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Killian groaned into his pillow, knowing his alarm would be going off in only a couple of minutes. He debated on letting it go off, letting the noise wake Mara, but decided against it, not wanting to deal with her yelling at him so early in the morning.

Turning off the alarm, he made himself get up to get ready, thinking that he would likely get to nap in his office.

Showering and dressing, he left his room, passing his wife's on the way out to the kitchen, only grabbing a cup of coffee and a bagel before grabbing his satchel to head out.

Normally on his days off he would call Graham, the one friend he had in Storybrooke, but knew it was too early to ask the sheriff to get breakfast with him on the days he had class.

Killian had always been an early riser, but hated that he had to do it to go to a job that he despised. It may have paid decently, allowing him a comfortable life, but it had grown tedious teaching the same few students astronomy every semester for years.

The biggest perk for him was the optimal parking he was able to get the days he was scheduled to teach, always able to park his Firebird in the closest spot to where his office and room was. He didn't mind walking, but wanted to avoid walking through the lots while more people with less than skilled driving abilities were out as much as possible.

The late October air promised the season would be changing, making him sigh in derision. Even as the seasons changed and years passed, nothing ever changed in the town, save Henry.

Killian liked Regina's adoptive son, the boy a welcome break to the monotony of life in the sleepy town. More than once Henry had sought him out because of his friendship with Graham for help with his schoolwork or just to talk, until they had something that was a mix between friendship and a parent and child relationship.

Regina hated the bond, often throwing barbs Killian's way, which only delighted him that he was able to get under her skin. He would gladly do anything possible to antagonize her, bitter about the situation he had been put in.

Reaching his office, he hung up his coat and called the sheriff's station to ask Graham to meet him for lunch at Granny's, leaving a message he knew would be heard soon enough.

Quickly eating his small breakfast, he reluctantly moved to leave for his class, wondering if his students would ask the same questions they had the day before.

Killian lifted his head from his arms as he heard someone sit beside him at the counter, seeing Graham grab one of the menus in front of him.

"Rough class?" he asked conversationally, not looking up from the pamphlet.

"If I have to explain again why we have a dark side of the moon, I think I'm going to start putting rum in my morning coffee," Killian said by way of greeting.

Graham chuckled as he set down the menu and waved Ruby over. "You're the one who decided to be a professor."

Killian bit back his retort that he didn't have a choice as Ruby came by to get their orders, flashing Graham a flirty wink as she did so. While she grinned, she didn't flirt with Killian, which he was fine with.

"So, any plans for tonight?" Graham asked. "Or are you going to be hitting the Rabbit Hole again?"

"No clue," Killian replied as he took a hearty swig of his coffee. "I'm thinking about going to maintenance my ship tonight. Hell, I might spend a couple nights there."

Graham shot him a sympathetic look. "Fight with Mara again?"

"Isn't it always?" Killian replied with a humorless laugh. "I merely breathe and that harpy is yelling at me."

"Why don't you just get a divorce?" Graham asked. "Seriously, mate. You're not happy. You have completely separate rooms. When was the last time you've even had sex with her?"

"Can't remember."

Killian had never slept with the woman given to him as a wife. It felt too deceptive to him, that he remembered everything before Regina cast her curse, that he was taking advantage of someone who didn't even know who they were, much less that he was Captain Hook. He never tried getting really close to anyone save Graham. Even if the town had essentially given him a new life, he wondered how well he would be received if everyone knew who he was.

At the beginning he tried to have a good relationship with her, but even the first day in a new realm, she had been bitter towards him. She tried to pick a fight over something he didn't even know about, and had ceased her attacks since.

He tried not to be too angry with her, knowing just like most of the rest of the town, she had been cursed to forget her very identity. He had no idea who she was, even when he had tried searching before.

He didn't know many of the people, having stayed mostly in Neverland before striking the deal with Regina that had put him in his personal hell. Henry had helped him when he first showed him his storybook, leading to the true identities of some of the townspeople he didn't already know.

Killian had been willing to act as Regina's assassin until he learned from his target, Regina's own mother, that his memories would be erased with the curse, therefore eliminating his reason for going with it. He had confronted her about it, furious that he wouldn't be able to get his revenge against the imp who killed his love. Because of his anger, Regina agreed to let him remember himself, promising him what would be a good life in a new land and still be able to enact his revenge.

He hadn't expected to be double crossed by her even after he carried out the mission she tasked him with. He was given a house that felt like a prison, a wife that made being anywhere near her unbearable, and a job that while it paid good, made him miserable.

He hadn't even been able to get his revenge, the curse making Rumplestiltskin forget himself. Becoming Mr. Gold, he no longer remembered who Killian was, who Milah was, or that he had murdered her, making it that even if Killian had enacted his revenge, it would be meaningless.

"But I stay there because there's nothing else," Killian said in a low voice. "You know how this bloody town would talk if I left. Besides, nothing ever changes here, anyway."

Graham sighed, playing with the handle of his own coffee mug as their food came. "You know, if you ever need a place to stay, my couch is always open."

Smirking, Killian nodded in appreciation. "Thanks, mate."

Watching a few more people shuffle into the diner, including the woman he recognized as Snow White, he couldn't help releasing a heavy breath, feeling the same feeling of monotony that he had earlier in the morning.

"Do you remember when you became sheriff?" he asked Graham.

Graham looked ahead pensively as he chewed his food before answering. "No, I can't. I've been sheriff for as long as I can remember. Why?"

"No reason, mate," Killian replied, having expected the answer.

Having just finished repairing the loose board for the umpteenth on the deck of the Jolly Roger, Killian wiped at his brow, debating on how soon before he wanted to retire for the evening. As soon as he considered running by the diner to pick up dinner for himself, he felt his phone go off in his back pocket.

Releasing a groan, he hit to answer the call. "What do you want, Graham?"

"Henry's missing," Graham said.

Killian stiffened at his words. "What?"

"Regina called and said that he never came home," Graham said, the sound of a car door closing in the background. "He left school and wasn't there when Regina got home. She hasn't been able to find him."

"Where do you want me to look?" Killian asked, already stepping off the gangplank onto the docks.

"Check around town," Graham responded.

Killian nodded, even knowing Graham wouldn't see him. "Got it."

He was already walking before he hung up, worry twisting his stomach. Henry was smart, but he didn't want to think about what could happen. Regina didn't have near as many enemies as she had before, but they still existed. Even in the town, there were people that hated her. He prayed that no one decided to go after Henry in retaliation.

Night had already fallen, doing nothing to ease his nerves about what happened to Henry. Quickly doing the math, he figured that Henry had been missing for approximately five hours, meaning he could be anywhere in the area, or possibly even be no longer in the town.

Killian was loath to think about that possibility, knowing that no one could go after him, that no one could leave the town. Regina was the only one ever able to leave the town, having done it when she adopted the boy.

To his chagrin, no one had seen Henry since he left school, coming up with nothing even hours later. Keeping in touch with Graham, he knew the sheriff had not found anything.

Killian was tired, but knew he had no other option than to continue looking, even as he saw from his phone that it was nearing eleven at night.

Standing by the closed down town library thinking about going into the forest, he started at the shrill ringing of his phone.

Seeing Graham's name on the screen, he quickly answered it. "Please tell me you have news."

"He's home," Graham told him.

Killian let out a loud sigh of relief. "What happened?"

"The lad went out of town and found his birth mother," Graham said tiredly. "He found her in Boston. She brought him back."

His eyes widening in surprise, Killian began walking back towards the house he resided in. "From Boston? How did he get there?"

"No idea," Graham said. "But he's home, and his mother is leaving tonight."

"Is he alright?" Killian asked.

Graham sighed. "Physically, yes. As soon as Regina got to him, he started yelling how he found his real mom and ran off to his room. He didn't want to talk to me."

"I bet Regina loved that," Killian muttered before he continued on in a normal tone. "But I'm glad he's home safe."

"Aye," the other man replied. "Hey, mate, thanks for the help."

"It's no problem," Killian said, turning onto the street where his house was. "I'll come by in the morning and bring breakfast."

"Thanks," Graham said.

He hung up as he reached the front steps, mentally preparing himself to go in. Taking the plunge, he unlocked the door, stepping in and shutting it behind him. He heard the television on in the living room, letting him know it was likely Mara was still awake as he made his way to the kitchen.

Throwing some leftovers in the microwave, he sat at the island to eat his dinner, not wishing to be disturbed.

As if reading his mind and deciding to go against his wishes, Mara came into the kitchen, throwing him a derisive look as she flipped back her light brown hair.

"Wow, you finally decided to come home," she said as she reached into the fridge and extracted a bottle of water.

"Henry came home," Killian said by way of response.

"That's good," she said carelessly.

He had to fight the urge to scoff. "He went out to find his birth mother. She brought him home."

"Good for them," she said.

Closing his eyes, he laid down his fork to pinch the bridge of his nose. He knew she was trying to get a rise out of him, knowing from experience she would do anything to pick a fight some days. Determined not to give in, he made himself calm down to finish his dinner, even if he did stab his chicken with more force than necessary.

"So where did he end up?" she asked in the same careless voice.

"Boston," he said.

"And you guys didn't think to check if maybe he left the town?" she asked mockingly.

"No," he responded in annoyance. "He's ten years old. How are we supposed to know that he went to bloody Boston?"

"Well, considering Graham is the sheriff."

"In case you haven't noticed, the entire town is surrounded by forest," he pointed out. "He could have simply gotten lost in there for all we knew."

Mara narrowed her hazel eyes at him coldly. "I'm aware of the terrain around here. Or do you forget that it's my job around here treating animals that have gotten lost in there?"

Killian bit back the retort he wanted to throw at her, instead opting for one that would make him less miserable in the long run. "Well then, you know how often it happens that something gets lost out there."

Rolling her eyes, she turned on her heel to go back into the living room.

Killian counted the argument as a personal victory, having mostly kept himself calm and avoiding the personal insults she was so fond of throwing at him.

Finishing what he had left, he quickly washed what dishes he had, unable to shake the impulse to always clean up whatever mess he left. Going back to his bedroom, he locked the door, changing into some pajamas and removing his brace before settling in with a book to read until he fell asleep.

Using his back to push open the door to the sheriff's station, Killian carefully balanced the drink tray holding some coffees for him and Graham as well as a bag of food.

"You know if you had only waited a second I would let you in," Graham said in amusement.

"But what fun would that be?" Killian replied as he followed Graham into the station.

Looking around, he wasn't surprised to see Leroy in one of the cells, but the other one contained a woman he'd never seen before.

Killian felt the air leave his lungs as he looked at her, taking in her golden hair, fair skin, and jade eyes. He'd seen plenty of pretty women in his centuries long life, but could only think of one who rivaled the siren before him. She was dressed plainly in dark jeans, boots, and a red leather jacket over a white shirt, but it did nothing to detract from her beauty.

The thing that drew him in most was the look her eyes held, a loneliness that he suspected she carried deep within her. She had the same look he had seen in the eyes of many Lost Boys, as well as himself whenever he looked in the mirror.

He forced himself to get a grip on himself after a beat, making himself tear his eyes away from her so he could focus on what she and Graham were saying to each other, but not before he caught her looking at him with an expression he suspected matched his own.

"Seriously?" she asked through the bars, focusing on Graham as he moved away from the cells after letting Leroy out of his.

Graham moved so he was standing in front of her, completely relaxed.

"Regina's drinks are a little stronger than we thought," he said knowingly.

"I wasn't drunk," she said with a hint of annoyance. "There was a wolf standing in the middle of the road."

The comment drew Killian's attention, making him look at her more closely. As far as he knew, wolves didn't exactly live in the area, but they were in a town that consisted of fairytale characters.

"A wolf," Graham said skeptically. "Right."

"There could have been," Killian offered in the women's defence. "Maybe not a wolf exactly, but people do have hybrids. Plus there's plenty of breeds that look like wolves."

Graham raised his brow at him, making him cock his own brow in return.

"Graham?" they suddenly heard Regina call from the front, sounding panicked.

"Henry's run away again. We have to-" she suddenly stopped as she saw the blonde woman in the cell. "What is she doing here?"

She stepped until she was directly in front of the cell. "Do you know where he is?"

"Lady, I haven't seen him since I dropped him at your house," the blonde responded. She gestured to the bars. "And, pretty good alibi."

Killian couldn't help smirking at the comment.

"Well, he wasn't in his room this morning," Regina said, the panic in her voice returning.

The other woman was quiet for a beat, thinking. "Did you try his friends?"

"He doesn't really have any," Regina said quickly. "He's kind of a loner."

The blonde looked unsettled by the statement, a brief look of pain flashing in her eyes.

Looking at the others, no one else caught her expression.

"Every kid has friends," she said quietly before speaking up. "You check his computer? He's close to someone, he could be emailing them."

Regina suddenly looked scandalized. "And you know this, how?"

"Finding people is what I do," the blonde leaned further into the bars, her voice suddenly carrying a persuasive tone. "Here's an idea. How about you guys let me out, and I'll help you find him?"

Killian couldn't help fully smiling, thinking how much he liked the woman.

Regina stood there for a minute debating before huffing. "Let her out."

The woman looked almost smug as Graham unlocked the cell.

Regina threw a dirty look Killian's way as she hurried out of the station, making him only grin further.

He looked back as the woman stepped out of the cell, decidedly stepping into her space to speak to her.

"I don't believe I caught your name, love," he said lightly, extending his hand out to her, knowing it was a custom that had extended to their current realm even if they didn't have to worry about checking for hidden weapons.

Raising a critical brow at him, she shook his hand. "Emma Swan, Henry's mother."

Killian grinned as he gave her a slight bow, happy to have her identity. "Killian Jones, at your service."

He felt a sense of triumph at the amusement in her eyes.

"I'll give you guys a ride over to the mayors," Graham called as he retrieved the keys to the squad car, shattering the moment.

Killian gestured for Emma to go ahead of him out of the station, something telling him that things in the town were about to change.

Slipping into his room, Killian tossed his jacket on his bed, rolling out his shoulders in an attempt to relax from the day.

He felt bad for both Emma and Henry, knowing they were both in miserable situations.

Henry was being made to believe he was crazy by Regina, having to see Dr. Hopper because he truly believed everyone in the town was cursed. He knew Henry wasn't crazy, that he was right about everything his book told him, but his hands were tied. Killian couldn't tell him he was right without there being severe consequences. He would have done it if he were only risking his own safety, but refused to put Henry in any kind of danger.

Even if Emma had put Henry up for adoption, Killian had a feeling it was for a good reason. Her demeanor when he saw her after she spoke to Regina the last time told him everything he needed to know, that she was genuinely worried about her son. She wanted him to be happy and in a good home, something he had a feeling she knew what it felt like to be without. The look of solitude she carried only added to his theory.

Shaking his head and deciding to deal with everything in the morning after his class, he went to his window to crack it open to let the autumn air into his room for a little while.

Lingering a bit, Killian looked out over the town, resting his arms on the window sill as he did so.

He instantly caught the movement of the clock of the clock tower, seeing the time had changed to 8:16.

Suddenly grinning at the clock running for the first time in twenty-eight years, he thought with some excitement that Emma's arrival in Storybrooke was the sign that things were about to change, that she just may be the one to break the curse.

Chapter Text

Killian absently sipped at his coffee as he looked over the exam paper he was grading, internally groaning as he marked off another wrong answer. It was one thing for the town to be stuck in a timeless loop, but he thought it was excessive for his students to always submit the same answers form every exam he put out. He had even tried mixing it up a few times, changing the order of the questions and rewording them, but there was never any variation.

He noticed Mary Margaret at a table over performing the same action, hoping she was having better luck in grading than he was.

Marking the final score on the paper, he set into his graded pile, debating on whether or not to get another coffee when he heard the bell of the door, followed by light, hurried footsteps to his booth. Looking up, he saw Henry looking flustered.

"Killian," Henry said, out of breath from running.

"Henry?" Killian asked, setting his new paper aside. "What's wrong?"

Mary Margaret looked up, noticing her student flustered. "Henry?"

"Emma needs help," Henry said in a rush. "My mom- she set her up, I know it. But she's been arrested."

Killian flinched back, taken by surprise. Graham hadn't told him anything about arresting Emma.

"When was this?" he asked.

"Only a little while ago," Henry said quickly. "My mom just told me about it."

"What for?" Mary Margaret asked him.

"She told me Dr. Hopper said she stole my records," Henry said, suddenly looking more distressed. "Emma said Dr. Hopper gave them to her. I know my mom is behind this."

Packing away his papers, Killian looked back at Henry. "You want me to bail her out?"

Henry looked sheepish yet determined. "Please?"

Killian nodded, rubbing at his chin. "Aye, lad. I'll do it."

Mary Margaret looked at him in surprise. "No, I can do it. Won't Mara be angry?"

He shrugged as he pulled his satchel over his shoulder. "It's alright, love. And I honestly don't care. She has her money, I have mine."

He never really hid how bad his sham marriage was, often shocking the people who heard him. Graham was the only one who truly knew the extent, but Killian never felt a need to tiptoe around it.

Biting her lip, Mary Margaret shrugged.

Only stopping to retrieve the money he would need, Killian let Henry walk with him to the sheriff's station, knowing he was eager to see Emma out.

They found Emma having her mugshot taken as soon as they walked in, hearing her asking Graham if Regina had her hands in the police.

"Hey," Henry said as he ran in.

"Henry," Graham greeted. "Henry, what are you doing here?"

"His mother told him what happened," Killian said simply.

"Of course she did," Emma said, eying Graham pointedly. Her voice grew more gentle as she turned to Henry. "Henry, I don't know that she said-"

"You're a genius," he interrupted with a wide grin.

She looked back at him in confusion. "What?"

"I know what you were up to," he replied happily. "You were gathering intel."

His voice suddenly dropped to a whisper. "For Operation Cobra."

Killian pinched his brow, having no idea what they were talking about.

Graham looked between Emma and Henry, stumped. "I'm sorry, I'm a bit lost."

"It's need to know, sheriff," Henry replied smugly. "And all you need to know is Killian's gonna bail her out."

"You are?" Emma asked in surprise as she met Killian's eyes. "Why?"

"I trust you," he said simply before grinning. "And I'll admit, I always take pleasure in giving Regina grief."

