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hello love (a silent kiss from a wish)

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one.

 

Emma Swan was freezing.

She had never, in her entire life, known it was possible to be this cold.  She thought she’d understood cold--had endured cold, had survived cold, living on the streets in Minnesota in the winter, camping out in the backseat of her unheated Beetle in Boston, shivering in a jail cell in Phoenix.

She’d been wrong.

“If I could just--lay down for a minute,” she panted, letting Elsa help her to the ground.

“Emma,” Elsa said.  “Emma--talk to me. Tell me more.”

Emma wasn’t sure if she was going to survive this.  She heard her father’s voice on the other side of the ice wall and knew that he would be disappointed in her.  She tried to imagine him saying something supportive and ridiculous and cheerful and exhorting her to have hope, but she--she couldn’t.  Hope had vanished at least 20 degrees ago.

Emma was too damn cold for hope. 

“Parents don’t always help,” Elsa murmured, but Emma was having difficulty following the conversation from one end to the other.  She could hear the static squelching on the walkie from the other side of the ice wall and knew that David Nolan was doing everything in his power to get her out of here.  And Hook--

“That has to be very lonely,” Emma said, but the movement of her lips did little to help her stay warm.

Emma wasn’t going to think about Hook, about how she’d refused to let him break down her walls--metaphorically speaking--and how she was now trapped behind a literal wall, made of ice, and wasn’t that one hell of a metaphor?

But she knew that he was probably trying just as hard to break that one down, too.  She tried to imagine the pair of them, the prince and the pirate, just to make herself laugh, to move her muscles, but it was cold--too cold for anything to be funny.

“Were you born with magic, or cursed?”

She’d seen some weird shit in her life, and even weirder shit in the year and change she’d lived in Storybrooke.  She’d eaten chimera and killed a dragon and led a mutiny of Lost Boys. She’d seen a flying monkey in New York City.  But when Elsa admitted that she had no control over the ice swirling around and seeping into Emma’s bloodstream, Emma knew fear unlike any she’d experienced yet.

Fear of loss--because, for the first time in her life, she had something to lose.

Her parents, her family.  Henry. Hook.

“I’m very sorry I trapped us here,” Elsa said.  “I didn’t mean it.”

Emma knew that, she did--she just wished that she knew everything was going to turn out all right.

That they were all going to live, happily ever after.

She was barely conscious and did not see the glow of the wishing star in the ice underneath her.




two.

 

He came awake all at once.

Two hundred years shipboard made a man a very light sleeper, and in the years since, Killian Jones had been content to be awakened most mornings by the movements of his still-drowsing wife.  She would breathe against his skin, tickling him. He would feel her lips against his back in light butterfly kisses along his spine or her fingers as she traced the designs inked into his arm.  He would feel the gentle pressure of her body as she pulled herself closer to him, and hear her whisper: “For heat.” And then he would nod, allowing her the simple fiction and enjoying the way she fit perfectly against him as he watched the sun rise through the filmy curtains of their east-facing bedroom.

He was unaccustomed to the sight that greeted him on this morning, however.  He was cold and stiff--”Getting old, babe,” she would say, giggling--and when he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was a portable heating device on the floor of the Charmings’ old loft.

The loft that no one in their family had occupied for years.

It came to him in phases:  the awkwardness of sitting on the floor; the pain in his shoulder and neck; his arm, oddly positioned behind him and over his shoulder.  He tried to move, but couldn’t. Something-- someone --was holding his arm in place.

Instinctively, Killian twisted--he needed to check, he needed--

When he tried to pull his hand from her grasp, she turned, though she didn’t wake.  Emma Swan was curled up on the old too-small couch in the old too-small family loft, his old greatcoat pulled up to her chin and his hand wrapped tightly in hers.  

He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring.  Neither was she.




three.

 

Killian examined himself in the mirror.

He was wearing one of his linen blouses and a pair of leather trousers, his waistcoat discarded on the wash basin.  The boots lined up next to the couch had pointed toes instead of rounded and buckles instead of zippers. Though he always protested to his wife that he still ‘retained his youthful glow’, the reflection that greeted him was younger, and harder, and Killian suddenly missed the laugh lines and crow’s feet he had begun to accumulate.

With a sigh, Killian pulled his shirt up by the hem, already suspecting what he was going to see.  His skin was largely unblemished, except for his tattoos; the scar he carried from Excalibur was missing.  He had not yet been wounded. Killed.

He had not yet asked--begged, pleaded--she had not yet--

Killian closed his eyes and for an instant, he could feel his wife’s fingers tracing the pale silver line in the dark, the way she did on the nights where it still, sometimes, all felt like too much, when one or both of them was restless, when the only thing that kept the darkness at bay was the light they created together.  He exhaled, scrubbing his hand down his face.

The sliding door separating the washroom from the living area still stuck--of course it did, he reminded himself, no one had ever bothered to fix it--but he maneuvered it gently, hoping not to wake anyone, least of all the baby.  The cot was in its old spot by the alcove and if he had to postulate, his brother-in-law was--at most--three or four weeks old and still well into his screaming phase.  

Killian would bet gold doubloons on unloaded dice that there was sleeping Arendellian royalty in the bed at the top of the ladder.

Which meant that the Emma Swan curled up on the couch, under his coat, was not his wife.

He examined her, taking in the gold of her hair in the early morning sunlight, and saw that the strands of silver that had begun to twine around the gold were missing.  She appeared to be relaxed--he doubted anyone else would notice--but his Emma slept with complete abandon, and Killian could see that even in repose, in her family’s loft, this Emma was on her guard. 

He wanted to touch her.  His fingers practically itched.  He wanted to smooth away the worry line on her forehead, to run his palm across her cheek, to wind his fingers into her hair.  But this Emma still had walls that were miles high, and would not welcome his touch or his breaching of her carefully-constructed boundaries, no matter that he had, once upon a time, literally attempted to tear down a wall between them.  He had bruised his shoulders, had blunted his hook on the solid ice and been rewarded with the feeling of the weight of her in his arms for the first time.

And when he’d carried her back to the loft, wrapped in his coat, she’d pulled his hand into both of hers and didn’t let go, clasping and unclasping their fingers, tracing the metal of his rings.  He remembered it, they way her hand had felt, small and cold; the way her eyes had softened when she wouldn’t let him leave.

That was last night, unless he missed his guess, and just as he had the realization, she opened her eyes.

Emma startled very slightly--another thing that his Emma had not done in years--and relaxed infinitesimally as she saw him.  “Hook,” she said, and smiled. Her eyes were sleepy but crinkled at the corners as she met his gaze; she laughed at him every time, but Killian always swore that the morning sun made them glitter a particularly vibrant shade of green.

And that’s when his breath caught, in that moment, when all he saw was the woman he had married.  His True Love. (“Capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’,” she always said, as if he could possibly forget.)  

“Good morning, Swan,” he said, kneeling to put their eyes at a level.  He tried, and failed, to hold back, restricting himself to brushing a lock of hair out of her face.  “Have you warmed up at all?”




four.

 

The shower at Granny’s was worse than he remembered.

