybe I’ll also help us win tomorrow.”

 

From there it’s a roar of conversation, all of them debating back and forth about the game and what went wrong, what they should have done, what they will do next time. It’s a conversation she’s sure Al already had with them in the locker room after she left, but it’s still fascinating to see them have it in such a casual setting where they all have drinks in their hands or their phones out. She swears that August Booth hasn’t looked up from the notebook he’s writing in the entire time she’s been out here, and Arthur’s wife hasn’t said a single word, even to Arthur.

 

By the time that she’s been out there for an hour, goosebumps rising on her arms, she’s learned more about the personal lives of the players than she has in her three years of covering the team. Will is most definitely the one who jokes around the most, and Belle is always bringing him back to earth. Robin reminds her of David in the way that he plays the role of Dad despite being near the same age as most everyone out here. Eric and Ariel remind her of David and Mary Margaret too, except a little bit more fun, and it’s kind of this weird connection that she’s making between the people in her personal life and the people in her professional.

 

Robin, August, Phillip, Arthur, and Jennifer have all gone inside, each of them excusing themselves throughout the hour, and the roar of conversation has dulled to quiet ones between the six of them that remain.

 

She’s finished half of her pizza by this point, but since she’s starting to feel awkward again, she opens up the box and takes a slice out, biting into it only to see Killian take a picture of her eating with her phone.

 

“What the hell are you doing?” she mumbles, covering her mouth.

 

He smiles and takes another picture before putting his phone in his lap. “I didn’t see you eating on the jumbotron today, so I figured the tradition of people filming you needed to continue.”

 

“That’s really weird.”

 

“Never said I wasn’t.”

 

She finishes chewing and puts her half-eaten slice down on top of the box. “I have purposefully been avoiding eating while working since it’s obviously now a running joke.”

 

“That’s why I had to continue it.” He moves his eyebrows across his forehead, and a chill runs down her spine, causing her to rub her hands over her arm to combat some of the chill. “You cold, Swan?”

 

“I’m fine,” she lies.

 

“I can see the gooseflesh on your arms.”

 

“It’s fine.” She waves him away and adjusts her tank top, crossing her arms over her chest because she can see her nipples through the material. “Nothing the fire can’t fix.”

 

Suddenly Killian leans forward and grabs onto the nape of his sweatshirt, pulling it over his head. His shirt comes up with the movement, revealing muscles and hair on his stomach, and she glances down quickly before looking up to him holding his sweatshirt out to her, the chain he wears around his neck shining against his black shirt.

 

“Here,” he offers, a soft smile on his face.

 

“That’s not necessary.”


“Love, please. I know you can’t be warm. It’s fine. It’s just a sweatshirt, not a marriage proposal.”

 

She will do anything to have him not continue that kind of thought process, so she quickly takes the sweatshirt and pulls it over her head. It’s soft, obviously well loved, and probably about two sizes too big for her as the arms are a little long and the hemline would most likely land below her ass.

 

“Thank you,” she smiles, nodding her head. “I’ll give it back before I go to my room.”

 

“Of course you will. That’s my favorite sweatshirt. It’s not getting out of my sight.”

 

“Why do I feel like you would do murderous things if I don’t give this back?”

 

“Because I would.”

 

She laughs and curves her legs up underneath her thighs as the picks up her pizza again. She is eating nothing but vegetables tomorrow. “You want something to eat? It’s all I can offer in return for the sweatshirt.”

 

“Is it all just pepperoni and cheese?”

 

“Yep. It’s not like anything at home, but it’ll do.”

 

He nods his head and leans over to open the box, perusing the pieces before taking two and folding them together. “I think sometimes people try to add too much to their pizzas. Toppings are great, but sometimes simple is better. Classics are classics for a reason.”

 

“You’re one of those people who thinks everyone should read classic books, aren’t you?”

 

“They’re good.”

 

“Not all of them are.”

 

“You’re disturbed.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Thank you for the pizza,” he mumbles, taking a large bite as he adjusts in his seat, leaning in a little closer to Emma as they speak. “I’ll pay you back for it.”

 

“It was, like, ten bucks,” she promises, reaching her hand forward to touch his forearm to reassure him. “It’s fine.”

 

“It’s the gentlemanly thing to do to pay you back.”

 

“Oh, so now you’re a gentleman?”

 

He winks, and heat rises on her cheeks as her eyes glance from his lashes to his lips. “I’m always a gentleman.”

 

All of the sudden, his words sink in. He may simply be offering to pay for half of a pizza for her, but the implication of more is behind it. He’s asked her out on a date, they’ve shared a really good kiss, and she can’t do this no matter how much she wants to.

 

Oh wow. She wants to.

 

But she can’t.

 

Her career is too important to her, and she absolutely cannot ruin that, not now. Dating Killian, even considering it, is a horrible idea for approximately seventeen different reasons. He wouldn’t just break her heart if it didn’t work out, he’d break her career too.

 

It’s all too much, and even if they’re simply having a conversation right now, she can read between the lines.

 

Rising from her chair with a rapidly beating heart, she finally notices that all of the people around them have disappeared, only people she doesn’t know filling the seats.

 

“Swan?”

 

“Swan?”

 

“Emma?”

 

“Yeah?” she gasps, twisting her head back to look at Killian.

 

He smiles, and guilt settles into her stomach. “What are you doing?”

 

“I, um,” she mumbles, already taking a step away, “just remembered that my flight is super early tomorrow, and I haven’t packed. So I’ve got to go. Enjoy the pizza. I’ll see you in San Francisco.”

 

She’s running. She knows that she is. There’s no denying it, and she doesn’t even care until she’s in the elevator and the mirrored doors are closing in front of her to show that she’s still wearing his sweatshirt, the scent of Killian Jones overwhelming her.

Chapter Text

“How’s Roland?” Killian asks Robin as he tosses a ball in his direction, the two of them beginning their early morning workouts to loosen up their arms. It’s chilly this morning, the sea breeze wafting over to the field, but he’s not going to complain when this is his kind of weather.

 

Perfect.

 

Everyone should always have a bit of sea in the air they’re breathing even if the salt water gives him flashbacks to the accident if he closes his eyes for too long. Luckily, it’s usually not like that whenever they’re in San Francisco, the city too different than the beach town in Florida where the accident happened. And he’s got baseball to focus on, not memories of the past that he can already see in scars on his arm and feel in the pain in his shoulder.  

 

“He’s currently mad at me for not letting him miss school to come out here with us.”

 

“Just get him a bobblehead. Kids love that. Addy and Lucy collect them now.”

 

Robin throws a ball at Killian, and it thwacks into his glove a little harder than he was expecting. Damn Locksley. “Roland only likes the Yankees. He gets pissed if anyone even mentions another team. I had to have a conference with his teacher about it because there were issues with other kids.”

 

Killian shouldn’t laugh, but he does, his shaking shoulders affecting his throw as he backs up to put some more space between he and Robin. “I mean, the kid is right. How could anyone ever love another team?”

 

“If you ever have kids, I’m going to make them Sox fans simply to torture you,” Robin teases. “Maybe even Dodgers fans.”

 

“That’ll never happen. Addy and Lucy wouldn’t let you.”

 

“I think I can overpower the two of them.”

 

Another toss, this one not as powerful as he was intending. “You’d be surprised. Roland could have flown out for the weekend, you know. I’m always happy to watch him on the days I’m not playing.”

 

“Carol hates flights. She wouldn’t fly out here with him, and we’re not about to let my six-year-old fly across the country unaccompanied.”

 

Killian nods his head as Robin throws the ball back, a soft thud landing in his glove. He and Robin have known each other for a decade now, and while Rob is probably his closest friend outside of Liam, he doesn’t share too much about his personal life since Marian died. He gets it. It was a tragedy, and Robin feels guilt over it since Marian’s car accident happened when she was on the way to pick him up from the airport when they’d been on the road for two weeks. Killian will never forget walking through JFK, simply happy to be home, and watching his best friend’s entire life crumple before him.

 

It was devastating, and Robin simply doesn’t talk about it. The only real reference to any of it is when Robin complains about Carol, Marian’s mom. They’ve got an unofficial custody agreement going on for when Robin has to travel for work, and Carol is always attempting to make Robin feel guilty for leaving Roland. It’s a shitty thing for her to do when there’s nothing Robin cares about more than his son, and Killian’s blood boils at the thought of it.

 

Parents are allowed to have lives and identities outside of their children. That doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids.

 

He’s not a parent, not even close, but maybe he’s a little sensitive to the thought because of Milah.

 

Milah.

 

It’s been…he doesn’t actually know when it is that he last thought of Milah. Wait, no, scratch that. It was after he kissed Emma. He’d been reeling after that, his body and his mind, and after Emma had walked away and told him that couldn’t happen again, his mind ran a marathon trying to piece together just how exhilarating it felt to actually feel something for someone for the first time in nearly four years.

 

He’d met Milah in a bar. He hadn’t wanted to go out that night, but Will had insisted. The season was over, they were pretty much free of all of the grueling work for at least a month, and they were going to celebrate. She’d been sitting at the bar, long, beautiful brunette curls falling down her back and a bright smile on her face, and he’d been intimately smitten. They’d talked all night, really hit it off, and it all felt natural from there. She was someone who he could tell, for probably the first time, that had no interest in the fact that he was a professional athlete. It was refreshing.

 

And he fell in love.

 

But she was married. By the time he found out, by the time that she told him, he was so deeply in love that he didn’t care. He was twenty-three, and he’d found the woman he was going to be with for the rest of his days, consequences be damned.

 

A year later, though, when he thought that things between them were good, when he’d grown used to the thought, she ended things between them and told him that she had a son. She wanted to go back to her husband, wanted them to be a complete family, and her time being free from her marriage and motherhood was over. It’s all a bit of a blur, that conversation, but he remembers begging her to stay, promising that he would help her take care of her son, that he would be there for the two of them always.

 

It’s not what she wanted.

 

He can’t blame her. She had a life outside of him, a life before him, and if she didn’t want to stay, he wouldn’t keep asking her to. So he didn’t.

 

Killian was too devastated to say anything, to try to fight for his love. She’d lied to him about so much, and he guesses a part of him knew that and knew that he couldn’t fight for someone who was never fully in the relationship the way that he was.

 

What he did do was start going back out to bars and clubs, drinking too much to numb the feeling and sleeping with too many women to try to get that feeling back. He was lost, desperate, and utterly heartbroken. No part of him cared about the reputation he was making for himself until Liam dragged him off of his bedroom floor and told him that he had to get his shit together before he lost the game too.

 

That scared him shitless.

 

There was no way that he could lose everything. Not like that. He needed his job. He needed the game. It was everything to him, and Killian knows that his desperation to cling to baseball after Milah is what made nearly losing it all after the accident so damn heartbreaking.

 

He’s been such a fuck up.

 

So why the hell would he ever have a shot with Emma now when she is leagues above him?

 

“Where’d your head go, Jones?” Robin yells across the field, and Killian realizes they’ve both backed up several feet without him knowing it. He knows that sometimes he can zone out on the field, but damn. This is something else. “You got all glassy-eyed for a minute.”

 

“Was my arm at least doing the right thing?”

 

“Eh, it could have been better.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes as he adjusts his grip on the ball before throwing it, letting it curve right into Robin’s glove. “You know, if you want to bring Roland out on one of our away series, there are plenty of people who would be willing to watch him. He wouldn’t be alone for a second. I can’t reiterate that enough.”

 

“I’ll think about it, but he’ll be with us for most of the summer anyways. So I think he’ll be alright. You about done for the day?”

 

“Two more.”

 

“Got it.”

 

They end up staying out there for at least ten more pitches between the two of them, each of them wanting a little more work, before walking back across the field to head inside and shower. Neither of them are playing today, but they still got here early enough for practice so that they’d have a bit of the afternoon free before they took stats for this afternoon’s game.

 

There’s something infinitely peaceful about an empty stadium, no crowds in their seats and only the sound of a bat cracking against a baseball or a ball thwacking into a glove. It’s what helps him get lost in his thoughts, and as he walks past the mound, he starts looking around into the seats and sees one lone person sitting several rows up.

 

Emma.

 

He’d recognize her anywhere in her jeans and red leather jacket, blonde waves falling over her shoulders as she looks to be writing in a notebook. He hasn’t seen her since they were in LA three days ago. He thought they were having a good conversation, a good night, up on the rooftop of the hotel, but then something flashed in her eyes, some kind of realization that made her need to leave.

 

Or want to leave.

 

No part of him understands her and yet he feels like he does. It’s comfortable talking to her, even outside of work. Maybe especially outside of work. And he finds that his stomach swoops and something unfamiliar gets caught in his throat whenever he’s around her. She makes him feel all of the things he hasn’t felt since Milah, and he doesn’t have a lot of clues as to what’s going on inside of her head. This could all be some kind of pipe dream, a relationship that’s not going to happen, but he has to be fine with that.

 

Whatever they become, if anything, is as much up to her as it is to him.

 

“You coming?” Robin asks him, and his head snaps toward his friend before looking back up at Emma.

 

“I’ll be there in a few minutes, okay?”

 

Rob clicks his tongue. “Just…don’t get in over your head, okay?”

 

It’s far too late for that kind of advice, but he nods his head anyways before walking over to the small barrier that keeps fans from getting onto the field, hoisting himself up over it, and then climbing over a few seats to try to get to where Emma is sitting. Al, Smee, and Archie would absolutely kill him if they knew he was unnecessarily climbing over things, but what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

 

Just him.

 

He’s two rows in front of Emma when he finally speaks. “You know, Swan, for someone who keeps running away from me, we sure do end up in all of the same places.”

 

She jumps, her ass literally moving away from the seat, and he chuckles a bit to himself as she pops her headphones out of her ears and looks down at him, green eyes flickering over him. She’s most likely thinking about how much of an asshole he is, but he does have a bit of unfinished business with her, the sweatshirt thief.

 

“It’s my job, twenty-nine.”

 

God, he loves when she calls him by his number. It’s got to be some kind of weird primal thing, but he’s going to try not to second guess it.

 

“Your job requires you to be at the stadium six hours early?”

 

She shrugs and writes something else down in her notebook. “I like the view.”

 

“Aw, love, you could have simply asked to see my ass in baseball pants if you wanted.” Emma rolls her eyes, but he can see the slightest smile forming on her lips that has him nodding his head to the seat next to her. “May I?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Quickly, he climbs over two sets of seats until he’s sliding into the seat next to her, propping his feet up on the back of the chair in front of him so that his slightly muddy cleats are propped up next to Emma’s heeled boots, the water at the other side of the stadium in the background. It’d make a nice picture, something he’s sure is floating around out there, but he thinks he’d rather take in the view of it for now.

 

“I like the view too,” he admits, twisting his head to the side to look at Emma and the way that freckles scatter over her nose and how she bites on her bottom lip while she’s writing what seems to be some kind of notes for work. He’d rather like to bite that bottom lip as well. Nope. He cannot be thinking that. “It’s peaceful out here when no one else is around, when there’s no music playing or fans screaming. It really…it makes you realize how amazing having a job like this is.”

 

“It’s the dream, right?”

 

“Absolutely.” He nudges her shoulder into hers, the warmth of her skin somehow making it through her jacket. She kicks his foot in response. “So, I know you’re usually around most of the day, but when we travel, do you ever get to go around and explore the city? I always wish I had some more time to do that.”

 

Emma closes her notebook then, sticking her pen in the spiral and placing it on the ground beneath them before adjusting herself in her seat enough that her hand brushes against his, chill bumps rising on his skin. “I’m usually my own producer when on the road. Sometimes Ruby comes with me, but that’s rarer now. So I feel like I’m always doing something, especially because my stat keepers never get me reports in a timely manner. But yeah, sometimes I’ll get up early and wander around the city near the hotel. I very rarely get to do all of the tourist stuff, though. I don’t have the time.”

 

“It’s the first thing I did when I got called up out of the minors,” he admits, messing with his chain and pulling it to rest over his t-shirt. “I had never been on a plane before college. Hell, I’d never been out of Ohio and Kentucky, and in college we didn’t get a lot of freedom to explore. My coach was a hard ass.”

 

“Al’s not?”

 

“Only when we’re losing,” he chuckles, glancing over to see Emma smile. “But I pretty much hit every single cliché site that I could as soon as I had the money. I have far too many cheap keychains.”

 

“You did not.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Do you also own an ‘I heart New York’ t-shirt?”

 

“Well, no, but I had to go buy a new jacket in LAX because someone stole my favorite sweatshirt.”

 

Blush rises on her cheeks, coloring her pale skin, and she reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear. Maybe he’s warming up to her today. She didn’t seem too happy to see him at first, and he obviously doesn’t know what boundaries are when it comes to her. “It’s a really comfortable sweatshirt. I think I’m going to keep it forever.”

 

He snorts at that and reaches up to stretch his arms behind his head, resting his neck in the cradle of his palms. “You know, love, I am a very charming man.”

 

“So you think.”

 

“So I know,” he corrects, kicking at her foot. “And as a charming man, I tend to make friends very easily, friends who can help me get into your hotel room so that I can get my sweatshirt back.”

 

“I think that’s called stealing. And possibly stalking.”

 

“I’m pretty sure that’s what you did with my sweatshirt.”

 

“That was offered.”

 

“I don’t think so,” he chuckles.

 

“Semantics.”

 

“That is not semantics, love.”

 

“It totally is,” she laughs, the sound echoing over the empty stadium as Eric and August start running laps around the field. “What time is your flight tonight?”

 

“Now look who’s stalking.”

 

“Shut up, Jones.” Infinitely charmed by her. Seriously. “I have the eleven o’clock to JFK as long as the game isn’t monstrously long. If you’re in the airport at the same time, I can give it back to you tonight. If not, I’ll see you back at home.”

 

“Funnily enough,” he sighs, letting his arm fall over the back of her chair so that his fingers brush over her shoulder and her hair, “I have the same flight with those same conditions since we apparently couldn’t get our charter plane for tonight. Thank goodness or I don’t know what I’d do without my sweatshirt. I obviously can’t travel without it.”

 

“You’re weird,” she huffs, twisting in her seat so that they’re facing each other, noses less than half a foot apart so that he can smell the mint on her breath. “Everyone thinks that the great Killian Jones is all suave and smooth, but you’re a little dorky.”

 

He winks. “It’s all part of the charm.”

 

Emma’s lips press into a soft pink smile, and his mind flashes back to the kiss and how it felt to have those lips moving over his, how it felt to have her body pressed into his. It was exhilarating, made him literally lose his breath, and he aches to do it again. He could do it again if he leaned forward right now.

 

But he won’t.

 

“Emma.”

 

She blinks several times, her eyelashes brushing against her cheeks. “What?”

 

“Are we going to talk about the fact that we kissed?”

 

And there it is. There’s the elephant in the room. There’s the elephant in the whole damn stadium.

 

“I can’t.”

 

“You can’t talk about it?”

 

“I can’t do it again.”

 

“I didn’t – ”

 

She backs up from him without moving from her seat, and he feels his rapidly beating heart drop to his stomach.

 

Oh.

 

“I know that there’s a…thing between us,” she continues, her eyes looking everywhere but at him. “I’m not dumb. I’ve dated before. I know how it all starts, and I know that I do have…something for you, but I can’t date you, Killian. I just can’t.”

 

What a way to get his hopes up and crush them all in one sentence.

 

He reaches up to scratch behind his ear. “Because of your job, right?” he prods, the answer seemingly falling into his lap. “God, Swan, I’m sorry. I’m – I’m a fucking idiot, okay? It doesn’t matter how much I know that I’m screwing up with you, I just keep doing it. I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s not…” Emma sighs, something loud and unfortunate and that’s really more of a groan before she leans forward and buries her face in her hands. “I’m really shitty at talking to people, so I’m just going to pretend that you’re not here, okay? Like the grown adult woman that I am.”

 

“Whatever works, love.”

 

“I really love my job,” she mumbles into her hands. “Like, I love it. I may not be like you getting to live some childhood fantasy come to life, but I love what I do. I’ve lucked into a lot of things, but I’ve also worked hard for it. People have shit on me about it for so long. People I know. People I don’t. And it’s just – I mean, you know about so much stuff that’s happened after you asked me out. You know how much harassment I’ve gotten, so if I’m seen spending time with you or kissing you, I’m going to get so much shit. I’m going to have every single person question my integrity, my ethics, my ability to do my job. And then what? If we break up, I just know that’s all anyone is going to care about as I work with the team and try to do my job. I want to, Killian. I do. I just don’t think that I can. Dating people I work with is a not so great idea.”

 

That is the most he’s ever heard Emma Swan talk at one time, and he’s still catching up trying to take in everything that she just said and figure out how exactly it is he wants to respond to it.

 

Mostly, he wants to punch every single person who has ever made her feel shame about what she does for a living, but he imagines that’s the wrong answer.

 

“I’m sorry,” he finally replies, knowing that it’s not enough. “I’m…I still hate myself for putting you in the position that I did. I respect the hell out of you, Swan, and anyone who doesn’t is a fucking asshole who doesn’t deserve your time. I would never ask you to do something you didn’t want to or something that makes you uncomfortable. I should have…I’ll keep my distance.”

 

He gulps down the emotion in his throat, taking a deep breath to try to regulate his heartbeat, and stands from his seat, climbing down to the row in front of Emma so that he can get up and walk away. He still needs to take a shower, and this is obviously not a conversation that either one of them want to be having.

 

“You don’t,” she starts, leaning back in her chair and moving her hands away so that she can her face and the lightness of her eyes. “You don’t have to do that. I like you, Killian. I am obviously a crazy person for admitting that out loud, but I do. I mean, hell, I kissed you. I just…I don’t know what to do about any of it because I can’t take the chance that I’m wrong about you and mess my career up for someone I don’t know super well.”

 

The most idiotic idea he’s ever starts to form in his mind, and he’s sure Emma is going to laugh him out of the stadium if he says it. She has to. There’s no other possible reaction to it.

 

“I know how to keep my life private now, love,” he starts, his fingers working furiously at a spot on his chin. “It’s something I learned after I – well, after I was a little more publicized. And if you’re willing, maybe we could test the waters between us but not tell anyone? I don’t have to tell my family or my mates. You don’t have to tell your friends. The public doesn’t have to know. It’ll just be until we know if we’re working out.”

 

Emma throws her head back and laughs, something light and joyful and maybe a little deranged, and it’s the exact reaction he was expecting.

 

The exact.

 

“Are we a romantic comedy now? Secret dating?”

 

“I like to think I’m both romantic and comedic, so possibly.”

 

She wipes her fingers underneath her eyes, a bright smile on her face. Okay, so that wasn’t really what he was expecting. Maybe a little more anger. “You’re serious?” she questions.

 

“I mean, I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, but if we both want this, why not at least give it a shot?”

 

“You’re crazy.”

 

“That’s not the first time that I’ve heard that.”

 

“So what? Do we go on a date? In one of our apartments? I have roommates.”

 

“I don’t. And technically I told you I wouldn’t ask you out again, and I don’t want to break that promise.”

 

Emma rolls her eyes, happiness still painted across her face, and he swears that his heart may as well be glowing like he really is in some kind of romantic comedy. How did he ever forget the feeling of having someone return his affections? It’s been too damn long.

 

“Are you serious? You’ll propose dating without anyone knowing, but you won’t ask me out on a date?”

 

“It’d be bad form to go back on my promise.”

 

“Sometimes I think you’re meant to be a British man from several centuries ago with the way you talk”

 

“That’s…interesting. Not going to question it, though. So, Swan,” he encourages, placing his hands on the back of the seat in front of him and leaning into her space, “do you want to ask me something?”

 

Emma chews on her bottom lip, her eyes glancing around him before finally looking at him so that all he can see is green, green, green.

 

“Fine,” she huffs, crossing her arms like he’s putting her out like this. “Do you want to go on a date with me?”

 

“Eh. A man likes to be courted, and I’m just not sure how good you’ll be at that.”

 

“I will hurt you.”

 

“I’m kidding,” he laughs, stepping up onto the chair in front of him until he’s back on level with Emma, reaching forward to grab her hand and pull her up out of her seat so that they’re nearly eye level. “Of course I will go on a date with you. Just, come here.”

 

“Come where?”

 

He tilts his head to the side before threading his fingers through hers and walking to his right, stepping over discarded beer bottles and hot dog wrappers that haven’t been cleaned up yet, until he’s got he and Emma hidden behind a support pole, none of the players on the field able to see the two of them.

 

Emma’s chest is visibly heaving, her lips parted and cheeks flushed, and he reaches up with his free hand to tuck her loose hair behind her ear, fingertips brushing skin in a way that lights him up and causes a shiver to run down the length of his spine.

 

This isn’t real. There’s no way it can be.

 

“Killian,” she whispers as he leans in a little closer, his forehead resting against hers and their noses brushing together. He’s still holding her hand. Why is that what he’s focusing on? “Why did you just tug me away from my seat and make me hide behind this gigantic pole?”

 

“Because I’m going to kiss you.”

 

“Are you?”

 

“I was planning on it.”

 

“I kind of like this plan. I mean, I – ”

 

He doesn’t let her finish talking, dipping his head down and surging forward to press his mouth into hers and finally  feel the softness of her lips against him. Emma gasps, and he can tell that she wants to keep talking, but then she’s parting her lips a little so that he can swipe his tongue against the seam. Killian can feel her pressed into every part of him, can feel those hard lines and soft curves, and his hand snakes into her hair to help guide the kiss all the while her free hand holds onto his t-shirt. It’s slower, softer than their first kiss. A need to keep going, to keep deepening, is there, but he takes it slow as he never wants this to end.

 

This is damn well near perfect.

 

Most definitely the best end to a practice that he’s ever had. Honestly, he’d be more likely to show up on time if this was guaranteed.

 

Emma nips at his bottom lip before soothing it with her tongue, and a growl comes from the back of his throat before he’s pulling back and opening his eyes as his nose brushes against Emma’s. He’d like to keep doing that.

 

“I feel kind of crazy right now.”

 

“I feel kind of crazy at all times.”

 

“Well, that dos fit your personality type.”

 

He leans in to quickly brush his mouth over Emma’s simply because he can. “That’s the kind of swoon worthy thing I’m looking for as you court me.”

 

“Again, you’re a man from another century.”

 

“But I’ve obviously retained my youthful glow.” There’s a crack of a ball against a bat behind them, and he turns to see that the Eric is now practicing with Roseman. It brings reality back to him for a minute, and he sighs, pulling back from Emma a little more as his thumb runs over her knuckles. “We should probably both get back to work.”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Are you freaking out right now?”

 

“No,” she says, the lie obvious on her lips. All he has to do is raise his brow for her to crack. “Okay, yeah, a lot. I feel like this is going to blow up in our faces.”

 

“Aye, I know.” He brings their hands up to his lips and presses a kiss on the back of her hand. “Just…Emma, can you trust me?”

 

“I want to.”

 

“Give me a shot, and if you decide against it, that’s it. We don’t have to try this anymore, and I give you full permission to slander my name in the public eye.”

 

“That’s a lot of power you’re giving me there.”

 

“I’m a dumb man.”

 

Her eyes scrunch up with her smile, her nose too, and it feels damn good to get that out of her. “I’ll see you at the airport tonight, right?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 


 

 The lights are already dimmed in the plane cabin when he slides into the seat next to Emma, jostling her as she looks away from the movie, she’s watching to look at him, surprise evident in her features.

 

“What the hell, twenty-nine?” she whispers, trying not to wake anyone up. “You are most definitely not the little old woman who was my seatmate.”

 

“Louise is now happily sitting in first class.”

 

“Are you serious? How did you do that?”

 

“Darling, I don’t know about you, but most people don’t turn down free seat upgrades when they get the chance. Besides, I told you I’m charming and make friends all over.”

 

“You’re weird is what you are,” she laughs, adjusting her blanket over her lap and offering him some of it so that he covers his legs as well. Emma Swan brings her own blankets with her when she travels. Noted. “You wouldn’t happen to be able to talk yourself into getting another one of those cookies from a flight attendant, would you?”

 

His lips curl up on the side. “I could, but that would require me flirting with another woman.”

 

“I mean, you already undoubtedly flirted with Louise.”

 

He snickers, having to turn to the side to bury his mouth in his shoulder to quiet it so no one around them notices. Everyone is asleep or tuned into their movie, and he takes comfort in that.

 

“Tell you what, Swan. I’ll get you a cookie if you finally give me my sweatshirt back.”

 

“Oh, so you noticed that, did you?”

 

“You’re literally wearing it right now.”

 

“It’s comfortable.”

 

“We’ve had this conversation before.”

 

“I know.” Emma shuffles again, seemingly uncomfortable in her seat, but then he feels the warmth of her hand wrapping around his, and she’s twining together their fingers before placing them in her lap under the blanket. “I really was going to give it back when we were waiting by our gate, but I figured it was too obvious in front of the whole damn team.”

 

“This is true. We’ve got to work on this discreet thing.”

 

“Trading seats with little old ladies to sit next to me probably doesn’t help.”

 

“I think it’s worth it.”

 

“You’re cheesy.”

 

“I’m a man of many facets.”

 

“So I’m learning,” she yawns, closing her eyes for a minute. “I’ll give you the sweatshirt back before we land. I promise. You want to watch this movie with me?”

 

“I think that sounds like a good plan.”

Chapter Text

How long can she stand outside of an apartment building before it become creepy?

 

Right now, Emma is verging on fifteen minutes, and she feels like that’s fine. However, once she starts creeping up into the twenty and thirty minute categories, that’s when it gets weird and she feels kind of stalker-ish even though she was explicitly told to come over.

 

Maybe she should go hang out in the Duane Reade that Killian has across the street from his apartment building. She needs chapstick, right? Everyone needs chapstick at all times. Lips get dry and kind of flaky, and no one likes that, especially if they’re currently in some kind of arrangement where making out with another human being occasionally occurs.

 

She’s in one of those.

 

Kind of.

 

She’s not sure, and she’s very obviously freaking out and going to lose her mind on east ninety-first street. Maybe she can buy something at Duane Reade to knock her out, and she’ll never have to remember any of this. That would probably be ideal.

 

Wow. She is outstanding at relationships. Or quasi relationships with a man who she has worked with for several years, rejected on national television, and then made out with at three different stadiums across the United States.

 

 But secretly made out with.

 

Oh shit. They’re going to get caught if they keep doing that, and the only reason she agreed to this was under the promise of no one knowing.

 

(And because he makes her stomach swoop in a painful, yet good, way.)

 

She cannot handle anyone knowing. Her career cannot handle anyone knowing. No one can know.

 

Creepily standing outside of his apartment building holding the Vanderbilt sweatshirt she still hasn’t given back (it’s only been a week, okay?) is probably not the best way for that to happen.

 

Taking a deep breath, she looks to each side of the street before crossing the road and entering his apartment building. It’s already approximately one thousand times nicer than hers, which is to be expected, and she dodges the front desk guy and turns the corner to the elevators to punch in the code Killian gave her to get in, and then walks inside the doors to wait to go up to his apartment.

 

This isn’t weird, right?

 

Did she feel this way when she started dating Neal? Or Walsh?

 

Nope. No. Nope. She’s not going to start thinking of them right now when she’s already freaking out enough over everything.

 

Why in the world is she doing this?

 

Because you like him, you dumbass.

 

The little voice in her head sounds a lot like Ruby, and Emma’s not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

 

It takes two raps of her knuckles on Killian’s door for him to swing it open, and then all of the sudden he’s standing on the other side with a bright white smile on his face, his beard clearly not having been trimmed in a few days, and a bit of fringe hanging over his forehead. Her eyes scan over him, clearly trying to buy herself some time for how her heart is like a freaking drumline beating against her ribs, and she notices that he has on a loose-fitting t-shirt, some jeans, and he’s not wearing any shoes.

 

Why is she so charmed by the fact that he’s not wearing any shoes? He’s in his own apartment. Why would he be wearing shoes? Do people wear shoes in their own homes?

 

“Hello, love,” he greets, his own eyes flickering over hers. “Nice to see that you finally made it inside the building.”

 

Her mouth gapes open, but she doesn’t even get the chance to form a rebuttal before Killian is dipping his head down and pressing his lips against hers with his palm coming to rest behind her back, tugging her forward and into his apartment so that the door closes behind him and she’s left with wood solidly against her back. Killian really likes kissing her against solid walls. That’s a thing she’s noticed. He’s also got this thing with his teeth and his tongue that makes her see stars in broad daylight. She’s noticed that too. Gooseflesh is rising on her skin, and she’s grabbing onto the soft material of his t-shirt over his biceps and about to open her mouth to him when he pulls back, leaving her gasping for air even though she now has access to it.

 

“Hi,” he whispers, greeting her again while she leans her head back to rest it against the doorframe.

 

“Hi. How’d you know I was waiting outside?”

 

“Darling, my windows open up right out to the street.”

 

She presses up on her toes to look over Killian’s shoulder, and he’s right. His windows do look out over the street.

 

Holy shit does she love his apartment.

 

His walls are covered in floor-to-ceiling windows, which is so much more than she can say for her place, and everything is so…simple. And it’s not simple in a bad way. It’s just that she has a lot of junk with her throw pillows and blankets and miscellaneous plants everywhere. Killian’s apartment is all warm colors and clean lines, and his couch looks like the most comfortable thing in the world. And she’d probably cook if she had a kitchen that was more than five feet of space in the corner.

 

Is it too late for her to play some kind of professional sport so that she can live somewhere like this? Ruby and Graham would love it.

 

Wait, no. Ruby and Graham would not be moving in with her if she could afford to live on her own. She loves them, but no.

 

“You stare at me too much,” she finally says in response, her eyes looking back to Killian so that she’s overwhelmed by the blue. Seriously. That kind of blue should not be possible. “You’ve got to let a girl freak out on the sidewalk in peace.”

 

He raises a brow. “Why were you freaking out? I don’t bite. Unless otherwise asked.”

 

That doesn’t do anything to her. Nope. Not at all. Especially not because his voice got super deep when he asked that. She is so in over her head that it’s not even funny. Why in the world does anyone date when it causes this much anxiety?

 

“I’m not very good at dating,” she admits, kind of wishing she could melt through the door. “I don’t have a good history with it.”

 

“If you did, I very much doubt I’d get to kiss you hello like that.”

 

“That’s a good point.”

 

“I tend to make those.”

 

“Apparently because you’re super smart, Professor Jones.”

 

“Eh,” he protests, backing up to give her some space as he scratches behind his ear. Is he nervous too? “I’m not too sure about that. You want something to drink?”

 

“It’s ten in the morning. I think it’s too early.”

 

“Believe it or not, I do have things like water to offer you.”

 

“Oh. Yeah, water would be good.”

 

Killian nods his head up and down before leaning in and pressing his mouth to her cheek, breath hot against her skin. “I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Most definitely.” He pulls back then and walks the few feet to his kitchen, opening his fridge and pulling out two bottles of water, placing them on the counter. “So, I know that technically speaking you’re the one who asked me out on this date.”

 

“Only because you demanded it.”

 

“Semantics.” She watches as he twists open his bottle and takes a sip, practically swallowing the whole bottle at once all the while she barely touches hers. “But this is my apartment, and I feel like I should show you around. I already have lunch secured, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

 

“I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to pay. You’re stealing my date, twenty-nine.”

 

He smiles at that. It seems the man who is always calling her by every nickname in the book likes having a nickname of his own that’s not from Will Scarlet. Huh.

 

“I’m not stealing anything. I owe you half of a pizza.”

 

“Are you serious?”

 

“As a sailing accident.”

 

Her heart may actually lurch at that, and when she looks at Killian, he’s glancing away, obviously as uncomfortable with talking about his accident as she is even if he’s the one who brought it up. But he jokes sometimes when he’s nervous or uncomfortable, and honestly, knowing that Killian may be just as nervous as she is for this whole thing makes her feel a hell of a lot better.

 

It’s the blind leading the blind with absolutely no expertise in the area.

 

“So pizza?” she questions, tapping her knuckles against his countertops. “What’s your poison while at home?”

 

Killian smiles, one side of his lips stretching into the others, and it makes her feel like she just consumed gallon after gallon of carbonated soda. “The oven-cooked margarita at Nick’s. Like I said, I’m a simple man and like simple things. You’re going to love it.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“You said you trusted me, didn’t you?”

 

“Well, pizza is a bit more serious than us seeing each other.”

 

He winks. “Obviously.”

 


 

 “I mean, arguably, NBC makes some of the best comedies.”

 

“Fox had a few good ones.”

 

“Fox dropped Brooklyn 99.”

 

“Okay, valid,” Killian laughs, leaning over to the coffee table in front of his couch to pick up another slice of pizza. It has to be his fifth by this point, and the food got here an hour ago. She hasn’t quite figured out his diet yet. Sometimes he eats like an athlete should and other times he eats like an athlete can. “That was a dumb decision on their part.”

 

“The dumbest. But then again, NBC picked it up, so that furthers my point.”

 

“I should have known you were a serious comedy fan when you knew I was quoting The Office.”

 

She watches as he takes a large bite of his pizza, not at all caring how messy he looks, and she tucks her feet further underneath her thighs. For as nervous as she was to show up here, to come inside, it’s oddly comfortable right now. Of course, they’ve had pizza (even if it’s not noon yet) and reruns of Superstore playing on the TV to distract them, but it’s comfortable.

 

Killian Jones makes her comfortable.

 

That should be terrifying, is kind of terrifying, but she’s having too nice of a morning to think too much about that. And this pizza is actually really good, and she doesn’t want to have to walk away from that.

 

This is for the pizza. It doesn’t have to be about anything else even though it most definitely is.

 

“I mean, I’m all about the dramas. I can watch a cop show any day of the week, but Graham always complains about how inaccurate it is and makes me change the channel.”

 

Killian’s jaw clenches. “Graham?”

 

“Ruby’s boyfriend. He’s why I had to come over here for our little secret rendezvous. Ruby is at the offices, but Graham is home this morning. He’s got the night shift tonight.”

 

“Ah,” he sighs, taking another bite of his pizza. Was he just…jealous? No, that would be weird and kind of primal, but they’re…seeing each other so maybe also kind of normal. It’s like she’s sixteen again or something. How the hell do sixteen-year-olds handle this when she, a twenty-seven-year-old woman, cannot? “Sorry. I forgot his name for a moment, but I remember now. He’s the detective, right?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“That would explain why he hates any crime drama. Liam hates any and all medical shows and will turn the television off if anyone is watching it when he’s around. Elsa freaking loves those things, though. She’s got the ability to look past the things that are wrong.”

 

“I think it may just be a stubborn man thing.”

 

“Says literally the most stubborn person I’ve ever met.”

 

Emma sticks her tongue out, like every mature woman would do, only for Killian’s warm, rough hands to wrap around her calves and pull her forward on the couch (which is the most comfortable thing in the world, as she expected), making her head land against the cushions and the breath she was holding escape her.

 

“I am not stubborn.”

 

“You’re stubborn about being stubborn,” he sighs, pulling her forward a little more so that he can lean forward over her, his knees on either side of her thighs and his hands next to her head as he hovers over her, the chain that’s always hanging around his neck falling out of his shirt so that it rests over her breasts, a shiny silver ring in the middle. What the hell is that? Is she allowed to ask? “I kind of like that you’re stubborn.”

 

“Really? I had no idea.”

 

“Mmmm, that’s not true,” he hums, dipping his head down and brushing his lips across her jaw, a shiver immediately running down her spine. God, she likes the way that his scruff feels on her skin. He should keep doing that and definitely never shave the stubble. “You’re an observant one. You know these things.”

 

He nips at her skin, and she arches up into him, reaching her arms up to trail her fingers across the muscles in his arms. The talking may be hard, but she can handle this. This is good. “You don’t exactly hide your affections for me.”

 

“I most definitely do.”

 

“You asked me out on TV.”

 

“You looked beautiful that day.”

 

“You looked sweaty.”

 

He laughs into her neck, rubbing his cheek into her skin, before moving back up her face and hovering over her mouth so that she can see the few freckles on his face and the blue of his eyes. She is never going to get over that blue.

 

His breath kind of smells like pizza.

 

He probably tastes like it too. She does really like that pizza.

 

“Now, Swan,” he sighs, visibly put out as he leans down and presses his mouth to hers in a quick, dirty kiss before pulling back, making her cant her hips up into his and tighten her grip on his arms, “I do believe that you asked me out the second time. I don’t think my rejected proposal counts anymore.”

 

“No, you’re never living that down. If I can’t, neither can you.”

 

“I feel like it’s worked out pretty well for me.” He waggles his brows across his forehead, and she slaps his arm, rolling her eyes even as she presses up to try to kiss him again. They’re good at that. She’d like to keep doing it. “Or maybe you’re just here for my pizza.”

 

“It is good pizza.”

 

“The best.”

 

“Jones, are we going to talk about pizza all day, or are you going to kiss me?”

 

“Why not both?”

 

“Shut up,” she gasps as he lowers his entire body down to her, the warmth overcoming her, and rests his elbows on the sides of her head as his lips cover hers, slowly but surely sliding over hers over and over again until she cannot think of anything else but the noise Killian makes when she pulls at his bottom lip.

 

She’d like another order of this pizza and Killian making that sound. That would be the perfect morning.

 

He licks into her mouth without any hesitancy, his fingers curling into her hair as his tongue curls around hers in a slick, wet slide of heat and desire and all of those little things that make the hairs all over her body stand at attention. It’s overwhelming and not enough all at once, and when Killian pushes her body further into the couch, the cushions gaining an Emma-shaped dent, she knows that she never wants to move away from the way Killian is hungrily devouring her and settling between her thighs, hips rolling against hips and desire continuously building as the air is very thoroughly kissed out of her.

 

Who needs air? She certainly doesn’t.

 

Arousal curls between her thighs, a warm and thick heat that spreads up her stomach and to her chest, tightening around her heart, and she scratches her nails down Killian’s back in response, wondering if she can leave marks even through his t-shirt.

 

“Oh fuck,” she mutters, both to Killian and herself, as he slides his lips against her jaw until he’s biting down on the lobe of her ear at the same time that she’s pushing her hips up against his groin to grind against him, little burst of pleasure exploding just under her skin.

 

“You taste like pizza,” he mumbles in a dark growl, one that’s definitely not how any normal person should sound when talking about pizza.

 

“You did say you liked that.”

 

“I believe that was you.”

 

“Semantics,” she gasps out when his tongue flicks behind her ear while her hands grapple for his ass and her legs snake around his hips to push him closer into her space. Killian’s hands are moving from her hair to between them, his stomach lifting up so his hands can fit between them, and then she feels the warm, calloused fingers against her stomach and nearly melts right then and there, officially becoming part of this couch.

 

How the hell has she ended up in this situation?

 

Why didn’t she end up here sooner?

 

Lips find hers again as fingers inch up her skin, Killian’s thumb brushing under the swell of breasts. She can feel the tingle of her skin as his fingers push up the cup of her bra, and she knows that she’s on the precipice of having Killian rile her up more when her phone rings, the loud buzz causing it to move across his coffee table.

 

Talk about a buzzkill.

 

“Ignore it,” she huffs, tugging on Killian’s bottom lip.

 

“Exactly my thoughts.”

 

Her mouth continues to explore his, his hands moving over her body, and they’re on that precipice again when her phone buzzes once more.

 

“Fucking hell,” Killian grumbles, falling on top of her before inching back up to give her some space. His chest is heaving, his hair completely and totally disheveled, and she’s so distracted by his hooded eyes that she can’t even bother to look to see who it is that’s calling her. “You want to get that, Swan?”

 

She jerks in her spot, a different kind of shiver running down her spine, and leans over to grab her phone only for the call to end. Luckily, or not so depending on how she looks at it, Ruby calls right back.

 

“Shit.”



“Well that is certainly a way to answer the phone,” Ruby huffs, the audible sound of music playing behind her. She must be in the editing room. “Why didn’t you answer your phone the first two times that I called?”

 

“I was showering,” she lies, guilt piling up in the pit of her stomach.

 

“Oh, did you go to the gym?”

 

“No, just hadn’t showered yet. Lazy day and all that.”

 

“Do you want to go to the gym with me after I get off of work?”

 

“Sure. What’s got you in such a hurry to be calling me three times?”

 

Killian raises a brow, a little bit of blue coming back to his eyes, and he pulls her legs forward to settle them between his thighs as she listens to Ruby talk. “Oh, I’m bored on my lunch break, and I couldn’t get Graham to pick up his phone. He’s still sleeping I think.”

 

Oh shit. She forgot about Graham. How did she forget about Graham? She was just talking about how he’s at home, but she didn’t think about what happens if he tells Ruby she’s not home when she’s telling Ruby that she is. She is going to get caught in her lies so damn easily, and it’s been a week.

 

A week.

 

She really hopes Graham is actually still asleep and she can get away with this one. Maybe he’ll think she’s locked herself away in her room to nap when he wakes up. This is something she definitely has to get better at.

 

Getting better at lying seems like an awful skill.

 

“Probably. I haven’t seen him today.”

 

Killian traces his nail across her ankle, all of his attention focused on a little freckle that’s there. It’s distracting, but it mostly just feels good. This has been a much better morning than she thought it would be…not that she thought it would be bad. Not at all. Her nerves simply got the best of her.

 

“I’ll try him again soon. Can you get to work early tomorrow? I want to go over some stuff for when you travel for the Rays series. I’m so mad at David for taking me off of a lot of our travel dates. He let me go to Texas but not California or Florida. Why does he hate me?”

 

“I’m pretty sure he just doesn’t want to pay for your plane ticket.”

 

“Oh,” Ruby gasps at the same time that Killian tugs Emma forward a bit more, making her emit a tiny yelp as her head falls against the couch, “I forgot to tell you, but David told me to tell you that when the team charters a plane, you have gotten permission to fly with them. No more weird ass times for flights so that money can be saved.”

 

“Are you serious?” Killian raises a brow again, obviously far too interested in her phone conversation. She doesn’t blame him. This is the conversation that interrupted their very thorough make out session. “That’s freaking incredible. I’m kind of sad I’m going to lose my miles, though.”

 

“You have a million saved up. You could fly to Europe and back for free. Multiple times.”

 

“This is true.”

 

“I bet Jones tries to sit next to you on the plane.”

 

If she were drinking water, she’d spit it out. Right now, she might as well be choking on her own saliva. “I’m sorry…what?”

“Your lover boy. He’ll probably try to sit next to you on the plane. Or any of the other guys who have crushes on you. You live the life.”

 

“Believe it or not, I don’t do my job for the men it surrounds me with.”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” Killian whisper-shouts, and she has to lean across the couch to cover his mouth with her hand.

 

“What was that?” Ruby asks.

 

“The TV.” God, she’s an awful human being for doing this. “Rubes, can I call you back later? My phone keeps going off with emails.”

 

More lies. If this thing works out, the first person she is telling is Ruby, and she will give her whatever she wants to make it up to her for lying to her.

 

“It’s probably David. He speaks in emails.”

 

“It’s definitely David. See you at home before we go to the gym?”

 

“See you at home.”

 

She ends the call and moves her hand off of Killian’s mouth after he lightly chomps down on her fingers. The weirdo.

 

“So what is this about the men who surround you at your job?”

 

Emma rolls her eyes and rises from the couch, adjusting her top and her hair, trying to make herself a little more put together. The heat is still simmering, but it’s deep below the surface now so that she can think of other things.

 

“I get to fly on the chartered plane with you guys now, and Ruby was making fun of you and your very public crush on me by saying that you’re most definitely going to try to sit next to me.”

 

Killian hums in response, stretching his arms behind his head and rest his head there as he lazily smiles up at her, the smugness practically radiating off of him. “Little does she know, I managed to do that already.”



“Overachiever.”

 

“Always.” He tilts his head toward the television. “You want to delve into some more comedies or do you need to get going?”

 

“Comedies sound perfect.”

 

They lapse into easy conversation, and she realizes with every minute that passes, she becomes more and more comfortable sitting on Killian’s couch and simply spending time with him outside of work. He’s visibly relaxed, his arm slung over her shoulders and his hands playing with the tips of her hair. She doesn’t think he even really realizes it.

 

She could probably rattle off all of his best games, worst games, and all of those in between, hundreds of stat sheets piled up in her brain, but she realizes that she knows so little about Killian outside of baseball. Why would she? They’ve only ever had a working relationship, but little by little, she’s piecing together more and more information as he probably does the same to her.

 

The womanizing man splattered across tabloids and on the internet is actually a kind of nerdy man who bakes and keeps pictures of his nieces everywhere and laughs these big belly laughs at Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute pranking each other. The womanizing thing tugs at her a little bit, curiosity and worries festering, but if she’s not willing to open up about her past right now, she can’t expect Killian to either. This is all so new, so fresh, and there’s no need to get into the heaviness of her past so that Killian gets scared away right now.

 

She feels good, and she wants that to last for a little bit longer while she figures things out. This whole thing is terrifying and exhilarating and makes her lose her mind a little bit all at once.

 

Ending up here is the last thing she ever expected.

 

“That was a good date,” she tells Killian when the hours have passed, and she has to leave so that she’s home before Ruby gets home.

 

“You want to go on another one?” he teases as he leads her from the couch to his front door, the spring sun shining through his windows.

 

“Why, Mr. Jones, who the hell said you could ask me out now?”

 

A brow rises, his lips curling into a half smile while her stomach swoops. “I figured I’d earned that right back.”

 

“Maybe. I think I might still take a bit more convincing.”

 

Killian leans into her, his lips brushing over the shell of her ear while his hands find purchase on her hips, tugging her closer. “Which method of mine would you like me to use to convince you?”

 

She tilts her head back, raising her brow in response to his own. “What are my options?”

 

“Well,” he drawls, breath hot on her ear, “I can do this.” He follows the words with a slow caress of her mouth that has her toes curling in her shoes. “Or I can feed you again.”

 

Emma chuckles, unable to help herself, and wraps her hands around the back of his neck, curling her fingers into his hair. It’s so soft. He probably uses some kind of fancy shampoo and conditioner. Is it weird that she’s kind of tempted to go look in his shower to see? That seems like a weird thing to do.

 

“Tell me more about that food thing.”

 

Killian pulls his head back, this vibrant smile on his face that is completely different under the warm lights of his apartment than under the bright lights in stadiums or the dimmed lights of the locker room. It’s nice. It’s more than nice.

 

“Well, we have pizza. We could also go the healthier option of some grilled chicken and rice.”

 

“Pass.”

 

“I’ve seen you eat both of those things.”

 

“Yeah, but they don’t entice me to want to go on another home date with you.”

 

Killian’s eyes flutter closed as his head leans forward so that she can feel his kiss against her forehead before he pulls back. “I can bake you something.”

 

“Now that,” she laughs, moving her hands down to press them against his chest, her fingers grazing a bit of chest hair and his chain, “is a brilliant idea. I like chocolate.”

 

“I don’t most of the time.”

 

“We’ll compromise. I also really like grilled cheese sandwiches”

 

“You eat like a small child. How the hell are you so in shape?”

 

“I’m pretty much a Gilmore Girl.”

 

“I’m not sure that you talk enough for that.”

 

A man who gets her pop culture references even if she’s pretty sure he’s never seen the show. She likes that. How many times can she think that in one day? Is that some kind of metaphorical sign or something?

 

“I can work on that.” Emma presses up on her toes and quickly slides her lips over Killian’s, knowing that if she lingers too long, she won’t be able to pull away and will end up staying far too long. She can’t do that. She’s not quite ready for it yet. And she has to get back to her apartment before Ruby gets home. Lying to Graham is kind of easy. Lying to her best friend, not so much. “You be thinking about what you’re going to bake for me, and I’ll consider coming back. I’ve got to go work off that pizza with Ruby.”

 

“Are you going running or to Pilates?”

 

“Why do you ask?”

 

“Just trying to figure out what kind of outfit you’re going to be wearing.”

“Okay,” she laughs, pulling back from him and ducking around him to open his apartment door, “I’m leaving now.”

 

“Bye, love. See you at the stadium tomorrow?”

 

“I’ll be there.” Killian nods his head, his hand propped up against the doorframe so that she can see the slightest bit of his stomach as she walks away to the elevator with her lips curved upward. “And yoga pants, twenty-nine.”

Chapter Text

Emma: Do you know if we’re getting food on this flight?

 

Killian:It’s seven thirty in the morning.

 

Emma: And your point? That’s breakfast time.

 

Emma: I usually stock up on snacks because I am a bottomless pit, but I didn’t have time to this morning. Do you have anything?

 

Killian: I have an apple. I can very clearly see that Rob has a box of Wheat Thins in his backpack though. You want me to smuggle some for you?

 

Emma: How would that even work?

 

Killian: Easy. I steal the box from Rob and then chunk it three rows up to you.

 

Emma: That won’t be obvious at all.

 

Killian: I’m very stealthy, love.

 

“It’s not even eight in the morning,” Robin groans, reaching for the lever on his seat to recline back in the very little space that they’re given. “Who in the world are you texting that much?”

 

“Liam,” he lies, heat rising to his cheeks. He has texted Liam this morning, but he’s most definitely not texting his brother right now. It’s a half-truth, really. “He’s trying to nail me down for some dinner plans once we get back home. I haven’t gotten to see them much lately, and he and Elsa always get antsy whenever that happens.”

 

“You’re pretty much their third child.”

 

“I feel like I’m their third child but also your second.”

 

“No,” Robin huffs, reaching down into his bag to grab his crackers, “that’s most definitely Will.”

 

“I can hear you,” Will mumbles from the seat in front of them as he stretches out and snuggles further into his pillow. Will could sleep on any plane at any time. It’s damn impressive. “And I’m not a child just because you all feel the need to baby me, Professor Jones.”

 

“So not a child but a baby then?” he teases.

 

Will sticks his middle finger up in between the seats, not even bothering to open his eyes as he murmurs, “fuck off.”

 

“I love you too, man.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Robin placates, a smirk on his face, “he’s only mean to you because he likes you.”

 

“That’s a load of bullshit.”

 

“For me, yeah, because I say things when I feel them.” Will pops his head in between the seats, his eyes widened but sleep heavy now. “But I think Emma is so pissy toward you because she does actually think you’re hot.”

 

Woah. Where did that even come from?

 

“Is that what she said?” he questions like he’s a fifteen-year-old boy worried about Chrissy Stephens liking him back and not like a grown man who knows that the woman he fancies is also interested in him.

 

What a world that he lives in that Emma Swan is interested in him.

 

That or she’s been very good at faking it for the last two weeks. God, he hopes that she hasn’t been faking it, but that seems like a hell of a lot of effort when they’ve talked nearly every day. Sometimes it’s just a few texts, a passing word in the hallway, an interview or a press conference question. Other times it’s a phone call late at night or Emma dropping by his place for an hour to eat dinner. He can tell that she’s still terrified by the whole thing, nervous energy practically radiating off of her when she first starts talking to him, but once they get into the groove of things, he believes that she feels comfortable.

 

Her wanting this and being willing to try is beyond his wildest dreams, and a part of him still thinks he’s going to be hit in the head with a baseball and wake up from whatever kind of concussion-induced dream that he’s under.

 

So much shit has gone down in his life, things from years past still haunting him, and he’s clinging to this good thing even if it’s far too early for any of that. He hasn’t done this relationship thing in a long time, and he’s still not entirely sure that’s what it is. They haven’t talked about it, and he imagines Emma is not going to be the person to bring it up first.

 

If ever.

 

They could be getting married, and she still might not want to discuss things.

 

Woah, woah, woah. That is thinking too far ahead for about a million different reasons. He is not going there.

 

Will’s eyes narrow at him, thick brows pushing together all the while Killian can practically feel Robin’s stare covering every inch of him. “Why do you care?”

 

He shrugs, his fingers fidgeting with the window shade to let some light in before immediately shutting that away. “I like to know what’s being said about me.”

 

“She’s sitting right up there. Why don’t you ask her, Professor Jones?”

 

“Because that sounds like a dumbass idea that will get me in all kinds of trouble.”

 

“It’s true,” Robin sighs. “You should not be talking to Emma Swan about anything other than baseball.”

 

His heart drops into his right calf at that. He didn’t know that was possible, but it is. Why would Robin think something like that?

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because you don’t want to piss her off anymore. She could flip the narrative on you so quickly that you’d get whiplash and all the sudden you’d be back to who you were four years ago.”

 

His defenses rise, words on the tip of his tongue at the ready to defend Emma. He doesn’t like that Robin thinks she would do that. They’ve all spent time around Emma. They know that even if she can be a little guarded, she’s got their best interests at heart. Even when they’ve screwed up, him especially, she’s never done anything to wrong them.

 

“That wouldn’t happen. She’s a professional. You know that. She’s not going to pull shit like that,” he says quietly, wondering how in the world he can change this conversation to something else so as not to show all of the metaphorical cards in his hands. “Can I have some of those crackers, Rob?”

 

Robin eyes him for a moment before handing him the box. Killian doesn’t even really want these, but he’s thankful for them as the conversation dies down and Will goes back to sleeping after under two minutes of trying and Robin keeps watching his movie, typing a long text to Carol for something having to do with Roland. He doesn’t want to pry, so he tries not to look, reluctantly eating the Wheat Thins before snapping a picture of them and sending it to Emma.

 

Killian: I can throw these across the plane if you’re ready to catch them.

 

Emma: Hit me with your best shot.

 

Emma: Not really.

 

Emma: Please don’t throw food on the plane. I saw that there are snacks in the back, and I’m going to pilfer them.

 

Before he knows it, he sees Emma’s blonde head rise up as she gets out of her seat and walks down the aisle past him. She doesn’t look at him, her eyes staring straight ahead, but that doesn’t keep him from looking as she sweetly asks a flight attendant for a packet of cookies. It looks like she’s learned since the last time they flew.

 

When she comes back toward him, he turns in his seat and goes back to flipping through the movies, pretending like he wasn’t just staring her down. Hopefully she didn’t notice that. She may like him, but everyone has their limits.

 

Emma: The red-headed flight attendant thinks you’re hot.

 

Killian: I’ve been reliably told that you think the same thing, and I care much more about that.

 

Emma: Who told you that?

 

Killian: You’re not the only one who can have sources.

 

Emma: At least mine are reliable.

 

Killian: So you don’t think I’m hot?

 

Emma: I didn’t say that.

 

Killian: I knew you thought I was sexy, Swan. You flatter a man.

 

Emma: Shut up and eat your Wheat Thins.

 


 

 Fuck.

 

Fuck.

 

Fucking hell.

 

Small pinpricks of pain are spreading down his arm while his shoulder stings. Someone might as well be out here stabbing him with a knife. It would likely be less painful than this.

 

Not again.

 

Not tonight.

 

He’s been doing so well, his shoulder not bothering him, all of his physical therapy working to keep his muscles strengthening and his body in check, and then shit like this happens. There’s no way he can make it past the inning, and even if he wasn’t about to call it, he knows that Al is going to pull him off the mound in no less than three minutes with how many runs he’s giving up.

 

It’s…not good. They’re down 2-8 in the bottom of the fourth, and he might as well be dying out here under the Florida sunshine and the humidity that has his bones weighing twice their normal weight. Spring Training never prepares him for this when it’s this muggy outside.

 

He might as well be in a damn swamp. Tropicana field sounds so cheery, so pleasant, but he’s dying inside. Why the hell do teams agree to name their fields things like Tropicana and Minute Maid? How much exactly are they getting paid to suffer like that?

 

How much is he getting paid to suffer like this?

 

Taking a deep breath, he tries to focus on what’s in front of him. That’s all he can do when his body is failing him like this, and with a quick windup, he releases the ball from his grip and watches it fly right into Will’s glove.

 

Strike three. Byrd’s out.

 

Immediately, he jogs to the dugout, opening the small gate and going straight for the water cooler, gulping down a cup before pouring himself another one and covering his head to try to cool himself down. He’s so damn mad at himself for playing like this, for having a body that’s failing him when his body has always been his livelihood and the thing he maintained with precision and dedication, and all he wants is to punch every single member of the Rays even though none of them have ever actually wronged him.

 

Anger takes its way out in strange places.

 

“You’re done, Jones,” Al tells him, his voice clipped.

 

“Good.”

 

He tosses his cup to the ground in annoyance and turns to make his way to the bench, figuring he’ll suffer out here for a little while longer, only to see Emma standing with her bottom lip tugged between her teeth and her phone in her hand.

 

Right.

 

She’s sitting in the dugout with them tonight recording videos and doing fun little segments for her Instagram and Twitter, and he’s probably looked like an ass in all of them.

 

Because he is an ass.

 

“You okay?” she mouths.

 

He doesn’t respond with more than a shake of his head no before he’s turning away and heading toward the tunnels that will take him back to the locker room so he can get this damn shoulder massaged and have Archie yell at him once again for trying to keep all of this under wraps.

 


 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Killian sighs into his phone as he runs the towel over his waist, drying his body as much as he can before knotting it over his hip. His brother doesn’t seem to understand that people are busy and life is busy and maybe he wants to shower for fifteen minutes simply so everyone will leave him alone.

 

It’s been three hours since he left the field after the game, and it’s still not enough time to let him simmer in his thoughts.

 

“Are you sure because you kept grimacing and – ”

 

“I know what happened, Liam. God, I…” He runs his hands through his damp hair, water droplets falling over his face and tracing the lines where the beginnings of a sunburn are forming. “My shoulder hurt today. You know it, and I know it. There’s no point in denying it. I just don’t want to talk about it anymore when I already got my ass handed to me by Archie and Al.”

 

“I’m worried about you,” Liam laments, the sound of his television in the background. The girls should be asleep by now, so it must be Elsa sitting quietly listening in to their conversation while she pretends that she isn’t. He doesn’t know why she does that when she and Liam don’t keep anything to themselves when it comes to him, their honorary third child. “You have been nothing but healthy you’re entire life, and then I convinced you to go sailing with me and – ”

 

“Please do not blame yourself for that accident anymore.”

 

“Why not? I’m the one who insisted we go on the weekend trip. I’m the one who – ”

 

“For fuck’s sake, Liam, it’s not your fault. The drunks who ran into us are the only people who have any kind of fault. We probably should have died that day, and we didn’t. I just got a fucked-up arm. I’ll take that over anything else. You don’t have to act like you’re my father taking responsibility for all of my actions.”

 

The moment he says the words, he regrets them.

 

How could he not?

 

Comparing Liam to their father is the absolute last thing that he wants to do. Liam, even with his faults and his judgmental ways, is nothing like Brennan. Brennan Jones never cared unless it benefitted himself, and Liam cares because it’s what good family does. It’s what people who love each other do.

 

His brother is the greatest man that he knows, and yet here he is taking all of his anger out on him because he can’t always play the sport that he loves like he used to.

 

“Our father never took any responsibility for our actions.”

 

“God,” he groans, running his hands through his hair again and yanking at the strands, “I don’t know why I said that. I just – ”

 

“You’re angry right now.” The way Liam says the words calmly, like they’re talking about the weather or a lunch up on the rooftop of his building, weirdly calms him down and makes his heart beat a little less erratically. “I would be angry too if the accident had kept me from doing something I love the way I had done it before. You got hurt, and I got a small scar on my knee. It’s not fair, and you can be angry. Just…don’t let that anger ruin your relationship with others.”

 

“I hate that you’re so wise sometimes.”

 

“It’s only some of the time,” Elsa pipes in, confirming his thought that she was in there simply listening in. “He’s an idiot most of the time, actually, and it drives me insane that the girls think he is the smartest man alive.”

 

“Hi, Els,” he laughs, opening the door to the bathroom to let some of the steam out and walking back into his hotel room. “You should really announce yourself before you start listening in on a conversation. I know you’re there.”

 

“Yeah, but I don’t want you to think I’m too nosy.”

 

Killian barks out a laugh at that because there’s no other word he could describe Elsa as other than nosy at this moment. Compassionate and kind also come to mind, but right now she’s nosy.

 

Shuffling through the room, he sits down at the edge of the bed, the mattress dipping down underneath his weight, and picks up the remote to turn the television if only because he wants some background noise, so he doesn’t get too lost in his own thoughts.

 

“You and my brother are a packaged deal, darling,” he sighs, “and Addy and Lucy. I know that you are all far too much into my business.”

 

“It’s only because we care, little brother.”

 

“Younger, you asshole.”

 

“Language,” Elsa scolds.

 

“I’m twenty-eight years old and sitting in a hotel room by myself. I think I can say the word asshole.”

 

“Sorry, force of habit.”

 

“You’re such a mom,” he groans, falling back against the mattress, his towel coming undone the slightest bit.

 

“I did not push those two children out of my vagina to go by any other name.”

 

“Oh my God, stop. I don’t like to think about how those two were created.”

 

“Killian, childbirth is natural.”

 

“I’m talking about the creating, not the delivering.”

 

Liam and Elsa both start coughing before their coughs turn into laughter, the two of them sputtering and bickering back and forth with each other, and he sits up on the bed and starts mindlessly flipping through the channels until he finds a Dodgers game. Why is he watching baseball when he’s trying to get away from it all?

 

Because it is his life.

 

“You know, little  brother,” Liam chokes out, emphasizing the little because he is, indeed, an asshole, “if you had a girlfriend, you would probably feel more comfortable talking about sex.”

 

“I am perfectly comfortable talking about sex. Just not yours.”

 

“I know but – ”

 

There’s a knock at the door, and he feels like he’s saved by the bell (or the knuckles) at the sound, not really wanting to have this conversation with Liam even if he goaded them into it and if it’s more pleasant than talking about his shoulder.

 

“Hey, guys,” he starts, already getting up and tying his towel a little tighter around his waist, “there’s someone at my door. I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow, yeah?”

 

“Let us know if you need to talk,” Elsa sighs, quietly echoed by Liam. “We love you.”

 

“Love you guys too.”

 

He hangs up the phone and places it on his dresser before crossing the room and looking through the peephole to see who is knocking on his door.

 

It’s Emma.

 

She’s standing just outside his door in an oversized white sweater and a pair of leggings, her hair pulled up in a messy bun, and he can tell by the way that she’s unable to stand still that she’s anxious. Immediately, he twists all of the locks and swings open the door, catching it before it slams into the wall.

 

“Swan,” he smiles, already reaching forward and tugging her inside, looking from side to side in the hallway to make sure no one is around.

 

“Hey, so I – ”

 

He stops her before she can finish her sentence, closing the door behind them and quickly dipping his head down to slide his lips over hers, just the barest hint of a touch in greeting but enough to make all of his body begin to stand at attention.

 

“Hi,” he whispers when he pulls back.

 

Emma’s lashes flutter as she looks up at him, a little redness of her cheeks. “Hi. I’m guessing you don’t mind that I dropped by then.”

 

“Truthfully, I’m very upset about it.”

 

“You’re a liar,” she laughs, adjusting the bag that she’s holding. Wow, he didn’t even notice the bag. His mind is all over the place tonight. “You’re also not wearing any clothes. Why are you not wearing any clothes?”

 

A shiver runs down his spine as Emma’s eyes glance over him, very obviously cataloging his body in the same way that he’s done to hers in the past. The room is more heated, the steam from the bathroom permeating into the bedroom, and he knows that it would be so damn easy to step a little bit more into Emma’s space and capture her mouth with his as his hands explored her body the way that her eyes are exploring him. It would be so damn easy to forget about the difficulties of this day, to forget about the ache in his shoulder, and let his body do all of the talking that it couldn’t do today.

 

He could prove that his body still works, that he can still do good with it, that he can still bring himself pleasure, bring Emma pleasure.

 

…but he can’t do that. Not yet.

 

It’s not the right time when he’s riddled in self-doubt and frustration, and even if Emma was ready, he wants to do this right. He doesn’t want to use her and his affections for her to make him forget everything for a night.

 

They need more time to get to know each other.

 

When the hell was the last time he wanted to get to know a woman well before he slept with her?

 

Why would he even ask himself that question when he knows the answer?

 

“Well, darling,” he finally sighs, backing up from her to give himself room to breathe all the while he makes sure to flash her a grin, “I did this thing called showering, and I don’t often do it with clothes.”

 

“That’s smart. It’d probably get a little messy like that.”

 

“Most definitely. What’s in the bag?”

 

“Oh,” she gasps, her shoulders shrugging up the slightest bit as her eyes light up, the darkness turning back to light green. “So, I didn’t mean to be presumptuous or whatever by coming here, but you didn’t seem to have the best day, and I figured I would bring you, like, a snack or whatever to help you out. Then I thought maybe I could stay for a bit, but if you want to tell me to fuck off, I can be back in my room in a minute.”

 

How in the world does he find everything she does so charming? He was in a piss-poor mood, still is, and even though he wasn’t exceptionally friendly to her when she was doing interviews in the locker room, she’s being more than kind to him.

 

“Love, the absolute last thing I would do is tell you to fuck off. I’m glad you decided to come see me even if I don’t know how you know my room number.”

 

She winks before turning around and placing the paper bag down. “You’re not the only one who knows how to charm people to get information.”

 

“Apparently not. What kind of spoils have you brought me?”

 

“Totally ignoring the fact that you said spoils,” she laughs, pulling out a bag of salt and vinegar chips and then several snack cakes. And then one banana which doesn’t seem to fit at all. “But I raided a vending machine and also the hotel front desk for the banana, and figured maybe we could pig out a bit since I know for a fact both of us are going running tomorrow.”

 

“Do you have strawberry short cakes in that pile?”

 

He steps closer to her, and she holds up a package of Pop-Tarts, strawberry flavored. “Is this close enough?”

 

“Only because we’re in a pinch.” Killian takes it out of her hand, and tosses it over to the bed before picking up his bag of clothes and sliding it into the bathroom. “I’m just going to put on some pants and then we’ll – ”

 

There’s another knock on his door, and this time he’s not saved by the bell. He doesn’t want this conversation to end. Emma stops what she’s doing, dropping the chips she’s holding back onto the desk, and she turns to look at him with wide eyes and parted lips, panic written across all of her features.

 

“What do we do?” she whispers, her voice probably echoing from here all the way back up to the east coast.

 

“I’m just going to ignore it,” he says quietly, stepping back over to the door to look to see who it is. “Oh shit.”

 

“What?” Emma whispers, stepping closer only for him to hold out his arm in front of her.

 

There’s another knock, this time really more of a pounding, and then Ariel’s voice comes through the wood. “I know you’re in your room, Killian. Open the door.”

 

Emma’s eyes widen even more, and if he wasn’t currently freaking out over what to do, he’d laugh at the comic relief over the whole thing. “Get in the bathroom, love.”

 

She nods her head, quickly picking up the food she brought in and scrambling into the bathroom, closing the door behind her at the same time that he opens his hotel door, his hand furiously scratching at his ear.

 

“What, A?”

 

“Well, that’s a way to greet me.” She immediately moves past him and into the room, never one for understanding personal space. “Why do you have a package of Pop-Tarts on your bed?”

 

“I got it from the vending machine,” he lies, closing his door behind her and walking back over to his bed. “I was hungry but didn’t feel like ordering anything in. Why are you here? Where’s Eric?”

 

Ariel rolls her eyes and stretches out onto his bed, picking up the remote and immediately changing the TV from the game he was watching. “Believe it or not, I am capable of being in a separate space than my husband.”