She flashed him a mischievous grin, her eyes lighting brightly. She turned back to Graham, holding out her arms to him. "Well, if you could uncuff me, I have something to do."

Killian raised a brow curiously, his gut telling him she was up to something. Suspicious, he followed her out of the station after giving the money to Graham and leaving him behind, confused.

"Swan, what happened exactly?" Killian asked as soon as he was out with her.

Crossing her arms, her features grew into an expression of frustration. "I went to Dr. Hopper's to talk to him about Henry, and he told me about why he's being seen before giving me Henry's files. Then when I was back at the inn looking over them, Graham came and said that Dr. Hopper said we got into an argument and I stole them."

Exhaling, Killian nodded. "Sounds like he was put up to it if you ask me."

Her shoulders sagged as she spoke in exasperated relief. "Thank you! I'm telling you, I'm not crazy. Regina set me up."

Seeing movement across the street, he glanced over, catching sight of Mara. She threw him a derisive look, something he was used to. Her gaze went to Emma before she continued walking.

"Who's that?" Emma asked with morbid interest. "And what the hell did you do to piss her off?"

For some reason he couldn't fathom, Killian felt a strange mixture of embarrassment, guilt, and frustration. "That would be Mara, my wife. As for what I did, she's always mad at me over something. Half the time I don't even know what."

Emma raised an amused brow before her expression slipped. "Wait, are you serious?"

"Aye," he said with a small nod. "We… don't exactly get along."

She suddenly looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry."

Forcing himself to grin, he shrugged. "It's alright, Swan. It's nothing you did."

"Won't she be mad then later because she saw you here with me?" she asked critically.

He scoffed before answering. "No, love, don't worry yourself over that. She would find some way to pick a fight even if you weren't here."

Emma bit her lip as she nodded.

"If I may be so bold, what exactly are you planning to do to Regina, love?" Killian asked, remembering her saying she needed to do something as well as wanted to change the subject.

"Right, about that," she said suddenly, flashing him a charming grin. "Do you by chance have a chainsaw I could borrow? Cause I think her apple tree needed a trim."

Fighting a grin, he nodded, thinking he was going to enjoy having Emma around. "Aye, I do believe I have something you can use."


Walking towards the town market to get supplies for his dinner, Killian studiously ignored everyone else out on the street, finding his mood lacking.

He hadn't exactly had an argument with Graham, knowing the sheriff was coming around to seeing that Regina was responsible for the files, but it frustrated Killian that Graham was trying to defend Regina.

It wasn't that Killian had a little crush on Emma, knowing full well that he did, but truly believed her when she said that Regina set her up. He knew first hand how vindictive the Evil Queen was, and firmly believed that she hadn't changed, even with the curse.

He had taken glee at the news that Emma had gone after Regina's tree, making the mayor storm out. Somehow he wasn't too worried about Emma, suspecting she could take care of herself.

Nearly making it to his destination, he saw Archie out walking his dalmatian, headed his way.

Feeling a sudden anger rise in him, he suddenly made up his mind to talk to the other man. He might not have been a pirate in the town, but he remembered just fine how to work people to get information or to lead them to what he wanted.

He knew exactly who Archie was supposed to be, even if he'd never met him as Jiminy Cricket. He knew he was supposed to be something of a living conscience, making him all the more furious with Regina's hold on the town.

"Dr. Hopper," he said, forcing his tone to remain friendly.

"Jones," Archie said easily. "Good to see you out. It's a nice night tonight."

Killian nodded, already knowing how he was going to get to him. "Aye, it is. I'm sure Emma's enjoying it as well, especially since she's no longer in jail."

He fought a grin at the sudden guilt in the doctor's eyes.

"I heard about that," Archie responded. "You bailed her out, I believe?"

Nodding, Killian kept his voice light. "I couldn't in good conscience let her stay in there. It's kind of a funny thing, isn't it, the conscience? Knowing what you're willing to do even when you know if it's wrong or not. Then again, you're the town therapist, so you should know all about it."

He smiled internally as he saw Archie visibly squirm.

"I mean, you are the one who helps guide everyone here," Killian continued. "Helps them make the moral decision."

Archie looked uncomfortable, making it harder for Killian to fight his grin.

"I actually remembered something I need to do," Archie suddenly said. "I need to get home. It was good talking to you, Jones."

Redirecting Pongo's leash, Archie quickly walked off, leaving Killian behind on the street.

Killian couldn't deny that it felt good to shake down Archie, to make the moral compass of the town feel guilt over something that he had been instrumental in. It almost felt like having part of his old life back, except he was doing good with it.


Settling as best she could in the front seat of her car looking at the newspaper with a flashlight, Emma couldn't help thinking that though she had had to sleep in her car before, she had hoped that she wouldn't ever have to again.

She was tired but knew she was in for a long night, knowing she wouldn't be able to completely shut her mind off. She didn't know what to make of Henry's insistence that she was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and that she was meant to break a curse put in place by his adoptive mother, the Evil Queen. Even more surreal was learning that Henry believed his teacher, Mary Margaret, was Snow White.

Emma couldn't deny there was a resemblance between the two, able to see it in both their faces and even sharing the same eye color, but she knew it could be chalked up to coincidence. Plenty of people had green eyes.

She had noticed that Henry had been quick to point out the identities of most people, but refrained from naming a few, claiming he wasn't sure.

Part of her couldn't help wondering who Henry thought Killian was, even if she would never admit it.

Even with her wanting to build her walls up higher around him, she couldn't deny that she did like Killian, even if his blue eyes unsettled her with how easily he could read her and she felt both anxious and at ease around him. He was quite possibly the most handsome man she had ever seen to top it all off.

Nevertheless, he was married, meaning he was off limits. She wondered how much was true of him being in an unhappy marriage, even if her superpower said he was being completely truthful. She had even seen herself the expression in his wife's eyes, seeing it to be more than just her being angry at him. It had been a deep rooted hatred she saw, almost predatory with her anger.

Pushing the thoughts from her mind, she squinted at the illuminated portion of her newspaper for spaces available to rent.

"Hey," Mary Margaret's voice came from outside her window. "You okay?"

Emma looked at her in confusion, realizing what the other woman was seeing. "Oh. In the world of tight spots I've been in, crashing in my car doesn't even rank in the top ten."

"You're sleeping here?" Mary Margaret asked with quiet shock.

"Until I find a place," Emma replied nonchalantly, not wanting her to worry.

Mary Margaret sighed happily. "You decided to stay."

Emma held up the newspaper, offering her physical proof.

"For Henry," Mary Margaret concluded.

"Yeah, I guess," Emma said quietly, not wanting to admit how worried she was about her son. She continued in a louder voice, stepping out of her car as she did. "This town doesn't seem to have any vacancies. None, actually. Is that normal?"

"Must be the curse," Mary Margaret replied with an amused shrug.

Emma smirked, suddenly realizing the late hour as she looked at the clock. "Why are you out so late?"

"Well, I'm a teacher, not a nun," Mary Margaret said with an air of mischief. Her expression shifted so she looked like she was in pain. "I had a date."

"From the looks of things it went well," Emma replied sarcastically.

"As well as they ever do," Mary Margaret muttered.

Emma pinched her brow in desperation. "Tell me he at least paid."

Mary Margaret closed her eyes as she shook her head. "No."

"Well," Emma sighed, knowing from experience how bad dates could go.

"I guess if true love was easy, we'd all have it," Mary Margaret sighed wistfully. Her features suddenly brightened. "You know, if things get cramped, I do have a spare room."

Emma appreciated how she approached the subject, not directly asking if she wanted a place to stay, but left her with the option. It wasn't out of pity, just a desire to help.

"Thanks," she said, knowing she was going to turn her down, but couldn't help feeling bad about it. "I'm not really the roommate type. It's just not my thing. I do better on my own."

Mary Margaret nodded in acceptance. "You know, Killian might know somewhere you can stay if you want to talk to him. I've seen you talking to him a few times."

Taken by surprise, Emma nodded. "I'll… talk to him about it tomorrow."

"Well, good night," Mary Margaret said with a nod of acceptance. "Good luck with Henry."

"Yeah," Emma said by way of goodbye.

Chapter Text

Killian idly read his book from his spot in his booth in the diner, feeling both keyed up and exhausted.

He had spent most of the previous day out on the Jolly Roger, finding little projects to keep himself busy. Far from the first time, he missed his hook, wishing he was able to wear it again. He kept it attached to his old brace, locked up safely from everyone in his room at the house, only occasionally taking it out but never putting it on. He did like the prosthetic he had gained with the curse, the false hand covered in a black glove more realistic and functional than the one he had before, but he missed his hook.

Not wanting to be anywhere near his house, he had left just as dawn broke, working around the ship until he was too tired to continue, opting to spend a night in his old quarters. He had missed quarters in the ship, even if he couldn't deny his actual bed was much more comfortable.

Looking up as the bell to the door of the diner sounded, he saw Emma come in with Henry. They moved to take the area just beside his before Henry spotted him, prompting the boy to move to his instead.

"Hey, Killian," he greeted brightly, ignoring Emma's exasperated look. "Mind if we sit with you for now?"

Smirking in amusement, he gestured to the booth. "Of course, lad."

Henry nodded in thanks before sliding across from him, sitting in a way that made Emma sit beside him opposite her son.

"So love, how's the town treating you so far?" Killian asked, genuinely curious.

He caught Henry's suddenly nervous look, making him raise a brow curiously.

"Um, could be better," Emma said with a sarcastic smile. "You know when you bailed me out the other day, how I was arrested?"

"Yeah," he said slowly, wondering what she was getting at.

"Well, apparently there's a city ordinance that doesn't allow someone with a felony to rent a room," she continued.

"What?" he nearly snapped. "Where have you been staying?"

She shrugged, making it seem like her answer wasn't a big deal. "It's not the first time I've had to sleep in my car."

He sighed, thinking. He would have offered her a place on his ship had he known, would have cleared out either part of the crew's quarters or Smee's old cabin for her.

"I wish you had told me," he said. "I have a place you would be able to stay."

She shrugged. "It's no big deal, I've dealt with worse."

She suddenly looked over at Henry. "Where does your mom think you are, anyway?"

"Playing whack a mole," Henry replied easily.

Killian raised his eyes in surprise, knowing Emma would be blamed.

"And she bought that?" Emma asked in disbelief.

Henry leaned forward, looking nonchalant as he responded. "She wants to believe it, so she does."

"Oh, imagine that," she said sarcastically.

Killian fought a laugh as Henry looked pensive, nodding.

Henry looked towards the door when the bell rang again, grinning. "She's here."

Killian looked back, seeing Mary Margaret come in.

"Hey, don't get your hopes up," Emma said quietly, looking at Henry seriously. "We're just starting, okay?"

"Wait, starting what?" Killian asked, not having the faintest idea what was going on.

Mary Margaret moved to their table, sitting beside Henry, across from Emma.

Emma raised her shoulders before slumping down, silently asking Mary Margaret something he had no idea of. She looked expectant, like she knew the teacher would deliver some information she already knew.

Mary Margaret wore a small smile, hesitating for a beat. "He woke up."

Emma's face fell. "What?"

"I knew it," Henry announced happily, his reaction the complete opposite of his mother's.

"I mean he didn't wake up, wake up, but he grabbed my hand," Mary Margaret said quickly, her underlying excitement undeniable.

He smacked his fists against the table in glee. "He's remembering."

"Whoa, whoa," Killian said in an attempt to get some clarity. "Who's remembering?"

Emma didn't answer, still too stunned to respond.

"The doctor said I imagined it, but I'm not crazy," Mary Margaret continued. "I know it happened."

"We have to go back," Henry urged. "You have to read to him again."

She hesitated before nodding in determination. "Let's go."

"Wait, wait" Emma finally spoke up, standing as both Mary Margaret and Henry got up to leave. "What?"

"If I got through to him, if we made a connection-" Mary Margaret said hurriedly, her excitement flushing her cheeks.

Emma shook her head in disbelief. "You don't believe-"

The statement alone was enough to fill Killian in, making him realize what was going on.

"That he's Prince Charming?" Mary Margaret asked skeptically. "Of course not. Somehow, some way, I touched him."

Stunned, Emma made to leave after them.

Refusing to just let them go without knowing everything that was going on, Killian grabbed his book and threw some cash on the table to pay for his coffee, following after them.

His long stride allowed him to catch up to Emma, reaching out to grab her wrist.

"Swan, what's going on?" he asked in a tone that let her know he was going to keep after her until he got an answer.

Emma released a groan, keeping her pace after her son and his teacher. "Henry thinks everyone in this town is a fairytale character, and that Mary Margaret is Snow White and that a John Doe in the hospital is Prince Charming. I asked Mary Margaret to go through with Henry's request that she read to the guy, and that will help him see that it's not real. But I guess the guy woke up."

Killian nodded absently, his mind racing. He knew Henry was right, that they were all people from what many believed were fairy tales, even if Henry didn't for sure know he knew. Even picking out who everyone's identities were, he'd never confirmed Henry's theory. On the other hand, he knew Emma wouldn't believe it, that fairy tales had no place in the real world.

Part of him wondered if John Doe, whoever he was, woke up at hearing his supposed story meant that the curse was weakening.

"What are you gonna do now?" Killian asked her.

"I have no idea," Emma replied as the hospital came into sight.

He noticed with a start that the sheriff's car was out front, making him cautious of whatever could have happened. Warily, he moved closer to them, having a bad feeling as they entered the hospital.

"You're right, he's waking up," Henry said excitedly and they saw Graham just outside the ward that held John Doe.

Graham looked up at their approach, stepping forward to stop them. "Henry, you should stay back."

He looked over to Killian. "I was about to call you for some help."

"What's going on?" Mary Margaret asked in concern. "Is it John Doe? Is he okay?"

Graham hesitated. "He's missing."

Everyone was frozen, their eyes going to the ward.

Killian's stomach twisted as he saw Regina, knowing she was somehow playing her hand in the patient going missing

"What the hell are you doing here?" Regina spit towards Emma as she strode out. Her eyes landed on Henry. "And you."

She reached out, grabbing onto Henry's arm roughly.

Killian caught Emma's eyes flashing, her jaw clenching in anger.

"I thought you were at the arcade," Regina said in a low voice. "Now you're lying to me?"

Henry looked back at her defiantly.

"What happened to John Doe?" Mary Margaret asked worriedly, looking back at Graham. "Did someone take him?"

"We don't know yet," he said in a low voice. "His IVs were ripped out, but there was no sign of a struggle."

"What did you do?" Henry asked Regina in contempt.

"You think I had something to do with this?" Regina asked in disbelief.

"It is curious that the mayor is here," Emma finally said, her eyes narrowed at Regina.

"I'm here because I'm his emergency contact," Regina said crossly.

"You know him?" Mary Margaret asked in disbelief

"I found him," Regina replied. "On the side of the road years ago with no ID. I brought him here."

"The mayor saved his life," Dr. Whale said as he came in.

"Will he be okay?" Mary Margaret asked worriedly.

"Okay?" Whale asked sarcastically. "The man's been on feeding tubes for years under constant supervision. He needs to get back here right away, or quite honestly, okay might be a pipe dream."

Emma turned to walk away. "Well, then let's quit yapping and start looking."

"That's what we're doing?" Regina asked tersely. "Just stay out of this, dear."

"So someone is missing, and the mayor isn't allowing people to look for them?" Killian said carelessly, his eyes on Regina. "Not a good look for your image, Regina."

She glared at him. "She's not even supposed to be here."

Unafraid, he rested his hand on his belt buckle, an old habit from when he had worn his pirate garb. "Ah, also trying to chase a woman out of town, who's only here because she's concerned about the possibility the child she had to give up is not in a safe and loving home. Also not a good look for you, love."

He knew that if she were capable, Regina would throw a ball of fire at him.

Instead, she glared at Emma, pulling Henry with her as she began to stride out. "Since I clearly can't keep you away from my son, I guess I'm just gonna have to keep my son away from you."

She paused, throwing a venomous look her way. "Enjoy my shirt, because that's all you're getting."

Killian couldn't help smirking, knowing he had rattled her.

Killian stood outside the ward with Emma, Mary Margaret, Henry, and Graham, watching as the doctors looked over the John Doe they had found nearly drowned. He was relieved the man was still conscious, relatively lucid as he was examined.

Looking at John Doe and Mary Margaret, Killian could see exactly how the two of them together would produce Emma.

A blonde woman suddenly pushed past them, throwing the glass doors to the ward open as she yelled, "David! David, is that you?"

"Who is that?" Mary Margaret asked.

"His wife," Regina's voice came from behind them.

As if knowing they would be there for a while, Emma moved to an open chair, sitting down promptly. Henry sat in another, with Mary Margaret choosing to stand. Graham left, knowing his job was done

Killian leaned against the wall near Emma, unable to help watching Regina as if she were a venomous snake. He wanted to stay, wanted to see what cockamamie story Regina was going to try to feed them.

"His name is David Nolan, and that's his wife, Kathryn," Regina told them all. "The joy on her face, well, it's put me in quite the forgiving mood."

Emma shifted uncomfortably as Regina's eyes fell to her.

"We'll talk about your insubordination later," Regina continued, turning her dark eyes instead to Henry. "Do you know what insubordination means?"

Henry hesitated before shaking his head.

"It means you're grounded," she told him.

The woman, Kathryn, came out of the ward, looking at them all with her eyes shining. "Thank you. Thank you for finding my David."

"Um, I don't, I don't understand," Mary Margaret said quietly. "You didn't know he was here in a coma?"

Kathryn shifted uncomfortably, guilt clearly weighing on her shoulders. "A few years ago, David and I were not getting along. It was my fault, I know that now.

She paused, swallowing. "I was difficult and unsupportive. I told him if he didn't like things, he could leave, and he did. And I didn't stop him. It was the worst mistake I ever made."

"You didn't go look for him?" Emma asked, hiding her disbelief.

"I assumed he'd left town, all this time. Now I know why I'd never heard from him," Kathryn explained. She suddenly smiled. "Now I get to do what I've wanted to do forever. Say I'm sorry. Now we have a second chance."

"That's wonderful," Mary Margaret said in a strained voice.

Killian truly felt sorry for her, knowing the woman felt something between her and David, like they had a chance.

