It started, as it always did, with a twinge in the back of her throat following a long, fruitless stake out.
Emma blinked awake slowly, eyes attempting to adjust to the inky sort of darkness that could only come with pre-dawn. She wasn’t often the type to wake up so early, especially after only getting in and collapsing into bed next to her sleeping fiancé at two in the morning. But the ache was too bothersome to ignore.
Only, she had to ignore it. Because it always meant she was getting sick and she just couldn’t be sick. Not when Christmas was just a handful of days away and her and Killian’s schedule was packed full of traveling and cheery holiday events that she refused to miss. Most certainly because if they did miss any of it, Liam Jones would put the blame solely on her shoulders.
Despite the fact that, if she was sick, it would be Killian who made them cancel so he could make sure she rested in bed until she was better. It would never be her, sickness or not. But Killian’s older brother would never see it that way. Which is why she couldn’t be sick.
So she decided she wasn’t.
Even if she did slip into the bathroom after Killian had gotten up a little while later to pop a throat lozenge into her mouth.
She most definitely was not sick.
So she kept having to hide the fact that she was basically surviving off a secret stash of Ricola from her purse every time she was certain Killian wasn’t paying attention. And all of it barely seemed to be putting a dent in the pain still emanating from her throat.
That wasn’t a real sign that she was sick .
Sick was sore throats and coughing and sneezing and just feeling overall miserable.
And yeah, she felt miserable. But she’d been in her cramped car for half the night trying to get in one last minute bust before they left for Storybrooke, Maine. And yeah, her car had been absolutely freezing the whole time because she hadn’t told Killian her heater was broken again.
But that didn’t mean she was sick .
Sure, there had been a couple sneezing fits and maybe a little coughing too, but airports were rife with all manners of scents and allergens. There had been one woman’s perfume in the security line that made her eyes tear up and had her almost wheezing. Or so she’d told Killian when he’d eyed her with a mix of concern and suspicion, his eyebrow arched nearly into his tousled hairline.
Because they were getting ready to get on a plane to go see his family and Emma Swan wasn’t going to be the reason the whole thing was ruined. Not by some pesky little cold.
That she did not have.
Because she wasn’t sick.
“Maybe we should stop and get some tea before we get to your brother’s house?” She asked Killian from the passenger seat as he navigated their rental car down the highway through the woods towards Storybrooke. When Killian gave her a quick sideways glance and yet another eyebrow raise, adding to the probably a dozen she had gotten already since they’d been waiting at their takeoff gate, she tried to shrug it off like it was nothing.
“I just thought we could bring everyone a nice cup of something warm. I know how your brother feels about coffee, so I figured it would be a thoughtful gesture…”
Killian pushed his lips out slightly and nodded slowly. “Ah yes, right.” His blue eyes shifted over to her for another brief, and yet intensely knowing, look. “It certainly has nothing to do with you always preferring to drink tea when you’re under the weather?”
Huffing indignantly, Emma crossed her arms. She felt proud of the way she didn’t outwardly wince at the way her body ached and her head throbbed with the movement. “I already told you I’m fine .” She rolled her eyes and stared resolutely out the front windshield. “It’s just my allergies from the airport and the plane with that guy and his damn cologne...”
“Swan...” Killian replied patiently and she could feel his eyes on her once more.
She shrugged. “Fine. Don’t get the tea. I don’t care. I was gonna get coffee anyway.”
After a long pause, Killian sighed. “Alright, darling. We can get tea for everyone, and a coffee for you.”
“Good. Awesome. ” She nodded. It made her head feel like it was splitting in two and harder to tell if her tone came off as nonchalant as she intended. She relaxed back in her seat and closed her eyes, contemplating how she could secretly get a hold of Killian’s tea later without him noticing.
Just a few sips.
Not because she was sick, though.
She’d finally managed to shake her hovering and clearly suspicious fiancé a few hours after arriving at the elder Jones’ house when Liam had blessedly informed them there was a football game on he’d been hoping to watch with his little brother.
Emma had given the excuse that she needed to confirm a few bounty hunting jobs for after the holidays, and had hightailed it upstairs to have some blessed alone time where she could not be kinda a bit sick in peace.
The sounds of the game and the Jones brothers shouting from downstairs was muted background noise as she dazedly scrolled through TikTok, watching night time routine videos. It was a habit of hers that she only did when she wasn’t feeling quite up to… well, anything. And as she lay slumped back against the headboard of Killian’s bed from high school, Emma couldn’t think of a single damn thing she felt up to doing. Except trying not to feel completely like death warmed up.
She was so lost in her hazy, definitely sick daze that she didn’t even realize how loudly she had sneezed, or that the coughing fit that followed was going on far longer than was normal for anybody that wasn’t sick like she had been insisting all day.
“Bloody hell, that’s it!”
Thinking Killian was reacting to something in the game, Emma was caught completely off guard when he came pounding up the stairs and into the room. She sat up as best as she could as he marched over to her and gently took her hand and pressed a warm and steaming mug into it.
Killian lowered himself down onto the edge of the bed and gave her a no-nonsense stare. “It’s tea. I made myself a cup after the one I ordered mysteriously disappeared. You’re going to drink it,” He nodded down to the cup, raising his eyebrows for emphasis. “And when you’re done, you’re gonna change into your pajamas and crawl under the covers and not come out from this bed until your feeling better.”
Killian rolled his eyes. “Emma, I swear, if you say you’re ‘fine’ one more bloody time…”
There was a slight desperation in his voice that made all remaining desire to resist flee Emma and she slumped back down. “Okay, maybe I’m not fine.”
Blue eyes softened to fond exasperation. “There’s no maybe about it, Swan. You’re sick. And you’ve been trying to hide it all bloody day.”
Tears came unchecked to Emma’s own eyes. Because she was sick and she was miserable and crying couldn’t be helped at that point. “I didn’t want to ruin Christmas.” She whispered, glancing down at the mug now clasped between her hands. She ran her thumb along the rim.
“Love, you wouldn’t have ruined Christmas.”
She snorted, sniffling. “If I had told you I got sick overnight because my heater is broken in my car again, you’d have made me stay in bed at home and would have called your brother and told him we weren’t coming. And then your brother would have another reason to not like me.”
Killian’s hands suddenly appeared in her line of sight as he slowly extracted the mug from her own. She looked up, wiping at her nose with the sleeve of her sweater, as he placed the mug on the table beside the bed. Then Emma found herself buried in his warm, strong embrace. She let out a shaky sigh, resting her pounding head against the side of his neck.
“Oh my darling, sweet, stubborn Swan.” Killian whispered, rubbing his hand up and down her back. “You’re impossible.”
Emma couldn’t help but snort. “And you love me for it.”
Shifting her back so she was resting comfortably against the headboard again, his hands on her arms, he gave her an affectionate look. “Aye, that I do.” Killian leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. “But I don’t want you hiding that you’re unwell from me. And most certainly not because of my bloody brother.”
She opened her mouth to argue but Killian stopped her with a hand on her cheek.
“I’m going to go downstairs and ask Elsa for something for you take so you can get some rest and be on the mend.” He said instead, the no-nonsense tone returning. “And while you rest, I’m going to have a nice long chat with Liam about the things he’s been saying to you to make you feel like he hates you.”
“Babe, you don’t have to…”
“And you and I are going to have a discussion about you not telling me about the heater in your car.” Killian continued on pointedly
Emma slouched down farther on the bed. She turned her head and coughed pathetically into her fist.
“Babe, I can’t…” She pouted dramatically. “I’m sick.”