 

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

 

She simply waves him away. “Whatever. I just wanted to check on you. I know you get all moody after losses, and you didn’t come join everyone for dinner. Also, can you put some clothes on while we have this conversation? I love you, but I don’t need to see every bit of you.”

 

“You’re the one who came barging into my room,” he groans as his mind runs through about fifteen scenarios on how to get Ariel out of his room, “but fine. I’ll go change.”

 

Killian steps away from his bed and walks the few steps to the bathroom door, quietly opening it up and immediately shutting it behind him in case Ariel for some reason decided to move behind him.

 

This is by far the weirdest thing that has happened to him this year. He’s hiding his girlfri – he’s hiding Emma in his hotel bathroom.

 

And she’s sitting on the countertop with her legs crossed over each other eating the bag of chips like that’s not the loudest food she could have chosen.

 

“What are you doing?” she hisses. Putting the chips down.

 

“Ariel has requested I put on some clothes.” 

 

“But there’s no place for me to move in here so you can do that.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes at her flustered movements and far too loud hushed voice. It’s what has him turning on the sink before he leans forward and presses a kiss to Emma’s cheek. “I can slip my sweatpants on under my towel. I promise I’m not going to scar you.”

 

“You wouldn’t scar me. I just – ”

 

He reaches down to his bag, grabbing a pair of pants and pulling them on underneath his towel, his mind fighting with him to think of every delicious and dirty thought about having Emma in the shower, and tugs them up before dropping his towel to the ground and finding a t-shirt to wear. How is his bag so disorganized?

 

“What was that now, love?”

 

“Nothing,” she hisses, blushing. “How long am I supposed to stay in here? I’m kind of freaking out.”

 

“You’ve got food, water, and a bathroom. I think you’ll be good for a week or two.”

 

“Asshole.”

 

“I try.” He flashes her a grin before leaning forward and quickly gliding his lips over hers and tasting the salt and vinegar of her kiss. Damn does he love that he can do that. “I’ll try to get her to leave as soon as possible, okay? Be quiet on your chip eating.”

 

Emma scrunches up her nose before sticking her tongue out at him and grabbing another chip with one hand while the other turns the faucet off. He sighs, amused and exasperated all at once, before opening the bathroom door and stepping out only to find Ariel eating the Pop-Tarts.

 

He kind of wanted those even if there are a million better ways to consume five hundred calories.

 

“Why’d you turn your water on?”

 

“Didn’t want you to hear me pee.”

 

“Fair enough.” She shrugs her shoulders and pats the spot on his bed next to her. He takes the small desk chair instead. “Tell me why you’re in such a bad mood.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

“Liar.”

 

“I’m not a liar.”

 

(He is a liar.)

 

“Okay,” Ariel murmurs as she takes another bite, “so if you’re not in a bad mood, would you at least like to explain why you didn’t come to dinner?”

 

He swivels in the chair a bit, his legs antsy to tap and stay moving, but that’ll make him seem anxious to Ariel. That’s the last thing that he wants when he is, indeed, anxious for her to get out of the room.

 

“I – I felt like I let everyone down today,” he admits, leaving out his own self-loathing about his injury. Half-truths. He’s always speaking in half-truths. “I played a shitty game. I was in a bad mood. I was awful company and didn’t want anything to do with anyone. So, I kind of figured I’d come back here and work that out on my own instead of making everyone else miserable.”

 

“Killian Jones, you know for a fact that we are not miserable around you. At least Eric and I aren’t. Neither are Robin or Will or even August. The only person who would take issue with you being all pissy is Arthur and that’s because he’s got his own set of issues.”

 

He scoffs and closes his eyes as he stretches his legs out. She’s right. He knows that she is because she’s always right. She’s basically another version of Elsa in that aspect.

 

“I know. I’m…you know how I get, A. I’ll be fine. Tomorrow, I’ll come to whatever team-mandated meal you arrange.”

 

“That’s all I ask.” She rises from the bed, picking up the Pop-Tart she hasn’t eaten, and walks over to him to briefly press her lips against his temple. “I’m going to let you wallow, okay? But tomorrow after you’ve finished your practice, we have to talk about your calendar for the rest of May and June. I’ve got some charity stuff lined up for you.”

 

“I will be at your beck and call.”

 

“As you should be. Text me if you need anything, okay?”

 

“Will do.”

 

Ariel nods her head and smiles before walking out the door, letting it slam shut behind her. Letting out a sigh of relief, he places his face in his hands and simply takes a moment to breathe and let his mind stop racing about how horrible of a human being he is for lying to everyone.

 

He’s the worst, isn’t he? He has to be.

 

When he’s finished with his little pity party, he sits up and raises his fist to the wall, banging on it to let Emma know that she can come out of the bathroom.

 

The door clicks, and she emerges, flipping the locks on his door and then walking toward him, stepping into his space until he’s pulling her in by the hips to stand in the open space between his legs, his head resting against her stomach.

 

Maybe he’s not quite finished with his pity party.

 

“So,” Emma hums, her feet moving into his line of vision as her hands scratch at that back of his head, which may very well be the best fucking feeling in the world, “apparently everyone in the world knows you’re in a bad mood, and you don’t want to talk to any of us about it.”

 

“Do you want to talk every time you’re in a bad mood?”

 

“Hell no.”

 

“Exactly.” He leans back in the chair, the loss of her touch immediate. “I think I just…you want to watch a movie with me or something?”

 

“Can I pick it out?”

 

“Yeah, Swan, you can.”

 

They settle down onto the mattress, pulling the thin sheet that’s at the bottom of the bed over them instead of settling under the covers, and Emma tucks herself into his side so that her head rests on his collarbone and her hand is covering his stomach, a leg tucked between his. In all of the time they’ve spent together in the past two weeks, he thinks this is the most comfortable she’s ever been around him.

 

He likes it.

 

It’s…refreshing. He keeps thinking that, thinking about how this is so different than how he’s been the past few years. If he was with a woman, it was to sleep with her, to scratch an itch. It was not to settle down and watch Men in Black because despite insisting that she wanted to pick the movie, Emma refused to let him pay for them to rent a newer movie.

 

And obviously he wants to sleep with Emma, his mind racing with thoughts of what exactly that would be like to do to her, but he’s good just like this.

 

This is by far the best part of his day, and Florida isn’t seeming like such a hell hole anymore as his fingers play with the wisps of her hair that have fallen out of her bun and her hands toy with his mom’s ring that’s fallen outside of his t-shirt. He doesn’t even think she realizes that she’s doing it.

 

“The ring was my mom’s.”

 

Emma stops her movements, her fingers stilling, before looking up at him, her face only lightened by the glow of the television now that the sun has set, and everything is covered in darkness. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to mess with it.”

 

“Swan, it’s fine,” he promises, reaching down to take her hand and place it back against his chest and against the ring. He smiles a little, the left side of his lips curving up, to try to reassure her of the fact that it is fine. He doesn’t mind. “I simply figured you wanted to know why I wear a ring around my neck. Wouldn’t want you to think I’m secretly married.”

 

“Well, I wasn’t thinking that until right about now.”

 

Later. He’ll tell her about Milah later. He can already tell that he’s about to tell her too much about his family tonight. She doesn’t need to know about his ex-girlfriend too.

 

“I wouldn’t do that.”

 

“I know.” She pats his chest and readjusts herself so that she can look at him a little better. How are her eyes so green? “So, tell me about your mom. If you want to.”

 

“Her name was Amelia,” he starts out, scooting down a little further so that he and Emma are nearly eye to eye, “and she was just…she was amazing. I have a terrible memory, so I don’t remember much, but I remember that she had this red hair that would make Ariel jealous and this big belly laugh that kind of reminds me of Liam. I don’t – I guess I never thought about it before, but she was really into baking, which is probably why I eventually came around to it. That’s likely the only thing I got from her other than the red in my beard.”

 

He knows that it’s not true, that he is more like her than he’s willing to admit, but it’s not what he usually thinks about. It’s not what Liam talks about either even though he was seventeen when she died.

 

“How did she – ”

 

“Cancer,” he murmurs, tracing Emma’s pointer finger until he lifts their hands and treads his fingers through hers, squeezing their hands together. “It was very sudden, not a lot of time to say goodbye, you know?”

 

Emma presses forward and brushes a kiss to his knuckles. He’s sure it’s because no one ever knows what to say that, and Emma is likely no exception. “She would be so proud of you, I think. I know that’s probably overstepping my boundaries to say that, but I don’t see how anyone could not be proud of you for working so hard to achieve your dreams and for being so good to your family.”

 

Maybe she’s the exception then.

 

He’s not sure that his mom would be proud of him, not lately.

 

“Thank you, darling. I’m not sure if that’s true, but thank you.”

 

Emma’s brows pinch, her lips pursing. “How could that not be true, twenty-nine?”

 

Because he’s a self-loathing bastard who can never seem to bury his demons even when he needs to.

 

“Do you want to know part of the reason why I was in such a shitty mood today?”

 

He can’t tell her the full truth, but the half truth seems okay today.

 

“Only if you want to tell me.”

 

He gulps, nodding his head and inching further down to bed to tangle his legs with Emma’s and nearly brush his nose against hers. He’s twenty-eight, but there’s something akin to a childlike belief running through him that nothing can invade the quietness of this hotel room right now.

 

“I haven’t spoken to my father since I was nineteen years old,” he admits, bringing their hands up to rest between their chests. “That seems like a shitty thing to do when I was only down to one parent, but my dad is an asshole, you know? He was the one who signed me up to play little league ball, and every single day I was outside running or practicing my batting or pitching once I changed to that track. He pushed me so damn hard, which I always thought was a good thing, until I’d lose a game or be a minute slow on my run and he’d make me do everything all over again. I was eleven, and the man had me on a meal plan to make sure I was developing with the sole purpose of playing ball.”

 

He takes a breath, blinking away the tears that aren’t there but might as well be.

 

“He became obsessed. Completely and totally obsessed. And since Liam was long gone from the house, he was my only influence. I did what he said when he said it and played it off as it all being part of the game that I loved. But he pushed and pushed and pushed until I hated waking up every day. He screamed at me, calling me a pathetic fucker, told me that I was ruining his life by not being good enough. It was just this constant stream of hatred spewing out of his mouth, and when I got to Vandy, he started betting on my games, started taking bribes and offers and so many things that could have taken the game away from me forever. He’s a piss poor excuse for a dad, and it took me nineteen years to realize that I didn’t have to be subjected to his shit. So, I just…I cut him off. Liam and I both did. And today I – I was mad about how I played, and I took it out on Liam by saying he was not my father and some other stuff. That always kind of spirals us, and that’s why I was so annoyed when you first got here.”

 

That was too much.

 

That was far too much.

 

Killian should have kept his mouth shut, should have never let all of that out even if it’s skimming the surface. Emma likely already thinks he’s insane, that he’s got enough issues, and he just revealed so many more.

 

Good things in his life do not stay, and Emma is most definitely a good thing.

 

And he’s not even telling her about his arm.

 

“Your dad is a fucking asshole,” she spits, untangling their hands and running her palms up over the skin at his neck until she’s softly gliding her thumb underneath his eye. “I can’t imagine how much that has to mess you up in your mind. He took something you loved and twisted it. He was not what a parent should be, and you have every right to be upset about that. I’ve never met Liam, but I know that he loves you and that he understands how you tick. I’m sure he’s not mad at you for being upset with him when he understands your anger was coming from something else.”

 

Tell her, tell her, tell her.

 

His mind is screaming at him, but he can under no circumstances tell her everything. Not about Milah, not about his arm, not about all of his thoughts and feelings.

 

In time.

 

He’ll tell her in time.

 

They’re so early in this thing that they’re doing, and even if it’s been awhile for him, he knows that two weeks in is not the time to dumb every bit of baggage that he’s carrying.

 

“Thank you, love,” he sighs, closing his eyes and pressing forward to slowly guide his lips over hers, another silent thank you for simply being here. It’s nice to have someone on the road with him. Honestly and truly. “I’m sure this is not how you imagined this night going.”

 

“What?” Emma laughs, a tentative smile curling on her lips. “You think I didn’t come in here expecting you to tell me about your shitty dad as we watch Will Smith kill some aliens? I feel like that’s a pretty normal night.”



“So this is normal for you then?”

 

“Staying in bed as much as possible?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

He hums, inching closer and closer to her so that their foreheads brush together and his nose is pressing into her cheek as he speaks. “I think I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

Chapter Text

Warmth radiates over Emma as her body starts to wake up, her senses slowly coming back to her while she thinks about how comfortable this bed is.

 

This bed.

 

That’s not her bed.

 

It’s a hotel bed.

 

And not her hotel bed either.

 

She tries to keep her body from going stiff, tries to keep herself from jumping and running away, but with the way that her heart is beating, it may very well power her into the hallway and up the elevator to her bedroom all on its own. Is she anxious or excited or every single feeling in the world all at once?

 

Probably that last one. Maybe exclude anger and grief and all of the emotions in whatever sector that is.

 

Right now, she’s got Killian’s body pressed into hers, cradling her really. She’s never known for people to actually sleep like this, most of them drifting apart to their own sides of the bed, but it seems like they’ve somehow drifted together.

 

(Her life is kind of resembling a romantic comedy right now, and she’s not sure how she feels about that continuously happening when she’s never been one to be a main character in her own story. Until these past few years, at least.)

 

A solid chest is molded into her back, a strong arm is wrapped around her stomach with its hand sitting under her sweater against the bare skin of her belly, and a leg that is very much not hers is stuck in between her thighs. That would be nothing if she couldn’t feel Killian’s erection pressing into the crease of her ass, and she can’t decide if that feels good or if she’s ready to get the hell out of Dodge.

 

(It feels really good.)

 

Woah. When did she start quoting things about Western movies? Has she ever even seen a Western movie? That’s probably completely beside the point. Her life is apparently a romantic comedy, not a Western.

 

And maybe a bit of a drama and horror film wrapped all up in one. A new genre altogether.

 

Killian’s breathing is so steady behind her, the warmth of his breath coming out onto her neck and making a shiver run down her spine, that she knows that he’s still asleep, that he doesn’t know what’s happening. It’s comfortable even if she’s still freaking out a bit, but she’s kind of coming into the idea of letting someone hold her, if only for a little while.

 

She likes him. They’re…dating, right? Sleeping over and spooning and sharing emotional backstories before making out is totally something that’s normal for people who are dating.

 

Emotional backstories.

 

Killian had an awful day yesterday. She thought maybe it was just his pitching, that he was simply having an off day out on the field, and while that was true, she had no idea he was harboring all of that about his parents, his father specifically. For as much information as there is out there on Killian, his family isn’t something many people know about. She didn’t. All she knew was that he had an older brother and these two adorable little nieces.

 

A dead mom and a deadbeat dad weren’t something she ever really considered.

 

She doesn’t…she doesn’t have parents, never had that support system, never knew what it was like to be loved by the two people who were supposed to love her more than anything, and as angry and upset and saddened as that makes her, at least she never had any other expectations other than to be let down by them.

 

With everything they failed at, they’ve always excelled in that particular category.

 

Suddenly, there’s movement behind her, fingers moving across her stomach and lips moving across her neck in such a soft way that she melts back into Killian so that she can be as physically close to him as possible. All of that fear and anxiousness dissipates, if only for a moment.

 

“I can practically hear you thinking,” he mumbles into her skin, his voice dark and gravely as heat curls between her thighs. “Do you always wake up and stiffen like a board?”

 

Do not make a morning wood joke, Emma. Do not.

 

“I am not stiff,” she weakly protests, trying to let some of the tenseness in her body release as she sinks down against Killian so that her foot runs over his calf. His hand is really warm. “I didn’t know that we fell asleep here last night.”

 

It’s Killian’s turn to stiffen, but only for a second, before he’s pulling back from her and encouraging her to roll over to face him with a tug of his hand on her stomach. She does, trying not to elbow him or do something else painful, and really hoping that her mascara didn’t run. Oh shit. She still has on her makeup from yesterday. Her skin is going to murder her.

 

Killian, of course, is unfairly attractive and sleep-rumpled, his hair sticking in several unnatural directions and his beard a little scruffier than usual, red pillow creases marking his face as he smiles at her, a soft little thing that doesn’t quite reach his squinted eyes.

 

Oh boy is she in trouble with this one.

 

“Judging by the fact that I didn’t wake up alone, I’m guessing you’re okay with that?”

 

“I mean, I don’t think I could have gotten out of the strangle hold you put me in without waking you up so…”

 

She trails off, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth and trying to decide what to say. She’s never been good at this morning after stuff. Neal didn’t care for showing affection outside of sex, and with Walsh it always felt…unnatural. And it doesn’t help that the little red mark on Killian’s cheek makes her want to spill her own secrets about her not-so-great family life.

 

“Swan, what’s going on in that mind of yours this morning?”

 

“I was,” she starts, her heart practically a jackhammer in her chest at this point. Killian can probably feel it. “I was thinking about how honored I was to have you share your past with me last night, and I was thinking maybe I should tell you about mine too.”

 

“You don’t have to do that. I didn’t share for you to feel like you have to as well.”

 

“I know, I know. I just – I want to.”

 

He nods his head at the same time that his hand flexes against her hip, his thumb rubbing soothing circles into the skin above her leggings. “If you want to, love.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I do.” She takes a deep breath, knowing that it’s not enough and starts. “Well, I told you about Ruth and David and how I love them, but they’re not my biological family or anything. That shouldn’t give me any hang ups, but it does because…because I have trouble thinking of Ruth as my mom when I spent my entire childhood thinking of someone woman I don’t even know that way, which is really fucked up because I do think of David as being my brother and Leo my nephew.”

 

His brow quirks, “What do you mean?”

 

“I – I never imagined having any siblings, but when I was in foster care, I always thought about my parents and what they were doing or what they were like. I used to have these crazy dreams about them, you know?”

 

“Yeah?” Killian reaches over and tucks her hair behind her ear, his fingers light to the touch as her eyes close for one second simply to give herself some time. “Like what?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s just…I would make up stories for why they had to give me up. Maybe they were superheroes saving the world, so they gave me up for the greater good. Maybe they were doctors or lawyers or something else, and it just wouldn’t work out for them to have a baby. I just don’t know. It’s hard to think of now because in reality, I probably know that they were teenagers who couldn’t raise a baby or maybe a mom in a bad situation that wouldn’t let her keep me. So, it’s probably stupid to have ever thought that they were heroes when all they’ve done is break my heart.”

 

“Hey,” he soothes, his brows furrowed together, before wiping away the tear that’s fallen onto her cheek. Great. Now she’s crying. She probably looks really sane right now, especially if her mascara is already messed up. “That wasn’t stupid. I would have done the exact same thing. Emma, darling, I can’t pretend to know how it was for you growing up just like you can’t do the same for me, but, if I may be so bold, it’s our parents’ loss for not being in our lives the way they should. I know that I struggle with accepting this myself, but it had nothing to do with us. It had nothing to do with you.”

 

“Yeah, because I’m a real catch all the time.”

 

She sniffles, blinking away the new tears that she’s refusing to let fall. This is not at all how this was supposed to go, but she couldn’t not tell him when he’d already shared. She has so much baggage, so many things that she’s going to have to tell him if they keep doing this, and her issues with her parents and the foster system in general are only scratching the surface.

 

How in the world do people do this? How do they trust someone else to carefully protect the intimacies of their heart and their life, every scar mapped out on a piece of paper handed over in a fragile glass case that is already filled with cracks?

 

How is she doing some of that right now when sometimes she can’t even talk to David or Ruby, the two people who have been there for her more than anyone else?

 

What a piece of work.

 

Or Ruth. The woman who helped change everything for her and who she still sometimes treats like a stranger.

 

Killian smiles at her, his thumb still tracing her cheekbone so that every touch electrifies her. The soft cocoon that they were in last night, the darkness and blankets surrounding them, has extended until this morning with sunlight filtering through the window, and maybe it can last a little bit longer.

 

“I know I may be a little biased because you are in my bed and all.” He stops here to waggle his eyebrows across his forehead as she gently pushes him, the smallest of chuckles escaping her. “But I think you are quite the catch. I like that you’re real, that you’re messy. It makes me feel a hell of a lot more normal.”

 

She scoffs, her chest heaving the slightest bit. “I don’t think you’ll ever be normal.”

 

“Good. Life is boring that way.” And then he’s leaning forward and slowly, softly, reverently gliding his lips over hers in a caress of a kiss that sends the butterflies in her stomach on a migration path all the way down to her toes. How can she keep doing that for the rest of the day? She’d sign up in a minute No, a second. “We make quite the team, don’t we, love?”

 

“A couple of real winners, twenty-nine.” All of the sudden, Killian groans, rolling away from her and onto his back as his arm stretches up so that he can pinch the bridge of his nose. “What?” she laughs, propping herself up on her elbow to look down at him as her other hand traces his biceps. She really likes his biceps.

 

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m really rather fond of the whole number nickname thing, but it just reminded me that we have to get our asses out of bed and go to work today.”

 

Work. She has work today. Killian has work today. Of course they do.

 

“Why you gotta bring me down like that?”

 

“Because the world sucks, and I’m evil.” His eyes flutter open, light blue contrasted against tan skin, and a smile stretches from the left side of his lips to the right. Here come those butterflies again. “But I do feel like we have a little bit of time left before I have to go meet the trainer and be at the fields.”

 

“I have less time than you do.”

 

“Pity that.”

 

In a swift movement, Killian twists to the side and moves around the bed until his knees are planted on either side of her thighs and his palms are splayed out next to her head. Every bit of their bodies are close to each other, heat still radiating off of Killian, and she tugs her bottom lip between her teeth, anticipation at what this position usually means humming through her body.

 

She definitely needs to get laid, but she’s not quite ready for that yet. It’s been a long damn time since sex for her involved feelings, and feelings would no doubt be involved here.

 

A lot of them.

 

So, making out like teenagers will have to do.

 

What a tragic life that she lives.

 

(And she’s definitely feeling a bit of whiplash for how quickly this situation flipped on its head.)

 

Killian drops his head down, his nose brushing against the dip in her collarbone before he’s biting down, hard, and then soothing his mark with his tongue all the while his scruff scratches against her skin. It took a while to get used to that, to not be irritated by the scratch of a beard instead of the smoothness of bare skin, but she can’t say she minds. Not at all.

 

What she does mind is that as her hips are arching up into Killian’s, he pulls back and removes his lips from her body.

 

(She also doesn’t love the whine that just passed through her lips, but that was feeling really damn good.)

 

“What are you doing?” she groans, looping her hands around the back of his neck and threading her fingers through his hair to pull his lips down closer to hers. “I was enjoying that.”

 

“As was I.” His voice is hoarse, a little darker than usual, and it reminds her so much of how it was when he woke up that heat curls between her thighs. But no, not ready. “I was simply thinking that maybe we should get breakfast.”

 

“I’m fine doing this.” Her stomach growls, rather loudly, and she wants to melt into the mattress, especially when Killian’s brow perks up. “Okay, maybe I’m a little hungry. I should probably also brush my teeth.”

 

“It is the most important meal of the day, and I do appreciate dental hygiene.”

 

“So, how can we get breakfast if it’s all a secret?”

 

“Room service, Swan.” He says it like it’s the most obvious statement in the world, and maybe it is, but then he’s lowering his head to briefly kiss her once more and thoughts fly out of her head. “Or we can get some more of your vending machine treats since Ariel pilfered some of them last night.”

 

“The thief.”

 

“Shameful.”

 

“I think I’m okay with room service.”

 

“Good.”

 


 

 “Smile.” Emma holds up the camera to Will Scarlet’s face, a little alien covering his features even as he scowls. “Come on, you’ve got to smile. You guys are crushing it today, and we’re probably only going to be out here for another thirty minutes.”

 

“What filter do you have on me?”

 

“It’s an alien.” She snaps a picture and turns the phone around to show him. “See. It’s supposed to be fun, Scarlet. You’re twenty-seven, and you don’t use snapchat or Instagram filters? Are you secretly a grandpa? Come on. I know that Belle uses them.”

 

He raises a brow, and somehow, she swears it’s even more prominent than when Killian does it. “You follow Belle on Instagram?”

 

She shrugs her shoulders as there’s a ding of bat against ball and Forester hits a foul into the stands. That’s his third for the day. She should probably be focusing on that, but it’s the top of the ninth and 7-1. There likely aren’t going to be any big developments, and she’s currently trying to get some more fun behind the scenes stuff for her social media by hounding all of the guys in the dugout. Funny filters are a surprisingly big hit, especially when she can get the bigger names like Will and Robin or Eric to do it.

 

Robin made an adorable dog while Eric’s head went all twisty and his voice got high as she asked him questions about the game and how today differs from yesterday.

 

(The short answer: every day is different. The real answer: Robin was their starting pitcher instead of Killian.)

 

“Part of my job. I have to know what’s going on in your lives. Also, she followed me after that night we all hung out in California, and sometimes we comment on each other’s pictures. It’s obviously a true friendship in the making.”

 

“Obviously. What’s all this stuff for? I thought you just interviewed us and were, like, the super tough Emma Swan who doesn’t take shit from any of us.”

 

“Well, I am that,” she corrects, swiping through the filters with Will as several people walk by to get their cups of water. It smells horrible in here, and as much as she doesn’t want to admit it, she’s probably contributed to that with how much she’s sweating today. New York’s summer weather can be just awful (and the smell makes it so much worse), but they’re not quite there yet. Down here, though, May might as well be August. “Which is why I’m currently bugging you, but I’ve also been asked to do some of this stuff. You know, fun. You’re literally the funniest person on this team. I figured you’d be all for this. Come on. I’ll find Jones in the locker room afterwards and give him the most unflattering filter there is.”

 

Will smiles at that as a small bit of laughter passes through his lips. “Okay, but I want you to do the one that turns him into a baby.”

 

“Deal.”

 


 

 “There is an entire plane full of people, and yet I find you sitting in the corner next to the bathroom all by yourself.”

 

She looks up from where she’s typing out all of her travel expenses (at least the ones she can charge to work anyways) in the form she fills out after every road series, only to see Killian standing above her with a cap pulled low on his forehead like that’s somehow going to disguise the fact that he’s over here talking to her. These guys see him wearing a hat more often than they see him without one, and they’re on a plane. There’s really no hiding away. She would know. That’s what she was trying to do to get some work done, and she’s been found.

 

“I had to fill out my travel expenses and then get some work done. They’re letting me help out with some of the intro clips for the next few home games.”

 

“Really? That’s great, love.”

 

“I know. I’m excited for it.”

 

He nods his head to the empty seat next to her. “Can I sit?”

 

Worry circles around in her stomach as she presses up in her seat to look around them. There’s no one for at least four rows, and most everyone seems to be sleeping or watching a movie.

 

Still. This likely isn’t the best idea. Sneaking away to his hotel room seems simple and innocent enough, but they almost got caught there when behind closed doors. This is right out in the open even if the lights are dimmed to almost blackness.

 

How in the world do people in all of those books and movies do this secret dating thing? It’s complicated.

 

Then again, when isn’t it? Ugh, she feels so much like Avril Lavigne right now.

 

“Is that a good idea?” she worries.

 

Killian raises his hands. “Just to sit and talk. There will be no funny business.”

 

“Well, that would require you to be funny to begin with.”

 

He rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling that million-dollar smile all at the same time. “I’ll have you know that I’m hysterical. Just today I did an entire interview with a filter on my face that made me look like I had a giant forehead and sound like an animated rodent.”

 

(She couldn’t find the baby filter Will wanted.)

 

“Just sit down, you weirdo.”

 

He does, picking up her carry-on bag and placing it in the empty row next to them, before settling down next to her and stretching his seatbelt across his stomach even though the light isn’t on. She bets he’s an insane stickler for rules. It would fit right in with everything she knows about him.

 

“So,” he murmurs, not-so-slyly looping his calf under hers so that she can feel the warmth of his calf against hers, “is work the only reason you’re hanging out back here alone?”

 

Does she hate that he already knows him so well, or does she secretly appreciate it?

 

Is there even an answer to that question?

 

“I just needed…I needed some time to do some work stuff and decompress. It’s been kind of a heavy few days, and believe it or not, I do have to spend a little time away from people every now and then.”

 

“What? No? You?” He taps his shoulder into hers, and she closes her laptop, knowing for a fact that she’s not going to get any work done like this. “I thought you were always a people person who always needed to be around others.”

 

“Ha ha,” she huffs, stretching her feet out as much as she can, “you’re so funny.”

 

“I thought you just said that I wasn’t funny.”

 

“Obviously that was sarcasm.”

 

“So I am funny?”

 

“No. Wait, what? How did I lose track of this conversation in so little words?”

 

“I find that my handsome face tends to make people lose their train of thought.”

 

She twists to the side and pinches the skin of his forearm, leaving it red and angry. The height of maturity. Always. Killian doesn’t even flinch.

 

“Honesty time?” she asks, leaning her head back and twisting it to the side so that she can look into Killian’s eyes. This is such a familiar sight, so similar to last night and this morning, but it’s all different now. Everything seems to be outside of the safe comfort of a hotel room.

 

“I like honesty. We seem to be very good at that.”

 

“Our track record is pretty good in the last twenty-four hours.”

 

“So,” he nudges, moving his foot underneath hers to move them the slightest bit closer to each other. Her hand itches to reach out for his, but she holds back. “Let’s talk about what’s on your mind.”

 

Why does the sound of his voice make her want to spill her secrets every single time? He’s like a freaking snake charmer, and she’s fully convinced that snakes should never be charmed. Everyone should stay far, far away from any and all snakes.

 

But not the charmers.

 

Not when they seem so genuine.

 

Her life doesn’t make sense anymore, but she doesn’t really care. Well, no, she does care. She cares a lot, and it’s why she’s about to spurt out some words that she would have never dared say in any other relationship. She never really had to.

 

“I, um,” she stutters, blinking at him several times as no features on Killian’s face change, his leg a heavy presence against hers, “what are we doing?”

 

“Talking, I think,” he laughs as a brow raises on his forehead and a smile stretches across his lips. “But I’m guessing you don’t mean at this current moment.”

 

“Perceptive.”



“You’re an open book.”

 

“I’ve heard that one before. From you, actually.”

 

“It’s true. You’re a very fascinating book, though.”

 

“A regular Harry Potter.”

 

“Most definitely.” His hand finds hers, something she wanted to do earlier but didn’t, and her eyes do another scan around the plane to make sure no one is paying attention to them under the dimmed lights. She’d honestly be surprised if anyone could even see them, but she doesn’t want to take a lot of chances. “So, tell me, love. I’m all ears.”

 

“Yeah, little pointed ones.” His lips scowl at that, but she carries on with a sigh. “Okay, okay. I, um, I want to know what we’re doing relationship-wise. I know that seems dumb but I – ”

 

“It’s not dumb.”

 

“Can I just sprout all of this information out without you interrupting me because I am going to lose my courage?”

 

“Yeah, Swan, go.”

 

“I’m…I like you, okay? You obviously know that because I’ve said it before and I flirt with you and we have some pretty heavy make-out sessions, which are nice, by the way.” Killian nods his head in agreement, his lips twitching in the corners, but he doesn’t say anything. A man of his word. Or…non-word. “But there’s obviously an emotional connection too. We’re dating without anyone knowing, testing the waters or whatever, and we shared…a lot last night and this morning. A lot of stuff that I don’t talk about that often, and I have so much more shit in my life. I just – ”

 

How the hell does she say this?

 

“You want to know if we’re dating other people.”

 

“What a time to interrupt me.”

 

“You didn’t say anything for forty-seven seconds. And that’s only after I started counting.”

 

She chuckles, unable to help herself, and leans down to bury her face in his shoulder, breathing in the strong scent of his cologne and whatever detergent it is that he uses.

 

“I…trust you. I do, but I have to ask. I’ve been burned pretty badly in the past by other guys, and I know that you kind of have a…history of dating several women at once.”

 

She is an asshole for even bringing that up, but she had to. And he didn’t flinch away from her or untangle their fingers, so that has to be a good sign, right?

 

“I’m not that guy anymore, and I promise one day I’m going to explain it all to you. I need some time, though. As much as I love sharing all of this with you, we’re in the early stages of a relationship. I think we have all of the time in the world to get into the lives we’ve lived when all I’m really interested in is making you laugh or getting you on the big screen while you’re eating a hot dog.”

 

“No,” she groans, laughter bubbling up in her stomach. “Stop that. It’s not even funny. You’ve seen me eat. I’m not an attractive eater.”

 

“I think you’re pretty attractive when you’re eating a hot dog, if you catch my drift.”

 

“I hate you for making that joke.”

 

“Oh, come on, you don’t hate me for it. You’re probably hoping that my bedroom humor is a little bit better than that though.”

 

“Wasn’t even going to go there.”

 

“How could you not?”

 

“Good point,” she laughs, leaning her head against his shoulder and closing her eyes, the fatigue of the trip and the day finally starting to hit her. “I didn’t eat dinner, and a hot dog is actually sounding really good right now.”

 

“So many jokes I could make about that sentence.”

 

“I know. That’s why I said it.”

 

“I knew I liked you for a reason.” Killian sighs, and she can feel it in the movement of his chest. “I’ve got to move back to my spot up with the guys and Ariel, but I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

 

“Sounds good to me.”

 

There’s some shuffling around, the click of Killian’s seatbelt, and then warm lips against her temple as he gets up and she tries to calm the quick beat of her heart to fall asleep for the rest of the plane ride home.

 


 

 It’s far past midnight when she gets back to her apartment, the wind howling and the rain coming down outside, and she very quietly tries to get inside so as not to wake up Graham and Ruby only to find Ruby sitting on the floor of their kitchen painting her toenails. What else would someone be doing on Sunday night…or really, Monday morning?

 

“Rubes? Why are you up?”

 

“I was waiting for you.”

“I’m a big girl. I can get home on my own.”

 

“I know, I know,” she sighs, twisting the cap on her red polish and standing up from the floor so that she can wrap her arms around Emma and completely and totally smothering her with her hug. “I have missed you. Do you know what it’s like to only live with a man?”

 

“Do you mean your boyfriend?”

 

“Yes,” Ruby groans, squeezing her more. “I love him so much and will probably marry him one day, but he does not enjoy my trashy TV shows or how much my period sucks.”

 

“You know for a fact that Graham loves your trashy TV shows. He always knows the latest gossip.”

 

“This is true. I’ve mostly just been bored at work.”

 

“There it is,” Emma laughs, pulling back from the hug and taking a step back so that she can breathe. “You want to catch me up on everything tonight or wait until we’re on the clock tomorrow?”

 

“Oh, on the clock. Who are you even kidding? Why talk for free when we can get paid for it?”

 

“My entire life philosophy.”

 

“So,” Ruby nudges, bending down to pick up her nail polish bottle, “anything interesting happen in Florida?”

 

Heat immediately rises to Emma’s cheeks, the red only hidden by the dim lighting in their kitchen (how was Ruby painting her nails in this?), and she has to get better at this whole blushing thing when Ruby doesn’t mean anything by her question. This is simply what they do when they’ve been apart. Texts can’t cover everything, not the way that an in-person conversation can.

 

“Nope. Not a thing.”

 

Everything, actually.

Chapter Text

Emma: Can you do me a favor?

 

Killian: I feel like I need to know the favor before I say yes to that.

 

Emma: You’re no fun.

 

Killian: I have been reliably informed by my nieces that I am fun.

 

Emma: It’s great that you mention your nieces, because the favor is for my nephew.

 

Killian: Well, you should have said that first.

 

Emma: You’re the worst.

 

Killian: What do you need, Swan?

 

Emma: Like a month ago, I told Leo that I could get you to sign a hat for him, and I was just reminded that I haven’t done that yet.

 

Killian: Ah, so now I know why you’re really dating me.

 

Emma: Exactly.

 

Killian: I can most definitely get your nephew a signed hat. I’ll give it to you tonight?

 

Emma: Perfect. I can’t thank you enough.

 

Killian: You could come over on our off day tomorrow?

 

Emma: I like that idea. We’ve pretty much only texted for two weeks.

 

Killian: Or talked with a camera in our faces.

 

Emma: Exactly. See you tonight. I hope you have fun sitting in the dugout the entire time.

 

Killian: I’ve had a pretty woman sitting next to me the last few games, so it’s enjoyable.

 

Emma: Julia Roberts????

 

Emma: Okay, I really have to go, but don’t forget about the signed hat. It’s the only way that I’m going to come over tomorrow.

 

Killian chuckles at Emma’s last text before closing out his phone and placing it in the front pocket of his sweatpants as thunder roars to life outside, shaking the glass panes of his window as rain starts to fall from above. It’s a light sprinkling for about thirty seconds before a torrential downpour starts taking place, the sounds of the city drowned out by the late May storm that’s happening outside. He knew there was a chance that it was coming, has checked the weather obsessively as he tends to do whenever there’s the possibility of rain, and all he can do is hope that it’s a quick summer storm that dissipates long before tonight’s game so that the field can dry enough for them to play.

 

If this thunder and lightning continues, however, he doesn’t think that anyone will be stepping onto the field tonight.

 

Humming to himself, he steps away from his window and walks the few steps to the kitchen, opening the refrigerator to find the ingredients he wants for an omelet and setting them out on the countertops. It takes him but a few moments to piddle around and start cooking himself a late breakfast, his coffee maker brewing behind him as the smell of coffee fills his nose, and soon enough, he’s raking his fork through his omelet so that metal scratches against glass as the rain continues to pour down outside, the sky only lightened by the occasional flash of light. It’s been a good while since it stormed like this, and oddly, he finds it relaxing.

 

Likely, it helps that he’s in the safety of his apartment and not currently wandering the streets of Manhattan trying to find somewhere to wait this thing out like so many others are.

 

When he’s finished eating his food, he settles back down on the couch and continues to watch the tennis match that’s playing, idly following along with the tournament as he scrolls through his phone and Instagram. He doesn’t follow that many people, mostly only his family and work-related things, so he sees a picture of Will and Belle smiling at the camera from the date that he knows they went on the other night, another photo of Elsa and the girls on Addy’s last day of kindergarten (how is his niece old enough to be finished with kindergarten?), and then one of Emma sitting with Ruby, the brightest smiles on their faces. They went out last night to celebrate Ruby’s boyfriend getting a raise, and while he hasn’t asked how the night went, it looks like it was a nice time.

 

And Emma is up early this morning, so she must not be too hungover. He’s both interested and terrified to know what his girlfriend would be like hungover.

 

His girlfriend.

 

They didn’t explicitly say the words, but they aren’t dating anyone else, aren’t planning on dating anyone else, so that’s what Emma is to him, right? It sounds childish and juvenile in a way, but it’s also…exhilarating. He never planned on feeling this way about a woman again, never planned on wanting to receive texts and have late-night phone conversations or hushed rendezvous in this little secluded corner outside of the clubhouse.  

 

He’s really starting to like that secluded corner.

 

He’s most definitely starting to fall in love with Emma. He’s not…he’s not quite there yet, but he knows that it’s coming.

 

Terrifying. Exhilarating. Wonderful. Every feeling all at once.

 

His phone buzzes in his hand, Ariel’s contact popping up at the top of the screen.

 

Ariel: Game is cancelled for tonight. You have three days off now, but don’t just sit on your ass. Do some exercises.Get Will or Robin to practice some pitches with you. Work out that arm.I’m sure Al will text you in a minute.

 

Killian: I was thinking about living a sedentary life, actually. I’d like to really screw the team over again whenwe’re currently leading the AL East and have another home series against the Sox coming up.

 

Ariel: Don’t be an ass.

 

Killian: I promise that I will exercise. I already did my run this morning.

 

Ariel: Good boy.

 

Killian: I am not your dog.

 

Ariel: That’s debatable. You and Max are similar. I’ll talk to you later. I think Eric and I are finally going to repaint the living room.

 

He’s just about to close his phone when another message pops up, this time one he’s definitely not going to ignore.

 

Elsa: I heard the game is cancelled tonight, and that means you’re coming over for dinner. No questions asked. We changed Sunday night dinner since you’re pitching against the Sox that night and we can’t miss that. Liam insisted.

 

Elsa: And Anna is cooking tonight.

 

Elsa Jones knows all, and he loves her for it.

 


 

“Look at the paper that Mrs. Johnson gave me,” Addy tells him as she stacks a certificate on top of the toys already sitting in his lap, several things from Lucy but mostly arts and crafts that Addy has decided she must show off by drowning him with them. It’s this or drown in the rain that’s still going on outside. “It’s because I’m smart.”

 

“I can see that. I think you get that from me.”

 

“I get it from Mommy.”

 

“Well, that too,” he chuckles, flexing his toes in his sneakers so that his feet don’t fall asleep, the slight tingling sensation already appearing.

 

“Killian,” Lucy whispers, coming up to him with a stuffed giraffe that’s bigger than she is and placing it next to him, “I have a giraffe.”

 

“I don’t think that’s smelly enough to be a giraffe, little love.”

 

“I gave her a bath.”

 

“Ah,” he sighs, Lucy very obviously not getting his joke. He’s still trying to figure her out, her seriousness extremely unlike Addy’s loud and boisterous personality, but he gets that. She’s likely overpowered by her older sister, and he can understand that. So, the younger siblings very obviously have to stick together. It’s in all of the unwritten rules. “Did you use soap?”

 

“Yep.”



“What about water?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“Hmm, okay.” He taps his chin as he thinks before reaching forward and bopping her nose so that it scrunches up on her face. “What about peanut butter?”

 

“No,” she giggles, her smile lighting up her face as she pets the giraffe before pressing it forward so that it’s giving him kisses. At least, that’s what she’s told him before, so he assumes that’s what is happening now. “Peanut butter is too sticky.”

 

“And it’s for eating,” Addison says before she’s placing yet another drawing on top of his lap. Where does the kid get the supplies for this? There’s no way it’s all coming from her school.

 

“Speaking of that, what do the two of you say about us leaving your playroom and going down to the kitchen to see when I can get some food in my belly. I’m a growing boy. I need my food.”

 

“You’re not growing anymore because you’re an adult.”

 

He winks at Addy, amusement running over every inch of him. “That’s what you think, sweetheart.”

 

Carefully, he starts undoing the pile that’s been covering him, making sure not to rip any of the papers or stack the stuffed animals in the wrong way, before he stands from the ground, his knees popping the slightest bit. That was an awkward position for him to sit in for a long time, hence the feet that fell asleep, and he definitely doesn’t need to be hurting himself in unconventional ways when he’s already prone to injury. His arm has felt fine since Florida, all of his games pitched until the fourth or fifth inning, and he’s convinced himself that it was simply a one-time thing. It’s not going to get that bad again.

 

He won’t let it.

 

He can’t. He won’t miss any other physical therapy sessions with Archie, and he’s not going to overdo it.

 

“Alright,” he laughs, leaning down and scooping each girl up over his shoulders to the sound of their giggles, “let’s go find out what your Aunt Anna is cooking for dinner.”

 

They’re still so small right now, but with Addy turning six at the end of June, he’s not sure how long he’s going to be able to hold both of them at once as he walks down the stairs of the townhome from their playroom to the kitchen where he can already hear everyone who wasn’t pawned off onto the kids talking.

 

“Killian,” Elsa scolds the moment she sees him, “put them down. Your shoulder.”

 

“It’s fine, Els,” he huffs even as he puts them on the ground, a slight bit of relief running through his body. “I can pick my nieces up.”

 

“But – ”

 

“I am fine,” he promises, stepping into the room to brush his lips over Elsa’s temple. “It smells good in here. What are we eating?”

 

“Stuffed shells,” Anna answers as she chops up a cucumber, hopefully for a salad and not the stuffed shells. “I had some leftover marinara sauce and wanted to use it.”

 

“Bless you,” he sighs, resting his elbows against the countertop. “Are your parents coming tonight?”

 

“They are stubborn and refuse to come to Sunday dinners when it’s not on a Sunday,” Anna tells him as she presses up on her toes to check in the oven. “They do not understand baseball in the way that we understand it.”

 

“To be fair, it’s not like someone they’re related to is a player,” Kris says.

 

“Hey, I am a not-so-distant relative by marriage, thank you very much.”

 

“I’m their son-in-law,” Kris adds, a slight roll of his eyes as he eats a roll, “and sometimes they don’t even acknowledge me.”

 

“Well, that’s just because they don’t think your job is a real job, sweetie.”

 

“Someone has to decorate the city for Christmas! It’s real! Killian plays a sport for a living!”

 

“Hey, hey, hey,” Killian playfully scoffs, cutting his toward Kris, “we don’t have to shit on my job to build yours up.”

 

“Language,” Liam warns before he takes a sip of his beer. All of them look over to the girls only to find that neither are paying any attention to them. Good. he doesn’t want to be the reason they start cursing. That is not something he’s going to have blamed on him. “And we all love the Karlssons, but they are definitely a little more old-fashioned on things. I’m a doctor, though, so I don’t have to worry about any of their judgment.”

 

Elsa chuckles before she slaps Liam’s shoulder, her eyes practically rolling to the back of her head. “Don’t be a jerk when you are far too invested in your brother’s career and have Kris come and decorate the house every year. A job is a job, and they have two really cool ones.”

 

“I was kidding, darling.” He leans in and presses his lips against Elsa’s, lingering a little too long, but that’s how they are sometimes. It’s sweet and awful all at once, and it makes him wish that he could bring Emma along to things like this instead of being the fifth wheel, seventh if Addy and Lucy can be considered a pair. “Killian, how are you handling having so many unexpected days off? I’m surprised you can even sit still when you’re so used to having something to do.”

 

Killian shrugs his shoulders, his nails tapping against the countertop as he feels four pairs of eyes staring at him and waiting for him to answer. “I mean, I wasn’t playing any of these days anyways, so I did my workouts at home today instead of going into work. Tomorrow will be the same, and then we’ll have games again.”

 

“Oh. You have tomorrow off?” Elsa asks, her eyes lighting up.

 

“Uh, yeah, I should. I’ve just got to do some weight training exercises and do my shoulder exercises. Why?”

 

“Do you want to watch the girls?”

 

Oh.

 

Shit.

 

Shit. Shit. Shit.

 

Reaching up to scratch behind his ears, he tries to think of an excuse, any excuse, but is coming up all kinds of short. Dammit.

 

(He’s probably going to be the reason Addy and Lucy start cursing.)

 

“I’m a little busy, love.”

 

“It’s your off day. What could you possibly be doing?”

 

“Doctor’s appointment and then a few errands,” he lies, enough guilt festering in his stomach that he may as well go ahead and schedule an appointment for his stomach. Then he won’t have really lied, right? “By the time I get everything done, you’ll practically be off work. I can spend another day with them, though. I’ll take them out to eat or to the park or even the zoo.”

 

“What kind of doctor’s appointment? Everything okay?”

 

“Just a normal check-up.” He clicks his tongue, his toes bouncing him up and down on the floor. “So, everyone’s coming on Sunday, right? Let me know where you want to sit, and I’ll get Ariel to arrange everything.”

 

It’s the most obvious change in conversation that he can think of, but it’s also literally all he can think of. He’s an asshole for telling Elsa he can’t spend time with the girls, but he was kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place there. It’s either disappoint his nieces or disappoint Emma, and while he’d like to disappoint no one, that’s not really an option. He had plans with Emma first, and that’s what he’s going to stick to. Maybe one day they’ll be in a situation where he can take the girls with him, and all four of them can do something without him having to lie to his family.

 

Today is not that day.

 

They’ll figure it all out.

 

There’s another loud crash of thunder outside, and his head turns to the side to look at the darkness outside. He’s not sure if this rain is every going to stop, and he’s really kind of dreading going home in this weather.

 

“Do you remember when we were younger, and you used to try to get struck by lightning?”

 

“Because I’m an idiot,” Killian chuckles to Liam, leaning back from the countertop and pulling a barstool out to sit on. “I thought I’d be Thor or something if I got struck by lightning.”

 

“That’s pretty cute, actually,” Anna gushes. “Elsa used to think that she could control the snow because she’d ask for it to snow and it usually would.”

 

“Anna,” Elsa laughs as she buries her face in her hands, “why are you always sharing such weird things about me?”

 

“Because Liam was sharing weird things about Killian, and I thought it would be funny.”

 

“Growing up, you guys spent December in Norway,” Liam points out while he rubs his wife’s back. “It snowed all the time. Of course you thought you could control the snow. That’s cute, sweetheart. You and Killian think you can control the weather.”

 

“Els, are you feeling attacked right now?” he asks.

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“I think we should get more food than everyone else for this torture.”

 

Elsa peeks through her fingers with a smile. “I like the way you think.”

 


 

 “A signed hat, just as you requested, milady.” Killian holds the hat he signed for Leo out to Emma as he mockingly bows down in front of her while motioning her into his apartment.

 

“You’re so dramatic,” she laughs even as she takes the hat, placing it between her fingers before she’s wrapping her arms around his neck and slowly sliding her lips over his, her teeth already nibbling as his hands find her hips, tugging them closer to his. Bloody hell has he missed being able to do this and feeling the warmth of Emma even if she is chilled by the rain. “Thank you for that hat.”

 

“No problem,” he murmurs against her mouth before he closes the door with his foot and backs Emma up against it so that their bodies can press further together, her mouth opening for him as their tongues curl together in a slow, warm heat that’s simmering over every inch of him. Emma’s fingers are nimble against the back of his neck, and when she cants her hips up, brushing where he’s already half-hard against her, he groans into her mouth, weeks and months of wanting starting to boil within him. It’s hungry and rough, and he has to stop himself from stripping them out of their clothes right then and there by pecking her mouth two times before resting his forehead against hers and inhaling a sharp breath. “Hi, Swan.”

 

“Hi,” she sighs as her hand falls from his hair to rest on his chest, right over his wildly beating heart. She can likely feel it. “We probably should have said that first."

 

“Eh, I liked our greeting better.”

 

She blinks up at him, her face bare of makeup so that her lashes are blonde, and her freckles are showing, before she smiles a smile so bright that he figures that happiness can be tasted on her tongue.

 

“It was a good greeting. I approve.”

 

“Me – ” he presses the inch forward to kiss the smile, “ – too. Have you eaten?”

 

“It’s seven in the morning. No, I haven’t eaten.”

 

“That’s what I figured. You want to order in, or do you want me to make you something?”

 

Emma hums, her bottom lips pulled between her teeth as she thinks. “You can cook. I’m here to use you for your autograph skills, your cooking, and your cable.”

 

“What about me?”

 

“You’re on the list somewhere.” Emma giggles when he runs his fingers against the skin above her shorts, and he catalogs that spot away in the back of his mind because he can most definitely use that in the future. “I’m going to get to the TV part first, though, because Roland Garros is on, and there are some matches I want to watch.”

 

“It’s already on.”

 

“I like the way that you roll, twenty-nine.”

 

She pushes off of him and walks the few feet into his living room, flopping down on the couch and immediately resting her feet up on his coffee table. It’s a comfortable move, and he likes that Emma feels comfortable in his home. He’ll never quite get over that. All of their private moments are here or in one of their hotel rooms when they’re on the road, and as much as he sometimes loves those rooms, nothing compares to this.

 

He ate too much yesterday, Anna’s stuffed shells and rolls still residing in his stomach, so he only bothers to make enough batter to make Emma a waffle since she never said what she wanted, even when he just prodded her for more information. He knows that she likes them considering she’s always eating them in the hotel dining rooms, and since the other option that came to him was a grilled cheese sandwich at seven in the morning, he figures a waffle will have to do. He very much doubts Emma is going to complain when he’s found that the way to her heart is most definitely food.

 

Junk food specifically.

 

When the waffle maker beeps several minutes later, he opens it up and plates Emma’s food, grabbing some fruit out of the fridge and topping it. He most definitely sneaks away a few of her blackberries, but, really, he deserves that. He cooked after all.

 

(And this is his apartment.)

 

“Thank you,” Emma says when he places it in her lap before sitting down next to her on the couch, their shoulders hitting together before he wraps his arm over the back of the couch, his fingers tapping against her shoulder. She leans to the side and presses a kiss to his cheek. “You’re sweet.”

 

“Oh, I most definitely know.”

 

Her eyes roll. “You didn’t want to eat?”

 

He groans at the thought. He’s already gotten up and done some of his stretches, drinking a protein shake, and he probably won’t eat anything else serious until tonight. “I ate too much yesterday, and I’ve had this really bad influence on me lately for how I’m eating so I’m trying to be better.”

 

“Sorry not sorry,” she mumbles, her cheeks puffed out with waffles inside. Did she just stuff the entire thing in there? There’s a thwack of a tennis ball against a racket on his television screen, and he turns his attention from Emma chewing to watch Rafael Nadal slide against red clay, making it all look effortless even when Killian knows that nothing about being an athlete is effortless, not even natural talent. “Damn,” Emma sighs, “that is one good ass.”

 

If he was eating, he’d choke on his food.

 

“W-what?” he sputters out, looking between the TV and Emma.

 

She pokes her fork at the screen, waving it in the air. “Rafa’s ass. That’s, like, a dream ass. Just look at it.”

 

His mouth is gaping open as he looks between Emma putting her plate of food on the coffee table and the television screen, his eyes taking in another man’s ass like this is the most normal conversation for him to be having before eight in the morning. But then again, when is anything about his relationship with Emma normal?

 

“I mean, it’s okay,” he lies, sinking down a little further in the couch as a ball launches into the air. “I’ve been told time and time again that my ass is pretty good too.”

 

Why in the world did he say that? What is wrong with him?

 

“I mean, you have a good ass that I very much appreciate, but no one has an ass like…that. It’s insane.”

 

“Should I feel insecure about the fact that you’re admiring another man’s ass?”

 

“No,” she promises, not even bothering to look at him as she pats his thigh, her hand likely a little higher than she intended as he grits his teeth at the touch, “but you should admire this man’s body. And his tan. People would pay a lot of money for a tan like that.” She twists her head to the side to look at him, quirking her brow. “What?”

 

“Nothing, nothing,” he laughs as he reaches down to her hand and threads their fingers together, bringing her knuckles up to his lips to brush a kiss there, “I’m simply coming to the realization that my girlfriend as a thing for other athletes.”

 

“Step up your game, Jones.”

 

“I’ll try, I’ll try. I didn’t know I had any competition, so I was unprepared.”

 

“That is shame. I look forward to seeing how you make up for it.”

 

“I’ll start thinking.”

 

They lapse into easy conversation like they always do when they’re together, and despite all of their early complications and some of the complications that they still have, that’s what this relationship is…easy. He’s got no clue why Emma agreed to his crazy plan, but she did. That’s all that matters. As the rain continues to pour down outside for the second day in a row, he tells her about his day yesterday and how ridiculous his family is in their group meals and constant conversation. He loves them, but he imagines that to anyone else, it would be overwhelming to come into that environment. Emma shares that she spent her morning with David yesterday, hence the reminder of the autographed hat, and tells him that Ruth is planning on coming into town sometime in June. He can’t tell if she’s happy or nervous about that, but he imagines it’s somewhere in between for how Emma feels about her foster mother and the distance there.

 

Families and almost-families and non-families are all so damn complicated, and as fucked up as his past family life is, it makes him thankful for what he has now. They’ve gotten him through some of his darkest times, and very few people make him smile in the way that they do.

 

Emma.

 

Emma makes him smile like that.

 

As the morning passes, tennis ending and Netflix being switched on instead, Emma relaxes further into him, and he finds that under the dull roll of rain, nothing and no one else exists outside of the two of them. His fingers trace the skin of her upper thigh, an absentminded motion that becomes more focused when he sees small little bumps rising over her pale skin. He never thought he could enjoy the sight of pale skin so much until he saw the way Emma’s thighs look in these shorts.

 

She is exquisite.

 

“Killian,” she gasps when his nails move to her inner thigh, and when he looks over to her with a smirk, he can see the blush rising on her cheeks as her lips part and her eyes blacken with desire.

 

He’s wanted this for far too long, even with the short time that they’ve been together, and it’s what has him leaning into her and cupping her cheek with his palm, his thumb pressing into her bottom lip to open her up into him so that he can lick into her mouth with absolutely no hesitation, another warm, toe-curling slide that has Emma sighing into him as her hands grapple to grab onto his shirt.

 

It’s a quick escalation, something he can’t quite keep track of with the way that she feels under him, moving against him, and the only coherent thought that he has is the fact that this couch must be damn lucky for everything that’s happened on it.

 

Which is a ridiculous thought.

 

Desire continues to run through him, vibrations moving down each of his vertebrae and to the base of his spine, and the little sounds that Emma is making are nearly driving him into madness at the thought of sliding into her, feeling the slick heat and tight walls and…

 

“Ah fuck,” he murmurs into Emma’s neck, physically and mentally cursing himself.

 

“What?” she gasps, still rolling her hips up as her nails scratch across his biceps.

 

“I don’t have any condoms.”

 

“Oh? I – ”

 

“I can go buy some from the Duane Reade right across the street. It won’t be any problem, love.” He pulls back from Emma with a hiss, his pants incredibly tight despite the elastic band, only for her to yank him back down, their bodies melding together. “W-what?”

 

“Later,” she speaks against his lips, and it’s only now that he sees the utter darkness in her eyes, hears the deep desire in her voice. “We’ll get condoms later. We can do other things until then.”

 

Well those words go straight to his groin.

 

He arches a brow as he rolls his hips into Emma’s, his hardness meeting her softness through clothes, and she lets out a moan that he wants to memorize for all of eternity. “Yeah? Like what?”

 

Emma rolls her eyes, but there’s still the slightest bit of a smile on her face. “You’re a baseball player. Don’t you know about all of the bases? I feel like we’ve talked about this before.”

 

Killian has to press his mouth into the skin of her collarbone, his laugh muffled and the vibrations of it working their way through Emma as his fingers trace the hem of her shorts, dipping just below the elastic waist so that he can feel the edges of her underwear.

 

Fucking hell.

 

“I hate you for making that joke,” he sighs against her. His left hand keeps getting lower as his right moves higher and higher until his fingertips are ghosting over the soft swell of her breast. “You are ridiculous.”

 

“But you like it.”

 

“And I imagine,” he whispers as he bites down onto her collarbone and readjusts himself so that his knee is between her thighs and that his fingers are brushing against her clit, “that you like this.”

 

Emma lets out a sharp gasp, and he looks up to see her practically panting at his touch and at the slow circles that he’s working to build her up all the while he palms her breast, her nipple pressed between his thumb and forefinger. It may have been some time, but he knows that it’s not a lot of pressure, just a simple up and down motion between her bundle of nerves and her opening, but from the sounds Emma is making and the way her body is moving, he knows that he’s got a pretty good rhythm going on.

 

“So, you like that?” he murmurs into her neck as his fingers slip inside of her, curling the slightest bit.

 

“Oh, fuck yes.”

 

“That’s a good girl then.”

 

It’s almost overwhelming for him to see Emma like this, to see her lose her composure, her careful words and guarded heart, and he rather likes the way that he’s making her fall apart and under his touch, several curses and mutterings escaping her kiss-swollen lips as he tests out what she likes and what she doesn’t, letting her instruct him when she needs to.

 

Emma Swan sprawled out on his couch coming apart under his touch is something he always knew would be so damn wonderful but that he never thought would happen. It seemed to be too much of a dream.

 

With two more thrusts of his fingers and one circle around her clit, she goes quiet, her eyelids pressing together and her lips parting, and he presses up to cover her mouth with his, capturing the gentle moan himself as he works her through her orgasm, maybe even riling her up some more as his hips rolls against her thigh, desperately seeking some kind of friction.

 

This is like some kind of pleasant torture for him, and he wants both to stay like this forever but also needs more.

 

“I knew you knew the bases,” is the first thing she mutters afterwards, and he drops his forehead against hers, his nose pressing into her cheek so that he can breathe her on while he tries to regulate his breathing and his pounding heart.

 

“No more jokes about my job, love. They’re cheesy as hell, and if we’re not careful, I’m going to have an erection while on the mound.”

 

“Oh my God…there’s about five opportunities for a dirty joke right there.”

 

“I know, I know,” he chuckles, softly kissing her as he starts to focus on their surroundings and the reality of the step forward in their relationship that they just took hitting him. “You okay, Emma?”

 

“Yeah,” she promises, nodding her head and cupping his cheeks as she smiles that beautiful smile, this time a little more sated than usual. “I’m more than okay.”

 

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out so that he can turn it off only to see a text from Al pop up.

 

Al Dalton: I’m calling a mandatory practice in an hour. Be there.

 

“What?” Emma questions when he groans. Instead of answering, he simply hands his phone to her, letting her read the message. “Oh, that really sucks.”

 

“You’re telling me. I was having a much better time here.”

 

Emma adjusts herself under him so that he’s no longer covering her body, and he sits down against the couch, adjusting his joggers and thinking of every boner killer that he can possibly think of. He probably just needs a cold, bracing shower.

 

“Go to practice,” Emma sighs, a slight smile on her face, as she makes an attempt at fixing her hair. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? You’ve got to kick some Boston ass. And then maybe when that’s all over, we can continue what we started.”

 

“You have no idea how much I’d like that.”

 

She nods to his crotch with a smirk. “I think I do.”

Chapter Text

Killian Jones keeps hazelnut coffee creamer in the refrigerator of his apartment for her.

 

She made one comment about it, about how that’s how she likes her coffee, and the next time that she showed up to his apartment, it was there, waiting for her. He didn’t tell her, didn’t make a big deal about it or point it out to her. It was simply there waiting to be used sitting in the fridge in a spot that she knows he carefully cleaned out just for her.

 

It’s the smallest thing, nothing really, but it’s so damn considerate that it made her heart swell.

 

He does that to her.

 

She’s not used to people doing small things like that for her, but Killian is always doing little things like that.

 

And it’s not what she should be thinking as she watches him throw out his forty-second pitch of the game against Blue Jays, but it is.

 

Honestly, though, she’s either going to think about the fact that he really listens to her when she talks, or she’s going to think about the clench of his heavily stubbled jaw, the way that his hair falls messily over his forehead, the way his sea-blue eyes turn dark as night, and the muscles in his biceps as his fingers moved swiftly against her center as he made her come undone on top of the leather of his couch with Black Sails playing in the background.

 

Killian’s voice had gotten gravely as he spoke to her, dirty whispers and encouragements, and every bit of her body felt electrified. She was so ready, so damn desperate to have the rough pads of his fingers moving against her, to have his delicate touch teasing her breasts, and to have his lips attached to her neck as he thrust into her in easy motions that her mind has been conjuring up for a few weeks now.

 

She wants to fuck her boyfriend and feel the heat of him covering every inch of her.

 

And they can’t seem to find the time.

 

Granted, it’s only been six days since they pretty much dry humped – and a little bit more – on his couch, but it’s felt like so much longer. Killian got called away to practice, and that seems to be all that he’s done since. They had the series against the Sox, which Al seemed to really be stressing about more than usual, and despite the fact that they won the series and are currently number one in the league, the entire team seems to be on edge.

 

And, honestly, she can tell that it’s having a negative impact on the team considering how badly they are losing this game right now.

 

“I’m pretty sure Jones has a hickey on his collarbone,” Ruby speaks into her earpiece, and Emma is so damn glad that she’s not on camera right now for the way that she knows blush is painting her cheeks.

 

Jeff rolls his eyes from where he’s sitting next to her, the camera turned off and resting by his feet, but he’s very obviously still got his own earpiece in.

 

“I don’t think so, Rubes.”

 

“No, no, I think it is. It might be an old one. Do you think he has a new girlfriend? Or maybe just an overly enthusiastic one-night-stand?”

 

New girlfriend, yes.

 

But Ruby doesn’t know that. And she can’t. Not quite yet. And not over a system where several people can listen to their conversation, Walsh included. David decided that he’d fly several people to Toronto for this series as some kind of practice run and learning experience for what games are like on the road, and she absolutely cannot wait until they get to go home so that she’s not around all of these people this often.

 

Ruby, Jeff, and David – absolutely fine. Walsh – not fine at all.

 

He’s still got such a stick up his ass, and she prefers not to see his face. He’s the one who broke her heart, who betrayed their relationship, but sometimes he acts like she’s the one who ended them and cheated on him.

 

Definitely not.

 

Asshole.

 

“That’s really not our business,” she sighs, sinking a little further into her seat as her eyes scan over the field. It’s surprisingly cool outside today, and she’s really regretting wearing a dress instead of her jeans when her favorite pair is sitting inside of her hotel room.

 

“It’s kind of our business.”

 

“You’re just nosy,” Emma laughs, wishing she could change the subject. “Technically, our job is to only cover how these guys play, but it does help to know about their personal lives. If Killian has a new girlfriend, I’m sure it’ll be discovered soon enough. He’s never exactly been private in the past.”

 

Okay, harsh, Emma, she thinks to herself. She knows that she’s trying to cover a lie, but damn.

 

“Maybe he’s changed his ways.”

 

“Yeah, maybe.”

 

“Is this what you guys always talk about when you’re supposed to be working?” David asks, his voice coming in loud and clear over her earpiece.

 

“Yes,” Jeff mutters next to her, and she reaches over to slap his shoulder as Killian throws another ball. “They are the height of professionalism.”

 

“Jeff, if you’re finally going to speak, maybe don’t rat us out.”

 

“Maybe I don’t speak because you two never give me a chance.”

 

“Damn,” Emma mutters, winking at Jeff, “who knew you were going to be like that? And David, these games are very long, and I work for so little of them. Of course we talk. I hate my road trips where I’m by myself sometimes. That’s usually when I go bug the players in the dugout.”

 

“That makes it sound like I need to see if I can find more things for you to do. Maybe we can get you to commentate on a game.”

 

“Hell yes,” she says a little too loudly, the people around her looking at her like she just committed murder or something. “Can you really do that?”

 

“I can talk to a few people. I can’t guarantee anything, but maybe we can test you out on a few smaller games later in the season.”

 

“You’re the actual best.”

 

“Well, I figured I was already the best since we’re family, and you love me.”

 

“That’s beside the point.”

 

“It’s most definitely not,” David sighs, and she just knows that he has a smile plastered onto his face. “Speaking of family, Mom is coming into town on the twenty-first. I know that’s a busy week for you and that we’re sending you to London right after that, but I think we’re going to do a big dinner at the house.”

 

“I can make time. I didn’t know she was coming into town.”

 

“It was a last-minute thing since we couldn’t decide on the date that worked for all of us. I’m sure she’ll call you about it soon, but I know that she expressed concerns that she would be charged an arm and a leg for calling you right now since we’re technically out of the country.”

 

“She most definitely won’t,” Emma laughs all the while Arthur catches a ball in the outfield and the fourth inning ends, all of the players running back to their dugouts. “But yeah, that’s fine. Just let me know, and I’ll be there. I’m sure she’s still upset that I haven’t come to visit as often as you have, which doesn’t even make any sense considering you’re her child and I am not.”

 

David clicks his tongue, and she grumbles to herself knowing where she messed up in that conversation. “She’s not your mom like she is mine, Emma, but you’re our family. You know that.”

 

She does. She really does. Just…childhood hang-ups that are likely never going to go away. Maybe one day. She loves Ruth, loves David, and it’s only when she thinks about it too much that she doesn’t refer to David as a brother. Fully accepting love has been hard for her for a lot of her life, but she’s working on it.

 

“I know. Sorry.”

 

“You know,” Ruby sighs, “for someone who got onto us for talking while working, you sure seem to be doing a lot of that.”

 

“I’m the boss,” David huffs.

 

“You just keep thinking that, buddy boy.”

 


 

 The Yankees lose that day, but they’re 38-22 for the season so far, and things seem to be looking up if they keep progressing the way they are.

 

But Emma knows that it’s a long season, and they’ve barely begun.

 


 

 Killian: Do you have dinner plans tonight?

 

Emma: I’m literally eating with David and Ruby right now. Why?

Killian: I figured we could sneak out and find a restaurant together. I could take you on a proper date.

 

Emma: Is this proper date your version of being a gentleman?

 

Killian: Now, darling, you know I am one.

 

Killian: Eat with David and Ruby. I’ll figure out a way for us to go on a date that doesn’t involve my apartment at some point, yeah?

 

Emma: That sounds really nice. Though I do love your apartment. Especially that couch.

 


 

 One of their producers ended up not coming on the trip with them, so Emma managed to snag her own hotel room instead of sharing one with Ruby. It’s not that she would have minded sharing when that’s one of her absolute favorite things, but she likes that she can sit on her bed and watch what she wants to watch on television without anyone bothering her about it.

 

Sometimes a girl needs her peace and quiet, and when she’s spent all day around massive groups of people, that’s kind of what she needs right now.

 

And something to drink.

 

She’s really damn thirsty, and bathroom sink water isn’t really cutting it for her right now.

 

Sighing, she gets up from the bed and grabs her wallet and her hotel room key, slipping her feet into sandals as she leaves the room and goes in search of a vending machine. They’re usually so readily available, but for some reason, nicer hotels don’t have them. Like rich people don’t want a bag of chips in the middle of the night.

 

What’s the point of being rich if you can’t eat junk food whenever you want it?

 

Emma checks the entirety of her floor, as well as the five floors below her, before resigning herself to only checking the main floor of the hotel to find herself something to drink. If all else fails, she’ll just ask someone at the front desk or walk down the street to whatever convenience store she can find even if that’s not that safe. She’d rather be mugged than pay the price of the drinks in her mini fridge.

 

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

 

As she’s walking down the back hallways away from the lobby and the breakfast area, she passes the pool, not thinking anything of it until she sees a splash from her view in the tiny glass window pane over the door that looks into the indoor room.

 

Killian.

 

That’s Killian swimming laps in there.

 

For a moment, she debates whether or not she should go inside, whether that’s invading his privacy, but then she’s pushing the door open and closing it behind her, purposefully moving away from the door so that no one from outside can see her. This is very much them interacting while out in the open even if she doubts several people are going to be walking by the pool past ten at night.

 

And if they do, she and Killian are simply two people who decided to go for a late-night swim.

 

She just happens to swim in shorts and a camisole, and her body is completely dry because she hasn’t stepped foot inside of the water.

 

It’ll make a lot of sense to whoever walks in on them.

 

(She hopes that doesn’t happen.)

 

“Yo, Phelps,” she yells when Killian comes up for air at the side of the pool that she’s standing on.”

 

He blinks up at her, his mouth gaping like a fish, which seems appropriate, before he’s shaking his head and his hair out, the water droplets falling all over the concrete floor, and propping himself up on the edge of the water.

 

Heat pools between her thighs at the sight of water falling over Killian’s tanned skin, the dark hair on his chest curling in different ways than usual, and his muscles more defined even under the awful florescent lighting in this room. The want that she’s been feeling for weeks now keeps piling up, the untamable desire to be connected to Killian in more ways than just emotionally ramping up, and she already knows that when they have sex, it’s going to be different than it has been before.

 

That freaking terrifies her.

 

But she’s also more than ready.

 

It’s been a whirlwind six weeks, and she’s still trying to catch her breath.

 

Judging by the way Killian’s chest is heaving, she imagines he is too. More literally than figuratively.

 

“Swan,” he says on a sigh, reaching up to push his hair back off of his forehead, and that definitely doesn’t do anything to her at all, “what are you doing in here?”

 

“I was on a quest for something other than fifteen-dollar diet coke to drink, and I happened to pass by the pool. What are you doing in here?”

