The weeks of August slipped by, and as they did, Emma came to feel more and more comfortable with her “temporary” arrangement. She no longer felt the need to put distance between them in the bed. She sometimes woke to find Killian’s arm around her and his nose buried in her hair, and she found she didn’t mind. She had told him she wasn’t a cuddler, and she wasn’t - he was. The thing that surprised her, however, was how comforting it felt. She didn’t feel the need to slip quickly from his arms or squirm away. Quite the opposite, actually. She usually drifted back to sleep for a few more minutes with a contented smile on her face. Come to think of it, she was sleeping better than she had in years.
Her days were simpler here than they had been in New York. Walsh had been concerned that they would miss the excitement of the city, but she didn’t miss it at all. She liked the slower pace of her days, the leisurely meals with Killian, and the lazy evenings of Netflix and hot chocolate. Even when they walked across the sand dunes to join Killian’s family for dinner, it was relaxed, ending with all of them gathered around the fire pit as the stars twinkled overhead.
Kristoff and Anna moved out mid-August, settling into a quaint Cape-Cod style house a few streets over. They closed on the house just in time as tiny Lukas - seven pounds, eight ounces, 18 inches long - made his appearance on August 20th at a little past two o’clock in the morning. Emma and Killian had been awakened from a deep sleep with the news. They had tumbled out of bed in excitement, throwing on clothes, then racing across town to Storybrooke General to see their nephew. It was amazing to Emma how easily she thought of the baby boy that way as she held him in her arms. Technically, he wasn’t even Killian’s nephew, but Anna said technicalities didn’t matter - family was family.
Mary Margaret and David had become family too, welcoming them for dinner often as well. Leo was always excited to see “Uncle Killy” and “Aunt Emmy.” It was a nice change, too - not having to put on an act, since MM and David knew the truth. Although Emma had a harder and harder time telling what was an act and what wasn’t.
August melted into September with barely any change in the weather but a slightly cooler breeze off the water. It was still creeping into the high 70s during the day, though Emma knew that by the end of the month, those would drop about ten degrees. She wondered what their daily runs would look like when the weather really got cold, but she didn’t ask Killian. She didn’t want to think too far into the future these days, and she certainly didn’t want to bring it up in conversation.
They were out for a walk along the water’s edge one evening after dinner when everything changed. They were enjoying the colors of the sunset in silence, tossing a stick leisurely to Smee as they went along, when Killian suddenly got more personal than Emma had wanted.
“Yeah?” She turned into the wind to see his face, and her hair blew across her eyes so she couldn’t see his expression. By his tone, she imagined his jaw was clenched.
“Can I ask you a question?”
Emma swallowed nervously. “Um . . . sure, I guess.”
He turned and stepped closer to her. He reached out and brushed her hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ears.
“Where is your family?”
His words were gentle, his brow furrowed in concern. This was a topic that she avoided like the plague. She had made it clear in interviews that her past was private. As a matter of fact, as popular as she was on social media, she worked hard to keep her content focused on her work and not her personal life. The only reason her marriage had gotten entangled in it was the nature of that work.
Emma searched Killian’s earnest face and realized that it wouldn’t be fair to him if she refused to answer. He had shared his most vulnerable memories of Milah, after all. She let out a shuddering breath and closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her courage.
“I don’t have one.” She raised a hand to stop his protests. “I mean, obviously I had parents. I have no idea who they are, though. I was a baby when they dumped me on the side of the highway.”
“Surely an adorable baby like you was adopted right away?”
Emma nodded. “Yeah, I was. By a couple in their fifties who were unable to have kids of their own - the Baxters. Thing is, I don’t remember them either. Unfortunately, Mrs. Baxter died suddenly of a heart attack, and Mr. Baxter just couldn’t cope. Family services got involved and took me out of the home on multiple occasions due to Mr. Baxter’s many problems.”
“Problems?” Killian asked softly.
Emma shivered as a breeze blew past, even though she was wearing a sweater over her long sleeved tee.
“Neglect. Substance Abuse. Child endangerment. I’ve read the files. All I really remember is this intimidating man who sat in his La-z-boy drinking beer all day long. I ping ponged between him and multiple foster homes. He didn’t relinquish custody until I was eight, and by that time, no one wanted me.”