Killian wasn’t sure if it was the pressure of the water, or the fact that he missed Emma’s open shampoo bottles and the scent of her around him while he bathed.  Maybe it was that the shower in their home was big enough for both of them, a circumstance they frequently took advantage of. Killian reached for his old black dressing gown that was still brand new in this time, and had not been appropriated by his wife.  He stepped out of the bathroom, thumbing the scar on his abdomen that wasn’t there, and took in the room: the corners of the sheet tucked in with military precision, the hand-drawn map of Storybrooke tacked to the wall, his books stacked precisely on the wooden desk in the corner.

It was clean.  None of the photographs Snow had started gifting them, which multiplied on what felt like a weekly basis, cluttering every surface. None of the detritus his Emma left in her wake wherever she went.   When he’d walked through the door and didn’t immediately trip over Emma’s boots, which she would leave wherever she happened to take them off, it felt wrong.

She’d sent him “home”, and that felt wrong, too, but Killian knew there would be no changing her mind and no reason for her to think any other way.  Especially not when she’d allowed his touch and then immediately pulled back into herself. Emma had merely thanked him for spending the night, shooing him out the door, and he had gone.

“I’ve slept in far worse places for less worthy reasons, love,” he’d said, conscious of Snow--of Mary Margaret--and David trying not to watch them from their alcove.  They were destined to be forever watched, always interrupted, and they’d long ago given up changing the locks. “Far be it for me to deny a beautiful woman such a simple request.”

He’d been there for her, and she’d allowed it, and he had never forgotten how that felt.

But now, in the Spartan room he’d once maintained as his own, there was much else to consider.  This wasn’t time travel, nor was it another reality--two things he, unfortunately, had practical experience with.  He had not gone through a portal, or been transported by other magical means. It did not match Emma’s and Regina’s descriptions of waking up in the Wish world, or being sent through the looking-glass.

To his best approximation, he had merely woken up in the body of his younger self, on a day that he had already lived. 

That left him with two questions:  why?

And--perhaps more importantly--where was the Killian Jones that had been meant to live this day?




five.

 

The bed was warm, and it was that as much as anything that alerted his senses and pulled him fully and completely awake.  The bed was warm, and strange, and there was filtered sunlight coming in through flimsy window coverings. He was wearing neither hook nor brace--nor shirt--and he wasn’t alone.

Hook lay sprawled on his stomach, and there was on his back the weight of another person, their arm draped across his neck and a cheek against his shoulder.  He tried to remember the last time he had woken up with someone in his bed in the daylight, and when he lost count of the years, he rolled over onto his back.

Emma Swan followed his movement, mumbling to herself as she re-settled her head on his chest, and Hook froze.

Bad joke, that, he thought to himself, when he had just last evening been surrounded by literal miles of ice--when Swan had nearly frozen to death in a spell gone awry.

She was anything but cold at the moment, her breath tickling his skin.  Her hair was tied up at the top of her head in some kind of knot, and he had a delicious view of the skin at the back of her neck and the silver chain she wore.  They were tangled together in a web of soft sheets and he could feel, from where she pressed against him, that she wore little or nothing beneath her sleeping shirt.

He didn’t belong here.

Though he had often fantasized about what he and Emma Swan could do, should they ever find themselves in bed together, her present reaction to this manner of company would likely end poorly.  Emma Swan had carefully constructed boundaries, and this was a violation of all of them.

He didn’t belong here, and Hook knew this couldn’t be a dream.  It was too real; he could feel the weight of her against him, and the softness of the mattress under him, and the warmth of the sunlight against his skin.  There had been no portal that he was aware of, no other means of magical transport. He did not know what else it could be, other than a curse, and though he would happily kiss her--

Hook exhaled a laugh through his nostrils.

His previous attempts at curse-breaking had not been successful.  He would rather enjoy this feeling for a few minutes longer than endure another knee in the groin for his efforts.

But.

He had thought of her, every day of the year that they had been apart, and dreamed of her every night, and this was--

He remembered carrying Emma back into her parents’ loft last night, under the worried and watchful eyes of her family, and of Elsa.  He had been easily persuaded to stay, just by the look in her eyes that told him she needed him. Hook knew she couldn’t verbalize it, not yet, but she needed him, and he could be there for her.

And now, Hook found himself in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar place, with a very familiar yet unfamiliar woman pulling him closer with every breath she took.

Her hand moved, and he saw it:  the slender silver band around the fourth finger of her right hand as she absent-mindedly traced the tattoo along his collarbone.  Hook watched her, mesmerized by her obvious familiarity with the intricate design, the way the light reflected on the ring, and he noticed something else.

He wore one, too.




six.

 

Killian stood in his rented room, letting the weight of his greatcoat settle on his shoulders, and realized there was another question he needed to account for.

What now?

Zelena was clearly not an option in this time.  Regina was still avoiding as much of the Charming clan as she could as often as she could rationalize it.  The crocodile was, for obvious reasons, out of the question. Mary Margaret and David would undoubtedly panic, and then work to convince him that his discarded solutions were viable possibilities, and all of these years later he still stayed away from the convent and its inhabitants whenever possible.  They had forgiven him, but he still had not.  Killian felt a pang as he thought of all of the ways he could attempt to change what was about to happen, and the chain of events that would follow.

Few knew better than Killian Jones the cost of meddling with the past, however.  And there was too much that would be put at risk if he even tried.

But--in the meantime--what if he just enjoyed this quiet moment, and spent a day with Emma Swan?  He was turning the key in the lock and on his way down to the diner before he even completed the thought.

“Good morning, Captain.” Granny Lucas greeted him with an appreciative grin, and Killian could not help but smile back as he ordered his coffee.

“Coffee?” Granny’s eyebrows quirked upward.  “Finally starting to rub off on you, are we?”

“You know that you can...rub…wherever you wish, Mrs. Lucas,” he said, waggling his eyebrows in the way that she liked.

She flicked her towel at him.  “You watch yourself, boy,” she said, the way that she always did, before turning to pour out a cup of coffee.  “How do you take it?” she said.

“Ah,” he said, caught off-guard.  Emma drank coffee, Emma and Dave, who made a pot every day at the station, and he had first gotten into the habit of bringing her a morning fix in the weeks after she had restored his heart to his body.  “Black,” he said.

Before that, he had drunk tea.

He checked his phone for the time while he waited for Granny to hand the cup over, and looked up to see her watching him.  “Sheriff won’t be here for a few minutes yet,” she said.

“Aye,” he agreed.

“You doing okay with that thing?” she asked, gesturing at the device.

Killian ran his finger over the keypad, hovering over the ‘Emma’ button.  He shrugged. “Needs must, and all of that,” he said. “Have a hot chocolate ready?”

Granny smiled.  “Sure,” she agreed, watching him take a sip.  “You know I’m rooting for you two.”

Killian nearly spat out his coffee before turning to face her, one eyebrow raised.

The bell over the door rang and Granny gave him a wink.  He put his mug down. “Faint heart never won fair lady,” she said, handing him a cup of cocoa doused in whipped cream.