 

“Exercise.”

 

“Didn’t you get enough of that today?”

 

“Eh.” He reaches up to scratch behind his ear, a water droplet tracing the veins in his forearm. She really likes the veins in his forearms. That’s such a particular thing to like, but it’s a good thing to like. “This is relaxing to me, and it’s low impact. Archie recommended it for me for my shoulder.”

 

“Well, that’s good. You want to keep taking care of that shoulder. It’s the money maker. You played well today even if you guys lost.”

 

“Both an insult and a compliment all at once. Amazing.” He crooks his finger toward her, his brows waggling across his forehead while his smile stretches from one side of his lips to the other. “C’mere, love.”

 

“No,” Emma laughs, crossing her arms over her chest, the chill of the room tightening her nipples. “You’re wet, and I am not getting closer to you.”

 

Killian actually pouts, his bottom lip protruding, and she can’t help but chuckle at how ridiculous he is.

 

The most ridiculous.

 

“Oh, come on, Swan. This is a heated pool. It feels glorious.” He leans back into the water, spreading his arms out into the water as he floats on his back. “Why don’t you join me?”

 

“I’m not wearing a bathing suit.”

 

“You got underwear on under those clothes?”

 

“That is none of your business, twenty-nine.”

 

He whines in protest, standing up on his feet so that his chest is exposed to her again. “I’m also fine with no underwear being on underneath those clothes. Come on, Swan. What else do you have to do tonight than spend some time with me in an indoor and empty heated pool?”

 

He’s right. It sounds entirely appealing to join him, so without saying anything, she grabs the bottom of her camisole and pulls it over her shoulders, wishing she was wearing a different bra than the one she has on right now. It’s more lingerie than actual support system for her boobs, and she’s only wearing it because it didn’t show lines under her dress today. But if the heat of Killian’s gaze is any indication, the way that he’s hungrily staring at her, she can say that he probably doesn’t mind.

 

Deciding to toy with him a little bit, she turns around and slowly takes her shorts off, knowing that he likes her ass, before bending completely over to pull her hair up into a bun so that it doesn’t get wet. She can’t believe that she’s about to do this, but like Killian said, what else does she have to do tonight?

 

Slowly, she steps down into the pool, the warm water hitting her ankles, then her knees, then her stomach as she gets a little closer to where Killian is waiting, a far too triumphant smile on his face.

 

“Shut up.”

 

“I haven’t said a thing.” He swims a little closer to her, the ripples of water moving with his touch, before he’s in her space and cupping her cheeks so that their lips come together in a slow kiss that’s all soft lips and small tilts and something she’s never truly experienced before. “You’re simply reading into my actions.”

 

Emma scoffs, rolling her eyes a bit, but wanting more of his kiss and the feel of him pressed up against her, so she uses the momentum of the water to wrap her legs around his waist, her core pressing just at his hip, and hold onto him by holding onto the back of his neck. She can feel every inch of him lined up with every inch of her, and like it so often is with the two of them, nothing else exists outside of the darkened blue of his eyes and the way that his fingers are kneading at her ass, exploring parts of her that he hasn’t really gotten to explore despite how intimate they’ve been before.

 

This is not Killian’s couch.

 

Every move they make causes water to move, a loud echo in the enclosed space, and she tightens her ankles around his back while her fingers toy with the hair that’s getting a little long at the back of his neck.

 

“Do you always wear bras like that, love?”

 

Her gaze flickers down to where Killian’s is, the swell of her breasts as obvious as the tightness of her nipples from how her bra has shifted.

 

“Nope. They’re usually very beige and boring but comfortable since that’s the whole purpose of them. For me at least. So, you’re getting lucky tonight.”

 

“Am I?” he asks, his right brow raising high on his forehead, and she realizes exactly what she just said.

 

Is this the most sexual tension to ever happen inside of a hotel pool? Probably not. But that’s how she feels right now.

 

“Maybe. If you play your cards right.”

 

“Damn. I’ve always been bad at card games.”

 

“Remind me to invite you to poker.”

 

Killian chuckles, a sound that’s dark but also light and joyous, before one of his hands is releasing the firm grip on her ass to come up and brush away loose strands that have fallen in her face, an intimate touch that has a shiver running down her spine.

 

Yeah, that’s why a shiver is running down her spine.

 

“You’ll take away all of my money.”

 

“Little do you know, that’s been my plan the entire time.”

 

“I asked you out first, so I’m not sure it really could have been your plan.”

 

“Yeah, but when I asked you out, we actually did something about it.”

 

“Touché.” Then his head dips and his mouth is running against her jaw, soft pecks that get more insistent when he moves back toward her ear, his teeth nibbling at her lobe, scruff burning into her skin, that makes her sigh into him. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I’m so damn glad you stumbled into the pool tonight.”

 

She tilts her head back, wanting to give him more access to her skin, and he takes full advantage of it, nibbling and teasing and soothing as he works his way down her chest, biting down onto the swell of her breasts. It’s so much and not enough, so she tries to climb his body, to move herself further up, and he boosts her with his hands on her ass so that he can nose at her bra until her nipples are exposed and he’s sucking one into her mouth.

 

Holy fuck.

 

Killian hums around her, the sucking insistent, and she starts to wonder if she said that out loud, but she doesn’t really care when all of her focus is on the intense way that Killian is riling her up with his tongue and his teeth and his – ah.

 

She’s not above getting creative on places to have sex, but a public pool is not high on her list…and that’s definitely where it’s been leading.

 

“K-Killian,” she gaps, practically panting. “Killian, stop.”

 

He releases her with a wet plop, and when his head is leveled with hers, she can see the redness of his cheeks, the pink on his lips, and all of the dirty thoughts that she’s sure are curled at the tip of his tongue.

 

“What? Why?”

 

“We’re in a pool. That’s not exactly private, and with the way things are going, I think I’d rather like some privacy.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“My room?”

 

“Fuck yes.”

 

It has never taken her so long to dry her body enough to put her clothes back on, and after what feels like an hour but is probably a minute, she pulls her top back over her shoulders and yanks her shorts up all the while Killian places his chain around his neck and wraps the towel around his waist without putting a shirt on. He doesn’t have a shirt. Of course not.

 

Anticipations buzzes through her, her feet never able to stay still, so as she silently follows Killian down the hotel hallways and up the elevator, she’s practically bouncing off of the carpets. She can tell that he feels the same way with the tense set of his jaw and the way that his hand squeezes onto hers, and the moment his hotel room door closes behind him, she lets out a sigh of relief that’s captured by Killian’s lips as he pulls her closer by the straps of her camisole and hungrily devours hers, quickly swiping his tongue into hers with no preamble.

 

Then again, they’ve had weeks of it.

 

He’s heavy and insistent against her, and even though she feels a chill from the dampness of her clothes, all she can feel is warmth. His hands move from her shoulders to her waist, tugging her closer so that they’re completely pressed together, and there’s no hesitation in the way that he moves against her.

 

None at all.

 

For years, all she knew of Killian Jones was that he was attractive, known for his dating life, and that he was a damn good pitcher. All she saw was the confidence and cockiness, the way that he swaggered on and off the field and threw people off with a flirtatious answer or a sly smile. She didn’t know him, no matter how well she thought that she did, but that’s not how it is now.

 

She knows that Killian is confident and cocky, that he can flirt successfully almost every time, and that he is sure of his movements with how he’s tangling his tongue with hers and making her melt into him. But she also knows that he’s got a lot of darkness hidden behind the blue of his eyes, that a lot of his confidence is fake and is only there to hide where he’s insecure.

 

The great Killian Jones can be insecure.

 

And unsure.

 

There are so many facets of him that she knows, so many that she hasn’t yet discovered, but she can’t wait to learn.

 

Nothing about him right now is unsure, though. Not the way that he pushes her back toward the bed, his steps precise and the movements of his hands directed to cover every inch of her skin at once. His chain is pressing into her skin, the cold metal a contrast to the warmth of his skin and his chest hair against her, and when his fingers slide up her neck and into her hair so that he can tilt her head to the side to deepen their kiss, she groans into his mouth.

 

This is absolutely everything, and she wants to be kissed like this – passionate, possessive, lovingly – every day for the rest of her life.

 

When her knees hit the end of the mattress, she pulls away from Killian so that she can tug her shirt off, the clothes falling to the floor. Immediately, she reaches for her bra, but then Killian’s grabbing onto her hands and moving them away so that he can undo the clasp, helping her remove the wet lace.

 

“Beautiful,” he mumbles with a slight shake of his head, his eyes focused on her breasts before flicking up to her eyes so that she can see the slight smile. “So beautiful.”

 

Even though she talks for a living, she’s never been great with words, so she doesn’t say anything, simply tugging him closer by the waistband of his swim shorts, and then he’s pushing her back onto the bed, her back hitting the mattress with a small oomph that has her laughing the slightest bit.

 

First times (and so many times after that) are always so heated and yet awkward, elbows in places that they don’t need to be and sounds made that shouldn’t be made, and while she’s usually nervous, she doesn’t feel that way right now.

 

“Something funny there, love?”

 

“Nothing at all.” She beckons him closer with a curl of her finger like he did to her earlier, and he obliges, bracing his palms on either side of her shoulders so that he’s staring down at her, hot breath hitting her already overheated skin. “I just like you is all.”

 

“Funny thing,” he smiles, dipping his hide to bite against her collarbone, “I rather like you too.”

 

She pulls herself up to try to start working at his shorts, but he wraps his fingers around her wrist all the while tugging her shorts down. She has to lift her hips to help him out, kick out at her ankles so that they fall to the floor, and she’s just about to try to work at his shorts again when his fingers are moving against the slick flesh that’s wet and aching and absolutely desperate to feel his touch again.

 

A whine escapes from her lips, one that even she knows sounds needy, and she can feel Killian’s chuckle against her breast as he breathes her in and keeps on driving her mad with the expert touch of his fingers. He’s very obviously a good listener both with coffee creamer preferences and sex preferences because he’s doing just what she asked him to last time.

 

No one should be able to bring her this much pleasure this quickly, should be able to make her feel like she’s already coming apart at the slightest touch.

 

Emma Swan wants Killian Jones, and she’s finally going to have him.

 

Her hips roll up into his, an attempt at chasing pleasure and bringing her more friction even with the way Killian is circling her clit, but when she gets the friction she’s chasing, Killian pulls back with a hiss and a clench of his jaw.

 

Some of the high comes down then, but only for a moment before he’s pulling his shorts down his thighs, exposing thick, muscled thighs covered in hair and his length bobbing against his stomach. She gulps, the thought of him sliding into her overwhelming her and exciting her all at once, but then he’s leaning back over her, nearly aligning their bodies so that he’s pressing against her thigh, smooth and thick and so goddamn hard that her body jolts at the touch.

 

“You’re a siren, do you know that?” He whispers the words as he ruts against her, his lips tracing her clavicle before he’s taking a nipple between his lips and lavishing there. He watches her as he does it, blue eyes under those unfairly long lashes, and she can barely control her breathing. Her heart may very well explode. “Everything about you. Your eyes, your hair, your pretty pink lips.”

 

His right hand trails up the mattress until he’s grabbing onto her hand and threading their fingers together, holding them above her head all the while he shifts his hips so that his cock brushes against her aching flesh, desire continuing to build.

 

She’s going to burst.

 

“The way your ass looks in your jeans,” he continues, moving away from her breasts and up her body until his lips are hovering just over hers his nose squishing into her cheek. “The way you smile and the laugh that follows after it. Or the way that you eat so many horrible things but get so happy while you’re doing it. The way you’re so passionate about your job, about your friends, about everything you do. A damn siren calling me to you.”

 

She gasps, words still failing her, so with her free hand, she reaches up and traces her fingers along the line of his scruff, smiling up at him as she blinks. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re really good with words?”

 

“Once or twice.”

 

“You are. Just, like, the best.”

 

His smile can be tasted in his kiss, and it’s this slow, tender thing, so unrushed like the rest of tonight, and she revels in it even as their hips keep rolling together.

 

“Do you have a condom this time?” she asks on a whisper.

 

“Bought a whole damn box on my way home from practice that day.”

 

She giggles into the comforter and then whines when Killian moves off of her, his bare ass in her view as he gets up and ruffles through his suitcase, pulling out a foil and carefully ripping it open. He moves to put it on, but this time it’s her turn to stop him. His breath hitches, his chest visibly moving, and the curses that he murmurs when her fingers travel over his length and the velvety feel of him are downright dirty. She tries to keep eye contact with him, but she can’t help but watch as between her thighs slicken.

 

“Lay down on your back.”

 

There’s a raise of a brow, but he listens, settling down onto the mattress and spreading his legs as she moves to hover above him, kissing along the muscles of his stomach and his inner thighs all the while her nails follow the path. He’s trembling, just barely though, and she smiles into his skin before balancing above him on her knees while his fingers find purchase on her hips, squeezing into her skin as she slowly moves above him so that he brushes against her flesh.

 

This is everything she imagined, and she did imagine this, but nothing compares to the real thing.

 

“Emma – ” His fingers move, his eyes wide, and she nods her head to his silent question before sinking down onto him and taking in every inch that she can.

 

Perfect.

 

Warm.

 

Full.

 

It’s a slight stretch, a new adjustment, and she reaches forward to press her hands against his chest, curling her fingers into the hair there as she sighs.

 

“Holy fuck.”

 

“That’s kind of what I was thinking too,” Killian chuckles, the smile on his face bright compared to how hooded his eyelids are.

 

And then she’s moving.

 

It’s a slow pace, one that’s full of learning and experimenting and simply trying to find a rhythm that’s right for the both of them. Electricity is rising on her skin, her flesh covered in bumps as the coil in her stomach continues to tighten, and with the way that Killian is thrusting up into her all the while she’s circling her hips over him, she doesn’t know how much longer she’s going to last.

 

“I need,” Killian mutters, adjusting his position under her while he tugs her down to bring their lips together, her breasts pressing into his chest as sweat trickles down her back.

 

“Faster?” she questions.

 

“Fuck yes.”

 

Then it’s a quick, dirty fuck, skin slapping against skin and moans being exchanged between them, and when Killian’s hand snakes down between them and starts rubbing against her flesh, she nearly loses it, having to bite into his shoulder as he wraps his arms around her waist and turns them. He slips from her as they reposition themselves, but then he’s sliding back into her in a rhythm that’s so intense that she has completely lost her breath.

 

She comes with a keening whimper into his jaw, her orgasm more sparks of electricity across her skin, and Killian encourages her to feel it, to let herself fall, all the while he thrusts into her, grunting and cursing and then finding his own releases as he presses into her and the cool metal around his chest does the same, their bodies connected in every damn way possible.

 

Killian coming is a beautiful sight.

 

His eyelids are hooded, his jaw clenched, and the intensity is like none other.

 

As far as first times with someone go, she thinks she likes this one the best.

 

He falls onto her, pressing into her with his weight, and she reaches up to comb her fingers through his hair, damp from the pool and from sweat, and she’s never been so fond of the smell of chlorine.

 

“I stand by my comments of you being a siren,” he mumbles against her skin before rolling off of her and off of the bed, quickly disposing of the condom before he crawls back In and pulls the blanket over the two of them. She needs to get up to use the restroom, but she has time for that later. “There is no way I’m ever going to be able to give you up now.”

 

Why did she ever bother catching her breath when it’s going to be taken away with words like that?

 

Emma rolls over to Killian, looping her leg over his calves and resting her head on his chest so that she can feel metal under her cheek and the quick beating of a heart to prove that this is real and not some kind of dream. Rough fingers trace across her back, spelling out words she can’t figure out, and then there’s a press of lips to her hairline that has her eyes fluttering closed in happiness.

Chapter Text

Killian’s tracing the words “I love you” into Emma’s back. It’s a risky move, something he shouldn’t do, but he started doing this without truly realizing it. And then he couldn’t stop.

 

He loves her.

 

He loves her so much that he can feel it in every inch of his body, from the pounding of his heart to the emotion stuck in his throat and the way that his foot keeps tracing up and down her calves. Logically, he knew this was happening. There was no way that he couldn’t. He knew it was happening by the way that he spends his days wanting to see her, wanting to make her smile. He knew it was happening by the way that her laugh makes happiness settle in his stomach, and he knew that it was happening by the way that he’s wanted to tell her everything about his day and everything about the days where she didn’t know him.

 

All of the signs were there, all of the knowledge, but there’s nothing quite like when the moment hits you and you know that you’re in love.

 

Cheesy, sentimental sap that he is.

 

But Emma makes him feel  in a way that he hasn’t in years, and while that should terrify him, all it does is make him smile to himself whenever he thinks about her.

 

Maybe he’s a sap because he’s sated, their lovemaking overwhelming and wonderful and so damn satisfying even if it was the first time with a new person, or maybe it’s because he’s got his girlfriend with him in his bed when he keeps missing her no matter how often they seem to run in the same circles.

 

Dating in secret is difficult when all he’d like to do is kiss her before a game and carry that kiss with him through every pitch.

 

He’s in love, and he can’t tell her, not yet. She’s not ready. That much, he can most definitely tell. Emma is the one who has to set the pace here, not him.

 

So he’ll carry it with him like he has from the moment that he realized he loved her when they were on the flight to Toronto four days ago. Emma was sitting two rows in front of him, the side of her face in his vision, and he kept watching he animatedly talk with her hands to Ruby, the two of them laughing so much that several of his teammates looked forward to see what was happening.

 

She was happy, the light evident on her face, and his stomach settled as he thought of her completely in her element and how nice that was to see.

 

That’s when it all clicked.

 

He loves her.

 

It’s funny how such a small moment could make him realize everything.

 

Asking her out, that first time, is still something he’s not proud of for how it negatively impacted Emma, but selfishly, he’s thankful for how it’s turned out for him…for the both of them.

 

Having her here in his arms is everything.

 

Soft lips (her lips are so damn soft) are pressed against his chest and up the hollow of his throat, and he feels the smoothness of Emma’s skin moving against his. Watching her move above him in the dim lighting of his room, firm muscles mixing in with the soft curves of her breasts and her hips, had been the most glorious sight he’d ever seen, and he most definitely plans on seeing it again.

 

Tonight.

 

And in the morning.

 

As much as he possibly can.

 

Her moving above him and him moving within her…magnificent.

 

“You’re comfortable,” Emma sighs into his shoulder, and he twists his head to look down at her as his fingers keep moving, this time in undetermined patterns instead of three specific words. “And your winter coat could keep a family of four warm.”

 

She pats his chest then, her fingers threading into the thick patch of hair, and he chuckles as his lips press into her nose.

 

“It’d be too bloody painful to wax all of that hair off, so it’s staying.”

 

“You would look weird without it.”

 

“Thanks, darling.”

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

“Aye, I do.” Her fingers mess with his hair some more, weirdly calming his heartbeat, and when she grabs onto the chain with his mother’s ring, he lets her, the silver reflected in the light. “What else would you be able to grab onto when you’re riding me like earlier?”

 

“Dirty,” she mock gasps, kissing his shoulder.

 

“I try.”

 

They lapse into a comfortable silence, one he wouldn’t trade for anything, and he wonders if he should dip his head and start kissing her again as his body hums with anticipation in what could be or if he should fall into sleep when Emma makes the decision for him by speaking.

 

“Did it…can I ask you about something?” Emma whispers.

 

“Anything.”

 

“You’re probably going to regret that.”

 

“I promise I won’t.”

 

Emma nods her head, her nose brushing under his collarbone, before she’s dragging her foot up his calf so that a shiver runs down his spine. He might regret talking when it means they can’t be doing other things. “Why haven’t you been pictured with a woman in so long when you used to get pictured with one every other night? I don’t mean to – it’s a dumb question. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

 

“No, no,” he promises even as a heavy weight settles in his stomach, anchoring him to his spot as his mind races for an answer when he’s always known the truth. “It’s fine, love. You deserve to know.”

 

“Not if you don’t want to share,” Emma insists, her eyes pleading with him.

 

She’s nervous. She thinks she’s overstepped, but she hasn’t. He loves her, and she doesn’t know some of the biggest parts of his life. They have all of the time in the world to share, but he’s feeling so open tonight that he wants to share now.

 

There’s the chance that her mind could change after this, but he thinks that if anyone can understand a broken heart, it’s Emma. Or he at least has this hope.

 

“When I was twenty-two,” he starts, fiddling his fingers against his chest as he takes a deep breath to calm himself, “I met Milah. She was…she meant so much to me, and I very quickly fell in love with her. It was a whirlwind, I think. Looking back, it’s easy to see that, but at the time, it felt like I never could have enough moments with her. I – ”

 

He stumbles for words, his mind not sure how to tell the story. He’s never had to relay his heartbreak like this, and he thinks Emma knows from the way she threads their fingers together and then rests their joined hands on his chest.

 

“You okay?” She whispers the words, but he hears them loud and clear.

 

“Yeah, love. I’m fine.” He smiles down at her before looking at the ceiling, finding it easier not to have to look into those eyes of hers. “Milah was married. I didn’t – I didn’t know at first, and by the time that I did, I was so in love that I didn’t care. So, I made do with the fact that she had this other life for another year until she showed up at my apartment and told me that she was ending us so that she could focus on her husband and her son that I didn’t know about. It was…the hardest thing I’d been through after my mom and my father, and I just…I lost it, Emma. I thought we were going to get married. I had this foolish hope that things would work out for us, and I couldn’t even hate her for leaving me because who was I to keep a family apart when I would have given anything to grow up with happy parents? I don’t know – I hope she’s happy, that her son is happy too.”

 

“When did you two break up exactly?” Emma asks quietly, still very obviously unsure of how to act in this situation.

 

“Four years ago.”

 

He watches the lightbulb go off in Emma’s head, watches her eyes widen and her lips part, and he’s glad that she’s figured it out. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.

 

“Killian, all of the partying and drinking and sleeping around – that was because you were heartbroken, wasn’t it? You were trying to cope?”

 

“Yes.”

 

And then Emma’s shifting, her body moving away from his, and his heart nearly shatters at the thought of her leaving him already when he sees that she’s simply moving on the bed, sitting with her back straight and her legs crossed over the other as she stares down at him, only half of her breasts covered with the white comforter. Something about that makes him chuckle. It’s like the fact that an hour ago his mouth was lavishing her there, and now she’s covering herself.

 

Funny how things change.

 

“I’m sorry,” she sighs, genuine remorse painted on her features. “That’s really fucked up, and I’m sorry for any remarks I’ve made about it in the past. That was…you should be able to do whatever the hell you want, and I’m sorry that you’ve been crucified for simply trying to live your life. I don’t – you didn’t deserve to have your heart broken like that.”

 

“I don’t think anyone deserves to have their heart broken.”

 

“Eh,” Emma scoffs as she pushes her hair back, the comforter falling around her waist. “I would say my exes most definitely deserve to have their hearts broken. Assholes can have their hearts broken.”

 

He can’t help but laugh at her and the casual way that she says this, a slight shrug of her shoulders. There’s something so effortless in the way that Emma acts even when he does know that she’s calculated and guarded. It’s a bit disarming, but then again, so is Emma.

 

“You want to share horror stories with me tonight? Or have I already dampened the mood too much?”

 

Her brows furrow together, lips pursing, and then she’s learning forward and taking both of his hands in hers, gently squeezing. “Hey, no. I know I’m not the best at words and feelings, but how you feel is how you feel. That’s not something to be ashamed about. You had what sounds like a really great love that had a bad ending for you, and it’s okay to be upset or hurt or sentimental. I think that’s pretty human actually.”

 

“And who said you weren’t good with words and feelings?”

 

“Every man I have ever dated.”

 

“I’ve never said that.”

 

“Just wait.” She holds her hands up before crawling over the mattress and standing on the floor, the curves on her backside on full display to him as she rummages through his bag to pull out his Vandy sweatshirt, the one that she seems to have a fondness for. He has a fondness for the way that it falls just below her ass. “Sorry, I was cold.”



“You just wanted to steal my sweatshirt. You don’t have to lie.”

 

Emma winks before crawling back into bed and getting back under the covers with him, only the smallest bit of space between them. “Exactly. So, you want to hear about the shitty exes who broke my heart?”

 

The part of him that wants to know every part of Emma is desperate to know all of the things that make her tick, but he’s also not sure how he can hear about men mistreating Emma and breaking her heart. He can’t understand how anyone could do that to her.

 

But if they’re sharing tonight and she truly wants to…

 

“Only if you feel like sharing. We don’t have to do the whole tit for tat thing every time we share something dark."

 

Emma nods, her bottom lip tugged between her teeth. “I think I feel more comfortable doing it that way, if I’m honest. It makes me feel…less screwed up, I guess.”

 

“Share away then, Swan.”

 

“Okay,” she sighs, messing with the sleeves of his sweatshirt. “There’s this guy, Walsh. He’s actually, like, in a room on the floor below us because he works with me, and we dated for maybe a year.” Her brow raises like she’s doing the math in her head, and it’s cuter than it should be when he already knows that this story isn’t going well. “I’m not sure if I loved him, but I think I almost did. He went through so much of my career with me, was there when I got the job working for the Yankees, and I don’t know – it was such a happy time in my life that I didn’t see the signs when I should have.”

 

“Signs of what?”

 

“Cheating. And belittling me for my job, making me feel like I was less of a journalist or wasn’t good enough to do the job. And, I mean, obviously the fact that he was fucking someone else hurt me, but I think all of the little comments hurt worse because I’d already been through all of that before.”

 

This guy is a fucking bastard, and he doesn’t deserve Emma. No one who treats her like that does.

 

“From all of the asshole men who have demeaned you for your job?” he prods, trying to encourage her in her story.

 

“Yeah, kind of, but mostly just the one,” she mumbles, her eyes shying away from him. He doesn’t blame her for that. He did the same thing. He also knows that he felt infinitely better when Emma reached for his hand, so he does the same, twining their fingers together and resting them in the mattress between them, the both of them looking ahead as Emma talks. “There are a lot of reasons why I’m so passionate about being treated fairly in my job. For one, it’s because it’s what is right and fair. But also, it’s because when I was at NYU, I started dating Neal. I was still…I was struggling with accepting love from pretty much anyone other than David, so when he came around and treated me nicely and made me laugh and was just this really fun guy who made me feel good, I fell for him. I – ”

 

She takes a deep breath, and he squeezes her hand, trying to encourage her that it’s alright. They’re two people with complicated pasts, ones that never seem to be fully out there, and she’s not alone in all of this.

 

A part of him wants to tell her that he loves her and that it’s okay, but that would send Emma running all the way back to New York. She may have feelings for him and be in this with him, but there’s such a thing as heightened emotions and too much too quickly.

 

All the time in the world, he reminds himself. They have all the time in the world.

 

“I didn’t realize it first, you know? They say that love is blind, and I feel like this is what people mean by that. I didn’t realize that he was belittling me for my major or my job. I didn’t realize that he was telling me that my job wasn’t for women, that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t be good enough for it. And then it spread into other aspects of my life. Neal told me that Ruth and David, that they weren’t my family, that they didn’t love me. He was the only one who loved me and could take care of me. I was with him for four years, and he has me so convinced that I was worthless that I believed it. Thinking back on it…God, I was a fucking idiot, and I hate that it still impacts so much of my life today. I still struggle with how I see Ruth despite the fact that I know that I love her. I still struggle every time someone thinks I only have my job because I’m attractive and that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. I still – I’ve let Neal affect every aspect of my life, and he didn’t even stick around for me to break up with him. He just…he left one day and never came back like he was some kind of ghost.”

 

Fucking hell.

 

No. Just no.

 

Screw all of that. Emma doesn’t deserve any of that, doesn’t deserve to have been treated like shit by so many people. The fact that she still trusts anyone is most likely a miracle, and he can’t even believe what he just had to hear.

 

Every single bit of him is angry, furious really. So much about her clicked together for him just now. She’s never been given her credit, never been given her due, when it comes to her career, because she’s been belittled this entire time. He was someone who belittled her, even if he didn’t intend to, and of all of that added to everything she’s already gone through.

 

Personally and professionally, Emma Swan has been demeaned, and he can’t decide if he’d rather hug her or go out and punch the daylights out of her ex-boyfriends and every other person who has hurt her.

 

But none of this is about him at the end of the day.

 

It’s about Emma.

 

Sighing a deep sigh, he brings Emma’s hand to his lips and kisses each knuckle before sliding down in the bed and encouraging her to move with him so that they face each other, their joined hands in between their chests and his right hand on her hip, thumb rubbing circles into her skin.

 

The tears in her eyes make them all the more green.

 

“You, darling,” he begins, his voice quiet even if he was intending for it to be louder, “are one of the bravest, strongest people that I’ve ever met. Seriously. You’re a badass, and you’re also kind and quite frankly, hysterical.”

 

“I mean, I am hilarious.”

 

“Exactly.” He winks at her, and a smile curves over her lips. It’s soft, but it’s there. “I don’t know how anyone could ever treat you like you’re not worth everything. It’s unfathomable to me. Those men, every single one who has hurt you, are in the wrong, and they never deserved you. The fact that you’re open to letting other people in your heart after all of that astounds me.”

 

“You did kind of have to convince me.”

 

“You asked me out, Swan.”

 

“Technically you asked first.”

 

That sobers him for a moment while his heart sinks. “I’m sorry about that again. It goes at the top of my asshole moments.”

 

“Hey, hey,” she soothes, inching a bit closer to him so that he can feel her warmth and smell the vanilla that’s still in her hair, “I forgave you for that. We’ve worked it out. I don’t know why I’m crazy enough to give you, us, a shot, but I am. You don’t have to apologize anymore. We’re moving past that, okay?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah. Completely” There’s a squeeze of his hand, and it rights his heart. “I think we’re actually doing pretty good at this relationship thing, if I’m honest. Did you know we have all of our serious conversations when in a bed?”

 

“That’s the best place to have them.”

 

“Is it?”

 

“Mhm,” he hums, trailing his hand up her body so that he can run his fingers over her cheeks, feeling the soft skin there as she smiles, “because we can either go to sleep afterward or have sex or even have just a bit of a cuddle.”

 

“Why not all three?”

 

“I like the way you think, Swan.”

 

And then he’s leaning in to guide his mouth over hers, something soft and timid that quickly escalates into a rough and dirty kiss. This is not at all how he expected his night to go, but then Emma showed up at the pool when he was trying to work out some of the kinks in his shoulder, and everything has spiraled from there.

 

No part of him regrets it.

 

It’s been one of the most intimate nights of his life, physically and emotionally, and he’d like to stay wrapped up in it as his body climbs over Emma’s. His teeth drag across her bottom lip, enjoying the little sounds that she’s making, and their hips roll together. He’s still bare of clothes while she’s only in his sweatshirt, and his fingers mess with the hem, pulling it higher and higher so he can get that feeling of skin against skin.

 

He hasn’t had enough. He needs more.

 

Their first time, just under two hours ago, comes back to him in flashes, and while he knows that they were hurried and desperate, it also felt like the moment lasted forever. He got to explore her body as she got to explore his, but they need more and more time.

 

Not right now.

 

It doesn’t take long before he’s hard and wanting, desperate to feel Emma’s warmth wrapped around him again, and his fingers deftly toy with her, riling her up as she writhes underneath him, more keening whines escaping her lips until she tells him that she needs more, that she needs him.

 

He reaches over for the package of foil, ripping it open and sliding it on himself, before he slowly sheaths himself inside of her, biting onto the side of her neck hard enough to leave a bruise. It’s perfect, the way she feels around him, tight and warm and wet, and he has to center himself before he slowly starts rocking within her, pleasure already trickling up and down his spine.

 

“Divine,” he murmurs into her neck as his hips flex and his elbows move to steady himself all the while Emma’s nails dig into the skin of his back and her ankles hook just above his ass. He expects crescent moons to be tattooed on his skin by the time that it’s over. “You’re divine.”

 

“K-Killian,” she moans in response as he starts to get into a rhythm, one that seems to be working for the both of them.

 

“I know, love. I know.”

 

His hips thrust and roll into hers, and when she shifts, he slips that little bit deeper into her, heat covering his skin and making him sigh against Emma’s mouth as their tongues snake together. It’s messy and rough, and the sound of their skin moving against each other is all that he can focus on as he loses himself in the softness of the woman who he loves and the feel of his chain pressing between them.

 

There’s something about the coolness of the metal on their warm skin that does something to him.

 

When Emma’s hand moves between them to brush at where they’re joined, he knows that she’s close, knows that she’s coming apart in their desperate coming together, so he arches his hips up to give her more space and snaps into hers at a pace that has them both panting and falling apart one after the other.

 

Holy hell.

 

Nothing is ever going to be enough when it comes to Emma even though she is more than enough.

 

Always.

 

Later, after they’ve cleaned up and showered, washing the sweat and chlorine off of their bodies, they sprawl out on top of the bed, their feet stretched up across the headboard and their gaze toward the speckled ceiling. He’s not entirely sure how they got into this position. He thinks it was Emma who did it first, her legs obviously a little antsy, and she’d rolled around until she got comfortable.

 

It is actually pretty comfortable, and he wonders if they’re so exhausted and sleep deprived that everything would be comfortable to them.

 

But he’s not exhausted enough to fall asleep. Not at all. It’s been a rollercoaster of a night, but it’s one of those nights he’d never like to end.

 

Emma’s stomach rumbles, and they get into a conversation about how Graham usually cooks for she and Ruby, especially when they’re both traveling, and that he’s probably the only reason she doesn’t starve. She also reminds him that he promised to bake for her, and he rekindles that promise, his mind already trying to figure out when exactly they can do that. It’s a busy season, the two of them live full lives, but they’ll figure it out. They both want to make the effort, and they will.

 

She also tells him that David is thinking about helping her out by commentating on a game sometime this season, and he’s so damn proud of her that his heart could very well burst.

 

It’s relaxing and calming and absolutely everything just to be able to talk to someone about his day outside of baseball, even if they do naturally fall into shop talk, and she listens as he talks about Liam and Elsa and the ridiculousness of having them as his support system. He hasn’t truly had someone to talk to about his friends and family until now, and it’s still taking some getting used to.

 

But he loves her and keeps falling more in love with her, so he thinks that they have all of the time in the world.

 

That’s what he keeps telling himself because he has the hope for it.

 

All the time in the world.

Chapter Text

When Emma wakes up, she rolls over on her mattress and buries her face further into her pillow, kicking some of the extra throw pillows off the bed and wondering why the hell she has so many things that look cute but cannot be comfortably slept with.

 

Seriously.

 

This is all TJ Maxx’s fault, and she’d like to damn whoever decided to put a store in seven blocks from her apartment. She shouldn’t even go inside, but she does. Every. Single. Time.

 

(So maybe it’s a little bit her fault too.)

 

Finally, she finds a spot that’s comfortable, her eyes shutting and her body calming down into the softness of the mattress so that she can fall back asleep when her phone starts blaring, her alarm vibrating across the top of her bedside table, and for a moment, she considers throwing her phone out the window so that she never has to get up from bed.

 

She’ll get fired from her job. And probably die from bed sores or something else equally as dramatic.

 

It’s the first thought that has her rolling over and turning the alarm off, the shrill blaring sound going away, and her eyes have to squint at the bright light to recognize that it’s seven in the morning and she does actually have to get up for work right now.

 

Her job is great, but she doesn’t get weekends off like normal people. And noon games are her actual worst nightmare.

 

Today is a noon game. She’s also got that dinner with David, Mary Margaret, and Ruth, and she’s unnaturally nervous about it as she almost always is when it comes to Ruth.

 

Like a zombie, she rises from her bed and shuffles into the bathroom before making her way out to the kitchen, adjusting her shorts and the sweatshirt that she’s wearing as she stumbles into the kitchen, the smell of coffee already filling her nostrils.

 

“Bless you,” she mumbles to Ruby who is sitting at their kitchen table with a mug already in hand before she fixes herself her own cup, not even bothering for it to cool down much more before she takes a large sip. If only caffeine worked right away. That would be the dream. “Why do you already look so put together?”

 

“I always look put together.”

 

“Liar.”

 

“I couldn’t sleep last night, and when I woke up, I just kind of got up, I guess. And now I’m sitting here dying inside. At least I don’t look like I’m dying. A family of birds could live in your hair.”

 

“That is not true.”

 

“It is. Have you looked at yourself this morning?”

 

“Yes,” Emma lies, taking another sip of her coffee. She most definitely didn’t when she was in the bathroom, but as long as her tits aren’t showing, she doesn’t really care what she looks like at home. “And I haven’t gotten ready yet. I’ll look nicer for the game.”

 

“I would hope so. I don’t think that they let reporters not brush their hair and roll out onto the field in sweatshirts. Where’d you get that, by the way? I don’t recognize it.”

 

And while she may be half asleep and her coffee might not have an instantaneous effect, she knows that she fucked up.

 

She’s wearing Killian’s Vanderbilt sweatshirt. The one she keeps stealing. She’s had it in her possession for two weeks now, ever since Toronto and the morning after they slept together, and she’s been sleeping in it because it’s comfortable and kind of smells like Killian.

 

It definitely smells like Killian.

 

And Ruby can see her wearing it.

 

Shit.

 

Shit, shit, shit, no, no, no.

 

It’s instinct to cross her arms over her chest in an attempt to cover up the faded words all the while she tries to come up with some kind of excuse. She’s not sure that she’s ready for their friends to know about the relationship yet. A part of her definitely wants to say something, but she and Killian probably need to talk about it first.

 

But what if it somehow gets out past that?

 

What if someone besides their friends and family know? It’s too soon. It’s all too soon for that, and she just can’t right now. It’s the middle of the season, so much time left in front of them, and she can’t let anything jeopardize her career.

 

Emma has no idea what to do, and she’s terrified of everything crumbling beneath her.

 

This is the happiest she’s ever been in a relationship, and the repercussions…she doesn’t even want to imagine them.

 

“Uh, um,” she stutters to Ruby, making sure that her face isn’t giving away her lie, “I’m not sure. I must have swiped it from David’s house one day. You know how he’s always got sweatshirts from all over the place.”

 

Ruby’s eyes squint at her from over her coffee mug, and it takes everything in Emma not to bounce off the balls of her feet. All in all, it was a pretty good lie because David most definitely does have all kinds of sweatshirts from different professional teams and colleges, but this is not David’s sweatshirt.

 

How could she have been so careless?

 

Ruby is so damn observant, but there’s no way she can make the connection over a sweatshirt, right?

 

“I need to steal some stuff from him,” she finally sighs, going back to her coffee. “It looks so much comfier than the things Graham has. I swear, if it’s a scratchy material, he buys it.”

 

“At least it looks nice on him.”

 

“This is true, my friend. His clothes do fit him well, but you know I much prefer him without any.”

 

There’s a knock on the wall that’s connected to Ruby and Graham’s bedroom. “I can hear the two of you, and sweetheart, it’s too early for you to be making sex jokes about me to Emma.”

 

Emma has to put her coffee mug down on the countertop as she laughs, the giggles stemming from deep in her stomach. Graham is the best and usually goes along for Ruby’s antics, but sometimes it’s too damn funny when he’s asking her to stop talking.

 

Definitely an opposites attract pair, but they work. Really well, actually. Emma keeps waiting for Graham to tell her that he’s going to propose to Ruby, but it hasn’t happened yet.

 

She should probably get her own place if it does. How weird is it to live with a married couple? Like, an eight on a scale of ten? Maybe a little less when rent is so high. But definitely at least a five.

 

“I love you,” Ruby shouts back, knocking on the wall three times.

 

Graham simply knocks three times in response.

 

“You two are ridiculous.”

 

“I know, but I like to think that I bring out the ridiculous in everyone.”

 

“You do. What time do you want to leave for work?”

 

Ruby hums as she taps her chin with her perfectly manicured nail. “In an hour and a half?”

 

“Perfect.”

 


 

 Late June in the Bronx is basically a blazing hellfire, and Emma keeps sneaking into the air-conditioned press box every chance she gets only to be sent back outside to do an interview with a player or a coach or even a kid who caught a foul ball. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s her job so she sucks it up.

 

At least she’s not wearing a full-blown uniform and exercising like all of the guys are. Most of them are soaked in sweat, even the ones simply sitting in the dugout, and she does not envy them at all.

 

All she really envies right now are people taking a cold shower.

 

It’s late June. She doesn’t even want to imagine what it’s going to be like in August or September.

 

Killian throws another ball, and then there’s a smack of bat against ball and a white and red blur that shoots out into right field only for John Little to catch it, ending the top of the third inning and Killian’s time on the mound today. They’re all leaving for London in five days, and Al has expressly stated that they are not screwing up Killian’s arm for a game where so many people are going to be watching.

 

She knows that it’s more because they’re playing the Red Sox than anything else, but she doesn’t mind preserving Killian’s arm when they can. His pitches haven’t been averaging quite as fast as they usually are, but she figures it’s probably a tactical change. She’ll have to ask him about that in the locker room later.

 

The next two hours seem to idle by, nothing too exciting happening, and when the game is over, she moves from her press spot, flashing her ID to the guard in front of the entrance to the tunnels, and makes her way through the hallways she knows like the back of her hand until she’s in the clubhouse with Jeff following right behind her. It’s loud in there, cheers and yelling and celebrations over their win, and it takes her ten minutes before she can even get someone to talk to her, other reporters pretty much taking up everyone’s time as all of the players move into various states of undress.

 

“Don’t you ever get tired of talking to us?” Will asks with a cheeky grin as he brushes sweat off of his buzzed hair. “I mean, damn. I get tired of talking to us, and I actually think you may be around more than me.”

 

She chuckles, unable to help herself. She’s always loved Scarlet’s dry sense of humor, and he’s nearly as easy to talk to as Killian or Robin or even Eric. “To you, most definitely. But I have my favorites on the team that I like.”

 

“Doc? King? Locksley? Fisher? Jones? Whale? I could go all day.”

 

“I can’t tell you,” she teases, messing with her microphone in her hand. “You want to answer some questions for me today?”

 

“As long as it’s not about me getting engaged, I’m perfectly fine with that.”

 

“You’re engaged?” Emma gasps, covering her mouth with her hand. “That’s so exciting! How did I miss that?”

 

“I have no idea since you talk to my girlfriend on Instagram.”

 

“Technically she’s your fiancée now.”

 

Will smiles at that a soft little thing that’s so unlike him and yet entirely him, and it makes her smile to herself. Will and Belle are getting married. That’s wonderful, but she did tell him she wasn’t going to ask about any of it, so she doesn’t, sticking to game stats and assessments and asking how he feels about their upcoming series in London. It’s the same with everyone she talks to, and after twenty minutes in there talking and chatting, she’s finished with her work and starts undoing all of the cords attached to her as Jeff turns off his camera and walks ahead of her as they leave the room.

 

But then there’s a strong grip around her wrist, and she’s being pulled away and down the hallway to what is a storage locker. If she didn’t know that it was Killian tugging her along, she’d assume she was being murdered.

 

She still could be and boy would that be a plot twist.

 

“What the hell?” she gasps out on a broken breath as the door closes behind her and all she can see is Killian’s face and shower-damp hair and a shelf full of cleaning supplies that make the entire room smell like bleach. “Why are you pulling me off into storage closets?”

 

He smiles, this really bright and cheesy thing, before strong hands are cupping her cheeks and soft lips and prickly scruff are brushing against her mouth and her chin in a slow, pleasant burn. This is how it’s been ever since Toronto two weeks ago. They slept together, and it was like this flip switched where they absolutely could not get enough of each other.

 

Not that she minds.

 

It’s electric. Honestly and truly. If they had easier access to each other, she knows that it would be even more intense, that they would be staying overnight and moving under the sheets until she couldn’t walk the next day. That actually almost happened last week, her body so sore afterwards, and as amazing as it was, that cannot be a frequent thing.

 

A girl has got to be able to walk.

 

She really, really likes Killian, is so close to loving him that it terrifies her, and sometimes she looks into his eyes and swears that if someone told her he hung the stars in the sky, she’d believe them.

 

This was never how any of this was supposed to go.

 

“Hi,” he growls, pulling at her upper lip before he pulls back so that their foreheads rest together.

 

“Hi,” she sighs as she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her and feeling the softness of his hair. “You played well today.”

 

“I was okay.”

 

“But in the second, you – ”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“I do,” he promises, quickly brushing his lips over hers. “Have I mentioned how much I love that my girlfriend is an expert in my job?”

 

“Maybe a time or two, but this time it sounds slightly less macho man-ish.”

 

“That’s my goal.”

 

“Good.” Her stomach swoops at the smirk on his face, and she really wishes they were back at his apartment instead of in this stupid supply closet. “Why didn’t you tell me Will and Belle got engaged?”

 

“Because I legitimately didn’t know until right before the game. It apparently leaked or something, and he was all pissed about it. I think Belle posted the ring after it all to kind of beat out tabloids from making money off of them. They’re happy.”

 

“I would hope so. They’re getting married. People are usually pretty happy for that.”

 

“Eh, sometimes there’s those people who aren’t actually happy and think a new title and diamond ring will make them happy.”

 

“True.” Emma leans back against the door, the wood hitting the back of her skull, as she runs her fingers through Killian’s hair. It’s all long and messy again, and she honestly can’t decide which way she likes it best. “I do not want to deal with the crowd on the train getting out of here on the way to David’s.”

 

“I could drive you,” he offers with a shrug.

 

“Oh yeah, because that won’t at all be obvious. Also, I think we need to talk.”

 

“I’ve found that I’m rarely in for a pleasant conversation when a woman tells me that.”

 

“Shut up, you ass.” She slaps the back of his head, but all he does is give her another cocky grin. So dumb. So, so dumb. “Okay, so, like, hear me out.”

 

“I have my listening ears on.”

 

“Yeah, little pointy ones.”

 

“Swan.”

 

“Okay, okay,” she mumbles, bringing her bottom lip between her teeth as she bounces on her toes. “I’m not – I’m not one hundred percent sure on this, especially with what I just found out about Will and Belle, but I think it might be time we told my friends and your family about us. Just a few people, the ones we trust the most, because I’m starting to slip up on where I’ve been or who I’m talking to when they ask. Also, I feel really shitty every time I lie to Ruby or David or Mary Margaret or someone else who is my friend.”

 

His lips are parted, mouth gaping open, and he’s blinking at her like she’s a crazy person. She might actually be.

 

“W-what? Are you serious?”

 

“I’m serious about us thinking about it. I’m still not completely sure on the entire thing. I think, maybe when we get back from London, we can have another conversation about it. I like to think this is going pretty well, and while I don’t want our relationship to escape us or our families, I don’t think we can keep doing this without telling the people we love.”

 

Killian’s brows furrow, his eyes thin lines beneath them, and his hands finally dip from her cheeks down to her shoulders with his nails digging into her skin over her freckles. “Let’s think on it, yeah? Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than thrilled that you feel confident and happy in us enough that you want to tell people, but I don’t want to expose you even more to the world. Because in our circles of people, love, it’s going to be a big deal that we’re dating.”

 

He’s right. She knows that he is. She’s had the same thoughts.

 

“I know. We’ll figure it out though, right?”

 

“Absolutely.” Killian squeezes her shoulders once more before dipping his head down and gently slanting his lips over hers in quick succession. “Now, as much fun as I’m having inhaling all of these chemical fumes, I think you have somewhere to be.”

 

“Don’t remind me.”

 

“Emma, love,” he says tenderly, thumbing at the indent in her chin as he smiles that reassuring smile at her, “you’re going to be fine. It’s your family. You love them. I know you do. And you’re going to be reminded of that the moment you get comfortable sitting on David’s couch and relax into dinner.”

 

Right once more.

 

“Okay, okay,” she exhales, pulling in Killian for a hug so that she can bury her face in his shoulder and breathe him in instead of the chemical fumes for a moment, “I can do this.”

 


 

 Killian was exactly right like she knew he was but didn’t like to admit outside of her head. She was building up the awkwardness, building up the strained relationship with Ruth like she always does, and while it wasn’t the best thing at first, now that she’s sitting crisscrossed on David’s couch with a glass of wine in her hand, she can think of few other places she’d rather be.

 

This is her family, even when she doesn’t admit it, and for a girl who never really got to have a family until she was too messed up to truly accept one, this is absolutely everything.

 

Just…everything.

 

“And then, Grandma,” Leo continues, walking back and forth through the room, “Captain America holds his shield up while the bad guys try to attack him, but he’s too fast for them.”

 

“This Captain America sounds like a cool guy,” Ruth laughs, very obviously confused about the whole thing. She has not caught onto the Marvel bug, which is pretty much a sin when Leo has been obsessed with Captain America for months. Mary Margaret and David say it’s the longest he’s ever been interested in one thing, and when Emma thinks about it, she believes it. “Do you think you’re going to be as strong as him?”

 

“Probably not,” Leo shrugs, “but he started off really small like I am so maybe if I’m tall like Dad and not short like Mom.”

 

“Hey,” Mary Margaret protests, her eyes cutting at her son while Emma and David snicker underneath their breaths, “I am not that short.”

 

“Mom, I’m ten, and I’m almost taller than you when you’re, like, seventy years old.”

 

“Leo David Nolan, I am not seventy years old. I’m thirty-nine. Don’t age me like that.”

 

“What’s wrong with being nearly seventy years old?” Ruth teases, and Mary Margaret’s pale cheeks immediately flush red.

 

“Nothing, nothing. I – ”

 

“I’m nearly teasing you, sweetheart,” Ruth sighs before turning her attention to Emma. “I watched your game today. You looked so beautiful, but why are they still showing you eating every time?”

 

Well, damn, she didn’t know that was still happening, so she takes another sip of her wine and rolls her eyes as she laughs. “I have no idea. Like, it’s a running joke at this point. You can literally google ‘Emma Swan eating’ and all of these videos pop up. Leo told me that they even add songs to them now.”

 

“They do,” David chuckles. “I showed him those.”

 

“You’re awful.”

 

“I actually think I’m pretty awesome.”

 

“That’s debatable.”

 

“Look, Grandma,” Leo laughs, taking Mary Margaret’s iPad over to Ruth, “here’s one of the ones with music. It’s so funny!”

 

“You guys are the worst,” Emma groans as she places her glass down and sinks into the couch. “The absolute worst.”

 

“You just seem to have a face for funny moments,” Mary Margaret says sympathetically, reaching over to pat her thigh. “It’s because you do a little dance when you’re eating good food, I think.”

 

That makes her smile. It’s always what Killian is saying about her when he’s teasing her over her eating habits, and that’s when she suddenly remembers that hat that she still hasn’t given to Leo. It’s been sitting in the bag she carries with her to and from games for weeks now, and she keeps forgetting to give it to the kid. He may still like Captain America, but he’s probably moved on to another favorite player.

 

Quickly, she gets up from the couch and walks to the entryway where she left the bag, shuffling through it until she pulls out the signed hat, and then holds it behind her back, a genuine smile curling on her lips.

 

“Leo,” she sing-songs, immediately getting his attention as his brown hair falls across his forehead, “if you stop showing Grandma weird videos of me online, I have a surprise for you.”

 

“Way to bribe my kid,” David whines without much conviction.

 

“It’s not a bribe. Not technically.”

 

“What do you have?” Leo gasps, taking the iPad away from Ruth. “What is it? What is it?”

 

God, to have the enthusiasm of kids. Life would be so much simpler. And happier probably.

 

She’s pretty happy now anyways.

 

Slowly, she pulls the hat around from behind her back, and Leo’s brows furrow in confusion. Of course they do. To him, it probably just looks like a random hat since the autograph can’t really be seen.

 

“A Yankees hat? I have a couple of those already.”

 

“Leo,” Mary Margaret and David say at the same time.

 

“It’s fine, guys,” she laughs, stepping a little closer. “Remember when you asked me if I could get you a hat signed by Killian Jones?”

 

Now Leo’s face lights up, a bright smile practically taking up all of it, and he runs to her and immediately wraps his arms around her waist in a hug so tight that she loses all of the air in her lungs.

 

“Thank you,” he sighs before releasing her and taking the hat out of her hands, staring down at for a moment only to put it on top of his head. It’s too big for him without being adjusted, but he doesn’t even care.

 

She feels like the coolest aunt in the world right now.

 

“You’re the coolest aunt in the world.”

 

Ah, so confirmation then.

 

“Killian Jones is the man who asked you out, right?” Ruth questions, and Emma has to bite her tongue as she moves to resume her place back on the couch. She wishes she had more wine, but she’s got to be up early again tomorrow and doesn’t need more to drink. “You’re still talking to him?”

 

“I mean, only for my job,” she lies. “He’s a nice guy, so he was really happy to sign something for Leo.”

 

Ruth nods her head, and Emma thinks that it’s the end of the conversation when it’s most definitely not. “So, are you dating anyone, dear? I don’t mean to pry, but I do like to know about your life and you’re much more difficult to get information about than David.”

 

“That’s because Mary Margaret can’t keep a secret.”

 

“Why am I feeling so attacked right now?” Mary Margaret laughs.

 

“Well, you can’t, honey,” David says to his wife. “You are the worst at keeping secrets, and you overshare all the time.”

 

“That seems like a bit of an exaggeration.”

 

“It’s really not, Marg,” Emma tells her before turning back to Ruth. “I’m not dating anyone right now,” she lies again, more guilt building up in her stomach, but she and Killian are going to talk about it after London when they’re not in a storage closet, “but I’m really happy. Things at work are going well, even if I’m busy, and I love all of my friends and family and how much time I’m getting to spend with them. But if something on the dating front seriously changes, I’ll let you know.”

 

Ruth winks at her, a smile on her face. “Well, I don’t believe that for a second.”

 

Emma stays there for the rest of the night, all five of them eating and watching movies with talking in between. Leo insists that Ruth get caught up on anything and everything Captain America, and even though she falls asleep during several of the movies, she does learn a little bit more, making sure to ask all of the right questions. She’s so good with Leo, with everyone really, and it reminds Emma of when she was a terrified fifteen-year-old moving into a new foster home not knowing what was going to be awaiting her.

 

For someone who was so unloved and never thought she’d find love, living with Ruth Nolan was a shock to her system. She hates that her own walls and issues kept her – keep her – from always accepting that love and genuine kindness, and she hates that she let Neal influence her to not believe that Ruth was her family.

 

She is.

 

Most definitely in every way, and this is going to be something that Emma works on. She’s very much determined to do so.

 

Her life is a good one, and despite how complicated it is sometimes, she deserves to be happy in as many ways as possible.

 

When the movies are finished and Emma is ready to go home and go to bed, she whispers words of goodbye to everyone, promising to come over again for dinner tomorrow and to bring Ruby and Graham with her since they are always itching for an invitation.

 

“It’s so good to see you, darling,” Ruth sighs into her hair as they hug goodbye. “I love you.”

 

Emma nods her head against Ruth’s neck, a smile on her lips. “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

“This is weird,” Will mutters as they walk the unfamiliar hallways of London Stadium on their way out to the field to practice. “I’m not used to being unfamiliar with a place where we’re about to play, and I swear that I’m still jet-lagged. Why did they think we were going to get used to the time change in one day?”

 

Instinctively, Killian wants to get onto Will about complaining since that’s become his thing as of late, but every point that he’s made is valid. It’s weird to be in a place that he doesn’t know. He’s familiar enough with half of the baseball stadiums in America to be able to give a tour like he made the blue prints for them, but they are decidedly not in America.

 

They’re in London.

 

To play the Red Sox.

 

So. Fucking. Cool.

 

His job awards him more opportunities than he ever could have dreamed about as a kid from Ohio, and while he’s had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and Canada, he’s never been overseas like this. He meant to go years ago, but then the accident happened and all of his plans went down the drain. He could have gone then too. He had all of the time in the world on his hands, and he squandered it by sitting on his ass and not traveling or doing all of the other things he’s always wanted to do.

 

He’ll have all the time in the world when he’s retired.

 

Woah, no. That’s not happening anytime soon, and he is not going down that road when things are going so well right now.

 

They’re going to kick some Red Sox ass even while in England.

 

His family didn’t fly all the way over here on vacation just for them to lose. Addy and Lucy would be very disappointed in him if they did because he knows for a fact that they only care about being here for the baseball and Addy’s birthday party tomorrow.

 

All of the cool kids turn six in London, obviously, and Addison Jones is the coolest of the kids.

 

It’s all she’s been talking about for weeks now, going on and on about how she was going to have an English birthday party and be English like Peppa Pig and Meghan Markle. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that Peppa Pig is animated and that Meghan Markle was technically American first, but some things kids just don’t have to know. All she knows is that a real-life prince and his wife are going to be at the game today, and she thinks that’s the coolest thing in the world.

 

It kind of is even if he had to study a protocol list for when he met them earlier in the locker room.

 

Killian’s life is so goddamn weird, but he loves it.

 

The fact that Emma got to travel here as well, even if she’s not doing on-camera coverage and is simply here as a print journalist for the team, makes it all the better. He may not get to see her on-field during the game, but he’ll see her afterwards.

 

Hopefully.

 

They haven’t been here long, but it’s already difficult to find time away from his family to see her, even if it’s only for a moment.

 

He’d give anything to have those little moments.

 

“I have no idea,” Killian yawns, finally responding to Will as they push the doors open and walk out to the field. He can tell that the set-up is going to throw him off, the way the stadium is equal on every side, and that the AstroTurf feels odd below his feet. But that’s why they practice. “We’ll suffer through it, and drink lots and lots of coffee.”

 

“I think they drink tea over here.”

 

“I believe that they drink coffee too. You want to start in the outfield and work our way back in?”

 

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

 

The two of them are quiet as they take it all in and try to get used to this new place. Music blares over the speakers, and the rest of the team filters in and out as they go through their warm-ups. He’s not sure if he really needs coffee for how hyped up he is to be here and to be playing their biggest rivals, and the crash of caffeine always seems so inevitable. The crash of adrenaline, not so much. Most of the time.

 

It’s a quick warm-up, one that doesn’t extend too much effort on his part, and his shoulder is feeling loose after the massage Archie gave it. They’ve won each of their series against the Sox so far this season, and he doesn’t plan on that changing now. When they finally travel to Boston next month, sure. But not today.

 

No part of him should be thinking this, especially with how unreliable his arm can be, but they’re playing so well this season that he can’t imagine them not making the playoffs and then being in the final two.

 

They could be back-to-back World Series Champions.

 

But that’s very much counting his chickens before they hatch, and that always leads to disappointment.

 

He simply can’t go there even if his brain keeps trying to.

 

“You guys make any wedding plans yet?” he asks Will as they walk back infield to practice a few pitches on the mound.

 

“We’ve been engaged for exactly a week, so no, we haven’t made any official plans. Belle has all of these ideas, though, and she’s been talking through them with her parents. Honestly, I think we may get married in December or January of this year since she doesn’t want to do it during the season.”

 

Killian nods his head in agreement as he tucks his chain back into his uniform from where it had fallen out. “That makes sense. It’s always hell trying to plan anything during the season. Even making dinner plans can be difficult.”

 

“Well,” Will says, clicking his tongue, “it’s not like you have anyone to be going out to dinner with. We don’t count. Neither does Liam.”

 

A protest is on the tip of his tongue, but he can’t say anything, not yet. He and Emma are going to talk about that after this trip, and even if they do, he’s not sure he’ll be able to tell Will. He should. Will and Robin. And Eric and Ariel. But no one else on the team. It’s just too risky.

 

That might put a damper in his plan to kiss her before every game.

 

But the time will come. It has to. And baby steps are fine with him when they mean that steps are happening. He completely and totally understands Emma and her reasons for not wanting their relationship out in the open, and he agrees. It’s better for her, for both of them, and they’ve only been together for two months. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that long. It doesn’t matter that he fell hard and fast. That doesn’t escalate things.

 

It just…complicates his feelings.

 

This thing won’t be hidden away forever, not if they want any kind of future, and while he’d never presume to speak for Emma, he damn well intends to have that future.

 

“I could be dating,” Killian scoffs at Will who only rolls his eyes in response. “What? I could.”

 

“Nothing,” Will shrugs, taking position behind home plate. “I’m just saying, for a man who everyone thinks is going home with a new woman every night, you are particularly lacking in the women department.”

 

His jaw ticks, and he’s not even sure why. He’s never minded talking about his relationships in the past, not to Will, but it’s probably the lie. Of course it’s the lie.

 

“And what’s wrong with that?”

 

“Nothing,” Will grunts as he throws the ball back to him, a light thwacking sound hitting his glove. “Do whatever the hell you want. I’m not someone to tell you what to do with your life. I’m just saying, I’m much happier having Belle be a part of my life.”

 

“Look at you being all sweet.”

 

“I have my moments.”

 

“I’m totally giving a speech at your wedding about the night that I kept you from throwing up on her.”

 

“I would have expected nothing less from you. In fact, I’ve already warned Belle. It was in my proposal speech.”

 

“Shut up, you asshole.”

 

“Never. I know you love the sound of my voice.”

 

“It is rather dreamy.”

 

“You two are talking too much to be practicing,” Eric huffs as walks toward them with his bat in hand, fiddling with it the slightest bit. “What are we talking about?”

 

“Killian’s lack of a love life.”

 

Eric grunts at that, eyes scanning between the two of them. “That sounds like a conversation that I don’t want to be in because Ariel will somehow know and insist we talk about it later. She’ll have you set up on ten blind dates before midnight.”

 

“It’s in my contract that she can’t meddle in my dating life.”

 

“Really?” Eric and Will ask at once, their eyes going wide.

 

“No,” Killian chuckles as he stretches out his shoulder and bends his legs a bit, squatting down to stretch out some more, “but sometimes I wish that it was. Where has she been all day, by the way?”

 

“She’s helping set up Addison’s birthday party for tomorrow, apparently. She’s somehow gotten them a separate suite here, and they’re doing some sort of tea party during the game. You have even been given express permission to sit with your family instead of in the dugout with us.”

 

Of course. He could have done that anyways, but leave it to Ariel to make sure that there is no way in hell that he’s missing his niece’s sixth birthday party. She is pure magic, that woman.

 

“Your wife is something else,” he chuckles, deciding to step closer to them so that he doesn’t have to shout, “but you guys know that Addy is fully going to expect all of you to show up at some point.”

 

“Her present is in my suitcase.” Will smiles as he says it with a slight shake of his head. “I could never forget my biggest fan since Roland seems to betray me on who his favorite player is every week.”

 

Killian clicks his tongue. “Eh, just to be clear, I’m Addison’s favorite player. I’m not letting you steal that title from me.”

 


 

 Killian spots Emma sitting nine rows up behind third base when they’re in the second inning.

 

She’s wearing a jersey…his jersey, and when he notices it, he nearly pegs Johnson with a ball.

 

Holy fuck.

 

It sends blood straight to his groin, and the only thing that stops it is him thinking about Emma making a joke about him having a boner on the mound. She’s so ridiculously funny in her bad jokes, and it brings a smile to his face that he has to control as he focuses on the game. He can’t be losing it when he’s in the middle of a game.

 

But damn. His girlfriend is wearing his jersey, his name and number printed on the back, and she’s got a baseball cap pulled low over her forehead with her blonde ponytail sticking out behind her. He wouldn’t have recognized her if he didn’t know every inch of her body.

 

He’ll play in London every day of the week if it means Emma can watch as a semi-spectator without anyone recognizing her.

 

A bloody siren. That’s what she is.

 


 

 They win that night.

 


 

 After the game when Emma walks into the locker room, her phone in hand for questions, she’s not wearing the jersey anymore. It’s been removed, and she’s wearing a black blouse that’s low cut enough that he can see the slightest bit of the cups of her bra. He’d bet that she didn’t think through having to remove his jersey when she got dressed, but he doesn’t mind how she looks.

 

He never does.

 

(She wore his fucking jersey.)

 

Except he can’t do anything about it but smile and answer her questions as well as everyone else’s. It’s a bit odd for her to not have Jeff following her around with the camera, but he knows that this means she’ll be writing an article instead. She’s always loved that.

 

Once all of the press members ask their questions, most of them British journalists, they filter out of the locker room, leaving everyone to strip out of their uniforms and move to take a shower. He’s taking off his belt when Arthur speaks, and his fingers still over the leather.

 

“I don’t know how any of us aren’t fucking Emma,” he grumbles, and the words make disgust drip down Killian’s spine. “Have you seen her body? I bet she’s fucking amazing in bed. I’d fuck her in a heartbeat. Damn am I glad women work in baseball now.”

 

The room goes silent, every man stopping what he’s doing, and Killian has words on the tip of his tongue but can’t say anything because Will is already talking.

 

“Fuck off, King,” Will curses, throwing his gear down on the ground. “I mean, seriously. What the bloody fuck? How shitty do you have to be to talk about someone like that? I knew you were an ass, but God, that’s next level. First of all, you’re fucking married, and even if you weren’t, that woman is a human being. You don’t get to talk about her like that.”

 

“Oh, come on, man. We’re all thinking it. Did you see her boobs just now? It’s nothing to get riled up about.”

 

“Yeah, yeah it is,” Will huffs as he crosses his arms over his chest. “The fact that you don’t realize that is just plain sad. She’s not coming in here to get ogled by you. She’s coming in here to do her job, and she’s damn good at it.”

 

Arthur rolls his eyes, and Killian’s blood boils even more. “Jones asked her out. How is that not the same thing?”

 

“Because he didn’t ask her out because he thinks of her as a sex object,” Will spits all the while Killian can barely hear any of this from the way his heart is thumping between his ears, a drum beat that’s louder than anything he’s ever heard.

 

Arthur darkly chuckles, and it’s that sound that has the drumline stopping so that his eyes snap over across the room. Killian didn’t even realize that he was clenching his fists, but when he looks down, he can see the red imprints of blood from where his nails were digging into his skin.

 

“Jones,” Arthur yells, “aren’t you going to back me up here? Isn’t she a fine piece of ass?”

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Killian yells before standing from the seat in his locker, quickly striding across the room until he and Arthur are eye-to-eye and completely lined up. Arthur’s got this disgusting cocky grin on his face, one that makes unpleasant chills run down his spine, and it’s taking everything in him not to punch the ever-loving shit out of the man. “Will is right. You’re an asshole, and you can’t be talking about her that way.”

 

“Why do you care so much? What, are you fucking her?”

 

And that’s when his first rises and slams into Arthur’s jaw, a sting spreading through his knuckles and up to his elbow. The drum starts beating in his head again, his heart pumping blood through him faster than normal, and everything is a blur as he moves his head to dodge Arthur’s punch and as someone grabs onto elbows and pulls him back and out of the room all the while a screaming match goes on in the locker room, every word muted to him except for the one name that keeps getting repeated.

 

Emma.

 

“Are you insane?” Robin gasps, and when Killian looks around, he can see that he’s been pulled off to the weight room that they’re using in this stadium. He didn’t even know Robin was in the locker room at the time. “You can’t punch Arthur no matter how big of an asshole he is. You’re going to fuck up your arm, and you can get suspended for weeks.”

 

“I don’t really care about either of those things right now.”

 

“Well you should,” Robin huffs, running his hands through his hair as he paces back and forth over the carpeted floor. “He’s an asshole. We all know that, and I wanted to punch him too…but you just can’t, mate. He’ll get his due, and it won’t come at the cost of your career.”

 

Robin is right. Robin is always right, but how is he supposed to sit there and let Arthur talk about his girlfriend like that? How is he supposed to let him talk about any woman like that? He simply can’t, and even though his knuckles hurt like hell right now and Archie is most definitely going to kill him, he doesn’t regret it. He can’t, and he’d bet that Will doesn’t either.

 

“Fuck,” Killian mutters, sitting down on a weight bench and burying his face in his hands as he tries to flex some of his fingers out. “Dammit. This isn’t how today was supposed to go. I’m not supposed to be punching our outfielder in a locker room in fucking London. I’m supposed to be enjoying my time and sipping tea at my niece’s birthday party because I’m this good guy that she looks up to when really everyone is a piece of shit.”

 

“Dramatic much?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Never,” Robin laughs as the door opens and Al stumbles inside, his long dark hair pushed back behind his ears and his tanned skin painted red in what Killian hopes is a sunburn and not anger.

 

“What the hell, Jones?” Al screeches, waling right up to him so that the tips of their shoes touch. “You punched King? With your right arm? What is going on in that head of yours?”

 

Killian groans, already ready to have his ego bruised and his career kicked by a man who is only four years older than him, and he straights his back so that Al isn’t look down at him as much as he should be.

 

“Are you in here to suspend me?”

 

Al’s brows furrow together. “What? No. Why would I suspend you?”

 

“Because I punched Arthur?”

 

Al waves him away, backing up the slightest bit. “No, I’m not going to suspend you for that. King can be a piece of shit sometimes, and I heard some of the stuff he was saying. He deserved that. My team are not going to be a bunch of sexist assholes who talk about our reporters that way. I can’t guarantee that there won’t be some kind of league suspension, but I doubt King takes it anywhere since then he’s had to explain the stuff he was saying.”

 

“Then why are you yelling at me?”

 

“Because you punched someone with your pitching arm, and I can’t have you messing up your arm again. Go see Archie right now, and get some damn ice on the thing.”

 

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Killian mock salutes, his head still spinning with everything that’s happened in the past fifteen minutes.

 

He takes it back. His life isn’t weird. It’s batshit crazy.

 


 

 Ariel has been yelling at him in his hotel room for the past fifteen minutes. This is after Liam and Elsa yelled at him for twenty minutes, each, and he’s so damn tired of having to listen to this. He’s aware of the fact that he could have messed up part of his season today, but he still doesn’t regret it. He could have made better choices, yes, but Arthur deserved it. And he’s fine. He’ll probably only have a slight bruise. The only significant damage is the fact that their already frayed relationship that only truly exists because they’re teammates and his wife is friends with Ariel is pretty much destroyed now. That’s fine with him. He doesn’t want anything to do with the asshole.

 

And he has no idea what he’s going to tell Emma about this. His knuckles have cuts and bruises on them already, his fingers aching when he stretches them out, and if she comes to his room tonight, there’s no way in hell she’s not going to notice.

 

Maybe he should cancel on her.

 

He doesn’t want to cancel on her.

 

He wants to spend time with her and simply be in her company, maybe even get to figure out the subway routes (or should he call them the underground here?) and find a secluded place to go out to dinner. But he’s got to explain his hand, and he’s really not sure how lying is going to go here.

 

Lying to Emma really isn’t his best idea, so he most likely shouldn’t do it.

 

“Are you even listening to me, KJ?” Ariel huffs, stopping her pacing and placing her hands on her hips. “You look like you’re not listening.”

 

“I’m not.” She reaches up to slap the back of his hand, but he grabs her wrist to stop her, putting it back by her side. “I’ve heard all of it before, okay? And I’m going to hear it again. I know, I know, I fucking know. It was dumb, but I couldn’t stand by and listen to that. Will couldn’t either, but he’s got enough brains to know better than to punch someone.”

 

“That is not a sentence I ever thought you would say.”

 

“Life is funny like that,” Killian chuckles before falling back against his hotel bed. Whoever is booking their hotel rooms this year obviously has no sense of a budget because he hasn’t had a roommate once. It’s glorious. “A, I have no idea why you care about me so much. I’m such a pain in your ass.”

 

“Yeah,” Ariel sighs, sitting down next to his shoulder on the bed so that she can look over at him, her red hair framing her face, “you are, but I love you, so I don’t mind too much. And you give me something to focus on other than my idiot husband.”