“Don’t say that, Emma,” Killian told her in a strained voice. He drew closer and cupped her face in his hands. “You’re wanted.”
She shook her head. “Not then. No one wanted to adopt me by that time. I was too old. Everyone wants a baby or a toddler. I wasn’t . . . enough.”
A single tear slipped down her cheek, and Killian caught it with his thumb.
“Liam and I . . . our dad took off when we were kids. Mum died when I was thirteen. Then it was just us. Foster care didn’t even try to keep us together, but when Liam aged out, he found me.”
“I didn’t have a Liam.”
“You’ve got me now.”
His hands were warm against her face, his breath caressed her lips, his nose brushed hers. The look in his eyes was too much, and she looked away, over his shoulder and across the horizon. Living by the water all these months, it wasn’t the first time she had seen rain moving across the sand and water like a sheet, but she gasped and stumbled backwards anyway.
“Rain’s coming,” she said in answer to the hurt in his gaze. Before he could say anything, she turned and ran down the beach, back towards the house. Smee thought it was a game and ran with her, letting out happy barks. She couldn’t run fast enough. Killian called after her, but she just ran faster. Smee bounced happily across her path, playfully nudging at her heels, and she tripped over his furry body. She didn’t go down at first, pinwheeling her arms and digging in her heels. But the rain had already started to come down, and the sand was slick. Her heels slid forward and she landed on her rear end. Killian was at her side almost immediately.
“Are you alright?” he asked as he helped her up.
“I’m fine,” she snapped, shaking herself from his grasp. She knew it wasn’t fair, but her nerves were raw.
“What were you running from?”
“The rain!” She had to shout as water poured from the heavens in sheets.
“It’s just rain,” he shouted back, “not a storm.”
“I didn’t want to get wet.”
“We’re already wet!”
They were. His hair was flat against his head, and hers was stuck to her cheeks and neck. Emma’s sweater felt like lead across her shoulders, and Killian’s t-shirt was like a second skin, accentuating every muscle.
“You!” she shouted through the downpour.
“I was running away from you!”
His gaze was bewildered as he struggled to blink the rain from his eyes. She didn’t know how else to say it, so she acted instead. She grabbed him by a fistful of his soaked shirt and yanked him to her. This wasn’t a kiss for the sake of appearances when there was an audience. This was unadulterated passion - messy, with clacking teeth, bruised lips, and tangled tongues. When she could no longer breathe, Emma pulled back. She had to grasp his shirt tighter as she stumbled in the sand. Killian steadied her, then reached up to peel strands of hair from her cheeks.
“Let’s get inside and dry off,” he told her.
She nodded dumbly, not sure what to say after she’d pretty much humiliated herself. First by running from him like a lunatic, then kissing him like a desperate woman. She released him and turned towards the house. Killian wasn’t far away, his hand hovering a little awkwardly first at her back, then at her shoulder blades.
They made their way up the back porch steps and through the screen door. Luckily, they kept towels there for drying off Smee after he’d been in the water. They scrubbed themselves wordlessly. Smee shook himself, sending water flying all over the porch. Killian scrubbed the dog next, and Emma kicked off her shoes before going inside.
She stood there shivering in the kitchen, water dripping from her sweater and pooling all over the floor. With shaking hands, she discarded her sweater. The loss of its weight felt nice, but the cold air against her did not. The door banged shut, and she turned to see Killian enter with Smee at his heels. His brow furrowed in concern when he looked at her.
“You need to get out of those clothes, Swan, before you freeze to death.”
He had discarded his t-shirt on the porch and stood there bare chested, his skin glistening with rain water, his dark hair hanging tantalizingly over his eyes. She swallowed thickly as desire pooled in her belly.
“I’d like you to get me out of them,” she replied. She meant to say it with playful flirting, but it came out with crackling, straining tension instead.
Emma crossed to him in one stride, pressing her palms to his wet chest. His skin was warm and rose and fell with each breath. Time seemed to slow as her gaze met his, then sped up again as she surged closer, sliding one hand behind his neck to yank his lips to hers. He didn’t hesitate, kissing her back with aggression, wrapping one arm around her and tangling his other in her wet hair.