Kathryn's smile brightened, not noticing the grief the other woman felt.

Whale pushed out of the ward, immediately going to Kathryn. "Well it's something of a miracle."

"He's okay?" she questioned hopefully.

"Physically, he's on the mend," Whale said slowly. "His memory is another issue. It may take time, if at all."

Killian noticed he didn't sound too hopeful.

"What brought him back?" Mary Margaret asked, the hope in her voice barely perceptible.

"That's the thing," Whale said in confusion. "There's no explanation. Something just clicked and…"

"He just got up and decided to go for a stroll?" Emma asked with a slight hint of sarcasm.

Killian bit his tongue to keep from smirking.

Whale ignored her sarcasm. "He woke up and he was delirious, and his first instinct was to go find something, I guess."

"Someone," Henry muttered.

"Can I see him?" Kathryn asked Whale.

"Yeah, of course," he said, following her as she rushed back into the ward.

"Seems strange that just hours ago, you claimed you had no idea who he was, Madame Mayor," Killian said coolly, not believing anything of the story that they had relayed. "Suddenly you're able to find his long lost wife?"

"We had new information when he went missing," she replied tersely. "We were able to pass his picture around in hope someone had seen him, and Kathryn identified him."

She looked back at Henry. "Henry, let's go."

Reluctantly, Henry rose from his seat to follow her out. He was almost to the desk when he suddenly stopped. "Wait, my backpack."

He went back and grabbed it, stopping in front of Mary Margaret.

"Don't believe them," he whispered. "You're the one he was looking for."

"Henry," she sighed

"He was going to the troll bridge, like the end of the story," he insisted, using the nickname of the old bridge they had found David by.

"Henry, he was going there because it's the last thing I read to him," she tried to explain.

"No, it's because you belong together," Henry insisted.

"Henry," Regina called, making Henry sigh unhappily before turning to leave.

Emma suddenly got up. "I'll be right back."

She ran off in the direction Regina had gone with Henry, leaving Killian and Mary Margaret alone.

Glancing over, he saw her looking at David wistfully.

"You alright, love?" he asked gently.

She nodded. "Yeah, I… I just need a minute."

He nodded, wanting to grant her her privacy to go in search of Emma instead. He slowed as he heard her voice in disagreement with Regina, listening to her express the same sentiments he had. Even accounting for the curse, her explanation sounded impossible.

Regina caught sight of him as he came closer, plastering on a false smile. "Jones, you should be getting home, too. I'm sure after everything that's happened today, Mara will be happy to see you go home tonight."

He had to refrain from scoffing. "I highly doubt that. She doesn't care to hide her obvious displeasure my company brings."

Regina hummed, leaning forward conspiratorially. "Well, maybe you should stop being so difficult and unsupportive."

Killian bristled at what sounded like an underlying threat, but knew it was more that she wanted him to fall in line with the little eutopia she had attempted to make for herself.

She glanced between him and Emma. "Good night."

"Do you believe any of that crap she said?" Emma asked in a low voice.

"Not one bit," Killian replied. "Especially that last bit. That he'd been talking in his sleep? If that was the case, then why were there no signs of brain activity then?"

She shook her head. "She's lying. I know it. And why would his picture just be passed around now instead of when he was first admitted?"

Sighing, she shook her head. "I really don't get it. How is it that she's remained mayor all this time? Why hasn't she been voted out?"

"Because she wants it to stay that way," he told her, only hinting at the curse. "She does it through intimidation, mostly."

"Well, she has quite the power over the town then," Emma huffed unhappily. "She's even managed to make it that no one is willing to rent me a place."

Suddenly scratching behind his ear, he found himself debating. He did like Emma, finding himself drawn to a woman for the first time in a long time. He didn't want her to be forced to stay out in her car, especially with the dropping temperatures. Even if he were a pirate, he was still a gentleman. He wouldn't allow her to go without some shelter.

The reminder of the woman who was essentially his roommate in his house made him hesitate, not wanting to put Emma in that environment. He could only imagine what would be said if he brought home another woman, even if his intentions were nothing but genuine.

"I'd offer you a place in my house, but I don't think you would enjoy being under the same roof as Mara," he said guiltily. "But I do have another place you would be able to stay."

Emma shook her head. "Um, thanks. Mary Margaret actually offered me a room."

He nodded in encouragement. "You should take it, love. It will only get colder, and that little car of yours won't protect you from it very well."

She looked like she was about to argue before stopping, slowly nodded. "Alright. I'll, uh, I'll go over to Mary Margaret's and ask her if her offer still stands."

Killian nodded, feeling relieved. "Good."

Chapter Text

Sitting down at one of the small tables with his small paper tray of food, Killian glanced over to see Graham coming over, having supposed to meet together for lunch.

He fought a smirk at the clear look of distaste on Graham's face, knowing how much he disliked the small fish and chips place by the docks. It was one of Killian's favorite spots, only partly because of the food.

It wasn't an unknown fact that he frequented the docks, preferring to be near the water whenever he could.

"I can't believe you make me eat this," Graham grumbled as he dropped his tray on the other side of the table.

Killian shrugged. "You would eat nothing but venison if you could."

"That's not true and you know it," Graham replied back without any bite.

"You know, I offered Emma a job today as deputy," he said after a couple moments of silence.

"Oh?" Killian replied, suddenly feeling a strange feeling niggling at him.

"Yeah," Graham confirmed. "Of course, she didn't give me an answer yet."

Looking more closely at him, Killian saw Graham appeared flustered, as well as saw his face slightly flushed. He realized what he was feeling was jealousy, and that his unease was because Graham liked Emma.

He knew he should feel happy for him, but he couldn't help but feel his stomach sink. The curse had given him a wife, and if Emma knew who he really was, about his past, she likely wouldn't have anything to do with him. Killian never had a chance with her.

"Mate?" Graham asked, noticing Killian far off.

Mentally shaking himself, Killian made himself look at the other man. "Do you… fancy Emma?"

The blush that crept across Graham's cheeks confirmed his suspicions.

"Kind of," Graham said. "She's different."

"Aye, but there's more to her than that," Killian countered, realizing too late he was becoming heated.

Taken aback, Graham looked over to him. "Sorry, I don't mean that in a bad way at all. I-"

His eyes suddenly narrowed in realization. "You like her."

Killian didn't bother denying it.

Graham slumped back in his seat. "Sorry, if I had known-"

"You'd what?" Killian asked him quietly. "We both know I have no chance. Not with everything. Besides, she's here for her boy, not romance."

Releasing a sigh, Graham shook his head. "That doesn't mean you should just give up. I know things aren't ideal, Killian, but you haven't been happy in a long time."

Killian looked back at him. "How do you mean?"

"For as long as I've known you, you've been miserable," Graham pointed out. "You've been in an unhappy marriage that I don't have the faintest idea how you deal with. I know you don't love Mara, and I don't think you ever have.

"You hate your job," he continued. "You're bored with it. Hell, you don't even like your own house. I've never heard you call it your home.

"But I do know when you're with Emma, you're truly happy," he said, his voice dropping. "You smile a lot more. I saw your guys when we were looking for David Nolan. I saw how you looked at her."

Killian fought the urge to scratch behind his ear, knowing it would give him away.

Graham was quiet for a moment, wearing a pensive expression. "If… I'll step down. Of the two of us, you deserve some happiness more than I do, and I think she likes you more, anyway. I don't want us to be fighting over a woman."

Stunned, Killian leaned back. "You're going to back off?"

"Yeah, I am," Graham said.

Killian faintly nodded. "Thanks, mate."

Graham nodded back knowingly.

As soon as Graham left, Killian felt his phone buzz, looking at it in curiosity when he saw Emma's name flashing across the screen.

"Swan," he answered.

"Hey, Killian, I need help," Emma's voice came from the other end, sounding nervous.

He was walking back to the town before he was even conscious of moving. "What's wrong, love?"

"I need to find an Ashley Boyd," she said. "She broke into Gold's shop and stole something, and he came to me because he doesn't want the police involved."

He quickened his pace hearing Gold was involved. "So you called me, instead?"

"I- yeah," she said in a tight voice. "I know Graham's the sheriff and your best friend, but I hoped you would be able to help."

"Aye, I will," he nodded, even knowing she couldn't see him. "Where are you?"

"I'm at Granny's right now," she replied. "I just talked to Ruby."

"I'll be right there," he said before hanging up.

The diner came into sight soon enough, with Emma in a blue leather jacket becoming visible soon after. He spotted Henry with her, surprising him.

"Swan," he called as he neared.

Emma looked up, moving to meet him with Henry in tow. "Thanks for this."

He gave her an easy smile, suddenly feeling at ease around her. "It's no problem, love. What do you know?"

She blew out a hard breath. "Ruby told me about her ex, Sean. I was about to go over and talk to him."

Wracking his brain for who she needed, he thought back to everyone he knew in the town. "Sean, as in Sean Herman?"

"Yeah," Emma replied. "You know him?"

"It's a small town, love," he said, moving to walk off. "Everyone knows everyone. But I've seen Ashley around the college before."

"Okay, but where are we going?" she asked as she began following him.

He raised a brow as he glanced back at her. "I had assumed we would need a vehicle to help us search."

"I could have grabbed my car," she pointed out.

"Aye, but I think mine would be more useful," he said. "It's larger, so more comfortable."

She shrugged as he led them to his house, pulling his keys from his pocket to unlock the doors to his Firebird.

"Nice car," Emma commented as she slid into the passenger seat while Henry settled into the back.

"Thanks," Killian hummed.

Emma filled him in on everything Ruby had told her while he drove to Sean's, listening as Henry kept interjecting that they were looking for Cinderella.

"Cinderella?" Killian asked.

Henry was suddenly quiet as he looked to his mother. "Think we can trust him? With Operation Cobra? He's seen the book already."

Emma shared a quick look with Killian, silently asking to indulge Henry.

At his barely perceptible nod, Emma nodded to Henry. "Yeah, we can."

Killian caught her pleading look, knowing she was asking him to indulge the boy.

Henry leaned forward slightly, refrained from going too far by his seatbelt. "Regina is the Evil Queen, and everyone here is a fairytale character. She cursed everyone to get back at Snow White, and Emma's here to break the curse and give everyone their happy endings."

Even knowing that Henry was completely right, he knew to tread carefully, that Emma believed that none of it was real. "That's quite the tale. Who else knows about this?"

"Just Miss Blanchard and Dr. Hopper," Henry replied. "It's mainly a need to know basis."

"Well, I'm happy you told me," Killian said indulgently. He suddenly found himself nervous, wondering if they knew who he was. "Do you know who I am by chance?"

Henry shook his head sadly. "I haven't found you in there yet. No one's stories are the same as what Disney says."

Killian had to fight a grin, thinking how right he was in that regard.

"So who's Emma?" he asked.

Emma threw him a sharp look in response.

"Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter," Henry replied. "Miss Blanchard and David Nolan."

Killian nodded, thinking again how he could see the resemblance to both of them in Emma. In reality, she was the perfect mix between the two.

He pulled them up to the curb of the house where Sean lived with his father, where Henry remained in the car while he went with Emma to talk to him.

They only had to wait a couple minutes before Sean answered, looking between him and Emma in confusion.

"Can I help you?" he asked warily, eyeing her and Killian. There was some recognition when he saw Killian.

"Sean Herman?" Emma asked.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I'm Emma Swan," she replied. "This is Killian Jones. I'm- we're looking for Ashley Boyd. She's in trouble. I just thought maybe she came to see you."

"My son doesn't have anything to do with that girl anymore," a deep voice came from behind them. They turned, seeing Sean's father coming up the steps carrying some bags. "Mitchell Herman, by the way. But whatever trouble she's in, I'm sorry for, but there's nothing we can do to help you."

"You're the reason he broke up with her," Emma said as she looked over the man.

"Absolutely," he replied. 'I'm not gonna let my son throw away his entire life for a mistake."

"A mistake that resulted in a child," Killian pointed out. "Your grandchild."

"So you just told him to leave her?" Emma asked in disbelief.

"What are they going to do?" Mitchell asked shortly. "Raise a child in the back seat of a car?"

"Some people only have the back seat of a car," Emma replied.

Killian noticed a twinge in her voice, something that sounded like an old pain.

"And they're to be pitied," Mitchell said simply. "I'm not letting that happen to my son."

Killian looked at him, unable to help feeling contempt for the man. "Yet you'd let it happen to the girl he impregnated? Hate to tell you this, mate, but it takes two people to make a baby."

"Dad, maybe we should help her look," Sean said from the doorway as his father moved inside to drop off his grocery bag.

"It's a waste, Sean," he called from inside.

Emma leaned towards Sean, dropping her voice. "Sean, if you wanna come, come. Don't let other people make decisions for you. If Ashley runs away with this baby, she's gonna be in some serious trouble."

"She's running away with the baby?" he asked in surprise.

Killian nodded. "Aye. She wants to keep her baby."

"Sean," Mitchell called as he came back to the entryway. "Inside. Now."

Stepping back out as his son went inside, he looked between Emma and Killian. "Look, believe me. If I knew where she was, I would tell you. I went through a lot of trouble to get her that deal.

"Deal?" Emma asked in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"What deal?" Killian pressed.

"You don't know?" Mitchell asked in surprise. "Ashley agreed to give up the child. And she's being paid very well to do so."

Emma's voice was faint. "She sold the baby?"

"Oh, you make it sound so crass," he replied haughtily.

"I fail to see another way to say it," Killian remarked.

"I found someone who's going to find that child a good and proper home," Mitchell defended.

"And who are you to judge whether Ashley is capable of providing that?" Emma asked, the same tone from earlier returning to her voice.

"Look at her," he said with an air of superiority. "She's a teenager. She's never shown any evidence of being responsible. How could she possibly know how to be a mother?"

"Maybe she's changing her life," she defended.

"Everybody says that," he replied in amusement before his voice turned serious. "Now look, I found someone who's going to pay Ashley extremely well. Someone's who's going to see to it that everybody's happy."

"Gold," Killian muttered as if it were a curse.

"Well isn't that why you were hired?" Mitchell asked. "To bring him the baby?"

"This is news," Emma said slowly.

"Well, whatever you decide to do with that, we can't help you," he said with finality. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things to do."

He shut the door on them, leaving them on the porch.

"You didn't know?" Killian asked quietly.

"No," she replied with a shake of her head. "He never said- I just thought she stole money or something valuable to sell."

"Like a contract," he snorted. "Why am I not surprised that he's behind all of this?"

He had known before that Rumplestiltskin had been known for occasionally taking children, but hadn't expected it to extend to his curse counterpart.

"We need to find Ashley," Emma muttered. "I'm not letting Gold take that baby."

Seeing she looked so shaken, Killian silently followed her back to his car where Henry waited for them.

Killian found himself worrying the longer they couldn't find Ashley, knowing they were running out of time. He knew Emma was even more anxious than he was, knowing what the girl was facing.

He had no idea what they were going to do about the situation with Henry, the boy hiding in his back seat when he was supposed to have returned home. He hadn't revealed himself until just before they were almost out of the inhabited part of the town, making the argument that they didn't have time to turn around and send him back if they wanted to catch Ashley.

Emma was less than happy, but knew her son was right.

The green 'Welcome to Storybrooke' sign came into view, making Killian's anxiety grow. He knew Henry was right in his guess that no one except Emma could leave, but knew the only others were Henry himself and Regina. Henry wasn't born in the town or the Enchanted Forest, and Regina was the one to cast the curse, meaning she would be exempt from the rules. He wouldn't be able to leave, but neither would Ashley, making him dread what could possibly stop her.

"I told you," Henry said, pointing forward from the back seat. "It's her car."

Ruby's red car was hanging off the road as they turned the corner, making him hit the brakes and quickly step out with Emma.

"Ashley," she called.

The sound of pained moans soon reached his ears, making the situation all the more urgent.

They quickly found Ashley hunched over in the grass, grasping at her stomach.

"My baby," she moaned. "It's coming."

Not wasting any time, Killian went over to the collapsed girl, leaning down beside her. "Put your arms around me, lass."

Ashley only hesitated for a second before reaching for him, letting him help her up.

Emma quickly moved to her other side, helping to navigate her back to the car.

"Come on," Emma said in a gentle tone. "It's okay. We've got you."

Henry quickly moved over, allowing them to set her comfortably in the back seat.

As soon as she was secure, they ran back to the front, turning the car back in the direction of the town.

Killian found himself letting on the gas, going as fast as possible while still doing what was safe. He knew Graham wouldn't flag him down if he were caught, mainly because of how severe Ashley's labor was.

At another loud groan from Ashley, he found himself pushing his car faster.

Sitting in one of the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room, Killian found himself alternating between watching Emma pace and looking back to the doors of the maternity ward, waiting for any news.

"How long is it gonna be?" Henry asked from his seat beside him.

"I don't know, lad," Killian replied. "But I'd wager not too much longer."

"Every labor is different," Emma added. "It can either be minutes or hours."

Henry nodded as he slumped further into the seat.

As she came up beside Killian during her pacing, she paused, speaking in a low voice. "Hey, thanks for this. For helping me."

He shook his head. "It's no problem, love. I'm just happy we found her when we did."

He hadn't even wanted to think about the other outcomes, what possibly could have happened if Ashley had been forced to deliver on the side of the road, especially by herself.

Emma gave him a small, grateful nod.

"Miss Swan? Mr. Jones?" a doctor called them, smiling when she caught their attention. "The baby is a healthy six pound girl. And the mother is doing fine."

Killian judged that Emma's relief matched his own by the expression she wore.

The emotion dropped as he heard Gold's voice as the man came into the small waiting room. "What lovely news. Excellent work, Miss Swan, even if you had to ask Jones to help. Thank you for bringing me my merchandise."

He walked off as if knowing there would be a longer wait to see Ashley, reminding Killian of a shark catching the scent of prey.

Emma suddenly stormed off after Gold around the hall corner, prompting Killian to rise himself.

"Stay here," he said lowly to Henry, taking off after Emma.

He caught Henry's nervous nod.

"Well, well," he heard Gold ask, seeing them beside an old coffee machine. "Must be my lucky day. Care for a cup, Miss Swan?"