 

“Please, you and Eric have one fight a year, and it lasts about five minutes.”

 

“I’ll have you know that we fought just yesterday over what to have for dinner. It was a real battle. I nearly punched him, but I had enough sense to stop myself.”

 

His eyes roll, but he can feel the smile stretching across his lips as he twists his head to look at Ariel. “I love you too, by the way. You and Elsa and Anna are pretty much the three sisters I never had. And you’re much nicer to me than Liam ever was.”

 

“Please, Liam is your hero.”

 

“Yeah, but when I was eight and he was sixteen, I was not his favorite person in the world. I think you guys would have been much nicer to me.”

 

Ariel’s lips flatten as she nods her head, sarcasm practically penned across the lines on her forehead. “Sure, sweetie. That’s what would have happened. Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” She simply arches her brow. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Just a shitty afternoon. As long as I don’t get yelled at anymore, I think I’ll be perfect and ready to go for Addy’s birthday party tomorrow. Thanks for setting that up, by the way. I think you may actually be magic for how you convince people to do your bidding.”

 

“I know,” she says, a grin plastered on her lips. “I’m pretty much the best. Do you want to come and get dinner with me and Eric?”

 

“Raincheck on that one?”

 

“I’m holding you to that this time,” Ariel sighs, patting his shoulder before she rises from the mattress. “Keep putting ice on your hand, and doing your stretches. We’ve got a long season ahead of us, and you are not allowed to mess it up.”

 

“Understood, love. Have fun at dinner. Feel free not to yell at me tomorrow even though I know that you will.”

 

Ariel waves him away before picking up her purse and walking out the door while he stays stretched out on his mattress, wondering if he can convince whoever owns this hotel to send this mattress and these sheets to his apartment because it’s glorious. Maybe it’s not really and it’s simply the fact that he’s still jetlagged and has had an extremely long day, but he doubts it.

 

This is the best comforter in the world.

 

And he’s never going to move from it.

 

So, of course, there’s a knock on his hotel door. Of course.

 

Groaning, he pulls himself up to rise from the bed, the muscles in his backing aching the slightest bit, and steps over to the door, checking the peephole and finding Emma on the other side. He should have known, and honestly, of all of the people seeking him out tonight, she is his favorite.

 

Until he opens the door, lets her inside, and the first thing that she does is hit him in the chest.

 

What the hell?

 

“What the hell?” Emma fumes, echoing his thoughts. “You punched Arthur King today?”

 

Bloody hell.

 

Bloody hell? Is he British now? How long has he been using that phrase and hasn’t even realized it? This is what he gets for hanging out with Robin so much.

 

“Aye,” he sighs as his unbruised hand immediately goes up to scratch behind his ear. She doesn’t look angry, the same soft smile that’s usually painted on her face still there, but there’s fire behind the green of her eyes. “How do you know about that?”

 

“Belle told me.”

 

He arches a brow. “Belle?”

 

“Yeah, I ran into her when I was leaving the stadium, and we got to talking and she starts telling me all about you and Will getting into a fight with Arthur over me. I mean, seriously, Killian. How could you be so dumb to punch him? You’re lucky you didn’t fuck up your arm and that you aren’t getting sanctions against you.”

 

He should really start putting money on how many times he can be told that in one night. He’s betting at least once more tonight and then seven times tomorrow.

 

“Swan, I know, okay? I promise you I’ve already had my head chewed off about this enough times. I get it, but he was being an asshole and deserved it. Will confronted him first going on and on about how he was a sexist pig, and then Arthur brought me into it by asking how him talking about wanting to fuck you was any different than me asking you out on a date. Then I told him to stop, which only escalated into him asking you if I’m defending you because I’m fucking you. And obviously, I am, but that’s not why I was defending you. He doesn’t get to say shit like that about anyone, but especially not you.”

 

He releases a breath when he finishes his ramble, which is really only an abbreviated version of the events, but he’s going to lose his mind if he has to go through it one more time. Seriously. But the way Emma’s mouth keeps opening and closing, the right words obviously not coming to her, has him rethinking this and starting from the beginning. It’s not pretty, but she deserves to know.

 

“You, Killian Jones,” she laments, stepping closer to him and wrapping her arms around his waist in an unexpected move so that he can smell the vanilla of her perfume, “are an idiot asshole who I’m still very much mad at for messing with your hand like that, but I’m also thankful that you and Will didn’t let someone talk about me like that. I’ve been through so much like that already, and I’m glad I have you guys on my side.”

 

“You have everyone else in that locker room on your side, love,” he says as her rubs his hands up and down her back and rests his chin against her temple, twisting his head to the side so that he can press his lips into her hair. “Me most of all. Then Will, I’ve discovered today, and everyone else is somewhere in there, rankings improving as long as I’m always at the top.”

 

“You’re so stupid,” she laughs into his chest, the vibrations of it running through him.

 

“I’ve gotten that a lot today, but you obviously like me a little bit since I saw you wearing my jersey.”

 

Emma pulls back from the hug to look up at him, a bit of red painting her cheeks. “So, you saw that, did you?”

 

“I did. I have an eagle eye for my biggest fan.”

 

“I like you a lot, but I don’t think that I’m your biggest fan. Your nieces have me beat. I didn’t know tomorrow was Addy’s birthday.”

 

“Aye,” he smiles, fingers inching up her back and tugging her closer to him, “she is turning six, and Ariel has arranged for her to have a tea party in one of the suites separate from the team suites. You should come with me.”

“Killian.” The way she says his name has all of his hope deflating, and he immediately dips his head down to run his lips across the apple of her cheek while his thumbs rub circles into her lower back. “I can’t. You know that.”

 

“You can. You don’t have to come as my girlfriend. You can simply come as part of the team. I’ll say I ran into you in the hallway or something and insisted that you come along. Come on,” he begs, finally kissing her lips, lingering a moment too long for it to be chaste, “come with me. It’ll be a fun time, and you can meet my family without any of the pressure of meeting them as my girlfriend.”

 

“But I will be meeting them as your girlfriend.”

 

“They don’t know that.”

 

“I’m not sure how that makes me feel. I know I want to meet your family and for you to meet mine. It was my idea and all, but now that the reality is in front of me, I think I might need some more time.” She pulls back from him, releasing his waist and trailing her fingers along his arms until Emma’s holding his hands, soft thumb tracing over the rough parts of his knuckles as her brows furrow together. She’s inspecting to him, and nerves rile in his stomach until she looks up at him with a sympathetic smile. “Can I think on it tonight at least? I don’t have a present for Addy.”

 

Killian shrugs. “We can sneak out and go buy her something, or,” he twines their fingers together and tugs her toward the bed, “we can spend a little time in here with you on your back because it really wouldn’t make sense for you to have a present if you weren’t technically planning on coming to the party.”



“Watching TV?”

 

“Sure. We can keep it on while I fuck you with the image of you wearing nothing but my jersey playing in my mind.”

 

Emma laughs, something loud and boisterous, and he’s never been quite so thankful for the way that she enjoys his flirting. “I mean, that is the most typical athlete thing I’ve ever heard in my life, but we could always make it a reality.”

 

“Really now?”

 

“Mhm,” she hums, backing up into the mattress and sitting down, “but only because I liked the way you looked today when you realized I was wearing it. Plus, you defended me and all like a good human being, and I like good human beings.”

 

And I love you, he wants to say, but doesn’t, biting his tongue while he leans over her, hovering just above her face so that she blinks several times while looking up at him, her bottom lip tugged between her teeth.

 

“Well, only if you insist.”

Chapter Text

Emma can feel Killian’s nose nudging between her shoulder blades, his scruff scratching at her skin, and as good as it feels, she can’t help but curl further into her pillow and bring her knees up to her stomach, hoping that he’ll leave her alone so that she can sleep longer. So much longer. Jet-lag is a bitch, and she just wants to sleep forever. They don’t even get a day off when they get home, and just thinking about it has her dying.

 

Why in the world did she get sent over here when she’s only writing an article and doing social media stuff? Jeff should have come with her, Ruby too, but right now, she can’t really complain.

 

This bed is really soft.

 

London is wonderful.

 

Killian smells really good right now. He shouldn’t smell this good this early in the morning, and he probably got up to brush his teeth and put cologne on or something stupidly wonderful like that.

 

But she’s tired, and all she really wants is to sleep some more and for the pleasant ache between her thighs to lessen a bit so she won’t be thinking about it all day long. It’s a wonderful memory to have to think about as her day goes on, but still, a girl has got to be able to walk without her mind going to weird places.

 

The new phase of a relationship is so damn fun.

 

Sighing, she hugs her pillow more closely and keeps her eyes shut only for Killian to place the softest kiss in existence on the back of her neck that has the shiver multiplying its intensity by ten with each new vertebra that it reaches.

 

“Did you know that you are a kicker in your sleep?” he murmurs, his voice hoarse and gravely like it always is in the mornings. She really likes that. Like, really. “And that you are also a heat seeker, and I am in no way safe from your assault.”

 

“That sounds like a hard life,” Emma mumbles, still not bothering to open her eyes.

 

“The hardest. Do you know that we’ve only ever spent the night together in hotels? You’ve never even seen my bedroom. We somehow have never made it past the living room.”

 

“You’ve never seen mine.”

 

“True,” he sighs as his hand inches over her waist so that his nails can run over her stomach, making the muscles flutter. Or maybe those are the damn metaphorical butterflies. It doesn’t matter. “We should remedy that when we get home.”



Home.

 

He means New York. He doesn’t mean his apartment or her apartment. He simply means the city they both happen to live in, but knowing that doesn’t change the way her heart is hammering in her chest, that residual feeling of being terrified that this is all going to blow up in her face still lingering. It’s not there as much as it used to be, some of the fear tampering down the more comfortable she becomes with Killian, but as old ones fade away, new ones emerge like one of those creepy aliens in movies.

 

Killian isn’t like Walsh or Neal or any of the people who have hurt her. Anyone with half-functioning eyes could see that, and it’s reaffirmed in how he supports her every day. He sends her articles she’s written in the past with little notes attached to them on what he thinks. Sometimes he shares links to YouTube videos of her interviews, asking her how she noticed the strategy they employed to win that day or simply complimenting her on thinking on her feet when she gets put in a tough situation. The only people who could possibly support her more are Ruth and David, but Killian is very much inching up to the top of the Emma Swan fan club.

 

He’d probably make t-shirts. Several. And wear them under all of his clothes, the dork.

 

Dark and broody but also dorky. That’s how she’d describe him if she had to in three words or less.

 

So she’s not worried that he’s going to demean her or belittle her or make her feel unworthy like she has felt in the past, but there are so many other ways for him to hurt her. Their relationship getting out, for one, could destroy her professional credibility, at least for a little while. That’s something she thinks about every time she sneaks out of her hotel room and into his. It’s ridiculous hard to find a time when someone isn’t in the hallway. But what if he’s secretly shitty in some kind of other way? What if he doesn’t continue to be so open and honest with her? What if he realizes that her hang-ups are too complicated? What if he realizes that he doesn’t want to be patient with her when she does have her freak outs? He’s so damn patient with her, always waiting for her to make the move before he does, and there’s no guarantee he won’t get tired of that.

 

Why is this the morning that she thinks about this?

 

Probably because the reality of them telling their friends and family is hitting her. It was her idea, the guilt of lying to everyone overwhelming her, but now the actuality is overwhelming her even more.

 

Last night, she told Killian that she would go to Addy’s birthday party under this insane plan that he has of them fake running into each other in the hallway, and the reality of meeting his family is kind of freaking her out. She’s never met a boyfriend’s family before, which was always such a blessing, and now she’s invading Killian’s niece’s birthday party.

 

Where his brother, who he absolutely admires in every way, will be, along with his wife and their kids and all of these other people who are important to Killian.

 

Emma wants to run. She knows that she does. Feelings overwhelm her, the feelings she has for Killian most of all, but she thinks she’d rather be overwhelmed by the happiness that he helps her feel rather than the anxiety.

 

The new phase of a relationship is fun but also terrifying.

 

“Are you inviting me over for a sleepover?” she finally asks, hoping that Killian can’t tell that she’s freaking out a little bit.

 

Killian hums into her neck, and she finally opens her eyes, the brightness of the sun shining through the curtains blurring everything for a moment. “I am. I can get you all kinds of snacks. We’ll wear our best pajamas, watch movies, play truth or dare, maybe have a pillow fight or two.”

 

“Do you get all of your sleepover knowledge from 2000s rom coms?”

 

“Possibly.”

 

Emma chuckles before turning on the mattress, shifting into Killian’s space like he shifted into hers, and when she’s turned in his arms, she blinks at him, taking in the unshaven scruff and unruly hair that most definitely hasn’t been tamed. She likes that too. His hair is always doing different things, and she can’t decide what she likes best.

 

“You very obviously did,” Emma sighs, running her hands over the muscled curves of his biceps, “but that’s okay. That’s where all of my knowledge came from too. The closest I’ve ever gotten to one that’s not, like, a sexual thing is when Ruby and I room together on road games.”

 

“I don’t think that counts because then Robin, Will, and I have had a ton of sleepovers, and none of them involve any of the fun things I was talking about before.” He reaches up to cover her hand with his before leaning in and lazily moving his lips against hers. There are a lot of things she’s learning at twenty-seven, and one of them is most definitely how much she likes lazy morning make out sessions. They’re definitely one of the seven wonders of the world. “And who said there was going to be nothing sexual about our sleepover? I was definitely planning at least a little something.”

 

Her nose scrunches up, and Killian moves to gently bite it, making her laugh. “We can have something sexual happen, but only if it’s during truth or dare. No funny business otherwise, mister.”

 

His lips part like he’s going to say something, and she runs her hand up and down his arm as she waits. But then he blinks one long, slow blink and shuts his mouth, whatever words he was going to say curling back on his tongue.

 

“What?” she questions, moving her leg against his.

 

“Nothing,” Killian smiles, pressing forward to run his lips over hers again, making her toes curl from the way that he knows just what to do in a kiss to make her happy. “I was simply thinking of this sleepover we’re going to have, and how I need to buy some better pajamas for it. I can’t have you seeing me in anything less than decent.”

 

“You’re not wearing any clothes right now.”

 

“And I’ve yet to hear a complaint from you about that, so I think this may be decent attire.”

 

“Well then,” she sighs, slowly running her foot up his calf again and watching his eyes darken, “I think it’ll be perfectly fine attire then too.”

 


 

 This is stupid.

 

This is so, so stupid. She can’t believe she’s doing this. It’s ridiculous. The most ridiculous thing in the entire world. Okay, maybe not in the entire world, but she’s feeling extra dramatic right now.

 

The most dramatic, and that’s not an exaggeration.

 

Killian told her to meet him in the hallway where all of the suites in the stadium are located, and she’s been standing her for fifteen minutes pretending to look at her phone instead of actually looking at her phone and answering emails or something. Or checking stats for the game. She should be doing that, but they’re still in the top of the first inning, and she’s pretty sure this is going to be the game that never ends.

 

Ever.

 

And she’ll be stuck in this hallway in London for the rest of her life and die in the yellow maxi dress that she spent thirty minutes picking out because she had no idea what to wear to her secret boyfriend’s niece’s tea party birthday. She’d also debated on going out and getting a gift despite their conversation last night, but then she’d reminded herself that she’s not technically planning on coming to this thing. It’s some kind of fake spur of the moment thing, and bringing a gift would ruin that.

 

She needs to calm down.

 

This is fine.

 

A set of doors to her left open, and she sees Killian walk through. She’s so used to seeing him dressed in his uniform or sweatpants and some kind of team-branded t-shirt when they’re in a baseball stadium that it throws her off when she sees him in tight-fighting blue jeans with a light blue button down tucked in, the sleeves rolled up and several buttons at the top undone so that she can see little tufts of black hair and the silver chain that he wears to keep his mom’s ring next to his heart.

 

Athletes have all kinds of traditions and superstitions for every part of their life, but her favorite is that Killian keeps that ring on him at all times.

 

“Hello, kind acquaintance,” he teases when he sees her, eyes darting around the hallway while he steps closer, “funny running into you here looking absolutely gorgeous in that dress. I’d say it’s perfect for a tea party.”

 

“You are ridiculous.”



“You have got to stop saying that about me like it’s new information.” Killian steps up to her then, looking around once more before quickly dipping his head to kiss her while grabbing her ass like they didn’t just see each other two hours ago when she finally left his room. “You do look just beautiful, though. Sometimes I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

 

Heat immediately rises to her cheeks, but she tries to shake it and the butterflies in her stomach off. “I ask myself the same thing about you all the time.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes at her before holding his arm out. “You ready to go?”

 

Her eyes glance down at his elbow before looking back up at him. “Why are you holding your arm like that?”

 

“Because it’s proper to escort a lady to an event by giving her your arm when you walk, and I like to do proper by such a lady.”

 

“Killian,” she protests even as her heart absolutely hammers in his chest, “we can’t do that. There are people.”

 

“There’s no one. Indulge me for sixty seconds, okay?”

 

Maybe it’s that she’s feeling overwhelmed and like taking a risk or maybe it’s the way that he smiles, but something about him has her taking his arm and placing her hand in the crook of his elbow as they walk down the hallway until they’re at the double doors of the suite.

 

“It’s going to be fine, Swan,” Killian promises, squeezing her hand before letting go and pushing the door open so that the sounds of children excitedly talking fill their ears and her eyes take in all of the people in the room.

 

It’s not many, less than are usually in a big suite, but she can see at least fifteen kids, most of them children of players, and maybe ten other adults. That doesn’t seem like the right ratio, but these kids are old enough to be semi self-sufficient about most things. Everything is fine. She’s just nervous, which only gets worse when Killian’s niece spots them.

 

“Uncle Killian,” Addison screeches, stopping where she is and running toward the two of them in her blue dress. Killian immediately crouches down to her level, opening his arms to her and taking her into the tightest embrace before lifting her off of the ground while Addison nuzzles into his shoulder.

 

It may very well be the cutest and most heart-warming thing she has ever seen in her entire life.

 

“Happy birthday, my little love,” he sighs, swaying her as they stand. “How are you six years old? I’m pretty sure you’re still supposed to be a baby.”

 

“I’m too big to be a baby. Don’t be silly.”

 

“Don’t be silly?” he guffaws, pulling back and adjusting his grip on Addison. “Darling, I am always silly, but so are you. You’re basically the silliest goose.”

 

Addison scrunches up her nose, and Emma can see Killian in her there. It might be the dimples or the blue of her eyes, but Emma can see something even though both of Killian’s nieces look exactly like their mom. She is not weird at all for noticing these things. “We have talked about this. I am not a silly goose. I am a girl.”

 

“Geese can be girls.”

 

“Did you bring me a present?”

 

“A present?” Killian gasps, tickling Addison’s sides so that she giggles. “Am I supposed to bring you a present? No one told me.”

 

“But it’s my birthday,” she pouts.

 

“Did you bring me a present on my birthday? I don’t remember.”

 

“Yes,” Addison groans, holding her head back. “I drew you a picture of us.”

 

“Oh, that’s right, that’s right,” Killian sighs, glancing to the side and winking at Emma, which definitely doesn’t do something weird to her heart. “You did. I have it framed on my bookshelf because I love it so much. I do have a present for you, but your mom and dad told me that I had to leave it at home so you can’t open it until you get back to America.”

 

“What is it?” she gasps, not at all deterred by the fact that she can’t open her present yet.

 

“Addy,” a male voice sighs, and Emma turns her head to the side to see Killian’s brother standing near them, and that definitely does something to her heart, “remember what we talked about? You have to be patient.”

 

“But I’m excited!” Killian puts her on the ground so that she’s no longer at eye-level with all of them, but her confidence might as well make her six feet tall. “Where’s Lucy? I don’t see her.”

 

“She’s sitting with Mommy. Why don’t you go find them while I talk to Killian and Ms. Emma here?”

 

That’s when Addison’s attention turns to her, and suddenly she feels like more eyes are on her than when she’s on television.

 

Is she terrified of a six-year-old? No, that would be ridiculous.

 

(Also, Killian’s brother knows her name, and while that’s not weird, she feels like it is. Then again, she knows his entire family.)

 

“Who are you?” she questions, her hands on her hips and eyes focused.

 

Emma plasters a smile on her face, one that was already there even if she didn’t realize it, before squatting down so that she’s eye-to-eye with Addison.

 

“Hi, Addison. My name is Emma. I work with your uncle.”

 

“Are you a baseball player?”

 

“No,” Emma laughs, and she looks up at Killian when she hears him chuckle. He simply shrugs his shoulders and waggles his brows across his forehead. “I wish I was, but I work on TV. You know those people who ask Killian all kinds of questions?”

 

“That’s you?”

 

“That’s me.”

 

Addison smiles, the teeth she has missing obvious, before she steps a little closer to Emma and touches her dress, running her fingers over the material. “I like your dress. It kind of looks like a princess dress. Are you going to stay for my party?”

 

“Only if you want me to.”

 

“I do. Do you want to come and look at my cake with me? It’s shaped like a unicorn.”

 

“Sure, sweetie,” she answers, smiling at Addison and taking her hand as she’s dragged off to the other side of the room, leaving Killian and Liam behind.

 

For the next hour, her best friend in the world is Addy Jones, who very much takes Emma under her wings as she shows her around the suite and introduces her to all of her friends. The only real experience Emma has with kids is Leo, and the four-year difference between six and ten is kind of insane, but it’s not hard to adjust and talk about all of the right things. It gets a little more difficult when she meets Lucy, if only because Lucy is one reserved little girl, but Emma notices that she very easily follows in Addy’s footsteps and has her own little personality, even if it’s quieter.

 

Lucy Jones also very much loves her uncle, and it makes Emma’s heart do that funny stuttering thing every time she looks up and sees Lucy sitting with Killian as he animatedly talks to her and makes her laugh with this little high-pitched squeal. She’s always known how much Killian loves his nieces from how he talks about them and how he has pictures of them in his apartment and on his social media, but seeing it in person is this whole new thing. He’s in his element, even more than he is when he’s on a baseball field like the one just outside, and this smile that’s been with her most of today continues to increase, the corners of her lips constantly ticking up whenever she thinks about him.

 

Which is a lot.

 

Probably more than a normal amount, and she just loves him so damn much that…

 

Holy shit.

 

She loves him.

 

She loves him.

 

Why is she realizing that right now as she sits at a table with people she doesn’t really even know while she watches him very obviously stick his pinky out while drinking tea teaching Lucy to do the same?

 

How in the world did this happen?

 

And is she terrified or so incredibly excited that it feels a lot like the fear that’s been weaving in and out of her days lately?

 

Does he love her too? Can he? She thinks that he can, that he does, but how is she ever supposed to know for sure? It’s been a good while since she actually felt this way, and she’s not sure that she trusts her heart to realize the difference.

 

“It’s Emma, right?”

 

Emma looks up from her seat to see Elsa Jones standing above her, blonde hair pulled back into a complicated braid and soft smile painted across her lips.

 

“Yeah, yes, that’s me,” Emma stutters, holding out her hand to shake Elsa’s. “Elsa?”

 

“The one and only. Well, kind of,” she laughs before pulling out the empty chair next to Emma and sitting down. “It’s so nice to meet you. I feel like I know you from your job.”

 

“Funny, I feel like I know you.”

 

Okay, so that’s probably pretty creepy. Was that creepy?

 

Before Emma can think about it too much, Elsa laughs, something that sounds genuine, and Emma has to remind herself that this is just another person who she knows is kind. There’s nothing to be afraid of. She talks to people for a living.

 

“I would bet. Killian talks far too much, so you get a lot of information out of him when you’re likely just looking to talk about the game. I really liked the special you did at the beginning of the season. It felt very much like him as a person, which I’m always so happy to see.”

 

“He’s a great subject. It’s not easy getting a lot of these guys to be charming and funny about things other than baseball, so I love when I find one that knows how to open up. And he’s so good with your daughters. I hope I’m not intruding on your day, but Killian – ”

 

“Found you wandering the halls and dragged you along?” Emma arches her brow, but Elsa simply waves her away, shaking her head from side to side as she glances out the windows to the game that Emma is only half paying attention to even though it’s her job. “Liam told me. You’re not intruding at all. Addy has gone on and on about her pretty new friend Emma, and any friend of my girl is a friend of mine. Plus, we Joneses owe you about a million apologizes for my dumbass brother-in-law asking you out.”

 

She has to cover her mouth with her hand as she laughs, a snort escaping her before she can stop it. “Did you guys give him hell for that? I feel like he does deserve it.”

 

“Oh, most definitely. Killian is not a super spontaneous guy, especially when it comes to women, not anymore at least, so I’m not entirely convinced someone didn’t spike his water bottle. I actually choked on my own water bottle when I saw it happening, so I gave him hell for that too.”

 

“Good, but I’ve forgiven him as long as he never does something like that again. Our working relationship is much better now because he can basically never say no when I want an interview.”

 

“True,” she says, her smile somehow brighter. “You’ve got to use those kinds of things in your favor. I do it with Liam all the time. It works like a charm.”

 

“What does?” Liam asks as he steps up to them.

 

“Hi, sweetie,” Elsa greets him, tilting her head back so that Liam can kiss her. “Have you met Emma?”

 

“I did when she came in, but I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to her before Addy dragged her away. So, it’s nice to meet you, Emma.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you as well. I was telling Elsa that it’s good to put real faces to names I’ve heard so much about.”

 

“You’ve heard a lot about us?”

 

“Oh, y-yeah,” she mumbles, internally cursing herself again. “Work and all. I know far too much about the lives of all of the players, which is both a good and bad thing.”

 

“I would bet. Do you know about – ”

 

“Yesterday?” she asks. Liam nods his head, his smile tightened. “Yeah, I know. It was shitty, but it happens. And I’m glad Will and Killian and some of the other guys stood up for me like that, even if Killian was an idiot for messing up his hand. But I feel like I’m part of the team sometimes, and it’s nice to know they have my back.”

 

“Emma,” Addy squeals as she runs toward the three of them, completely ignoring her parents, “Killian said to come and get you to ask if you wanted to join our tea party. He says that you don’t know how to drink tea, and I have to help you.”

 

Her eyes immediately glance over to Killian, and when he moves his brow across his forehead, laughter bubbles inside of her stomach and her mouth falls into a soft smile. The ridiculous fool.

 

“You know what, Addy,” she sighs, “I don’t think I know how to drink tea. You and Lucy will have to teach me, okay?”

 

“I know. Come on.” Addison tugs at her arm until she rises from her chair, excusing herself to Liam and Elsa before she’s dragged across the room and over to the table where all of Addison’s friends and Killian are eat snacks and drinking tea, which looks a lot more like orange juice, and Emma is told to sit down in the chair next to Killian who is holding Lucy’s goldfish snacks while she inspects all of them. “Uncle Killian, I brought Emma over. Emma, do you want orange tea or apple tea?”

 

“Um, orange tea.”

 

Addy nods her head before she’s running off to the other side of the table and leaving Emma with Killian and Lucy.

 

“So, you need to teach me how to drink tea then?”

 

He shrugs his shoulders as he attempts to flip the hair that’s fallen over his forehead back. “My brother and sister-in-law had cornered you, and I thought you might need a little saving. I knew that you were a little nervous about meeting them.”

 

“How could you possibly know that?”

 

“You talk in your sleep.”

 

“I do not, you as – jerk,’” she corrects, stopping herself when Lucy looks up at her. “Hi, sweetheart. I like your dress.”

 

“Thank you,” she says quietly, sweetly. “It’s yellow. Yours is yellow.”

 

“I know. We’re basically twins. Are you going to eat your goldfish?”

 

Lucy softly smiles, little blonde curls falling in her face, before picking up a handful of her snacks from Killian and offering them over to Emma in a sweet gesture that definitely rivals everything romantic that her uncle has ever done.

 

“Thank you, Lucy.” Emma pops one into her mouth only to look up at Killian and see that his eyes are crinkled, those little lines showing up, and her stomach pleasantly twists at the sight of it. She realized that she loved him less than twenty minutes ago, and there are still a lot of crazy feelings processing in her brain right now. A lot. “Do you want some, twenty-nine?”

 

Killian blinks, almost like he doesn’t recognize her nickname for him, before reaching over and taking some of the fish that she’s offering him. It’s cheesy and very romance novel-ish, but she swears that she feels sparks when his fingers brush over the palm of her hands.

 

“Thank you, love.”

 

“I have your orange team, Emma,” Addy shouts as she comes back to them, balancing a far too full plastic cup of orange juice that spills a little on the carpet until Emma takes it from Addy’s hand.

 

“Well, thank you, Addy. But it’s your birthday. Shouldn’t I be helping you do something instead of you handing me my tea?”

 

Addy hums at this, her forefinger tapping against her chin while her foot taps on the ground. “You can help me open my presents later, okay?”

 

“That sounds like a deal.”

 


 

 “Working hard or hardly working?”

 

Emma pulls the headphones from her ears so that she can hear Killian better, even though she could most definitely hear the cheesy phrase that just came out of his mouth. His family is flying back on the team plane, as are all of the other players’ families, and since she is Addison Jones’s new favorite person as of seven hours ago, she was asked to sit with all of the Jones clan, which has really just been her sitting in a seat by the window with Addy and Lucy switching seats until the both of them were corralled by their parents to go to sleep. And now she’s got Killian sitting next to her, which is what she was hoping for but isn’t the most subtle thing in the world.

 

They are not subtle people even when they probably think they are.

 

She’d never make it in federal law enforcement or something like that.

 

“My deadline is in an hour, and I had to pay twenty-seven dollars for WiFi so that I could send it in.”

 

“So, working hard?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Do you want me to leave?”

 

“No, no,” she protests, reaching down to take another sip of her coffee. Her jet-lag is going to be even worse of a bitch tomorrow. “You can stay. I just have to check my stat facts, and then I’ll be finished. It’s kind of hard to work when everyone else is asleep and it’s so dark in here, so, you know, I’m drinking all of the caffeine to stay awake. I think I have a food baby made of unicorn cake.”

 

“Aye, me too,” he laughs as he pats his stomach. “That was too much sugar.”

 

“No such thing.”

 

“Oh, but there is, darling.” His hand brushes over her forearm, and she can see the slight scabs and marks from him punching Arthur yesterday. Nothing new has been said, no suspensions mentioned, and she hopes that it stays that way. She also hopes that nothing like that ever happens again.

 

“How does your hand feel?”

 

“A little sore, but I’m right as rain. It’s a good thing I have several days off, yeah?”

 

Emma groans, shutting her eyes just at the thought of getting up to work tomorrow like most people on this plane except for Killian and Robin. “Don’t remind me. I’m going to look like a zombie tomorrow, and feel even worse than that. If I ever go overseas again, it’s going to be for long enough to adjust to the time.”

 

“You and me both,” he yawns, and she’s totally endeared by the way his face contorts there only for him to smile at her with a tired, boyish grin that she’s endeared by even more. “Finish up your article, my love, and then I say that you at least try to go to sleep.”

 

“Always looking out for me.”

 

“You know it.”

 

Her hand reaches over his scarred one so that she can squeeze it, which is all she can really do right now. But honestly, being right here next to him simply sitting together after all of the craziness of these few days – baseball, meeting her boyfriend’s family, asshole players getting punched, quick tours of London that went by in a blur, and realizing that she loves Killian – is more than enough when it’s already absolutely everything.

Chapter Text

“I have four days off of work, and I feel like you.”

 

Emma sighs the words as she drops a bag in the entryway of Killian’s apartment, the black and white bag making a small thud against the hardwood. He’s got absolutely no idea what she has in there, but it sounds like every book she’s ever owned plus a brick or two that she somehow picked up on her subway ride over here.

 

Killian fakes a laugh, rolling his eyes a bit as Emma walks up to him and wraps her hands around the back of his neck, pressing up on her toes to gently brush her lips over his in greeting.

 

“You’re so funny,” he says sarcastically. “You know for a fact what I do on my days where I’m not pitching. I work a solid two hours a day on all of those days.”

 

Emma hums as her fingers curl into the back of his hair, and he can practically see the mischief dancing in her eyes. “You poor, hard-working man. I don’t know how you do that.”

 

“I put one pant leg on at a time like everyone else in the world.”

 

“You are basically a hero.”

 

“I definitely think I have a mark in a hero column.” Killian dips his head to run his lips over hers again in a better greeting than the one they just had. “I’m happy you have four days off. Whatever are you going to do with them?”

 

“Tonight, I was promised a sleepover with my boyfriend where he’s going to bake for me. Tomorrow, I think I’m going to go hang out with my nephew and take him outside to sweat it out in this insufferable July heat, and then for the next two days – who knows? I think I might just sleep while you spend your days exercising and suffering outside.”

 

“I am particularly interested in the activities you’re going to do on the first day.”

 

“I thought you would be. Can I take a shower first, though? I went to spin class with Ruby this morning, and I feel super gross.”

 

“I mean, I wasn’t going to say anything about the smell but – ”

 

Emma slaps his chest and laughs before baking away, a smile on her face. “Shut up, you ass. I’m finally going to go see what kind of shampoo it is that you use to make your hair soft and smell so good. You can learn a lot about a man from his shower.”

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to join you, love? It feels wrong that you’re seeing my bedroom and bathroom for the first time without me.”

 

“Oh no, it’s awesome. Like I said,” Emma sighs as she picks up her bag supposedly full of books and bricks, “I’m about to snoop. Be back in however much time it takes me to go through your stuff.”

 

“The hot water twists to the right,” he yells at her before picking up his mug of coffee and taking a sip, laughing under his breath at Emma.

 

Ridiculous woman who he loves.

 

So much.

 

Every part of him wants to tell her, wants to say the words out loud so that she knows just what she means to him, but he’s still biting his tongue. He thinks Emma might love him too, that she might be in the same place emotionally, but he doesn’t know. There have been moments in the past week where he thinks maybe just maybe she’s going to say something, but then she’ll change the subject or smile at him and he’ll know that the words aren’t coming.

 

Emma’s been burned so badly in her past, from her parents to her exes to the assholes she works with, and he’s still so amazed that their relationship is going so well. They very obviously had a rocky start, but the faith and trust that he has in her and that she has in him to share the depths of her heart astounds him.

 

This is – this is everything that he never thought he’d have again, and he keeps telling himself to calm down in his future thoughts because it’s still so soon.

 

When has his timing ever matched up with conventional standards?

 

But she makes him so incredibly happy, and even when they get into little arguments, he’s glad to be having those. Weirdly, he missed them. He missed having someone to debate dinner plans with and to have to schedule time to spend with and all of those other little things.

 

Emma was so good with his nieces in London last week too. He knew that she would be since she has so much experience with Leo, but it was refreshing to see how taken she was with Addy and Lucy. Or really, how taken Addy and Lucy were with her. Killian knew that asking her to come to Addison’s birthday party was a bit of a gamble that she likely wouldn’t take him up on, but he’s so glad that she did. Watching her walk around the room in that yellow dress effortlessly talking to his family was absolutely everything to him.

 

Logically, he knows that once they decide to share that they’re dating with those closest to them, Emma’s going to have to do some kind of reintroduction to the family, and he hopes that it goes well then too, that no one is mad at them for hiding such a big thing right under their noses.

 

That’s not going to happen. It simply won’t.

 

Elsa and the girls had nothing but nice things to say about Emma after that day, especially when the girls kept trying to sit next to her on the plane ride home, and all Liam did was tease him about asking her out and how she must be the most forgiving woman on the planet.

 

She must be.

 

Killian can hear the water run through the pipes to the shower in his bathroom, and since he heard no screaming, he assumes Emma figured out how the shower works well enough on her own. So, he opens his fridge and starts pulling out the ingredients he needs today. He had to go grocery shopping this morning, which was a bit of an ordeal since he had no idea what he was shopping for, and he feels like his fridge is stocked with food to make enough baked goods to stock one of those insane sales that Addy and Lucy have at their school every few months.

 

How much money can they really raise through selling baked goods? Donating money would likely be more effective, but he is very obviously not on a PTA board.

 

But he told Emma that he would bake for her one of these days, or really, that he would bake with  her, and he’ll be damned if they don’t finally do that today. He swears that things keep getting more and more hectic lately in between traveling for work and then doing actual work, and they never get a moment to just breathe and be in each other’s company.

 

Or talk.

 

They have a hell of a lot to talk about as well, and there never seems to be time. Hence why they’ve been home from London for over a week and still haven’t been able to talk about telling their friends and family.

 

What is life going to look like during the off-season? He wants to imagine, but he can’t. Not quite yet. That’s getting ahead of himself once more.

 

As the water in the bathroom runs, he starts mixing the ingredients for the crust of the strawberry lemonade bars they’re going to make. He knows that Emma is a bigger fan of chocolate while he is not, and on another day, they’ll do something more up her alley. He’s got things for smores, mostly as a joke, and he imagines she wouldn’t mind simply eating the chocolate bars.

 

The water turns off in the bathroom, and yet twenty minutes later, Emma still hasn’t emerged from his bedroom. Curious, he puts the whisk he’s using down and wanders back down the hallway to his bedroom, his door open so that he can see Emma sitting on his bed with a brush in hand as she works at a tangle in her damp hair, gaze focused out of one of floor-to-ceiling windows to the city skyline below.

 

“Hey.”

 

Her head twists toward him, a soft smile curved on her lips.

 

“Hey,” she smiles, tugging at her brush, “you have a super nice shower, and I’m totally going to utilize that more often. Also, your bed is comfortable, and it is a shame we have never used it before. Like, I love your couch a lot and the times we have had on it, but I think the bed may win.”

 

“Is that what you’ve been doing in here this entire time? Thinking about my bed?”

 

“Yep. I wasn’t really going to snoop. That’s weird. I just wanted to make sure your bed was comfortable, and I was right.”

 

Killian chuckles under his breath as he steps further into the room and bends his knees to brush a kiss across her temple. “I wouldn’t have minded if you snooped. There’s nothing to hide in here.”



She arches a brow. “Really? You don’t have some kind of super weird shrine of me hidden in your closet?”

 

“Hmmm, no. I have one of Erin Andrews though. She’s my favorite blonde sportscaster.”

 

“You’re the worst,” Emma groans even as a chuckle passes through her lips. She tosses her brush behind her, letting it bounce on the mattress, before falling back onto the mattress herself. It’s then that he notices she’s wearing a matching set of pajamas, pink and white striped shorts with a button down with the same pattern. “Your jokes are not homeruns today.”

 

“Yours aren’t either, darling,” he sighs before sitting down next to her and running his hands up her inner thigh before messing with the hem of her shorts. “Did you bring matching pajamas simply to mess with me?”

 

Her head pops up to look at him, golden hair darkened by the water and her face bare of makeup. “Yep. You said we were having a sleepover, and I am taking you to your word. If it makes you feel less like we’re teenagers, though, I do not have a bra on under this shirt.”

 

“Really now?” he growls, twisting on the bed and crawling toward her, his mouth hovering over hers as his hand snakes up underneath her shirt to feel the soft skin and the very obvious lack of a bra covering her breast as he flicks his fingers over her nipple. “Ah, you weren’t lying then.”

 

“I tend to like to tell the truth.”

 

“That’s good. Me too.”

 

His tongue slides into the warm heat of her mouth as Emma gasps beneath him, her hips arching up while her mouth explores his even though she’s most definitely already got it mapped out. It’s as intoxicating as ever to kiss Emma, to glide and nip and tease as arousal tricks down to the base of his spine and his groin. This is not at all what he came into his bedroom for, but intentions were very literally left at the door now that he’s teasing her breast and tangling his tongue with hers in a passionate slide.

 

It’s quick as he unbuttons the buttons on Emma’s shirt, quicker still as she pushes him onto his back and slides his joggers off of his legs so that she can bite at the skin at his hip, nibbling a bruise into his skin that he’s sure will be there for days. There’s no time to worry about that, though, because then Emma’s hand is settling at the base of his length while her mouth settles around the tip, and he nearly implodes right then and there.

 

Fucking glorious.

 

And he tells her so in a stuttered breath, one that he can barely catch from the way that she’s working him higher and higher. His hips arch up off the bed when she hums around him, and his head presses back into his pillow while his eyes shut. He can’t, he can’t, he can’t…and then the heat of Emma’s mouth is gone, and his eyes open as his heart wildly pounds in his chest. He’s just about to ask if she’s okay and then if she is, what the hell is she doing, but then he watches her slide a condom down his shaft before she settles over him and sinks down onto him so that he can feel the most glorious heat of all.

 

“Holy fuck,” he mutters, reaching forward to grab onto her hips, holding on tightly enough that his fingerprints might as well be inked into her skin. “How many times do I have to tell you, love, that you’re going to be the death of me?”

 

Emma rocks above him, her still-damp hair falling down her back as she arches it. “A few more times, at least. Or until you die.”

 

“I love that you can be so morbid in a moment like this.”

 

“I, ah, I try.”

 

As much as Killian wants to thrust up into her, to control the movements and the pace, he lets Emma do just that as he watches her move above him in what is very well the most glorious sight he’s ever seen. He can turn his head to either the right and see a skyline of Manhattan that looks out onto Central Park, but nothing can compare to this. Not the view from his bedroom or the view of miles and miles of ocean stretching out ahead of him with the sun beating down on his back.

 

Not even the view of thousands of people cheering for him in the stands.

 

Nothing compares to Emma.

 

The muscles in her thighs flex as she continues to move, her hands curled into the hair of his chest and pulling at him, and he can see sweat beading at her forehead. He imagines that later she’ll complain about how she just showered, how she was already sore from going to spin class, but there are no complaints now as his orgasm rolls in on a slow motion that has him cursing Emma’s name instead of confessing his love for her.

 

That may very well be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, but thankfully he could focus on his own falling apart and then Emma’s, her orgasm coming to her with her flushed cheeks and parted lips.

 

That’s another glorious sight right there. They seem to be never ending.

 

“Just for the record,” Emma sighs several minutes later when they’ve cleaned themselves up and changed back into clothes, “that was not my intention for this morning.”

 

Killian cocks a brow and moves to cross his arms behind his head from where he’s propped up in bed, a sated smile on his face. “Am I simply that irresistible to you?”

 

“You smelled really good, so obviously I just had to fuck you.”

 

“Oh, well, of course.”

 

Emma giggles against his shoulder before looking up at him and brushing her lips over the corner of his mouth. “And maybe. I feel like I can’t tell you that you’re irresistible because then I’ll inflate your ego too much.”

 

“Ah yes. That could be an issue.”

 

Emma opens her mouth to say something, and he feels his stomach twist in anticipation only for Emma’s stomach to audibly growl. “I feel like now would be a good time to get that baking done.”

 

“Oh shit,” he curses, gently moving Emma off of him so that he can get up from bed, “I left the ingredients out on the counter before I came in here. They’re not supposed to sit out that long.”

 


 

 “You’ve got a little something on your cheek, love,” Killian teases as the two of them stand in his kitchen, his countertops covered in bowls and pans with cartons and bags left open. It’s far from the tidiness that he usually keeps, but no part of him minds this morning as he and Emma get more time together.

 

Emma scrunches up her nose in response, reaching her hand up to wipe at her face on both sides and only managing to get flyaway hairs from her still-damp braid stuck to her cheek.

 

“Did I get it?”

 

“No,” he lies, squinting his eyes so that he can focus in on her face just that little bit more. How is he so enamored with those freckles? “On your left cheek, Swan. Right in the middle.”

 

She huffs with a slight roll of her eyes before raising her hand and rubbing at her cheek while he reaches into the bowl of icing for their strawberry lemonade bars they’re (mostly him) making and swipes his finger through the cream before running his finger down Emma’s cheek as her lips part and her eyes quickly blink up at him.

 

“Did you just make up me having something on my cheek so that you could put icing there?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“You’re an asshole.”

 

“You’re calling me that a lot today.”

 

“Yeah, well,” she scoffs, crossing her arms over her chest as the pout that’s on her face begins crack, the corner of her mouth ticking up the slightest bit on the right, “you are being one.”

 

“Hey, love?” he asks, knowing that he’s about to start truly pissing her off, “you have a little something on your cheek. You should probably get that.”

 

If her eyes could roll to the back of her head, they would, and while Emma says that he’s the one without a great poker face, she doesn’t have too great of one right now either. She uncrosses her arms, and she looks like she’s going to wipe at the stripe of icing that’s on her cheek, but at the last minute, she lunges for the bowl only for him to grab her wrists and pull her arms upwards so that she can’t get the icing.

 

“Asshole,” Emma repeats while he laughs, nudging her knee away from his so that they can move out of the kitchen. Or at least a little. He’s pretty sure that Emma has her knees locked so that she won’t move. “You can’t just put icing on my face and not give me the opportunity to do the same to you.”

 

The words “love isn’t fair” almost escape his lips, but he bites his tongue, one particular word in that sentence not something he can say unless he’s calling Emma “love.” Even that sometimes seems risky, but it’s as natural as saying her name.

 

“Maybe later,” he falsely sighs, dipping his head to brush his lips over her cheek so that he can taste the icing that resides there, a sweet taste of strawberry. “You’re sweet.”

 

“You’re cheesy.”

 

“I don’t think I’m covered in cheese.”

 

“Oh my gosh,” Emma groans, leaning forward so that her forehead presses into his chest, her laugh loud enough so that he can feel the vibrations of it. “I cannot believe that I’m actively choosing to date you.”

 

“Trust me, darling, I ask myself why you’re dating me every single day.”

 

“As you should.”

 

They eventually get back to actually baking, the two of them working in companionable silence even though he keeps having to tell Emma to keep going on mixing the batter. She wants to use a mixer, which is fine most of the time, but this is always better if it’s done by hand. Emma is not a baker in the slightest, and while he knew that, it does surprise him the slightest bit when she asks questions that he thinks most people know the answer to. Then again, she never had someone to teach her to cook or bake or any basic life skills, which is probably why she loves grilled cheese sandwiches and other simple foods like that. They were something she could teach herself.

 

Liam taught him how to cook. Brennan never cared enough to.

 

But then again, past the knowledge that Liam gave him and that he learned from watching the Cooking Channel, he’d know nothing about baking if it wasn’t for the accident and his broken arm and torn rotator cuff. Almost instinctively, he rolls his shoulders back and begins stretching his right arm to loosen it up. It’s felt fine the past few days, but he felt a slight pull in it late last night and is hoping that it’s not going to start acting up again. He knows that his injury is most likely going to have a permanent effect on him, but like always, some days are better than others. And he’s doing everything to prevent it. He honestly doesn’t know what he’d do if presented with another long injury lay-off. Would he even have the motivation to try to come back?

 

That’s not a thought that he wants to have.

 

So, he doesn’t. He goes back to telling Emma about his day yesterday and how well he thinks the team is going to do for the rest of the season. His confidence with his arm may fluctuate, but his confidence with the team does not. They’re playing damn well this season, better even than last season, and he can’t help but hope that they’re going to be standing on the field as winners at the last game of the season.

 

Getting ahead of himself. He’s got to stop doing that.

 

“Yeah, well, if that happens, you still can’t ask me out on air,” Emma teases, bumping her hip into his while she pours the batter into the pan.

 

“Swan, we’ve very much established that only you ask me out in this relationship.”

 

“Exactly. I’m obviously the person who always makes the big moves.”

 

Killian shakes his head before kissing to top of her head and turning around to put the tray into his oven, closing the door and setting a timer for thirty minutes on his phone. He and Emma settle down onto his couch, Emma throwing her legs over his lap and stretching her arm over his shoulder while his hand settles on her inner thigh. It’s comfortable, relaxed, and he could fall asleep with the way the sun is softly coming through his windows and the television is playing quietly in the background.

 

But he doesn’t. Mostly because Emma starts talking.

 

“So, we need to talk.”

 

His head twists toward her so that he can look in her eyes. “I feel like that’s something you’ve said before.”

 

“Funny,” Emma laughs, nibbling on her bottom lip, “because I have, and we’re about to have the same conversation.”

 

A sigh passes through his lips as his mind connects the dots. “Ah, well, what is it you want to say? I figure you have an itemized list in that head since you’re the one who brought it up.”

 

“It’s not itemized, per say. It’s just kind of there all mixed around.” Her free hand moves as she says this, and she sinks a little further into the couch, splaying her legs out over him even more. It’s the most comfortable and awkward he thinks she’s ever looked in his presence. “I’m…it’s hard, okay. Don’t laugh at me.”

 

“I’m not laughing,” he says even as he laughs, his teeth biting down on his bottom lip while Emma glares up at him. “Okay, okay. You’re just so flustered, and it’s adorable.”

 

“How do we ever have serious conversations?”

 

“Usually we’re in a hotel bed.”

 

“Damn, you’re right. I’d say we go back to your bed, but I feel like I’ll get distracted by how soft your sheets are.”

 

“Oh, and not by me?”

 

“Nope,” Emma chuckles, bopping his nose, “not at all.”

 

His hand taps at her hip, fingers curling up underneath her top so that he can pinch the skin on her stomach. “Share what’s on your mind, darling.”

 

She sighs, her lashes fluttering closed against cheeks.

 

“So, I really, really want to tell people about you and me. I want to be able to not have to lie to Ruby about where I’ve been or not be able to tell David and Mary Margaret what’s going on in my life. And I want you to be able to tell Liam and Elsa. I don’t want to go to any other parties where I just happen to be there and have to act like I don’t’ know all of this information about your family. But then it’s just so complicated because, like, what about your team? Obviously, we can’t tell everyone, but you probably want to tell Robin and Will, maybe even Eric. And telling Eric means telling Ariel, probably Belle too, and then it’s just this wide web of people who know and can’t say anything. And it really doesn’t change how we spend our time together except adding a few apartments for us to hang out in. By the way, there’s a dude with a camera hanging out outside the apartment building, and I had to wait for him to leave his spot to come inside. So, there’s that too.”

 

Emma just spewed a couple hundred words at him in what must have been a singular breath, and he feels like he’s whiplashed as he tries to work through them all and pick exactly where he needs to start.

 

Damn, okay. This is complicated. This is all so complicated, and it’s very much his fault for his actions of nearly a year ago. There are other factors and complications, and while yes, the two of them could very much say that they’re dating and be able to live their lives more freely, they both know that it’ll be easier to possibly share once the season is over. It’ll make Emma’s life and job less complicated and while things are obviously going well, those few extra months will make it easier for them to actually know what they’re doing here.

 

“Okay,” Killian finally sighs, figuring he might as well take it item by item, “so first of all, I can get you a key to the back entrance so you don’t have to deal with the occasional obnoxious paparazzi who obviously don’t know that I’m not that interesting. I should have already done that, but I felt like that would be a bit presumptuous.”

 

“Yeah, I would have freaked the fuck out.”

 

“You’re not doing that right now?”

 

She shrugs. “Only a little.”

 

“So that’s one problem solved,” he sighs, tapping one finger against her stomach for emphasis. “Next, when you go home tomorrow, I want you to tell Ruby and Graham, okay? That’s going to be step one, and I’d honestly really like to come over and see your apartment and meet them. The same goes with David and Mary Margaret and even Ruth. Those people are all your family, and if you want to share that you have the most handsome lover in all of New York, I want you to do that.”



“That’s exactly what I’m going to tell Ruth and David. I’m going to call you my lover and see which one freaks out more. I bet David asks me for sex details.”

 

“Swan,” he groans as his head leans against the top of his couch, his lips curling into a smile, “that sounds like a good way for me to get murdered.”

 

“David is not that scary.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’ve found that no matter how progressive the world gets, older brothers tend to be far too protective, and no offense, but David is that type. I bet when we meet that he’ll squeeze my hand far too tightly in the handshake.”

 

“I hate that you’re right about that.”

 

“Exactly. But we’re clear on that. You tell your family, and I will tell mine. We’ll both make it clear that this doesn’t get out, and since we trust them, we know they’re going to respect that, yeah? And just so you know, I guarantee that Liam is going to insist on meeting you again and pull all of that older brother shit too.”

 

“Maybe we should just let he and David hash it out.”

 

“That’s exactly what we should do,” Killian chuckles as his phone starts to buzz, the timer for the oven going off. Emma’s legs slide off of him for him to stand from the couch and walk to the kitchen, grabbing two oven mitts to remove the hot pan and place it on the burners. “But seriously. We take this slow, okay? I know that I’m going to tell Liam and Elsa first, and you’ll likely tell Ruby first. And if it goes well, we take baby steps to move onto other people.”

 

“Are they going to totally hate us for keeping this a secret from them?”

 

“Maybe but not once they see how happy we are.”

 

Emma stands from the couch and walks over to him in the kitchen, leaning over his island to eye the cooling lemonade bars. “So, when are we going to be able to eat those?”

 

“In about an hour, so you have to be patient.”

 

“I’ve never been particularly good at that.”

 


 

 Walking around the apartment, Killian starts opening up curtains to let the florescent lights of the city in, his bedroom painted in a soft glow of red and greens and yellows. The only light he has on in his bedroom is from the television, so he keeps seeing Emma’s features in flashes. It’s likely the laziest day he’s had in years, and while they did hash out details of letting their under-wraps relationship be a little more public, most of their day has been spent in bed exploring each other or watching Netflix and eating their baked goods and the pizza that he ordered. He knows that he and Emma teased each other about this being a sleepover when they’re both grown adults who are dating and not teenagers who are spending the night at their friend’s house, but they’re somehow falling into all of the stereotypes they teased each other about.

 

The glass of rum he’s had and the glass of wine Emma’s nursing surely help.

 

Maybe a little bit of boredom too.

 

“Truth,” Emma says flatly, pulling his comforter further up over her lap.

 

“Hmm,” he hums while he makes his way back to the bed, crawling under the covers and shifting to run his legs over Emma’s so that he can feel her smooth skin, “tell me the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you.”

 

“My boyfriend asked me out on TV.”

 

“Is that your serious answer?”

 

“Yep.” Emma twists in the bed and scoots down further under the covers, her blonde hair still twisted into a braid, but a lot of the front pieces have fallen out and are landing on her bare shoulders. “That’s what I’m sticking with for now. It’s your turn. Truth or dare.”

 

“I feel ridiculous playing this game.”

 

“But it’s fun.”

 

“Aye,” he laughs, reaching over to grab her hand and tangle their fingers together before resting their hands in the small space between them. “Truth.”

 

Emma’s eyes close as she thinks, her lips pursing, and he’s got absolutely no clue what’s about to come out of her mouth. “What is your least favorite thing about me?”

 

“Damn, Swan, that’s dirty.”

 

“Usually you like that.”

 

“Different kind of dirty. Um – ” Killian clicks his tongue as his mind runs through a short list of things that annoy him about Emma as he tries to think of something that won’t get Emma truly pissed at him. “I don’t like how difficult it is to get you to answer the phone.”

 

“That’s a copout.”

 

“So was your last answer.”

 

“Fine. I’ll accept it. Dare.”

 

“Kiss me.”

 

Emma rolls her eyes right after he says the words, but she still presses forward to briefly brush her lips over his, a soft, slow kiss that has his body aching for more. But Emma pulls back before he can deepen the kiss, and he’s left with the feel of her lips on his.

 

“That was also a copout,” she murmurs as her hands reach down to pull the covers all the way up over her shoulders, her breasts disappearing from sight. “Truth.”

 

“Tell me your absolute favorite movie.”

 

“The Princess Bride. Feel free to quote it with me any time, and I will quote it right back.”

 

“As you wish.”

 

Emma’s eyes widen and her lips part at his words, and earlier he should have said that his least favorite thing about Emma is how hard it is for him to read her even when she’s an open book to him. But an open book half printed in code where he partially knows what’s going on but can’t quite decipher the rest.

 

“Your turn,” Emma whispers, snuggling further into the pillow. If he doesn’t watch out, she’s going to take his pillow home with her like she did his Vandy sweatshirt.

 

“Truth.”

 

“If you could talk to your dad again, would you?”

 

It’s a question out of nowhere, one he wasn’t expecting, and as much as it makes his blood boil to even think of his dad, he doesn’t mind being open like this with Emma, not when she squeezes his hand to reassure him and looks at him with green eyes that might as well hold the stars for all the light overshadowing the darkness that he sees in them.

 

“No,” he answers immediately before biting his tongue. “Maybe, but only to tell him how much he’s screwed up my life. I don’t – I believe in forgiveness and learning from your mistakes. I would be nothing without all of that, but I – a dad should love his kids and be there for them no matter what, not on the condition of how well one of them is playing baseball. I know that if I ever have kids, I want them to feel everything that I didn’t at home. I want to be more like my mom in all of the love that she showed, you know?”

 

Emma doesn’t say anything then, but she does release his hand to reach forward and grab the chain around his neck, letting his mom’s ring fall into her palm. “You’re a good man, you know that, twenty-nine?”

 

“Eh.”

 

“You are. I promise.”

 

Emma moves across the bed so that she can wrap her arm around his waist, simply sitting still with him in the quietness of the room as sirens and car horns blare outside, the life outside the city continuously moving as they stay still, reveling in the silence of the cocoon of his bedroom and not letting the outside world get to them. This has been one of his favorite days this year, which is saying a lot when he’s had so many that have already meant the world to him. He doesn’t know how it could get better.

 

Lips brush across the muscles on his stomach, soft and gentle and everything that Emma can be. “Killian?”

 

“Yeah, love?” he mumbles, absentmindedly running his fingers up and down the smooth expanse of her back.

 

“Dare me to do something bold.”

 

He chuckles, not entirely sure where this is coming from, but he does what she says anyways. “Emma, love, do something bold.”

 

Her intake of breath is something that he feels against his chest before she says, “I love you.”

Chapter Text

Killian is blinking at her.

 

He’s not saying anything.

 

He’s just…blinking, and Emma has never been so annoyed by blinking in her entire life. And maybe annoyed isn’t the right word. Maybe the right word is terrified because she just told a man that she loves him for the first time in three years, and this time she means it more than all of the times before.

 

And it’s freaking terrifying.

 

Whichever Olsen twin it was in that movie was right when she said that it’s got to be that can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of stuff because that is exactly how Killian makes her feel even when all of the other not-so-fun adult stuff mixes in.

 

Why are baseball metaphors so apt in her life now? She needs to use fewer of them, but sometimes they just slip off of her tongue.

 

Plus, that’s a damn good movie quote.

 

This is entirely beside the point.

 

Emma just used a dumb, playful, sometimes serious game of truth or dare to tell Killian that she loves him, and if that doesn’t sum up who she is as a person, she doesn’t know what does.

 

Probably freaking the fuck out waiting for him to say something back.

 

Killian blinks three times – she’s not counting or anything – before his lips part and his hand starts moving against her back once more. She didn’t even realize that he’d stopped until he started again, and she loves the way that he always traces words into her back when they’re laying together in bed. She’s never been able to figure out what letters and words exactly, his patterns always a mystery, and she…

 

Oh.

 

Now she knows what words Killian is tracing into the skin on her back, and she feels so incredibly dumb for not realizing it before. But also, really, truly hopeful. And excited. And maybe she’s not freaking out so much anymore even though her entire body feels like it’s going to spontaneously combust.

 

“I love you, Emma,” Killian whispers before his thumb comes to rest on the indent of her chin, moving back and forth in slow circles while he smiles that soft smile that makes his eyes crinkle and her heart soar. “I love you even if you just used truth or dare to tell me that.”

 

“You don’t think it was a total copout?”

 

“Oh no, my love, it was. I just don’t care.”

 

And then his nose is pressing into her cheek as hers does the same, and lips are moving over hers in quite possibly the softest caress she’s ever felt. In the few times that she imagined this, that she imagined her bravery to be enough to actually tell Killian that she loves him, to be able to give him the power that confessing something so intimate gives him, she imagined that the resulting kiss would be harsher, more passionate. She expected that the feelings would overwhelm them and cause them to hastily fall into each other.

 

But like everything with Killian, he surprises her with each and every one of his moves – even the ones she’s anticipating.

 

Emma shifts her legs under the blankets, the comforter and the one that they have piled over it, and she easily straddles Killian’s lap, placing her knees on both sides of his thighs, and the hair on his chest and the metal of his chain press into her while her palms cup his cheeks as Killian tugs on her upper lip with his mouth. She loves when he does that.

 

She loves him.

 

A giggle escapes her as Killian’s hands start running up and down her sides, his fingertips sending shivers down her spine, and even though Killian is sliding his tongue across the seam of her mouth trying to deepen the kiss, she can’t stop laughing.

 

“You’re going to bruise my ego,” he huffs, but she can hear how light-hearted the tone of his voice is and can feel his smile without even bothering to open her eyes. But then again, he’s got such a handsome face that she wants to open her eyes to look at him and those stupidly long lashes with those stupidly blue eyes. “What are you laughing at, Swan? Is it my kissing skills? I rather thought I was improving on those.”

 

“I mean,” Emma teases, sliding her thumbs along his jawline while she peppers several kisses over his brows and his eyelids before pulling back and resting her forehead against his, “we definitely have to keep on practicing that. Several times a day at the very least.”

 

There’s a pinch against the underside of her breast. “Tease.”

 

“You love me.”

 

“That I do.” Her heart swells and flutters and all of those indescribable things that it can do other than keeping her alive. This might be the most alive she’s felt in years, and her life has been pretty great recently. “Is that why you’re laughing? Because I love you.”

 

“Just a little bit. And maybe because of the distinct lack of clothes we have on.”

 

Killian hums as one hand roams his back while the other cups her breast, thumb running over her nipple. “I kind of like this distinct lack of clothes. I doubt you’ll ever hear me complaining about it.”

 

“And if I do?” Emma questions as she adjusts how she’s sitting, her ass hitting against Killian’s half-hard length.

 

“Immediately take me to the doctor because I am obviously dying.”

 

Laughter rumbles from deep in her stomach, and she’s still laughing into the kiss when her mouth moves over Killian’s with practiced, joyful ease. If she thinks about everything too much, she’ll freak out. It’s in her nature. It was happening less than ten minutes ago, so Emma makes a pointed effort not to think and to simply feel. To feel the way that Killian kisses her, to feel the way that their bodies move together, and to feel the way that Killian murmurs his love for her into her skin over and over again. Most people are probably more reserved after exchanging those words for the first time, but Killian feels everything so deeply that she can’t imagine him ever being reserved in a moment like this.

 

Except for that kiss a minute ago, but maybe that wasn’t reserved after all.

 

Idly, as Killian slides into her and begins snapping his hips against her, his body warm as it covers her, she wonders just how long he’s loved her, just when he realized it, but that’s a question for another time when Killian’s not making her lose her breath with every swivel of his hips and every move of his mouth of hers.

 

Even if she’d been to sleepovers as a child, even if she’d been able to play truth or dare or any of those other dumb games growing up, nothing would ever compare to this.

 

Man is she glad that they joked around in Killian’s hotel room in London about having a day like today. It’s funny how little things like that add up to such big things like this.

 

Killian loves her back, and even though she’s been scarred in the past by people who have said those words, she’s choosing to have faith this time. This is different. In a good kind of way.

 

That’s what she absolutely has to keep telling herself.

 

Holy shit. What a day.

 

Emma’s honestly not sure when she fell asleep, but before she knows it, she’s waking to the sound of Killian’s alarm. He groans against her back, his arm tightening around her stomach for a few seconds before she can feel him move across the mattress to make that awful blaring sound stop.

 

“I have to go to practice,” he mumbles, his voice deep and gravely in the way that it is in the mornings, and that always makes heat stir low in her belly.

 

Emma shifts on the mattress, turning over to her other side so that she can look at Killian even though she hasn’t quite gotten the motivation to open her eyes yet. “It’s too early to even think about physical exertion.”

 

“It’s nine in the morning, Swan.”

 

“That’s too early.”

 

Killian chuckles, and Emma finally opens her eyes. The light isn’t quite so bright, especially with all of Killian’s blinds being closed, but the slightest sliver of sunlight is peeking through enough to make her never want to go out in the sunlight again like she’s some kind of nocturnal creature.

 

“You are precious in the mornings,” Killian sighs, reaching over to her and brushing her hair off of her temple. His hair is all over the place, messy in a natural way instead of the messy that he styles it in, and she can see the red pillow creases on his cheek. “I have never known someone who hates waking up more than you.”

 

“The only good part of waking up is knowing that I can have coffee and something to eat.”

 

“Those are two fantastic parts of waking up.” He presses forward and lazily slides his lips over hers so that Emma hums in contentment and her eyes flutter closed again while she shifts closer to Killian, her nails scratching up and down his arm until he pulls back. “I love you.”

 

Her mouth curves up, and she blinks at Killian, squeezing his bicep. “I love you too. We really said that last night, didn’t we?”

 

“We did. Any regrets?”

 

“Can you give me a few more hours to think about it?”

 

Killian groans before nipping at her nose with his teeth and pulling back, quickly standing up before bending over and pulling his boxers back up his legs to rest low on his hips. The man was made to wear underwear. Is that a weird thought to think?

 

“You, Emma Swan,” he starts, pushing his hair back off of his forehead, “are a minx.”

 

“It’s what you deserve for waking me up so early.”

 

Killian’s head shakes from side to side before he walks over to her and places both his hands on the headboard on either side of her head so that he’s encroaching on her personal space, right brow raised high on his forehead. “I have to go to work unlike you, who should most definitely go back to sleep when you get back to your apartment. Do you want me to make you something for breakfast before I go?”

 

“No,” she says, pressing up to kiss his cheek before ducking underneath his arms to stand from the bed so that she can get dressed as well. “I’m good with eating leftovers. I think we should make cookies next time I’m here.”

 

“Your heart’s desire, Swan. I promise that’s all I want you to have.”

 

She smiles at him as she shuffles through her bag to pull out a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt to wear today. She’s not exactly sure when she’s picking up Leo except that it’s sometime this afternoon, so she’ll have plenty of time to shower at home and get ready there. Somehow, even though all she’s doing is getting dressed and brushing her teeth, Killian is ready before her and the two of them silently walk out of his bedroom and down the hall to the main part of his apartment. Emma drops her bag by the front door before walking toward the fridge and grabbing the plate of lemon squares only for Killian to take it out of her hand and start placing them in a Tupperware container.

 

The man keeps all of his containers very neatly organized, and she’s not even sure if she has a matching box and lid in her apartment.

 

“Why are you sending all of these home with me?”

 

“Because you like them, for one, and because you might want to have something on hand for when you tell Ruby where you’ve been.”

 

Oh.

 

Shit. She forgot about that, and that was not something she needed to forget about when she’s practiced the speech in her head several times over. It’s going to be fine. Just fine.

 

“It’s going to be fine, love,” Killian promises, somehow echoing her thoughts and handing her the container. “She might be a little mad at first, but she loves you. She’s not going to stay mad. Call me when you can, okay? I want to know how it goes.”

 

“Okay. Have a good practice. Thanks for the food and the company or whatever.”

 

“So eloquent with words,” he teases, brushing a quick kiss to her lips and squeezing her hip before shuffling her toward the door. “I’m going to go down to get my car. Do you want me to drop you off at your apartment?”

 

“I do like the idea of my own personal chauffeur.”

 


 

 Ruby is sitting on the couch when Emma walks in the door, and Emma curses under her breath. She was hoping that maybe, just maybe, Ruby would be spending her day off sleeping or out doing errands or simply something to give Emma a little more time. Killian’s probably going to be late to practice because she sat in the passenger seat of his car for so long building up the courage to get out.

 

Not that she’d wish anything bad on him, but Killian better be freaking out this much about telling Liam and everyone else.

 

How do people do things like this?

 

They probably don’t wait months to tell their friends that they’re dating someone.

 

“Hey,” Emma greets, closing the door behind her and dropping her bag on the ground. “I didn’t think you’d be awake.”

 

“Graham was super loud when he went into work, and I couldn’t go back to sleep.” Ruby looks over to her from the couch and scoops up a spoonful of the cereal she’s eating. “How was David’s last night? Are those leftovers in that box?”

 

“Um,” Emma hums, walking further in the room until she’s sitting down next to Ruby on the couch and placing the box of lemon squares on the coffee table. Her stomach is in so many knots, and it is probably not healthy for Emma to have this many big things happening in her life all within the span of twelve hours. “They are leftovers, which you are free to have, but they’re not from David’s.”

 

Ruby arches a brow. “They’re from Killian’s then?”

 

What the fuck?

 

“I’m s-sorry,” Emma stutters, her face heating up. Damn does she hate how pale she is even with a tan so that her blush is always visible. It’s like she has “I’m embarrassed” tattooed on her forehead. “What are you talking about? They’re from David’s,” Emma backtracks, her lie obvious. “Mary Margaret made them.”

 

Ruby rolls her eyes and reclines back into the couch cushions, her socked feet resting on the coffee table as her fingers tap along her thigh. “You’re dating Killian Jones. He baked the stuff on the table. You were at his apartment last night. You don’t have to lie.”

 

What the fuck? Holy shit. Damn, damn, damn. Every curse Emma can think of is at the forefront of her mind, but really, absolutely nothing makes sense with how quickly thoughts are getting jumbled around in there.

 

How in the hell did Ruby now? And why has she kept it to herself this entire time? Does this mean other people know?

 

It’s like that episode of Friends where they don’t know that we know that they know. Or something along those pop culture reference lines. Except this is very much not pop culture and most definitely Emma’s real life.

 

“You should really close your mouth,” Ruby sighs as she leans forward and picks up the Tupperware container. “It makes you look like a fish. So, what did lover boy make?”

 

“You jerk!” Emma finally gasps, reaching forward to gently slap Ruby’s shoulder. “How did you know?”

 

Ruby shrugs her shoulders like she doesn’t have a care in the world and starts eating a lemon square in replacement of her cereal. “Like, two weeks ago you came stumbling out of your room wearing that old Vanderbilt sweatshirt saying it was David’s. I didn’t think anything of it because, you know, David does collect weird crap like that, but then I was going through videos for a promo and saw a certain Yankees player wearing that exact same sweatshirt. Plus, you’re smiling more, and I definitely saw a hickey on Jones’s neck when we were in Canada.”

 

Un-freaking-believable.

 

“So, a hickey and a sweatshirt gave it away?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“And you’re not mad at me?” Emma wonders aloud, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth and worrying her lip. “Because it’s okay if you are. I would be mad at me for not telling you that I was dating someone.”

 

“Oh, for the record, I am pissed,” Ruby huffs, putting the container down to turn toward Emma on the couch, a smile on her face that looks anything but pissed. “You are my best friend in the entire world. I mean, I come into your bedroom at two in the morning to ask you to look at whatever Snapchat video I found, and you don’t blink an eye.”

 

“That’s because I’m asleep.”

 

Ruby waves her away. “Whatever. So, yeah, I’m mad but only mad because you didn’t tell me. I’ve been ranting about it to Graham. He kept telling me to be patient and that he’s sure you had your reasons and that you’d tell me eventually, and let me tell you, I could barely resist, especially when you very clearly were not going to your brother’s house last night.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“Sorry?” Ruby groans, leaning forward and burying her face in her hands. “Emma Swan, you’re dating fucking Killian Jones, and all you have to say is sorry?”

 

“I – ”

 

“No, no, no,” Ruby interrupts, taking the words out of Emma’s mouth before she can even say them, “don’t apologize. Or, stop apologizing. I want to know how it started, how long it’s been going on, and fuck do I want to know the sex details. I have a whole list of questions I’ve come up with.”