He backed her up against the opposite wall, pressing his wet body to hers. Emma let out a sound that was part moan, part desperate pant as her head dropped back against the wall. They were both frantic now, their hands roaming and grasping. Killian traced her jaw, then the column of her neck with his tongue. As his teeth lightly nipped at her earlobe, his hands found her waist and began pushing the wet fabric of her shirt up her torso. She raised her arms, moaning at the loss of contact with his body as the shirt was pulled over her head. As soon as the garment landed with a wet plop on the floor, Killian assaulted her mouth again, swallowing her groan of pleasure with his tongue. His hands skimmed up and over her chest, leaving fire in his wake. His fingers found one of her bra straps, and he slid it with aching slowness over her shoulder, following the path with his lips. Emma dug her fingers into his hair and thrust her hips forward. He groaned as he lifted his head and buried his face in the crook of her neck.
“Emma,” he whispered on a ragged breath, hot against her skin. “I want you so desperately, but are you sure?”
Emma yanked on his hair, forcing him to look at her. His blue eyes were darkened with lust.
“Take me to our bed, Killian.”
“ Our bed?”
She answered with an aggressive kiss and another thrust of her hips. Killian’s hands slid up her back, and he unclasped her bra. He broke their kiss to trail his tongue once again down her neck as he slid her bra off and tossed it aside. She panted at the thought of feeling his lips on her breasts, but instead he pulled her flush against him as he claimed her mouth once more. The feel of wet skin against wet skin and the feel of his damp chest hair rubbing against her sensitive nipples sent heat skittering across every inch of her body.
Killian reached around, grasped her by the ass, and hoisted her up. Emma wrapped her legs around his waist. He walked her deftly to the bedroom without breaking their kisses. He deposited her onto the bed and slid both her wet shorts and wet panties down her legs in one deft movement.
Emma was bare before him, and she felt nothing but eagerness. His gaze caressed her, and she had never felt so desirable. She trembled all over as he discarded his shorts and boxers. Up to this point, everything had been frantic and greedy, but now Killian took his time. There wasn’t one inch of her body he didn’t worship, coaxing multiple orgasms out of her before he even entered her. When he did, she was writhing and begging for him, something she never did. She expected him to smirk or laugh at her gasps of “please, please ,” but he didn’t. He sank into her slowly, a look in his eyes she had never seen in a man during sex before.
There was a lot about him in bed that shattered everything she thought she knew, and she didn’t know whether to be awed or terrified.
The first thought Killian had when he woke up the next morning was that he was colder than he had been before he fell asleep, and he reached out for Emma before he had even opened his eyes. His arms met cold sheets, and he opened his eyes then, puzzled for a moment. Then he heard the shower running, and he relaxed.
A little, anyway.
A lazy smile curled his lips as he thought over the previous night. After making love and cleaning up, Emma had bounced out to the kitchen in nothing but one of his t-shirts, full of energy and flushed smiles. He, on the other hand, was boneless and spent, his chest still heaving.
Emma brought an armload of junk food back to bed, and they had eaten their fill as they talked and laughed. That had been followed by kisses which led to swollen lips, which led to more sex. The second round was rougher than the first, Emma on top, her hair wild and glorious all around him.
He groaned as he buried his face in his pillow, feeling his arousal. He toyed with the idea of joining Emma in the shower, but the water shut off, and he heard the glass door open and shut. As he waited for her, his arousal was replaced with worry as he thought again of last night. He probably shouldn’t have whispered, “I love you” into her skin as he made her come, but she was so bloody glorious, she made it difficult to think straight.
Emma stepped out of the bathroom in her tiny sleep shorts and strappy tank top, rubbing her long hair with a towel to dry it. God, she was gorgeous!
“Good morning,” she said tightly.
He frowned and reached for her. “Come back to bed.”
She shook her head. “I’ve got a lot to do today.”
“On a Sunday?”
She kept her back to him as she tossed the towel to the floor.
“I’ve got that radio interview coming up, remember?”