"A baby?" Emma asked instead. "That's your merchandise? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Well, because at the time, you didn't need to know."

"Really?" she responded skeptically. "Or you thought I wouldn't take the job?"

"On the contrary, I thought it'd be more effective if you found out yourself," he said in a business-like voice. "After seeing Ashley's hard life, I thought it would make sense to you. I mean if anyone can understand the reasons behind giving up a baby, I assumed it would be you."

Killian saw Emma's barely perceptible flinch, knowing Gold's remark had hit its target.

"You're not getting that child," he said firmly as he stepped to stand shoulder to shoulder with Emma.

"Actually, we have an agreement," Gold replied. "My agreements are always honored. If not, I'm gonna have to involve the police. And that baby is gonna end up in the system. And that would be a pity."

He looked directly at Emma. "You didn't enjoy your time in the system, did you, Emma?"

She narrowed her eyes. "That's not gonna happen."

"I like your confidence," he said in amusement. "Charming. But all I have to do is press charges. She did, after all, break into my shop."

"Let me guess, to steal a contract?" Killian asked, willing to bet his ship it was what Ashey was after.

Gold shrugged, acting as if he didn't know. "Who knows what she was after."

"You know no jury in the world will put a woman in jail who's only reason for breaking and entering is to keep her child," Emma told him before her voice dropped, the threat undeniable. "I'm willing to roll the dice that contract doesn't stand up. Are you? Not to mention what might come out about you in the process. Somehow, I suspect there is more to you than a simple pawnbroker. You really want to start that fight?"

Having to fight a smile, Killian found himself suddenly even more attracted to Emma.

"Somehow, I don't think you want to bet against her," he said out loud.

Gold threw him a dirty look before speaking. "I like you, Miss Swan. You're not afraid of me, that's either cocky or presumptuous, either way, I'd rather have you on my side."

"So she can keep the baby?" she pressed.

"Not just yet," he said slowly, making Killian's gut twist in unease. "There's still the matter of my agreement with Miss Boyd."

"Tear it up," she said simply.

"That's not what I do," he said, in a voice that sounded like he was being reasonable. "You see, contracts, deals, well they're the very foundation of all civilized existence. So I put it to you now. If you want Ashley to have her baby, are you willing to make a deal with me?"

"What do you want?" Emma deadpanned.

"Oh, I don't know just yet," Gold said.

Killian immediately knew he was lying. He looked down at Emma, speaking in a low whisper. "Swan, don't."

"You'll owe me a favor," Gold added.

Emma ignored Killian. "Deal."

Closing his eyes in defeat, Killian released a hard breath.

Opening them as he heard Gold about to depart, he caught the glint in his eyes as well as the wicked smile he shot his way, as if he had won.

Knowing that smile all too well, Killian knew that somehow, the Crocodile was awake, and that Emma had made a deal with the devil.

Chapter Text

Emma sat across from Mary Margaret at the island, listening to her after her visit to the hospital.

"I'm the worst person in the world," Mary Margaret said unhappily as she finished making her s'more.

"Really?" Emma asked, trying to lighten her mood. "In the whole world?"

"If Kathryn was horrible, it'd be easier," Mary Margaret said in a conflicted voice as she bit off a part of her dessert. "But she's so… nice."

Emma patiently looked at her, knowing the direction the other woman was going. "And what exactly would be easier?"

"Nothing," Mary Margaret said with a small shake of her head.

"Nothing's a good idea," Emma advised. "You're smart. You know not to get involved with a married guy. It's not worth the heartache. Trust me."

"Is that how you're able to stay away from Killian?" Mary Margaret asked, genuinely interested.

Emma looked at her in surprise.

"I know you like him," Mary Margaret said. "I've seen the way you look at him, and he looks at you the same way."

Slumping her shoulders, Emma shook her head. "It doesn't matter, because he's married."

Mary Margaret sighed. "I know. But at least unlike Kathryn, Mara isn't too likeable."

Emma couldn't help smirking, not for the first time wondering how Killian ended up with her. "I don't get it. I mean, Killian seems like a good guy, but Mara is just… mean. How long have they been together, anyway?"

Mary Margaret looked pensive for a long moment before she shrugged. "I don't really know. They've been together for as long as I can remember."

Furrowing her brow, Emma looked down at her own s'more, thinking how strange the statement was. Both Killian and Mary Margaret were around the same age as she was, a couple years older at the absolute most.

It took Emma everything she had from completely panicking and tearing away into the mines herself to retrieve Henry. She wished that she had been at the entrance instead of Archie, that she was in the mines with Henry to make sure her son was safe. She blamed Regina entirely for the situation her son was in.

She didn't think that when the mines had begun to collapse earlier in the day that Henry would take it as an opportunity to go in, but Henry had proved her wrong, resulting in him and Archie being trapped.

Regina stood off to the side of the mines speaking to some men that had retrieved a crane, with Graham and Marco staying beside Emma near the entrance. As per usual, Graham had called Killian for extra help, making him a part of the group. More of the town had gathered, both to see what had happened and to offer help if needed.

"Archie's smart," Marco soothed in his accented voice. "He will keep the boy safe until we can get to them."

As soon as the words left him, the ground quaked beneath them, the shock enough to make them all stumble.

"Watch out!" Marco called out to the workers near Regina.

Killian caught Emma before she could fall, helping to stabilize her as the ground stabilized.

"Thanks," she said quietly.

He gave her a small nod in return.

"Stop!" Regina yelled as she moved further into the quarry, eyeing the group. "Stop! You're making it worse!"

"I am trying to save him," Emma retorted, feeling her temper rise. "You know why he went in there in the first place, don't you? Because you made him feel like he had something to prove."

"Why does he think he has anything to prove?" Regina snapped back. "Who's encouraging him?"

Speaking in a lower tone, Emma glared at the other woman. "Do not put this on me."

Hysteria crept into Regina's voice. "Oh please, lecture me until his oxygen runs out."

She stormed off back to the workers as Emma released a hard, angry breath.

Knowing that they were wasting time, she moved to where Regina was.

"We have to stop this," she said in a calmer tone, hoping to draw on Regina's motherly instinct. "Arguing won't accomplish anything."

Regina was quiet for a beat before responding, her voice matching Emma's. "No, it won't."

"What do you want me to do?" Emma asked her, willing to compromise.

For Henry, she was willing to go to any lengths.

"Help me," Regina asked. She looked back to the caved in entrance. "We need to find some way to punch through the ground. We need something big."

"Like what?" Emma asked.

"Explosives," Marco said from a short distance away.

"Will that work?" Regina asked him desperately.

"It should," he responded.

"Wait," Killian spoke up. "What if it makes it worse? What if it collapses more of the mines?"

Emma paused, knowing he had a point.

"We have to try," Graham said. "We have to get Henry and Archie out of there."

Regina nodded. "Set it up."

Without a choice, Emma was pushed off to the side, suddenly feeling sick.

"Do you think this could kill them?" she asked in distress to Killian.

He hesitated for a brief pause. "If we're not careful, it could."

The air leaving her lungs, she closed her eyes, praying they weren't about to make a fatal mistake.

She opened them as she felt him rest his hand on her arm.

"Which is why we're going to be cautious," he reassured her. "And Henry is a fighter. He's your son, after all."

Somehow his words reassured her, making some of the fear she felt shrink back.

Making sure everyone had moved back a safe distance as well as securing Pongo in a truck, she looked over to the mine entrance.

"Okay, we're all clear," she called.

"Blow it," Regina yelled.

Emma covered her ears as the explosives went off to protect them from the loud boom, the smell of gunpowder and dirt filling the air as smoke and dust obscured her vision.

Not waiting for a clearance, she jumped back into the quarry, moving blindly to the entrance of the mines.

"Swan!" she heard Killian call from behind her.

The sound of footsteps hurrying after her registered, knowing he was following her.

"Bloody hell, woman," he said as he caught up to her at the entrance. "The dust hasn't even cleared yet. What if you got hurt?"

"It wouldn't matter," she said, unable to help the defeat in her voice as she saw the entrance remained untouched.

"Yeah, it would," he argued quietly. "I don't want us to have to rescue you, too."

She was thankful that their vision was mostly obscured, meaning he wouldn't be able to see the blush in her cheeks. She wondered why he sounded worried about her, why it sounded like he cared about her.

"C'mon," she said, leading him back to where it was clear.

"Did it work?" Regina asked as they came out.

"It didn't open," Emma responded in a tight voice.

"Then what did it do?" Graham asked, looking to others for suggestions.

Regina rounded on the people who had set up the explosives. "What was that? What the hell was that? You said you could do this."

"Madame Mayor," Emma said in an attempt to calm her down.

"They could have killed my son," Regina snapped.

"I know," Emma responded, trying to be the voice of reason. "But this isn't helping."

"If we knew exactly where they were, we could drill down to them, maybe, maybe rig something to bring them back up," Marco suggested.

Emma noticed Pongo whining from inside the cab of the firetruck, scratching to get out. In instinct, she opened the door for him, allowing the dalmatian to hop down.

Pongo put his nose to the ground, scratching at a patch of earth as he yelped.

"Come on, buddy," Emma said as she followed him before raising her voice. "It's Archie's dog. He's found something."

Pongo's whines intensified.

"Look," Emma said as the others gathered around. "This is where they must be."

Graham ran his hand through the dirt, unearthing a large cover. The men quickly joined him, lifting the cover to reveal a metal grate.

"What is it?" Emma asked them. "What is that?"

"It's an air shaft," Graham told her.

"I think we just found how to get down there," Killian said as he dusted his hand off on his jeans.

"I'll call Billy," Graham said, quickly stepping off to the side and pulling out his phone.

"Billy?" Emma asked in confusion, still learning the names of the town's residents.

"Tow truck driver," Killian told her.

She nodded in understanding.

More people came as the truck arrived, word having spread on what had happened. Emma caught a few more familiar faces in the crowd, including Mara. Mary Margaret was absent, Emma knowing she was spending her day at the hospital.

Ruby was the one to get behind the wheel of the tow truck, backing it up just enough so they could attach the hook to the metal bars of the air shaft.

"Alright, gun it," Emma called to Ruby. As soon as the grate was off, she raised her hand to halt the truck. "Alright, stop. We've got it. Alright."

"So?" Regina said as they all peered down the tunnel. "What's next?"

"We need to lower someone straight down, or the line will collapse the sides of the shaft," Marco said.

"I've got a harness," Graham immediately said, darting back to his car.

"I can go down there," Killian offered.

Before Emma could say she should be the one to go, she heard his wife speak up.

"You have one hand, and you're going to pull both a kid and a grown man up?" Mara scoffed.

Taken aback, Emma looked at her in shock and some contempt.

She didn't know Killian's habits very well, but somehow knew the ticking in his jaw was a tell tale sign of his trying to reign in his temper.

"Just because I'm 'crippled,' as you so often like to point out, doesn't mean I'm useless, despite what you think," he said in a voice that was teetering on the edge of losing it. "Besides, now's not the time for you to try to pick a fight."

"Sadly, this is normal," Graham muttered to Emma as he returned with the harness.

"Lower me down," Regina said, oblivious to what was going on to the couple arguing a short distance away.

"Oh, no way," Emma told her before speaking in a louder voice. "I'm going."

Killian looked back at her in surprise.

"He's my son," Regina argued.

"He's my son, too," Emma said, leaving no room for arguments. "You've been sitting behind a desk for ten years. I can do this."

Regina stepped forward. "Just bring him to me."

Emma nodded as she shrugged off her jacket.

Killian offered to take it from her, pitching his voice low. "Be careful down there, love."

She nodded. "I will. And I'll bring them with me."

Graham helped her into the harness and gave her a radio, hooking her up so they could lower her onto the tunnel.

Careful to avoid the walls of the tunnel, she shined her light down, seeing two figures sitting in a small lift just below her. Relief filled her at the sight of Henry and Archie.

"You guys okay?" she called down.

"Yeah, we're okay," Archie called back, standing to pick Henry up.

"Hang on, Henry," she said as she reached for the radio on her shoulder and spoke into it. "Okay, that's good, stop."

As soon as she was ready, Archie passed Henry up to her. "Here you go, up."

She couldn't describe the relief she felt at holding onto her son, feeling him safe in her arms. "C'mon. I got ya."

"I've got him," she called in a louder voice to Archie.

"Archie," Henry yelled as the lift began shuddering.

Horror washed over Emma as she realized the blast they caused earlier had made the lift unstable, meaning the support was about to give out.

"It's gonna fall," Archie said with acceptance.

Guilt twisted Emma's stomach. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," he said in a soothing voice as the lift gave way.

"Archie," both her and Henry cried before she felt extra weight suddenly pulling on her.

Carefully looking down, she saw Archie had hooked the handle of his umbrella into one of the carabiners of her harness. Releasing a laugh, she carefully hit the radio on her shoulder. "I've got them. Pull us up."

The noises above grew more audible as they ascended closer to the surface, bright sunlight nearly blinding them as they left the tunnel.

Graham helped Henry onto the solid ground as Marco pulled Archie up, leaving Emma to go after Henry who was suddenly being smothered by Regina.

"You okay?" she asked as she crouched in front of him.

Regina pulled him away, dismissing her before Henry could speak. "Deputy, you can clear the crowd away."

Suddenly feeling cold, Emma watched as Regina pulled Henry further away.

"You alright, Swan?" she heard a voice ask softly.

Looking over, she saw Killian standing near with his hand extended to help her.

She nodded, pushing the hurt she felt away. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just help get me unhooked?"

Nodding, he moved behind her, deftly undoing the cable attached to her harness.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked quietly.

Looking around, she saw no one except Killian had paid her any mind, that even if they weren't with Henry or Archie, they were in their own groups. It stung for some reason, but she did have one person who cared enough to actually check on her.

"Yeah," she said quietly. "Henry and Archie are safe and okay."

He opened his mouth to speak but suddenly stopped, his brow furrowing.

"What about you?" she asked, wanting to get the subject off herself.

He raised a brow in skepticism. "The little spat with Mara? Unfortunately, I'm all too used to it."

Unexpected anger rose in her. "She's wrong, you know. Both for saying that and even thinking it. You're not useless."

Emma felt a small swell of pride at the small smile she drew from Killian.

Happy to get to spend a couple moments with Henry, Emma sat beside him on a small ledge, having joined everyone celebrating the rescue well into the evening.

Watching Archie with Marco, Emm tilted her head to the side. "Is that Archie's father?"

"No, they're just old friends," Henry told her.

She nodded before nudging her shoulder against his. "You really scared me."

"I'm sorry," he replied guiltily.

Offering him a warm smile, she slung her arm around him, tucking him into her side.

"Gentlemen," Graham said as he passed Archie and Marco to get to Henry. "Well, come on. Your mom wants to take you home."

Killian followed, holding a couple bottles of beer. Silently, he passed one to Emma, who nodded in thanks.

"Hey," Henry suddenly said excitedly as he stood. "Listen."

Everyone fell silent, the sound of insects suddenly amplified.

"Crickets," Archie grinned.

"They're back," Henry smiled. "Things are changing."

Emma couldn't help smiling at the pure joy on his face.

"Henry," Regina called.

"I gotta go," he said in a rush. He looked back towards Emma. "Thanks, for earlier."

Giving him a warm smile, she watched as he went to Regina, who was moving away from the air shaft that they had used earlier.

"So, what now?" Emma asked.

"We do desk duty again tomorrow," Graham replied with a false smile. "Mostly paperwork."

"Yay," she responded sarcastically as she took a swig of beer.

"Trade you," Killian said. "I'd rather that than have to grade more quizzes."

Emma raised a brow curiously. "You're the one that writes the quizzes."

"Aye, but it doesn't make it any more enjoyable," he replied before taking a pull from his drink.

Shrugging, she began to idly scratch at the label of her bottle.

Watching the people a short distance away, she made out some of the individuals. Ruby batted her lashes at a couple of guys around her, enjoying the attention. Archie and Marco continued to talk, laughing.

"What time do you think you're going to head home?" Graham asked Killian.

He shrugged. "No idea. I might just stay on my ship tonight."

Graham nodded sympathetically.

"Wait, ship?" Emma asked Killian. "You have a ship?"

She noticed some light enter Killian's eyes, suddenly looking proud. "Aye, I do. She's a marvel. Have you been down by the docks since you've come here?"

Feeling herself flush in embarrassment, she shook her head. "No, I haven't."

He shot a mock disapproving look towards Graham. "You hired a deputy who hasn't yet seen all of the town, let alone the best part?"

Graham snorted sarcastically. "Only you think that."

He looked at Emma. "Fair warning, lass. The man you're seated next to has an unhealthy obsession with his boat."

"Ship," Killian corrected. "The Jolly Roger is a ship."

"Wait, the Jolly Roger?" Emma suddenly stopped them.

"Yeah," Killian said proudly.

Deciding to tease him, she eyed him up and down. "I think you might be able to pull off the red coat and hook. I don't know about the waxed moustache and perm though."

Graham let out a loud guffaw as Killian chuckled.

"I would hope the hook at least," he replied, holding up his left arm. "I'm part of the way there, at least."

Guilt instantly ripped through Emma, realizing what she had said.

Catching her expression, he shook her head, smiling easily. "It's alright, love. I know you didn't mean any offense."

"Oh, so she says something, and it's okay?" Mara snapped from a short distance away.

Killian closed his eyes, but not before Emma saw the hard yet exhausted look in them.

Silence suddenly filled the quarry, letting her know that the fights weren't only common, but had been a public spectacle before.

"Maybe because she didn't mean it to be demeaning," he replied back, keeping his voice even.

"Please," Mara snorted. "Everyone knows it. That you're not whole."

Emma flinched, feeling anger stirring her gut. She knew it wasn't her place, but she was ready to intervene on Killian's behalf.

Before anyone could say anything, Mara continued relentlessly. "I don't know why I even married or put up with you. No one will ever want you. You're not good for anything. You're nothing but dead weight."

"I'm done!" Killian suddenly snapped, turning to face her. His beer bottle fell to the ground, the liquid spilling into the dirt. "I'm bloody done with all of this! I'm done with you picking a fight over every single bloody thing and your remarks. I'm not doing this anymore."

Mara looked shocked, staring at him with wide eyes. "What are you saying?"