 

“Do you really?” Emma laughs, pulling her knees up to her chest and hugging them as the racing of her heartbeat calms down. This is not at all how she was expecting things to go, but life seems to keep surprising. “Okay, so, we’ve been together since the California series at the end of April, but I kissed him, um, a week or so before that.”

 

“You kissed him?” Ruby squeaks, her jaw dropping open. “Oh shit, did you kiss him after a game?”

 

Emma nods, a giggle escaping her lips. What the hell was that? “Yeah, against the Sox. But then I flipped out because, one, dating is terrifying, and two, I already get so much sexist shit against me that I didn’t want dating him to be a thing with a capital T. I know you tease me about him asking me out, but you know what happened, what still happens. I’m already not taken seriously, and I couldn’t just start casually making out with Killian Jones.”

 

“So what? You just started seriously making out with Killian Jones?”

 

“Pretty much.”



“Damn girl,” Ruby drawls out, a smirk painted on her lips. “I knew you had it in you. Is the sex good?”

 

“Rubes.”

 

“Come on, Ems,” Ruby begs before leaning forward and grabbing her hands, squeezing so tightly that Emma legitimately may not have bones when she releases. “You’ve hidden this from me. I at least deserve to hear about the sex.”

 

Emma groans, but she’s still laughing, so very thankful that Ruby stumbled into her life as her producer and ended up being her best friend. How did she ever live before this?

 

“Okay,” she sighs, shaking Ruby off and straightening her shoulders, “so first of all, you can’t tell anyone. Killian and I have only just agreed to tell the people close to us, and we’re doing all that we can not to let anyone outside of our circles know so that this doesn’t impact my career. That’s kind of been why we didn’t tell you guys besides us just testing the waters of if we’d even work together as a couple.”

 

“Do you…work together, I mean? You look so happy, but I want to know that you are happy. He may be a professional athlete, but I will kick his ass if he breaks your heart.”

 

“Yeah, I’m really happy,” she smiles, thoughts of blue eyes and a kind small flashing through her mind. “I have been hurt so badly in the past, and while I don’t know…I mean, that could still happen…I’m happy. I love him.”

 

Telling Ruby that has her heart beating like a drum in her chest. It’s still so fresh and new and…she can’t quite believe it.

 

“You do?”

 

“Yeah, I do. He’s – he’s a really good guy, Ruby. I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

 

“Technically, I have met him.” Ruby smiles at her before leaning forward and wrapping her arms around Emma in a tight hug, all of the air escaping Emma’s lungs. “I am so happy for you. All I want in life is for Granny and Graham to keep making us food and for you to keep being happy with your handsome baseball player boyfriend. Now, stop avoiding it and tell me about the sex.”

 

Ruby Lucas is a one of a kind friend.

 

“It’s really good,” Emma admits, having missed being able to talk about things like this, not that she ever really did with Walsh or Neal. But sometimes. “Like, it took a quick minute for us to get used to each other, and obviously we still have the awkward moments where something cramps or makes a weird noise like normal. But I can laugh during it, you know? And he very much knows what he’s doing. I’m sure at some point we’ll give you some payback so that you have to hear weird noises like I’ve been stuck listening to for so long.”

 

“Not even going to apologize for any of that. It’s all been totally worth it.” Ruby is practically giddy, and honestly, that’s how Emma feels right now too. “Have you told David yet?”

 

Okay, maybe a little less giddy now.

 

“I was going to tell him tonight after I bring Leo home from whatever it isI’m taking him to do today.”

 

“Yeah,” Ruby sighs, picking up her lemon square and taking another bite, “I’m going to need to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.”

 

“That is not happening. What are we watching? I feel like we need some time together to eat junk food and binge watch TV before I go pick up Leo…alone.”

 


 

 “You’re dating who now?”

 

David is standing in front of her with his arms crossed over his chest, a stern look on his face that makes Emma feel like she’s a teenager and not twenty-seven years old. And alsolike David is her father and not her brother, but he’s always kind of toed the line of his relationship with her. She was really hoping for friend David right now.

 

Like, really hoping.

 

It’s been a very long day full of waking up early and having to work up the nerves to tell Ruby that she’s dating Killian, which went much more smoothly than she was anticipating. But then all of her nerves disappeared only to show up again on the train ride over to pick up Leo so that she could watch him while Mary Margaret went to work the afternoon summer program that she’s been working. Leo was fine, as he always is, and she thoroughly enjoyed taking him to the park down the street from their house even if it was approximately the temperature of hell outside and then taking him to get ice cream, which was definitely for Leo and not at all for her.

 

(It was definitely for her and the sweat that was dripping down her back.)

 

But then she’d brought Leo home, the two of them reveling in the air conditioning, and in had walked David still completely and totally in work mode and asking her all these questions about what segments she’s working on and when she’d be interested in commentating since he’s starting to get that ball rolling. That had inevitably led to them talking about the team’s stats for the year and how things could change but unless something drastic happens, they’re going to make it to the playoffs. And somehow, as always in her life recently, the conversation turned to Killian Jones.

 

So, naturally, she blurted out that she was dating him since it was only she and David standing in the kitchen, Leo in the living room playing a game on his Xbox with headphones on.

 

This whole confessing secrets thing isn’t going exactly to plan for her. She wonders how it’s going for Killian. Or if he’s even told anyone. They haven’t had a chance to talk. She tried texting him on the subway, but he didn’t answer.

 

“Killian Jones,” Emma says calmly (at least that’s how she hopes it sounds) in response to David’s question. It was probably a rhetorical one, especially considering she very clearly told him who she was dating. Sometimes David needs a little push.

 

“Killian Jones? Starting pitcher for the Yankees, number twenty-nine, asked-you-out-on-live-television Killian Jones?”

 

Emma nods her head, really wishing that Mary Margaret was here to make David not seem so scary. Mary Margaret would be hugging her and talking about how happy she is and inviting Killian over for dinner so that she could gush about just how much she loves watching him play and how happy he is to be dating Emma.

 

Yeah, she definitely should have waited on Mary Margaret to get here because Emma is very much a coward right now as if David’s reaction could somehow impact how she feels about Killian.

 

“When did this happen?”

 

“End of April.”

 

“Is he good to you?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“Did he force you into this relationship?”

 

“Yes, David, I’m being held hostage.” He opens his mouth to say something, and Emma reaches forward to slap at his shoulder. “No, you idiot. I asked him out because I wanted to, and it’s worked really well. You don’t have to go all protective brother worrying about me. You know the guy.”

 

“Yeah, that’s exactly what worries me.”

 

“What worries you? You say nice things about him all the time. I literally see it at the bottom of your emails.”

 

“That’s as a baseball player, not as your boyfriend.”

 

“There’s no difference.”

 

“There’s all the difference in the world!”

 

“Oh my gosh,” Emma groans, covering her face with her hands. This is definitely much more of what she expected, but she did not think that David was going to go all macho man on her. She thought it would be a little less ridiculous then this. At least he hasn’t “forbade” her from seeing him or something ridiculous like that. “You are being stupid, and I’m not going to listen to it. Does Killian have a past? Yes. And it’s no different than yours or mine except his was extremely public.”

 

“That is not the tune you were singing after he asked you out.”

 

“Because I was pissed,” she shouts, only to remember that Leo is just a few feet away. “Because I was pissed,” Emma repeats, whispering this time. “It was embarrassing for me, and I thought it was another case of a man hitting on me because he thought he had a right to me simply because I work on TV. Obviously, it wasn’t a great thing, but believe me, Killian and I have had several talks about it.”

 

David clicks his tongue, and she might as well sit down and get comfortable for how this conversation is going. “And what’s going to happen when this gets out to the public?”

 

“It’s not going to.”

 

The most dramatic sigh in the history of all sighs passes through David’s lips, and while he’s having whatever kind of conniption that he’s having, Emma turns around and grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge. Maybe if she has to pee enough, she can get out of this conversation.

 

“Emma,” he finally says, the scowl on his lips having turned into the slightest, smallest smile, “I love you, and I love that you are happy. I’m over the moon at that because all I’ve ever wanted for you to be happy, but it’s a little naïve to think that this isn’t going to get out into the public. I know that it’s worked so far, and obviously pretty well, but something – someone – is going to slip up. It might not be for a few months, or maybe another year if you guys are careful, but it’s going to happen. And you’re going to have to know how to deal with that professionally.”

 

He’s right. Of course he is. He’s always right about these things. David has been around the block a few too many times not to know what he’s talking about. David has dealt with situations just like this, even if it wasn’t her in the situation. He’s seen what happens when a woman in sports broadcasting gets involved with a player and how that impacts the woman’s career, not the man’s. And that’s at the small scale. As much as Emma wishes she and Killian were a small scale, they’re the biggest freaking scale that there is, at least in New York. It’s nine months after the Series, and she still gets stopped on the street, still gets snide comments in the office that are just smart enough not to be reportable to HR, and she still gets asshole baseball players asking why no one on the team is fucking her like just because she’s available and female means that she’s there for one of them to have sex with.

 

Holy shit.

 

Panic rises in her throat, the air passageways blocking up, and Emma has to actively tell herself to breathe in and out, to inhale and exhale. Even that is not calming her down, is not calming down the way that her stomach is twistingand her heart is pounding and holy shit.

 

Even with all of the careful thoughts and consideration and just how much she thinks about this, she has been so wrapped up in how happy she is and how Killian makes her smile to actively think about the future.

 

That’s never been her strong suit.

 

When she looks up at David, she knows that panic is written all across her face, that there are tears filling her eyes, and she knows that it’s those two things that have David’s stern face disappearing into a look of compassion as he moves toward her and wraps her in a hug, his hand cupping the back of her head like he always does. He’s so much bigger than her, always has been, and it’s weirdly comforting how much a hug from someone who can actually hold you is.

 

“Hey,” he whispers, the hand that’s not cupping the back of her head running up and down her back, “it’s okay, Emma. It’s okay. I didn’t mean to freak you out. I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s fine,” she mumbles into his chest.

 

“It’s not. You’re a smart girl, smarter than most people I work with every day, and I’m sure that you thought all of this through. I shouldn’t have gotten onto you like that when you were just trying to tell me you were happy. I’m so glad that you’re happy, honey. That is all I’ve ever wanted for you. The same with Mom and Mary Margaret and Leo. We all just want you to be happy, and I will help you stay happy as long as I can and deal with the inevitable assholes when they come.”

 

Emma nods her head against David, tightening her arms around his waist, and despite the fact that she’s still kind of upset with him for making her feel like this when she’s had a really good few hours, she’s so thankful to finally be open with him again. With Ruby too. It’s been so hard lying to the both of them, and she never wants to do that again even though she knows that she will. It’s in her nature to hide things.

 

“I love you."

 

“I love you too. Why don’t you invite Killian over for dinner sometime soon? I want to meet him, officially.”

 

“What are we talking about in here?” Mary Margaret asks, and the two of them spring back from each other to look at her carrying three paper bags of groceries.

 

Emma looks over at David as she wipes her eyes, hoping the tears aren’t too awful, and before she can say anything, David speaks, “Emma has a new boyfriend.”

 

“What?” Mary Margaret gasps, dropping the bags onto the countertop.

 

“She’s dating Killian Jones.”

 

“Hey,” Emma laughs, slapping his arm even as she laughs, the change in his tone and the smile on his face lightening her heart.

 

“David,” Mary Margaret starts, furiously unpacking the bags, “you’re cooking dinner tonight. Emma and I have some things to talk about.”

Chapter Text

The game plays on the television in the weight room as Killian works with free weights to work out his arm and his shoulder. He’s already been massaged by Archie today even though he’s not playing, but when he woke up there was a slight ache there that wasn’t pleasant to live with. It’s still there, but it’s manageable, just a small little niggling feeling that he feels if he lifts something that’s too heavy or twists in just the right, or wrong, way. But it’s fine, as it always is, because the pain doesn’t last for too long and is always manageable.

 

How many athletes walk around every day living with manageable pain when the world thinks that their bodies are in the most pristine conditions?

 

That’s always been kind of funny to him, and it hasn’t been until the past two years that he’s understood why. Fans of baseball, of any sport really, sit in the stands, on their couches, and on barstools at the restaurant yelling at athletes to do the impossible with their body, and then when they can’t or get hurt doing it, yell at them for not having some kind of superhuman strength. He’s had so many people bemoan to him about the public part of his accident, one that was traumatizing on a personal and professional level with effects still lingering to today, and they don’t seem to understand that the men and women on fields and courts or in swimming pools are human beings who have pushed their bodies to the limits for most of their lives.

 

And he doesn’t even play one of the most physically demanding sports, though it can be much more demanding than most people think, especially for his arm.

 

Hell, definitely for his arm.

 

But he loves it. That’s the thing. Killian loves this game, loves his team, loves getting to stand out on that field even on the days where only a quarter of the seats are filled up. It’s been his passion for so long, the thing that he is truly good at, and he can’t imagine doing anything else even if he’s had back-up plan after back-up plan and will have to do something with his life when this is all over.

 

Today isn’t that day.

 

“Hey,” Robin says as he enters the weight room, his hair slicked back from a shower so that Killian knows that he’s not actually in here to talk, “you wanted to talk to me?”

 

Oh, and the fact that Killian told him that he wanted to talk. That will definitely do it.

 

“Yeah, one minute,” he sighs, running through one more rep before putting the weights down on their rack and adjusting the hat on his head so that he can wipe away the sweat on his brow before turning to look at Robin who is sitting on a weight bench. “Roseman sucks today.”

 

“That’s what you wanted to talk to me about?”

 

“No, no,” Killian corrects, taking the seat across from Robin on another bench and leaning forward so that his clasped hands rest between the open space between his knees. Taking a quick glance toward the door, he sees that no one is around, and with the music blaring so loudly throughout the hallways, he knows no one will be able to hear anyways. “So, I feel like I’m making the rounds delivering news when I really should have gotten you all together at one time to get it over with, but Ariel has been impossible to get to sit still for more than a second and Will talks too loudly for me to tell him in person and – ”

 

“Are you dying or something?” Robin laughs, his brows raised in confusion.

 

“I’m not dying,” he reassures Robin even as his hand reaches up to scratch behind his ear. “I’m, well, I’m dating Emma Swan, and while we’re keeping it quiet from the media and most everyone else, we decided to tell the people who are close with us, hence you and A and Eric and Will. Plus, obviously, my family, who are the only ones I’ve managed to tell so far.”

 

Robin doesn’t say anything at first, his eyes widened as he takes the information in, and while Killian knew the reaction he was expecting when he told Liam and Elsa – Liam was surprised and far too overbearing and Elsa literally told him that she figured it out at Addy’s birthday party – he hasn’t quite been able to come up with a clear idea of how his friends would react.

 

Silence and confusion have been his best guesses.

 

“For how long?” Robin finally stutters out.

 

“A couple of months.”

 

“And you’re serious about her?”

 

“That I am.”

 

“And this is a secret?”

 

Why does he feel like this is an exact repeat of the conversation he had with Liam and pretty much the same as the conversation Emma relayed that she had with David?

 

“Yeah, for Emma. After everything with me and then all of the backlash that she gets with her job, we wanted to keep it quiet. At first, it was so that we could figure things out, but now that we’re more comfortable, we’re telling the people closest to us so that such big parts of our lives aren’t hidden away.”

 

Robin nods, the smallest smile forming on his lips, and Killian didn’t quite realize how much he wanted Robin’s approval until he got it. Not getting it wouldn’t change things, but Robin has been one of his best mates for a decade, has been through so many of his highs and lows, and he wants Robin to be happy for him. He wants to be able to talk through everything with Robin the way that Robin has with him.

 

“That makes sense. I mean, yeah,” Robin chuckles, leaving back and messing with his shirt. “I knew you always fancied her, especially lately, but it makes sense with how often I’ve seen the two of you chatting on the plane or at breakfast. I didn’t think anything of it, just figured that she was looking for a friend since the woman who used to be go on road trips with her isn’t around that often. Huh, you’re dating again.”

 

“Does that surprise you?”

 

“Only a little. You were so messed up after Milah and all of the women that came after her that I didn’t really think you’d ever seriously date someone again. I kind of thought that you and I would end up as eternal bachelors and live life vicariously through Roland.”

 

Killian barks out a laugh, one that he really shouldn’t at how depressing that thought honestly is, but leave it to Robin to make him laugh like that. It’s something that comes with knowing someone for so damn long, and Killian is thankful for it.

 

“Do you think Roland will take care of us in our old age? I’m not sure that he will.”

 

“He’ll take care of you,” Robin laughs, “because you never have to tell him no. He’s going to harbor the fact that I didn’t let him have dessert last night forever.”

 

“Yeah, you’re definitely not getting chocolate pudding when you’re old and it’s all you can eat.”

 

Robin rolls his eyes, but the smile is still there. The smile is still on Killian’s face too. “I’m happy for you, mate. I kind of think you’re both batshit crazy for getting involved with each other when there’s so much that could go wrong, but happiness looks good on you.”

 

“Thanks. I don’t – she’s great, Rob. Bloody fantastic. I mean, I know that you know her and get to see her kick ass at her job every day, but outside of work too…she’s amazing.”

 

“I know.”

 


 

 After the game, Killian manages to pull Will, Eric, and Ariel aside into one of the offices outside the locker room to tell them, finally hitting three birds with one stone, which is a pretty morbid saying now that he thinks about. Their hitting coach looks through the glass of the window when Ariel lets out a scream at his words, and Killian can do nothing but shake his head. It’s like he’s announcing the most exciting thing to ever happen to him every time he tells someone, and as much as he knew that his friends were invested in his dating life – or lack thereof – he didn’t know it was like this.

 

They all very obviously need to get a life.

 


 

“Oh my gosh,” Emma groans, slamming the passenger side door to his car closed as she slides onto the leather seat and adjusts her bag in her lap before dropping it to the ground, “I’d never make it as a spy. There were approximately a million people who were walking this way that knew me or you or were a member of the press. I swear, babe, it was impossible to get over here. I could have gotten to your brother’s house faster had I taken the trains, even with how packed they are right now.” She takes a breath and leans over to press her lips to his cheeks. “Hi. Thank you for waiting on me.”

 

“Well, I wasn’t exactly going to leave without you, Swan. How was work?”

 

“You know,” she teases, rolling her eyes a bit at his question, “it was good. Did you know that the Yankees won today and that they’re leading their league? And things like that tend to make players very happy to talk to me. Do you know who else was very happy to talk to me?”

 

“Who, love?” he asks as he presses his foot down on the gas and hits the ignition button to start the car.

 

“Ariel Fisher. That’s another reason why I’m late. I was attacked by a tiny, very loud, red-headed woman giving me a hug that I swear squeezed the life out of me. I’m not entirely sure what she said to me since there was a certain lack of air circulation going on in my brain, but I’m pretty sure she said she was super happy for me and then tried to adopt me or something like that.”

 

Killian chuckles, unable to help himself, before he leans back into his seat and rests his cheek against the headrest so that he can look at Emma. She looks so happy today, her hair pulled back in a high ponytail to keep it off her neck since he knows that when she sweatsshe hates the way it tangles at the back of her neck. He also knows that she spent an hour picking out a dress to wear today because she’s coming with him to his brother’s townhome for Sunday night dinner and is a little nervous. She claims that she is simply indecisive about what to wear all the time, but he knows that isn’t true. Ruby, who he still hasn’t officially met but who he’s going to meet when he’s subjected to his own family dinner (interrogation), finally helped her out by tossing an orange dress that falls beneath her knees and curves around Emma’s breasts at her and telling her they were leaving the apartment in an hour.

 

Ruby is a force of nature.

 

And he is very much distracted by the swell of Emma’s breasts right now and the way he can see the freckle that resides on the inside of her right one. Always so distracting.

 

“Yeah,” Killian sighs, reaching up to scratch behind his ear, “I have now officially told everyone I deemed worth of knowing that you are my girlfriend, and despite Ariel’s several squeals over the whole thing, everyone is going to keep it quiet. At least to the outside world. I fully expect them to be a little too invasive with us from time to time.”

 

“Really?” Emma drones sarcastically, shifting her legs underneath the dash to cross one over the other so that the material shows the skin just above her knee. “I didn’t expect that at all with Will asking me if I was going to be your plus one for his wedding. Belle apparently needs to know for the seating arrangements. Or Ariel asking if we’d be willing to go on a couple’s vacation for the New Year.”

 

“I can believe both of those things happened.”

 

“As you should because they are true statements, twenty-nine.” Emma sighs back into the seat, turning away from facing him and looking out at the gray block that is the parking garage. “How’d Robin take it?”

 

“I’ll tell you on the way to Liam’s, yeah? If there’s one thing you need to know about the Jones family, it’s that we like to be on time, and we, my darling, are running late.”

 

“Liam will just have to get used to it like you have.”

 

Killian laughs as he puts his car in drive and makes his way out of the parking garage, filling in all of the details about his conversation with Robin as well as his with Will, Eric, and Ariel. Honestly, it feels like this is all they’ve talked about in the past week since Emma finally took the leap and told her family. She was pretty quiet about it all, not surprisingly, and slowly but surely he managed to drag some information out of her besides the fact that Ruby had figured it out because Emma was wearing his sweatshirt – which he still hasn’t gotten back – and that David had kind of caused her to freak out about things. He doesn’t love the thought of Emma getting into a panic about their relationship, but there are definitely things for them to always think about and consider. That’s not going to change.

 

Liam had said the same thing to him when he told him. He’d been full of questions, that obnoxious protective older brother gene coming to life. It doesn’t matter that Killian is twenty-eight years old and very much has control of his own life. Liam is always going to be that way, no matter how much Killian asks him not to be. It stems from Liam being both his brother and his father for a lot of his life. Liam was the one who was there to help him apply to colleges, to help him get recruiters to watch his games. His father had been the one who was obsessed with baseball, but his brother was the one who helped him achieve his dreams. And Liam had been the one who was by his side when he got drafted, when he worked his way up from the minors, when he pitched his first ball in Yankee stadium.

 

On top of all of that, Liam had been the one who was there when Killian and Milah broke up. That had been a disaster among disasters, and it’s probably exactly the reason why Liam pretty much had some kind of heart attack when Killian told him that he’d been dating someone in secret again. It had never occurred to Killian, not until he was sitting down across the kitchen table from Liam, that there were similarities even if the situations and circumstances and reasonings are different. Milah had asked him to be private about their relationship because of her marriage, not that he knew that at first, and he, the cocky guy that he was, thought that it was because she didn’t want the attention that would have come from being with him. In reality, no one but die-hard baseball fans cared about him, and he was fooling himself into thinking the things that he thought.

 

He was an idiot.

 

Still is sometimes.

 

How did he not realize that Liam might be truly upset about it all, that keeping such a big part of his life away from his best friend in the entire world would cause some sting? How did he not think through the fact that Liam, even though he’s often teased Killian about Emma and genuinely likes her, would worry about something similar happening here even though it is entirely different?

 

And now, after the accident, after all of the guilt and fear and worry that came with that, Liam focuses so much on Killian and how his life is going so that this would impact things.

 

It had been a long, stilted conversation, one that made Killian’s head pound, and thank goodness for Elsa to break things up and to understand and to help Liam calm down and see things the way that he should have seen things. And while it was Elsa who insisted that Killian bring Emma to Sunday dinner, he knows that Liam is more or so accepting of it all and will not be an ass to Emma.

 

That was agreed upon beforehand. Killian felt that was necessary, and while Emma told him that it was fine, that this is how David is going to be despite her best efforts, it’s very much not fine for anyone to be an ass to Emma simply because she is dating him.

 

Or at all.

 

So, maybe he’s a little nervous for this dinner, but that’s nothing compares to the way that Emma’s leg is shaking underneath the touch of his palm resting there.

 

“This is a nice neighborhood,” Emma says as he turns onto Liam’s street. “I don’t think I’ve ever been over here.”

 

“I can’t imagine you’ve ever had reason to unless you were randomly walking down the streets in front of these families’ homes.”

 

“I am pretty weird. I might have been.”

 

He glances over at her and smiles, but Emma’s gaze is very much focused on the street in front of her. Squeezing her thigh to silently reassure her, Killian moves his hand off of Emma back to the wheel so that he can turn into Liam’s garage, rolling down the window to type in the code so that the door will open for the two of them.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to go get dinner somewhere else?” Emma worries, her voice visibly shaky. “I’m sure we can go find, like, one of those really good Mexican places that looks like it should be shut down for health codes but actually has the best queso dip you’ve ever eaten. No one will recognize us. I’m sure of it.”

 

“Swan,” Killian chuckles, driving into the garage and putting his car in park before turning to look at Emma, reaching up to cup her cheeks with his palms and run his thumbs underneath her eyes, “it is fine. They, unlike me, do not bite.”

 

“You are ridiculous. Why would you even say that?”

 

“To make you laugh.” He leans forward and playfully nips at her lips before tucking a loose strand from her ponytail behind her ear. “You are going to be fine. They’re just people, most of who you have met before, and if all else fails, you’ll have Addy and Lucy to be a buffer.”

 

“If you freak out when you have to meet all of my people, I’m going to say the exact same things about you, so just think about that with every word you use to calm me down.”

 

“That’s a lot of pressure.”

 

“So is this.”

 

Killian hums before gently kissing Emma and taking his time to move his lips of her, breathing in the smell of her perfume and her hairspray and maybe the tiniest bit of sweat. He needs to calm down too, to take a breath, and tell himself the same things that he’s been telling Emma.

 

“I love you,” he says when he pulls back, still reveling in the fact that he can say those words to her after feeling them for so long.

 

“I love you too. Last chance on the Mexican thing.”

 

His eyes roll, but he laughs all the same, briefly kissing her once more before leaning over her to open her car door. “Funnily enough, that’s what we’re having for dinner tonight. It’s a family favorite.”

 

“I’m pretty sure you’re lying to me, and if you are, I am stealing your car and driving it to my apartment, where it will inevitably get towed.”

 

“Whatever you say, darling.”

 

Killian opens his own door and gets out of the car before walking to Emma’s side and waiting for her as she adjusts her dress and messes with her hair in the reflection window. She’s still hesitant, which he imagines will stop when she gets inside and actually gets into conversation, so he places his hand on the small of her back and guides her up the stairs until they’re entering the kitchen and coming face-to-face with Anna.

 

Probably not the easiest way to ease Emma into things.

 

“Oh my gosh,” Anna squeals before putting her glass down, “you’re Emma.”

 

Emma stills beside him, and he rubs his hand up and down her back before squeezing her ass simply because he knows that it’ll make her focus on something other than her nerves. Sure enough, she jumps, looking up at him with a wry smile on her face and a playful roll of her eyes before looking back to Anna.

 

“That’s me,” Emma laughs, stepping away from him to move forward to shake Anna’s hand only for Anna to wrap Emma in a hug that is so tight that Killian swears he can feel it in his own legs. “It’s nice to meet you, Anna.”

 

“Oh, it’s so nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. Well, not really, but a good amount. Mostly from Elsa. I followed you on Instagram. You might not have noticed that. You are just so pretty and I’m sure sweet, and I have no idea what you’re doing with Killian.”

 

“Hey,” he scoffs, pressing his lips together. He was going to laugh at how Anna rambles until she got to that end part, “why is everyone always saying things like that? I happen to think I’m a catch.”

 

“Well, you are, but only if people don’t know you that well,” Anna teases, releasing Emma and walking toward him so that she can hug him and whisper in his ear, “I’m kidding. She’s so pretty, Killian.”

 

“I know,” he sighs into Anna’s cheek. “She can probably hear us.”

 

“Oh, I’m totally not listening or anything,” Emma teases.

 

Anna laughs and pulls back before stepping over to Emma and grabbing onto her arm. “Come on, everyone is in the living room, and they need to know that you’re here. And I want to hear all about you. Your job is awesome, obviously, but a girl has seriously got to know why Killian loves you so much. I don’t even know if you guys have said those words to each other yet, but I can tell. He’s got that sparkle in his eyes.”

 

“You know,” Emma chuckles, looking back at him with a smile on her face, “you and my sister-in-law would get along really well.”

 

“Then I have to meet her too.”

 

Killian follows Anna and Emma around the corner and into the living room where Liam, Elsa, and Kris are all sitting on the couches while Addy and Lucy are watching television. The moment they walk in the room, though, Addy turns her head and runs toward Emma, grabbing onto her waist and talking about just how excited she is to see Emma. Lucy is right behind her, and even though she’s more reserved, she hugs Emma too, letting Emma pick her up and rest her on her hip while everyone else greets Emma. She’s very quickly learning that his family are all huggers, and man does he hope that they’re not overwhelming her. He’d very much like for her to want to continue to date him after this.

 

Damn. Why is he thinking thoughts like that? That is not the kind of headspace that he needs to be in while Emma is talking to Liam, Lucy still sitting on her hip.

 

He kind of just threw her into the lion’s den, didn’t he?

 

But it’s good, he thinks. The conversation flows, there aren’t any awkward silences, and most importantly, there aren’t any interrogations.

 

“Do you need help with dinner?” Emma asks Elsa later when they’ve moved from the living room to the kitchen so that Elsa and Liam can start dinner, which, much to Emma’s delight, truly is good Mexican food.

 

“No,” Elsa sighs, waving Emma away as she chops up a bell pepper, “you’re a guest. You don’t cook. Killian, can you grate some cheese?”

 

He finishes taking a sip of his beer before putting it down. “What happened to guests not cooking?”

 

“You are family. That’s different.”

 

“That’s bullocks.”

 

“You love to cook,” Emma says as she knocks her knee into his. “I’m pretty sure you can handle grating some cheese.”

 

“He’s pretty incompetent. You’d be surprised at how little my little brother can actually do.”

 

“Younger. My gosh it’s younger,” Killian groans to Liam. He did that just to annoy Killian, the bastard. “Is that ever going to stop?”

 

“Maybe when you’re thirty.” Liam hands him a bowl, the cheese grater, and two blocks of cheese, before going back to getting ground beef out of the fridge. “So, Emma, how’d you get into baseball?”

 

Liam is definitely subtle in his ways of interrogation, but Killian picks up on it. Emma too.

 

“Watching it or working in it?”

 

“Working.”

 

“My brother is a lot older than me and has been working at ESPN pretty much since I’ve known him, and he helped get me an internship in college. It just kind of built from there, you know? I mostly was a stat checker and then got to write some articles, but then when they started covering the games on TV more and developed their streaming service, the job as an on-air reporter opened up. And yeah, here I am.”

 

“What do you mean your brother has been working there since you’ve known him?”

 

“Liam,” Killian warns, narrowing his eyes at his brother.

 

“It’s fine,” Emma promises him before placing her hand on his back and rubbing up and down. “I didn’t have parents, so I was in the foster system for my entire life. My last house, well, I grew close to them, and they’re pretty much my family. David is my foster mom’s biological son, and he’s pretty much fallen into that older brother role. You two are very alike.”

 

“Stubborn and far too invasive?” Elsa teases, looking behind her at Liam and winking.

 

“I am neither of those things.”

 

“You definitely are,” Killian and Elsa say at the same time, and Liam simply grumbles in response before placing the beef in the pan.

 

“Are Anna and Kris okay with the kids?” Emma wonders aloud, twisting her head around to look into the living room where Anna and Kris volunteered to watch a movie with them while dinner is being cooked. “I can watch them. I don’t want to interrupt your tradition of family dinners or whatever since I am kind of an intruder.”

 

“You are a breath of fresh air is what you are,” Elsa says, smiling at Emma before she takes the cheese out of his hands like he wasn’t just doing a bang-up job himself. “I thought you were the sweetest thing at Addy’s party, and when I realized that you two were dating, or at least had feelings for each other, I felt like all of those six-year-olds hyped up on sugar. I’m glad Killian has someone kind like you.”



“You think she’s bloody kind, but she’s actually pretty mean to me.” Emma slaps the back of his head, and he starts laughing at the affronted look on her face. “See. She just slapped me.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Really mature, love.”

 

“You know that I’m not.”

 

“No, but you do some pretty mature things, if you know what I mean.”

“Killian,” she gasps, slapping him again, “that was a horrible innuendo.”

 

He arches a brow. “That’s what you’re insulted by? Not the fact that I alluded to our sex life but that I did it in a non-creative way?”

 

Emma shrugs. “Pretty much.”

 

“Els,” Liam groans, “I don’t think I can handle Killian dating again. It’s too nauseating.”

 

“Asshole,” Killian mumbles at Liam, flicking a piece of cheese at him.

 

“You’re really not very creative with your innuendos or insults today, Professor Jones. You should work on that.”

 

“And you,” Killian points out as his eyes roll at the nickname, “have got to stop talking to Scarlet if you’re going to call me things like that.”

 

Once dinner is ready, they all settle down in the dining room, the kitchen table not big enough to fit everyone, but just like the rest of the afternoon, everything goes smoothly. Liam is definitely peppering in questions and little comments, but it’s all in the good nature of getting to know Emma. Honestly, though, no one gets a word in for how much Emma, Anna, and Elsa are getting along. Emma is very obviously a big hit with the two of them as well as Addy and Lucy (and Kris and Liam even if they’re a little less vocal about it), and it makes his heart swell. Admittedly, he was kind of nervous about all of this, if only because his family and their approval is so important to him, but there’s no way they could ever not like Emma.

 

Maybe be a little dubious at first, but dislike? No.

 

He can only hope that it’s the same with her family since he knows that mixing lives doesn’t usually run so smoothly, even if this is only her second meeting with everyone.

 

Emma’s nerves seem to have faded away the longer they stay, and when he pulls her to the side after dinner and offers to take her back to his place, she shakes her head and says that she’s good to stay and watch a movie with his family. So they all settle down into the living room, and while everyone takes their normal spots, their routines obviously very engrained in their minds, Killian moves to the large lounge chair that’s in the corner, pulling Emma down on top of him and wrapping his arms around her waist so that Emma doesn’t have to sit across the room from him.

 

Maybe that’s a little bit for himself too.

 

Okay, it definitely is, and he dips his head down to kiss the back of Emma’s neck as she pulls a blanket up to cover their laps while Liam turns the lights off.

 

“I really like your family,” Emma whispers as she presses her cheek against his and squeezes his hands. “I’m glad you have them.”

 

“Yeah, love, me too. You seem to be a very big hit today.”

 

“It’s because I’m so charming.”

 

Killian chuckles into her cheek, pressing a kiss there. “Exactly.”

 

“Uncle Killian,” Addison groans, “Daddy says to stop kissing your girlfriend and pay attention to the movie.”

Chapter Text

New York City in the summer is both the best and the worst.

 

There are approximately a million things to do, which is pretty much always true for this city, but things seem to multiply this time of year compared to any other time. Well, maybe besides around Christmas, but then every street is so full of tourists that Emma can’t do anything for fear of losing her temper and yelling at a middle-aged couple simple trying to enjoy their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip.

 

Bah-humbug.

 

And as much as Emma likes the way she can wear her jeans with a cozy sweater and coat draped over her with a warm beanie covering her ears, summertime is pretty much the prime time for her with so many baseball games happening and with the US Open coming around at the end of August. But it is decidedly not the end of August since it’s more like the end of July, and all she feels right now is like a big puddle that’s ready to melt whenever she walks outside. Also, that she smells like garbage, but that’s more likely the city than her considering she showered this morning and used vanilla body wash that she can smell on herself.

 

As well as sunscreen.

 

And sweat. There is definitely some sweat involved despite the fact she is only wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top with a hell of a lot of deodorant. She literally has deodorant in her backpack next to her laptop and notebook full of stat sheets.

 

Her hair is really gross too despite the braid it’s in, and the game hasn’t even started. It’s going to be a long day. For a multitude of reasons.

 

David, Mary Margaret, and Leo walking toward her in the hallway is near the top of that list.

 

“Emma,” Leo gasps when he sees her, quickly running toward her and leaving his parents behind in the dust. He’s got on a Captain America shirt and the signed Killian Jones hat gracing the top of his head. They didn’t explicitly tell Leo that she and Killian are dating – kids being kids and not being able to keep secrets and all that – but he pretty much knows. And he’s definitely going to after this.

 

“Hi, bud,” she laughs, squatting down the slightest bit (he’s getting too tall) to wrap him up in a hug that she knows is far too tight. “Long time no see.”

 

“I saw you for dinner last night.”

 

“That is too long.”

 

“You’re clingy,” Leo scoffs before pulling back from her hug to look at her with those furrowed little brows of his.

 

“Clingy? Who taught you that word?”

 

“Mom said that about dad.”

 

“Hey,” Mary Margaret huffs, sliding her arm around Emma in greeting, “don’t be telling tales.”

 

“It’s true.”

 

“I’m clingy?” David questions, his forehead wrinkling when he raises his brows. “Since when am I clingy?”

 

“That’s a conversation for another time.”

 

“But I – ”

 

“Okay,” Emma claps, breaking up the argument that is very inevitably about to happen no matter how small it’s going to be, “so I’m going to show you guys to your suite before I have to go out onto the field for a bit.”

 

“Emma, I know my way around the stadium,” David grumbles like he always does when there is any implication that he does not know absolutely everything that he needs to know, but then he’s kissing her cheek in greeting and gently patting her back in that David way of letting her know that he’s teasing even when she already knows this. It’s, like, a whole full circle thing. “Why is it that you are taking us to a suite today instead of us just sitting in my seats?”

 

The scorecard keeps ticking higher on David mentioning his investment in baseball by mentioning his season-ticket seats, but honestly, she can’t even say anything.

 

“Because,” Emma sighs, wrapping her arm around Leo’s shoulder and pulling him forward, “you are a workaholic who needed to get out of the office and spend some time with your family, and I made some special arrangements for that. Also, it’s crazy hot outside today, and the suites have air-conditioning.”

 

They’re in one of the first suites that Emma comes to, and she unwraps her arm from Leo’s shoulder to flash her badge at one of the security guards in charge of the player family suites before a door is opened for them to go inside. Liam, Elsa, Anna, and Kris are already inside sitting down on the couches that are in front of the TV monitor, and Addy and Lucy are watching something on an iPad, pink headphones covering their ears.

 

“Emma, are those?” Mary Margaret asks, trailing off at the end.

 

“Yep, that’s Killian’s family.”

 

“But we haven’t even met Killian yet.”

 

“Oh,” Emma sighs, smiling a bit to herself at them reacting to this exactly the way that she knew that they would, “I know. He’ll be up here when he finishes with the game though, okay? I’m feeding him to the lion’s den while I’m working, but he’s going to take us all to dinner afterwards so that you guys can do your creepy interrogation like Liam did to me.”

 

“He did what now?” David fumes, reaching forward to gently grab her elbow while Liam himself turns around, finally spotting they they’ve entered the room.

 

Emma can’t help but roll her eyes while her stomach does that twisting thing that is pretty much becoming its trademark. All of these people are ridiculous. “It’s fine, David. It was a joke. But seriously. I might be in and out depending on how the game goes, but Killian is going to come up here after he finishes his cool down, and afterwards, we’re going out to dinner.”

 

“How is that going to work if you guys are keeping things quiet?”

 

Emma shrugs her shoulders, a little bit of nervous energy washing over her. It’s something she and Killian have talked about a lot in the past week now that everyone important knows about everythingimportant, and while they’re still figuring things out, they’ve decided that it’s probably safe to go somewhere low key for dinner as long as they’re in a group. Maybe eventually they’ll be able to go to dinner with just the two of them without Emma looking over her shoulder. It’s not like Killian is Brad Pitt or anything, but her worries of being spotted are legitimate. She’s in a very happy little bubble right now, and even though a bit of it has been burst, it’s still holding strong.

 

She deserves this. Killian does too.

 

“We’ve got it figured out,” she tells David before walking toward Liam and greeting him with a hug and doing the same with everyone else. Killian’s family are a bunch of huggers, even for people they don’t know very well, and that’s something she’s figured out very quickly. “Okay, so I’m about to do some quick introductions, so everyone brace yourself.”

 

“David Nolan,” David interrupts, reaching forward to shake Liam’s hand in what Emma can tell is a far too hard handshake to show off some kind of weird masculine authority. “It’s nice to meet you – ”

 

“Liam Jones. And this is my wife Elsa, her sister Anna, and Anna’s husband Kris. The two munchkins ignoring us are my daughter’s Addison and Lucy, and I bet they will be great friends with your son.”

 

“How old are they?” Leo asks. “Because I don’t want to be friends with anyone younger than four.”

 

Elsa actually snorts while Mary Margaret’s intake of breath might as well be a sign that death is coming with how dramatic it was.

 

“Leo,” Mary Margaret admonishes, “that is not very nice. You should apologize.”

 

Elsa stops laughing to wave Mary Margaret away, a kind smile on her face. “It’s fine, I promise. I get it. The girls do stuff like that all of the time, and luckily for Leo, they are both a little bit older than that. Plus, Addy really likes Captain America too.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah, why don’t you go over there and talk to her?”

 

Leo smiles and nods his head before sprinting over to the girls, plopping down on the couch hard enough that Addy and Lucy might as well bounce off of it.

 

“I’m really sorry about that,” Mary Margaret says again. “He was stuck with me working with a bunch of younger kids the other day, and I think that’s scarred him.”

 

“It really is fine,” Elsa smiles. “At least he’s a kid and there’s a bit of an excuse. Anna here sometimes says things like that, and she’s an adult.”

 

“Only technically,” Anna laughs.

 

“This is true,” Kris adds in.

 

“Hey, you’re not supposed to talk about me like that.”

 

“What? It’s true. It’s how you are. You have the enthusiasm of a kid with a bag of skittles. It’s wonderful.”

 

“Yeah, but you guys aren’t supposed to say things like that when we’re trying to make a good impression with Emma’s family. We’re supposed to look normal.”

 

It’s Emma’s turn to snort and shake her head before reaching forward to squeeze Anna’s forearm. “There’s no such thing as normal, which I’m sure you guys will realize as soon as I leave you all here to make some awkward small talk.”

 

“There isn’t going to be anything awkward about it,” Kris smiles before bumping his hip into Anna’s, “unless Anna keeps talking.”

 

“You are something else today.”

 

“You guys are all something else,” Emma laughs, hoping to everything that this is going to go well. This isn’t something she’s ever really had to do before, and it’s kind of terrifying. “But I trust that you can all get along with your spouses, since that seems to be a problem today, and each other. Now I’m going to go sweat my ass off outside, but you guys have a good time up here. And if they bring in those cheeseburger sliders, save me some.”

 

With that, she turns to walk out the door, knowing she doesn’t have time to go through proper goodbyes with all of them (she’d be there forever), and quickly makes her way to the elevator so that she can get to the tunnels that are going to take her out to the dugout. She always loves the days where she gets to spend some time in there, to really get a behind the scenes feel at it all, and while she’s a bit wary of some of the players now, she knows that it’s all going to be fine.

 

This is a game, but it’s also a job.

 

Al nods his head at her when she pushes open the door and walks toward her designated spot at the end with the water cooler and bat racks. August and Lance greet her, the rest of the guys sitting around ignoring her, and she’s thankful when she finds Jeff already in his seat.

 

“Hey,” he mumbles, his legs shaking up and down.

 

“Hey, why do you look nervous?”

 

“I’m fucking hot.”

 

Emma laughs and takes her seat next to him, and Jeff hands her the microphone pack and her earpiece, which she immediately turns on even though she knows Ruby is probably about to bombard her with questions.

 

“We can go inside for a bit when the first inning is over. I don’t plan on being out here the entire time.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Emma knocks her knee into Jeff’s,but he ignores her and turns his head to look out at the field. He’s always such a character.

 

“So,” Ruby teases, her voice breaking through the static, “how did the meeting go?”

 

“Fine. I bolted pretty quick, though. Also, Rubes, we can’t really talk about this stuff while I’m working.”

 

“Why not – oh, wait, never mind. I got you. There are a lot of people around who can hear you.”

 

“Yep,” Emma sighs, shaking her head a bit, “so tell me what kind of coverage you want me to get for this game. Jeff and I are already dying of heat.”

 

“Fine,” Ruby grumbles, and Emma can practically imagine the roll of her eyes, “I guess I will give you instructions for your job instead of gossiping about your life.”

 


 

Killian only pitches three innings, and while it’s a bit unusual, Emma doesn’t think anything of it. They’ve got their first road game in Boston next week, and she imagines Al doesn’t want anything to happen to Killian’s arm. And there’s no reason for him to overexert himself when they’re so easily winning and have already got this series in the bag no matter what happens the rest of the afternoon.

 

Plus, he winks at her when she finishes doing a quick interview with him after he’s pulled from the game, and the smile on his face tells her everything that she needs to know about how good he’s feeling.

 

She hopes that he feels that way after he goes upstairs and meets most everyone.

 

They probably should have eased everyone into it, but honestly, she thinks Killian will be more comfortable with his family around.

 

“Are you going to make me do one of those Instagram filters again today?” Will questions, as he plops down on the bench next to her, tilting the water cup back and drinking it down in one gulp. “Or am I playing twenty questions? Do you want to talk about my wedding? Or maybe even the game?”

 

“Shut up, asshole,” Emma laughs before reaching up to fan her face and wipe the sweat from her brow. “You’re the worst.”

 

“Um, actually, I believe you quite like me.”

 

“That’s debatable.”

 

Will hums as there’s some shuffling in front of them with Arthur King reaching around Emma to get his bat and helmet. Anxious shivers run down her spine when she sees him now, and her entire body stiffens until there’s a gentle pressure on her forearm from where Will is squeezing it.

 

“Hey,” he whispers, dipping his head down to look up at her, his goofy grin replaced with a soft smile that she usually doesn’t see with him, “you okay?”

 

She nods her head, wishing that her stomach wasn’t twisting like this. “I’m fine.”

 

“He’s not going to say shit like that again, Emma,” Will promises as his hand squeezes her arm again. “You are a member of this team, just like me and Killian and Rob, and we’ve got your back no matter what happens. I don’t let people talk shit about anyone but especially my friends.”

 

“Are we friends now?”

 

“Jones told me that we had to be.”

 

Emma scoffs and rolls her eyes, but she still knocks her knee into Will’s, a smile curving at the corner of her lips. Who knew that Will Scarlet was going to be so in her corner this early on? Or at all.

 

“Thanks. I’ll let you pick the filter you use the next time I do Instagram stuff simply because of that.”

 

“Sounds like music to my ears.”

 


 

 Emma doesn’t get any chances to go back up to the suite during the game, but afterwards, when she’s wrapped up all of her work stuff and told Jeff goodbye, she finds herself walking through the suite doors only to find Killian standing at the counter wrapping sliders in a paper towel while talking to David.

 

Should she focus on the fact that she knows that Killian’s wrapping those up for her even though she asked everyone else to do it or the fact that Killian is talking to David?

 

Probably both.

 

“Hey,” she says slowly, stepping up to the two of them so that they both glance over at her, small smiles gracing both of their lips. Okay, good, that’s a good sign. “How are things going?”

 

“Just dandy,” Killian tells her, lifting his arm so that she can step into his space and press up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Dave is telling me about how he makes me look good on TV.”

 

“Dave?” she questions, and all Killian does in response is brush a kiss over the hair at the crown of her head.

 

“That is not exactly what I was saying,” David clarifies. “Killian asked me about work, and I explained it to him. Him thinking that he needs help to look good is all on him.”

 

“I mean, I get it. I help him look good every week when I could very easily make him look awful.”

 

“You are so kind to me, darling.”

 

“I know.”

 

Killian smiles down at her in that way that makes her heart stutter and her breath hitch, and there are so many emotions flying through her right now that she’s not entirely sure what to feel. There are also a million questions she’s going to have to gulp down, and Emma already knows that she’s going to have to ask Mary Margaret or Elsa for all of the details how everything went.

 

She really, really, really  wants Killian and David to get along. That’s, like, everything to her even if she didn’t realize it when this whole thing started. Ruth and Mary Margaret will like anyone who is nice to her, but David has seen so much of the shit that’s happened in her life that he’s a little bit more particular.

 

Okay, a lot.

 

“Are these sliders for me?” she asks even though she already knows the answer.

 

“Aye. I figured you’d want something to eat on the way to the restaurant since I didn’t see you eat during the game. Were you avoiding it so as not to get on camera again?”

 

“Kind of. It was also too damn hot to eat.”

 

Killian’s lips tick up on the right, his brow arching high on his head, and she knows that there’s a dirty joke rumbling around in there. It must be hard for him not to be able to say it, but they are most definitely not at a comfort level where he can talk about having sex with her in front of David. In fact, it’s probably best if they never get to that comfort level.

 

“Dad,” Leo groans as he walks over to the them, “Mom said to ask you when we can go eat.”

 

“I think we can go now since Emma’s all finished with work.”

 

“Thank goodness. I thought I was going to starve to death.”

 

“You know, kid,” Killian laughs, dropping his arm from around Emma’s shoulder, “you sound a lot like your aunt.”

 

What can she say? She and Leo like to eat.

 

They go to a low-key pizza place six blocks over from Liam and Elsa’s townhome. All of them are so spread out in different boroughs of the city that it’s pretty much impossible to meet in the middle, but Liam suggested the place since he knows that it’s quiet and that the girls like it a lot. Emma’s honestly pretty nervous walking inside, Killian following right behind her with his hand ghosting over the small of her back. It’s odd to have been dating someone for this much time and never really been out with them, but this relationship is never going to fall into the category of ordinary anyways. It’s always going to be a little off and a little funky, and that’s fine with her because it works. She’s never been one to need to be wined and dined anyways.

 

And maybe she’s also nervous because of the fear that someone is going to see them and that connections are going to be made, but Elsa quickly talks to the hostess and has them moved to a large corner booth in the back that no one else in the restaurant can really see. Bless Elsa. Honestly and truly. Emma knew she would be great for how Killian always talked about her, but Emma had no idea that she was going to so quickly hit it off with the woman so that they almost feel like friends now too.

 

It’s been a week since they met, but everything goes so naturally that it feels like so much longer.

 

This isn’t her or her life or the way things usually go. Emma doesn’t just make friends with people she meets and doesn’t integrate her life with others. The only constant friend she’s had over the past six years that isn’t somehow quasi-related to her is Ruby – toss Graham in there too – and if it wasn’t for Ruby pretty much demanding that she and Emma get along, Emma would probably still think of the woman as just her producer.

 

How different life would be.

 

So Emma is definitely not the type of person to have multiple people texting her throughout the day or asking about plans, knowing and understanding that the rigorous game scheduling makes those plans kind of difficult to make. But here she is at a table with ten other people where the conversation is easily flowing from subject to subject because all of these people are making an effort to get along for she and Killian.

 

She’s got some pretty awesome people around her, the man whose hand keeps inching up on her inner thigh included.

 

Emma twists her head to look at Killian and tell him to stop teasing her by squeezing her thigh, but instead of seeing the smirk she was expecting, his free hand reaches up to cover his mouth as he yawns.

 

“Are you tired?”

 

Killian nods as he keeps yawning, small tears escaping the corners of his eyes, and when the yawn finishes, he has to keep blinking the tears away. “Exhausted. I could go for an entire vat of caffeine.”

 

“Or get an IV of coffee in your arm.”

 

“What?” he questions, very obviously not getting her reference.

 

“Gilmore Girls reference, twenty-nine,” Emma sighs, patting his hand on her thigh. “Gilmore Girls. I know we’ve talked about it before. You should watch it when you have time. It’s, like, a peak early 2000’s show. But you can skip the last season.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind when I inevitably forget about this conversation and the show.”

 

“Do you need to go home? We can leave whenever.”

 

“No,” Killian promises even though he yawns when he says it, “I’m good for a little while longer.”

 

“Is it past your bedtime?” Lucy asks quietly from her seat next to Emma.

 

“Do you think your uncle goes to bed before you, sweetie?”

 

“He looks sleepy. Do you want my pizza?”

 

Emma’s not exactly sure where the correlation is there, but that’s kind of how kids are. It’s much more entertaining than talking to adults sometimes.

 

“No, Luce,” Killian promises, leaning over Emma to talk to her, “I don’t want your pizza, but thank you. That’s very sweet. I think it’s past your bedtime though.”

 

“It’s not Lucy’s bedtime for another hour,” Addy helpfully adds in, much to the amusement of everyone else. “Mine isn’t until eight because I’m older.”

 

“Mine is at nine,” Leo says.

 

“I wish I could go to bed that early,” Elsa sighs as she reaches down to pick up her glass of water. “You guys don’t know how good you’ve got it sleeping that much.”

 

“I don’t like to sleep,” Addy laughs.

 

“Me either,” Leo says back to Addy, giving her a high five.

 

Mary Margaret is probably already planning their wedding or something ridiculous like that for how much fun they seem to be having. Actually, Mary Margaret is probably planning hypothetical weddings for several people at this table, but that is not something Emma is going to start thinking about. Nope. Not anywhere near to even being close to being ready and the little thoughts need to chill the hell out. So, if Mary Margaret is going to plan creepy hypothetical weddings, it can be her son’s.

 

They’ll probably have Captain America-themed plates with baseball hats and stuffed animals from the zoo lining the aisle.

 

Okay, now Emma is the crazy one.

 

Maybe she’s a little tired too.

 

“So, Killian,” David starts, very obviously changing the subject, “I mean to ask earlier, but why did Al pull you out of the game so early?”

 

Killian’s hand squeezes her thigh, nails digging into the skin a bit roughly, but then he’s letting out a breath and releasing her thigh so that he can scratch at his jaw. “Ah, preservation for the Sox series. Nothing to worry about. I wasn’t feeling top notch, and it’s better not to risk it, you know?”

 

“That makes sense. I feel like I spend so much time simply making sure things run smoothly on camera that I never get to actually pay attention to the game, so today was nice.”

 

“See,” Emma huffs, looking between the two of them and pushing down that little feeling of worry over Killian not feeling well today. It was probably just the heat. “I told you that it would be nice. You got all defensive about sitting in the suite.”

 

“To be fair, I had no idea we would be meeting Killian’s family today.”

 

“Yeah, hon,” Mary Margaret sighs before picking up a slice of pizza and taking a bite, “we were blindsided a bit, and apparently everyone else already knew.”

 

“I didn’t want you to prepare questions or some kind of actual interrogation or something else ridiculous beforehand. You have a tendency to be a little too much on the friendly scale.”

 

“I do not.”

 

“You totally do.”

 

“How?”

 

“Marg,” Emma laughs, “you probably would have been like Ariel and tried planning a vacation for all of us before you even shook Liam’s hand.”

 

“I would not have.”

 

“I bet if I looked at your phone right now there would be flights pulled up to Aspen or something.”

 

Mary Margaret narrows her eyes at Emma, but then Anna is clapping her hands together and making everyone look at her. “Oh, I just love this too much! I think a group vacation would be the most fun.”

 

Everyone starts laughing, and Killian picks up his bottle of beer to tilt at Anna. “Emma was right when she said that you and Mary Margaret get along swimmingly. It’s uncanny, actually, how similar you are.”

 

“Friendly people make friends, little brother.”

 

“Liam, I don’t know how many times I have to say that there is nothing little about me. Ask Emma.”

 

“Oh my God,” Emma gasps, reaching back to slap his chest, “no. We are not talking about that. You’re an idiot. There are children here.”

 

“To be fair,” Kris starts, and everyone turns to him, “they got here by the either little or not-so-little attachments we’re alluding to.”

 

Nothing like alluding to dicks to make a group of people come together.

 

Okay, that thought could be taken a lot dirtier than Emma intended, so it’s a good thing she’s not thinking out loud.

 

They all quietly leave the restaurant half an hour later, the conversation and laughter not at all slowing down for the rest of the time there. Maybe it was the bit of alcohol that most everyone had or maybe it was simply hitting a stride in conversation, but it doesn’t really matter. All Emma knows is that her stomach hurts from laughing and she’s got this smile on her face that she hopes stays for a while.

 

“Today was nice,” Mary Margaret sighs as the two of them stand outside the restaurant while David and Killian settle the bill inside. “I like Killian a lot. I really like that he makes you smile.”

 

Emma blushes, and her smile increases despite her best efforts not to let it. Who in the world is this woman who is smiling all of the time? This is not her. But maybe it is now.

 

“You are such a mom, Marg.”

 

“Literally I am.”

 

“You know what I mean, though.”

 

“I do, I do,” she sighs, wrapping her arm around Leo’s waist and pulling him closer so that he doesn’t wander off the sidewalk and into the street. “But you’re basically my first baby even though this one came so close after I met you. All I want is for you to be happy, and that man makes you happy.”

 

“Yeah, he does.”

 

“Emma,” Leo asks, looking up at her as the restaurant doors open behind him, “can I meet Will Scarlet now too?”

 

“We’ll see, kid,” Emma laughs. “We’ll see.”

 

“You ready to go, love?”

 

Killian walks over to her and moves to wrap his arm around her shoulder before stopping himself, eyes glancing to the few people around them, and Emma’s heart sinks at that. But she knows that this is for the best, and Killian not being able to wrap his arm around her shoulder when they’re about to get in the car isn’t that big of a deal. It’s really not a deal at all, and Emma pushes down her worries so that she can look up at Killian and smile.

 

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

 

The two of them say their goodbyes to everyone else before walking two blocks over to find Killian’s car where it’s parked, Killian opening her door for her even when she insists that she do it herself so that Emma can quickly slide into the passenger’s seat.

 

“You and David took a million years to pay.”

 

“Did we?” Killian hums, very pointedly taking a little too long inspecting the gearshift.

 

“You did. Did he go all big-brother on you?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Swan.”

 

“You, Killian Jones,” Emma scoffs as Killian pulls out of the parking spot and onto the street, “are a liar.”

 

“And obviously not a very good one either.”

 

Emma sighs as Killian twists his head and winks at her, a mischievous smile painted on his lips. “What did David ask you?”

 

“About my intentions with you.”

 

Groaning, she sinks down further on the leather seat, wondering if it’s acceptable to unbutton her shorts because she’s eaten pizza and cheeseburger sliders in the past three hours and has food babies inside of her stomach. Multiple. That’s how much she has eaten.

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Yep,” Killian laughs, turning the blinker on before reaching over to grab her hand and bring her knuckles to his lips to brush a kiss there, the charmer.

 

“What’d you tell him?”

 

“That I love you and am very much in this for the long haul as long as you’ll have me. Now do you want to go to your place or mine?”

 

“Mine,” Emma tells him as her heart stutters in her chest at his words and all of the implications behind them. “Let’s go to my place.”

Chapter Text

“You haven’t updated your Instagram account in weeks.”

 

Ariel says this as they sit in the hotel restaurant with their plates full of salad, grilled chicken, and rice. Killian’s been eating like shit lately, and as good as it feels in the moment, he can tell that it affects him and the way that he functions on a daily basis. So he’s been eating the same thing for every meal for the past week, but since they’re on the road where he doesn’t have constant access to a fridge and stove, he’s had to get a little creative in obtaining his food. Ariel is pretty much an expert at finding whatever it is that he wants when he wants it, and he cannot thank her enough for it.

 

Stabbing a piece of chicken, Killian lifts his fork to his mouth and takes a bite while he taps his passcode into his phone to see if Ariel’s statement is actually true. He really wouldn’t know, but it looks like he has several photos from the last few weeks on there.

 

“You can very clearly see all of these photos, A. Why are you so big on my social media presence lately?”

 

“These are all professional  photos,” Ariel sighs, an emphasis on professional, and she pushes his phone back toward him. “You need more personal photos. You look like a baseball player.”

 

“I am a baseball player.”

 

She waves him away. “You know what I mean.”

 

Killian arches a brow and scoops up some of his rice. “I really don’t, love.”

 

Ariel rolls his eyes, and he settles a little further in his booth, his eyes glancing around to the people sitting around them in the restaurant. It’s not very crowded, just a few people here and there, but that’s par for the course considering it’s ten in the morning on a Wednesday. Not a lot of people are chilling in a hotel restaurant in Boston when there are approximately fifty-two other things they could be doing within a five-foot radius. And that’s only the tourists.

 

And he’s pretty sure that everyone in here can hear his conversation, is probably judging them for the particular subject of it, but he knows that no one cares.

 

He certainly doesn’t, but if A cares, he should for her.

 

“People like a little personality,” Ariel explains, ripping up a bit of her napkin. “I know we’ve talked about this before, Killian. You’ve got to show a little personality outside of baseball. I’m not saying put your diary on there, but post a picture with someone outside of baseball.”



“Literally, everyone in my life is involved in baseball in some way.”

 

“Okay, true,” Ariel laughs. “It’s the same for me, so I get it. Still, though, think about it.”

 

Killian hums noncommittedly, pushing his rice around before looking up at Ariel and wondering why the hell she’s looking at him like she’s holding all of the secrets of the world in that mind of hers.

 

“Did you really ask to meet me because we needed to talk about my Instagram feed?”

 

“I mean, obviously not,” she huffs. “I had a few work things to talk about with you, but I’ve also missed you. I feel like it’s been so long since we all spent time together with you guys not in uniform. It’s got to have been months, and I miss it.”

 

His heart swells and breaks all at once while his head tilts to the side to look at Ariel, eyes glancing up and down over her as he studies her. “You okay, A?”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ariel.”

 

“Killian.”

 

“Ariel, I am here to talk if you’re upset about something, and, literally, say the word and I will get all of us together to do something. We’re here for five days before we’re back in New York for a week. I know we’re in the crazy part of the season where it feels like we can’t breathe, but I promise there’s time for us all to spend time together.”

 

Her eyes glance down at her food, and she swishes her water around in the glass before taking a long, slow sip that he knows is to take up time.

 

“I really am fine,” she promises. “I’m just a little stressed with it all, and I feel like I need some time with all of you guys and Belle and, um, Emma too. I’m trying to make contract negotiations for Eric, which has involved us talking about a lot of future stuff that I wasn’t quite ready to talk about yet.”

 

“Babies?”

 

“Ding, ding, ding,” she laughs, even if it’s kind of pathetic. “I mean, I want kids. I do. I want them with Eric especially.”

 

“Well, I’d be a little concerned if you didn’t want them with your husband.”

 

She flicks a piece of lettuce at him. “Shut up.”

 

“Never.”

 

“Why do I love you?”

 

“I literally have no idea,” Killian teases, reaching over the table to grab Ariel’s hand so that he can squeeze it to reassure her. “Go on, A. I’m listening.”

 

“I just – it’s hard, you know? Obviously, Eric and I are financially secure right now, but you can’t plan life when that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. Because what happens if Eric gets traded somewhere else? We have to uproot everything, and having kids will complicate that. And we have to have a plan for Eric after he retires. Like, I have a pretty nice job because of all of you, but he’s going to need to have something to do. It’s just…it’s a lot on my plate when I’m already balancing so much. I mean, haven’t you thought about all of that?”

 

Damn.

 

Like, damn.

 

No, he hasn’t thought of any of that. Not at all. Well, that’s a lie, but it’s a small lie, a white one really. When he was out after the accident, his future was always on his mind, but it was never any concrete thoughts. It was always depressing ones about him never being able to play again, about him having no discernable skills outside of a sport, and about him wondering if he was going to fall into women and bars once more simply because things weren’t going his way. It was never a concrete answer about what he’s legitimately going to do after baseball. Money isn’t really his concern as long as he handles it all correctly, but how will he spend his days? What will he be passionate about?

 

Is Emma going to be by his side through all of it?

 

Woah.

 

Okay.

 

That’s not at all where he thought his mind was headed, but his brain apparently had a much different roadmap than he thought. Killian loves Emma, undoubtedly, and he does want his future to involve her, but it’s like Ariel said…they can’t plan life.

 

And he doesn’t know what Emma’s plans are.

 

Realistically, too, Killian isn’t exactly sure what he wants out of life, and he already knows that he most likely won’t have a career as long as a lot of other guys in the league. They haven’t had broken arms and rotator cuff tears that still bother him like he has.

 

Fuck.

 

This is not how his morning is supposed to be going, and the way that his heart is hammering in his chest is far worse now than it will ever be when he gets out on the mound tonight.

 

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Killian squeezes Ariel’s hand again. “It’s hard to think about, A, but you guys will figure it out. I don’t think life can ever really be planned. I sure as hell have planned none of mine, and if I didn’t have you, I think it’d be a much bigger mess.”

 

Ariel’s cheeks flame up to be the same color of her hair, but she smiles at him anyways. “You’re right. You would be a mess without me and everyone else. I am the glue that holds you together.”

 

“You and a couple other people which means you are all very weak glue to need that many people to hold me together or I’m just that resistant.”

 

“The second option.”

 

“You’re going to be okay, A. You and Eric are solid. And if or when you do have that baby, no matter what city you’re in, I’m going to be there to be that kid’s favorite person in the world.”

 

“Please,” Ariel laughs even as water fills her eyes, “no one could ever compare to me. I’m definitely going to be my kid’s favorite person.”

 

“Whatever you have to say to make yourself sleep at night.”

 


 

 Killian gets booed when he steps out onto the field, and he can’t imagine a more fitting welcome in Boston since that is what usually happens.

 

But then it continues past that first moment.

 

And he very much deserves it for how he’s pitching, though that booing is probably from the Yankees fans and not Boston natives. His arm is stiff, a bit of pain running through it, and he’s too stubborn to ask to be relieved early or to admit that he’s in pain. He tries to convince himself that it’s all exaggerated, that he’s simply been in a negative headspace all day since eating lunch with Ariel and all of the heaviness that was in that conversation, but he knows that it’s not exaggerated. Killian knows that his shoulder is bothering him, his mind is bothering him, and nothing is going to get him out of this foul mood.

 

Especially not when Al pulls him after the third inning once again and yells at him to get his shit together. Will does too, and even if it’s in his joking tone, Killian doesn’t take it that way. He doesn’t take any of it as a joke.

 

Who the hell cares about what he’s going to do after baseball if he can’t even figure out what he’s doing right now?

 

And in all of his anger, in all of his frustration at himself and at his team, the thing he hates himself for the most is brushing off Emma when she asks for an interview. He mutters a no under his breath and keeps walking down the hallway back to the locker room so that he can take a shower and get a massage.

 

She’s the woman who he loves more than anything or anyone else, which he didn’t even realize until right now, and he just blew her off when she was simply trying to do her job.

 

He’s such an asshole.

 

They lose 3-17.

 


 

 Elsa: Are you okay?

 

Elsa: Killian.

 

Elsa: I know you’ve checked your phone. The game ended three hours ago. Five hours ago for you.

 

Elsa: I’m going to start calling you and won’t stop if you don’t text me back within the next five minutes.

 

Killian sighs and rolls over on his hotel mattress, phone still in hand, and sends Elsa a text back because he really does not want to talk on the phone right now.

 

Killian: Yes, Els?

 

He expects the bubbles to pop up to tell him that she’s texting back, but they don’t. Instead her face pops up, a picture of she and the girls from Christmas last year, and he wonders if she was ever not going to call him. The answer is most definitely no since he’s been ignoring her – and everyone else – all evening. Eventually someone was going to call him out on his shit.

 

Sighing again, he hits answer and presses the speaker button as Elsa’s voice comes through the phone.

 

“Why are you ignoring everyone?”

 

“I’m talking to you.”

 

“Only because I just promised to harass you until you did. Seriously, Killian. Your brother and I have been calling you all afternoon, and you’ve ignored us. And when I texted Emma, she said that you were ignoring her too.”

 

“Bloody hell,” Killian grumbles aloud, sitting up in bed and moving his arm so that he’s not pressing down on it so as to agitate it more. “You texted Emma?”

 

“Um, yeah?” Elsa questions, the hesitation obvious in her voice. “She’s your girlfriend. She was at the game. I kind of figured she was with you, but apparently the two of you haven’t talked either. What the hell is wrong with you that you’re not even talking to Emma?”

 

Well, he’s an asshole for one. He’s also never told Emma about his shoulder injury and the full extent of the accident. He doesn’t want to. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but he doesn’t want Emma to know about it. Not now. As irrational as he knows that it is, she might think less of him. And maybe just maybe, if he doesn’t tell more people, the problem will somehow go away.

 

This is all becoming more irrational by the second, but it’s fine. Everything is going to be fine. That was such a dark place in his life, one he doesn’t want to keep repeating and reliving even if Emma already knows parts of it, and he has no idea how he’d even talk to her right now since she’s very obviously, and rightfully so, pissed at him.

 

It’s all so easy to mess everything up in the blink of an eye.

 

“She’s likely pissed at me since I brushed her off for an interview. I didn’t even say hi or smile at her or find her afterwards. So, I didn’t text her, and she hasn’t texted me. I don’t know…she’s upset with me, right?”

 

“She’s concerned about you,” Elsa breathes out, and from the lack of noise around her, Killian imagines that she must have locked herself in the study so that no one bothers her. “Killian, Emma loves you. Anyone with eyes can see that, and you guys are a team. Granted, you’re a brand new team, but you’re a team. You have to work together and share stuff like this.”

 

“I know that, Els.”

 

“Then why isn’t she with you right now?”

 

“Because my shoulder feels like shit today, and she doesn’t know anything about the accident besides the broken bone.”

 

Silence fills the air around him after he says the words, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that Elsa isn’t saying anything on the other line. The only sounds are the sounds of his television playing some kind of celebrity gossip show. How out of touch is he if he doesn’t even know the name of the show?

 

Why would it even matter to him?

 

“Killian,” Elsa whispers, and he’s so damn tired of hearing people say his name in sympathy today, “you haven’t told her?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because I haven’t told anyone else, Els. Eight people on this earth know about it, and I don’t even know how I would tell her. I don’t want her to look at me out of pity. I don’t…my life has had some pretty shitty periods, and that was one of them. Emma didn’t honestly know me then. She didn’t know how fucked up that I was, and even if I’ve told her about Milah and all of the women after Milah and – I’ve told her a lot, and at some point, she’s going to flip out on how messed up I am.”

 

“First of all,” she starts, not even allowing him to take a breath or truly think about everything that he just said, “you are not messed up. You, even with all of your privileges now, have had some really hard times in your life. You lost your mom at a really young age and had a pretty shitty dad who took advantage of you and your talents. And then you had a really big love kind of blow up in your face, as well as everything that came after that, and just as you were getting over that, the accident happened.”

 

“It’s even more depressing if you say it all in a list like that.”

 

“But,” Elsa continues, “you got through all of that. Are you still struggling with it? Absolutely. But it hasn’t kept you from continuing to live your dream even though things are frustrating. It hasn’t kept you from finding a really great girl in Emma. You’re okay, you know that? And we all love you so much that I don’t think I can even express it with words.”

 

Killian smiles to himself and twists in his bed, a bit of water coating his eyes, but he blinks the tears away and runs his hands through his hair, taking a deep breath. “I love you guys too.”

 

“Good. Now text your girlfriend and think about telling her some of this stuff that you’re carrying around on your shoulders.”

 

“Is that supposed to be a joke?”

 

“A little.”

 

“You have no shame.”

 

“I know. Call me tomorrow, okay?”

 

“Will do.”

 

The line goes silent, for real this time, and Killian slams his eyes shut simply so he can have a moment to breathe. Today has been a lot for him, and he knows that Elsa is right about everything. He does. But he’s not quite ready to be that open with Emma. He will be. He does actually want her to know about everything even if he thinks it’ll make her run for the hills, but he’s not ready. And he tells himself that it’s fine. Emma has her own hang-ups, her own past, and not everything has to be shared right away.