He turned back toward the door.  When Emma spotted him, their eyes met for a moment before she relaxed into a small smile and gave him a little wave, pointing to a booth.  Their booth. The one where they ate breakfast every weekend, had family dinner at least once per week, afternoon coffee breaks after quickies in the restroom and the time he had persuaded Ruby and Dorothy to close early, commandeering the old jukebox and dancing with her in the middle of the diner.

Killian waited for her to sit before handing her the mug, careful not to spill, and mindful of the way her hands immediately encircled it and how she touched her pulse points against the heat of the beverage for warmth.  “Still cold, love?” he said, wishing he could pull her hands into his, rub his own thumb across her wrist, trace the five-petaled flower tattoo with his finger. 

“I’ll be fine,” she said.  She gave him another small smile and a shrug.  “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“Only mostly dead, then?”  Killian smiled at her, affecting a calm he knew his other self had not felt.  

Emma paused mid-sip and looked out the window.  “Yeah,” she said slowly. “I guess I should be glad you didn’t go through my clothes, looking for loose change.”

Killian chuckled.  He understood that reference--

--and he shouldn’t.

Emma noticed.  Of course she noticed.  Half a dozen emotions flashed across her face before she settled on the easiest one, and Killian would swear she was wishing for another dagger to hold against his neck--bad joke, that--as she asked:  “Who the fuck are you?”




seven.

 

It was a wedding band.

It was a wedding band .

He--

She--??

Hook sat up, dislodging both the dozing woman and the sheets.  She muttered a curse under her breath and grumbled as she rolled over to the other side of the mattress, and he saw the ornament on the chain he had just been admiring, and he swore. 

Colorfully, describing anatomically impossible acts in several languages and ending with an emphatic “bloody hell .”

She--Emma Swan--his wife --sat up immediately, her expression brimming with concern.  “Killian?” She held her hand out, her right hand, putting her palm against his chest and spreading her fingers.  She inhaled and exhaled, deeply, and “breathe, Killian,” she whispered. “It’s okay.” He felt himself falling into her rhythm, the metal cool against his skin, his eyes drawn to the ring between her breasts against the thin fabric of her sleeping shirt.  They looked--she looked--different. Rounder?

Hook averted his eyes, embarrassed.  She looked down at herself, her hand brushing her abdomen, and back up, guiding her face with his palm until he was looking at her again.

He couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop himself leaning into the pressure of her hand against his cheek.  

Shaking his head, Hook found he wasn’t quite capable of speech.

His eyes closed.  “Killian,” she said, her voice gentle.  “Killian, look at me. Did you dream about Excalibur?” 

He shook his head again, still uncomprehending.  “I don’t--Swan--I’m not--”

“Come back to me, Killian,” she said, and it was a command.  “Here and now, babe, look at me.” Her hand was back on his chest, her breathing rhythmic and soothing.  “Tell me something you know is true.”

He looked at her.  Finally, he said, “I think we’re going to have a bit of a problem there, love,” and laughed.  

The sound was more than somewhat unhinged, and Emma’s hand fell away.  “Okay,” she said. Her expression had changed into something he was more intimately familiar with:  suspicion. “Tell me the last thing you remember, then.”

Hook caught her hand in his, finding himself suddenly unwilling to let her pull away.  She surprised him by immediately lacing their fingers together. “It’s okay,” she said.  “You can tell me.”

“The ice wall,” he said.  “Last night, you were trapped in a wall of ice and you nearly froze to death.  We took you home, to your family’s loft, with a woman called Elsa. I didn’t want you to be alone, so I stayed.  When I woke up--” he shook his head “--I was here.”

Emma’s mouth was open.  For a minute, she said absolutely nothing, until the confusion on her face cleared.  “Oh,” she said. “ Oh, oh, shit--”

She took a few deep breaths of her own, closing her eyes before she looked at him again.  “Hook?”

He nodded, and her fingers tightened around his.

“Our second date,” she said, and smiled.

Hook laughed; this time, there was a trace of humor in the sound.

“Aye,” he said, rubbing his finger against the silver ring she wore.  “I don’t suppose you ever found the champagne?”




eight.

 

Hook bathed--showered--letting the hot water steam up around him as he chased his own thoughts in circles.  The shower smelled like her.

It was distracting.

Though it was far less distracting than the ring he couldn’t bring himself to take off.

“Swan, we should talk,” he’d said, and Emma laughed.

“I find,” she said with a smirk, “that when my husband says that to me, I’m rarely in for a pleasant conversation.”

He glared at her.  “Poor form, Swan,” he said.  “Using a man’s words against him.”

She’d called him ‘Hook’ as if there was a distinction.  Perhaps there was; perhaps that’s what happened when a man woke up years into his own future.  That’s what she’d said: “Oh, shit,” in her typical state of eloquence. “That was real--you really--”  She’d laughed until she was nearly in tears, until he’d needed to steady her with his arm and she’d smiled at him, as though she expected nothing else.  “You’re in our house,” she’d said finally. “In the future.”

Perhaps, in that instance, he was no longer the same man he once was.  Hook wanted to know, and yet he didn’t. He rubbed the ring again--”It’s real,” she’d said, “I promise”--and thought maybe that was all he needed to know.  That, and the way she’d smiled, as though it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I’ll make breakfast.  We’ll talk after,” she’d said, his wife said, and smiled a smile that lit up the entire room.  “You can use the shower. Pretty sure you’ll find everything you need.”

But he didn’t belong here.

Hook kept repeating that to himself, like a touchstone, but everywhere he turned, he was contradicted.  There was his soap in the shower next to the open, flowery-scented bottles that were Emma’s. A razor on the wash basin, a straight-edge with a shaving brush, stood solitary amidst the cosmetics.  Everything he needed, indeed. The soap was the same kind he’d gotten into the habit of using since the curse, from the washroom at the inn, with its clean scent of citrus and hint of spice.  

It mingled well with the open bottles that smelled like Emma.

He wrapped himself in a towel, a luxurious sheet of soft fabric that covered him past his knees, and dragged his thumb against a six-inch scar bisecting his abdomen.  The closet held boots and jackets and waistcoats; his brace and hook were on the table next to the bed. On the shelf was the chest he had carried with him on the Jolly Roger across the centuries.

And Emma Swan wore his brother’s ring on a chain around her neck.

There were pictures dotted on every surface, small miniatures depicting him or Swan or Henry or some combination of all three.  Pictures of himself and Charming, of Snow White and Emma, of the four of them together, of the wedding-- his wedding.  To Emma Swan.

Hook had never given much thought to the future.  He had lived the majority of his unnaturally long life with only one goal and a single-minded focus on its achievement.

He had never seen a sunset so perfect.

Hook dressed himself, buckling his brace and selecting a blue shirt and a black waistcoat and, after a moment of hesitation, a jacket.  Clothing was armor. It was the facade he chose to show to the world. He had never been less certain of what a day might bring in his entire life and he did not intend to face it in nothing more than the low-slung trousers of soft fabric in which he had awoken.

And a gentleman would never parade himself about in a state of undress.

“Hey, sailor!”  Emma’s voice easily carried up to where he stood.  In their bedroom.  “Breakfast is ready!”




nine.

 

She was angry.