"You want me gone?" he asked in an icy tone. "Well, you've got your wish. I'll move all my things out tomorrow while you're at work. You can have the damn house."

"You're leaving me?" she asked in disbelief. Her hazel eyes sharpened. "Do you really think someone else would ever want you?"

"What, because we've had such a wonderful relationship?" he asked derisively. "I'm a bloody fool for not doing this earlier. And being alone would be better than this."

She looked embarrassed, like she never expected Killian to finally snap.

Her eyes zeroed in on Emma, how she was standing close to Killian, having risen up during the fight.

"Is it because of her?" she yelled more than asked. "Are you leaving because you think you have a chance with her? That she'll be your whore?"

Emma was immediately glad that Regina had taken Henry home, feeling her own temper rise.

"Emma has nothing to do with this," Killian said furiously.

"Please, I know you've been pining after her," Mara retorted. "She comes along, and you suddenly want to leave?"

"She has nothing to do with any of this," he nearly yelled. "I'm walking away because you've made life hell for years."

She flinched back.

"I'm doing this for me," he continued. "I'm doing all of this for myself."

Suddenly looking embarrassed, Mara went silent.

"I'll move out tomorrow while you're at work, so you won't even have to see me," he spit out. "Afterall, you tell me all the time how much you hate even seeing me."

"Well, I'm not gonna complain about that," she replied bitterly before leaving.

Everyone looked uncomfortable, not knowing where to look.

Emma couldn't help feeling partly responsible, even if she knew she was blameless. It wasn't a secret in the town that Killian and Mara's relationship was horrible, but she hadn't expected witnessing one of their fights would be so bad, or that everything that Mara said would be outright abuse.

With how bad the things Mara said were publicly, she didn't want to think about how bad it was privately.

She stopped herself from reaching out to touch his arm, knowing how bad it would look.

Instead, she spoke softly, just loud enough for him to hear her. "Killian? You okay?"

Releasing a hard breath, he nodded, his eyes softening as he looked at her. "Yeah, I'm fine. I apologize for all of that. Especially what she said about you."

She shook her head. "No, no, it's okay."

Graham clapped him on the shoulder. "At least you're free now. Want help tomorrow?"

"You don't even have a car," Killian snorted. "Lot of good you'll be."

"I have my car," Emma offered. He had helped her enough times already since she came to the town, finally giving her the opportunity to return the favor. "I mean, it's not very big, but it's something."

He nodded. "That would be appreciated, love."

"I'm guessing you'll be staying on your ship for now?" Graham asked.

"Until I can find something small, aye," Killian replied as he rubbed at his face tiredly. "I still need something more in the town because of work."

Graham nodded. "What time do you want us there?"

Killian hesitated, likely debating. "Ten. That gives you a chance to sleep. I can get started on it before then."

"Well, I'll see you around ten tomorrow then," Graham agreed.

He left after Killian nodded.

"You know, you don't have to help me tomorrow," Killian told Emma after a moment.

She shook her head, smiling teasingly. "Hey, it beats the paperwork I have waiting for me otherwise."

To her satisfaction, he snorted. "Yeah, and I know Graham was going to try to get me to help him with that, too."

"So, ten tomorrow?" she asked him.

"Yeah," he nodded. "I'll text you the address. Don't bother picking up Graham. Let the bastard walk."

Emm bit back a laugh.

"I know you've had a long day, and you probably wish to go home," he said slowly. "I should let you go, and I know I'm going to have a long day tomorrow."

She nodded, for some reason feeling a twinge of disappointment. "Yeah, yeah. And look, I really am sorry for all this. For what happened."

Killian shook his head. "I'm not. It was a long time coming, and I should have walked away a long time ago."

Biting her lip, Emma nodded.

"Well, good night, Swan," he said with a small smile.

"Night," she replied.

She watched him leave towards his car, wondering how right Henry was when he had said things were changing.

Chapter Text

Killian arrived at the house at eight thirty, knowing that Mara was gone. Not surprisingly, she left the doors unlocked, her phobia of locked doors and keys persisting even in her fury at him. He passed the kitchen as he went to his room, ignoring the hunger he felt in favor of beginning to pack.

It was earlier than he told Emma and Graham to meet him, but there were things he needed to pack and hide away before they came, objects they couldn't see.

Hidden in the back of his closet, he pulled out an old chest. Opening it, he made sure his old sextant and spyglass were in it before moving them aside to reveal his hook. The leather and metal were familiar, drawing him to it more than the modern piece he wore, even if it had more function. The glove covered wooden hand he had sometimes used in place of his hook rested beside his namesake's place.

Setting the trunk on his bed, he went to his bedside drawer, withdrawing an old journal filled with sketches he had done as well as an old leather tag imprinted with the seal of a long gone royal navy and his brother's name.

Most of the items he had managed to keep remained on the Jolly Roger, including his sword and old clothes. He didn't dare bring them into the house he had lived in, not wanting to risk them being found.

Packing away what few possessions he had from his old life, he took them out to his car, hiding them in the back seat with a blanket hiding the chest. It wasn't as hidden as he would have liked, but it would serve its purpose to quickly drive to his ship and safely deposit it before Emma or Graham could see it.

The drive was uneventful even with some people out, even if he did catch some of them staring at his car. No one spoke to him at the docks, letting him return back to the house in peace.

He went back in to start packing everything else he had, turning on the radio as he got back into the room.

Even living with the curse for twenty-eight years, Killian couldn't break the habit of living like he had before on a ship and even longer ago in the navy. Going to his dresser, he pulled the neat stacks to arrange them in the suitcase he had, wondering how much he could fit into the only piece of luggage he had.

He barely heard Graham and Emma come in over the blaring of the radio, hearing them as they climbed the stairs.

"How long have you been here?" Graham asked by way of greeting.

Killian noticed mercifully that Graham had brought another suitcase, meaning he wouldn't be saddled with putting the rest of his clothing in cardboard boxes.

"Not too long," Killian replied with a shrug. "I wanted to get everything out of here as quickly as possible. I'm actually surprised she didn't throw my things out or burn them."

Emma raised her brows as Graham snorted.

"Well, consider yourself lucky, mate," he said as he tossed the luggage to the bed. "I brought this for you to borrow. I've got some more boxes in the car, too."

He left without another word, going to retrieve more boxes.

Slowly, Emma came into the room, holding out a copy of the Daily Mirror.

"I didn't know if you'd gone into town yet or not and thought you might want this," she said sheepishly. "I know I didn't have any luck finding a place before Mary Margaret offered me a room, but your luck might be different."

Accepting the paper, Killian nodded, smiling. "Thanks, love. And I haven't gotten a chance to look yet."

She nodded, glancing at the radio as he suddenly realized how loud he had it. "I didn't take you for a TOOL fan."

He cocked his brow at her, flashing her a flirty grin. "And why not, love? What did you think I listen to? Perhaps bawdy sea shanties? Because I can assure you, I know a great number of those as well."

His chest warmed as she rolled her eyes, the effect ruined by her small smile.

"So what do you need me to do?" she asked him.

He nodded toward the good sized bookshelf he kept. "Can you start boxing those?"

"Yeah," she nodded.

Graham came back with more boxes soon after, setting them down to begin packing.

Killian found the task almost enjoyable as he worked with Emma and Graham, delighting in the easy banter he kept with Emma. A couple times he caught Graham watching them wearing an almost happy expression.

They had taken a break when Killian gave Graham money to get lunch for them, insisting on paying for it because they were helping him.

"You know you don't have to do that," Emma said stubbornly as Graham left.

Killian shook his head. "You're helping me with this when you don't have to. I'm buying lunch."

He smiled as she huffed, knowing she wasn't about to argue further.

"Can I ask you something?" she asked after a moment.

He nodded, suddenly feeling nervous.

"Why are you getting out now?" she asked, genuinely curious. "If last night was any indication to how it's been for you all these years, why are you leaving just now?"

Releasing a hard breath, he found himself scratching behind his ear before he stopped the action. "I wanted to for a long time, but didn't think it was an option. Things had been routine here for so long that it seemed impossible to break the cycle.

"I guess you could say your lad was right last night when he said things are changing, especially by you coming here," he said as he gave her a small grin. "I have recently been thinking about it more and more, and have decided that I want a chance to be happy. I might not deserve it, but I want that chance."

She stopped packing some various small objects into a box to look at him, her brow pinched. "Why wouldn't you deserve a chance to be happy?"

Feeling his nerves growing, he found he couldn't meet her eyes, remembering all of his sins. "Let's just say I have done a lot of things in my past that I'm not proud of."

One thing the curse had given him was plenty of time to examine every act he had committed. In Neverland, his every thought had consisted of either revenge or surviving, leaving little time to think about the man he had become. Storybrooke took out the distractions, giving him nearly three decades to look in the mirror at who he had become. He knew that Liam would hate what he became, even if he believed his rise to piracy was justified.

"Henry thinks I'm here to restore everyone's happy endings," she said finally, unsure. "I don't know, but it does seem like weird timing."

"Well, I'll take it as a blessing," he said in a lighter tone as he tossed some papers from his classes into a box.

She nodded, lost in thought.

"Are you going to that party at the Nolan's tonight?" he asked to change the subject, wanting to put her at ease. While he knew she was to be the one to break the curse on the town, he didn't want to push her and make her run. Too much was weighing on her for him to be careless.

Part of him hated that she even had the responsibility for something she didn't even know about.

Suddenly focusing, she nodded. "Yeah, for a while."

He nodded, knowing then that he would be attending.

Sitting beside the two people he increasingly found himself being around and away from most of the people at the Nolans' party, Killian quietly sipped at his drink, listening to Emma and Henry. His little move earlier in the day had gone easier than he expected, in that after packing, he didn't even need Emma and Graham's assistance in transporting his belongings. He had been someone disappointed that he couldn't show Emma his ship, but knew he would still have the chance one day.

"You know why he doesn't remember?" Henry asked in a hushed voice. "The curse isn't working on him yet."

Killian wasn't surprised that Henry was thinking about the curse, knowing that despite everything, he still believed in it and was dead set on breaking it.

"Henry, David has amnesia," Emma tried to explain to her son.

"Which is preventing the curse from replacing his fairytale story with fake memories," Henry replied smartly, wearing a satisfied look.

"Right," she replied. "Because everyone here has fake stories that prevent them from remembering who they really are."

Killian knew Emma didn't buy into the curse, having grown in a world where magic was just smoke and mirrors, but could have almost believed she believed Henry.

He also caught Henry's furtive glance his way, looking almost unsure.

"Right," she said with a nod. "And now's our chance to help him. We just have to get him to remember-"

"That he's Prince Charming," Henry finished with a smile. "We just have to jog his memory by getting him and Ms. Blanchard together."

"Didn't we just try that?" Emma asked him skeptically.

"And it woke him up," he replied, his grin only growing wider.

Killian chuckled. "The lad has a point. Your little experiment did have some unexpected results.

Emma gave him a small glare, making him hold back a laugh.

"Hey," David's voice came from nearby.

They looked up, seeing him approaching them.

"You're the ones who saved me, right?" he asked, looking between the three of them.

"Oh, yeah, I guess," Emma replied, both she and Killian standing.

David's voice dropped, his expression becoming sheepish. "And uh, you're also the only ones I know here."

"Don't worry, mate," Killian said easily. "You can hide with us."

"Fantastic," David said quietly, genuinely happy.

A server came by, to which he stabbed a carrot with a toothpick. "Thank you."

"So," Henry said conversationally. "You ever use a sword?"

Killian fought a laugh as Emma's eyes widened almost comically, admiring Henry's bluntness, a trait he somehow knew he inherited from his mother.

"I'm sorry?" David asked with a confused chuckle before looking towards Emma. "Emma? You live with Mary Margaret, right? You know if she's coming tonight?"

Her face slipped, looking apologetic. "No, she couldn't make it."

He didn't manage to hide his disappointment as he nodded.

After a moment, he looked towards Killian. "I heard about what happened last night. I'm sorry about you and-"

Killian waved him off. "Don't be, Dave. I'm not. It was a long time coming."

Taken aback, David looked at him in surprise. "It- it was that easy for you to decide to leave?"

"For me, aye," Killian shrugged. "I hadn't been happy for a long time, and I never loved Mara. So, I saw the chance to do something to be happy, and decided to seize it. And who knows? I might even find someone who I can imagine being with."

He couldn't help glancing at Emma as he spoke, knowing there was a chance that she could take off at any second.

She didn't meet his eyes, but it didn't surprise him. He knew she felt something too, even if she was lying to herself.

David nodded, suddenly looking pensive.

He was silent for a few long moments before speaking again. "Actually, will you excuse me? I need to go do something."

Killian and Emma both nodded, letting David slip away.

Henry slipped away a couple moments later, having to check in with Regina, leaving Killian alone with Emma.

"You said you've never loved her," Emma said quietly after a beat. "Have you ever been in love before?"

Taken by surprise, Killian waited a moment before answering, Milah's face surfacing in his mind's eye. "A long time ago."

"End badly?" Emma asked quietly.

"She died," he responded simply.

She flinched back. "I'm sorry."

"It's alright, Swan," he replied gently. "It was a long time ago."

Pausing a moment, he looked back at her. "What about you? Have you ever been in love?"

"No," she said stiffly. "I've never been in love."

He knew she was lying, but let it go, somehow knowing it was a sore subject for her.

Suddenly skittish, Emma nodded. "I, uh, I'm going to go in for a little bit. Just make a couple rounds, you know?"

He nodded in return, with her leaving before he could say anything.

Killian moved so he was further away from everyone, suddenly lost in thought.

He often thought of Milah over the years he had been in Storybrooke, her memory helping him to get through his time in the cursed town.

He felt guilty that he hadn't thought of her as much once he met Emma he suddenly realized, almost feeling guilty like he was somehow cheating.

Part of him wondered as he fiddled with his false hand if he was finally moving on from his first love.

He didn't hear Henry until the boy was right beside him. "What happened to my mom?"

Looking over, Killian kept his voice even to hide his previous thoughts. "She decided to talk to a few people. This is a party, after all."

Henry shrugged in response. "A boring one."

Killian grinned. "Aye, maybe for you. A lot of adult parties are like this."

"Is it okay if I sit with you?" Henry asked.

Nodding, Killian moved over to allow him to sit.

"She still doesn't believe me about the curse, does she?" Henry suddenly asked in a low voice.

Killian paused for a moment, exhaling as he thought of how to best explain the situation to Henry. "It's hard for her, Henry. Your mother grew up believing things were always a certain way. The whole situation sounds impossible."

Henry's voice dropped, making Killian nearly strain to hear him. "You don't believe me either, do you?"

"No, I do," Killian admitted.

"Really?" Henry perked up. "Why?"

His brow furrowed when he didn't answer. "Killian?"

Knowing he was at a proverbial crossroads, Killian quickly weighed his options. He could tell Henry that he agreed that things around the town were strange, that many aspects of the places and even people were reminiscent of fairy tales, providing an ally and confidant to him, or he could tell him the truth. He could tell Henry he was right about everything, that he had all of the memories of his previous life.

He didn't want to lie to him, wondering if it would be better to admit his identity and risk Henry turning away from him, or to risk Henry finding out later and turning on him. He knew if he went with the former, he would be able to tell Henry about his old life, tell him stories of sailing and Neverland, as well as help him more in finding a way to break the curse.

He wondered if loneliness had helped drive his decision.

"Because the curse didn't take away my memories," Killian said in a low voice so only Henry could hear him. "I remember my old life."

Henry's eyes went wide. "Wait- you remember everything? How?"

"It was from an arrangement I had made with your mother, Regina, before," Killian replied, not wanting to lie to him.

Amazed, Henry nodded. "Who were you? I couldn't find you in the book, but maybe I just hadn't gotten to your part yet."

Knowing the gravity of the situation, Killian kept his voice gentle, not wanting to scare him. "My name has always been Killian Jones, even in the Enchanted Forest. But I had adopted a moniker."

He drew attention to his prosthetic, lightly touching it and wishing he felt the smooth curved metal of his hook. "To many, I was only known as Captain Hook."

Henry's eyes lit up with excitement before it shifted to confusion mixed with conflict. "Wait, aren't you supposed to be a villain? Because all these years, you've never done anything bad. You've only ever been nice to me and helped me, and you're friends with the sheriff. I don't understand."

Scratching behind his ear, Killian released a deep sigh. "Lad, I've been in this town for twenty-eight years. I've had a lot of time to think about things and decide that I don't want to be the man I was anymore. I can never be rid of my past, but I can decide what kind of man I want to be."

The conflicted look left Henry as he spoke.

"Lad, I'll promise you this," Killian told him. "No harm will ever come to you from me. You or Emma. I will do everything in my power to help her."

"You like her, don't you?" Henry asked. "My mom."

Killian knew it was best to answer honestly. "Very much so."

"That's good," Henry replied with a nod. "I know she likes you, too. She just won't admit it."

Killian felt his ears begin to redden, suddenly feeling like a boy much younger than his true age.

Finally, Henry smiled. "Will you tell me some more about before? Were you a pirate like in Peter Pan? Is your ship really the Jolly Roger?"

Smiling easily, Killian nodded. "Aye, I will, but not tonight. I will admit I was, but what happened is very different from the story you know. And as for my ship, yes, she is."

Henry nodded. "Wait, you can help me figure out who everyone is that I haven't found yet. Like Mr. Gold. Do you know who he was?"

"All I'll tell you about him is to stay away from him, lad," Killian said seriously. "He was more dangerous back in the Enchanted Forest, but that doesn't mean he isn't here, too."

It didn't matter that he revealed his identity to Henry, he wasn't about to put him in danger from Rumplestiltskin.

"Henry," Regina's voice called.

Henry looked disappointed, knowing he had to go to her. "Can we talk later?"

Killian nodded, giving Henry an easy grin. "Of course, lad."

As soon as Henry turned to leave, Killian spoke up again. "And Henry?"

Henry turned around curiously.

"Let's keep all of this a secret between us for now, alright?" Killian asked.

Henry nodded, grinning. "Got it."

Part of Killian idly wondered what nickname Henry was going to be giving him for Operation Cobra, sensing he would become more involved in the boy's plans.