 

They have time.

 

And his arm may very well start feeling better soon, and his freak out will all be for naught.

 

Killian: Can I come up to your room?

 

Emma: Ruby and Graham are in here.

 

Killian: I don’t care if you don’t.

 

Emma: 514.

 

Rolling off the bed, Killian bends down to his suitcase to grab a shirt, not caring which one, and tugs it down on over his head and shoulders before grabbing his phone and wallet to walk up to Emma’s room. He’s not even wearing any shoes, just socks, but he doesn’t notice this until he’s looking around the hallway to make sure no one is around and then quietly knocking on the door.

 

Graham opens it, a smile on his face, and for some reason it makes Killian think that maybe Emma isn’t as pissed at him as his mind has convinced himself that she is.

 

“Hey, come on in,” Graham says, opening the door a little wider and letting Killian inside. “I’m sorry about the game.”

 

“I’m sorry that you used vacation days to see us all play like shit.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Graham laughs, “at least I’m not at work.”

 

“This is true.”

 

Killian takes another step in the room and sees Emma sitting on her bed dressed in a pair of shorts and his old Vandy sweatshirt. He’s going to have to get something else because she’s going to wear that thing until it is nothing but threads. Ruby is sitting next to her, laptops on both of their laps, and he imagines that they’re simply working. Or, at least, he hopes.

 

“Hey,” Killian greets, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

Emma looks up at him, a slight smile on her face, and his chest practically heaves. They’re not even in a fight. Why does he feel like they are?

 

“Hey,” she says. “I’ve got to finish up this article, okay? And I have a little bit of prep work to do for tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah, Swan, that’s fine.”

 

“It’s only going to take her thirty minutes,” Ruby starts, slamming her laptop shut, “and then she’s going to yell at you for how pissed she is at you for completely ignoring her today.”

 

“Hey,” Emma gasps, reaching her hand back to slap Ruby, “you weren’t supposed to say anything.”

 

“Well, I knew you weren’t going to.”

 

“I was.”

 

“You’re a liar.”

 

“I was going to talk to him.”

 

“No, no you weren’t. You two are ridiculous. It’s not that hard to talk to each other.”

 

“Sweetheart,” Graham sighs, tilting his head to the side, “why don’t you let them deal with their issues on their own? I think they can handle it.”

 

“You know Emma almost as well as I do, so you know that’s not true.”

 

“Oh my God,” Emma groans, sinking down further on the bed, “this is why I should have left the two of you in New York.”

 

“Technically,” Ruby laughs, “David sent me because this is a big game, and he didn’t want you to produce on your own.”

 

“Yeah, well, I should have convinced him to let you stay, and then we definitely could have left Graham behind.”

 

“Hey,” Graham scoffs, and Kilian can’t help but laugh. He’s only spent a little bit of time with the three of them all together, but they obviously get along great. Ruby is definitely an acquired taste, but Graham kind of evens things out. “I am on vacation. I don’t need to be berated.”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” Emma huffs, rubbing the palms of her heels under her eyes. “I’m just a little stressed.”

 

“Do you want me to go get you a cup of coffee, love?”

 

Emma glances over to him and shakes her head from side to side. “No. I’ve had enough caffeine today. Thank you, though.”

 

Silence falls between all of them, only the hum of the air-conditioning remaining, but Killian’s gaze stays on Emma even when she goes back to typing on her laptop.

 

“Ruby, let’s go out to dinner,” Graham suggests, walking over to the bed and beginning to pack up her stuff. “We’ll all have to do something together tomorrow night, yeah?”

 

“That sounds great, Graham,” Emma promises. “There’s a seafood place down by the harbor that I want to go to.”

 

Killian watches as Ruby and Graham collect their things and leave, saying their goodbyes to both he and Emma, and it’s not awkward until the hotel door slams shut behind them and he’s left with just Emma.

 

When was the last time he felt awkward around Emma?

 

Probably during his interview back in March. That was a lifetime ago.

 

“I had a shitty day,” Killian blurts out, walking over to the desk that’s next to Emma’s bed and sitting down on the edge of it so that he’s not talking to her from across the room. “That’s not an excuse. God, love,” he huffs, running his hands through his hair, “I know that’s not an excuse, but it’s mine. I’m sorry that I brushed you off, that I barely acknowledged you at the stadium, and that I didn’t text you while I’m here.”

 

Emma’s nails clack against the keyboard, and he swears every letter is being burned into his skin for how anxious he feels until she’s closing her laptop and placing it next to her on the bed, pulling her legs up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her knees.

 

“Why have you had a shitty day? Just because you played poorly? Because I’ve seen you play poorly before, and it’s never resulted in you ignoring me while I’m trying to do my job. I get that reporters suck and that you have to talk to a million of them. And I don’t expect special treatment because I’m your girlfriend, but you can’t just brush me off like that and then basically be a ghost for hours after that. I mean, you weren’t even answering your family’s calls, Killian.”

 

How is he a functioning human being? How? How does he even have people who love him?

 

Killian’s got answers to all of her questions, to every single one, but he doesn’t know how to say them without talking about his arm and that’s…that’s not going to happen today when he needs more time to accept it all himself.

 

Emma will understand. When the time comes, she will.

 

“I’m an asshole, Swan. I am. I know you probably think I’m great with expressing my emotions because I usually am with you, but sometimes I still struggle with it. I had a day where nothing seemed to go right, and instead of seeking out the help of people who care about me, I isolated myself. It’s not right. I know it’s not, but it’s a pattern that I fall back into time and time again.”

 

Green eyes glance over him, studying him, and he feels her everywhere, like she’s able to peer deep into his soul and see all of the things he’s hiding from her.

 

Or the one thing.

 

It’s just one thing

 

And it can’t be that big of a deal. It’s not. He’ll tell her. Later. Tonight is not the right time.

 

“You’re not an asshole,” Emma sighs, flattening her lips. “I know I call you an ass all of the time, but I don’t mean it. I just – you had a bad day. I get that. I have bad days all the time, but, and at least I think I’m right about this even though Neal and Walsh never did this with me, when you have a shitty day, you’re supposed to share it with me, come to me, lean on me. If you need time to yourself, fine. Take it. That’s probably a good thing, but I don’t want to do this if every time things don’t go your way I’m pushed away.”

 

“Did you rehearse that?”

 

“Does it sound like it?”

 

“A little bit,” Killian chuckles as he scratches behind his ear. “If only because everything you just told me not to do is everything that I know you have a history of doing.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’m a hypocrite.” Emma lets her legs fall against the mattress before standing up and stepping into his space so that she’s standing between his thighs with her hands on his shoulders, nails curling into his t-shirt. “Obviously, we both have our own issues, but let’s try to be better, yeah? And if all else fails when it comes to talking, I’m a really good person to eat junk food with and possibly get a little drunk even if those are terrible coping mechanisms.”

 

He huffs, his hands finding her hips so that he can tug her closer. “I’m on a diet, actually.”

 

Emma’s nose scrunches up in that way that he loves before she’s dipping her head down and softly, thoroughly moving her lips over his in the way that he’s been craving all day. He hasn’t seen her  today, only those few seconds after he got pulled out of the game, and he had no idea just how much he missed being able to feel her against him, to be able to smell the scent of her shampoo, until right at this moment.

 

“I know,” she says when they pull back from each other even if he doesn’t let his grip on her hips go. “We’ve been eating like crap lately.”

 

“I’m trying to rectify that. I know you are too.”

 

“Actually, Ruby and I signed up for another Pilates class at home, so I’ve been working my ass off to still eat my onion rings. Literally.”

 

“Oh, don’t do that.” Killian moves his hand back to squeeze her ass, reveling in the way that Emma rolls her eyes. “I like this ass too much.”

 

“Well, consider it some kind of punishment for being a broody ass today if my butt happens to get smaller.” She smiles at him before kissing his forehead in a move so gentle that he wonders how in the world this woman has so many wonderful facets. “Now, do me a favor and find something to watch while I finish up my assignment, okay? I have to talk about everything you guys did wrong today.”

 

“Just punch me in the gut why don’t you.”

 

“I try. C’mon, twenty-nine. I think we both deserve a relaxing night.”

 

“Yeah, Swan, me too.”

 

They don’t get drunk and eat junk food, but once Emma finishes her work a little under twenty minutes later, she turns her laptop off as well as turning off the hotel room lights, and crawls under the covers with him so that her feet are tucked into his calves. Killian loves that she does that, that she feels comfortable doing that, and it brings him comfort even if her feet are far too cold. Seriously, it’s like she sticks them in the freezer before she gets in bed.

 

As if that would be possible.

 

Emma absentmindedly playing with his chain and his mother’s ring is something he’s also grown used to recently, something that brings him peace, and Killian continues to trace words of affection into the skin of her back as the night goes on. They don’t talk much, just a few exchanges of words about Emma’s day, her plans and schedule for tomorrow, and she drags just that little bit more information out of him. It’s still not everything, was never going to be everything, but it’s a start.

 

And his shoulder doesn’t bother him nearly as badly when Emma is sitting beneath it with her head on his chest laughing at his truly terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. He’s usually much better with accents, but this one is apparently too much for Emma to handle.

 

Weirdly, though, or maybe not so much, all of his concerns that sparked after his conversation with Ariel this afternoon fade away with each passing second. Killian’s got no clue what’s going to happen or if things are going to work out, but at the end of the day, all he wants is for Emma to laugh with him and kiss his collarbone before she falls asleep.

Chapter Text

I need your post-series comparison report by nine this morning.

 

You were late with it last time, and that made me late with my report. This is why you should probably stick to on-air reporting instead of continuing to write articles when we have people for that.

 

W.O.

 

“Asshole,” Emma mutters to herself after reading that blatantly condescending email from Walsh.

 

She’s been in the office for approximately fifteen minutes, most likely a little less than that, and the first thing that Emma saw after logging into her computer was an email from Walsh about her report on the difference between playing at home and away, specifically when it comes to playing the Red Sox. Two weeks ago, the Yankees lost every single game they played in Boston, especially that epic game where they lost 3-17 the night Killian was the starting pitcher, and then over the last four days, they’ve won every game while in New York.

 

Home team advantage taking on a whole new meaning because it is seriously in play this year.

 

And Emma doesn’t want to get too excited, doesn’t want to get too ahead of herself because anything can happen for the rest of the season, but only a month and a half of the regular season is left and there’s no way the Yankees aren’t making the playoffs. Once they get there, who knows if they’ll make it to the Series?

 

There’s a chance, though, and that’s all that matters.

 

As a fan, she’s excited. As Killian’s girlfriend and a reporter for the team, she’s over the freaking moon. It would be insane for them to back it up, but she’s got to slow her roll.

 

Slow her roll and send Walsh this report so that she doesn’t have to deal with him anymore today. Working with her ex is fine since it’s not an everyday thing, only an office day thing, but the man has got to get the stick out of his ass. He cheated on her, belittled her out of jealousy for her success in her job, and yet he acts like it’s an inconvenience for them to have to spend a miniscule amount of time together. He’s probably sitting at his desk thinking of ways to torture her while drinking a giant bottle of Mountain Dew. She always hated that he did that. He could have at least had the diet version instead of consuming all of that extra sugar.

 

But whatever. It doesn’t matter. None of it does.

 

Ruth: Do you think you’d like to come to Portland in October? Or maybe sometime before Thanksgiving? I was thinking you could bring your boyfriend so that I can meet him.

 

Emma reads the text, but she doesn’t answer it quite yet. She needs time to look at her calendar and have time to ask Killian if he wants to go. Hell, she needs time to figure out if that’s what she even wants because, wow, bringing a boyfriend home is not something she’s ever done. Neal literally never wanted to come home with her, never wanted to go to David’s, never wanted to do anything that wasn’t in his control, and Walsh was just…

 

Shit. She needs to email him now and stop letting her mind go down this path.

 

Today is a good day. Nothing is going to ruin it. If she repeats that enough times it’s sure to come true.

 

“Oh my God,” Ruby groans as she steps into Emma’s office, barely able to squeeze in past the chair that’s keeping the door open before sitting in it, “I am ready for this season to be over. Why is it always so jam-packed? Do people really need to watch this much baseball? There are so many damn games.”

 

“Nope. They really don’t.”

 

“I feel like you should not be able to say that because of your job and the fact that your boyfriend is a freaking baseball player.”

 

“Rubes,” Emma hisses, twisting in her chair and looking out the small glass window in her office, “shut up.”

 

Ruby’s eyes widen, her hands immediately going to cover her mouth, and that might be the fastest Ruby has ever stopped talking in the entirety of her life.

 

“Sorry, sorry,” she apologizes before getting up from the chair and moving it so that she can shut the door behind her. Damn this small office. “I didn’t even think about it.”

 

“It’s fine. It’s not like you have a giant poster saying that I’m dating him. There are just a lot of people constantly walking by this door, so we can’t really talk about it with the door open.”

 

“My lips are sealed. Also, are you ever going to get a bigger office?”

 

“I don’t even know why I have an office. Like, honestly. I keep waiting for them to realize that I don’t need it and to give it away to someone who works here more than once a week. Then I could do all of this stuff from home.”

 

“That is the life. Though, I think you would probably never put on real pants again.”

 

“Yoga pants are real pants, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.”

 

“Whatever,” Ruby yawns, covering her mouth with her hands. “I’m ready to go home already. Do you think we have time to go home before the game?”

 

“Considering we have to get out to the stadium in less than an hour and I still have to finish this report for Walsh, I’m thinking not.”

 

“Ugh,” Ruby groans, propping her feet up against the walls like she owns the place, “why does he continue to exist? Can’t he go work in another department or something?”

 

“I imagine,” Emma sighs, twisting back in her chair to actually get work done on the report, “that he stays simply to annoy me, but I tend not to think about him too much.”

 

“Yeah, well, that’s because you’re getting fucked much better now.”

 

Emma huffs. “Why are you the way that you are?”

 

“You know, I think it comes from being raised by my grandmother instead of my mother, and I –”

 

“Rhetorical question,” Emma hums, pulling up her file with her notes from the last few games up so that she can fill the last bit of information in while they talk. “So, Ruth has asked me if I want to bring Killian to Portland.”

 

“I thought you just said that we couldn’t say his name.”

 

“We can’t yell it with the door open. We can say it quietly in here.”

 

“Gotcha, gotcha,” Ruby sighs as Emma keeps working. “How do you feel about the boyfriend going home to meet Ruth? That’s kind of a big step. I mean, he’s already met David and Mary Margaret, but that’s different. They’re more like friends than anything else.”

 

“Yeah, I’m aware of that.”

 

“This is, like, ‘I see a future with you and want everyone I love to love you’ kind of stuff.”

 

“Are you trying to freak me out?”

 

“Only a little. I could have brought up marriage and babies, but I figured that would have you jumping through the ceiling to escape the conversation.”

 

Emma’s heart kind of feels like it’s going to jump through the ceiling of this conversation. Why did she even bring this up? Probably because she does actually want to talk about it, and Ruby will be the most honest with her because she doesn’t seem to have any kind of filter in that wonderful brain of hers.

 

‘Yeah, let’s avoid the marriage and babies stuff.”

 

“Okay, so barring those things,” Ruby sighs, getting up from the chair to perch herself on the edge of Emma’s desk so Emma can actually see her while talking, “how do you feel about this? I know you love Killian because you guys are ridiculously adorable together, which makes me happy for you even if I sometimes find it disgusting, but I also know that you like to freak out about relationship stuff.”

 

“I’m…” Emma rolls back in her chair and tilts her head up to look at Ruby while she tugs her bottom lip with her teeth. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really, because Killian has met everyone else and we do travel pretty often together. But that’s for work, you know? This is…this is moving forward in a way.”

 

“That’s a good thing, hon. People in good relationships move forward. Graham and I dated for awhile, then moved in together, even if you do live with us because rent is ridiculous, and then one day we’re going to get married. When you love someone,who is good to you, that’s what you do, even if every relationship roadmap is different with different destinations. It’s scary as hell, but sometimes you’ve got to do scary shit.”

 

Sometimes you’ve got to do scary shit.

 

“You sounded really philosophical until you got to the end there.”

 

“Eh,” she scoffs, flipping her hair over her shoulders, “I think all great philosophers should talk like me. It’s real. Good advice doesn’t have to be poetic. It’s just got to be good.”

 

Emma hums in response, crossing her legs over each other and readjusting her position while she thinks over everything that Ruby has just said. “So, you think I should talk to Killian about it and then text Ruth back?”

 

“That’s exactly what you should do. And then you should finish this damn report, send it to your asshole ex with a picture of a middle finger attached, and then we should get something to eat on the way to the stadium.”

 


 

 The Yankees win an easy game against the Orioles that afternoon, as they usually do, and it’s a smooth day at the office for all involved. Killian is particularly cheeky in his post-game interview, he and Will bantering off each other, and Emma has to bite her tongue to keep herself from telling Killian that she loves him live on-air.

 

Talk about a disaster waiting to happen there.

 


 

 “Darling, can you get me a napkin?”

 

“Get it yourself, Jones.”

 

“Emma is literally standing in the kitchen.”

 

“You are a big boy. You can get your napkin yourself.”

 

“You just asked her to bring you a glass of water.”

 

“That is different.”

 

Emma rolls her eyes at Ruby and Killian bickering with each other. It’s honestly how they talk. Emma doesn’t think that they’re capable of speaking in normal terms, and as obnoxious as it can be, it’s kind of hilarious. Those two are pretty much a friendship made in heaven because of their wit and ability to make anything a dirty joke, but it results in a hell of a lot of bantering.

 

Or bickering.

 

Emma’s not sure which one, but if the look on Graham’s face is any indication, it’s a combination of both.

 

“We’re going to have to stop allowing them to spend time with each other, aren’t we?” Graham asks as he reaches over her to grab a napkin that the restaurant provided them with when they ordered take-out. “I think they might kill each other.”

 

“Eh, it might just be the natural progression of things.”

 

“True. Might as well just let it happen.”

 

“I can hear the two of you,” Ruby huffs, leaning over from the couch so that she can get a handful of chips out of the bowl before standing and walking to the kitchen, “and it’s totally not cool that you’d just let the two of us die. You are supposed to love us.”

 

“To be fair, I just met Killian, so I’m not sure that we love each other quite yet,” Graham teases.

 

Killian winks, the biggest smirk stretching across his lips, and it makes Emma’s stomach flutter. “Give it time. I’m irresistible. Ask Emma.”

 

“He’s not,” Emma sighs, taking the napkins out of Graham’s hands and walking them the few feet over to Killian before sitting down next to him on the couch, plucking a chip from his plate instead of the bowl. “He pretty much had to beg me to get me to date him.”

 

“Um, no, you definitely asked me out, Swan.”

 

“Only because you wouldn’t ask me out.”

 

“We have talked about this,” Killian breathes, scooping up a forkful of his rice. “And besides, it’s a moot point now.”

 

“Maybe. Are you going to eat the rest of your queso?”

 

Killian hands her his bowl in answer. Him watching his eating habits more carefully is quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to her even if she has to cut down on the pop-tarts in the morning. That’s probably for the best. She’d rather waste her calories on things like queso and grilled cheese. Killian has learned to make a really good grilled cheese sandwich, and that may be the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for her.

 

Obviously she has some really high (low) standards, but it’s the little things.

 

Cheese is the way to a woman’s heart. At least to hers. There are some crazy people out there who don’t like cheese.

 

Crazy.

 

“Why didn’t we get margaritas with our food again?” Ruby asks as she and Graham both settle back into the living room. They barely have enough room for the three people who live here, let alone four. “I really want a margarita.”

 

“We’ve got an eleven o’clock game tomorrow.”

 

“You two do. I don’t.”

 

Emma reaches to the side to slap Killian’s shoulder, nearly spilling her queso dip, and what a tragedy that would be. “You have training.”

 

“Not at eleven in the morning.”

 

“Poor people having to wake up and be at work before nine in the morning to start work at eleven. However do all of you live?”

 

Everyone’s eyes move toward Graham, evil stares likely there, and instead of backing away, he shrugs his shoulders and takes a bite of his taco, completely unbothered.

 

“Shut up and eat your tacos, babe.”

 

He holds up the taco he just took a bite out of. “Don’t mind if I do.”

 

Killian chuckles beside her, lifting his arm over Emma’s shoulder so that she can lean into him and into his warmth. “And you say Ruby and I bicker.”

 

“I’m starting to think maybe it’s Ruby that’s the problem.”

 

“I,” Ruby scoffs, reaching forward to grab the remote to turn the TV on, “am picking the movie we watch tonight because all of you are assholes, and I deserve this.”

 

They watch Pride and Prejudice because it’s the first thing Ruby finds on TV, something that Emma definitely isn’t going to complain about. She’s usually not one for period romances, most of them a little too damsel in distress with no backbone for her, but this is one that she can appreciate. Plus, Keira Knightly is pretty much the greatest at being in movies that aren’t modern. The woman wouldn’t know how to act in a movie where cell phones exists.

 

(Okay, maybe she would, but that’s entirely beside the point.)

 

Ruby and Graham go to bed before the movie is even over, Ruby falling asleep on the couch with chip crumbs on her shirt, and Graham has to coax her into getting up, telling her that she’s not going to be able to move her neck in the morning if she doesn’t move. Ruby pretty much tells him to fuck off in that charming way that she has, but she does get up, slowly wandering back down the hallway to their bedroom until the door shuts behind her.

 

She and Killian manage to make it until the end, and even though she’s been up since early this morning and spent so much time outside, Emma’s not tired. She’s not tired as she and Killian move to clean up their food, wrapping up the leftovers and putting them in the fridge, before moving back to her own bedroom so that they can go through their routines to get ready for bed. Emma kind of feels like they’ve been spending most of their nights together even though she knows that it’s not true. It’s been two or three times a week, mostly depending on her schedule or Killian’s game schedule, and it’s not something they ever really plan.

 

But she likes having him here or likes being over at his place, even though she isn’t the best at sharing the comforter or not sprawling out in the middle of the bed, and it’s a nice thing to get to have someone to spend time with like this.

 

Today has been a good day.

 

Killian is in bed before her, the white of her comforter pulled up over his lap to cover his sweatpants, and instead of getting under the covers herself, Emma moves to straddle his lap, placing her knees on either side of his thighs while her hand plays with the chain around his neck, moving the cool metal back and forth in her palm.

 

Killian arches his right brow at her, that side of his lips tugging up to, and it makes her laugh before she places her hands on his bare shoulders all the while Killian reaches up to tuck her loose strands of hair behind her ear, thumb running across her cheekbone in a gentle motion.

 

His eyes could not possibly be more blue.

 

“What is it that you think you’re doing, Swan?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

A low hum comes from Killian as the hand that’s not caressing her cheek moves to her waist, snaking up underneath her t-shirt to rest against the bare skin of her stomach.

 

“This position isn’t exactly indicative of us going to bed.”

 

“Is it not?” Emma teases, dipping her head down to press her lips to the tip of his nose. “Because I’m very comfortable right now.”

 

She does a pointed roll of her hips and revels in the way that Killian’s eyes shut at the movement.

 

“I think the queso is getting to that head of yours.”

 

Emma shrugs. “Maybe.”

 

“Definitely.”

 

And then Killian is tugging her closer and moving his lips over hers, soft and slow and completely and utterly thorough while his hand tangles into her hair, fingers pulling at the strands, and her hands move from his shoulders to his neck, holding him steady. He tastes like her toothpaste, far too minty, and his skin smells like the soap she keeps next to her sink that definitely should not be used for skincare. It’s weirdly refreshing for him to smell like her things, if not a little overwhelming. Last week she used Killian’s bodywash when she was at his place because she didn’t have any of her own, and while she used to be entirely attracted to the smell, carrying it around on her all day was far too overwhelming.

 

How do men live smelling that strongly of some kind of Irish spring or mountain brook?

 

That’s not how either of those things smell either. Or, at least, she thinks.

 

But that’s entirely beside the point when shivers are spreading across her body at the feeling of Killian’s tongue moving inside her mouth. It’s warm and wet against hers, the feeling that same high that she always seems to be chasing with him, and her fingers inch up his neck to curl into the thick strands of his hair while she groans.

 

“Bloody hell do I love that sound.”

 

Heat immediately rises to her cheeks, but it’s also curling between her thighs at the heady sound of Killian’s voice and the demanding pressure of his kiss as his legs shift beneath them to move the two of them until Emma’s back is pressed against the mattress and Killian is hovering over her, his lips trailing across the expanse of skin at her neck that has the simmering heat between them continuing all the while Emma tries to catch her breath.

 

Every time she thinks she’s got it back, though, Killian nips at her collarbone or nibbles on her ear, and it all evaporates into thin air.

 

“Oh fuck,” Killian grunts, and Emma takes it as an invitation to trace her nails along his back, pressing her hips up to his to get a little more friction. “No, love, fuck.”

 

Her eyes snap to him at the more pained exasperation in his voice, and it’s then that Emma realizes that he’s stopped kissing her neck and has his forehead pressed there instead, his body not moving over hers.

 

“Hey, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

 

“My,” he grits, his voice dark but not in the way that she wants it to be, “leg is fucking cramping.”

 

Emma doesn’t mean to, not really, but the laugh bubbles from deep within her belly until it’s passing through her lips and she can’t contain herself. It’s not really even funny. Cramps and weird noises and all of that jazz are as normal as can be during sex – don’t even get her started on lock jaw – but it’s usually not when they’ve only been making out for five minutes. This is some kind of new record.

 

“I’m glad you’re so amused by my pain, love.”

 

“No, no,” she laughs, wishing that she hadn’t but still not able to stop herself, “I promise you I’m not.”

 

“Then what the bloody hell are you laughing at?”

 

“Your pain.”

 

Killian groans before rolling off of her, the loss of his body heat immediate, and she watches as his arm reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose, his eyes still shut so tightly that those little crinkles have shown up around his skin. It’s adorable even if he’d probably like to chop his leg off right now.

 

“I hate you.”

 

“That is entirely untrue,” Emma sighs, leaning down to brush her lips over his cheek before moving across the mattress so that she can grab onto Killian’s leg and rest his calf on her lap, fingers digging into the flesh to start to massage it. “I have it on good authority that you love me in spite of all of the weird things about me like the fact that I laugh at your cramps.”

 

Killian’s hand moves from his face until his arm is flopping against the mattress in what has to be the most dramatic fashion in the world. “That’s probably the least weird thing about you.”

 

“Oh yeah? What’s the weirdest?”

 

Killian props himself up on his elbows, his eyes obviously taking her in as he thinks, and she squeezes his calf a little bit too hard in response. “You put too much creamer in your coffee.”

 

“That’s a cop out answer.”

 

“Nope. It’s my honest to God answer, love. That is the weirdest thing about you.”

 

“The weirdest thing about you is the fact that you organize your t-shirts by year that you got them instead of color or putting your favorites up front.”

 

“I don’t believe I asked for your opinion on that.”

 

“No,” Emma shrugs, squeezing his calf where she can see the muscles twitching, “you didn’t, but I thought I’d give you my opinion anyways since you’re not being honest with me about what you find weird about me.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes before falling back down to the mattress, strands of hair falling over his forehead. “You have too many blankets. It’s not…I mean, you do a million little things that are different or quirky, but I don’t find any of them weird. Not really. But you collect a hell of a lot of blankets. You’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on them. I swear, you’ve brought a different blanket on every road trip we’ve had this year.”

 

“That is not weird.”

 

“Neither is my t-shirt thing.”

 

“Agree to disagree,” she sighs, pulling a pillow behind her back so that she’s not hunching over. “And you have never complained about having use of one of my blankets before.”

 

“Nor you my t-shirts.”

 

“This is true.” Emma keeps working at Killian’s calf, feeling the muscled skin under her fingertips, and she figures now might be the time to talk to him about Ruth. It’s not like he can run away. Well, he could, but she could probably run faster than him now. “So, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

 

Killian’s body stiffens. “And you saved it for when I can’t run away?”

 

Great minds think alike.

 

“Yes, because I knew you were going to cramp while we were making out.”

 

She rolls her eyes but still smiles at the way Killian’s forehead is wrinkled with the raise of his brows. His face can hold so many different expressions – from soft to broody and from sexy to amused – and she likes that he often gives away what’s going on in his mind through them, even if he doesn’t always.

 

“You are evil like that.”

 

“I know,” Emma shrugs before putting a little more pressure on Killian’s calf so that he groans. Definitely a different groan than what was happening before. “So, Ruth texting me today and asked if when I wanted to come visit. She’s been on me about it for a few months now even with her coming here, but I probably should go home when the season is over. And I was wondering if you wanted to come with me.”

 

They’re simple words, but the weight behind them makes Emma feel like she’s just been run over by a truck.

 

She’s absolutely great at being an adult.

 

The best.

 

Her heart is probably going to implode.

 

“Well,” Killian sighs, propping himself up on his elbows again, “I’d have to check my calendar. You know, I am a very popular man, and many women ask me to go home with them to meet their mothers. I have to make sure that I’m not scheduled to do that with someone else.”

 

“Asshole,” Emma huffs as she slaps Killian’s leg and pushes it off of her lap so that she can get off the bed. “You’re an asshole.”

 

“I’m feeling a little bit of de ja vu with you calling me that.”

 

“You deserve it.”

 

“Hey,” he sighs, stretching across the bed to grab at the bottom of her t-shirt until he pulls her back down onto the bed with him so that she roughly lands on the mattress and against Killian’s knee. It’s not exactly comfortable, but Killian shifts and caresses her cheeks with his hands, pushing her hair back while he looks at her. “I’m kidding. I would love to get to go to Portland with you to meet Ruth. I really do have to check my schedule, especially with how we do in the post-season, but I’m more than happy to go with you and get to hear all kinds of stories about you as a teenager.”

 

“Yeah, you’re not allowed to ask for any stories when we go.”

 

“I’m one hundred percent asking for stories.”

 

“No. You can’t do that because – ”

 

Killian doesn’t let her finish her protest, pulling her forward to press his lips into hers, a soft yet insistent thing that has her forgetting her argument. He’s good at that. Probably too good, but that’s definitely something she’ll address at another time.

 

A time when he’s not doing that thing with his tongue and his teeth that she likes so much.

 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Emma stops, possibly against her better judgement, and Killian pulls back only to bury his face in her shoulder.

 

“W-what?”

 

“My leg is cramping.”

 

Killian groans into her neck before wrapping his arms around Emma’s waist and pulling her down alongside him so that they’re a tangle of limbs that very well may never be unwrapped. She wouldn’t mind that either, not if she can stay in the dim light of her bedroom with Killian holding onto her and looking at her like she put the stars in the sky and tells them to glow every night.

 

No one has ever looked at her that way before.

 

Ever.

 

She’s really damn happy.

 

“I love you,” Killian breathes out, and her heart metaphorically skips a beat while she reaches for his chain between them so that she can run the metal between her fingers. “More than anything, I think.”

 

Well damn. Who knew three little words added to those big three words could completely change the meaning of it all? Or, at least, amplify them.

 

“I love you too, twenty-nine.”

 

Killian shifts again, pressing his back into her and pulling her closer, as if that was possible, and she can feel the scruff on the underside of his chin pressing into her temple while he intertwines their fingers and moves their joined hands to rest between her breasts.

 

“I’m serious, Emma. I know…” Killian takes a deep breath, one that she can feel in her own bones, and she has to swallow down the emotion that she feels at just the gravely sound of his voice. “Thank you for trusting me enough to take this shot with me. I haven’t been this happy in a long time, and I kind of thought that I’d reached the pinnacle of happiness last year when we won.”

 

“I mean, you did win the World Series,” she says, trying to play off some of the emotions she’s feeling. “What could be better than that?”

 

“Don’t you know, Emma?” Killian speaks into her hair, pressing a kiss there that has her lashes fluttering closed against her cheeks. “It’s you.”

Chapter Text

“Emma, what are you wearing tonight? Because I know that it’s August and blazing outside, but it’s also not as hot in LA right now as it is in New York, which makes no sense. I just can’t decide.”

 

Ariel has been rambling to Emma about what she’s going to wear tonight for the past ten minutes, and Killian has watched as Emma has simply responded in little grunts and one syllable words as she focuses on her phone. It’s not at all like Emma to not give someone her full attention, especially someone she likes and enjoys spending time with. But she’s been staring at her phone this entire time, bottom lip continually being tugged back into her mouth by her teeth, and he can’t quite figure out what’s going on in that head of hers.

 

“Sweetheart,” Eric sighs, rising from his chair in their hotel room to walk over to Ariel’s suitcase to pick up some of her loose clothing, “wear your green dress. I think Emma might be a little preoccupied with work. She does have a game to cover in a few hours, which kind of comes before dinner.”

 

“Huh?” Emma asks, looking up from her phone, eyes darting around the room, before she’s darkening the screen on her phone and placing it face down on the table. “What are we talking about?”

 

“Ariel wants to know what you’re wearing to dinner tonight, love,” Killian supplies, arching his brow and nodding over to Ariel. “You’ve been a bit distracted.”

 

“Oh, sorry, work. Um,” Emma stutters, adjusting her legs in her chair, “I have this, like, blue and white maxi dress that I think I’ll wear, probably with my white sneakers instead of heels because I know I’ll be exhausted after the game and heels are just too much.”

 

“So casual?” Ariel asks.

 

“Yeah, casual. That’s okay for the restaurant we’re going to, right?”

 

“Yeah, it is. Belle’s dad knows the owner because I swear to you that girl has all of the connections in the world, and he’s gotten us a private room so that you guys can come with us.”

 

“Remind me to thank Belle for that, Swan,” Killian says, reaching over to her and squeezing her forearm. “I rather like getting to go out to dinner with you.”

 

“Yeah,” Emma smiles, “me too.”

 

“You guys are so cute.”

 

“You guys are nauseating.”

 

The words come at the same time from Ariel and Eric. Ariel is staring at them like they’re both shiny pieces of gold and Eric is scrunching up his nose in disgust, and all Killian can do in reply is shrug his shoulders.

 

“You guys literally asked us to come in here,” Emma laughs, and he hears her phone buzz again even if she ignores it. “You’re not allowed to complain if we’re guests.”

 

“Technically, my wife asked you in here because she found out we had an adjoining room, and she has no sense of personal boundaries when it comes to Killian.”

 

Ariel slaps Eric, her lips parted in surprise. “That is not true.”

 

“Eh,” Killian sighs, scratching behind his ear, “it kind of is.”

 

“Killian Jones, that is not true.”

 

“Last week you asked me to check to see if you’d managed to shave the back of your upper thigh.”

 

“That was important! I needed to know if I was walking around with a giant patch of hair.”

 

“A, it was covered by your dress. No one ever would have had to know.”

 

“But I knew.”

 

Killian huffs, falling back into his chair as his hand inches down Emma’s arm so that he can tangle their fingers together and squeeze all the while Eric is rubbing his hands up and down his face and Ariel has her hands on her hips starting him down.

 

Collectively, they are a mess.

 

Individually, they are also a mess, but that’s entirely beside the point.

 

“You guys are all really weird,” Emma finally chuckles, looking over at him with this smile that Killian is sure is the most beautiful smile in the world. “Wear the green dress, A. I’ve got to go get ready to go to work, which all of you probably need to be doing too.”

 

“We’ve got five hours until the game starts.”

 

“Yeah,” Emma sighs as she stands up, “and you guys still haven’t done workouts. I’m not interested in dating losers, so I need Killian to get his ass in gear.”

 

Killian barks out a laugh before reaching forward and slapping Emma’s ass, making her jump a little bit before she’s sauntering out of the room with a very pointed sway of her hips.

 

The minx.

 


 

Elizabeth Olsen.

 

Sweet Cheeks.

 

Batman and Robin.

 

Professor Jones.

 

All in all, they’re not the worst jersey names they’ve ever had for Player’s Weekend and all of the ridiculousness that comes with being able to pick the name that goes on the back of their black jerseys, but it’s also not the best. And Killian really doesn’t want to know why Eric chose Sweet Cheeks for his name. That could be entirely innocent, but he’s betting that it is most definitely not knowing he and Ariel.

 

Just…no. He’s not going there.

 

Will’s name is probably his favorite considering he almost did Scarlet Witch but decided to be a little more literal so that approximately seven people would understand the reference despite the popularity of the Marvel universe. Robin’s is pretty obvious, and, well, Killian is lazy and simply went with Will’s nickname for him.

 

None of them have future careers as comedians after this.

 

Not a one.

 

But that’s fine. They’ll let other people be funny, and even if he does need to start thinking about his future – as everyone else seems to be lately – today is not that day.

 

Today is the Saturday of Player’s Weekend, Eric just hit his two hundredth home run of his career, they’re all going out to dinner tonight, and all Killian wants to do is enjoy the day.

 

Good days should stay good days.

 

Even if Emma seems distracted and a tad bit distant.

 

It started when she was staring down at her phone this morning in the hotel room. She said it was work and went back to her normal self, but then when they got back to his hotel room and she started getting ready for work, she was distant again. Some mornings are like that. He gets it. He doesn’t always want to talk to someone or be talking to someone, so he let her be as she curled her hair before pulling it up in a ponytail and then got dressed in a pair of shorts that hug the muscles of her legs and her own customized jersey that Ariel got for her as some kind of further proof that she is part of their team now more than ever.

 

All it says is “Swan” on the back, but he thinks that’s enough. She deserves it.

 

But he’s not entirely sure what’s going on with her that has her all distracted, and he never got a chance to ask this morning before the team was taking the bus to the stadium and Emma was getting into a taxi to do the same. She’s five feet away from him in the dugout right now, but he definitely can’t ask. That would be giving away far too much to people who don’t know and can’t know.

 

Sometimes keeping all of this a secret is exhausting, but until Emma is ready to handle the unfortunate backlash that will come with others knowing, he’s more than good being a little exhausted for her happiness, especially since a lot of the struggle was because he was once an unintentional ass. They’ll keep it quiet as long as they can and then hopefully one day they’ll stop caring so much and simply go to dinner or a play or a jog in the park on a Saturday morning without caring who sees them together.

 

Emma’s the one who’s been through all of the sexist shit, though, even if he has had a not-so-great relationship with the press, and he’s all for waiting for Emma.

 

“Damn, it’s hot,” Will huffs as he steps down into the dugout after getting struck out. “I’m pretty sure I’m dying.”

 

“That sounds like an excuse, Scarlet.”

 

“Eh, eh eh,” Will scolds as he grabs a cup of water and pours it over his head, water droplets falling off the buzz cut, “today I am Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the Olsen twins. What ever happened to them anyways?”

 

“I think they design clothes.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“I am very into fashion. Can’t you tell by how much effort I put into my outfits every day?”

 

“You don’t even own a Hawaiian shirt.”

 

“The fact that you think it’s fashionable to dress like a middle-aged tourist is highly questionable,” Killian laughs, reaching over to grab himself a cup of water. It is extremely hot today, and Killian can feel it over every inch of his bones. “Do you also wear your white socks halfway up your calves?”

 

“You gotta do what you gotta do.” Will flicks the water off of his head and knocks his knee into Killian’s before nodding over at Emma and Jeff as they look at something on Jeff’s camera. “What’s up with Emma today? She seems off.”

 

Killian’s eyes dart around the dugout, looking to see if anyone is paying any attention, but they’re not, each of them too preoccupied with the game.

 

“No idea, mate. I’m going to talk to her tonight.”

 

“Did you screw up somehow?”

 

“Why does it have to be something I did?”

 

Will shrugs, kicking his foot at the ground to knock some dirt out of his cleats. “Seven times out of ten, it is.”

 

“And yet you call me Professor Jones when you have statistics like that.”

 

“I’m a man of many talents.”

 


 

They win that afternoon.

 


 

“Killian, can you zip up the back of my dress?”

 

“I tend to like your dresses unzipped, but if the lady insists.”

 

He can’t see Emma’s face right now, but he knows that she’s rolling her eyes at him. Quickly, he finishes tying his shoes and stands from the edge of the bed to walk over to Emma and move her hair off of the back of her neck so that he can pull the zipper the rest of the way up to cover her back. She’s very obviously just sprayed perfume, the smell of vanilla invading his senses, and he takes a moment to breathe it in before pressing his lips against the back of Emma’s neck and lingering there while his hands find purchase at her hips, pulling her back to him.

 

“You smell amazing.”

 

“I bathed.”

 

Killian chuckles into her neck before kissing her there again and nuzzling his scruff into her skin. “How much time do we have before dinner?”

 

Emma laughs as her hands pat his over her stomach. “Not enough time to have sex if that’s where your mind is going.”

 

“Dirty, Swan. That’s not at all what I was thinking.”

 

“Liar.”

 

“I’m telling the truth.”

 

“Okay,” she sighs hesitantly, looking into the hotel room mirror in front of them so that she can actually see him as he can see her, “what do you want to do then?”

 

“Talk about why you’ve been in a weird mood all day.”

 

“I have not been in a weird mood all day.”

 

“Swan, everyone has noticed it.”

 

“Everyone is imagining things.”

 

He arches a brow, the disbelief clearly written all over his face. “You can talk to me about anything. You know that, right?”

 

Guilt immediately weighs down on his stomach at the sound of his own words. Here is he is telling Emma that she can tell him anything, practically goading information out of her, and he still hasn’t told her about his shoulder, about the full, ugly truth of his injury. It didn’t bother him today, not after Archie massaged it, and yet something is still tugging at him to tell her.

 

Maybe he wants to tell Emma that he’s been struggling with his arm, that he went through more surgeries than she knows, that his scars are more than the ones on his arm and his shoulder. Maybe he simply wants to let Emma know everything, but fears stay strong no matter how fearless he can sometimes be.

 

It’s the most idiotic thing, still not having the courage to share something with her, but how is he supposed to admit to actually being broken when she doesn’t think that about him?

 

Or maybe saying it out loud means that he’s fully admitting it to himself, and that might be the scariest part of it all.

 

When is he going to get over these fears?

 

But that doesn’t matter. None of it does right now. Something has been bothering Emma all day, and it’s likely a much bigger deal than his own demons fighting for dominance inside of his mind.

 

“I have some news,” Emma finally says as she tugs her bottom lip between her teeth and raises both brows.

 

He’s got no clue where she’s going with this.

 

“Good news or bad news?”

 

“Good. I mean – ” Emma stops talking and moves out of his embrace, turning around so that she can look at him as she props herself up on the desk. “I think it’s good. I hope it is. It’s just not…it’s not officially confirmed or anything yet, so I didn’t want to say anything.”

 

Killian gulps, nodding his head along as his mind tries to figure out what exactly kind of news it is that she has. “Love, I’m all for telling me things when you’re ready, but now I feel like I really have to know.”

 

She chuckles, shrugging her shoulders and making herself smaller. “David, a month or so back, asked me if I wanted to try and be an official commentator for a game, you know? And obviously I said yes. That’s, like, one of the dreams, but I didn’t want to only get it because of David so I’ve been talking to executives and having all of these meetings, and I got an email this morning that they’re very tentatively going to let me work during the Rangers game on Labor Day.”

 

Holy shit, he thinks.

 

“Holy shit,” he says out loud too before taking the two steps forward and reaching down to place his arms under Emma’s ass so that he can pick her up in a hug, his excitement for her coursing through his veins and possibly being a little too exuberant. But then Emma’s wrapping her arms around his neck and her ankles around his hips, and there’s nothing else that matters except for how happy Emma is right now. “That’s fucking incredible, sweetheart. I’m so proud of you.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Killian confirms, nodding his head up and down into her neck before pulling back only to press forward again to slam his lips into Emma’s in a messy, happy kiss that never has time to deepen because of the smiles on both of their lips but that is wonderful all the same. “You’re a badass. I hope you know that.”

 

Emma blushes out of what has to be a bit of shyness, something that is totally unlike her, and all he can do is smile in response and hitch her up a little higher in his embrace while her hands curl into his hair.

 

“I mean, I have David and I’ve been lucky and I – ”

 

“Hey, no,” he stops her, walking them over to the bed so that he can sit down since Emma is fully-grown woman and he did play a baseball game today, “don’t diminish your accomplishments because you’ve had a little help. I have too. And enough people try to take things away from you that you don’t need to do that as well. You are incredible, Emma. No protests.”

 

Her lips curl up at the sides before she leans forward to rest her forehead against his. “Are you just saying all of this to butter me up since you’ll be pitching in that game and want me to say good things about you?”

 

“Oh, absolutely, love. I fully expect you to talk about me as if I am the greatest baseball player of all time with the greatest ass. I want completely biased treatment.”

 

“I think that might give away our little secret.”

 

“Nah. It’ll just show that you have good taste.” Emma sighs against him, and Killian feels all of the guilt wash away from him. This is so incredible for her, and she deserves it. So much. “I am so proud of you, and I love you so much that it’s ridiculous.”

 

“I love you too, twenty-nine. I’ll try to slide in a very subtle comment about your ass.”

 

“That’s all I ask.”

 

There’s a banging knock on the door before suddenly it’s opening and Ariel is walking through the door with Eric right behind her.

 

“Oh my gosh, why have you guys not been answering my texts? I – oh,” she stops, and Emma buries her face in his shoulder while he rubs his hands up and down her back as some kind of comfort or apology for not remembering to lock the adjoining door between this room. “I didn’t mean to interrupt something. What exactly…what am I interrupting because that’s kind of any interesting position, and I – ”

 

“A, oh my God,” Killian groans, slowly moving Emma off of him so that she doesn’t flash Ariel and Eric, “you are ridiculous, and you’re not interrupting anything. We are both still fully clothed and ready to go to dinner.”

 

Ariel shrugs. “If you say so.”

 

Emma stands up from the bed and adjusts her dress, brushing all of the winkles out of it. “I just need to fix my makeup real quick, okay?”

 

“You might want to do that too, man,” Eric says as he points at Killian. “You’ve got a bit of red lipstick stuck in your beard, and I don’t think that’s your shade.”

 

They go to a Mediterranean restaurant in Pasadena, one that Ariel swears has both good food and a private atmosphere where no one will pay much attention to them – not that he thinks anyone in LA really cares about a bunch of baseball players from New York when half of the people in New York don’t care about them – and to her word, as soon as they get there, they’re shuffled into a back room. It’s a bit much, definitely more precaution than anything, but he’s thankful for it anyways as he pulls out Emma’s chair and she settles down next to him with a smile on her face as she and Belle start talking about books that he knows for a fact that Emma hasn’t gotten to read yet since they’re sitting on her bedside table.

 

Emma has three categories of books placed around the apartment:

 

  1. On her bedside table that means she’s started but hasn’t come anywhere close to finishing.
  2. On the bookshelf in the hallway between she and Ruby and Graham’s rooms. Those books have been read but are never going to be reread and are collecting dust.
  3. On the coffee table in the living room. Whatever is there is at the top of Emma’s list, and he knows that if he picks it up, he can see folded pages and little marks from where she’s been devouring them.

 

Every single book Belle is talking about is on that fated bedside table, probably won’t be read until sometime in December when Emma has off from work, but Emma seems just fine chatting away about them with Belle like she has actually read all of them. But then again, Emma and Belle apparently text pretty often, so he’s not surprised that they get along well. Hell, Emma gets along with everyone in his life, even if it’s a little bumpy, and he couldn’t ask for more on that front.

 

On any front.

 

Damn. He’s gotten entirely too sentimental today.

 

“Are any of you actually going to eat an actual meal tonight?” Belle questions as they’ve all ordered their drinks. “Or is this going to be one of those nights where you guys all get grilled chicken and salad?”

 

“What is wrong with grilled chicken and salad, babe?”

 

“Nothing. But we didn’t have to go out to eat for that. I could be wearing sweatpants in the hotel.”

 

“A woman after my own heart,” Emma sighs, picking up the glass of water in front of her and taking a sip. “I feel like the fact that they’re on stricter diets now is good for them and for me, you know? But I also just end up eating all of the bread that Killian doesn’t eat.”

 

“And I thought that was just me.” Ariel picks up a roll from the middle of the table as she says this, and Killian has to stifle his chuckle. “But Will eats worse than any of them, so I imagine there’s not a lot of leftover bread to begin with.”

 

“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“That you eat like you’re a teenager,” Robin answers. “Or my six-year-old son. But then again, sometimes I struggle to get him to eat any food if it’s not in the shape of a Disney character or some kind of chicken.”

 

“I’m guessing not the grilled chicken you all eat.”



“Actually, yes. It’s very popular in his book right now. I think it’s been in nearly every packed lunch he’s had for the past two weeks.”

 

“I think I’m going to have one of the pizzas,” Killian interrupts, knowing that Robin is about to go into an extremely detailed explanation of Roland’s eating habits. “Or maybe pasta. Possibly the Moussaka. Swan, do you want to get some of the mozzarella balls?”

 

“Do I want to get something involving fried cheese? Do you even know me at all?”

 

Killian shrugs, squeezing Emma’s thigh from where his hand has been resting. “I mean, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on your cheese preferences.”

 

“Is that an innuendo?” Will asks.

 

“Scarlet,” Killian laughs, “how the hell would that be an innuendo?”

 

“Well, you know, with the – ”

 

“Nope,” Ariel interrupts while raising her arm in the air. “Nope. I am about to have a cocktail and a hell of a lot of pasta, and I am not hearing some kind of weird cheese innuendo that is going to ruin cheese for me forever.”

 

“But I – ”

 

“No, Will,” Ariel continues, and Killian can see everyone hiding the smiles on their faces, “don’t even bother. You can talk about all of your cheese innuendos on your wedding day because that is your day and you get a free pass.”

 

“Well, gee, Ariel, that’s so nice of you to give me a free pass on my wedding day.”

 

“Yeah, I think I’m going to veto that too. I’m the one who actually sleeps with you, and I don’t want to hear anything cheese related.” Belle shakes her head in disgust, her eyes rolling with the movement. “but speaking of the wedding, I need all of your guys to go have your tuxes fitted at some point since we’re buying them instead of renting them. I know we still have a lot of time until then, but I just know that it’s going to fall by the wayside since we’ll be smack dab in the middle of baseball mating season.”

 

“I think Belle is calling us unreliable, you guys,” Eric says.

 

“Yeah, that’s definitely the vibe I was getting,” Killian agrees. “She also basically implied that we’d be fucking like bunnies the moment the season ends and not be able to leave our homes.”

 

“I mean, I wouldn’t mind that,” Emma laughs, and Killian nearly chokes on air with his laugh.

 

“Does Roland also need to do this?” Robin asks, completely messing up their conversation? “The tux fitting, I mean.”

 

“Yep,” Belle answers. “His tux is going to match yours because he’s going to be the absolute cutest ring bearer in the world, even if we aren’t giving him the actual rings.”

 

“Honestly, good plan. People should not give rings to children, even if supervised. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Roland can’t even get his homework from the kitchen table to his backpack some days.”

 

“Where’s the wedding again?” Emma asks, twisting her chair put still placing her hand over his on her lap.

 

“Pier Sixty in Chelsea. It’s – ”

 

“Oh, I know,” Emma laughs, and he’s reminded of just how beautiful she is when she laughs. And of how proud he is of her too. And that he should probably officially ask her to be his date for this wedding so that she’s not walking around thinking that she’s not going to be a part of it. “I live in Chelsea. I know all about it. That’s a gorgeous place. The view of the Hudson is incredible from in there.”

 

“When have you been there, love?”

 

“Work Christmas thing when I was an intern. Mary Margaret stayed home with Leo, and I got to be David’s plus one, which was really nice if not a bit overwhelming because I definitely had far too many glasses of wine for someone who wasn’t technically supposed to be drinking yet.”

 

“Scandalous.”

 

“I try.”

 

This starts an entire conversation about the wedding, from the food they’re serving to if they’re having a band of DJ. Eric makes the suggestion that they serve hot dogs and soft pretzels like they’re at a baseball game since everything in their lives seems to revolve around baseball, and the glare that Belle shoots him is so sharp that it could cut into the salmon that Killian orders. Honestly, though, finger foods like that are not a horrible idea since he’s never been one for stuff atmospheres with dry chicken or steak cooked in a way that he dislikes, and Killian almost makes a mental note to file something like that away before he realizes that filing information away for a wedding would mean that he is mentally planning his own wedding.

 

That’s too much for tonight.

 

But Belle and Will are going with authentic French food because of Belle’s father and her family in France that she gets to visit once or twice a year, and they are having a band. There are also a million other things, ones that he’s having a hard time keeping track of, and despite how many people he knows, he hasn’t actually been to a wedding since Liam and Elsa got married at Elsa’s parents’ house with one hundred other people jammed inside so that there was barely room to breathe, let alone think about dancing or sitting down with a plate of food.

 

That was a nice day, though. His brother was absolutely beaming, something he always seems to do around Elsa, and all that mattered was that the two of them were together. That’s kind of always all that matters underneath the rented ballrooms and tailored outfits.

 

What in the world is he ever going to do with his tux after he wears it to this wedding? It’s probably going to sit in his closet and collect dust forever.

 

“How are we doing the bill tonight?” their waitress asks them after they’ve all eaten and laughed until their stomachs hurt. “Separate? Together? By pairs?”

 

“Separate,” Ariel tells her. “I go with – ”

 

“Just put it all on one bill,” Killian interrupts, pulling his card out of his wallet only for everyone to start to protest. “Nope. This is my treat. Honestly, do not try to argue with me. I’m paying for it.”

 

“You don’t have to do that,” Belle sighs.

 

“Hush,” Will hisses, and Killian hears Emma laugh next to him. “If Professor Jones wants to pay, let him pay.”

 

“Thank you, Elizabeth Olsen.”

 

Will rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t protest. That’s who he is for every game this weekend anyways.

 

Everyone else gets up to go outside to where their Ubers are going to pick them up while he and Emma wait inside for the bill, Emma still sipping on her drink even though there’s only the slightest bit left in the glass. Quickly, though, he’s signing the check and the two of them are walking through the back entrance of the restaurant so that they don’t have to go through all of the other people.

 

“So, speaking of getting married,” he starts.

 

“Woah, woah, woah,” Emma laughs, looking up at him with raised brows and pursed lips.

 

“Calm down, Swan,” Killian sighs, shaking his head from side to side. “I’m not proposing. I realize I had a poor choice of words there, but I count myself as more of a romantic than to propose by the kitchen of a Mediterranean restaurant.” He doesn’t say that they’re nowhere ready for that. It’s not needed. “I meant to ask you if you would be my date for Belle and Will’s wedding. I realize it should likely be implied, but I like you to know.”

 

“You planning on keeping me around that long? That’s all the way in December.”

 

“Of course. I’ve got to have someone to kiss on New Year’s so I don’t look like a loser at my brother’s house, so you’re going to last at least until then.”

 

“I mean, if you’re spending your New Year’s Eve at your brother’s house, you’re already a pretty big loser.”

 

Killian throws his head back and laughs before lifting his arm and wrapping it around Emma’s shoulder, tugging her closer to him so that he can brush his lips against her temple before pushing the back door open. “You’re a gem, my love.”

 

“I’m also apparently your arm candy.”

 

“Nah, you’d have to be sweet to be that.”

 

Emma slaps his stomach then, hard, but he doesn’t care as he continues to laugh while they walk to the curb of the sidewalk where their Uber should be any minute now. “You’re being an ass.”

 

“I’m your ass.”

 

“Now that’s just weird, twenty-nine.”

 

“But a good kind of weird.” He kisses her temple again, and Emma’s cheek presses into his shoulder. “Do you want to stop somewhere for dessert to celebrate your big almost promotion? I hate that we couldn’t really talk about it tonight since you didn’t want to say anything until it’s official.”

 

“It’s okay. We can celebrate when we get back to the hotel, if you know what I mean.”

 

“By getting that dessert.”

 

“Exactly,” Emma smiles up at him, pressing her hand against his chest.

Chapter Text

Not one to wake up quickly, Emma usually lets the day slowly come to her, even if that means listening to an alarm clock blaring for a few extra seconds…or minutes. Honestly, it’s always minutes, and there have been times when Ruby or Graham will come barging into her room to yell at her to turn her phone off. It’s only then she realizes that the awful sound is real and not a part of some weird, twisted dream where she has to actually wake up and go to work.

 

Dreadful.

 

This morning, though, there is no blaring alarm, only a sliver of bright sunlight peeking through closed curtains and the feel of rough scruff and soft lips moving down her bare back while calloused hands grip at her hips and the cool metal of Killian’s ring presses down on her heated skin.

 

It’s definitely a better way to wake up.

 

“Hmmm, g’morning,” she mumbles as she wraps her arms around her pillow a little more tightly and buries her face in the softness of it all. She’s awake, but she doesn’t have to move, especially when it feels so good to lay like this.

 

“Morning,” Killian whispers. He drags his nose along her spine down to the small of her back while his fingers inch over her skin and up her torso to rest at the sides of her breasts, pleasure flickering to life. “It’s very convenient that you went to bed without putting on any clothes last night.”

 

Flirty dork.

 

“And what exactly is this convenient for?”

 

Killian hums against her while he continues to leave slow, lingering kisses against all of the skin of her back while heat pools between her thighs and a smile curves on her lips that she has to hide in the pillow. She’d come over after work last night to eat dinner with him, ended up completely skipping the dinner when Killian tugged her into his bedroom the moment she got through the door, and the only time she’s even left this room was to get a bowl of cereal at two in the morning. If she also spent an hour reviewing her notes for today’s game, that’s no one’s business but hers.

 

Today’s game.

 

Oh shit. She’s commentating today and she doesn’t know what time it is and she needs to prepare and –

 

“Swan,” Killian breathes out, the air warm on her skin, “stop thinking about today.”

 

“How could you possibly know that I’m thinking about today?”

 

Killian chuckles, which she doesn’t appreciate, before brushing his lips over her side right under her breast. “Because – ” a kiss to her back “ – I can see that your entire body tightened up and –” a brush of his lips against the nape of her neck that has her seeing little black spots way before she should be seeing little black spots “ – because I know you so damn well and today is all you’ve been thinking of for eleven days now. And not for the Labor Day hot dog eating contest.”

 

And then there’s the feeling of chest hair brushing against her back and Killian’s hardened length against the back of her thigh while all of his body mass weighs down on top of her as his nose drags along her cheek until they’re eye-to-eye with Killian’s head resting beside her on the pillow.

 

He definitely didn’t have to lay down on her to look at her. That’s one hundred percent him being extra dramatic.

 

“Hi,” he smiles, and she groans a bit, both at the pleasantness of his weight and the fact that she was about two drags of his teeth away from being ready to ride him until neither of them could think any coherent thoughts. “You’re going to do great today. So great that all of those guys will be worried about the stability of their jobs.”

 

“So, you’re basically saying that I’m going to get people fired?”

 

Killian rolls his eyes and shifts on top of her so that the warmth of him moves to brush across her inner thigh, causing her eyes to shut and her breath to hitch.

 

Killian is still laughing at her.

 

That doesn’t diminish the feeling of how much she absolutely needs  him right now.

 

“No, love, you’re not going to get someone fired today. You’re simply going to kick ass, and I’m going to be wearing an invisible pin that says that I’m an extremely proud boyfriend.”

 

“Invisible pin?” she questions, opening one eye to see a half smile stretched across Killian’s lips.

 

“Custom made and everything.”

 

“You are such a dork.”

 

“Aye, I know.” His lips brush against hers then, soft and slow, before he’s propping himself up on his elbows with a slight hiss that she chalks up to him still being stiff from sleeping. “Now, please, if you’d let me, milady, I believe I was working up to something before you so rudely interrupted me.”

 

“And what’s that?”

 

“A bloody fantastic way to relieve stress.”

 

“I mean, I’m pretty sure it can be stressful on the joints and – ”

 

She doesn’t get to finish because Killian is grabbing onto her hips again and pulling her down on the mattress before flipping her over so that she’s on her back and he’s settled between her thighs, his hands gripping onto her calves as he pushes her legs further apart so that the cool air from his fan is hitting her skin. Knowing what’s coming causes gooseflesh to pop up on her skin and a simmering heat to cover it all, and it’s all amplified by the way that Killian’s eyes never leave hers, blue eyes under dark lashes, as he nibbles on the skin of her inner thigh.

 

Damn.

 

It’s ridiculous, this thing between them.

 

Love.

 

It’s called love.

 

Love that involves a hell of a lot of fears but also this burning passion that makes her thighs quiver at his touch and her heart thump at a million beats per minute when Killian smiles into the dip between her thighs before kissing her there with a long, slow, thorough caress that causes every bit of air in her lungs to flee for the hills.

 

Bless every woman before her for teaching him how to do this. That’s likely not the thought that she should be having right now, but it’s true.

 

And so damn good.

 

It shouldn’t be like this with them. He shouldn’t be able to make her feel the way that he does with so little effort, but he does just that every single time.

 

He’s taking his time, something she both loves and loathes right now with each flick of his tongue and tease of his teeth while her hands grip onto the bedsheets and her ankles hook around the back of his neck to pull him forward and further into her. Killian growls then, the vibrations working their way through her, and she bites back a groan so that all of Manhattan cannot hear her.

 

That would be quite the show.

 

“Come on, love,” Killian speaks into her skin before she feels the hard press of fingers curling inside of her. “Why don’t you let go for me?”

 

“Oh fuck.”

 

“That’s what I’m doing.”

 

He likes that joke too much.

 

The man winks at her and dives back into what he’s doing, his eyes never leaving hers so that she can’t look away from how captivating he is. But then his tongue is swirling around her bundle of nerves in quick flicks that have her eyes closing and her fists tightening against the sheets. Emma chases her fall by rolling her hips, urging Killian to keep going silently since all she can do right now is pant with the way that the coil in her belly is so tight that it’s going to burst at any minute now.

 

And then it does with a curl of Killian’s fingers and a swirl of his tongue while she moans in pleasure and lets heat simmer over her all the while Killian keeps working at her and keeps prolonging her pleasure that she is never quite able to catch her breath.

 

Damn.

 

“That was – ”

 

“I know,” Killian says with a cocky grin on his face, peppering kisses above her hipbone and up her stomach until he’s resting his chin between her breasts with a genuine smile on his face now that has the butterflies in her stomach fluttering around like crazy.

 

Emma moves her hand from the sheets to Killian’s hair, pushing it back out of his forehead so that it’s not falling in a million different directions like it always does when he’s just woken up in the morning. She kind of loves that she knows that.

 

“I love you,” she whispers, the words so gentle and precious that she doesn’t even want the air to hear them. And maybe it can’t over how loudly her heart is still beating, a staccato in her chest.

 

Killian blinks up at her before twisting his head to the side and laying a kiss to the freckle on her breast. “And I you. More than anything.”

 

There are those words again, all of the ones that make her feel like she’s something special to him, that she’s someone he’ll always want no matter what, and a sob gets caught in her throat at just the thought of all of that. It’s both the pressure of having someone love her, something no one ever talks about, and the pleasure of knowing that the goofy half smile on his face is because of her.

 

This man is happy simply to be around her.

 

And she him.

 

She urges him to move up her body then, to press his lips against the dip of her collarbone and go from soft to hard as he slides into her, heavy and thick and everything that she could possibly crave. There’s a last-minute protest from her lips about him overexerting himself before a game, something they have to be careful about, but he promises that he’s just fine like this.

 

Sparks move across her skin, probably against Killian’s skin too, and even though he’s most definitely doing most of the work this morning – likely in some gentlemanly attempt to make her forget just how nervous she is – sweat is still beading at her forehead and the small of her back as their hips thrust together to create a friction that is marvelous.

 

“Emma,” he grits out at the same time that he thrusts deep inside of her to hit that  spot. “You are bloody brilliant. And glorious. And you are going to kick ass today, okay?”

 

She taps his ass with her foot in response, unable to actually form words to speak back with how strung out she is on him right now, and Killian laughs into her neck while her nails dig into the skin on his back, likely leaving marks that might as well be tattoos at this point.

 

Killian is so completely filling her as he moves above her, his entire body pressing against her and weighing down on her, and there’s nothing she can do but hold on tightly and try to savor the way that it feels to be connected to him both physically and emotionally. His support for her is unlike anything else she’s ever experienced, is actually the complete opposite of her past, and tears sting in her eyes at the thought of it.

 

She comes with a moan that Killian captures with his mouth, kissing her and devouring her all the while his thrusts get a little bit quicker so that she can tell he’s close too. She tries to press up and roll her hips to help him find the finish line, but he’s already found it and is falling apart with curses and declarations of love that make her head spin.

 

When they’re finished, Killian falls off of her and onto the mattress, quickly pulling the blanket back over them and pulling her into his side so that she can rest her cheek in its place against his shoulder and tuck her feet in between his calves all the while Killian traces indistinguishable patterns into his back and she plays with the chain around his neck, moving it up and down over the dark patches of chest hair that cover his chest and his stomach.

 

“You were right,” she whispers before brushing her lips over a freckle on his shoulder.

 

“Hmmm? About what?”

 

“That making me forget.”

 

“Ah, well,” he teases, his voice dark and low and still the slightest bit gritty, “I have heard that my prowess in the bedroom can make a woman lose any string of coherent thoughts.”

 

“You are ridiculous,” Emma groans, burying her face further into his shoulder and telling herself that she can get up to clean up later. It’ll be okay for a couple of minutes.

 

Killian’s fingers tap against her back, her skin still electrified by his touch, but then he’s rolling over so that they’re no longer touching and a whine of protest is escaping her lips.

 

“I know, I know,” Killian sighs before pressing a kiss to her forehead and getting up from the bed so that she has a spectacular view of his ass. Thank goodness for baseball workouts. “But I’ve got to go to practice long before you have to be at the stadium, and I’m afraid that I need a shower.”

 

“Can’t it wait?”

 

Killian twists to look at her, crinkles around his eyes, and he bends down to press his mouth against hers in a slow kiss that only ends when Killian grunts and moves his shoulder.

 

“You okay?” Emma questions. She sits up in the bed then, pulling the sheets over her because the ceiling fan is chilling her skin, and watches as Killian rotates his arm and grits his teeth so that his jaw clenches. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing, nothing.” He smiles at her then, all traces of pain seemingly gone. “I think I simply need a massage from Archie. Might have overdone it a bit by dragging you in here last night and not really letting you go.”

 

She’s not entirely sure that she believes him, but then he’s reaching his hand forward and holding it out for her. “What?” she questions, taking it.

 

Killian waggles his eyebrows. “I want you to join me in the shower, love.”

 

“Shower sex is overrated. You know that. And I don’t think I’ll be able to walk. Seriously. I’m already sore.”

 

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Swan,” Killian sighs, pulling her up with one tug of his arm so that she’s toppling off the bed and onto the floor. “We’re simply going in there to shower. Nothing more.”

 

He keeps to his word that they’re simply going to shower, and luckily Killian’s shower is big enough that they can go about their business without annoying the other or getting in the way. That’s pretty much impossible at her place, but here she uses the little seat inside to run her razor over her legs while the conditioner soaks into her hair. Killian leaves when she’s still working on shaving her left leg, and when she’s finished and wrapped up in his robe with her hair in a towel, she finds him already dressed for pre-game workouts in the kitchen mixing up what she knows is one of his protein shakes from the weird green color of it.

 

“Any of that for me?” she jokes since she will not go near the stuff. It’s disgusting.

 

“I’ve got those smoothies you like in the fridge.”

 

“Bless you.” She gets up and walks around the counter to open his fridge and grab the pre-made mango smoothie, shaking it up a bit only to have Killian place his hands on her hips and tug her closer to him. “What?”

 

“I do have something else for you, though, Swan.”

 

“Is that some kind of weird innuendo?”

 

“No,” Killian chuckles before releasing her hips so that he can reach behind his neck and pull the silver chain off of his neck, his mom’s ring glinting in the sunlight, and Emma loses all of her sensibilities – and her breath – when he places it around her neck. “I want you to have this.”

 

“Killian,” she starts, emotion in her throat and protests on her lips before he interrupts her.

 

“No, Emma, just listen to me, okay?” He looks so serious, so all she can do is nod her head yes. “I know athletes are all known for their weird superstitions, okay? It’s simply a thing, and I’ve never really thought that I had one until I realized that wearing my mom’s ring around my neck was kind of one of those superstitions. It’s brought me luck, but more importantly it’s always brought me calm and peace hoping that she’s smiling down on me and cheering me on. You have a really big day today, one that you’ve been dreaming about, and I want you to have it to remind yourself that people are cheering you on. I’m cheering you on.”

 

Like always, his words far outshine any that she could possibly have, so Emma presses forward and wraps her arms around his neck and kisses his stubbled jaw in thanks before staying there and simply feeling the warmth of him all over her as she breathes him in.

 

This is…she is not supposed to have nice things like this. This is not how things work for people like her.

 

And yet here she is.

 

“Kick ass today, twenty-nine.”

 

“Kick ass today, my love.”

 


 

Killian leaves his apartment two hours before she does, and by the time she gets to the stadium to make her way to the booth where she’s working today, all of her nerves that Killian made disappear have returned in full force so that she can’t stop fidgeting with her fingers or the ring that’s resting underneath her shirt.

 

She still can’t believe that he did that.

 

Her heart is still stuttering.

 

But the nerves aren’t exactly solved by having this good luck charm around her neck no matter how damn romantic it is.

 

The fact that on her way to the booth three different people stopped her and called her “that chick who Jones asked out” hasn’t exactly helped things. She’s never going to live that down. It might as well be inked on her forehead and be flashing in neon lights. Killian learned from his mistakes that day. If only everyone else could.

 

Now, though, Ruby is attaching Emma’s headpiece to her ears and stuffing her mic pack in the back of her skirt so that she will be able to sit down without things messing up. Ruby isn’t her producer today, not when she’s working with an entirely different team, but Emma is thankful that she’s here with her now.

 

“Be yourself, Ems,” Ruby sighs, adjusting her mic one more time. “It’s the same thing you do every other day, but you’re covering the entire game with two other people.”

 

“So, a different thing than I do every day.”

 

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to freak you out any more than you are already freaked out.”

 

“You’re a very good friend.”

 

“I try,” Ruby sighs, slapping Emma’s ass before sticking her tongue out and walking away. “You’re going to kick ass.”

 

If enough people say that phrase, it’s sure to come true.

 

Right?

 

Isaac and James are already sitting in their seats, the chair in between them empty, and she takes it, turning to look at the both of them to strike up a conversation only for them to both turn away and focus on the small booklet of notes in front of them.

 

Okay, so that’s how it’s going to be then. She shouldn’t have expected anything different when she found out she’d be working with Isaac Heller and James Prince, two men who are always looking down at her whenever she has to work with them. It’s fine. It’s all fine. This isn’t about them. This is about her and her job and she can do a damn good job at it.

 

David: You’re going to kill it today, kid.

 

Elsa: We’re all wishing you luck today, sweet girl.

 

Emma smiles down at her phone and moves to type a message back to David and Elsa only for Isaac to cough and make her turn to the side. “I know you’re new here, but you can’t use your phone, even when we’re off camera. Only between innings of if you need to look something up.”

 

“Oh,” she startles, having to push down her annoyance at the condescending tone of his voice. “Okay, sorry.”

 

“Yeah. Don’t screw up. It’s a small game, but everyone is at home watching because it’s a holiday.”