That was an emotion with which Killian was intimately familiar.  Hers, and his--because the Darkness had left its mark upon each of them.  Killian’s already-short fuse was, occasionally, shorter than it ever had been.  Emma sometimes retreated behind walls that were taller than ever. They fought it as they had everything else--together--and kept the same rules, always:  always talk to each other. If that didn’t work, then talk to someone else.  

And when all else failed, there was Archie, who called it “post-traumatic stress disorder”.

“Fucking post-traumatic savior disorder, more like,” Emma always said, her body brimming with frustration.  But her hand didn’t shake anymore and that was, itself, a victory.

Somehow, they got through it.  Together.

But all of that was to come much later.

For now, Emma Swan was angry, and she repeated her question.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Killian watched her, calculating the best way to answer her question.  Honestly, for a start.

“My name is Killian Jones,” he said, and her eyes narrowed, assessing him, until she nodded.

“Killian Jones who suddenly learned what Netflix is?” she asked.

It was her favorite movie.  He could practically recite it as well as she could at this point.

“Killian Jones who has had more opportunity to familiarize himself with Netflix, yes.”  He smirked. “And all of the pleasures of ‘Netflix and chill’.”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“I’m not the Killian Jones with whom you are currently acquainted,” he admitted.

Emma’s hand went to her forehead.  “What the actual fuck?” 

He wanted to reach for her hand.  He wanted to, but he didn’t. “I can’t properly say, but I woke up this morning in our--in your family’s loft.  That is not where I went to sleep last night. I fell asleep in my own bed, in my own home.” With his wife, whom he missed more and more.  It wasn’t--

She didn’t--

It wasn’t Emma , he realized.  She was exactly as he remembered, and he loved her now just as he had done then.  It was the way his fingers itched, and his sudden understanding of why.

“Holy shit,” Emma muttered.  “You’re--”

“From the future,” he finished.  “Aye.” He rubbed his finger against his ring--the wrong ring--to stop himself reaching for her hand.

“When?” Emma said.

“I really shouldn’t say,” Killian hedged.  “Several years from now.”

“You’re still in Storybrooke?  You--you stayed, in Storybrooke?”

It was the Darkness again, or rather the magic that had come with it.  Though he had no aptitude and even less interest, he retained just enough of it that he could feel her, his Emma, because of the bonds they shared.  Like a warm sunlight against his skin, nothing more, but he had gotten so used to it that he felt chilly in the shade.  The feeling was enhanced by physical contact.

Only this body had not yet been subject to the Darkness.  

And this Emma did not--yet--love him.  Not the way she would; not the way she did .

“Aye,” he said, looking directly at her.  “I’m still in Storybrooke. My entire life is here.”

His Emma loved to touch; she needed it almost as much as he did.  Their fingers intertwined, her body flush against him as they walked, her hand splayed against his chest as they lay on the couch or in their bed, against his heart.  As though she needed to remind herself--to remind both of them--that it was still there, and still beating.

Her eyes widened for an instant before she looked away.  She seemed suddenly uncomfortable.

He cleared his throat.  “Listen to me, love,” Killian said.  “You and I, we’ve done this part before.  Just answer me: Am I telling you a lie? Because I’d rather not have to do the whole bit with the flying monkey and the brig to prove to you I am who I say I am.”

“David doesn’t have bologna,” Emma said, and Killian could hear acceptance in her words, perhaps with a hint of a smile.

“A fact for which I remain eternally grateful,” Killian said.

She smirked.

He smiled.

“So,” she said.  “If you’re here, then my Hook--”  She blushed and cleared her throat and started again.  “The Hook from this time is--where?  There? Where you came from?”

He shrugged.  It was the most likely explanation.

“And you’re not, like, I don’t know,”  Emma said, “worried? Upset?”

He shrugged again.  “Why should I be?”

“And that’s it?”  She was incredulous.  “You’re just going to, what, stay here?”

“I could give you a ‘hope’ speech, if you want.  I’ve got a fair few memorized by now.” He laughed.  “Let’s just say, darling, that you and I always get back to each other in the end.”

In New York, in Camelot, in the Underworld, in Neverland.

Always.

That’s what it meant to be True Love--capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’--to not give up, to never stop looking.  To always make the choice, and choose each other.

“You’re wrong, you know,” Killian said.  “He is yours. If you believe nothing else, believe that.”

She bit her lip and looked out the window.  “I believe you,” she whispered.

Chapter Text

ten.

Hook needed a minute before he followed Emma’s voice down the stairs and into the kitchen. The clothing felt different; he was less familiar with the buttons and the buckles and the zips and it was an easier adjustment to make than taking in everything around him.

She had to call for him again before he took a breath and walked downstairs.

Emma’s back was to him while she busied herself at the stove. She still wore her sleeping shirt, offering a tantalizing view of bare legs, and a tattered black dressing gown that looked very much like the one provided him by the Widow Lucas. He’d worn it, he was sure, just yesterday.

It looked better on her.

“That doesn’t seem like yours, love,” Hook said, coming up behind her.

“You know how it is, Hook,” she said, teasing. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, Swan,” he said, “but I’m a pirate. Never been much for laws, meself.”

Emma laughed. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s just--you’ll understand someday why that’s funny. I promise.

He chuckled. Emma turned, smiling at him over her shoulder. Her smile was still contagious, and this, this--

If this was his future, his wife teasing him with that smile after he woke up in the bed they shared, he could get used to this. This was a future worth waiting for, worth fighting for; a happy ending.

Hook could feel an answering grin on his face as he said, “Something smells delicious.”

Emma laughed, delighted. “Yeah?” she said. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“Why, Swan,” Hook drawled, “I meant the pancakes, of course.”

“They’re from a box,” she said, flipping one in the air. “Ass.” But she was still smiling.

“But you must admit, it’s a very nice ass.”

“Take that ass and go sit in your chair and wait for your breakfast,” she said, pointing at a dining table with her cooking utensil. Hook laughed--there was his Emma Swan: the one he knew, the one with the too-rare smiles, the one who gave as good as she got or even better.

He, Killian Jones, Captain Hook, lived in a house with Emma Swan that had a dining table, where they sat and took meals together. Like a family.

“Don’t get your hopes up too high,” she called from the stove, and Hook tensed. “Because pancakes are literally the only thing I can cook. Henry won’t even let me scramble eggs anymore.”

Hook exhaled. “And where is the lad?”

“He’s with Regina,” Emma said. She carried a plate stacked high with pancakes to the table, and sat down. It was strange, or maybe even impossible, but when she came near him, Hook felt--better.

He didn’t eat the pancakes. He watched her.

“You’re watching me,” she said.

“Aye,” he admitted.

“You know, you still do that,” she said. “Now, I mean. In this time.”

“I can’t imagine I would ever get tired of it,” Hook said, and Emma wrapped her hand around his hook. His hook. “You’re beautiful, love.”

She tried to hide it, but there was a pleased grin on her face as she turned back to her breakfast.

 

eleven.

They still made a good team.