Chapter Text

Emma released a sigh of relief as she turned into the hall in the back of Granny's, wanting a caffeine fix as well as dinner that she didn't have to prepare herself and wasn't pop tarts.

Her mood quickly turned as she saw Graham, throwing darts onto the board towards the back. She was still angry at him from the night before, having her work so he could hook up with Regina.

It had been one thing if he had been honest about it, admitting that he had a date. She would have gladly covered for him.

The fact that it had been with Regina and he had lied about it angered her, hinting that Graham was possibly under the mayor's control, and possibly even reporting back to her.

Part of her was mad at Killian, too. He didn't warn her about how involved Regina was with Graham, knowing her own strained relationship with the woman.

Ruby noticed her coming out, smiling. "Emma. What can I get you?"

"Nothing," Emma replied, having lost her appetite completely.

Studiously ignoring Graham, she walked past him to go out, thinking about scavenging for her dinner back at the loft.

Right as she reached the door, a dart flew inches from her head, the tip burying itself in the doorframe.

"What the hell?" she said angrily, turning towards Graham. "You could have hit me."

"I never miss" he said, downing what she thought was whiskey before he came to stand in front of her. "You've been avoiding me since last night when you saw me."

"Leaving the mayor?" she asked. "And yes, that is a euphemism."

"You've been hanging around Killian too much," he told her.

Ignoring the comment, she shook her head, speaking in a low voice. "I'm not avoiding you, Graham. I just have no interest in having this conversation. It's your life. I really don't care."

Before he could respond, she pushed her way out of the diner, taking off at a brisk pace toward the loft.

"If you really don't care, then why're you so upset?" Graham called after her, following just behind her.

"I'm not upset," she nearly snapped, knowing her tone was betraying her. "Even though you lied to me."

"If you weren't, you'd be at the bar having a drink with me and not running away," he pressed.

She held back the comment that there was someone else she would rather be having a drink with, knowing it wasn't the time or place, and that the comment would most likely blow up on her. "It's none of my business, really."

"Can we please talk about this?" Graham asked, hurrying to stand in front of her to block her path. "I- I need you to understand."

"Why?" she asked, feeling her emotions wearing thin.

"I don't know," he said slowly. "So maybe I can understand."

She felt another shot of annoyance. "If you need an analysis, go talk to Archie."

"I want to talk to you," he said, blocking her as she tried to push past him.

"Well your bad judgement is your problem, not mine," she huffed, sliding away from him.

Just as she knew he would, he followed her. "You don't know what it's like with her. I don't feel anything. Can you understand that?"

"Bad relationship, yeah," she responded shortly. "I understand a bad relationship. I just don't want to talk about yours."

"Look, I know you and Regina have your own issues, and I should have told you about that before you took the job," Graham said by way of apology.

"Yeah, why the secrecy?" she asked, feeling her temper rising as she halted her steps. She caught the smell of whiskey on his breath, confirming her suspicions. "We're all adults. You can do whatever you want. But I would have appreciated it going into the job knowing Regina had you on a leash."

He flinched back as if she had struck him. "Cause I didn't want you to look at me the way you are now. Like you're angry and disappointed."

"Why do you care how I look at you?" she asked him, suddenly feeling uneasy, as well as the emotions he had named.

She didn't notice the sound of footsteps approaching them.

"Because," he said in a low voice.

"What?" she asked, ready to start walking again.

Before she could say anything else or respond, Graham grabbed her, pulling her to him and kissed her.

Emma stood frozen in shock before almost violently pushing him away, furious.

Too late, she noticed the figure that had stopped just a few feet away, making her heart plummet.

Killian's expression was unreadable, but the ticking in his jaw hinted that he was angry.

She didn't know why, but she suddenly felt guilty.

"I seem to be interrupting something," he said in a stiff voice.

Somehow, she felt her heart sink further.

"If you'll excuse me, I'll leave you alone," Killian said, moving to walk past them.

"No, Killian, wait," Emma found herself saying, wanting to explain to him that nothing was happening between her and Graham.

Relief rushed through her when he paused before she felt her heart seize at the pained look in his eyes.

"What the hell was that?" she yelled as she looked back at Graham

"Did you see that?" he asked in a daze.

"How much have you been drinking?" she snapped. "That was way over the line."

"I'm sorry, I just-" he said slowly, trying to defend himself.

"What?" she asked relentlessly. "You what?"

His voice was small. "I need to feel something."

She suddenly felt used. "Listen to me, Graham. You are drunk and full of regret. I get it. But whatever it is you are looking to feel, I can tell you one thing. You're not getting it with me."

"Okay, what's going on here?" Killian finally asked, confused.

"Emma's been avoiding me since last night," Graham told him, looking like he was having a hard time focusing.

Suddenly remembering her own anger at Killian, she crossed her arms. "No one thought to tell me the sheriff who hired me was warming the mayor's bed."

Killian's eyes widened, making her suddenly doubt him knowing about Graham's relationship.

He rounded on Graham. "What? You're sleeping with Regina?"

Graham swayed slightly. "I… yes."

Killian released a hard breath. "I have a feeling we're going to be having a little talk later, mate."

Emma should have felt sorry for Graham at Killian's tone, but she was too angry at him to feel sympathy.

"I need to go," Graham said before turning, walking away from them.

"You didn't know?" Emma asked after he disappeared into the night.

Killian shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. "No, I didn't."

She felt her anger evaporate, being near him calming her.

Sighing, he dropped his hand. "I was on the way to get some dinner. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."

She shook her head. "No, it's fine. I'm just… I don't know."

He nodded, somehow able to understand.

"Have you eaten?" he asked her.

Sighing, she shook her head again. "No. I went into the diner but left when I saw Graham there."

Somehow she didn't feel cowardly as she admitted that Graham was the reason she left, knowing he would understand.

"Well, why don't we get something?" he proposed. "It's not exactly easy to cook on my ship, so I'm relying on Granny's and takeout for now."

Snorting, she crossed her arms, hoping to stave off the cold. "Bachelor life all you hoped it to be?"

He grinned. "Well, considering I'm out of there, yeah."

She returned his grin. "Well, there's that."

"You didn't answer my question," he said, looking over at her almost nervously. "About getting dinner."

She stopped, turning to face him fully. "Are you asking me out?"

He stopped with her, keeping his eyes on her. "Only as a friend."

For some reason, she was disappointed. The man unnerved her like no one else she had ever met before, but she couldn't help but find herself drawn to him.

Smiling, she nodded. "Alright."

Cartons of Chinese food scattered across the dining table, Emma having led Killian back to the loft.

A few papers littered some open areas of the table, all of the pages listing available properties pulled from them.

Even with it just being dinner with a friend, even if she happened to have a crush on him, and was helping him to find a new place for himself, Emma found herself enjoying her night despite the beginning of her night.

Around Killian, she found she didn't have to have her walls up so high, that she could trust him. The feeling was almost enough to make her want to raise her walls, almost feeling like it was too good to be true.

"So, house or apartment?" she asked before taking a bite of sesame chicken.

"I don't really care," Killian replied, setting down his chopsticks to pull a paper towards him. "The only preference I have is it's near the water."

She nodded, marking off one of the properties that was near the heart of the town.

"I'm sorry about all of that earlier," he said quietly, looking almost guilty. "I had no idea he was seeing Regina.

She shook her head. "I really don't care that he's seeing someone. I'm just mad he lied about it so that I would cover for him."

"I'm not exactly happy about the subterfuge either, love," he replied. "I can guarantee that once he sobers up, he and I are going to have a long talk."

Something told her the conversation would be about more than Graham lying, remembering the hurt and angry expression Killian wore when he originally found them.

Nodding, she looked towards another listing.

"So where's Mary Margaret?" he asked after a moment.

"She has a date," Emma told him.

He nodded slowly. "I thought she and David were going to start seeing each other?"

Shifting uncomfortably, Emma shook her head, speaking in a low voice. "I thought it was going to work out, too. But I guess last night just before they were supposed to meet after he left Kathryn, he remembered everything. So he went to Mary Margaret and told her that he has to stay with Kathryn even though he has feelings for Mary Margaret. She's out with Whale I think, so at least that means she's trying to move on."

Killian nodded sadly. "So he led her on, and last moment tells her that he's going back to Kathryn?"

Shrugging, Emma nodded. "Pretty much."

He shook his head. "If he doesn't love Kathryn, it's going to cause nothing but torment and pain for all of them."

Biting her lip, Emma peeked over at him, seeing him looking down at the table with his brow pinched. She wondered how much he was speaking of himself, knowing that he had made himself miserable by staying with Mara for so long.

"What made you marry her, anyway?" Emma asked him.

He knew what she meant. "I really don't know. I just wanted what I thought would be a good life, but was paired with the wrong person. Maybe it's my penance for my sins in a past life."

"Or maybe life just gave you a crappy hand," she offered, thinking of her own life, particularly her childhood.

Releasing a faint chuckle, he shook his head. "Maybe up to a point."

She offered him a weak smile. "Well, this turned into a downer."

His smile brightened. "Not particularly. It's nice to be able to talk to someone besides Graham."

The comment warmed her, knowing that she was able to give him an outlet.

"So how long have you had your ship?" she asked him curiously.

"A very long time," he said after a moment. "I guess you could say I inherited it from my brother."

"You have a brother?" she asked in surprise, never having heard from anyone about any family Killian had.

"Had," he told her. "He died a long time ago."

She flinched back guiltily. "I'm sorry."

Offering her a tight smile, he shook his head. "It's alright, love. As I said, it was a long time ago."

Biting her lip, she glanced at him, wondering how much she could ask him.

"What happened?" she asked.

"He… died in an accident," he said hesitantly. "Poisoning. We were out on an excursion and we found a plant. We argued over whether it was medicinal or poisonous, and he took some to try to prove I was wrong."

"And you were right," she said in a quiet voice.

Slowly, he nodded. "Even to this day, I can't help but think that maybe if I hadn't pushed so much, he wouldn't have tried to show me the plant was harmless."

Emma hesitated for a moment before tentatively reaching forward to gently rest her hand over his. "That's not your fault."

He gave her a small, sad smile. "That may be, but Liam was always a stubborn ass."

"Sounds like a family trait," she said in an attempt at levity.

His smile brightened. "Yeah, I guess you could say that."

"So the boat was your brother's," she said, happy he was in a lighter mood. "How long have you guys been sailing?"

"First of all, love, she's a ship, not a boat," he told her, grinning. "But I've spent my entire life on the water."

She nodded, the love he had for the ocean palpable in his voice. "Must have been nice."

He shrugged carelessly, but she could tell he was anything but. "Not really. Unfortunately a lot of it was because Liam and I had to be to try to support ourselves. My mother died when I was young, and my father left us not too long after, so we did what we could to survive."

She felt a new wave of guilt at what she suspected were more unpleasant memories she had brought up for him, even if her superpower told her he was omitting some details.

She suddenly realized exactly how alike they really were.

Deciding to show some of her own vulnerabilities, she spoke in a quiet tone. "I know quite a bit about that. I never knew my parents."

He looked at her, his brow pinched.

"I was abandoned on the side of a road," she told him. "The only thing I have from them is my baby blanket. Hell, the only reason I know my name is because they stitched my name on it."

"Maybe something happened," he told her. "I mean, I know you just said they left you on the side of the road, but if they took the time to have your name embroidered onto your blanket, surely they cared?"

She shrugged. "I don't know, but it's hard to think of that when you're in a group home and always wondering when your parents will find you or wonder if you'll ever find a family."

He looked down guiltily. "I'm sorry, I overstepped."

"It's fine," she said calmly. "I mean, I'm not over it, I don't know if anyone ever could be."

Exhaling, he turned over his hand, still covered with hers, to lightly grip it.

"But you've learned to live with it," he said gently.

Flashing him a minuscule grin, she returned the pressure on his hand.

Suddenly realizing exactly the position they were in and how intimate their conversation was, she shook herself, feeling her walls rising up.

"We need to keep looking for a place for you," she said suddenly, knowing she was deflecting as she pulled a paper with listings closer to her.

Killian nodded, going to pull a paper for himself.

Covertly glancing up at him, Emma wondered if maybe he would be the one to finally tear down her walls.

Chapter Text

Not caring in the slightest at the early hour, Killian knocked loudly on the door to Graham's apartment, knowing that he was likely hung over.

He was pissed off, both for Graham nearly forcing himself on Emma, and for breaking his word about not pursuing her, knowing Killian's affection for her.

Hearing shuffling inside followed by a low path, Killian pounded on the door again, unable to help but wanting to add to Graham's discomfort.

"What the hell?" Graham asked as he pulled the door open, blinking with bleary eyes up at Killian.

"Good, you're up," Killian replied in a falsely cheery tone.

"Yeah, cause you woke me up," Graham replied grumpily.

Taking quick stock of the apartment, Killian saw it was in slight disarray, the couch messy and an empty whiskey bottle laying abandoned on the table.

"What do you want, Killian?" Graham asked tiredly.

Resting his hand on his belt, Killian looked back at him. "Do you really not remember last night? How you went back on your word to me and kissed Emma? Or how you've been keeping your relationship to Regina a secret?"

Wincing, Graham screwed his eyes shut, telling Killian he was definitely hung over.

Familiar himself with the feeling, Killian knew he should show Graham more leniency, but he wasn't in the mood for forgiveness.

"I'm assuming you returned here after and got piss drunk?" he asked flippantly.

"Not so loud, will you?" Graham asked in irritation as he moved towards his kitchen to retrieve some aspirin.

Killian raised his brow, feeling his irritation growing.

"What I have with Regina- it doesn't mean anything," Graham said as he swallowed the pills.

Chuckling darkly, Killian shook his head. "Obviously. Or else you wouldn't have told me about it all and snuck around this whole time."

"We weren't sneaking around-" Graham began, but Killian cut him off.

"Emma said she caught you sneaking out of one of the windows on the second story of Regina's mansion while she was running a patrol."

Graham went quiet.

"You know, I could possibly forgive that, but last night, you kissed Emma," Killian said coldly.

He knew Emma wasn't his, but the betrayal stung, with Graham fully knowing his feelings for her but going after her anyway after he said he wouldn't.

"So your affair with Regina means nothing, so you try to pursue Emma instead?" he questioned.

"I was trying to feel something," Graham snapped. "The relationship with Regina is empty, so I thought that maybe-"

He stopped himself, realizing he was only digging his grave deeper.

Killian knew Graham's words should have hinted that something more was going on, but his anger was too strong.

"If you're unhappy with Regina, just end the relationship," he gritted out.

He knew he would regret his words, knowing exactly what Graham would counter with.

"Like I've been telling you all this time?"

His expression hardening, Killian stood firm. "That's different, as you're not legally tied to Regina.

"How long has this been going on, anyway?" he asked, suspecting the answer.

"A long time," Graham replied.

Letting out a hard breath, Killian pinched the bridge of his nose. Frustration welled up with his anger, as well as hurt. The one friend he had during the curse had omitted his affair, only for it to be revealed when he kissed Emma. He knew the affair had likely been going on since the start of the curse.

"Why Emma?" he asked.

Graham didn't answer.

"Do you care for her?" Killian asked more pointedly.

The silence stretched between them, only adding to his anger.

"It's not like that," Graham finally said. "Emma was just there-"

"So she was just convenient?" Killian snapped.

Graham flinched back. "I just wanted to be able to feel something."

Clenching his jaw, Killian shook his head. "Well then, I hope it was all worth it."

Deciding to leave before he did or said something he would regret, he turned on his heel, striding out the door and slamming it behind him.

Emma wondered when exactly it had become such an easy occurrence for her to call Killian whenever she needed help, particularly when it was something that involved Graham.

Even still angry at him, she felt bad for him, having heard from multiple people how bad he was doing. She knew part of it was cowardice, but she didn't want to face him alone, leading her to ask Killian for help. She rationalized that he would be able to get through to him better than she would, but was grateful all the same when he agreed to accompany her with no questions asked.

She knew Killian had seen him early in the morning and that their encounter hadn't gone well, but didn't know all the details. Mary Margaret had told her earlier in the day that Graham had visited her, asking about if he had ever harmed her before claiming he was seeing visions of another life. Emma knew immediately he would go to Henry, knowing her son would push more ideas of the curse.

Emma pulled up her Bug in front of the Mayor's house, seeing Graham leaving just as she and Killian got out of her car.

"There he is," she muttered.

"Hey," she called, getting his attention as she jumped onto the sidewalk. "Hear you're having a rough day."

"Who says?" He asked, eying her and Killian warily

"Pretty much everyone," Killian told him before his tone became calmer. "Mate, you should go home and get some rest."

She glanced at him, wondering how calm he really was, not knowing exactly what happened during their meeting.

"I'm fine," Graham protested with a shake of his head.

"No, Graham," Emma said, trying to keep her voice even. "You're not fine. You just went to see a ten-year-old for help."

"He's the only one making any sense," he replied.

He almost sounded like he was still drunk, but knew he was likely sleep deprived. She pitched her voice softer, hoping to get through to him. "What's going on? What's... really going on?"

He hesitated, looking between the two of them again before answering. "It's my heart. I need to find it."

She caught Killian's raised brow but didn't comment, instead focusing on Graham. "Okay. So, how're you gonna do that?"

"I just need to follow the wolf," he said.

"Wolf?" Killian asked him in confusion. "What wolf?"

"From my dreams," Graham answered. "He's gonna help me find my heart."

"I'm sorry, I thought we were talking in a metaphor, here," Emma said, remembering him telling her that there were no wolves around the town when she claimed a wolf was in the road the night she arrived. "You really don't think you have a heart?"

"It's the only thing that makes sense," he said almost frantically. "It's the only way that explains why I don't feel anything."

"You don't feel anything?" Killian suddenly asked, his eyes becoming troubled.

Graham shook his head. "No."

Blue eyes narrowing, Killian studied him. "How long have you felt this way?"

Shaking his head, Graham looked as if he were trying to recall a distant memory. "I… I don't know. For as long as I can remember."

"Listen to me, Graham," Emma cut in. "You have a heart."

She ignored him shaking his head, stepping closer to him. "I can prove it."

Slowly, she rested her hand over his heart, feeling the strong, steady beat beneath his ribs. "See? It's beating. It's real."

Carefully, she grasped his hand in hers, resting it gently over his own chest. "Feel that? That is your heart."