He sat up, letting the sheets pool around his waist. Emma’s cheeks warmed when she turned back to him, and he gave her his most charming smile.
“Not much you can do to prepare for that.”
She tilted her chin. Uh-oh. “I beg to differ.”
He leapt from the bed before she could reach the door, and he gently grasped her elbow. He drew her close, and she didn’t resist, placing a palm against his bare chest. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, his lips brushing her skin. He could feel her shudder at his touch.
“How about breakfast in bed?”
“I said I’m busy,” she snapped, pushing him gently away and turning to the door. “And put some damn clothes on.”
Killian snatched up a pair of boxers and almost tripped in his haste to put them on. He followed after Emma, finding her filling the coffee pot in the kitchen.
“Emma, we need to talk about last night -”
“I think that was a mistake.”
Killian blinked in shock as he watched her turn away from the sink and pour the water into the coffee maker. Unsurprisingly, she wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“Yeah,” she said with a shrug as she opened a cabinet to retrieve a mug. “We’re both adults with sexual desires, and last night we succumbed to them.”
He shook his head. “Are you saying it meant nothing to you?”
Cold dread snaked through his bloodstream as Emma pressed her lips together in a thin line. She set the mug down on the counter, filled her coffee mug, and took a leisurely sip.
“Well,” Killian finally said, his voice thick, “it may not have meant anything to you, but it did to me. I meant what I said last night. I love you, Emma Swan. You can run from that, you can ignore it, but you can’t change it. It’s how I feel about you, and I won’t apologize for it.”
He turned away from her then, mumbling about needing a cold shower. When Emma heard the bathroom door slam, she set her mug down with trembling hands, hugged her middle, and wept.
Emma set herself up on the back porch with her laptop to prepare for the radio show she would be on in the next week. She’d been surprised when Regina set it up, thinking of radio as out of touch with her typical audience, but this show was national and its interviews were also released as podcasts. Emma tried to concentrate on the information Ruby had compiled on the show’s host, but she was distracted by the sounds drifting down the short hallway. The house was so small, she could detect each sound and knew what it meant. Killian just shut off the water in the shower. Now he’s closing the glass shower door. That’s the sound of the handles on the bureau as it opens, so he’s probably getting out new boxers and a shirt. Now he shut the bureau . . .
She set down her mug of coffee and wearily rubbed her head. She was far too aware of him, and far too rattled by their fight. She’d only told the truth. They were adults, they were both attractive. This was bound to happen sooner or later living in such small quarters. It didn’t mean anything.
So why was her heart aching?
It may not have meant anything to you, but it did to me . . . I love you, Emma Swan.
Emma groaned. She could tell herself all day long that it was just sex, but Killian had laid all his cards on the table. And she’d promised Mary Margaret she wouldn’t break his heart . . .
“I’m going to the workshop,” Killian muttered as he came out of the bedroom, his hair still damp from his shower.
“Okay,” Emma said hesitantly. He never went in on Sundays. She wondered if she should try to smooth things over, but before she could even gather her thoughts, the front door was slamming shut.
Emma chewed on her lower lip as she turned back to her laptop. It was a beautiful day with a pleasant breeze blowing off the water and the sun warming the porch. She wanted to soak up every moment of it before the weather turned chilly. Yet it may as well have been freezing cold and stormy for the sinking feeling in her chest. She rubbed her eyes as she rose from the patio table. She wandered back into the house, feeling slightly lost.
She noticed her wet clothes from the night before still laying in the middle of the kitchen, so she scooped them up and took them to the laundry room. Then she went into the bedroom to retrieve her shorts and panties and Killian’s shorts and boxers. His t-shirt and all the wet towels were still in a heap on the back porch. Killian was more pissed at her than she’d thought. He usually never left messes like this. Smee seemed to think the laundry gathering was some sort of game, and he followed her around the house barking. Emma dumped all of the clothes, still slightly damp and sandy, into the washing machine.
Looking down at their jumbled, damp clothes, flashes of the night before assaulted her memory. There were images of bare skin, sweat, and moans of pleasure, but there were memories that were more difficult to process. Blue eyes looking at her with such intensity; words whispered against her flesh. I love you .