She finished her pancakes, and he helped her clear the table. She rinsed the dishes, and he set them to dry, and all the while, Hook couldn’t stop himself watching her. She did look different, he decided. There was silver in her hair, and very faint lines about her eyes--perhaps from smiling, Hook realized. Perhaps he had helped put those lines there. Her face, her entire person, seemed fuller, somehow. There was an ease in her posture and she moved differently.

Emma made herself a cup of hot chocolate. “So,” she said, cradling it in her hands as she sat on the couch. “I have a confession to make.”

“Most women--”

“Do not even start that shit with me, Hook.” She batted playfully at his arm. “I know all of your lines.”

“Did any of them work?” he asked, raising his eyebrows dramatically. “That is, aside from the obvious.” Hook held up his hand, and she took it in hers.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “They worked. They maybe, kinda worked too well?”

“Are you asking me?” Hook said.

“I think I know what happened,” she said. “With the whole--time-displacement-thing. Why you woke up here, in the future. I think I might have done something.”

“So we’ll undo it,” Hook said. He was confident.

“God, I love that about you,” she said. “The way you just always--” She gestured, eloquently, but didn’t finish. “And after all of the shit we’ve seen, you still just--”

Emma looked away, seemingly overcome, but this Emma was something Hook knew how to deal with. So he said nothing, letting her gather her thoughts again, letting the silence lengthen as she sipped her beverage.

“I’m a survivor, Swan,” he said, a quiet offering into the stillness. She smiled, a faint thing, but it was there. “And I choose to align my course with yours. It has yet to send me astray.”

“Yeah,” she whispered, the smile fading.

“Though I’m guessing it isn’t always fair winds and sunny skies,” Hook said. “This morning, when you--I take it that’s not the first time it’s happened?”

She shook her head. “Still a perceptive pirate,” she muttered.

“Do I--does it happen often? The nightmares?”

“Sometimes,” Emma admitted. “And then sometimes, it’s my turn. Archie says it’s--” She stopped again, biting her lip.

“You can tell me,” Hook said.

“I can tell you anything,” Emma said, squeezing the hand she still held. “But I shouldn’t tell you this.”

“You and I both know, to our peril, the danger of interfering with a timeline,” Hook agreed. He released her and placed his hand against his stomach. “Something to do with this, I take it?”

It was an ugly scar, as though he had been run through with a blade of some kind, and it occurred to Hook to wonder how he possibly could have survived such a thing.

She nodded. “Not my finest hour.”

Hook stared. Surely she did not mean--

“You did this?”

She shrugged, looking suddenly faint. “You asked me to.” Emma put her hand against her forehead, then dropped it against her mouth. “Excuse me,” she said abruptly. “I think I’m going to--”

He barely had time to take the mug from her hands before she was standing, rushing toward the bathroom.

 

twelve.

Emma was in the courtyard, outside the diner, and Killian stood on the steps and watched her.

He still loved to watch her. She was frustrated and overwhelmed and pacing, her arms wrapped around herself. She walked back and forth, between the table where she had kissed him for the first time after Neverland--mere days ago, in this time--nearly falling off of her chair in their need to pull themselves closer together; and the table where she had, just a few weeks ago, told him he was going to be--

“This is insane,” Emma said.

The table over there, in the corner, where he and Henry had been caught teaching Neal how to play, and to cheat, at dice before pulling Dave in for a round of poker that had become a regular habit.

Killian and Snow were usually the biggest winners--but then again, both of them cheated. Emma tended to roll her eyes and let them win, except when she was in the mood to prove a point, but Dave got flustered every time, which just added to the fun.

“We should tell someone,” Emma was muttering. “There is an actual metric fuckton of magic in this stinking town and someone here should be able to help us--”

Everywhere he looked, his life was laid bare before his eyes, and the woman who had helped make that life possible was talking to herself in the midst of yet another crisis. Killian could see it on her face as she ran through the possibilities he himself had already considered, discarding each one as useless just as he had done.

But Killian had figured it out, he had remembered.

He stepped down to meet her, grasping her arm with his hook to turn her around. “Swan,” he said, forcing her to look at him. “It’s fine, love, we just--”

“It’s not fine,” she said. “What, exactly, are we going to do about this, Marty McFly? Tell me, since you’ve seen it all before, how we’re going to get him back--and how we’re going to send you back to the future?” Emma exhaled an agitated breath, pushing her hair out of her eyes with her palm. “It’s never fine.”

She wasn’t speaking only of their current predicament, he knew.

“It is,” he insisted. “I know it feels overwhelming, like you haven’t had a breath, and I’m not saying that it gets easier--”

“Then what are you saying?” Her eyes flared. “You standing here is freaking proof of exactly how not-fine it is.”

“On the contrary, Swan--”

“What, then?” She looked so--defeated, and Killian felt his heart constrict in his chest. He needed her to understand, he needed her to realize.

“I’m saying that the best way--the only way--out is always through, Swan,” Killian said. “I’m saying that the only way through is to learn to appreciate the quiet moments.”

“That’s what you always say,” Emma said. “But, Killian, I can’t--”

He knew. I can’t lose you, that’s what she always said.

“I know,” he said. “Swan, I know. But I’m a survivor, just like you.” He pushed her hair off of her shoulder and gave her a small smile.

“How do you do that?” she asked. “Ever since you turned around that stupid boat, you’ve just--you--”

“You and I, love, we always fight for each other,” he said. “That’s what you and I have chosen--not to be together in spite of all that we have endured, but to support and love each other because of it.”

He was pushing her, Killian knew it; he was pushing her too hard and too fast with too much, but he needed her to hear it. When she exhaled, her breathing was unsteady, and Killian braced himself.

This was the part where she ran. This was always the part where she ran. This Emma, in this time--he may just have cost them--both of them, all of them--everything. If she shut down now, if she--

She surprised him.

Emma Swan was always surprising him.

She took a step toward him and rested her head against his shoulder, and he tensed for an instant--the weight of her was so familiar--before Killian put his hand in her hair. “I’m sorry, Swan,” he said. “I didn’t mean to--I shouldn’t have said that.”

“You shouldn’t have,” she whispered into his shoulder. “But I’m glad you did.” Killian held her, feeling the movement of her as she got her breathing back under control, as he matched his rhythm to hers.

“Also,” he said, “it’s a ship. I’m tired of reminding you.” He said it quietly, but lightly, deliberately breaking the mood.

“Can we just--” Emma said, stepping away, pulling her arms around herself again, reasserting her personal space. “Let’s just figure out what happened, okay? So we can fix it?”

“Aye, Swan,” he said. “As it happens, I’m a bit ahead of you there. You see, I know what happened.”

 

thirteen.

Hook could hear her in the bathroom. She hadn’t closed the door all the way, and she was retching, repeatedly and violently. Hook wondered what he would normally do in this situation, if he should help her in some way, especially when she’d seemed so upset.