"No," he suddenly said with a shake of his head. "It's the curse."

"You can't really believe that's true," she asked him harsher than she intended.

"Swan," Killian suddenly said sharply.

Thinking he was going to attempt to chastise her for snapping at Graham, she looked back at him stubbornly before seeing his eyes trained on the other side of the street in shock. Following his gaze, she froze, seeing the exact same wolf she had seen her first night in the town.

She knew it was the same, remembering the gray coat with the brindle patch on his back, as well as the mismatched eyes, the left black and the right red,

Killian moved cautiously to step slightly in front of her, making both he and Graham closer to the wolf.

The wolf looked at the three of them then took off.

Without a word, Graham followed, running after him.

Emma met Killian's eyes quickly before they took off after them.

"Bloody hell," he muttered, almost drawing a small smile from her.

The wolf led them to the town's cemetery, periodically looking over his shoulder to be sure the humans were following him.

"Graham," Emma said cautiously as Graham drew closer to the wolf. "Graham, be careful."

"That's my friend," Graham said surely. "He won't hurt us."

The wolf stopped as soon as he reached a mausoleum, throwing his pale head back to howl.

Somehow the noise didn't scare her, her instinct telling her that she was around a dangerous animal, but her gut telling her they were all safe.

The wolf whimpered, keeping his spot by the mausoleum.

Graham moved forward to the front, looking up at a crest above the doors of a crown of branches. The name "Mills" was engraved just below the crest.

"What is it?" Killian asked as they got closer.

"It's my heart," Graham said slowly. He suddenly became more intense, moving towards the heavy doors. "It's in there. I have to look in there."

"Oh no," Emma said as she moved to stand in front of him. "Stop."

His voice suddenly became more pleading. "I have to get in there, please."

"Graham, come on," she asked tiredly. "You really think that your heart is in there?"

He merely nodded, looking at her desperately.

Reluctantly, she conceded. "Okay. Let's find out."

Stepping in front of the men, she pulled at the doors, pulling at them.

"C'mon," she muttered in frustration as it didn't budge.

She felt Killian's hand on her arm, gently pulling her away. "Allow me, love."

Looking back at him, she nodded, stepping back to let him forward.

Instead of merely pushing the door open, he kicked it, making the door burst open and hit the stone walls inside.

"Really?" she asked as Graham moved past them to go in.

Killian shrugged.

"You know you shouldn't be here," she suddenly said in a lower voice, realizing the trouble he could get in. "I know I asked you to come, but you shouldn't be here."

"If anyone asks, I'm here helping the sheriff and deputy," he said calmly, soothing her. "Graham has asked me to help him enough, no one will ask too many questions."

She nodded slowly, finding herself trusting him.

Stepping in with him to the small area, she quickly became aware of Graham frantically searching the interior of the mausoleum, shining his flashlight on everything as he went.

"It's gotta be in here," he muttered as he looked around the stone casket in the center. "Somewhere."

He lifted an urn, examining it.

For a second, Emma feared he would open the urn and pour the ashes from it.

"There's gotta be a hidden door," he said as he roughly put the urn back. "A lever. Something."

"Graham," she finally said, reaching out to gently restrain him. "Hey, Graham. There's nothing in here."

"There has to be," he said desperately. "If there isn't, then-"

"It's okay," she told him. "It's going to be okay."

"She's right, mate," Killian said just as quietly. "We'll figure something out, but there's nothing here."

All three of them froze when they heard Regina's voice from outside. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Steeling herself to hear Regina yell at them, particularly her, Emma moved to exit the crypt first.

"What're you doing here?" she asked, ignoring the daggers in Regina's eyes.

"Bringing flowers to my father's grave like I do every Wednesday," Regina replied, raising a bouquet of lilies in her hand.

"Don't blame her," Graham said, drawing her attention. "It wasn't her, or Killian. It's my fault I wanted to look in there."

"Really?" Regina asked in a softer, more patient voice. "Why? What were you looking for?"

"Nothing," he replied. "It was- uh- it was nothing."

"You don't look well, dear," she said, reaching out to grasp his arm. "Let's take you home."

He immediately broke free from her grasp. "No, I don't want to go home. Not with you."

Regina looked hurt before her expression shifted to anger, looking towards Emma. "Oh? But you'll go with her."

"Hey, this is between you two," Emma said, backing away. "Leave me out of it."

"She's right," Graham defended. "It's between us. And things have to change."

"And I wonder why that is all of a sudden," Regina said pointedly.

"It has nothing to do with her," he said firmly. "Now, I've realized that I don't feel anything, Regina. And I know that it's not me. It's you."

"So you're leaving me for her?" she asked him.

"I'm leaving you for me," he said.

Emma felt a sudden spike of pride, seeing the look mirrored in Killian's eyes.

Regina shook her head, reaching for his hand. "Graham, you're not thinking straight."

"Actually, for the first time I am," Graham told her as he stepped away from her. "I'd rather have nothing than settle for less. Nothing is better than what we have. I need to feel something, Regina, and the only way to do that is to give myself a chance."

Emma noticed his words were similar to what Killian said when he ended his marriage to Mara.

"Graham," Regina said sadly, quietly.

"I'm sorry," Graham said, not sounding the least bit conflicted. "It's over."

Regina's eyes suddenly shone with tears, but Emma wasn't sure if it was out of sadness or anger.

She suddenly looked at her, her tone accusatory. "I don't know what I ever did to you, Miss Swan, to deserve this. To have you keep coming after everything I hold dear."

"I told you, it's not her," Graham said immediately. "There is nothing between Emma and me. Last night, I kissed her when I shouldn't have. Not when I know that someone else cares for her, and that she returns his feelings."

Unable to help herself, Emma glanced towards Killian, seeing his eyes on hers wearing a gentle expression.

"None of this happened until she got here," Regina nearly yelled, never taking her eyes off Emma.

Emma felt herself snap. "I'm sorry, but did you ever think that maybe the problem isn't with me, but with you?"

"Excuse me?" Regina asked, affronted.

"Henry came and found me," Emma said, slowly moving forward. "Graham came to me. Both were miserable. Maybe, Madame Mayor, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why that is. Why is everyone running away from you?"

Regina stood completely still for a beat before taking a swing, punching Emma just above her left eye.

Emma immediately hit back as pain bloomed where she was hit, landing her own punch in the other woman's mouth. As Regina recoiled back, Emma grabbed onto her, slamming her into the wall of the mausoleum.

"Regina!" Graham yelled. "Stop!"

Killian's voice came from right behind Emma. "Swan!"

"Stop!" Graham said as he grabbed onto Regina. "Stop!"

Killian wrapped his arms around Emma, physically pulling the women apart.

As soon as she was let go, Emma readjusted her jacket, moving to walk away.

She paused beside Regina, looking at the other woman in disdain. "Not worth it."

She wanted to get out of the cemetery, to leave Regina behind. She heard footsteps following her but wasn't concerned, somehow knowing who was following her.

"Are you alright, Swan?" Killian asked her quietly, feeling his eyes on her. "You're bleeding."

"I'm fine," she said, wincing as she touched above her left eye. She saw blood as she pulled her hand away. "It's fine. I just want to get away from her."

He nodded before giving her a flirty smile. "I know it may not be the best time, but I must say, love, I don't think I've ever been so attracted to a woman before."

Despite the situation, Emma smiled.

Emma perched herself on her desk, watching Killian and Graham move around to find the small first aid kit they kept at the station.

"I'm sorry," Graham said as he handed her an ice pack for her head. "I don't know what came over me. Why I lost my mind."

"It's okay," she said, wincing as she touched the pack to just above her left eye. "You were tired and feverish and heartbroken."

"Not to mention she has the power to make all our lives hell," Killian added as he dug through the kit to find everything he needed to clean her cuts.

"I don't know why I let myself get caught up with her," Graham lamented.

"Because it was easy and safe," Emma replied knowingly. "Not feeling anything is an attractive option when what you feel sucks."

Neither of the men contested her.

"I didn't say it earlier, but I am sorry," he said, looking between her and Killian. "To the both of you."

Taken aback, Emma peered at him.

He shifted uncomfortably under her scrutiny, sighing. "I shouldn't have kissed you. Not when I know you have feelings for someone else."

He looked directly at Killian. "And I know he returns them."

Swallowing, Emma cast a quick glance over to Killian, seeing him for once looking sheepish.

Graham flashed them a small smile. "I think you guys really could have a happy future together."

He nodded once before retreating into his office, leaving Emma and Killian alone, even if they could still see them.

"Did he just give us his blessing?" Emma asked, stunned.

"I think he did," Killian replied, a hint of a smile in his voice.

She couldn't help smiling, looking back over as he wet a piece of gauze with some alcohol.

"Luckily I don't have to use any rum," he murmured lightly. "It'd be a bloody waste."

She snorted, rolling her eyes, knowing about the flask he usually kept on him.

Almost tenderly, he raised the gauze to her forehead, dabbing the cut.

She winced as she felt the sting, giving him a gentle smile when she saw his worried expression. "Felt that."

Nodding, he raised his false hand to touch her cheek to help sooth her before his eyes darkened.

She rested her own hand over the appendage as he moved to pull away, keeping the contact. "It's okay."

She couldn't begin to describe the look that crossed his face, only able to describe it as something between relief and adoration. She wondered if he was used to having his left arm pushed away, to the point that her action was a novelty to him.

Thinking back to what she had witnessed between him and Mara, she guessed he was used to being pushed away.

Letting him continue to care for her, she was overcome with the strong desire to kiss him.

He pulled the gauze away, nodding in satisfaction as he tossed it into the waste bin. "That should do it."

Resting both her hands on his chest and feeling the soft leather of his jacket beneath her palms, she stood up, standing only a couple inches from him. Her eyes meeting his, she saw him looking at her with a tenderness she didn't think she'd ever seen directed at her before.

He cradled her cheek, stroking along her skin with his thumb as his other arm went to her waist, pulling her even closer to him, never breaking their eye contact.

She leaned forward as her eyes finally closed, slanting her lips over his with a gentle pressure before finding herself grasping him tighter. He returned the kiss eagerly, his hand drifting from her cheek to her hair through her ponytail, threading through the strands to pull her even closer to him.

Something about the kiss felt right to her, like she had found a piece of herself that she hadn't even known was missing. It was more than just a pleasurable action, like she was always meant to be kissing him.

Slowly, Emma felt the walls she had so carefully erected begin to crack as he hugged her closer.

Her eyes remaining closed, she pressed her forehead to his when they broke apart, only to go in immediately to kiss him again.

She knew things were going to irreversibly change between them, but found herself welcoming the change. He had told her already that they understood each other, making her think that it would be worth taking the chance with him.

"That was…" Killian said as they broke apart, a hint of a smile on his lips.

Before she could respond, Graham hurried back into the room, making them both start, but neither let go of the other. If anything, they gripped each other tighter.

"I remember," he stumbled out.

"Graham?" Emma asked, lost.

"Remember what, mate?" Killian asked him with the same puzzlement in his tone.

"All of it," Graham said cryptically. "I remember."

He looked specifically at Emma. "Thank you."

Still confused, she nodded.

Graham stood smiling for a second longer before his eyes suddenly widened, hunching forward until he fell forward.

"Graham!" Killian nearly yelled, he and Emma detangling from each other to rush to him.

Turning his limp body over, Emma tried shaking him, seeing he was completely unresponsive.

"Graham," she called, trying to rouse him as Killian checked for a pulse.

She heard him mutter a small oath as he suddenly began pushing on Graham's chest.

Scrambling for the phone, Emma quickly dialed for an ambulance while Killian tried to work on him, but she knew that they were too late.

Chapter Text

Following Emma into the station, Killian deposited his satchel on one of the desks, thinking about grading some assignments while he was in the station with her.

He knew she felt bad, but in the two weeks they had technically been together, they hadn't gone out at all on a proper date. They had had a few if they counted the few take out dinners they had and her helping him to settle into a small house near the shoreline that he had found, but nothing that had presented them as a couple. Nothing had progressed beyond kissing for them, but he wasn't disappointed with that. For the first time in a long time, Killian wanted to properly court someone, even knowing the customs of the realm they were in.

They had been each other's anchor for Graham's funeral, ignoring the various looks they had received. Most people looked surprised, but some look disapproving and even condescending. Word got back to him that Mara had begun telling anyone who would listen that Emma was a homewrecker and that she was the reason that he left. He had almost laughed when he heard that she had wanted to ask him if he would be willing to go to counseling to try to salvage their supposed relationship.

He wasn't sure exactly what he needed to do, unsure because he didn't know how valid his supposed marriage to Mara was for the reason being they were paired together because of the curse. Even if it wasn't valid, he filed for a divorce, figuring it wouldn't hurt. He knew technically he could file for an annulment, that they met multiple requirements, but knew it would be more difficult to prove considering the circumstances.

Leaning back against the desk, he rested his hand on his belt buckle, watching as Emma went to her desk.

"So Henry really wants to stop Operation Cobra?" he asked her, bringing up the news she had hinted at on their way to the station.

Emma nodded, conflicted. "Yeah. He said that good can't win because we play clean. He believes that's the reason Graham died even though I told him it was natural causes."

Killian nodded, even knowing that Henry was right about Graham, that the heart attack that killed him was anything but natural. "Do you want me to speak to him? I know your thoughts on all of this about this curse, but I might be able to put his mind at ease."

Sighing, she leaned against her own desk. "I don't know. I mean, you can. But I don't know how to make this better for him. To prove to him that heros can win."

He fought a sarcastic smile at her words, knowing he was anything but a hero. Pushing himself off the desk, he made his way toward her, focusing on her as he rested both his hands on her waist. "You're just worried about your boy."

"I am," she nodded as she draped her arms over his shoulders.

Slowly, she reached up, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips and pulling away to rest her head against his chest.

Settled with her in his arms, he thought about how good it felt to hold her, to be able to provide her some comfort and stability. He had suspected it the moment he had kissed her, but he felt that after mourning for centuries, he was finally moving on from Milah and that his affections for Emma grew by the day.

"You'll figure something out, love," he promised her.

She nodded to him before pulling away, looking at the sheriff's badge on the desk.

"It's yours now," he prompted softly. "You know, he would be happy that if anyone had to replace him, it would be you."

She flashed him a watery smile as she nodded.

Taking off her deputy's badge, she reached for the sheriff's to pin it to her jacket.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Regina's voice came from just inside the office, her heels clicking on the linoleum. She pointed to the badge. "That's not for you."

"It's been two weeks," Emma pointed out. "Promotion is automatic."

Regina smirked smugly. "Unless the mayor appoints someone else within the time period, which I'm doing today."

"So who's it gonna be?" Emma asked, the sarcasm in her voice audible.

"After due reflection, Sidney Glass," Regina answered, her smug grin remaining.

"Sidney from the newspaper?" Emma said skeptically. "How's that even make sense?

"Well, he's covered the sheriff's office as long as anyone can remember," Regina responded as if it would stop any further doubts.

"Aye, and I've read his work on that," Killian cut in. "Writing about a job is different than actually doing the job."

Regina looked at him furiously.

"He'll do whatever you want him to," Emma said as she gave Regina a hard look. "You just cannot stand the fact that things are getting better around here, can you?"

"Better?" Regina asked coldly. "Are you referring to Graham's death as better?"

Killian felt a spike of anger.

Emma's tone held an anger that matched his. "No."

"He was a good man, Miss Swan," Regina spit out. "Your boyfriend may have told you that. He made this town safe, and forgive me for saying it, but you have not earned the right to wear his badge."

"Graham picked me to be deputy," Emma pointed out.

"He was wrong," Regina retorted.

"No, he knew what he was doing," Emma replied. "He freed this office from your leash. You're not getting it back."

"Actually, I just did," Regina said before giving a gloating smile. "Miss Swan, you're fired."

She snatched the badge before departing, leaving Emma fuming.

"How bad would it be if I went after her and punched her in the face again?" Emma asked, barely holding back her anger.

"There would be no one to arrest you, but very," Killian said in defeat.

"She did this on purpose," she fumed. "She waited until the last day on purpose."

Moving so she had a chance to pull away if she didn't want him near, he stood in front of her, resting his hands on her upper arms. "I know, love."

Sighing, she tilted her head so she was leaning against his shoulder. "I don't know what I'm gonna do now. There's no way I can get on as deputy again if Regina has a puppet in here. And with her influence, I doubt I'll find something else."

She suddenly lifted her head. "You need to be careful. She could go after you, too."

"I'm not afraid of her, love," he reassured her.

"Yeah, but it doesn't mean she can't try to make your life hell," she said.

He shrugged. "It's not like it hasn't been before."

Emma sighed, pulling away from him.

"We should get out of here," she said. "I don't wanna be here when she comes back here with Sidney."

He nodded, grabbing his bag as he followed her out.

"So what now?" Killian asked her. "What do you want to do that doesn't involve strangling Regina?"

He was rewarded with a snort of amusement.

"I have no idea," she said before sighing. "I need a drink."

"So Granny's or The Rabbit Hole?" he asked her.

She rubbed at her forehead tiredly. "I don't really want to be around people right now."

He nodded in understanding. "Alright then."

"I don't mean you," she said quickly. "I mean other people."

"Okay," he nodded. "So, where to then?"

She shifted her weight before taking off in the direction of the loft. "C'mon."

He kept pace with her easily, but gave her space. If she wanted any physical contact, he was going to let her initiate it.

"I'm noticing you're not saying anything about me wanting a drink in the middle of the day," she said after a while.

"I'm not the one to judge you for that," he said simply. "I've used drink as a crutch many times. Enough that it has gotten me in a lot of trouble before."

He pushed memories of Liam and his service to Silver from his mind.

She nodded, her voice low. "Thanks for that."

Arriving at the loft, Emma let them in, immediately going to the small liquor cabinet while he closed the door. Setting two glasses down, she poured generous amounts of an amber liquid in them before passing one off to him.

"Don't make me drink alone," she said as his brow raised in question.

He offered her a small nod. "Thanks."

"Sorry," she said as she sat down and took a gulp of her drink. "I know you have stuff to grade."

"It's fine," he told her calmly. "I don't have class until the day after tomorrow anyway. Besides, if we are dating now, doesn't that mean that we're supposed to help each other when we're having a hard time?"