Emma slammed the lid of the washer shut, then swore aloud when she realized she forgot the damn soap. She opened it again, dumped in some detergent, then started up the wash cycle.
She was just walking out of the laundry room when a knock at the door made her jump. Smee started to bark threateningly, though Emma knew he would be useless if there were an actual intruder.
“What are you gonna do, huh?” She teased the dog. “Slobber them to death?”
Nevertheless, it was comforting to have Smee at her side as she approached the front door. A fall wreath that Elsa had hung the day before blocked Emma’s view out the door’s small window, so she opened it hesitantly. When she saw who it was, she let out a sharp, loud gasp.
“Hi, Emma,” he replied in a tone that sounded halfway apologetic.
Emma’s eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together in an angry line. “Are you crazy? Get off my front porch before someone sees you!”
She reached out and practically yanked him inside. Once she had shut the door and turned to face him, his expression had turned to gleeful satisfaction.
“Afraid I’ll blow your little charade to pieces?”
Emma glared at him. “What the hell do you want?”
“What do you think? I love you, Emma. I wanted to marry you! I still do.”
Emma crossed her arms over her chest. “Really? I thought you were in love with Zelena. Remember her? The woman you left me at the altar for?”
Walsh shook his head. “I was a fool -”
“We can agree on that at least,” Emma snorted.
“Can you just hear me out?”
“I don’t owe you a damn thing, Walsh!”
After Emma shouted, everything went downhill in a blur. Walsh reached out and grabbed her arm, and a second after that, Killian burst through the door. Later, Emma would realize how it must have looked to him - her shouting and then running in to see Walsh grabbing her - but in the moment, it was jarring. One moment Walsh was grabbing her, and the next Killian was flinging the man against the opposite wall.
“Don’t you lay a finger on her!”
“What the hell!” Walsh cried.
“Yeah, what the hell!” Emma protested. “I was about to punch him myself!”
Killian glanced at her, his eyes wide with admiration, his mouth twitched up in appreciation.
“I just came to talk, for God’s sake!” Walsh shouted.
“Get out of our house,” Killian growled.
Walsh adjusted his sports jacket and glared at both of them. He looked first at Emma, then at Killian with a wicked gleam in his eyes.
“So you’re fucking him. I wondered.”
Emma lunged forward, but Killian beat her to it, landing a left hook to Walsh’s jaw. The man fell to the ground with the force of the blow.
“I said. Get. Out,” Killian seethed between clenched teeth.
Walsh scrambled to his feet, a hand to his swollen jaw, his jacket askew again, and his hair falling in his eyes like a coward on the playground. He yanked the front door open, but before he walked out, he turned to Emma and sneered at her.
“I’d watch out if I were you, Emma. The truth is going to come out. Sooner rather than later.”
Emma opened her mouth to ask him what he meant by that, but he hurried out the door, slamming it behind him before she could speak. She heard the wheels of his sports car on the gravel drive, then heard the engine rev as he drove away. In his absence, a lead weight seemed to fall between her and Killian.
“Why was he here?” Killian finally asked in a wounded voice.
“The hell if I know!” Emma snapped. “You think I invited him?”
“I don’t know what to believe,” Killian bit out. “I certainly misinterpreted things last night. Now I show up and your ex is here -”
“That’s not fair!” Emma interrupted. “I didn’t ask Walsh to show up, and for that matter, I never asked you to . . . to . . . develop feelings for me.”
“Love you,” Killian clarified boldly. “You never asked me to love you.”
“Okay then!” She shot back, her voice rising. “I didn’t ask you to love me!”
Killian searched her gaze for a moment, and then his shoulders sagged and his head fell forward.
“You’re right,” he finally said quietly. “You didn’t.”
He turned and walked right back out the front door. Emma hugged her torso and wondered stupidly why he’d come home to begin with. She glanced at the clock and saw it was a little past noon. He’d come home for lunch and found Walsh here. She groaned and rubbed her forehead wearily, then she sank with a thud to the couch.
As she buried her face in her hands, she realized with a wave of sadness how much easier it would have been if Killian had kept yelling. Anger was so much easier than this ache in her heart.