He distracted himself by taking in his surroundings, but--

It had been a long time since he had cause to worry about the well-being of anyone else, and he had found that he liked it, on the rare occasions when his Emma allowed it. He knew they shared something, some understanding that let him be the one she could turn to when no one else could get through to her, but to see the physical manifestation of that all around him, in the band on his finger, in the pictures that even in this living area dominated every surface, was an entirely new kind of feeling. There were books on every shelf, histories and biographies, editions in Greek and Latin that he knew were from his collection on the Jolly Roger, a battered copy of something called The Stars, which appeared to have maps of this realm’s constellations and a Storybrooke Public Library stamp on its interior. His journals, bound in leather, so many years’ worth, stacked neatly against reference manuals for what appeared to be criminal investigative procedures, shelved in between large books full of recipes.

A telescope stood in the corner. When Hook looked through it, he could see the harbor, and the familiar masts of the ship that had been his home for more than two centuries; but it had never been home in the way that this place already felt like it was. This was not a life predicated upon survival only--this was about living, about enjoying the moments. This was a life they had clearly chosen and built together, and the home they had chosen to do it in.

Hook knew that it was more than their possessions, gathered and curated. It was Emma. She was his home. He’d known that since the day he’d left her at the town line in her little yellow vessel her with son, and watched her--them--for what he thought would be the last time.

There was a flushing sound, and Hook heard the water running in the sink just as Emma’s talking phone began to ring.

“Swan?” Hook called.

“Yeah, I hear it,” she called back, stepping past him to take up the device and answer it. “Dad?”

Emma rolled her eyes at him, whispering the word sorry, and started to sway back and forth on her feet as she waited for her father to stop for breath. “Dad, it’s fine, we’re fine,” she said. He worries, she whispered.

Hook smiled. That was a fact with which he was intimately familiar.

“No,” she said, “look, yeah, I know we’re late, something came up--”

There was another stream of barely-audible chatter over the phone as Charming got himself going again.

“Dad,” Emma said, her voice firm, “do not come here, or I swear to you I will put another barrier spell up around the door.” There was another pause and more chatter. “Whatever,” she said. “You and mom like tacos--Killian and I like pancakes.”

The prince’s voice was almost loud enough for Hook to make words out now--and even more agitated.

“Yeah,” she said, smiling, “Killian’s fine, I’m fine, I promise, we are all fine.”

More chatter, quieter and calmer this time.

“Yeah,” Emma said again. “Yeah, ok. Ok. Talk to you later. Ok. Love you too.”

She ended her conversation and threw the device at the couch. “Right,” she said, directing her focus back at Hook. She smoothed a hand over her hair.

“Swan,” he said, “are you sure you’re well?” He was worried he’d upset her, somehow.

Emma smiled, surprising him, since she still looked rather green about the gills. “Better than I’ve ever been,” she said. “I promise. So, I have a proposition for you. What do you say we get out of here, go for a walk or whatever, enjoy the ‘quiet moments’,” she made an exaggerated gesture with her fingers. “We’ll talk more.”

“Aye, Swan,” he said. “Let’s sail away.”

 

fourteen.

“Have you ever had a dream,” Killian began, “where it felt so real that you could not be sure if it was actually a memory?” He clenched his hand into a fist and forced himself to relax it again. “Where you felt it, deep inside of you, and it felt true, but you couldn’t make sense of it, so you convinced yourself it was just your imagination?”

They had walked, by silent but mutual accord, to the park, though Killian steered clear of the small lake that should not have been deep enough to accommodate the draught of Charon’s boat. Sometimes, in the light of the full moon, he imagined he could see the ferryman--that he could feel the Darkness pulling at his soul and the Underworld attempting to reassert its claim upon him. It was on those nights that he found himself volunteering to stay up with Dorothy to watch Ruby, unable to stay home and in his bed with his wife when he felt--everything--rushing through him.

Emma’s moods were less predictable, but on her bad nights he always knew where he’d find her: half asleep with her back pressed against the basement door. Those were the mornings when one or both of them would phone the cricket.

Emma, perhaps sensing his discomfort--though not understanding its origin--took him to one of the benches on the far side of the park.

“I guess,” Emma said, shrugging. “I don’t know. Maybe?”

Killian scrubbed his hand down his face, trying to cobble together the details of what she had told him, the other Emma Swan, his wife, his True Love, when she had spent this day with his other self.

“Is that...what this is?”

“Aye,” Killian said. “Only I’ve just realized, it wasn’t a dream at all. It was real.” He repeated it, almost to himself. “It was all real.” His half-forgotten dream was the reality he woke up to every day.

“What are you saying, Hook?”

Perhaps he had not been able to let himself believe in it before now.

“I don’t have any memories of this day, Swan,” he said. “Waking up in the loft, seeing you after your ordeal--none of it. But I do have memories of spending the day with you.”

“In the future?”

“Aye,” Killian said again. What he remembered--it was just a feeling. The rings, on his finger and hers, and around her neck. Warmth and light and love and hope and family.

“Did you happen to make any wishes in the ice cave last night, love?”

“No,” Emma said immediately. “No, of course not--oh.

Killian snorted.

“Oh, shit,” she said.

“Tell me if this sounds familiar,” he said. “It’s very cold, colder than you’ve ever been, and as you begin to pass out, you--”

“--wished that I knew everything would turn out okay,” Emma finished. She appeared stunned. “That we would all live happily ever after.”

“Exactly so,” he said. “And here I sit.” He bowed his head.

“That’s...heavy,” she said.

“Weight has nothing to do with it,” Killian said, and winked. The itch was back in his fingertips, the need to touch her, and Killian resisted it.

“Netflix and chill, huh?” Emma put her hand on his thigh.

“Your idea, Swan,” he said. “Not mine.” Nights on their couch--so many nights, takeout containers from the diner strewn across the small table--and Henry had started actively avoiding them whenever she opened a conversation with “Wanna go home and see what’s on Netflix?”

He put his hand over hers.

“Do I change my name?” she asked suddenly.

“Your--” Killian blinked. “Your name? Why, love?”

“When we get married,” she said, tracing the ring on his fourth finger. “It’s a custom here, like, in this realm, but I’ve never considered myself to be the type.” She smiled at him, at his bemusement. “You keep fiddling with this, as if it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t belong. But I’ve literally never seen you without it.”

Killian turned his hand so that their fingers laced together. “Aye,” he said. “It’s true, Swan, I have another ring I prefer to wear these days.”

“I’m actually pretty good at my job, you know,” she said with another smile. “Observational skills and all of that.”

“I’ve never doubted it,” he said seriously.

 

fifteen.

She transported them by magic to the deck of the Jolly Roger, and Hook wasn’t sure which surprised him more: to be on her decks again, or to see Swan so at ease in her abilities.

Emma didn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s just--I learned the hard way, on a really steep curve,” she said, and Hook’s hand went hesitantly back to the scar on his side, her eyes following his movements. Perhaps she had healed him. “Yeah,” she said, apparently understanding his unspoken question. “I mean, not, like, exactly, but--yeah.”

He tried--and failed--to imagine what it would have taken to heal such a wound. Her face revealed nothing. “You’re not the only one with stories you’d prefer to keep buried, love,” Hook said, tracing the symbols he’d carved into the wood of the ship’s helm: P and S, and the marks he’d gouged with his hook after Baelfire had left.