 

Such a nice, helpful man.

 

The three of them are coached through the order of the game, of the introduction while players are warming up, and while she knows that it’s something that happens every game, Emma can tell that all of this is mainly for her. She’s already read through her instructions, had approximately seventeen different meetings for this and one-hundred-and-twenty-two emails, and she knows what’s going to happen. She’s not an idiot even if she’s being treated like one today.

 

It doesn’t matter.

 

None of that matters.

 

This is what she wants, and she’s going to kick ass.

 

She, Isaac, and James introduce themselves to the camera, the annoyed look on the two men’s faces disappearing the moment that the camera light is turned on, and Emma has to fight back the urge to roll her eyes, especially when James and Isaac start a rapport of introducing her by saying you may recognize her from her moment of viral fame when Killian asked her out and she has to interrupt them to remind everyone that she is literally on camera every week since she is the on-field reporter for the team.

 

Fuck these men and their apparent need to forget that she is competent at her job even if this is technically her first day doing this.

 

But she forces the smile on her face and goes along with the banter before turning to the stat sheets and talking about the impeccable season that the Yankees are having so far and moving on to talking about Killian as he steps up to the mound, which Isaac and James are more than happy to let her do since she is “such an expert on Killian Jones.”

 

They don’t even know.

 

And she will continue to ignore these little jabs. The sexism never really ends.

 

They go through the fact that yesterday was a complete shut out not in favor of the Yankees, but the insane winning record that they have this season, it doesn’t honestly matter. Then at least five minutes is spent going back and forth over whether or not they will be able to somehow back up last year’s World Series win by doing it again. Emma’s always kind of despised the speculation that comes with sports, but this is how it goes.

 

(And she’s had the same thoughts.)

 

Which is fine since soon they switch to actually talking about Killian’s statistics for the season, how he’s been a bit up and down but how over the past month or so his average speed has gone down several miles per hour and he’s allowing more hits than usual. Logically, Emma knew this. She’d noticed it while keeping her own stats for her interviews and segments, but she never thought anything of it.

 

Not at all.

 

But now, running through these statistics and facts and every minute detail possible has her noticing the way that Killian isn’t hitting his spots like he’s supposed to and is throwing more balls than strikes and is a bit slower between his wind-ups than he usually is.

 

What is happening?

 

It’s not a question she can focus on, especially when the Rangers have a guy on second and third and Killian somehow manages to get three strikes and the third out so that the top of the first is over and things are moving on as normal.

 

Or, really, better than normal.

 

Eric hits a home-run, his thirty-seventh of the season which is a record high for him, and it brings both Will and Arthur in to give them a three-run lead already.

 

Today is already going better than yesterday.

 

And as time goes on, no matter how inwardly uncomfortable Emma feels with the men she’s working with, outwardly, she becomes entirely comfortable, knowing when to interject and when to stay quiet. It’s definitely not a match made in heaven for the three of them, which doesn’t really bode well for her future, but that’s not something she focuses on as the game wears on so that they’re now in the top of the fourth inning.

 

That’s when it happens.

 

One moment Emma is looking down at her notes while messing with the ring on her neck, twirling it around her finger, and the next she’s looking through the booth’s window to see Killian hunched over with his left hand gripping onto his right shoulder as his hat covers his face so that she can’t see anything. The hair on her arms stands on edge, her heart starts beating at a pace quicker than it was this morning, and bile rises up in her throat when she watches Will drops his glove and run from behind home plate to the mound so that he’s talking to Killian.

 

“What’s happening?”

 

Emma thinks the words come from her mouth, that she’s voicing the question that’s running through her mind, but it’s not from her. It’s from James.

 

“I think he’s hurt,” Isaac answers, and she knows that she doesn’t imagine the fact that his voice is smug.

 

Hurt.

 

No.

 

Killian can’t be hurt. He can’t be. And if he is, it’s something minor. Of course it’s something minor. There’s no need for her to be freaking out or for heat to be rising to her cheeks while that bile keeps coming back.

 

This is no big deal. It can’t be.

 

She also can’t let anyone know that she’s about to throw up because something is wrong with her boyfriend, and she can’t…there’s nothing she can do about it.

 

There’s a commotion down on the field as Will and Al walk Killian down to the dugout and there’s a brief pause in play while Roseman warms up before replacing him, and even though Emma asks their producer if they can find out what exactly just happened with Killian, she’s left sitting in the dark clutching onto his ring as the game goes on like there’s been absolutely no change.

 

But there has been one.

 

And she needs to know more about it.

 

But she can’t, and every time she moves to get her phone so that she can text Ariel or Liam or Elsa or anyone, they’re back live on air, and she’s having to force a smile on her face and continue to do her job like the abrupt change in pitchers isn’t a big deal to her.

 

It’s a huge fucking deal.

 

It’s also the bottom of the ninth inning now, two outs and two strikes on the board to signify the very near ending of the game, and an hour and fifty-seven minutes have passed since Killian left the field. She thinks she’s finally about to get to run out of this room and use her press credentials to get into the locker room when the door to their booth opens behind them so that their producer is sticking his head inside.

 

“Hey,” he starts at the same time that the word strike is spoken through her headset and the stadium erupts in cheers, “before you go off air, let everyone know that Killian Jones has been taken to the hospital.”

 

And nothing else can be heard over the thumping of her heart and the sound of Frank Sinatra’s voice crooning “New York, New York” playing over the speakers like at the end of every single game.

 

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today.

Chapter Text

Liam has been yelling at him for thirty-two minutes and seventeen seconds.

 

That might be a little off, his timing incorrect since he didn’t start counting until it’d been going on for quite a few minutes, and he’s only been counting with his head. He doesn’t have a watch on, has no idea where his phone currently is except probably in the locker room, and counting in his head is the only way he’s able to keep track.

 

The clock on Elsa’s wall is dead. That seems apt.

 

Counting is very literally the only thing that is keeping him sane right now. It’s also distracting him from the throbbing pain that’s emanating from his shoulder every time he so much as flinches or shifts in the wrong direction.

 

Killian has felt like an idiot more times than he can count – ironic with how much he’s counting right now, he knows – but he thinks that ignoring his shoulder, ignoring the pain, ignoring the signs, and ignoring every other little thing over the past few months has been the dumbest thing he’s ever done.

 

This could fuck up his entire career, again, and he ignored it for the idiotic hope that things would simply get better on their own.

 

Things have obviously not gotten better on their own, and he was pretty much carted off of the field and out of the stadium to the hospital so that he could have an MRI and an X-ray done only to find out that he has tendinitis in the rotator cuff that was injured in the boating accident and already had to have surgery to repair it once before.

 

Liam is currently yelling at him because he made a joke about how at least it was only tendinitis and not another full tear that would require surgery and being out of the game completely for ten months.

 

Just four to six weeks this time.

 

That’s nothing, right?

 

Except the playoffs start in four weeks, and while he can’t remember the rules of eligibility right off the top of his head since this is something he’s never had to deal with before, he thinks that as long as he doesn’t miss the entire post-season, he could still play in the World Series.

 

If they make it that far.

 

Shit.

 

This is not good.

 

And his hopes for the World Series really shouldn’t be what’s going on in his head right now when he has another arm injury, which is another derailment for his career.

 

(He’s only twenty-eight years old. It shouldn’t be like this.)

 

But focusing on this one thing that he wanted, that he wants, for himself and for his team, is inexplicably both driving him into madness and keeping him sane all at once.

 

“How could you let all of the signs pass you by, Killian?” Liam huffs, his loafers likely going to run a hole in the linoleum floor of the hospital with how much he’s pacing. “Do you not remember what happened the last time you got injured? The lows that you went through? That’s happening again. You finally got to be happy, got to have things going right for you, and you screwed it up because you didn’t want to admit that there is something wrong with you? How fucking dumb can you be?”

 

“Liam,” Elsa admonishes from her spot in her office where they’ve all gathered now that he’s been released from all of his tests. It’s kind of feeling like a prison in here. “Now is really not the time to yell at him.”

 

“I think it’s a pretty damn good time.”

 

“For fuck’s sake,” Killian groans, twisting in Elsa’s office chair to look at his brother. His arm is throbbing, his medicine not quite taking effect yet but the ice pack helping a bit, and that’s all probably not helping with his level of agitation. “I am twenty-eight years old. I do not need you to yell at me like I am one of your children. Obviously, I know that I fucked up. The insane amount of ice on my shoulder that’s pretty much going to stay there for the next month as I sit on my ass proves it.”

 

“All of this could have been solved if you’d come to a doctor. I’m a doctor. Elsa works in a hospital. You have fantastic health insurance. It’s not…the solution was right there. You should have told Archie too!”

 

“Liam,” Elsa scolds again, and his brother’s head snaps toward his wife.

 

“What? What could you possibly have to say? He screwed up.”

 

“No, you screwed up when you started yelling at him like he’s a child. But certainly not your child when there’s no way in hell you would speak to Addison or Lucy this way. Killian gets it. You can see it written over his face, and if you can’t tell that he didn’t say anything because he was scared of finding out something was going to be wrong with him again, I don’t know what to tell you. Is it dumb? Yes. But you see it happen with patients every single day. People get scared, and the confirmation makes injuries and diseases real for them.”

 

Damn, Elsa Jones.

 

“Elsa,” Killian sighs, “thank – ”

 

“No,” she starts, holding up her hand at him, her voice full of emotion. “Just because I understand you and am defending you doesn’t mean I’m not still mad at you. I’m not going to yell at you like your brother, though.”

 

Elsa wipes at the few tears that have fallen underneath her eyes, and before Killian can even get up to give her a hug and tell her just how much he loves her, Liam is crossing the room and wrapping her up in his embrace so that his frame dwarfs hers for a few seconds while Killian continues to get to sulk and loathe himself for doing this.

 

It’s all his fault.

 

There’s no other way around it. That’s the truth, and there’s no changing it.

 

What the hell is he going to do? And is this going to keep coming back if he continues to pitch? If he does proper treatment, is it something he can monitor? Is his career really about to be cut in half? What is Al going to think when he tells him? What are any of his teammates going to think? Or the owners? All of the managers?

 

What about Emma?  

 

If he’d told her all of those times he wanted to tell her, all of those times he’d meant to tell her when she caught him in pain over the past few months, she would know about his past and would most likely have had enough sense to tell him to go see a doctor since she would have a more frequent look at how he was every day than either Liam or Elsa.

 

But “if” doesn’t exist.

 

What has happened, happened. There’s no changing that.

 

But if he could…no, nope. No. He can’t go there. “If” doesn’t exist.

 

Elsa phone starts ringing on her desk, Emma’s name popping up on the screen, and Killian’s hands fumble for it so quickly that he nearly drops it onto the ground. But he doesn’t, managing to slide his finger across the phone to answer so that he can hold it up to his ear to talk.

 

“Hello, beautiful,” he greets and both Elsa and Liam turn to stare him down.  

 

“Killian?” Her voice is frantic, hoarse, and he has absolutely no idea how she managed to keep on working when he’s sure that her mind was running through all of the worst-case scenarios. She’s got to be pissed at him. He deserves it. Why couldn’t he have found the time to text her before he left? Right. He doesn’t know where his phone is. “Is that you?”

 

“Aye, love. It’s me. I’m answering Elsa’s phone.”

 

“So, you’re not dead then?” He opens his mouth to respond but is cut off before he even can. “Because I have pretty much convinced myself that you were dead. It doesn’t even make any sense because you obviously didn’t have something, like, dangerous happen to you while you were playing, but all I’ve known for the past three hours were that you were hurt. And then my producer walks in the booth and tells me that you’re in the hospital but doesn’t say anything else and…you weren’t answering your phone. No one was. I don’t even know which hospital you’re in. I assumed Mt. Sinai because that’s where Liam works, but I don’t – ”

 

“Swan,” Killian interrupts as Emma keeps babbling. “Hey, hey, Emma, love. It’s okay. I’m fine. I am at Mt. Sinai. I’ve already had some tests done on my shoulder, and I’m sitting in Elsa’s office so it’s not like I’m laid up in a hospital bed. And I don’t have my phone. It’s in the locker room somewhere, probably, so that’s why I haven’t called you. I’m sorry.”

 

“How long are you going to be there? Can I come see you? Or should I just go home?”

 

“Where are you, love?”

 

“Maybe ten minutes away. I don’t – I got on the subway to go to your apartment first, but then I changed my mind and got off at the one hundred and third street station realizing that you were probably not there.”

 

“I think you’ve got a future career as a detective if this whole broadcasting thing doesn’t work out for you.” He smiles, even though she can’t see it, and he definitely ignores that look on Elsa and Liam’s faces. He’s had enough judgment from them today even if he deserves all of it. “How’d that go, by the way?”

 

There’s a loud blare through the phone followed by Emma cursing, and he chuckles to himself. “Can I tell you later? People don’t know how to drive, and I’m probably going to get run over even though I have the damn right of way.”

 

“Yeah, sure. I’ll text you directions to her office.”

 

“Thank you. I love you.”

 

“I love you too,” Killian sighs. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

The call ends then, and he doesn’t even have time to digest it all before Elsa is speaking again and causing him some serious whiplash.

 

“What are you going to tell her when she gets here?”

 

He shrugs, as much as he can at least. “The truth.”

 

“All of it?”

 

That familiar sense of guilt settles in him again, pressing down on his shoulders like a ton of bricks, which really isn’t helpful right now when his shoulder is already in so much pain, but this is the situation he’s built for himself.

 

“What are you guys talking about?” Liam asks, and Killian has to bite his tongue. “Seriously. What?”

 

“Killian never told Emma about the full extent of the accident,” Elsa explains, rubbing the heels of her hands underneath her eyes. “And I’m guessing he’s been lying to her about how much his shoulder has been hurting too.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Fuck,” Killian groans, leaning forward to press his face into the stack of papers on Elsa’s desk, but that hurts his damn shoulder. “She’s going to be so pissed at me.”

 

“It’s not like you lied about something that’s fundamental to your relationship, though,” Liam says, obviously missing the point because he doesn’t know Emma like Killian knows Emma. “I think she’ll just be pissed like we are.”

 

“No, no she won’t.” Killian rolls back in his chair and adjusts the strap that’s holding his ice pack there. “Emma’s got a pretty shitty history with people lying to her or not trusting her with things, and she’s going to be pissed that I did this. I don’t…there’s no way around that. I love her, and I wasn’t honest about the struggles I was going through.”

 

“It’s going to be fine, sweetie,” Elsa promises, but his mind is already running through worst case scenarios too.

 

He’s already lost the game again, temporarily at least, and he’s not sure that he can lose anything else.

 

For years he thought that losing the game would be the only thing possible of beating him down and having him lose the spark for life that he has. Now he knows that’s not true.

 

Losing the game would hurt. Losing Emma would kill him.

 

Killian doesn’t count the ten minutes that it takes Emma to get to the hospital. He doesn’t need to. He feels every second of them. Before he knows it, there’s a timid knock on the door, and then Emma is walking through, her cheeks red and her hair windblown with her eyes widened. She looks like she just ran here instead of taking the train, and the big exhale that she lets out when she makes eye contact with him has him feeling like maybe he ran a marathon too.

 

Slowly, he stands up from the chair so as not to jostle his arm, and even though he can tell that Emma is a bit hesitant with Liam and Elsa in the room, she walks toward him and wraps her arms around his stomach so that he can feel her over feeling the throbbing in his arm.

 

“Hey,” he whispers as he rubs his hand up and down her back while his lips press into her forehead. “I’m okay. It’s all okay, love. There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

“My brain still has me convinced that you’re dead, so give me a minute.”

 

Killian chuckles. “Okay, okay, I can do that.”

 

For someone who is so keen on time today, Killian has no idea how long he stands there with Emma’s face buried in his shoulder and his hand on her back. He has no idea.

 

It’s not long enough though.

 

Because then Emma is pulling back, the warmth of her body disappearing, and she’s stepping away to wipe out the wrinkles in her skirt before moving to hug Liam and Elsa too.

 

“So, what happened?” Emma asks. “You said your shoulder? What’s wrong with your shoulder?”

 

His eyes dart from the green pair to the two sets of blue, pleading for some kind of help in answering her question.

 

“Liam,” Elsa starts, grabbing onto her husband’s forearm, “why don’t we let them talk? Let’s go get some coffee.”

 

“You guys can stay,” Emma offers, a sweet, unknowing smile on her face.

 

“No, it’s fine, sweetie." Elsa nods her head at him, a soft smile on her face as well. “We’ve spent enough time with Killian. We’ll let you guys have this moment. Use my phone to text Liam when you leave, okay?”

 

“Yeah, Els. That’s fine. I love you guys.”

 

“Love you too,” Liam answers for them before they’re taking the few steps to the door and walking out of it, letting the wood frame click behind them.

 

And then he’s left with Emma.

 

“So, what’s wrong?” she asks again, sitting down in the chair that Elsa has across from her desk while he takes back his seat behind Elsa’s desk. “Did you throw out your shoulder? I know you’re, like, a whole ten months older than me, but I didn’t think you were that much of an old man.”

 

His chuckle is weak, but he’s thankful that Emma is at least in a bit of a joking mood. Today has been such a big day for her professionally, and he hates that he’s taken away from it.

 

“I have tendinitis in my rotator cuff.” He’s about to spew out a hell of a lot of information at her, but he doesn’t know how else to do it. The worry etched across Emma’s face certainly doesn’t help. “It’s not a big deal. I’m going to be out for hopefully no more than six weeks as long as I don’t fuck it up again, so I should be able to come back for the Championship Series, not that it matters. I’m in a lot of pain today, but it’s not always so bad.”

 

“What do you mean it’s not always so bad? Has this been happening more than just today?”

 

“For a couple of weeks. Maybe a month of two. I don’t – I’m not sure the exact moment that it happened, but it’s gotten worse recently. That day in Boston where we got blown out of the water and I pissed everyone off by being a jackass? That was probably the worst of it on a game day until today.”

 

“Woah, woah, woah,” Emma sighs, holding her hands up to him as her brows furrow, those little worry lines popping up on her forehead. “You’ve been feeling this for more than today? And you didn’t say anything? Not to me or your family or even Archie? You’re a pitcher, Killian. You’ve been warned about rotator cuff injuries your entire life, and you didn’t think to say something?”

 

“I was scared.”

 

“Of what?” she asks before she gets up to pace back and forth in the same path as Liam before her. “All you had to do was say that your shoulder was bothering you, you’re benched for a week or two, and you have time to heal. Then you’re not getting carted off in the middle of games while I’m left sitting in a booth with two assholes who couldn’t care less about you being injured and who made jokes about it while I felt like I could throw up the entire time.”

 

“Emma – ”

 

“What?”

 

“I have something else to tell you.”

 

Her eyes flicker over him as she crosses her arm over her chest, tugging her dress down and bringing attention to the fact that she’s wearing his mom’s ring around her neck. He’d nearly forgotten about that, only remembered really when his hand absentmindedly reached for it out of habit.

 

“What do you have to tell me?”

 

Killian swallows, kind of feeling like he’s going to throw up too. It’s not a big deal. It can’t be. Emma will understand. He’s lying to himself thinking that, but that’s what he has to do.

 

“When Liam and I were in the boating accident, when I had an open fracture on my arm, I also had a rotator cuff tear. It’s why I didn’t come back at all that season. It’s why I have the small scars on my shoulder.” Emma stops pacing and turns to look at him, worry written all over her face as his own worry constricts his throat. “No one knows about it. Only my family, Archie, and the doctors in Florida who did my surgery. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I’d finally gotten myself together, stopping the drinking and the women and every other dumb decision I was making, and there I was having my life torn away from me again. I guess I was so over being pitied and being looked down upon that I rationalized not telling anyone. I thought that if everyone didn’t know, things would be just fine. Life would go on as normal, and that’s all I wanted.”

 

He takes a breath and tries to figure out what’s going on in Emma’s head, but he can’t tell. There’s no emotion on her face. Absolutely none at all.

 

“Last season,” Killian continues. “I played with pain. It wasn’t much, and it was really more when I was working my way back than anything. By the time we made it to the Series, I felt fine. This season, not so much. It’s hurt randomly. Sometimes on game days. Sometimes when I’m waking up in the morning or in the middle of the night. Those days I can’t really move it for awhile. I – I know I shouldn’t have ignored the signs, Swan, but I couldn’t have it all taken away from me again. I just couldn’t.”

 

He’s not even sure if he said everything he needed to say. He’s got no clue. If he had to, he couldn’t even repeat the words that just passed through his lips. But they’re out there, and the bricks on his shoulders don’t feel quite so heavy.

 

“Every time we’ve talked about the accident,” Emma starts, and he recognizes the change of tone in her voice immediately, “you have never once mentioned that you tore your rotator cuff and that you had to have surgery to repair it. I would get you keeping that from me as a journalist but not as your girlfriend. How many times have we talked about that day, Killian? How often have we discussed it? How often have you sat there and lied to my face about it? And not only it. Every time you’ve been in pain this year, you’ve lied to me. This morning when I asked you what was wrong, you lied to me. In Boston when we were mad at each other, you lied to me. And those are just the times that I know of. I’m sure there are more. I can’t…”

 

“Swan, I’m sorry, okay?” he pleads. She shakes her head from side to side, and he rises from his chair to come to the other side of the desk, leaning against the wood so that they’re not separated by it. “I wanted to tell you. I kept telling myself that I would and that maybe I’d work up the courage to say what was going on, but I never could.”

 

The clench in Emma’s jaw is visible, especially when she turns to the side to look away with another shake of her head. “I am sorry that you have been through so much, that you are still going through so much. I love you. I really do. But it almost makes it worse to me that you’ve known you were keeping something from me and still didn’t tell me. It doesn’t matter what it is. You actively lied to me, and I am not okay with that.”

 

“I was terrified, Emma. Don’t you get that?”

 

Her head turns back to him then, green eyes full of tears, and he can barely hear anything over the sound of his heart thumping.

 

“I think I just…I think I need some time is all.”

 

“Emma – ”

 

“No, Killian,” she starts, holding her hand up and stepping backward, “I need time. Because I’ve trusted you with so much of what’s going on in my life, I’ve let myself lean on you and need you more than I have ever let myself need someone else, and you couldn’t bother doing the same. Why couldn’t you bother doing the same? This is the same exact thing that’s happened to me every time I’ve put my heart on the line, and I – I need some time to think.”

 

“Emma.”

 

“I’ll call you soon,” she says as she rises from the chair, but he’s not sure that he believes her. “You have Liam and Elsa to take care of you, right?”

 

“Aye,” he nods, biting his tongue at all of the things he wants to say right now. Emma is fighting between wanting him to be okay and being upset with him. He can tell, and he has to respect her wishes right now. In a few days, it’ll be different. But damn if this doesn’t hurt. “I don’t…I’m sorry. I promise I didn’t mean to hurt you, love. That was not my intention here.”

 

“I know. That’s what makes this worse.” Emma blinks, her lips pressed together, before walking out the door and leaving him sitting there.

 

Alone.

 

Fuck.

 

He knew it was going to happen, and not even that could have prepared him for it.

 

But all she said was that she needed time, right? She didn’t yell at him saying that they were over, that she was breaking up with him, that she didn’t love him anymore. None of that was mentioned, so there’s hope, right?

 

There has to be hope.

 

It doesn’t matter that he didn’t hurt her in the same way that Neal and Walsh hurt her, that he didn’t hurt her the way the foster system did. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t maliciously set out to inflict pain. What matters is that she’s upset with his actions, with his lies, and who is he to try to say what she can be mad about and what she can’t be mad about?

 

He’s no one.

 

Only Emma can decide how she feels about things.

 

He probably deserves all of this for how much of an asshole he is.

 

“Fuck,” he mutters under his breath as he pinches the bridge of his nose.

 

And he’s still got to tell his team. And Ariel will have to release a statement and oh shit, Ariel. She’s going to murder him.

 

She really is.

 

Killian uses Elsa’s phone to text Liam that he and Emma are finished talking and that he’s going home now. He doesn’t say anything else, doesn’t give any more details. No one needs any. They know where they live, and if all else fails, he will answer their texts from his laptop.

 

When he gets home fifteen minutes later, though, he sees it sitting on his coffee table and ignores it. He’s really not in the mood to talk to anyone or to do anything. All he wants is to take a shower and wash this damn day away. It’s not like he’s got any deadlines anymore or anything to do.

 

He can’t even do his job.

 

And it’s his fault.

 

How could he have been so stupid?

 

The moment Killian walks into his bedroom, he sees Emma’s clothes everywhere. She’d brought over a bag of things last night, outfits that she was considering wearing but hadn’t decided on, as well as seemingly everything else she owns. She’s not the neatest person in the world, never has been, but it seems that this morning she was determined to make her mark on every single inch of this room.

 

She did a damn good job at it.

 

Killian’s sure that she was planning on cleaning it up when she came back here tonight. They were going to celebrate her tonight. He had a whole dinner prepared that he was going to cook. All of the ingredients are in his fridge as well as Emma’s favorite whiskey and a chocolate and cherry cake that he baked because he knows that she loves those.

 

They never even got to talk about how it was for her today.

 

How could he have ruined a day that was so important to her?

 

And he knows that he’s ruined it. He does. He knows that she’s probably in her apartment right now fielding questions from everyone about what it was like, how she liked it, if she wants to do it again. And she’s fielding questions about how he is and why she’s not with him. He doesn’t know what she’ll say, if she’ll say anything at all, and for as many times as he’s hated himself, he doesn’t think he’s ever hated himself as much as he does right now for upsetting Emma.

 

This is not how things are supposed to be.

 

He doesn’t bother picking her clothes up, leaving all of them where they are. That’s something he’ll deal with later. He’s going to take a shower right now, and absolutely nothing is going to stop him.

 

Except for the yellow and blue sticky notes pressed in a line on his bathroom mirror over where Emma has left her curling iron.

 

I promise I’m going to clean up my things later. Don’t get all tense about it if you see it all before I do.

 

Thank you for being such a big supporter of me and “cheering me on.”

 

We’re both going to kick ass today.

 

I love you, Killian Jones.

 

Killian’s stomach twists at the last one, and he carefully pulls it off the mirror so that he can run his fingers over the words there as well as the lipstick mark that she left.

 

“I love you too, Emma,” he mutters to himself in the silence of the bathroom.

Chapter Text

 

Emma has never once complained about having off from work before.

 

Not once.

 

She has four days off right now. It’s four days of no baseball and no responsibility, and she has been looking forward to it for months ever since she first saw the time off on the calendar and marked it in a huge red circle. There’s nothing quite like having the ability to sleep in, not brush your hair, and lounge around in pajamas all day as you watch professional athletes hit tennis balls back and forth at each other at one hundred miles per hour as they play the US Open.

 

But there’s a bit of a sting to it all when two tickets to the semi-finals tomorrow are saved in her phone, and she hasn’t spoken to the person who bought them for her in three days.

 

(They’re in the nosebleed section so no one would notice them, and Emma remembers laughing out loud when Killian showed her the seats because she has no idea how they would even see the ball.)

 

Okay, there’s more than a bit of a sting.

 

It fucking hurts.

 

There’s always been a reason why she didn’t make plans so far ahead of time, not ones that require monetary and emotional commitments from her, but she’s been breaking all of her rules over the past five and half months. All of them. She’s made plans to go to Portland, to go to a wedding, to go to this idiotic set of matches that she would actually really love to go to.

 

All of them with Killian.

 

Emma should have known better. She honestly should have. Every time she ever made plans with Neal or Walsh or any other man that she was dating, they always fell through. They never held up. Either the relationship would end, or the guy would fade away at the last minute. It didn’t matter. Every time she got her hopes up, they fell back to the ground and were crushed under the weight of her own disappointment.

 

Neal was the definition of flaky. He was always making these big plans with big dreams and promising her so damn much before ripping the rug out from under her so quickly that she barely even had time to brace herself before she fell flat on her ass. And the really shitty thing is that she didn’t even realize how awful it was that he was doing that to her because that’s what people had been doing her entire life – foster parents, social workers, childhood friends, her birth parents. That little seed of hope would be planted, roots would start to grow, and then it’d all be torn out of the ground. She was in a relationship like that for years and then fell into the same exact trap two years later.

 

Why would Killian be any different?

 

(Of course he is different.)

 

A laugh escapes her lips at that, one she didn’t give permission to, and all it does is make Emma curl into her bed a little bit more, wrapping her arms around her pillow and yanking the blankets further up her body so that the outside world can’t get to her. It’s just Emma, her laptop, and a bag of salt and vinegar chips that are most likely going to break her tongue out.

 

As it should be.

 

This is not how her day was supposed to go.

 

Not at all.

 

Killian was supposed to come over after his morning training, and he was going to spend time with her and probably Ruby, debating television shows and movies and eating whatever takeout he decided to bring on his way here. But Killian isn’t here. She doesn’t even know where he is. Probably not training considering he’s out for the rest of the regular season.

 

It’s what he told her, but it’s also what she’s read in about fifteen different articles online.

 

And what she had to post on her Twitter account as part of her job. Life is funny that way. You think you can avoid your boyfriend and all information about him, but she can’t. It’s part of her freaking job.

 

She couldn’t have kept herself from reading the articles online if she’d tried.

 

(She didn’t.)

 

There’s a knock on her door, a sound that Emma has been ignoring for most of the past few days, but she didn’t turn the lock when she went to get her chips two hours ago, so Ruby easily opens the door and walks into her bedroom. She’s got her hair pulled back into a ponytail and is wearing leggings and a sports bra like she just went to the Pilates class that Emma skipped out on.

 

She shouldn’t have done that.

 

Fueling her emotions into that would probably have been a much healthier way to cope. No, it definitely would have been. Exercise is better than stuffing her mouth with junk food even if junk food feels so much better at first.

 

Shit. She’s pathetic. But honestly, she doesn’t even care.

 

“Hey,” Ruby says quietly as she shuts the door behind her. “How are you feeling?”

 

Emma doesn’t respond, just curls herself further into her pillow like the pathetic person she is as a tennis ball is thwacked across the court and bounces up into the bottom level of the stands. But Ruby, never one to be deterred by anything, walks across the room and settles down on the bed behind Emma, wrapping her arms around her stomach and pulling her closer while Ruby’s chin rests on her shoulder.

 

It’s the most considerate touch she’s felt in days, and it’s the only time that someone hasn’t shown her pity or tried to tell her that everything was going to be okay. After she left the hospital, leaving Killian behind with her mind reeling and falling down a hole with no escape, Emma immediately went to her apartment and changed into running clothes before running until her legs wouldn’t work anymore. It was fifteen miles, something she’s done before, something that’s not even her personal best, and she thought that she could keep going.

 

She had to keep going.

 

But the adrenaline died out on her, all of her anger and rage and, frankly, sadness dissipated into barely being able to breathe, and she’d swiped her metro card and walked through the gates to get on the train that would take her to David’s house because she needed him like she hadn’t needed him in years. David is always the reasonable one, is always the one who makes her see things that she can’t see, but he wasn’t there. It was only Leo and Mary Margaret, and as much as Emma loves Mary Margaret, she couldn’t understand why Emma was so hurt by Killian lying to her.

 

It’s not what the lie was, though that is a pretty big deal. It’s the fact that the lie happened.

 

Over and over again.

 

She gave him her heart in all of the shattered and glued back together pieces, and as careful as he is with it, he still managed to add a crack or two.

 

How could she have ever expected otherwise?

 

Why did she?

 

Why does she still want him to be the one to help her keep holding it together?

 

David had eventually come home and seen her talking to Mary Margaret, and somehow, he just knew that she needed him to hold her for a little while. He did, cupping the back of her head with his hand and not placating her by telling her that everything was okay or that she shouldn’t be angry or anything else that she wasn’t quite ready to hear yet.

 

There were a lot of things she wasn’t ready to hear that day.

 

“Do you want to go for a walk with me sometime today?” Ruby asks, and Emma breathes out on a sigh, her stomach swirling in a messy cloud of anxiousness over the fact that Ruby has finally decided that Emma has to talk. She’s been waiting for it. She’s also been expecting a much more abrasive conversation. “I know that your legs probably still feel like shit from that crazed run you went on, but I feel like a walk would be good. Fresh air, exercise, maybe I will even stop and buy two dozen donuts. You know, really splurge and keep them to ourselves and not let Graham have any.”

 

Emma chuckles, and this time she’s kind of glad for it. It’s not a big belly laugh, but it’s something.

 

Baby steps are better than nothing.

 

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a walk?

 

“Nope. It’s good to get our legs moving, work some of this laziness out of you. Plus, I fully plan on making us walk the full perimeter of Central Park, so we’ll have earned those donuts. If we haven’t died first because that’s a huge ass park.”

 

“You do realize that Bryant park is closer?”

 

“And that’s exactly why we’re not going there.” Ruby squeezes her again, pretty much hugging her, and it may actually make Emma’s heart swell. “C’mon, Ems. Indulge me for an afternoon, okay? It’s not like you to lay in bed like this. I don’t like it.”

 

It’s not. She’s already thought that. This isn’t her. She’s not the type of girl who lays around in bed because she’s upset that she and her boyfriend got into a fight, if that’s even what this can be called. There wasn’t exactly any fighting, even if her mind has managed to create the illusion that there was. Honestly, she barely let him get any words in besides his explanation of what happened. And she’s not the type of girl who cries and eats ice cream and wonders how life will ever go on.

 

There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s not her.

 

And she hasn’t cried. That’s beside the point, though.

 

“It’s really comfortable in here, okay?”

 

“You’re moping.”

 

“Then let me mope.”

 

Ruby sighs and hugs her a little closer.

 

“Emma, I know that I might not seem like the most emotionally mature person at times, but I’ve been in a steady relationship for a long time. I know that things like this happen, and I know that after lying in bed for nearly three days now, you need to get your ass up. You’re not going to find any solutions at the bottom of that chip bag.”

 

“I hate Graham for helping you be so emotionally stable. You used to hate love.”

 

“It’s all the good fucking. I’m telling you. Knocked some sense right into me.”

 

Emma barks out a laugh and completely rolls over on her stomach, letting Ruby’s arms release her as she snorts into the pillow. “You are the worst,” she mumbles, her voice muffled by the material.

 

“I am the best.” There’s a slap against her ass that has Emma jumping and rolling over again so that she nearly knocks over her laptop. “Now, go brush your teeth, put on some deodorant, and change clothes so we can take over the city with our powerwalk like the rich old ladies we’ve always aspired to be.”

 

“If you insist.”

 

“I do.”

 

It’s an actual blazing inferno outside, the heat curling up from the concrete to practically burn through Emma’s sneakers, and it makes her really not want to be out on this walk. But she knows that the faster she walks, the faster she can go back home and retreat back to her room. All she really wants is to go back to her room.

 

And get under the shades of the trees in the park. September needs to end and allow October to roll in so that she won’t sweat every time she steps outside. This is ridiculous.

 

It’s probably all of the salt and vinegar leaving her pores. What a thought to have.

 

If only eating strawberries or kale or something was a good emotional comfort food.

 

It’s a little over a mile to the park, and as awful as the entrance is all full of tourists and street vendors and people trying to sell her a guide to the city like she doesn’t know it’s on a grid system, Emma is thankful just to have the slight breeze and be away from the masses of people. She won’t admit it, not out loud, but Ruby was right to get her to get up and get moving. When she’s lounging around, her mind wanders to things that it shouldn’t wander to, and at least now she’s able to put all of her focus on putting one foot in front of the other and watching all of the people around her.

 

Why pay for Broadway tickets when you can watch people in Central Park?

 

The air-conditioning. Yep. The air-conditioning.

 

They walk for an hour, just a casual stroll that Emma keeps thinking should be a run, but the heat of the day becomes too much for her, her heartbeat going wild, and as soon as she sees an unoccupied bench in the shade, she makes a run for it, leaving Ruby to catch up from behind. It’s a bit ridiculous, but this is a golden opportunity to allow herself to sit down and breathe without anyone bothering her since most people in the area are concentrated around the boathouse and not the little beaten path to the side of it.

 

“I hate summer,” Ruby groans when she reaches the bench. “It’s the worst. I don’t care that it’s when all of the good sports happen. It’s too damn hot.”

 

Emma bends down to rest her elbows on her knees and cradle her head in her palms. “It was your idea to come out here.”

 

“Yeah, well, you were depressing me.”

 

She doesn’t say anything back, taking a moment to breathe and stare down at the laces on her shoes. One of them is about to come untied, but she can’t bother to fix it. There’s no point if she plans on never moving from this spot. The sweat that’s trickling down her back is going to keep her glued here anyways.

 

How the hell did she run fifteen miles the other day? What kind of rage-fueled adrenaline was that?

 

“Killian lied to me about his shoulder.”

 

The words come out without her permission. She doesn’t even remember thinking them. Her mind was blank and then all of the sudden they were there, escaping from her tongue and her lips and becoming part of the air that’s surrounding she and Ruby.

 

Emma is still staring at the ground. Her hand has also unconsciously found the chain around her neck, the one with Killian’s mom ring that he gave her as a good luck charm. She hasn’t been able to take it off. She wanted to, wanted to take away that reminder of him, but she couldn’t do it.

 

Killian wanted her to have one of his most prized possessions, and as mad as she is at him right now, she can’t take it off.  It means too much to her to have been given something like this.

 

“He lied to me,” she continues, taking a deep breath, though she’s not sure if it’s from the exercise or the emotions running a race in her mind and wearing down her nerves. “And I get it. He was scared. He – ”

 

“He didn’t want you to think less of him for being broken.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“Mary Margaret told me. You know she can’t keep a secret.”

 

Emma chuckles, but it’s a weak one, before lifting her head back up so that all of her blood can return to its rightful place. She was starting to get worried it wouldn’t. All she can really focus on is how cool the metal of the ring is against her stomach.

 

“Unlike you have apparently become, I am not the best with my emotions,” Emma continues. All of the words she’s been holding up are bubbling up to the surface and ready to spill over and run rampant. “I’m pretty shitty with them, but Killian made me feel comfortable, you know? When we’re together, I do pretty okay sharing all of the broken parts of me. He knows a lot of stuff that not even you know, and I thought we were in the kind of relationship where we trusted each other enough to share the brokenness. And trust me, we have a lot of it. We’ve had…we’ve had pretty shitty lives at some points, and I am so mad at him for repeatedly not telling me that he was hurt and for not being smart enough to stop playing and get some help. It’s not that big of an injury, but it could have been. He loves that stupid game, and he’s going to lose it if he keeps doing things like this.”

 

Ruby reaches down and grabs Emma’s hand and wraps her fingers around her palm and squeezes so that Emma has to look up at the sky to stop the tears from finally falling. This is dumb. This is all so dumb, and every bit of it could have been avoided.

 

“I think though,” Emma continues, still blinking away the tears, “past the lying and this gut-wrenching fear that he’s going to lie to me about other things too, I’m mostly hurt that he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me. I love him so much, Rubes. He probably has no idea how much I love him because I barely know how to express it, and I don’t know how to fully trust him if this is going to be a pattern.”

 

Ruby’s sighs, and Emma swears that she feels it in her own bones. Her heartrate has calmed down, something next to normal, and she no longer feels like she’s going to throw up. She was kind of feeling like that for a little while, and the guy sitting in the grass fifteen feet away from them reading a book in peace probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

 

“You’ve got to talk to him.”

 

“I don’t – ”

 

“You don’t want to right now,” Ruby finishes for her, and Emma twists her head to the side to look over at the lake instead of at Ruby. “I know. I got that. You have every right to be pissed off at him. You have every right to kick and scream and feel anger so deep in your belly that it aches when you breathe. It doesn’t matter what he lied to you about. If it hurt you, it hurt you. Case closed.”

 

“I know but – ”

 

“Nope, nope, you’re going to let me finish. I am on a roll, and you’re going to crush my momentum.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“It’s fine.” Ruby squeezes her hand again before letting go. “Killian should not have lied to you. That’s just…I know we all tell little white lies, but this is obviously different. He shouldn’t have lied to you or to anyone. He should have trusted the people who he loves with the things he’s struggling with, but I don’t think this was about him not trusting you. He didn’t tell his family about any of it either.”

 

“They knew about the accident.”

 

“To be fair, Liam was there, and I think there’s no way Elsa couldn’t find out.”

 

“Semantics.”

 

“Very important ones,” Ruby points out. “I don’t – I’m not trying to tell you how to feel. I’m just saying that Killian didn’t do this out of malicious intent. He’s not Walsh, and he’s certainly not Neal. He is not spending his time trying to bring you down because he can’t handle being with a successful woman. I honestly think he’s scared of losing you and of losing the game, and that can make people do things that they wouldn’t usually do. You may not realize it, but I think you have become just as important to Killian as baseball is – if not more so. I know all about that ring you keep messing with and how big of a deal it is. Honey, he wouldn’t have given that to you if he didn’t love you. I’m not saying that fixes everything because it doesn’t. You have to talk to him and let yourself trust him if you think he’s worth trusting.”

 

Ruby echoes the words Killian said to her in Elsa’s office, the words that she repeated to Mary Margaret when she was trying to explain what was going on. They’re right. They’re all right, and she hates it. She doesn’t even know why. She should be thrilled that everyone seems to think that Killian didn’t set out to hurt her.

 

She thinks that too.

 

But Ruby is right in the fact that he did hurt her and right in the fact that she should be allowed to feel how she feels. How could she not with everything that’s happened to her in her life?

 

But she’s not thrilled.

 

And it’s dumb. Really, really dumb. Because she should want to get up from this bench and run to Killian’s apartment. It’s not far, maybe another mile walk, but she has absolutely emotionally exhausted herself to the point that talking about this more would be too much for her.

 

Talking everything out is still new to her, and when the stakes are this high, that pestering feeling that it’s all going to go wrong is continually building. Because what if Killian realizes that she’s more broken than he thinks she is, and it’s all too much to deal with? Their relationship seems so simple on the surface and yet underneath it all…

 

Oh fuck.

 

Emma loves Killian so damn much, more than anything as he would say, but being together has never been simple. It’s always been a series of guesses and choices and an underlying hope that things would work out. She allowed herself to have that hope from the beginning, when she barely knew anything about him and when he’d fucked up with her already, and she should allow herself to have that same faith now that she genuinely knows so much of what makes up the ever-evolving person who is Killian Jones.

 

Tomorrow. She’ll talk to him tomorrow. Her stomach is still in too many knots for her to even think about seeing his face today and seeing the smile that always makes everything inside of her feel like it is floating on cloud nine.

 

Tomorrow. It has to be tomorrow because then she’s got to leave for Boston and Detroit, and she’s not waiting a week.

 

And she almost desperately needs to know how he’s doing. He’s got to be hurting, and she knows that she added to that.

 

“Can we go get those donuts now, Rubes?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

The walk home seems swifter than the walk there, and it’s likely because Emma isn’t weighed down by the heaviness of a lot of things that are on her heart. Or maybe it’s because she does have donuts to look forward to. Today is going to be her last day of self-indulgence where she allows herself to mope and eat like all of the junk food in the world is going to disappear tomorrow. Because tomorrow she’s going to start eating actually balanced meals with things like vitamins and nutrients – most of the time – and she’ll hopefully stop feeling so sorry for herself.

 

That’s a bit of a gamble.

 

Ruby still makes a point of distracting her for the afternoon, obviously sensing that Emma is two seconds away from running away to her room and never emerging again, and while she contemplates that a few times throughout the day, especially when Graham comes home and kisses Ruby hello, she doesn’t.

 

In fact, she’s the last one awake and the only one to stay out in the living room. The only light that’s on comes from the TV, a tennis match still going on late in the night, and maybe it’s the lack of sleep she’s gotten or maybe it’s that feeling that happens when you’re alone at night and your mind starts playing tricks on you, but something gives her the courage to pull out her phone and text the person she’s been thinking about all day.

 

Emma: How’s your arm?

 

The bubble pops up immediately.

 

Killian: It hurts, mostly in the mornings, but not too bad. Lots of Ibuprofen and ice.

 

Emma: That’s good.

 

Emma: Not that it hurts. That it’s not too bad.

 

Killian: Yeah, I’m glad it’s not as bad as it has been.

 

Her heart may actually break a bit more at the thought of him being hurt all of this time. She’s been so mad at him, so frustrated with him for not sharing it with her, and she’s barely had any time to think about all of the pain that he’s been going through. Shitty move on her part.

 

It’s one thing to get injured and still be able to go about your daily life. It’s another when your livelihood depends on your body.

 

Killian: You should still use the tickets tomorrow. Take Ruby or David. I can get you an upgrade to sit closer since I’m not going with you now.

 

I don’t want to use them with anyone but you, she types, a little pathetically.

 

She doesn’t actually send that message. She can’t muster up the courage no matter how much truth is in the statement. Wine or whiskey or, hell, tequila are really tempting at this point to make herself feel a little less – upset, conflicted, hopeful even. But drowning sorrows in alcohol is no way to solve a problem, even if she’s done it before. It’ll only make her feel worse.

 

Emma: Can we talk tomorrow?

 

That text is riskier, means more, and is far scarier, and yet it’s the one she sends.

 

Killian: I’d like that.

 

Emma: Me too.

Chapter Text

There are technically eight different types of cookies, and it all depends on how exactly they’re baked or, well, not baked. This isn’t something Killian knew until about two o’clock this morning when he was googling cookie recipes desperate to find something other than chocolate chip cookies to bake. But then he got sucked into a wormhole of research and discovering the difference between rolled cookies, bar cookies, and dropped cookies.

 

Seriously. There is an entire website on the history of cookies. He looked at it for an hour. It’s kind of insane.

 

It’s also not really important to him, but weird things happen in the middle of the night, especially since he hasn’t been sleeping well the past few days and his mind needed to focus on something concrete.

 

That’s also how he ended up wandering to the nearest twenty-four-hour market at three in the morning to buy ingredients for black and white cookies, buckeyes, and sugar cookies. He doesn’t even know how or why he picked those three. All Killian knows is that he’s been stress baking for days now, something that’s a bit hard to do when he’s trying to take it easy on his right arm, and he’s pretty much wiped out all of his cabinets of the good ingredients.

 

His refrigerator, however, looks like a bakery threw up inside of it. He really needs to take some of the things to Liam and Elsa, but when he went to their house yesterday, all Addy and Lucy wanted to talk about was his arm and Emma and even though it was completely innocent, it was too much for him. He can’t quite go back to give them cookies if all they’re going to talk about is Emma.

 

Every bit of this is his fault. He owns up to that. But it’s still too much.

 

The fact that Ariel, Eric, Will, and Robin are all pissed beyond belief at him doesn’t help. He’s sure that for the four of them things will go back to normal soon. He doesn’t know for sure, but he thinks they will. He’ll never be able to clutch his shoulder again without having someone yelling at him to go see a doctor, but that’s likely for the best.

 

(Killian should have gone to a fucking doctor.)

 

They all deserve the multitude of sweets in his fridge. He’d take them to each of their apartments now, but they’re all still too pissed that he lied to them over and over again. Plus, they’re leaving for Boston tomorrow morning and likely busy even though today is their last day off from the small break that they got after Labor Day.

 

He’s not leaving for Boston. He’s staying right here sitting on his ass surrounded by cookies.

 

Emma’s going to Boston. At least, he thinks that she is. She should be. He’ll have to ask her when she comes over.

 

When she comes over.

 

Emma is coming over today. In about fifteen minutes actually, and that’s entirely why he’s been stress baking (more than usual) throughout the entire night. Killian doesn’t even know how he looks right now. There are probably some major bags under his eyes and his hair is all over the place, and he wouldn’t be surprised if he had flour or icing or even both smeared all over him.

 

Shit. He hasn’t shaved in four days.

 

For some reason, it’s that that thought that has Killian dropping his piping bag he was using to frost the sugar cookies to turn the corner in his apartment and run down the hallway to get to his bedroom so he can shower. In the past few days, in all of his moping and self-inflicted misery, he managed to pick up all of Emma’s clothes and hung them in the closet. That might be a little too hopeful thinking, but it seemed like the natural thing to do.

 

The sticky notes, though, have stayed exactly where they are, and he looks at them before quickly twisting the nobs on his shower and stepping inside the moment the water gets to an acceptable temperature. He doesn’t have much time, so Killian picks up his body wash, leaving Emma’s where it is, and scrubs over his body while doing some light stretches with his shoulder. He needs to put another ice pack on there.

 

That’ll have to come after this.

 

Six minutes later, Killian is out of the shower. Two minutes after that, he’s dressed in a pair of his gym shorts and a t-shirt, one from a charity game he played last year, and after looking in the mirror, he knows that he doesn’t have time to shave, not if he wants to brush his teeth again.

 

He should probably brush his teeth for…reasons.

 

That’s optimistic.

 

Killian can’t help it. For four days he has felt his entire world crumbling around him, and it’s been his fault. He’s known that it was. There was no denying it even when he most wanted to, and he’s wanted to a hell of a lot.

 

Missing the rest of the season, possibly having to miss parts of the play-offs which could mean that he could miss the World Series, is obviously crushing. There’s no denying that. The game has been his life for nearly twenty-three years, and he doesn’t want to keep screwing things up. His track record might not show that, but it’s true. He’s going to try to be better. He’ll go to all of his therapy, tell those who need to know when he’s hurting, and he’s not going to overdo it. He’s not.

 

But as much as all of the stuff with his job is killing him, not having Emma to talk to is worse.

 

The game was his life for so long, and while he doesn’t want to say that Emma is his entire life now, she’s up there in the most important category.

 

Probably topping the list.

 

Everything about his life has her mark on it. From the clothes in his closet and the bottles in his shower to the coffee creamer in his fridge and the throw blanket that she left on his couch. There are all of these physical signs that show how she’s changed things, but he knows that a hell of a lot of how Emma has impacted his life comes in the way that he’s more conscious about spending times with his loved ones or the fact that his demons don’t seem to find him as much in the dark of the night. The smile that was missing for so many years has found its place again.

 

Emma didn’t fix his flaws. They’re all still there. But she has inadvertently helped him to be a better person.

 

Even if he is still screwing up and will continue to.

 

Killian loves Emma, and there is no denying that. None at all. He’d never try to.

 

“Why does it smell like Little Debbie threw up in here?”

 

Killian’s head turns at the sound of Emma’s voice, and even though it causes the slightest sting to his shoulder, he doesn’t care. Because she’s real and standing in front of him wearing running shorts and a tank top, her hair tucked into a Yankees cap so that he can’t really see the green of her eyes. But he can see the timid, hesitant smile, and he never wants her to be hesitant to see him again.

 

“How did you – ”

 

She holds up a key. “I have a key. Figured it was still okay for me to use it.”

 

“Yeah, love.” Killian smiles and grabs a clean hand towel to dry off his hair so he’s not soaking wet. “That’s perfectly fine.”

 

“Good. So why does it smell like Little Debbie threw up in here?”

 

“Stress baking. Do you want a cookie? Or brownies? I have a large parfait. There’s also a cake that was meant for…the other day, but it’s a damn mess.”

 

Emma lets out a small laugh and shakes her head while her hand reaches for the chain around her neck, her fingers fumbling with it. His breath hitches at the sight. Over the past few days, his hand has instinctively clutched for it, reaching out and trying to find something to hold onto, and every time he comes up empty. He gave that to Emma because he wanted her to have it, and nothing about that has changed.

 

His mom would want her to have it. She’d love Emma. Killian doesn’t remember that much about her, but he knows that she would love Emma. They have that same kind spirit and an infectious laugh that makes everyone else in the room want to laugh along.

 

Bloody breathtaking.

 

And hopefully the ring brought her luck and comfort when she got to commentate the other day, and hopefully she knew that he was cheering her on the entire time. He still hasn’t heard how that went. He almost watched the replay of the game so that he could see for himself, but it felt wrong to do that without Emma and to know that most of the tape would be focused on his injury anyways.

 

That’s not how it should be.

 

And maybe a part of him couldn’t handle hearing her voice as she had to speak after seeing him leave the mound.

 

“I might want a cookie later,” Emma says, shrugging her shoulder. “I feel like if I start eating now, I’ll consume everything like I’m a vacuum.”

 

“Isn’t that how you usually eat?”

 

She’s closer now, so he can see her roll her eyes. “I’m still mad at you, so I’d watch what you say.”

 

That sobers Killian up, the playful smile tugging at his lips disappearing into a firm line, and he nods his head while his left hand reaches up to scratch behind his head. “Aye. Do you want to go talk in the living room?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Emma turns on her heel and walks out of his bedroom, and he’s following right behind her. As much as his stomach is absolutely churning right now, Killian knows that the sooner they have this talk, the better. Unless, of course, it ends with Emma ending things between them. That’s not for the better. If it’s what she wants, it’s what she wants, but he can’t believe that it’s for the better even if he is an idiot who likes to mess things up.

 

Emma grabs her throw blanket from the basket and sits down in his oversized armchair, settling herself in like she’s comfortable here, and he likes that she’s still comfortable here. That comforts him. Killian doesn’t grab a blanket, but he does sit down on the couch and pull a pillow to his chest so that he has something for his hands to do.

 

Is his heart still working? He’s not sure.

 

“How’s your arm?” Emma starts. This is probably the conversation she feels most comfortable with, and he doesn’t blame her.

 

“It’s okay. I need to ice it soon, but I’ll be fine. Just a lot of resting it, which is harder than I thought it would be.”

 

“Do you want to ice it now?”

 

“No, no, Swan. It’s fine. I promise. I know – I’m sorry that I lied to you.” They aren’t the words Killian meant to say quite yet, but he does mean them. “I truly am. I can’t express how much of an idiot that I am. I hid away something really damn important from everyone when I should have shared it the first time my arm started hurting. I should have gone through the steps of preventing this. I should have told you what really happened with my accident. I should have told you everything that I didn’t tell you, and I can’t imagine how shitty it makes you feel that I didn’t.”

 

Emma scoffs. “Pretty shitty.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I just – ” She lets out a big sigh and adjusts the blanket over her legs again. “You don’t have to keep apologizing. I know you’re sorry, and I believe you when you say that. I’m sorry that you’ve been going through all of this alone and that you haven’t felt like you could tell someone, but it did…it does hurt me that you couldn’t tell me. People have always let me down, and – ”

 

“I never intended to let you down.”

 

Emma smiles, something soft and a little sad, and he swears that it breaks his heart the slightest bit. “I know that. It took running far too much, eating my weight in food, and then having Ruby talk some sense into me, but I know. And it’s why I’m going to choose to see the best in you.”

 

Good.

 

Good.

 

This is going a hell of a lot better than he thought it would, but he’s still terrified that maybe he doesn’t deserve this forgiveness from her.

 

“And I you.”

 

“I mean, there wasn’t a lot of bad to see about me.”

 

Killian laughs, for what is probably the first time in days, and something inside of him rights itself so that the pieces of the puzzle continue to click into place instead of being all mixed together.

 

“Well, not in this particular situation, no.”

 

Emma’s smile is a little more hopeful now, and he watches it change as she tugs on the brim of her baseball cap. “Why didn’t you tell anyone, Killian? Be honest with me. If we’re going to continue to make this work, and I really do want to make this work, you have to be honest with me. I’m done with guys who aren’t honest.”

 

He knew this question was coming, has had to answer it before, but no answer seems like it’s enough. They all fall short, and he knows that’s because he fell short in who everyone was expecting him to be. In who he was expecting himself to be too.

 

“I was scared. That sounds like such a pathetic excuse, but it’s my truth. I have been through a hell of a lot of ups and downs in the past nine years, and I had finally gotten out of the downs when the accident happened. I worked so damn hard, love. I – ” He stops to take a breath, still at a loss for words since it all sounds ridiculous and yet makes perfect sense in his mind. “I finally had my life back on track. Things were going really well for me, and I was pissed that it was all taken away from me because some kids were drunk and driving a boat. I didn’t think I’d ever get the game back, but I did, you know? I was on top of the world, so when my arm started to hurt again, despite all of my better judgment, I figured if I never said anything, I’d never have it all taken away from me. And not telling you about any of it…I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want you to think of me as being any more broken than I already am.”

 

That’s it. That’s his truth. There’s no altering it or making it better or making him seem like less of an idiot. That’s simply it.

 

Emma said she’d see the best in him. He hopes that’s true.

 

For a moment he thinks it’s not because Emma is rising from her chair, and he fully expects her to walk out the door despite everything they’ve already said today and when they talked in Elsa’s office. But she doesn’t leave. Instead, she walks toward him and very slowly places her knees on either side of his thighs and leans down to sit on his lap so that they’re nearly eye level when the palms of her hands land on his cheeks and he can finally see the green of her eyes again underneath her baseball cap.

 

He’s now realizing the cap is his.

 

And it feels really damn good to feel the touch of Emma’s hands again. That’s also what has him wrapping his arms around her lower back and tugging her closer while Emma continues to rub her thumbs under his eyes in soothing circles.

 

“Killian, I am obviously not the most emotionally equip person in the world and am not the best with words, but you have to know that you and me, we both have shitty pasts. We both have things that we’re terrified of and sensitive to, and I think that’s why we work. You understand that I’m not going to leap head first into things, and I understand that you have this weird sense of self-loathing that you shouldn’t have. You were terrified of losing something you love. I would be too.”

 

“You were pretty damn good with words there.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things.”

 

“I like you thinking.”

 

“Funny, most men don’t.”

 

Killian chuckles and leans forward to rest his head against Emma’s shoulder, and he takes the moment to breathe her in and breathe in the smell of her perfume. The pillow next to his has smelled like hers for the past few days, but it’s nothing compared to the real thing.

 

“I’m not going to lie to you again,” he mumbles into her skin while her hands start messing with his hair so that vibrations are running down his spine. “Or my family. Or my teammates. I promise I’ll be smarter, yeah?”

 

He tilts his head up to look at Emma, and he’s about to say something else when she leans forward and presses her mouth to his. He’s kissed her hundreds of times, probably more than that – he’s not counting – but there’s something different about the way that her mouth moves over his now. It’s slower, more passionate even if he knows it isn’t leading to something more than this, and the raw emotion of it all travels from his lips to the pit of his stomach before moving back up to his heart and constricting it.

 

But in the best way.

 

Killian has missed her.

 

He has missed the sound of her laugh and the way that she hogs the entire couch. He has missed the way she tastes and the fact that she never seems to put her dishes away on time. He has missed the notebooks she leaves around with all of her mid-game scribbling and the way that she can’t seem to make up her mind on what she wants to eat for dinner. Barely any time has passed, but not knowing exactly what’s coming next even more than usual has put a hell of a lot of things in perspective for him.

 

His love for Emma is one of the most important things in his life, and he doesn’t want to ever jeopardize it again by not being able to own up to his past and how it still has a stranglehold on his present.

 

Killian gently pecks her lips one, two, three times before trailing along the side of her neck and peppering kisses against her skin, never moving his hands from where they’re holding her to him.

 

“I love you so much,” he murmurs, the desperation obvious in his own ears. “You have no idea.”

 

“I think I might have a bit of an idea,” Emma laughs as he leans back to look at her again, the brightest smile he’s seen all day stretched across her lips. “I love you too, by the way. But I still hope everyone you know gives you shit about this whole thing until we all know for sure that you’re not going to keep hiding things as important as your health.”

 

“I would expect nothing less,” he sighs. “Now, I don’t know about you, Swan, but my girlfriend had a very big day at work the other day, and I still haven’t heard about it.”

 

“Oh, we don’t have to talk about it.”

 

“No, no. I want to hear every detail. I almost watched the tape, but I figured that’d be a little miserable hearing your voice while watching myself be an idiot on the field.”

 

“Yeah, that would probably suck.”

 

“Exactly. So, tell me all about it. I’m all ears.” Emma opens her mouth, but he stops her. “Aye, I know – little pointy ones.”

 

Emma does tell him all about it. For a few minutes, she’s kind of fumbling around trying to find her storytelling stride, but then she settles in and knows exactly where she’s going with her tale. She’s not one to talk a lot, even when it comes to him, but when it’s something that Emma is passionate about, she could talk for hours without taking a breath.

 

Emma is passionate about this.

 

He can tell in the way the smile on her face rarely dissipates and with how she keeps using her hands far more often than she normally was. Plus, her voice gets that little bit higher in pitch, and he has to bite his tongue not to tease her about it. He also has to bite his tongue when she starts detailing all of the petty little ways that Isaac and James tried to demean her instead of acting like professionals. Emma promises that it wasn’t too bad, but Killian can tell that their little digs bothered her, especially the ones about her integrity and him.

 

Killian shudders at the thought of their relationship becoming public because of the hell hole that it’ll put Emma into no matter how respected she is in her field by those who actually know what they’re talking about.

 

A part of that will always be on him and his actions of ten months ago, but he’s under strict instructions not to apologize for that again. And right now isn’t about him and his own self-loathing. He’s already taken away days of both of their lives for that, and he’s not going to do that any longer.

 

Right here, right now…this is about Emma finally getting to do something she’s dreamed about.

 

He does get up in the middle of her going on about what it was like after his injury – which sounds more than horrific for her – to get his ice pack, and that causes them to trail off onto all of the exact details of his tendonitis and his treatment. He promises Emma that it’s truly not that bad, but that his case is a little bit more intense with his history and the particular severity of it all. That’s when she asks him when exactly it hurts, and the pain on her face when he tells her he can feel it pretty much any time he moves his right arm more than a few inches is not a pained face he wants to keep on seeing from her.

 

But it only gets worse when Killian details that sometimes it’s so bad that it wakes him up from sleep, and Emma starts to piece together all of the times she’s woken up in the middle of the night to find him out of bed at odd hours.

 

Bloody idiot. That’s exactly what he is.

 

It’ll get better though, with rest and physical therapy and a little bit of luck, and as much as it sucks, it could be worse. This could all be worse. He’s not going to let it, though, as he’s not going to be dumb enough to not get treatment and to keep pushing himself further than his physical limits.

 

And as much as Killian would like to be able to hover over Emma and roll his hips into hers and join their bodies together after what feels like forever apart even if it’s only a few days, he knows that he’s not quite physically able to today. Emma, though, the spirited lass that she is, lets a smirk curl across her lips as she directs him back to his bedroom and tells him to lie on his back as she takes the lead so that he doesn’t have to move his shoulder too much.

 

Creative solutions have always been the best solutions.

 

It’s glorious being joined with Emma again, feeling her warmly wrapped around him as she moves above him in slow circles that have him dying in the haze of ecstasy. His mom’s ring falls between her breasts with each movement, and his good arm reaches up to toy with it. She’s going particularly slow, each roll of her hips seemingly meaning something deeper, and as good as it feels, a part of him thinks it’s some kind of torture since she knows he can’t do most of the things he’s usually capable of doing.

 

The sly smile on her face when he tries to thrust up into her and go deeper inside of her tells him that he’s right.

 

The minx.

 

And if slow and steady is what Emma wants, it’s exactly what she’ll get. She’s always been one to take charge.

 

The heat simmering between them must eventually begin to burn, however, because the rolls of her hips become faster and she places his hand where they’re joined so that he can help her find her bliss in the few minutes before he finds his, little shocks of electricity working down to the base of his spine as he comes undone with Emma’s name on his lips and his love for her curling around each and every other word that he manages to mutter.

 

Almost losing her, even if he didn’t think this would truly tear them apart despite the way his mind kept convincing him that it would, has made him appreciate Emma in ways that he hadn’t before.

 

He thought he appreciated her in every way, but there are always things to learn.

 

“I have so many damn cookies,” Killian laughs later, after they’ve cleaned up and crawled back under the covers, a new pack of ice on his shoulder and his body pleasurably aching. “I have no idea what I’m going to do with them.”

 

Emma laughs against his chest where she’s curled up, her hand over his heart and her feet tucked in between his calves so that they’re back where they belong. “I would say I could take them with me on the road trip, but then I’d have to check a bag to get them with me through TSA. Or maybe not. I’m always confused on the food thing.”

 

Oh.

 

He’d nearly forgotten that life was moving on outside of his bedroom and this bed and the freckles scattered over Emma’s skin. The only clothing she has on is the necklace, and he’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible.

 

“So, you are going to Boston then?”

 

Emma hums. “And then Detroit after that. I have off for the Blue Jays, though, so I’ll be coming back home instead of going to Canada.”

 

His hand scratches against her back, drawing lines and words and anything that he can simply to feel her again. “I hate that I’m not going to be traveling with you.”

 

“It’s going to be kind of weird,” she whispers before pressing a kiss to his shoulder. “I’m going to have a hotel bed to myself.”

 

“To be fair, you pretty much always have the bed to yourself even when I am around.”

 

“You have been forgiven for about two hours now, and you’re already talking shit about my bed hogging. That’s a bold move there, Jones.’

 

“Oh, I know,” he yawns, his lack of sleep catching up to him even if it’s only six in the evening, “but I’ve slept alone for a few days now, and let me tell you, it’s glorious.”

 

Emma scoffs against his chest before sitting up so that she’s looking down at him under her mess of wild blonde hair that’s curling over her chest. “You’re being an ass.”

 

“Well, we have undoubtedly decided that I am an ass, right?”

 

“Pretty much.”

 

Emma’s arms stretch over her head, the muscles of her stomach on display, before she’s rolling off of the bed and standing up so that he has a particular good view of her ass that has his body humming. But then she’s walking to his dresser and pulling out a t-shirt to put on. She obviously pulled it from the back because it’s an older one he hasn’t seen in years, and he imagines he’ll probably never see it again with Emma’s penchant for stealing his things.

 

“You going somewhere, love?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighs as the t-shirt lifts from her thighs when she’s pulling her hair back up into a messy bun on the top of her head. “You have a bowl of icing in your kitchen, and the TV in the living room is better than the TV in here. If we’re not going to the US Open because I don’t want to leave this apartment until I absolutely have to, I’m going to watch it here.”

 

“Do you want me to join you?”

 

“Eh,” she teases, shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t really care. Apparently, I am a bed hog, so I’m leaving you here to have the entire bed by yourself while I go lounge about on the couch eating the sweets you made while you were mooning over me.”

 

“You’re impossible.”

 

Emma winks. “And you love me for it.”

Chapter Text

"Isn’t that your second hot dog of the day?”

 

Emma stops in the middle of her bite of what is frankly one of the most delicious hot dogs she’s ever eaten – apologies to all of the vendors at Yankee Stadium because Fenway Park might have them all beat today – to look over at Robin and roll her eyes. At least it wasn’t Will who said it. He hates hot dogs, and while that’s probably good for the health of his heart, she is fully enjoying the fact that she’s devouring this thing even if it does mean that she’ll end up on the Jumbotron at some point.

 

That sick joke is never going to end. Being shown eating ballpark food is going to be her legacy. Maybe one day she’ll write a book about it.

 

It’ll be a horrible book, and the synopsis will probably read something about her being the woman who was asked out live on television by a baseball player and said no so that people will recognize her.

 

But with very good food mentioned.

 

A segment on TV where she tries out all of the stadium food would probably be better.

 

“And what of it?” she mumbles to Robin, covering her mouth with her hand as she chews. “I’m hungry because I didn’t eat breakfast, and this game is going on forever. I want to go back to the hotel and sleep, and you guys are keeping me from it.”

 

“I’ll try to play faster for you, lass.”

 

“That’s all I ask. Throw your strikes in quicker succession. Allow a few less hits.”

 

Silence settles back between the two of them as they watch Will hit his third foul in a row. She should probably be writing that down or doing something with it, but honestly, Emma’s only really hiding out in the dugout because there’s shade and close access to air-conditioning. She already did all of her pre-game coverage and can pretty much chill to the end despite the fact that this the final Red Sox series of the season. A part of her wishes that she was up in a booth commentating, but she knows that she’s not going to get to do that too often. She’s mostly going to be the on-field girl for the rest of this season.

 

There’s always next year, though. David said it went over really well, especially considering what happened with Killian during the game, and all Emma can do is take a deep breath and let things play out. She can’t control any of it.

 

Easier said than done.

 

“Did he really not tell you?” Robin asks. She nearly chokes on her food. Maybe she shouldn’t be eating this. “Killian, I mean.”

 

Emma quickly glances around and sees that no one is paying attention, nearly everyone leaning up over the railing to watch the game, but it doesn’t keep her from leaning back into the bench and making herself smaller so that she’s as far away from everyone as possible.

 

“He really didn’t tell me,” she whispers, her fingers fumbling with the chain around her neck. “About any of it.”

 

“Huh.”

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

Robin is shaking the conversation off, but she’s curious. “What? You have to tell me now.”

 

He sighs, and Emma kind of gets the feeling that Robin sees Killian more like a younger brother than a friend sometimes. He and Liam should really make a club or something. They’d probably stress themselves out too much. She knows that she does, and she’s only been worrying about Killian’s overall well-being for five months. They’ve been worrying about it for decades.

 

“It really is nothing. I just – I’ve been around Killian for a long time. I was there when he cut his dad off, when he and Milah broke up, when all of the women happened after her. And I have so many vivid memories of taking Roland over to Killian’s apartment after the accident just so we could cheer him up, you know? Killian was there for me after my wife passed, and I always wanted to be there for him. So, I guess, it’s simply a bit difficult for me to understand how he couldn’t tell any of us this.”

 

Oh.

 

Oh shit.

 

In all of her own hurt, Emma never actually seriously thought about Robin or Will or Ariel and how this was affecting all of them. She knew that it was, but she was so caught up in her own mind that thinking about this giant support system that Killian has wasn’t really her biggest priority.

 

Her biggest priority was that bag of salt and vinegar chips.

 

“I think he was scared.” Emma shrugs her shoulders, trying to play off the little bit of lingering hurt that she still has. “I think that it doesn’t matter how much he trusts all of us because his fear was taking over him. He’s always so worried about being a disappointment, and he probably couldn’t bear to disappoint you again.”

 

A loud cheer erupts around the stadium, and Emma looks at the monitor inside the dugout to see Will’s ball being caught in the outfield just as he runs over first base. Damn. Five more feet, and he could have scored.

 

“How is he?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Killian,” Robin continues. “How is he? Actually?”

 

“I think,” Emma sighs, stretching out her legs, “that he’d feel a lot better if he got a call from you instead of the two of us talking about him when there’s baseball to be played.”

 

“Oi,” Will mutters as he walks down the steps to the dugout, everyone slapping his shoulders and his ass, “I hate Boston.”

 

“You’re from here, Scarlet.”

 

“Yeah, well, playing here makes me feel like the damn Joker.”

 

“To be fair,” Emma sighs as she gets up from the bench so that she can stand to watch the game, “the Joker is one of the best characters, and you do have that creepy smile going on.”

 

“And for that, I’m telling Belle to not serve you dessert at our wedding.”

 

“You can’t take dessert privileges away from me.”

 

“I’m the groom.”

 

“Yeah, but I’m friends with the bride, and that’s all that matters.”

 

“Scarlet,” Al yells over at them, “stop trying to get Ms. Swan to give you a better exclusive and figure out how to hit a better ball.”

 

“Geesh,” Will moans, dropping his helmet to the ground and wiping off the sweat from his buzzed hair, “I guess his date didn’t go well yesterday.”

 

Emma’s head quickly snaps around, and she steps down from her position next to Eric to walk back over to Will and Robin before whispering, “Al had a date last night?”

 

Will’s brow arches. “You didn’t know?”

 

“How the hell would I know that Al had a date?”

 

“Because it was with a teacher from your sister-in-law’s school. His nephew apparently goes there, and they met at some event. Jasmine something.”

 

A lightbulb goes off in Emma’s head, a slight memory of meeting a Jasmine at David’s birthday party back in March. What a small world. She’s going to have to text Mary Margaret after this because there is no way Mary Margaret didn’t know about that.

 

“Huh,” Emma breathes out, crossing her arms over her chest and looking down at Al as he paces back and forth looking down at his phone. “Well, maybe it did go well, and he’s just in a bad mood because you guys are getting your asses beat.”

 

“Go back to your reporting,” Will mutters under his breath. Robin barks out a laugh at that, and even though it’s really weird not having Killian here, a little bit of the world rights itself then having the two of them teasing her like they seem to like to do.

 

Even if they do lose 1- 6.

 

It doesn’t matter. They’re 92-50 for the season with only a handful of games left. They’ll probably officially qualify for the play-offs next week even if everyone has known for a while now. Everything from here on out is basically a bonus.

 

A really damn good bonus.

 


 

They end up winning the next three games in the Red Sox series in what turns out to be some pretty boring games that have Emma struggling to come up with any more interesting questions to ask everyone. It’s easy to talk to the guys that she’s close to because of Killian, but sometimes it’s a struggle to talk to the others without feeling like she’s simply being repetitive. But August and Phillip smile and charm their way through their interviews, as they always do, and the three minutes that she spends talking to Arthur after he hits a grand slam are pretty much three of the most torturous minutes of her life.

 

There have been no more incidents with him, at least that she knows of, but a shiver still runs down her spine when she thinks of the words he said about her back in London.

 

Things like that change the way a person feels in their workspace, and even though she’s done a pretty damn good job at pushing the niggling fears down, sometimes they do come back to haunt her and make her worry about what other kind of disaster is lurking around the corner and waiting for her to get comfortable before it attacks.

 

But despite missing having Killian to travel with even if the hotel beds are surprisingly very comfortable with just her in it, Emma would definitely count Boston as a success.

 

 

After all, their hot dogs were really good.

 


 

David: MM and I are going to Mom’s this weekend, and I know that you have the weekend off. Why don’t you come with us and ask Killian to join?

 

Emma’s phone dinged with that text five hours ago, before the game against the Tigers even started, and while it initially made her heart beat a little quicker than usual, she forgot about it as she got engrossed in work and trying to help Jeff with the camera issues they were having. It was pretty much a disaster, one that took about five years off of her life, and she ended up having to work next to one of the network’s cameras that films the game for the few times they went to her.

 

Jeff simply muttered a few curses under his breath and then said he was glad for the day off.

 

But the game is over now, the Tigers winning by one run in the bottom of the ninth, and even though the game didn’t really matter, it still stings a bit. Now she’s staring at this text, and even though she and Killian have talked about going to Portland so he can meet Ruth, it was supposed to be when the season was over. It wasn’t supposed to be this soon.

 

She wants to go, and she wants to take Killian. But the nerves over the whole thing are definitely still there. She’s no longer mad at Killian or worried about making future-type plans (okay, well, overly worried), but having him meet Ruth in three days is a bit overwhelming.

 

What if she doesn’t like him?

 

That’s a ridiculous thought. Emma knows that it is. But the demons in her mind stay active even if their presence is a little less obvious than it used to be.

 

Life is weird. Seriously.

 

And she should really bite the bullet and text David back that she’ll talk to Killian about it.

 

Everything will be just fine, and a weekend away full of home cooked meals and a place with a backyard sounds really damn nice even if her bed at home will have to wait for her return a little longer.

 

Emma: I’ll call Killian and ask him if he’s free this weekend.

 

David: You’ve been away for a week, and those are the days you’re coming home. He’ll be free.

 

Emma: How could you possibly know that?

 

David: Because I am a man who knows what it’s like to be away from the woman I love for a few days.

 

Emma: Ew, gross. Don’t go there.

 

David: How do you know I was going somewhere gross?

 

Emma: I had a feeling.

 

Emma closes out her messages and swipes over on her phone so that she can call Killian, pressing the option to FaceTime him since she’s apparently sappily in love and sentimental and wants to see that handsome face of his.

 

It’s a very handsome face. Seriously. She’s very happy with her life choices right now.

 

Killian answers the call, and when he comes into view, she can see that handsome face as well as the faces of approximately thirty stuffed animals surrounding him in what can only be described as a weird pop music video.

 

“Hello, my love,” Killian greets with an absolutely gigantic smile that has the lines around his eyes crinkling. Her heart is definitely doing that thing where it stutters whenever he calls her by that particular endearment.

 

“Hey.” Emma smiles into the phone and ignores how lopsided her bun looks in her little picture in the corner. “Who are all of your friends?”

 

“Ah, well, they all have names, but I’m remiss to say that I can’t actually remember them all right now. But I’ve been sequestered into Addy and Lucy’s playroom.”

 

“And where are they?”

 

“Elsa just came and got them for dinner. I meant to go join them, but then you called.”

 

“That seems like a pretty flimsy excuse. I think you just wanted to hang out with all of the stuffed animals.”

 

“You’ve bested me there, Swan.” He smiles again, and instead of her heart doing that stuttering thing, it aches a little bit. That’s ridiculous. She shouldn’t actually miss him like that. It’s only been a few days even if it feels so much longer since they barely got anytime to be back together before she was hopping on a plane to Boston. “What are you up to tonight?”

 

Emma shrugs her shoulders. “You’re looking at it. I think I might do a face mask because my skin feels gross. I also might paint my nails. Real exciting stuff over here.”

 

“I might help with Addy’s spelling homework, so it’s even more exciting over here.”

 

She laughs and shakes her head a bit before getting up from the bed and taking her phone with her to the bathroom. She might as well wash her face while she’s thinking about it instead of inevitably forgetting whenever it’s time to go to bed. Emma props her phone up against the vanity so that Killian has a particularly nice view of the underside of her chin and starts her routine by wiping of the makeup from today. Most of it has already sweated itself off, but the remaining is all of the product that likes to be stubborn about coming off. Killian tells her about his day, which pretty much consisted of physical therapy and picking the girls up from school before taking them to Liam and Elsa’s townhome and being smothered in stuffed animals.

 

As awful as it is for Killian to have to sit on the sidelines, he looks so damn happy just to be able to spend more time with his family. She knows that he sees them a lot, much more than most people do, but he’s always got some place to go or somewhere to be during this time of the year that the visits usually aren’t long. And Emma swears that he gets a few months of his life back every time Killian gets to spend time with Addy or Lucy.

 

It’s like magic.

 

That’s kind of how she feels when she gets to spend time with her family too.

 

Emma opens up the jar of her face mask and dips her finger insider before spreading the green clay over her chin.

 

“I didn’t know my girlfriend was secretly Shrek.”

 

Emma rolls her eyes. “I am not dignifying that with a response.”

 

“You look positively charming, love. I think the green is a very good color on you. Brings out your eyes.”

 

Emma scoffs and ignores the waggle of Killian’s eyebrows while she rubs the mask in the space between her own brows. “So, if you stop being an asshole for a second, I have something I wanted to ask you.”

 

“Is it how I stay devilishly handsome all the time?”

 

“No, I was saving that for our next conversation.”

 

“Ah, ah, gotcha,” he sighs, shifting against the stuffed animals until he’s sitting up and the hair that had been pushed behind him is falling in front of his face. “Go on then, Swan.”

 

Emma brings her bottom lip between her teeth before releasing it with a pop. “How do you feel about going to Portland this weekend with David, Mary Margaret, and Leo?”

 

“Are you not coming?”

 

“I was implied in that list.”

 

“Well, I don’t know, love. If it was just Dave, Mary Margaret, and Leo, I would of course go to spend some time with Ruth. Now that I know that you’re going to be there – ”

 

“Shut up. You’re lucky that you’re hundreds of miles away. I can’t slap you from all the way over here.”

 

“Kinky.”

 

Killian barks out a laugh at his own joke, his head thrown back with the joy of it all, and all Emma can do is shake her head at him. He’s in rare form tonight with his jokes and teasing and that ever-present smile on his face.

 

Well, no. He’s not in rare form. This is how he always is, but it’s been awhile since she’s seen him be carefree enough to actually feel this good.

 

It’s a beautiful sight.

 

“I will make it worth your while if you come.”

 

The downright dirty smirk that graces Killian’s face after she utters those words makes a shiver run down her spine and regret settle in her stomach for all of the things she just set him up for.

 

“Worth my while, then?” Killian prods, raising that brow a little further. “What does that entail, exactly? Are you going to come home early and immediately fall into bed to me? Or do you have a nice set of lingerie in that suitcase of yours that we’re about to put into good use despite the fact that you have a green face right now?” Killian gasps, something overdramatic and self-indulgent, and Emma can barely keep herself from laughing even if the tone of his voice is something close to sinful. “Are you going to seduce me in your childhood bedroom, Swan? Is that it? Is that what will make it worth my while?”

 

“I mean, I was kind of thinking we’d book a flight so we don’t have to spend seven hours cramped in a car together with the Nolans. They play very intense road trip games. Singing is involved.”

 

His face only falls a little bit. “Damn, okay. Yeah, I’m all for flying there, but I could also drive us. It wouldn’t be a big deal.”

 

“I’m pretty sure elevating your shoulder for that long is not what you’re supposed to be doing.”

 

“You make a good point.”

 

“I tend to.” There’s a knock at Emma’s hotel room door, and she tenses for a second before taking a step to the side and pressing up on her toes to look out the keyhole to find Ariel standing there in a pair of white pajamas with little red bows on them. Emma opens the door, forgetting about her face and Killian for a second. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

 

“A few of us are going to eat pizza in mine and Eric’s room, and I was trying to invite you but I couldn’t get you to answer your phone.”

 

“Oh,” Emma sighs, looking back into the bathroom to the direction of her phone. “Sorry about that. I was talking to Killian, and I – ”

 

Ariel’s shoulders perk up, and she steps inside the room without asking, which Emma has learned is pretty par for the course when it comes to Ariel. Emma closes the door behind her and walks into the bathroom to grab her phone, where Killian is still waiting in the screen, and she hands the phone over to Ariel because she knows that’s what she wanted anyways.

 

Plus, her face mask is starting to crack, and she’s got to get this gunk off of her. The water drowns out the sound of the conversation happening in the bedroom, but as soon as she turns it off, she can hear Killian talking.

 

“No, A,” Killian sighs, “I am not overexerting myself. Yes, I have talked to Rob this week. No, I didn’t watch last night’s game. You know you can just text me, right? You didn’t have to steal Emma’s phone.”

 

“I didn’t steal her phone. She handed it to me.”

 

“You basically stole it.”

 

“I did not.”

 

Emma laughs under her breath before walking into the bedroom. Those two are ridiculous. Their friendship makes no sense, but Emma knows they wouldn’t survive without each other.

 

Seriously.

 

“Babe, Ariel did not steal my phone. You’re just complaining because I gave you away to her without warning.”

 

“I am not,” he scoffs, and when she can finally see his face again, the tips of his ears are noticeably red. “Where’d your green face go?”

“Washed it off.” Emma settles down on the bed next to Ariel who scoots over for her. “So, what is this I hear about you talking to Robin? Did you guys finally hash out all of your emotional issues about your penchant for keeping secrets?”

 

“I still can’t believe he did that,” Ariel tells her, an exasperated look on her face.

 

“I would say welcome to the club, but you’re already an established member.”

 

“I feel like I could be co-chair or vice president or something.”

 

“You might be able to be president.”

 

“No, you or someone from his family gets that role, I think.”

 

“Really, because – ”

 

“The two of you are never allowed to go anywhere without me ever again,” Killian interrupts, and they both turn from each other back down to the phone screen.

 

“It’s funny you say that because I have planned a vacation with all of the women in your life, and all we’re going to do is plot ways to make you miserable.”

 

“You are not funny, A.”

 

“I think you’re hysterical,” Emma combats, winking at Killian. “But seriously. You talked to Robin? Did you tell him the whole ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ spiel?”

 

“Yes, love, I used the cliché breakup line to explain to Robin that it had nothing to do with my trust in him and everything to do with me being a cowardly asshole.”

 

“And he accepted it?”

 

“Yep,” he murmurs. “He accepted it, and we’re all sunshine and roses now. Seriously. We probably talked for an hour or two this morning.”

 

“Good,” Emma breathes out, a smile on her face. She’s so relieved that they talked. She’s kind of been far too worried about it since she and Robin talked about it in the dugout a few days ago. “I’m going to text you later, okay? I’m going to go stuff my face with pizza with everybody.”

 

“Yeah, Swan, that sounds nice. Have fun. I love you.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

“Bye, Ariel,” Killian says, waving his hand. “Please don’t plot my death while you guys eat pizza.”

 

“I make no promises.”

 

The phone disconnects, and Emma places it on the bed next to her before scooting away from Ariel to give her some space since their bodies were pretty much aligned during that conversation.

 

“He’s happy today.”

 

“Hmm?” Emma asks, not really hearing Ariel’s words, her mind still replaying all of the craziness of her conversation with Killian.

 

“Killian,” Ariel says, smiling at Emma. “He’s happy. Like, he’s got that fresh glow of a man in love. It’s just nice to see is all. I like that you make him happy.”

 

“Oh no,” Emma protests with a shake of her head. She gets up from the bed, too flustered to stay still, and reaches down into her suitcase for her moisturizer simply to have something to do with her hands. “I don’t – that’s not on me. That’s on Killian and how he’s got a lot of really good people around him. I know I wasn’t around for the last lay-off, but I know it was rough. I think he’s in a better headspace now, even if it did have a rough start.”

 

Emma dips her finger into the container and swipes the cream across her forehead while she tries to regulate her breathing. She knows where this conversation is going. Ariel is very much like Mary Margaret in all of her love and hope for good in the world, and she likes to talk about these things like big emotional moments aren’t a difficult thing to talk about.

 

“You’re one of those people he’s got around him, though,” Ariel continues, and Emma keeps rubbing her hands in circles across her face. “Killian is one of my best friends in the world. I know him almost as well as I know my own husband, and I know that he’s so much happier now because of you. That’s a good thing.”

 

“I know. I’m just – ”

 

“Scared?” Ariel gets up from the bed and walks over to Emma so that Emma can see her face and see the hopeful smile that resides there. “Does it make you feel better that I’m still scared?”

 

“No,” Emma laughs, something that settles her stomach a bit. “How would that make me feel better? That sounds like a nightmare. You’ve been married for half a decade.”

 

“Love is always scary. You never know what’s going to happen when you wake up in the morning. Like, ever. I don’t know if Eric and I are going to have a day where it’s like we’re on our honeymoon again or a day where the sound of him chewing is going to get on my nerves. But I love him, and I love getting to have him be by my side every day. He’s not the sole reason I’m happy, but he’s a big part of it. I think it’s the same with you and Killian. That’s a good thing.”

 

“Have you ordered a really nasty pizza? Is that why you’re trying to butter me up?”

 

Ariel laughs and walks toward Emma but seems to step back from giving her a hug. “No, I’m trying to butter you up because I hear you can do all kinds of braids, and I’ve never quite been able to figure out the Dutch braid.”

 

“Luckily for you, I am an expert in that.”

 

“Good. Now, come on. We’ve got to go before the boys eat all of the pizza.”

 

“Who all is in there?”

 

“Just Will, Robin, and Eric.”

 

“Well, shit,” Emma laughs as she grabs her phone and her hotel key. “You’re right. They are going to eat it all before we get there.”

 

Emma follows Ariel out into the hall and follows her down the hallway to the stairwell so they can walk up the two flights of stairs to everyone else’s floor. Before they even enter the room, Emma can hear the three of them laughing. Sure enough, once the door is open, they’re each spread out across the room – Will on the couch, Eric on the bed, and Robin sitting in the desk chair – and pizza boxes litter the room along with beer bottles. Emma has been around professional athletes for most of her adult life, and she’s never seen a group of them so consistently break their nutrition plan like this team.

 

Not that it bothers her. Though, tomorrow she is eating a hell of a lot of fruit and vegetables to make up for it.

 

She says that a lot. It usually works.

 

“Emma,” Will yells as she walks into the room. He holds up his half-eaten slice as a greeting. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. I was almost afraid I was going to forget what you looked like.”

 

“Am I still as beautiful as you remember?”

 

“Eh, you’re looking a little rough right now.”

 

“Asshole,” Emma laughs, walking toward the desk and opening a box to grab a piece of pizza. “What about you, Robin?”

 

He points to himself. “Are you asking if I’m still as beautiful as you remember since I saw you last? Because I personally think I’ve become more attractive.”

 

Emma snorts, actually snorts, and she doesn’t bother trying to cover it up before plopping herself down on the bed next to Ariel and Eric, squishing herself down on the mattress. It’s not the best pizza in the world, not even close, but the company is top notch and not something Emma would like to ever trade for anything.

 

In the past, she’s never gained friends from a relationship. Neal had all kinds of people in his life, but they were always temporary. She’d meet them once, ask about them two weeks later, and then Neal would claim to not know who she was talking about. He was always onto the next thing and the next group of people who could help him get what he wanted. Walsh had friends, a group of people he’d met through some kind of club for antique furniture, but they were all obnoxious and unfriendly. She didn’t want to be friends with them, and they certainly didn’t want to be friends with her.

 

And maybe it has helped Emma now that she already knew most of the people in Killian’s life because of her work, but they’re all so welcoming and supportive that she couldn’t imagine them not getting along.

 

Usually it helps that Killian is around, but this past week, it’s been kind of nice to get to talk to all of them simply because they want to talk to her. For someone who isn’t used to that, Emma thinks that it could become a familiar feeling.

 

She wants it to.

 

Emma pulls out her phone later that night and takes a video of everyone talking and laughing. Will is telling some insane story about a caterer who they interviewed for the wedding who wanted to serve all raw food, including meat, and it’s caused an uproar in the conversation. She sends the video to Killian, making sure that the last frame is her smiling at him.

 

Emma: Wish you were here.

 

Killian texts her back five minutes later. It’s a picture of him in Addy’s bed, his legs hanging over the end, with both Addy and Lucy draped over him asleep.

 

Killian: Same here. I don’t think I’ll be moving for the rest of the night. They’re not quite as good of a bedfellow as you.

Chapter Text

“Did you know that it’s Friday the thirteenth and a full moon?”

 

“Thank you, Alec Trebek.”

 

“No, seriously. That’s what it says on my phone." 

 

“Love, I know the date.”

 

“But did you know about the moon thing?”

 

“I did,” Killian sighs, picking his suitcase up off of the security belt and placing it on the ground while Emma grabs her sneakers. “I read about it the other day, and I am prepared for all of the haunted werewolves to come out to play.”

 

“Shut up,” Emma laughs before she plops herself down on a bench to tie her shoes.

 

It’s a little past four thirty in the morning, and JFK is nearly empty of anyone who isn’t traveling in some kind of suit. He and Emma are surrounded by people in black blazers and tailored trousers only traveling with a sleek black suitcase and their briefcase. He and Emma, meanwhile, are both in joggers with t-shirts on (Emma has on his Vandy sweatshirt over hers) and their hair tucked underneath baseball caps.

 

Emma got in from Detroit late last night, only taking five minutes to kiss him hello and take a quick shower before collapsing on his bed on top of the covers. The only flight they could get so last minute that wasn’t an exuberant amount of money is at the ungodly hour of six in the morning, so Killian insisted that she just stay at his place last night so that they could leave from the same place and save time. Considering they woke up ten minutes before their Uber arrived and could barely brush their teeth before they left, that didn’t exactly work in the whole saving time department.

 

It doesn’t help that Emma has pretty much been deadweight this entire morning until she started to wake up right before they went through security.

 

He, on the other hand, is wide awake. Nervous jitters run through his body, his stomach twisting in knots, and for someone who doesn’t get nervous for many things other than baseball, Killian is pretty much a wreck when it comes to meeting Emma’s family. Ruth is the last one, the final piece of the puzzle, and as intimidating as David was to meet, his mother might outrank her.

 

Killian both wants to spend the entire weekend sucking up to her and thanking her for taking Emma in and giving her the love she’s never had but has always deserved, but that could prove to be a bit much.

 

Then again, if Ruth hadn’t taken Emma in thirteen years ago, Emma would have never met David. If Emma hadn’t met David, David would have never taken her to the baseball game that truly allowed Emma to fall in love with sports. And if Emma hadn’t done that, he doubts she’d have ever gotten into broadcasting and found her passion there that makes her so damn happy.

 

The two of them also would never have met, and that thought sends a shiver down his spine.

 

It’s funny how such little things can change absolutely everything.

 

Everything.

 

So, yeah, Killian is most definitely a little nervous to meet Ruth.

 

“You want to go find some coffee, Swan?” Killian asks Emma as he props his foot up to tie his own sneaker. “I think the two of us are in some desperate need of caffeine.”

 

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll be able to find a coffee shop in an airport. There are never any coffee places here.”

 

“I don’t appreciate all of this sarcasm so early this morning.”

 

She pokes his stomach. “You’re the one who woke me up.”

 

“We’re going home to meet your family.”

 

“I don’t see your point.”

 

“You should.”

 

“Well,” Emma huffs, standing up and pulling up her pants so that he sees a flash of tanned skin on her stomach, “you should. Onto coffee we go.”

 

They both grab onto their bags and start walking down the terminal, passing gate after gate and store after store, but everything is black with the lights turned off and bars pulled over the stores. Nothing is open, not even the convenience stores, and the moment Emma realizes this, she stops walking and buries her face in his shoulder.

 

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

 

“There are vending machines,” he soothes. “I think they have coffee.”

 

“But it’s gross coffee,” she wines before wrapping her arms around his stomach. At first, Killian thinks that she’s being affectionate, but then he realizes that she’s using him so that she doesn’t have to stand on her own. He’s not sure he minds either way. “I need real coffee, and I need it in an IV.”

 

“Okay, Lorelai Gilmore.”

 

Emma laughs into his shoulder, the vibrations working through his shoulder. “You’re learning. I’m so proud, babe.”

 

“I might have watched an episode or two.”

 

Emma’s head pops up then, the bill of her cap hitting him in the chin. “When?”

 

“While you were gone. It was on Netflix, and it just kind of happened.”

 

“Good choice, twenty-nine. Good choice.” Emma’s lips brush against the corner of his jaw, and he tugs her a little closer as his hand runs up and down her back while she presses up on her toes to make contact with his lips. “I need a diet coke or something, and then when the stores open, I’m buying the biggest damn cup of coffee in this entire airport.”

 

“Whatever your heart desires.”

 


 

The flight is only an hour and a half, Emma sleeps the entire time despite them getting her the biggest damn cup of coffee in the airport right before they boarded, and Killian spends his time answering emails before closing out the app so that he won’t see anything else work-related for this entire weekend. It’s a conscious decision, one he’s happy to make, and it’s almost refreshing to know that he doesn’t have anything to worry about for at least a few days.

 

Well, anything to worry about except for Ruth Nolan and making sure that he can impress her.

 


 

The taxi they get from the airport takes them directly to Ruth’s house, so Emma doesn’t get much time to show him around, only pointing out a few landmarks. They pass the minor league baseball stadium here, the Portland Sea Dogs, and Emma tells him that she’s never actually been despite having such easy access. She was too caught up in everything having to do with New York and getting there that she never really thought about it. He teases her and tells her they’ll have to go to a game, but Emma turns him down by saying that she needs a break from baseball.

 

He does too.

 

So that’ll probably be knocked off the itinerary that Killian is sure Mary Margaret has made. Luckily, though, she and David won’t be here until early evening since they both had to be at work and school for half a day, so they’re pretty much free to do whatever they want with Ruth today.

 

He’s still slightly reeling from his injury and their fight and everything that came from that. He’s not angry or upset, but this is all still such an adjustment. He should be playing. He shouldn’t be here, but it’s his own damn fault that he is. He screwed up on so many levels, and owning up to it all has been a tough pill to swallow.

 

Hurting the people he loved nearly killed him, and he doesn’t want anyone to hurt because of him ever again.

 

In the blink of a bleary eye, they’re pulling up to a quaint two-story Victorian home with brown and white details and bright green bushes lining the brick-paved walkway to the front door. It’s a home, undoubtedly, one much the same as all of the ones in the city and yet entirely different in that he can see vibrant green grass and flushed trees that spread out all over the neighborhood. It reminds him of growing up in Ohio, even if they were not the ones to have the spaciously fenced-in backyard, and a little fluttering of his heart takes place as Killian takes it all in.

 

He’s always kind of wanted a place like this – away from everything.

 

“So, this is the place?”

 

“This is the place.”

 

“It’s nice.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve always thought so.” Emma hikes her bag up a little higher on her shoulder and turns to look at him, trepidation written across her face. “We can still turn around if you want to. There are hotels around here.”

 

“We’re going inside, love.” He leans down and quickly brushes his lips over hers. She tastes strongly of coffee just from the little taste that he got. He’d like to kiss her more, to have the privacy of the hotel so he can show her just how much he’s missed her the past few days of her being gone, but they’re not doing that. “Besides, I believe I just saw Ruth peeking her head through the window looking at us, so it’s too late to turn around now.”

 

“Yeah,” Emma sighs, “I guess it is.”

 

Emma steps forward and begins moving up the path, Killian following right behind her, and Emma barely gets a chance to knock on the door before it’s swinging open and Ruth is lunging forward to practically smother Emma with a hug.

 

Damn. Ruth Nolan is a force of nature.

 

Then again, she was already for being a single mom most of her life and still taking in foster children, especially one as stubborn as Emma. He can’t even begin to imagine.

 

He fully intends on finding out this weekend. There are a million questions running around in his mind.

 

“Oh,” Ruth coos, shaking Emma in her embrace. A dog escapes the front door and comes to sniff at Killian’s feet. This must be Wilby. “I have missed you so much. I think I’m going to have to move to New York so I can see you more often. Do you have room in that apartment of yours?”

 

“Only if the couch is comfortable for you.”

 

“I think it may kill my back.”

 

“No, it’ll definitely kill your back. I have no doubt. It kills my back. Killian’s couch is super comfortable, though.”

 

“Well, I hardly know the man. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to sleep over in his apartment.”

 

“Who cares about proper, love?” Killian teases. “I would be remiss to not let a beautiful woman sleep over at my apartment.”

 

The words slip out of his mouth before he’s able to stop them, and he immediately regrets them. Ruth may not be Emma’s mom, the title something that Emma still struggles with no matter how much she loves Ruth, but she’s very much a mother figure. Yet here he is spewing words that pretty much scream in her face that he doesn’t care about proper and has been fucking Emma for months now. What a smooth start.

 

The pit in his stomach becomes a heavy, solid weight, one that’s going to have him breaking the wood of the wraparound front porch.

 

Shit.

 

But then Ruth is leaning her head back in laughter, her eyes shining brightly as her hair falls off of her shoulders, and that weight lessens a little bit.

 

“I’m not much of one for proper either,” Ruth says with laughter still on her lips. She releases Emma and steps toward him, wrapping him in a hug as well, even if this one isn’t quite as smothering. It likely helps that he’s larger than Emma. “Hello, sweetie. So, you’re the infamous Killian Jones I’ve been hearing about?”

 

“From Emma?”

 

“No, my grandson. He loves you. I think he was probably more devastated about your arm than Emma was.”

 

“How did you know I was devastated?”

 

Ruth pulls back from him to look at Emma. “Intuition told me that you’d be upset over the fact that your boyfriend is injured. Mary Margaret gave me all of the other details.”

 

Emma’s eyes roll. “Of course she did.”

 

“You know she can’t keep a secret.”

 

Killian looks over to Emma to see what she’s got to say, thinking that this first meeting is going rather smoothly, but then Ruth’s eyes are snapping back to him and looking him up and down in a way that has him feeling rather naked under her scrutiny.

 

Obviously, it was wishful thinking for him to assume he was quite out of the woods.

 

“You’re much more handsome in person than on TV.”

 

“Thanks,” Killian laughs awkwardly as he reaches up to scratch behind his ear. “I, uh, appreciate that.”

 

Emma looks over to him with raised brows that are pinched together, probably wondering when he turned into a stumbling fool instead of someone who can charm anyone, and all he can do is shrug is shoulders at her. She shrugs back before squatting down on the porch to scratch behind the dog’s ears.

 

“Have you eaten breakfast yet, Ruth?” Emma asks, obviously trying to save him. “We’ve had coffee but not food, and we’d love to take you out to breakfast.”

 

Ruth waves her away. “Nonsense. I’ll cook breakfast for all of us.”

 

“You really don’t have to do that, Mrs. Nolan.”

 

She smiles at him. “It’s Ruth, and yes I do. I hear you’re quite the baker, so you can help.”

 

“Well, who told you that?”

 

“Mary Margaret. She’s where I get all of my information, don’t you know? Emma and David don’t give me nearly enough.”

 

“You know, Ruth,” Killian smiles, “I have heard a little bit about the two of them not sharing a lot of information. You practically have to drag it out of them. I would never do such a thing as keeping secrets.”

 

Emma scoffs but there’s that loving, playful smile. “Too soon, twenty-nine. Too soon.”

 

Ruth guides them inside and sends Emma off to take their bags to her old room. Killian raises his brow in question to make sure it’s okay for them to share a room, and Emma simply rolls her eyes before taking both of their bags up the stairs while Ruth ushers him into the living room.

 

It’s just as homey as the outside. Everything is covered in warm colors from the deep brown of the leather couch to the inviting green of the wall. Two windows sit on either side of the stone fireplace where the television is mounted, and that’s when Killian spots the myriad of picture frames on the mantel, as well as on the bookshelf in the corner of the room.

 

This is exactly what he’s been so excited about.

 

(Besides getting to spend a weekend away with Emma where she spent the last of her teenager years.)

 

There are a few photos of David as a child, ones of him alone and then ones of him with both of his parents. Most of them, however, everyone is a tad bit older. Killian knows that it’s so Emma can be included in all of the photos, and his heart swells a bit at the thought of Ruth being that thoughtful so that Emma doesn’t have to feel left out in any way.

 

A picture of David, Mary Margaret, and Emma sits in the middle of the mantle. David and Mary Margaret look much the same, if not younger than they look now, but with different hairstyles. Killian makes a mental note to tease David about his shoulder-length hair. Emma, though, is definitely a teenager here. Her face is rounder, far less angled, and he can see the tepidness of her smile as she leans into David in the picture.

 

“Are you looking at how cute I am?” Emma questions as she walks into the room.

 

Killian turns to look at her and at the shy smile on her face now, and he opens up his arm to let her walk into him so that her arm can wrap around his back while her head rests on his shoulder.

 

“How old are you here, love?”

 

“Um, that’s a question I don’t know the answer to.”

 

“Sixteen,” Ruth supplies, and Killian doesn’t miss the way she’s smiling at the two of them standing there. “That’s from Thanksgiving. Emma still wasn’t too sure about us.”

 

“I’m still not.”

 

Killian squeezes her hip. “Liar.”

 

“Nope, I’m serious. You’ve only just met Ruth, so I don’t think you can judge her character yet.”

 

“Oh no, darling, I can. She’s promised to tell me stories about you while we cook breakfast, and that’s good enough for me to love her forever.”

 

Emma groans and dips her head down. “Just let me sulk, and I’ll come to the kitchen when breakfast is ready.”

 

“Just like when you were a teenager,” Ruth teases.

 

The morning is mostly spent in the kitchen where they eat waffles and bacon, which is definitely not on his diet but he’s not playing right now anyways, and he gets to listen to Ruth tease Emma all about what she was like as a teenager. Emma’s cheeks are painted red, the embarrassment very clearly there, but she takes it like a champ and smiles and laughs along even when Ruth tells a story about Emma nearly breaking her arm while trying to sneak back into the house after meeting a guy who she wasn’t supposed to be meeting.

 

“Not my finest moment,” Emma admits as she bites into a piece of bacon. “And definitely not my finest boyfriend.”

 

The stories continue, and as the day passes on, Killian’s stomach hurts from all of the laughter. Everything about his time here just seems so…perfect. And he knows that there is no such thing as perfect, but the crisp breeze of the air with the sunshine filtering through the leaves of the trees tells him otherwise as the two of them help Ruth with some of her yardwork. Of course, he hasn’t done yardwork in over a decade, so he’s a little rusty. Ruth and Emma make sure to point that out to him every time he cuts a shrub in the wrong way or manages to screw up turning on the lawnmower.

 

It was complicated, okay?

 

And Killian definitely wasn’t aware that this is how they’d be spending the first part of their afternoon. It was not at all mentioned in Emma’s pitch of asking him to come here.

 

Not that he would have ever said no to helping. It’s good to feel useful when he’s been feeling a little useless lately no matter how well he thinks that he’s handling his injury layoff.

 

It’s decidedly different than the first time around. It likely helps that the injury isn’t as serious and that Killian knows that the end of it is in sight, even if there’s still bits of uncertainty that no one can answer and predict for him. Yet, it also has everything to do with the fact that the people closest to him know exactly what’s going on instead of him letting it all fester inside of him. Honesty is the better policy this time, even if his hand was the slightest bit forced.

 

Watching Emma easily guide him through Old Port with a beatific smile on her face may help as well.

 

No, it definitely helps.

 

She’s such a force of light in his life, even if she doesn’t like admitting that sometimes, but the fact almost seems reinforced after having been apart from her and facing the thoughts of what his life may be like without her in it outside of being someone who he works with.

 

Frankly, it would be kind of dim. She’s integrated herself so easily into every aspect of his daily routine, and while at first, he thought it really only had to do with her clothes in his closet and her shampoo bottles littering his shower, it’s more in the way that he’ll be sitting with Elsa and look over to see her texting Emma or the way that whenever he wakes up in the morning and she’s not in bed with him, his first thought is to check his phone for a text from her. It’s ridiculous and yet also…not.

 

She annoys him more than anything or anyone in the world, but he also loves her more than anything. It’s easy in a way that it’s never been before, and Killian wonders if this feeling of fluttering deep in his belly is what he was missing in the past.

 

They grab a late lunch at a quaint little seafood place, one he can tell is family-owned simply from the atmosphere, and instead of sitting inside, they settle down at one of the umbrella-covered tables outside so that they can have a view of the ocean with the salt-water breeze wafting over them.

 

He’s missed the water.

 

Of course, he’s been around it living in Manhattan and traveling to several places around the country that are surrounded by water. Hell, he’s even been back in it in the three years since the accident with Liam. But it’s been a long damn time since he’s sat and simply enjoyed getting to spend time near the water.

 

During the off-season, he and Emma are going somewhere that’s surrounded by water for at least a week, and they’re not going to let any outside distractions get to them. It’s making plans for the future, and that’s all that he wants right now.

 

(Some would call it baseball mating season, and while he doesn’t plan on them reproducing anytime soon, they can sure as hell practice.)

 

They get a call that David and Mary Margaret are nearly there when Emma is showing him some of the lighthouses while using a ridiculous voice that she calls her “tour guide” voice, so they quickly gather their things and start walking back to Ruth’s car since she absolutely cannot wait to see the rest of her family and refuses to have them be at her house before she can get back to her house.

 

David and Mary Margaret get there first because they are apparently the fastest drivers on the planet today.

 

And Leo practically tackles Ruth in all of his ten-year-old glory when he sees her.

 

That’s how Addy and Lucy are with Elsa’s parents too, and Killian imagines that being a grandparent is a hell of a lot of fun since you aren’t in charge of molding a little person into a functioning human being. You just have to give them candy and all of the things their parents don’t want them to have.

 

Or, at least, that’s what he thinks Ruth does.

 

(That’s what he does as an uncle and wishes his mom could have done as a grandmother.)

 

They all eat takeout dinner together from an Italian place that Emma and David swear by, and while it’s certainly not the best thing he’s ever had to eat, it’s pretty damn good. Then again, he’s had so much to eat today that his stomach very well may explode soon. He’ll have to get up and go for a jog in the morning.

 

But right now, it’s a little past ten at night, he’s been up for over eighteen hours, and all he really wants is to sleep. His body is dragging enough that he imagines he’ll have no trouble falling into a slumber as soon as his head hits the pillow.

 

He’s wrong.

 

Because then he sees Emma’s teenage bedroom and sees just how empty it is. It’s absolutely nothing like her apartment in New York full of throw pillows and blankets and every artificial plant known to man with a colorful painting above her headboard. Everything here is rather…beige.

 

Emma walks out of the bathroom where she’s been getting ready for bed, and he watches as she rubs lotion up and down her hands and her forearms. “Why that glum look on your face? Are you still trying to figure out better ways to argue with David over soccer? Because that dinner conversation is long over. I thought Leo was going to climb on top of the table and start beating on his chest or something equally ridiculous.”

 

“Hm, no,” Killian chuckles, opening his knees so that Emma can step into them and his hands can find their spots on her waist, warm flesh against his fingertips.

 

“Then what?”

 

He blinks up at her, not entirely sure if now is the right time to ask, but then he sees the glint of his mom’s ring falling against Emma’s chest and is reassured in who he is to Emma. “I can’t help but notice that your room here is not quite as colorful as your room at home.”

 

Emma sighs, and he squeezes her hip in response so that she looks down at him and smile. “It’s kind of a stupid reason. You don’t want to hear about it.”

 

“I’d love to know more of your beginnings, Swan.”

 

“Haven’t you heard enough about them today?”

 

“There is never enough information, love.”

 

She smiles and reaches to push his hair back off of his head, her hands a magic touch as they move through the strands there. “I’m not a sentimental person. Or, I wasn’t.” Her right hand leaves his hair to find the chain around her neck. Killian’s heart stutters at that movement. “And I never trusted that I was going to stay in one place for very long, so if I had the chance to decorate my room, I didn’t. I kept everything I owned in a little box that was always ready to go.”

 

His heart may actually break for Emma in this moment, the sad reality of what she’s telling him something that’s hard for him to take in. He can’t imagine what it must be like for her to have lived that way.

 

“I think this place worked out for you, though.”

 

“Yeah, it did.” She smiles again, but Killian can see the twinge of sadness in the corners of her lips. “You sure you still want to know about these beginnings of mine when they’re a little bit sad?”

 

“Like I’ve said before, love, we make quite the team, sad backstories and all. I do, however, think that you need a little something on these walls of yours.”

 

“I think all of the home décor stores may be closed.”

 

Killian winks. “Well, I think I’ll just have to get a little creative then.”

 

His hand slides around her back to squeeze her ass before he’s pushing Emma back from him and getting up from the bed to walk out the door. Everything is darkened with the lights turned off, and since he doesn’t want to wake up everyone else in the house, he uses the flashlight on his phone and quietly walks down the stairs to find his way to the kitchen where he knows there were sheets of paper in the printer as well as a few pens in a cup right behind it. Emma is on his heels, questioning what the hell it is he’s doing, but he doesn’t tell her until he’s grabbing the paper and a thick blue marker.

 

“What are you doing?” Emma hisses.

 

“I’m making you some artwork for your wall.”

 

“That’s ridiculous.”

 

“It’s endearing.”

 

“You say that about every weird thing that you do.”

 

“Because the weird things are endearing,” he corrects, looking back at her and smiling. “What kind of drawing do you want? I’m pretty talented, if I do say so myself, but it’s been awhile since I’ve drawn anything.”

 

“Just…do whatever you want. I’m going to fix myself a hot chocolate. Do you want one?”

 

“Does Ruth have any tea?”

 

“I’m going to make you the hot chocolate. It’s better than tea.”

 

Killian rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t protest as he starts sketching out what he can remember of the view of the lighthouse today. It’s rough, definitely not his best work, but considering his original plan was simply going to be writing her name out, it’ll have to do for quick work.

 

Strange things happen when he’s far past tired.

 

“Milady,” Killian sighs, picking up the paper as well as a bit of tape before walking the few steps toward Emma as she sits on a barstool at the island with two cups of hot chocolate, her mug piled up with whipped cream and sprinkles of cinnamon, “I present to you your artwork for your wall.”

 

Emma’s eyes glance over it before glancing up at him with a slight smile on her face. “You’ve got to sign it.”

 

He taps the corner of the paper where he’s scribbled in his number. “Already done.”

 

“Ah,” Emma laughs, “how could I have missed that?”

 

“You were distracted by the beauty of the picture.”

 

“Exactly.” Emma presses up over the countertop and leans forward to quickly brush her lips over Killian’s, and while a part of him wants to deepen it, he doesn’t want to get carried awhile while here. “Thank you. That is very sweet of you to do.”

 

“Endearing, right?”

 

“Sure.” She shakes her head and slides his mug over to him so that he can have some of his hot chocolate. “I hope today hasn’t scarred you for life, especially since you still have to survive tomorrow.”

 

“It’s been fun, Swan. I’ve been…I think it’s gotten me majorly out of my own head. I needed that. And I liked getting to see you be so happy. My only complaint is that I’m under strict instructions not to make your bed squeak. I don’t like that rule.”

 

Emma reaches over to slap his shoulder, but he moves it out of the way quick enough that she doesn’t get it. It also causes a slight twinge in his shoulder that reminds him that he needs an ice pack for tonight. He hasn’t gotten to put ice on it all day. So, he turns toward the fridge and opens up the freezer, grabbing one of Ruth’s ice packs, and placing it on top of his shoulder before turning back to Emma whose fingers are tracing over the drawing.

 

Emotion lodges in his throat again, something that’s been happening quite a lot tonight, and it’s what propels him forward to step behind Emma’s back and wrap his arms around her stomach before resting his chin on top of her head.

 

“I’m not going anywhere, Emma,” he promises, meaning every word. “Not unless you tell me to go. So, you can plan on hanging paintings and making plans and keeping little trinkets in more places than a box. I love you more than I know how to tell you. That’s not going to change.”

 

Emma audibly sighs, something that he feels under the palms of his hands, before leaning back into Killian and simply staying in that spot so that he can breathe her in.

 

“I love you,” she breathes out as her head tilts up so that her lips can move across the underside of his jaw. “Let’s take the hot chocolate upstairs and go to bed.”

 

“And your picture?”

 

“Yeah, that too.”

 


 

Killian’s arm tingles, the feeling nearly gone, when he wakes up in the morning and finds Emma’s body pressed around it. This isn’t how they fell asleep, not even close, and he’ll probably never have use of his arm again. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, and he flexes his fingers a bit before nuzzling his nose into the back of Emma’s head in an attempt to get to go back to sleep.

 

They were up until maybe two in the morning talking, sleep never really coming to either of them no matter how much they both wanted it, and judging from the dim light coming through the blinds on the window, it’s still early yet.

 

He desperately needs coffee. He’s probably not going to be able to go back to sleep, and he desperately needs coffee.

 

Slowly, Killian begins to extract his arm from Emma’s grip, stopping when she flinches, and after several careful minutes, he’s able to quietly get off the bed and step out of the room, leaving her door cracked so as not to make any kind of noise. He walks down the hallway and uses the guest bathroom before walking down the stairs and wandering to the kitchen in search of coffee.

 

To his surprise, David is already there sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop open and a cup of coffee sitting next to him, the smell wafting toward Killian.

 

“Hey,” Killian greets. David nearly jumps out of his chair and knocks everything over, and Killian can’t help but laugh at the shock on his face. “Did you really not hear me coming down the stairs?”

 

“I, uh, I – ” David is stuttering, obviously at a loss for words, and Killian can’t quite figure out what’s going on. He doesn’t think Dave is usually this flustered in the mornings. “I wasn’t expecting you or Emma to be up this early.”

 

Killian shakes out his arm, still trying to wake it up. “Believe me. I wish I wasn’t up. Do you always work this early in the morning on a Saturday?”

 

“No, I don’t, but my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing with emails this morning, so I came downstairs to see so it wouldn’t wake Mary Margaret up.”

 

“Ah, I turned off my emails this weekend for that exact reason.”

 

“You probably shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“What’s that, mate?” David coughs in response, and Killian steps forward to the table and sits down across from David, confusion running through him as his stomach twists and turns. “Seriously. What?”

 

David can’t look at him, not really, and that doesn’t help calm any of Killian’s nerves as he tries to figure out what in the world is going on with him this morning.

 

“I didn’t know this was happening, I swear. I’d have stopped it if I got one whiff of it, but there’s been an article.”

 

“An article?”

 

David turns his computer around, and Killian reads a headline that he’s always expected to see and yet has always hoped to avoid.

 

The Truth Behind Killian Jones: A Story Told by His Father.

 

“Fucking hell,” he murmurs, his eyes taking in the picture of his father that’s plastered on the screen. Killian hasn’t seen him in years, actual years, and yet he looks exactly the same. “What kind of shit is this?”

 

“It gets worse.”

 

“How could it possibly get worse?”

 

“Look at the journalist.”

 

Killian’s eyes glance toward the screen again, his gaze finding more words he didn’t want to see.

 

Walsh Osborne.

 

As in Emma’s ex, Walsh Osborne who she still works with at ESPN. Though, this article is decidedly not on ESPN’s website.

 

Holy fucking shit.

 

Killian’s got to go back to bed. This isn’t real. This is all some kind of messed up nightmare that he’s experiencing, and soon, he’ll wake up and none of it will be real. And yet Killian keeps scrolling through the article, skipping the words to instead look at pictures of himself that Killian hasn’t seen in years. His father shouldn’t have these pictures. Liam should have all of them. And yet, somehow, he doesn’t.

 

Childhood pictures are nothing, though, at least for right now, when at the bottom of the article are pictures of Killian and Emma standing in the airport yesterday with Emma’s arms wrapped around his waist as well as a picture of them kissing in his car from who knows when. Then there’s one that he knows is from the hallways of Yankee stadium in what was supposed to be a private room.

 

“Everyone knows about you and Emma,” David tells him.

 

This is too much. It’s all too much, and he doesn’t know how to handle the reappearance of his father and the very public reveal of his private relationship.

 

Fuck.

Chapter Text

Bright light filters through the blinds covering the bedroom window, and just from the angle that it’s hitting her, Emma knows that she isn’t asleep at her apartment or at Killian’s. It takes her but a moment to remember that she is at Ruth’s, that she and Killian have been here for about twenty-four hours, and it is that thought that has her twisting in the bed in search for him only to find the other side of the mattress empty.

 

Damn.

 

She could have gone for them not getting up and leaving her room so early this morning after they had such a late night last night.

 

Emma sighs, and snuggles a little further into her pillow as her mind convinces itself that just because Killian is out of bed doesn’t mean that she has to get out of bed. He’s a grown man. He can fend for himself downstairs with her family where she’s sure he and Ruth are having a fantastic time cooking breakfast for an army instead of six people.

 

Yesterday, even in her tired haze, was one of her favorite days in a long time. She wants to commit it all to memory – from the airport to Killian and Ruth cooking breakfast and getting along so well to Killian drawing her a picture of the lighthouse they visited with two little figures at the bottom that she knows are supposed to be the two of them.

 

He even signed it with a little number twenty-nine.

 

(She wants to take it home with her, but she thinks she’ll leave it taped to the wall here.)

 

That was…emotion chokes her up simply thinking about it. So much of her heart has been shown to Killian – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly – and yet telling him about why this room is so bare was like opening up an entirely different chamber of everything. Him drawing her that picture was so dumb and yet so damn sweet that she couldn’t actually form real words to thank him. Instead, she teased him, but she hopes that he knows that was simply her way of saying thank you for always being so considerate of her.

 

Killian knows her so damn well that she’s pretty confident that maybe he does actually know that without her having to say any of the words.

 

There’s a smile on her face as she rolls over on the bed toward the side that Killian slept on (it doesn’t matter how old she is – having a man sleep in the bed next to her at Ruth’s house felt weird as hell) and breathes in the warm scent of him before turning the alarm clock to the side so that she can see that it’s a little past nine thirty in the morning.

 

That was definitely not enough sleep considering how late they were up.

 

Everyone is likely awake and down in the kitchen either making breakfast or having already eaten it, and since Emma is sure that they’ve saved something for her, she gets out of bed and ruffles through her bag to find a pair of jeans and a light sweater and all of her shower stuff before walking into the bathroom and twisting the knob so that water starts to flow. This shower always takes so long to get warm water, something she hated as a teenager, and if Emma knew where her phone was at the moment, she’d turn on some music to have something to listen to. But the hot water comes quicker than she thought it would, and she steps into the shower and goes through washing her hair and her body, as well as shaving her legs even if she’s wearing jeans today.

 

They do have holes in them after all.

 

Emma runs through the list of things they were thinking about doing today – David seriously wants to go to a Sea Dogs game – just so that she can be prepared for the itemized list Mary Margaret has inevitably prepared and is waiting for her to go through.

 

Fifteen minutes later, when Emma is dressed and has her hair wrapped in a towel on her head, she walks out of her bedroom door and down the hallway until she’s walking down the stairs. Leo is laid out on the living room floor with Wilby watching cartoons, very obviously too engrossed to pay her any attention, so she ignores him and walks through the archway to the kitchen where everyone is sitting down at the table sitting in silence.

 

But awkward silence.

 

Like, the kind of silence that happens when she walks into a room and knows that everyone has been talking about her.

 

Has everyone been talking about her?

 

“Um, hey guys,” she starts slowly, ignoring the weird feeling in her gut and walking around the island to the coffee machine and grabbing a mug. She’s not sure how old this pot is, but it can’t be that  old. “Have we had breakfast yet? Or do we want to go get something to eat?”

 

There’s silence as her answer, and Emma turns to look at everybody as they all stare down at their mugs like the world’s most interesting secrets reside there.

 

It’s…weird. Like, really weird, and worry is starting to whirl around in the pit of her stomach.

 

“Morning, love,” Killian starts as he scoots his chair back and stands from the chair, “why don’t we go sit outside for our coffee?”

 

“Um, okay. Does anyone want to join us?”

 

“Maybe in a few minutes,” Mary Margaret supplies, flashing her a reassuring smile that isn’t at all reassuring. “Ruth was going to talk to us about having Leo come spend his fall break with her.”

 

“Oh, okay, yeah.”

 

Emma grabs her cup of coffee just as Killian comes up behind her and places his hand on the small of her back to direct her out toward the set of French doors that lead out to Ruth’s back porch. As soon as they walk out, the sun is brightly shining down on them, enough that her eyes squint to try to adjust, and the air feels cool and crisp, almost like fall. She knows that it’s the middle of September, that fall is technically very soon, but it certainly hasn’t felt like fall weather back home.

 

Here, it does.

 

Looking out at the yard and how manicured it is after she and Killian helped Ruth yesterday, it almost makes her forget that something weird is most definitely going on with everybody, but only almost. She can practically feel the tenseness radiating from Killian’s fingertips, but nothing else about him gives any of it away.

 

“Did you sleep well, Swan?” Killian asks as she sits down in a rocking chair and pulls her knees up to her chest all the while Killian sits in the chair opposite her. Her towel is heavy on her head, so she takes it off and lets her loose hair fall down her back. “You were out like a rock this morning when I woke up.”

 

“I’m still – ” A yawn interrupts her, which seems very fitting, and it causes her eyes to water. She really needs the caffeine in this coffee to take effect immediately. “I’m still tired, but I think once I was out, I was out, you know?”

 

Killian’s lips are pressed together when he smiles, and that’s not the kind of smile she wants to see in the morning. She wants to see the wolfish grin, the one that looks almost dirty in nature, that makes Killian look like he’s absolutely, positively giddy to simply be sitting with her drinking coffee in the morning with no cares in the world.

 

She wants him to smile in the way that makes her want to kiss the smile off of his lips simply because she wants to taste some of that happiness.

 

“Good, good,” he sighs, and the slightest smile stretches across his lips. It’s almost the smile she wants. But only almost, and it has her free hand clutching for the chain around her neck as some kind of reassurance. It’s only been in her possession for two weeks, but clutching it has become enough of a habit that she realizes that it’s one. “When I woke up, my bloody arm felt like it was going to fall off because you’d been sleeping on it all night, which was refreshing that it only hurt because of you and not the tendons.”

 

Emma smiles into her coffee. “You have a very comfortable arm, and I was tired.”

 

“From all of the sex you said we couldn’t have?”

 

“Shut up,” Emma laughs, a bit of joy spreading over her skin. “You thought you were so funny making the bed squeak as you tried to get comfortable enough to go to sleep, and you were not funny.”

 

Killian circles his finger around her face. “Well, that is not what all of this laughter right now and the laughter from last night tells me. You were in stitches.”

 

“I was obviously delusional.”

 

“Obviously.”

 

Emma sighs and cocks her head to the side to look over at Killian over the top of her coffee mug. He hasn’t shaved this morning, his scruff fuller and darker than usual, and his hair is falling in his face so much that he keeps having to push it back. He needs another haircut, and knowing him, she’s sure that he has one scheduled for some time this week, probably after one of his physical therapy appointments.

 

Other than that, though, he looks exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. The bags underneath his eyes seem dark, his actual eyes red and a little puffy, and she swears there are lines there that weren’t there before.

 

“Killian,” she hesitantly starts, rocking forward to place her mug on the small glass table between them, “are you going to tell me what’s going on? It’s really freaking me out.”

 

His lips stretch into another smile, this one definitely kind of sad, as he reaches up to scratch behind his ear. That’s his nervous tick. She knows it is. And her lungs constrict so that it feels like she can’t even breathe.

 

“Aye, um…an article came out this morning. My scumbag of a father has apparently been in contact with your scumbag of an ex, and they did some kind of fucking tell-all interview about the truth about me and my life and how I’m nothing but a fake humanitarian who doesn’t care about the charities I support because how could I care about strangers when I don’t even care about my own father?”

 

Shit.

 

Emma heard the words. She did. But it’s kind of difficult to wrap her brain around them. That’s just…that’s a lot to take in, and her mind seems to be fighting between feeling distraught for Killian and angry at Walsh. Because she knows that it’s Walsh who wrote the article. It wouldn’t be Neal. He is probably too busy conning some other woman to fall in love with him.

 

“Killian, I’m so sorry.” It’s all she knows to say right now, before she even gets the full extent of the information. “I haven’t read the article, but you’ve got to know that everything in it isn’t true. Your father has used you your entire life, and he’s still trying to use you by using your name to make money. He’s the awful person. Not you.”

 

“I don’t know. I feel pretty shitty sometimes.”

 

“Stop that.”

 

“I know, Swan, but I – ”

 

She holds her hand up and stands from the rocking chair to walk over to Killian and squat down in front of him, threading their fingers together and placing her hands in his lap while her thumbs caress his knuckles. She’s fuming for him, but she has to be calm. She has to let him process this. It won’t help if she’s angry too.

 

At least, she doesn’t think.

 

How does someone deal with their boyfriend’s estranged dad saying shitty things about them?

 

“Brennan is a bad person, Killian. You’ve told me all of the stories about him. I’ve seen how he still affects you and Liam even though it’s been a decade since you’ve talked to him. He’s not crying out to you by giving Walsh some kind of dumbass interview. He’s using you for the money it’s going to get him. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that that we don’t get to pick our parents. Sometimes we’re simply stuck with shitty ones.”

 

Killian nods his head at the same time that he squeezes their hands. “I know, love. I know. And I’m…I’m devastated over something that is so personal to me being released into the world. My father is a prick. I’ve always known that. But I’m fucking furious at the entire article, and I…Walsh told the world that we’re dating, Emma. Everyone knows.”

 

“W-what?” she questions, her brain not quite catching up with the words there. “What are you talking about?”

 

Killian sighs and releases her hand so that he can pull out his phone from his pocket before swiping with his thumb a few times and handing it over to her, an article pulled up on some ridiculous blog site attributed to Walsh. Of course he would be coward enough to not publish through ESPN even though he’s paid to do that.

 

It’s probably because this article is most likely libel. It has to be. All of the shit about his father is false, and knowing Walsh, he’ll take it a step too far.

 

Killian Jones.

 

The name rings familiar with any fan of professional baseball, especially those who are fans of the New York Yankees. He’s their star pitcher, the young gun who was hailed as the man who would bring New York another World Series, and he did just that at the end of the 2018 season after being a part of the team for six years.

 

Everyone thought he would do it again this year until his unfortunate injury against the Rangers.

 

And while I could go on and on about Killian Jones, the infamous number twenty-nine, and his great statistics, that’s a story that has been told time and time again. What hasn’t been told is the story behind the man. Who better to talk about a player than that player’s father?

 

Three weeks ago, Brennan Jones contacted me after I had put out some feelers to get in touch with him, and we had a nice chat over a cup of coffee that allowed me to delve a little more into what exactly makes Jones tick. What I found was interesting.

 

Everyone knows Jones as a good guy, as the one who signs autographs for kids and volunteers at a soup kitchen at least twice a month. His public relations team is incredible because when you think of the Yankees now, the face you see is his. Yet, just a few years ago that was not the case. Three years ago, Jones was better known for being seen in a bar with a different woman by his side every night. He became famous for his conquests, for his faulty, short-lived relationships, and while that could be seen as simply a young man with more money than he knows what to do with living his best life, Killian Jones has a history of short-lived relationships.

 

His father is the main example of this.


Brennan shared with me that he spent all of his life in search of supporting his sons. After losing his wife
to a strong-fought cancer battle when Killian was nine-years-old and his older son Liam was seventeen, Brennan started to work more and longer shifts to support his children, especially since Killian had the American dream of being a baseball player. Parents of athletes give up so much, make more sacrifices than the average family, and Brennan Jones is a prime example of a father doing just that. All he ever wanted was to support his children in their dreams.

 

However, after Killian started to play at Vanderbilt and had a real possibility of going pro, he cut his father off and has yet to talk to him since despite numerous attempts made by Brennan to try to have a relationship with his son. Brennan claims that there is no clear reason as to why his children no longer talk to him, and as sad as it makes him, he does believe that it is because Killian does not want to share any of his earnings with Brennan even though the senior Mr. Jones has never asked for a dime from his son.

 

All he wants is a relationship. Nothing more. How could anyone deny a father something as simple as that?

 

Alone, this doesn’t seem like much. Many children have bad relationships with their parents, but I believe that Jones has a consistent history of unethical or questionable behavior that is hidden behind shiny teeth and a clean uniform.

 

  1. Cutting off his father.
  2. An affair with a married woman.
  3. His partying days.
  4. The boat accident where he was cleared of all fault immediately despite there being alcohol involved.
  5. His hidden rotator cuff injury – a detrimental lie to his teammates, his managers, and his fans.
  6. Dating Emma Swan.

 

Oh yes, we all remember after the World Series when Killian asked out reporter Emma Swan, correct? That was quite the misogynistic move on his part. She’d said no, which is well documented, but as can be seen in the pictures below, they have been involved in a romantic relationship for quite some time. Perhaps they were involved in a relationship at the time of the World Series and it was all a publicity stunt to allow Ms. Swan to jumpstart her career. She’s had a banner year this year when it comes to her social media following and her time on camera. She was even able to commentate a full game. None of this was on her career trajectory before last year.

 

It’s funny how things like that work out.

 

It’s also funny how the good guy, in this case Killian Jones, can simply be the villain hidden under a baseball cap.

 

For inquiries to Brennan Jones, his contact information is available in the link below.

 

Holy shit.

 

Son of a bitch.

 

Emma’s hands shake while her eyes keep skimming back and forth over the words and the pictures. Her life is very much on display here, and she hates it. She hates that Walsh is obviously targeting Killian because of her, and she hates that the man still has the ability to knock the breath out of her lungs by making her feel useless and worthless and like nothing more than a young girl who doesn’t deserve anything that she has.

 

He’s a fucking bastard.

 

Her legs tremble beneath her, and she has to stand from the squatting position. She has to stand and walk away, down the back-porch steps, and into the yard so that maybe the fresh air around her will have an easier time reaching her lungs.

 

She really needs to be able to breathe right now.

 

She can’t breathe.

 

All of her fears are coming to life. Every single one of them. Yet again, Emma is being told that she doesn’t deserve her career or any of her accomplishments. Every minute of hard work is being attributed to someone else, and even if it’s not true, even if it’s all simply the words of a small-minded man who is trying to hurt her, she already knows that everything is about to blow up again.

 

Two steps forward. Ten steps back.

 

And she didn’t even take any of those ten steps. They were all forced upon her.

 

And shit. She’s an awful person and an awful girlfriend because here she is having a meltdown in the middle of Ruth’s backyard over how this is all going for her when nearly every low point in Killian’s life has been summarized in an itemized list and put out there for complete and total strangers to see.

 

She can’t even imagine what’s going through his head right now. This isn’t supposed to be another low point for Killian. He’s already out on injury, and he’s told her and himself time and time again that this won’t be like last time. He won’t fall into the dark hole.

 

But he might very well be pushed.

 

Yet, here he is putting Emma and her feelings above himself again because that’s what Killian does every damn time. He’s probably killing himself thinking this is all his fault when it’s not.

 

It’s hers.

 

Walsh did this because he still has some kind of vendetta against Emma. He did it to hurt her, and he did. He’s hurt her because he’s yet again hurt her career, but he’s mostly hurt her because he’s devasted Killian.

 

If she gets the chance to slap him, she’s not holding back.

 

Turning on her heel so that the soft grass brushes over her skin, Emma immediately walks back toward the porch, jogging a bit and placing Killian’s phone in her back pocket before walking back up to him. He’s leaning forward with his face pressed into his hands and his elbows on his knees, very obviously distraught.

 

“I’m sorry, Swan,” he mutters, shaking his head back and forth. “I’m so damn sorry. I’ve done nothing but fuck up your life.”

 

“Hey, hey, hey,” she soothes. Emma grabs his hands and tugs him up from the chair before wrapping her arms around his shoulders as he does the same. She can feel his nose pressing into the side of her neck, his entire face buried there, and she doesn’t know if she’s ever felt so small against his frame than she does right now. “You have not fucked up my life, and I’m the one who is sorry. This is because of me.”

 

Killian shakes his head and hugs her tighter. It should be another thing to take the breath away from her, but it doesn’t. If anything, it gives her the air she’s been searching for.

 

Then, though, Killian is pulling back, just a little, and suddenly she can see the blue of his eyes and the sadness that resides there. They’re not the sparkling blue that she wants. Not at all.

 

“It’s my job,” Killian starts with a crooked smile on his face, “at least I hope it’s my job, to protect your heart. I have failed here. You can’t deny that.”

 

Emma’s hand moves from the back of Killian’s neck to trail down his chest and rest right at his heart. “You have not failed. You didn’t do any of this to me. And if it’s your job to protect my heart…well, let me do the same to you. Killian, this can’t be a good feeling for you. It’s got to be bringing up all kinds of emotions about your dad and Milah and the past you’re trying to put behind you. Just because I’m freaking the hell out doesn’t mean that you drop all of your feelings to be supportive of me. That’s…that’s not how we work, remember?”

 

“Aye, I know. I’m just – I’ve been up for awhile, love. I’ve had…I’ve had time to process. I sat in silence with Dave for an hour and then had to call Liam and Elsa and…I hate my dad so much. I h-hate…”

 

And for the first time in all of the years that Emma has known Killian, even with all of the emotions that come with sports, she sees a tear fall from Killian’s eye. It’s not much, just a single tear rolling down his cheek to mark the skin there, and yet it breaks her to the point that she can do nothing more than continue to hold him and whisper that it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.

 

She doesn’t actually know that, but it seems like the right thing to say.

 

Life is so damn unfair sometimes that someone with such a good heart can have it shattered like this.

 

They stay standing on that back porch surrounded by the low whistle of the wind and the songs of birds for minutes that she doesn’t count. There’s no need to as her hand moves up and down Killian’s back while he simply tries to start breathing again. At some point, his lips start moving against her neck, his mouth and his teeth working in desperation, before his lips find her jaw then her cheek then her own mouth. He tastes like bitter coffee, which is most likely appropriate for the situation, and even though the kiss is sorrowing, she doesn’t stop him.

 

Emma gets it. Sometimes all that anyone needs is to feel the comfort of something familiar and sure and entirely theirs.  

 

Maybe she’s a little desperate for his touch too.

 

But then Killian is mumbling something about wanting to go take a nap and needing a bit of time alone, and after she asks him if he’s sure, they both go inside where everyone is still sitting in the kitchen. She imagines they’ve been watching them the entire time. Mary Margaret asks if everything is okay, Killian nods at her before walking through the living room and heading upstairs, the steps creaking under his weight.

 

“You know what,” Ruth starts as she stands from the table and brushes her hands over her pants, “I think I’m going to take Leo out to get some ice cream and maybe go to the park. I’ll bring everyone something back. Emma, dear, what flavor does Killian like?”

 

“Um, strawberry, especially if it has actual strawberries in it. Or really anything fruit-related. But definitely not chocolate.”

 

“Got it. Leo and I will be on the lookout for ice cream for everybody.”

 

“Should I,” Mary Margaret starts, her eyes darting between all of them. “Do you want me to come with you, Ruth?”

 

Emma rolls her eyes. “You guys can just say that you’re going to leave to leave me here with David because he’s better at dealing with emotional fallouts.”

 

Mary Margaret blushes, her pale skin lighting up with red, but she doesn’t deny it. What she does is move forward and hug Emma, squeezing her a little too tightly. “I love you. I’m sorry that you dated a fucking asshole who is still trying to make you miserable despite the fact that he is the reason your relationship dissolved.”

“That’s some nasty language from you, Marg.”

 

“Yeah, well, he deserves it. Always has.”

 

Emma chuckles and leans into Mary Margaret a little bit more. “I love you too, by the way.”

 

“I know,” Mary Margaret sighs. “David is ready to go to hell for the two of you. Walsh isn’t going to have a job much longer if he has anything to say about it.”

 

She has a million words to say to that, but she doesn’t say any of them. She simply nods and releases Mary Margaret before stepping over to the fridge to get some water. She’s suddenly very thirsty, and she just know that she’s going to need something to fiddle with while she talks to David who is still furiously typing on his laptop probably cursing out several figureheads and managers and anyone else who dares pick up this story.

 

Emma is almost scared to know how widespread it’s gotten. She still doesn’t know where her phone is.

 

So, taking her bottle of water, she slowly steps back over to the kitchen table and settles across from David, pulling one leg up to cradle to her chest while the other dangles on the floor. He hasn’t looked at her, and that makes Emma’s chest absolutely ache.

 

“You okay, kid?” he asks, still not looking up.

 

“You haven’t called me kid in what feels like forever.”

 

The keys on his laptop continue to click for a moment before he’s closing the laptop and looking up at her with a wry smile. “It’s this place. It makes me think of you that way.”

 

Emma arches her brow. “It’s also because my life is kind of falling apart again, right?”

 

“Your life is not falling apart. I just – is all of the stuff in the article true? I know the things about his dad aren’t. He told me this morning all about it, but I…did you know about everything? You haven’t – he hasn’t hidden all of this from you, right?”

 

“No. God, no.” Her finger clutch at the ring, holding it tightly to her chest, and she notices David’s eyes flickering down toward it. “It was his mom’s,” she explains, watching the light glint off the silver and the small bits of sapphire. “It’s what he always used to wear, you know? He gave it to me before I commentated as a reminder that he’d be there cheering me on even if he was out on the field, and I guess…I guess he wants me to keep it now.”

 

David’s lips stretch into a small smile, even if she can still see little glints of anger and confusion residing in his eyes. Much like Killian, he looks exhausted and older and all-around done with everything having to do with today.

 

“That man loves you a hell of a lot, Emma,” he murmurs on a sigh while his eyes don’t leave hers. “It’s almost jarring to me because how he talks about you and looks at your and treats you reminds me so much of how I am with Mary Margaret. I’ve never…you’ve always deserved this really big love that was also a good love, and I didn’t want to admit it at first, but I think that’s going to be Killian.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You know?”

 

She bites her bottom lip and nods her head all the while her fingers mess with the little paper label on the bottle. “Yeah, I mean, saying things like that out loud terrify me because I’m so used to things going wrong. This morning is a prime example of that. But as much as I’m angry and upset and feel like I can’t even breathe over the thought of what this is going to do to me, I’m absolutely furious at what it’s doing to Killian. All of the low points in his life that he’s trying to erase are just…they’re there. Anyone with internet access can read about them, and you just know that this isn’t going to be the only article. It’s going to be everywhere. Walsh had to have known that when he set out to do this. He even gave out contact information for Brennan. Killian’s upstairs right now freaking the hell out, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

 

“I’m trying to handle this. God, I’m trying to keep it from getting big, but none of it is working. My phone won’t stop ringing from my email. Ruby has called me ten times because she can’t get ahold of you or Killian.”

 

“I don’t know where my phone is. It’s probably on the floor underneath my bed or something.”

 

David waves her away, and suddenly her throat feels dry enough that she needs to take a sip of her water. A huge sip. “I told her you’d call her when you can.” David sighs, and his shoulders deflate. “This isn’t going to be easy on either of you. It’s going to be worse for you at work. Killian is going to have even more focus on him than he has on him right now. Your lives are very much exposed, and that makes you vulnerable. I fucking hate that coward of a man for doing this to the two of you. Has he not hurt you enough?”

 

Emma shrugs, all of the feelings inside of her kind of going numb. “He always hated any time that I had success. He always hated that you were around to help me. It doesn’t surprise me that Walsh did this. What surprises me is that he was able to learn about any of this. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, so that just doesn’t make sense to me. And, like, how is it that only he had these pictures of us? Why had no one else released them? How is that even possible?”

 

“I don’t know. Killian is obviously a well-known guy but only in a small sector of the sports world. It’s not like he’s a household name. People are watching, as you know, but in hallways in the stadium and in airports so early in the mornings. That almost seems targeted.”

 

“Knowing, Walsh, it probably was. Such an asshole. Why didn’t you go into overprotective big brother mode when it came to me dating him?”

 

“You never would have listened to me,” David laughs, and it’s the first time that she’s felt a little bit light-hearted since she woke up this morning and looked at the little piece of artwork that Killian drew for her. “You were stubborn as hell.”

 

“Oh, and I’m not now?”

 

“You are.” David flashes her a grin. “Just a little more willing to listen now.”

 

Emma chuckles, but that little spark of joy has gone out because her thoughts have returned to Killian and how he must be feeling sitting upstairs in her childhood bedroom all alone.

 

What a morning.

 

She doesn’t even know what time it is.

 

“I don’t know how to help him, David,” Emma whispers, hoping that saying the words will somehow help her come up with some kind of magic solution. “I’m not good at this kind of stuff. How do you help someone who is hurting like he is?”

 

“You have got to stop saying you aren’t good at this stuff because you are. You have a lot of people who love you because you know how to connect with people, even if it takes some time. And looking at how the two of you interact, I know you know how to help Killian. All he wants is you to be there for you because I’m guessing half of his hurt stems from him being worried about you.”

 

“Yeah, probably.”

 

David tilts his head toward the staircase. “So, go upstairs and simply sit with him for a little while? Don’t force conversation. Just…be you. I’m really sorry, sweetheart. The two of you don’t deserve this.”

 

“We don’t,” Emma confirms. “Killian really doesn’t. No one should have to deal with having their past thrown back in their face like that. No one should have shitty parents like that. It almost makes me not knowing mine seem like a good thing.”

 

“Emma.”

 

“I know, I know. Sadistic joke.” She reaches down and takes a sip of her water before st