“Did you miss her?” Emma asked, changing the subject. Hook shrugged, noncommittal. It had taken him weeks to re-adjust to being on terra firma, to lose the vague feeling of landsickness after so many years spent out on the water, but he’d spent so long on that ship locked in with his vengeance and his hate. Barracking at the inn with Mrs. Lucas in the little room with its bare walls--it was almost like having a clean slate, and Hook was certain that it was more than he deserved. It had been the right thing, giving up his ship, and he’d never looked back.

“I know what you did,” she said, as if he had answered her. “To Ariel, and to Ursula, and I know how you took back the Jolly Roger--which, by the way, you fucked that up too, a little bit. But you made it right in the end, because that’s you do. That’s kind of man that you are.”

Emma smiled, and for the first time since he had woken up that morning, Hook found himself unable to meet her gaze.

"How is it," he said, "that you--"  He paused, pulling at his ear.

"See the best in you?" Emma finished.  "I choose to, Hook.  Every day.  And you've never let me down."

Hook had never been speechless before.

“You said you wanted to talk,” she reminded him. “But you don’t seem to have much to say. You haven’t even asked me any questions.”

“I’m not sure that I intend to,” he said.

“I know,” she said, coming up behind him and putting a hand on his shoulder. She chuckled in response to his raised eyebrow and said, “Oh, yeah--open book definitely goes both ways. You and I, we tell each other everything. It’s kind of like a rule.”

“I’m a pirate, Swan,” he said. “We’ve already discussed my affinity for rules.”

“Call it another thing we had to learn the hard way,” Emma said. Her voice was gentle. “And I know why you’re afraid to ask--about the ship, or, you know, everything. I know what you’re afraid of.”

Hook wasn’t afraid. He was terrified, of losing it, losing all of this, before he even had it.

“I know why you ended up here with me--with this me, in the future,” Emma said. Her head dropped as she settled in against his shoulder. “I made a wish, Killian.”

“You wished for me to be here?”

“In the ice cave,” she said, “It was so cold, you know? Colder than I’ve ever been, and I could hear my dad--I could hear you--and I wanted to know that everything would be ok. That we would all live happily ever after. And I woke up and I found this version of you who was--”

“Devilishly handsome?”

“--so much the man I already knew,” she said, rolling her eyes and talking over him. “I saw that it was real, and that I hadn’t been wrong about you.”

“And I ended up here,” Hook said. It was both a statement and a question.

“I think--” Emma bit her lip. “I think you needed to see it just as much as I did. To see that it could exist, that I could be better--that we could be better, together.”

His conversation with the queen on this very deck still haunted him: Villains don’t get happy endings. Hook stepped away so suddenly that Emma nearly fell. He grasped her bicep and turned her to face him and his breath was unsteady as he said, “How can you possibly know that?”

Emma reached for his forehead, pushing his hair out of his face and combing her fingers through it. “This is True Love,” she said. “You think this happens every day?”

Hook inhaled a shaky breath. He lifted his hand to take hers and leaned his forehead down so that their noses were nearly touching. “Swan,” he said, “you know I can tell when you’re quoting something.”

Emma laughed, and he loved the feel of it, the warmth, against his skin. “And I love that you never know what it is.”

“True Love?” he said, pulling back to look at her. “Emma, I know you care for me, but--”

“True Love,” she insisted. “Capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’, babe.”

They stood like that, locked together, taking comfort from each other as the familiar creak of the old boards against his feet was like a soothing balm against his soul.

True Love. That was the rarest magic of all.

“What now, Swan?” Hook asked.

 

sixteen.

“So--” Emma asked. “What now?”

“We wait,” Killian said.

“Yeah,” Emma said. “I’m not great with waiting.”

Killian laughed. “A fact which, I assure you, has not escaped my attention,” he said, bumping his leg against hers. “I am, as you are aware, quite perceptive.”

“Didn’t answer my question, though,” Emma said.

He knew. But waiting was the answer, and Killian wanted to enjoy his time with her.

“We have our wits,” Killian said. “Let’s focus on being productive.”

“Ugh.” Emma snorted. “Are you always this cheesy? Like, in the future?”

She was still holding his hand. He squeezed it.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

She squeezed back. “Yeah,” she said. “Maybe I would.” Emma leaned closer, resting her head on his shoulder. Killian lowered his until his cheek just brushed against her hair--and there it was, the smell that was Emma. He inhaled, deeply, and it felt like home.

“So this won’t change anything, will it?” Emma said. “I mean, you’ve told me some things, but--if all of this has already happened, nothing should change, right?”

“I don’t believe so,” he said. Then, after a moment: “I hope not.”

“But we won’t remember,” Emma said. “Not consciously.”

“When I leave,” Killian said, “everything will be just as you remember it; your life will carry on exactly as it did. But this day--it happened, love. And you’ll always know that, deep down, just as I did.”

“So there’s nothing you would change?” Emma asked. “It’s all, what, sunshine and rainbows and everything is perfect?”

“It’s none of those things,” he said quietly. She sat up, and started to pull her hand away, but he held on tightly. “It’s life, Swan. It’s messy and complicated. And some of the things that you--that we--have survived to make it this far are terrible.”

“So why--” she said. “How can you not want to change that? To make it better?”

Killian shook his head. He thought of all of the things he had seen--all of the things yet to come to pass, to be lived, for both of them. The Darkness that had broken them almost beyond repair; breaking them so much that they should never have been able to forgive themselves, or each other, for what had happened, except that they had chosen to--chosen to piece themselves back together, their broken bits that somehow fit perfectly--and for a long moment, or an eternity, Killian had no words.

It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows. It wasn’t perfect. It was messy and complicated and wonderful.

It was--every day, sometimes every moment--a challenge. But after all of these years, and everything he had seen and done and survived, he still loved a challenge.

Especially a challenge like Emma Swan.

“I could never take the risk, don’t you see?” Killian said. “I could never take the risk that I might lose you, or our future. The fact that we make it through everything to come, and we do it together, is worth fighting for.”

They had all the time in the world.

“Killian,” Emma said, tears in her eyes.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “You and I, we were tested very harshly by fate, and by the whims of the gods. But we choose each other, always. That’s what it means to be True Love.”

She started to pull away again, and Killian cursed. He definitely should not have said that. He let her go, watched her stand up, and turn away, and turn back again, before she repeated, disbelief radiating from every syllable: “True Love? Like, capital ‘T’, capital ‘L’ true love?”

“Aye,” he whispered.

 

seventeen.

Hook felt her words as if they were actually settling onto his heart, imprinting there; her arms braced against his were an anchor in the chaos. He felt unshakable--and so, so shaken. The future was an unknown, something untested and untouchable and for the first time in more years than he cared to count he felt as though he might actually have a future.

Like something within him had shifted.

“I have to send you back,” she said, and there was sadness in her eyes and in her voice. He felt warm everywhere she touched him, but his mind was too full to notice, too full of this world she--he--they lived in. Together. Looking at her, feeling her against him, was like breathing in the sun. Only she wasn’t--this wasn’t--his Emma Swan.

“She loves you already, you know,” Emma said, rubbing his arm with her hand, running her fingers through his hair. “That night, the night in the ice wall, that’s when she knew, and it terrified her.”

His Emma Swan with her mile-high walls and his indefatigable quest to persuade her to lower them, to let him in.

“She’s not a little lost girl anymore,” Emma said. “She finds herself in you. It’s you, Killian. That’s her happy ending, the way you find yourselves in each other.”

He wanted that, he wanted to be the one who helped her break them down, brick by brick, and to meet the woman who lived inside.

“Be patient with her, Killian.”

Hook closed his eyes. “Will I remember any of this?” he asked.

She didn’t answer him. “Do you trust me?” Emma asked instead. She put her hand on his chest, over his heart.

“I trust you,” he said. “Always.” He opened his eyes and looked at her. “To the end of the world. Or time.”

Emma nodded. “I’m going to tell you something, Killian, something I learned a long time ago: you and I, we aren’t together in spite of all of this crazy, fucked-up shit we’ve seen. We’re together because of it. Because we choose to be.” She stood up on her tiptoes and whispered into his ear, “Don’t forget that, okay? Don’t stop fighting for us.”

His entire body was itching now, with the way she was pressed against the full length of him. The moment hung between them and she pulled him in even closer, and he kissed her.

He kissed her.

It was sweet and thankful, determined and resolute, and it felt like both a hello and a goodbye, and Killian felt almost torn between conflicting realities, and he wanted to reach for her. He grasped for more, desperately, sinking into the warmth of the kiss--he was hot, as silver shots of magic pulsed through his veins--

 

eighteen.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and Killian sensed that their time together was growing short. He knew she would leave to go meet Elsa, to examine the ice wall more properly from the outside--it was the first clear memory he had of this day.

“You’re so much like him,” Emma said finally.

“Devilishly handsome, you mean?”

She bit her lip, as though giving consideration to every syllable she was about to utter. She opened her mouth, changed her mind, closed it, opened it again, and then said: “What about me? Am I--”

Killian stood, pulling her into an embrace. His hand went to the back of her neck and when he pressed his forehead against hers she didn’t shy away. He inhaled the scent of her, almost making himself dizzy from her shampoo and her skin and her touch.

“You’re perfect, Swan,” he whispered.

“No,” she said. “I’m not.”

“No, you’re not,” he agreed. He pictured the boots in the hallway and more sugar than he could possibly imagine; the mess she left every morning in the washroom and her complete inability to cook anything but pancakes. The way she held him when he couldn’t sleep and the way she let him help her when it was her turn for nightmares and how warmth rushed through his body whenever she was near him. “But you’re perfect for me, and that’s what matters.”

“Am I easier to deal with? Can I--am I better--with, just everything? Feelings?” She let out a long breath. “I’m not ready, Killian, for all of this--I want to be, but I’m not there yet--”

“Aye, love, I know.”

“How do I ask him to--”

“He’ll wait, Swan. He’s a very patient man. He’ll--” (it wasn’t funny, but Killian laughed) “--go to hell and back for you.”

It was as if something broke within her at the words. It really was a bad joke, that, and she didn’t even know the punchline yet.

“You listen to me, Killian Jones,” Emma said sharply, her eyes flashing. “If you go to hell, I am coming in after you and dragging your ass back to Storybrooke.” She brought her head to his shoulder again. “I’m not losing you.”

His entire body was itching now, with the way she was pressed against the entire length of him. The moment hung between them and she pulled him in even closer, and he kissed her.

He kissed her.

It was sweet and thankful, determined and resolute, and it felt like both a hello and a goodbye, and Killian felt almost torn between conflicting realities, and he wanted to reach for her. He grasped for more, desperately, sinking into the warmth of the kiss--he was hot, as silver shots of magic pulsed through his veins--

 

nineteen.

Killian came to himself all at once, anchored by the familiar embrace of his wife. His wife. The feeling, the flash of magic, pushed outward, and he felt it all the way down to his toes as he kissed her, kissed her until he couldn’t think straight, kissed her as he pushed her up against the wheel and she gasped and said, “Killian?”

He rested his forehead against hers, catching his breath, pressing his palm against her abdomen. “Aye, love. Did you miss me?”

 

twenty.

It was dark out, and Emma was furious.

That was a lie.

She wasn’t furious, she was terrified--which was worse, so she focused on her anger, and her target. Hook had settled himself outside of Granny’s, at the same table where she’d kissed him just days ago. He had that same look in his eyes, his fucking blue eyes--all soft and sad and waiting for her to just tell him what she wanted from him, and he would give it to her, and he took a sip of his rum and said, “Swan!”

She started to turn, but no. She was too furious. Too terrified. There was too much happening, and all of it was happening at once, which was pretty much the entire fucking story of her entire fucking life at this point, and she thought she’d gotten used to it, but something about the snow monster--or maybe it was the ice wall, or the woman who seemed to know her, or the way that Hook and David had nearly died today--

“Don’t make a man drink alone,” he said, and she could swear he pouted, and fuck literally all of that.

“Not in the mood for a drink,” she said, which was also a lie. “Or a man.” Another lie. She heard the scraping of his chair against the courtyard pavement as she walked by him and into the street.

Hook followed her. Of course he did. If there was thing she’d learned about Captain Hook--about Killian Jones--

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you today, all right?” he said, calling after her.

--it was that he would follow her past the end of the world.

She needed that, needed him--and he could have fucking died today.

“I know you feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shouders,” Hook said, and thank you, Captain-fucking-Obvious, that’s what it meant to be the Savior, and she almost hadn’t saved him today, and--

“But at some point,” he said, his hook around her arm forcing her to turn and face him, “even though we’re quite different, you’ve got to trust me.”

Emma stopped. That’s--he thought that--? She raised her voice and it was almost an accident. Maybe it would help cover the fear she didn’t want leeaching through. “That’s what you think this is about? That I don’t trust you?”

Hook looked at her, confused, his hook still around her arm. “Is that not what this is about?”

Emma wanted to laugh. Or maybe to cry.

Her parents had the baby. Her brother, Neal, and--yeah, that was going to take a lot of getting used to. Henry was worried about Regina. (So was she.) Ruby was gone. Emma had been locked in a wall of ice and the only thing that had started to make her feel warm again--safe--was the feel of his arms around her, so much so that she had made him sleep sitting up on the floor; she had let herself need him. She literally had no one else in her life she trusted as much as she trusted him right now, who she lo--”Of course I trust you!”

“Then why,” he said, his own voice rising in agitation, “do you keep pulling away from me?”

Which was--accurate. But--didn’t he see? She couldn’t--”Because everyone I’ve ever been with is dead,” she said, and Emma felt the sting of tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. “Neal--and Graham--even Walsh.” She looked at him, at his eyes, his stupid blue eyes all soft and sad and supportive and said, “I’ve lost everyone. I--”

He waited. Emma lov--hated when he did that. How did he always do that, just--”I can’t lose you, too,” she said.

“Well, love,” he said, “you don’t have to worry about me. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s surviving.”

The moment hung in the air between them.

But I’m a survivor, just like you. The words were like an echo in her head as Killian looked at her, and Emma refused to look away, and she didn’t just see it, she felt it--the moment something changed and he pulled her toward him and kissed her.

He kissed her.