She nodded, her cheeks slightly pinkened, but he knew it wasn't from the liquor. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess it does."

It was easy with Emma, making him wonder if despite the attraction he always had for her, becoming friends with her first made their budding relationship so easy.

He gave her a soft smile before drinking from his glass. Knowing the faint spice that accompanied the burn of the alcohol, he knew she had poured them whiskey.

Not realizing he had pulled a face, he caught her looking at him in amusement.

"Not your pick of poison?" she asked.

"I prefer rum," he told her simply.

She nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."

After a moment, she spoke again, her voice darker. "You know, that was a really low blow back there. With Graham."

He nodded, feeling some of the anger he felt at the comment returning. "Aye, it was. But that's what Regina does. She uses intimidation to get what she wants. That's part of the reason she despises you."

"One of the reasons?" she asked as she tipped back the rest of her glass.

"You're not intimidated by her, and she knows it," he told her. "As for the other reasons, you have no problem challenging her. She can't control you. And most importantly, she's threatened by you because you're Henry's mother."

He didn't dare add that she was the one meant to break the curse Regina had so carefully set up.

"Not according to her," she grumbled as she refilled her glass. "According to her, I'm nothing more than the woman who abandoned him."

His eyes softened as he looked back at her. "I know you had your reasons for giving up your boy. I'm guessing you did it to give him his best chance, aye? To me, that makes you a good mother."

Slowly, she nodded. "I promise, I will tell you the reason why. I just can't right now. Please just give me time?"

Nodding, his hand slipped into hers across the table. "Of course, love. You can tell me when you're ready, and I promise I'll listen."

She flashed him a small but tender smile.

"I just want to beat her," Emma sighed. "I don't think I've ever wanted anything so bad before. And I have no idea how."

They both looked as someone knocked on the door, prompting Emma to rise up to get it and break the contact they had. They both knew it couldn't be Mary Margaret, that she would have a key to her own loft apartment.

Rising with her, Killian bristled as he saw Gold on the other end of the door.

"Good evening, Miss Swan," he said cordially. "Sorry for the intrusion. There's something I'd like to discuss with you."

Wary, Killian knew he would be refusing to leave Emma alone with Gold. The incident at the hospital came to his mind, how it led to her being in his debt.

Emma shared an uncertain glance with him before looking back at Gold. "Come on in."

"Thank you," he said. He looked at Killian as he came in, his expression tight. "Jones."

He looked back at Emma. "I, uh, I heard about what happened. Such an injustice."

"Yeah, well, what's done is done," she said in a bored tone.

"Spoken like a true fighter," he said in surprise.

"I don't know what chance I have," she said, raising her arms up only to drop them. "She's mayor, and I'm well, me."

"Miss Swan, two people with a common goal can accomplish many things," he said in a business like voice. "Two people with a common enemy can accomplish even more. How would you like a benefactor?"

"A benefactor?" she asked skeptically.

"Do you mind?" he asked, gesturing to the table.

Emma invited him to it, pushing aside the drinks and bottle of whiskey. Killian moved back to give him room, not completely trusting him but also willing to listen if it helped Emma.

"You know, it really is quite shocking how few people study the town charter," Gold said as he put up his briefcase and opened it.

"The town charter?" Killian asked him, raising his brow.

Gold gave them a smile that reminded Killian all too much of him being the Crocodile. "It is quite comprehensive, and the mayor's authority, well maybe she's not as powerful as she seems."

Finding Henry at his castle, Killian approached him, setting down beside it.

"Emma told me you don't want to do Operation Cobra anymore," Killian said gently.

Henry nodded, looking out towards the water. "It's too dangerous. Regina plays dirty. You don't."

Killian couldn't help hiding his surprise, knowing very well that Henry knew who he was.

He found himself tentative as he spoke again. "I don't know about that, lad. I've done a lot of things in the past. I don't really think you could count me as being good."

"But you like my mom," Henry pointed out. "And you're trying to help her. You're good now."

Touched, Killian smiled. "Well, lad, haven't you ever heard that good always triumphs over evil?"

Henry nodded sadly. "Yeah, but what if she comes after you guys next? I don't want my mom or you to get hurt."

"I won't let your mom get hurt," Killian promised him. "And you don't need to worry about me."

Henry remained looking dejected. "But she won't stop. Graham was good, and look at what happened to him. We should stop."

Killian was silent for a moment, thinking.

"Lad, if you're out somewhere like the sea on a moonless night, and there's one light miles away, even if it's just a candle, do you still see it?" he finally asked.

Henry looked at him in confusion. "Yeah."

"As long as light exists, darkness doesn't win," Killian told him. "Light always finds a way. The same goes with good and evil. As long as there's still good, evil won't win. Evil will only win if the good is completely gone."

Henry was silent for a long moment.

"I think… you're like that," he said slowly. Henry looked back at him. "You said that you're a villain, but you're not bad. It's like you just said."

Killian gave him a small, sad smile. "I'm hardly a good man, Henry. But I do believe that the light will beat the darkness. That your mother will beat this."

To his relief, Henry smiled, his demeanor brightening.

Chapter Text

Killian couldn't help noticing how many people had newspapers as he walked to Granny's, making him curious about whatever Sidney had published that was so interesting to the town.

He'd been amused when Emma called Regina out publicly about who could be sheriff, even if he knew she had a long fight ahead of her. He didn't doubt she would win, but offered her his full support regardless.

He had wanted to take her out on a proper date soon, but knew that it wouldn't be likely as she would have to worry about the election.

Passing by one of the dispensers for The Mirror, the picture of Emma caught his eye with the headline, 'EX-JAILBIRD: EMMA SWAN BIRTHED BABE BEHIND BARS.'

"Bloody hell," he muttered furiously.

He knew that Sidney would run a smear campaign, that it was the only likely way he would win, but hadn't imagined it to be so bad. He didn't even know if the headline was true; Emma hadn't told him about it, in fact she hadn't told him much about her past at all, but understood why she didn't immediately. He knew she was much the same as him, having experienced pain and heartbreak, especially growing up.

Angry, he had to resist the urge to pull all the papers away from the people reading them. His appetite gone, he moved to briskly walk towards Mary Margaret's loft, but not before grabbing one of the papers and tucking it into his jacket.

His relief was instantaneous as he saw Emma just as she was leaving, making him hasten his steps to get to her.

"Swan," he called, making her turn to look at him.

"Killian?" she asked as he stopped in front of her, her face drawn into a concerned expression.

"Have you seen the paper today?" he asked her in a low voice.

Confused, she shook her head. "No, why?"

Releasing a heavy, frustrated breath, he reluctantly pulled the paper and passed it to her.

Emma's eyes widened as her face whitened, taking in the mugshot.

"How did he…" she asked before her voice turned furious. "Regina."

"Most likely," Killian told her stiffly. "You know she's not going to play fair."

Emma suddenly looked scared. "Uh, did you read it?"

"No," he replied with a shake of his head. "As soon as I saw the front page, I came here."

She bit her lip guiltily. "I'm sorry. I probably should have told you before. You shouldn't have found out this way."

He looked at her, stunned. "Wait, love, what are you talking about?"

"That the headline is true," she said quietly. "I did have Henry in jail. When I was seventeen. It's not something I like to talk about, obviously. I don't know how they found out. Those records are sealed."

Eyes wide, Killian shook his head, thinking he was the last person to judge her. "It's alright, love. It should have been your decision for when to tell me."

She suddenly froze, her eyes widening. "Henry- he's gonna find out because of the paper."

Exhaling unhappily, he nodded. "I'm sorry, Swan."

"I can't believe she's doing this," she muttered angrily. "Does she really think the best thing for Henry is seeing his mothers fighting like this?"

"Go talk to him," he encouraged. "I think it would be best if you talked to him as soon as possible."

She nodded. "Then go and punch Regina in the face again. There's no sheriff right now, so she can't exactly have me arrested."

Fighting his amused grin, he shook his head. "As tempting as I know that is for you, I don't think it would help with your election."

He felt a small swell of pride at her small amused smile.

"How about we go out tonight?" she proposed suddenly. "We haven't had an actual date yet, and I think it would be good for us."

"You're asking me out?" he asked with a faint trace of amusement, knowing she wanted to do it to help relieve her stress. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you?"

"I knew you were old fashioned," she remarked, smiling widely.

"Aye," he said confidently, remembering his thoughts from earlier. "I am. I'll accept, but only if you let me plan it."

Shifting her weight, she shook her head as she smiled wider. "Alright."

He grinned. "Rest assured, love. I know how to plan an evening."

Emma hummed as she moved closer to lightly kiss him. "Well then, I'll let you plan then. Let me know where and what time?"

"Of course," he replied.

Kissing her one last time, Killian watched as she left.

Killian couldn't remember the last time he was nervous for an outing with a woman. The last time he could really remember was when he was with Milah in their early days.

Leaving his small house that was more of a cottage with a single rose he had picked up a while earlier, he went to his car to go to the loft Emma shared with Mary Margaret, finding his nerves growing. He wanted the date to go well at least, truly wanting to have a relationship with Emma.

Pulling his car into the spot behind Emma's bright yellow Bug, he took a deep breath to calm himself before going into the building and climbing the steps.

Emma opened the door almost immediately after he knocked, making him wonder if she had just been on the other side of it when he arrived.

Taking her in, Killian felt her breath catch as he saw her. He had thought Emma pretty before, even after a night in a cell, but seeing her done up for their date made him want to kiss her.

Her hair fell in waves instead of her usual curls, making him suspect that he was seeing her natural hair. The dark pink dress she wore was short and form fitting, showing her figure and leaving her legs on display for him.

"Hey," she said, moving back to allow him into the loft.

Stepping in, he found he couldn't look away from her. "You look…"

"I know," she replied with a flirty smile. "You clean up pretty good yourself."

"Well then," he chuckled, presenting her with the rose and lightly pecking her cheek.

He watched her cheeks flush, making him give her a small smile.

"Thanks," she said, as she took the flower from him. "I, uh, all of my dresses are what I usually wear when I'm out catching skips, and I felt weird borrowing something of Mary Margaret's."

"Well, I feel sorry for them then," he said. "Poor bastards were caught unaware by a beautiful siren, not suspecting a thing."

She grinned at the compliment.

"Let me put this in water first?" she said, turning slightly toward the small kitchen.

Content to wait, he forced himself not to stare at her backside as she moved to retrieve a small glass bottle, filling it with water for the flower.

"Ready?" she asked as she turned back around.

Killian nodded, grinning. "Of course."

Stepping out to let Emma close the door behind them, he led her down to his car, holding the door open for her and letting her get settled before going to the driver's side.

"So, where are we going?" she asked curiously. "And please don't tell me I got dressed up just to go to Granny's."

"Don't worry, love," he chuckled. "There are other places in Storybrooke besides the diner. But for tonight, I thought you might like a little Italian place near the docks."

She grinned happily. "Sounds good to me."

Slowly, Killian felt the nervous knot in his stomach begin to unravel.

Reaching the restaurant without incident and going to their table, he pulled her chair for her, unable to help grinning at her surprised yet happy expression.

"Well, Swan, what do you think?" he asked her as he removed his jacket.

"I like that it's not Granny's," she responded back in a playful tone.

"Shall I order us some drinks?" he asked her as he settled in himself.

"Trying to get me drunk, Jones?" she teased.

Deciding to play it off, he casually leaned to the side with his elbow on the table into an almost provocative pose. "What's the matter, love? You a bit worried you might find me more irresistible after a few libations?"

She laughed, making his heart swell.

"Alright," she agreed.

Nodding, he motioned to the bartender, seeing the other man nod in confirmation.

"I'll admit, it's been a long time since I've been on a date," she told him as a waiter deposited a couple glasses of wine at their table. "Well, a real date, anyway."

He grinned in understanding. "I assure you, love, that it can't be longer for you than it has been for me. You'll have to forgive me if I seem out of practice."

Emma shook her head as she reached forward, taking both his hand and prosthetic in hers. It never ceased to amaze him how easily she would touch his false hand, remembering how in the past women had been fascinated with his hook, but mainly shied away from touching it or his arm itself.

"You're fine," she reassured him. "It's just you and me, okay?"

Killian nodded, suddenly feeling the last of his nerves melt away.

Emma couldn't remember a better date as Killian walked her up the stairs to the loft wearing his jacket to fight off the cold, truly sad that their night was at its end.

She knew she could have very easily suggested they go back to his place, but did not want to have a relationship with him where they immediately jumped into the physical aspect. As much as she enjoyed kissing him, she wanted their relationship to be more, something that would last long term for them. She couldn't explain why exactly she wanted it, but the rightness she felt at his side was all the answer she needed.

Stopping outside her door, she turned back to him. "Well, not bad."

"Oh?" he asked lightly. "Just not bad? Well, I guess I'll just have to do better next time."

They both laughed.

"Next time?" she asked with a hint of laughter. "I don't remember asking."

"That's cause it's my turn," he told her, his expression becoming more serious yet open. "Will you go out with me again?"

Instead of answering, Emma leaned forward to press her lips to his, threading her fingers through his soft dark hair as he held her close to him.

A pleasant warmth spread throughout her as she continued to kiss Killian, making part of her regret returning back to the loft. She couldn't remember the last time she had such a strong reaction to just a kiss, a small part of her mind telling her she never had.

They were both breathing heavier than usual as they broke apart, resting their heads together.

Knowing she had to end things before they escalated, she lightly kissed him again before slipping his jacket from her shoulders to pass back off to him.

"Goodnight, Killian," she said softly as she opened the door.

"Good night, Swan," he replied just as softly, giving her one last happy grin before she closed the door.

She saw Mary Margaret was still awake, standing in the small kitchen.

"Sorry," Emma said. "I didn't think you'd be up still."

Mary Margaret shook her head. "No, it's fine. Just finishing up on tomorrow's lesson plans."

Emma bit her lip, nodding.

"So, how was your date?" Mary Margaret asked her brightly, genuinely curious.

Fighting a wide grin, Emma nodded. "It went really well.

"I'm glad," Mary Margaret responded. "So, are you going out again soon?"

"I don't know exactly when, but Killian did ask for another date," Emma told her, taking off her heels.

"You have to tell me all about it," Mary Margaret said excitedly. "Where'd he take you? Did he kiss you goodnight?"

Fighting a grin, Emma shook her head, knowing she and Mary Margaret would be up for a few hours. "Mind if I change first?"

It was almost comical how fast Mary Margaret nodded. "Go, go. I want details as soon as you're done."

Releasing a laugh, Emma ascended the stairs to her room, the memories of her kiss with Killian remaining on her mind.

Chapter Text

Grabbing the paper in front of the door to his house, Killian carelessly tossed it onto the tiny kitchen table he had set up, wanting to get some coffee before looking at whatever drivel was going on in the town.

Glancing around the small space, he couldn't help but be filled with a sense of pride at his small home. He didn't need much in regards to furniture, just a couch, coffee table, large bookshelf, and tv stand in one part of the main space, and a small table with a couple chairs by the adjoining kitchen. His bedroom was just as Spartan, only a bed, dresser, closet, and side table. A few things placed around the apartment consisting of some sailing memorabilia and books gave the personal touch that it needed to show who the inhabitant was. It wasn't much, but it was his.

Not bothering to sit down, he took a long drink of his coffee before setting the cup down to unfurl the paper, his blood boiling at the image on the front beneath the headline.

A candid picture of he and Emma on their date from less than twenty-four hours ago stared up at him, them smiling at their table in the restaurant he'd taken her too beneath bold print reading 'EX-JAILBIRD TO HOMEWRECKER?'

Killian's vision went red as he scanned the article, seeing an interview from Mara, saying how she didn't understand why he left her, that she wanted them to go to counseling, that he wouldn't even talk to her. Everything she said blamed Emma.

His gut told him that Emma would be blamed for his and Mara's supposed relationship breaking, even with the break up having been public and there were witnesses to the multiple cases of abuse she put him through. Mara was playing the victim, and with the headline Sidney had went with the day before, Emma would be painted as the evil temptress who stole her "husband" away.

Wanting to give Emma a warning, Killian grabbed his phone from the table, immediately dialing her number.

Her voice was groggy on the other end, making him suspect she had just woken up, but he could hear the smile in her voice. "You know, normally people wait a little while longer before they call each other after a date."

He smiled as he heard her voice, acting as a balm to his anger. He felt horrible in ruining her mood, but couldn't let her go without a warning.

"As wonderful as last night was, I'm afraid that's not why I'm calling you right now, love," he said sadly. "I'm guessing you haven't seen this morning's paper?"

"No, why?" she said, her voice hardening.

Moving his phone so it was held with his prosthetic, he pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Apparently you're the reason I left Mara. Somehow they got a picture of us last night. We made the front page."

"What?" she snapped.

He wasn't offended, knowing her anger was in no way directed at him.

"Is everyone somehow forgetting the night you ended things?" she asked angrily. "What she was saying to you? Especially considering it's been going on for years from what you, Graham, Mary Margaret, and even Henry have told me?"

Killian had no idea that Henry knew of his issues with Mara, much less that Henry told Emma of it.

"Well, now apparently Mara is telling everyone that I'm refusing to get counseling with her," he told her. "I haven't heard anything from her, only that she received the divorce papers."

He heard Emma exhale a long, frustrated breath.

"What do you want to do?" Killian asked her, knowing what she could possibly say.

While he hoped she wouldn't say that she wanted to end their relationship to try to protect them both, he would accept and respect her wishes.

She was silent for a long moment before speaking again. "I think maybe it would be better for us both if we're a united front. I think it would be worse if we hid. I mean, people saw how she treated you. They can't just forget that. And seeing us together, and you happy, will show them the story is a lie."

She suddenly sounded unsure of herself. "I mean, if you are happy. I- I hope I make you happy."

He hoped she could hear the smile and relief in his voice. "Aye, Swan. You do. More than I have been in a long time."

"I know that I'm going to be talking to Regina again later today again," Emma told him in a more serious tone. "I don't want to fight like this in front of Henry, especially publicly."

"I know," he told her.

"Hey, what are you doing right now?" she asked him.

"Just thinkinging about eating something before I have to go to the university," he told her. "Class is at nine, so I have a couple hours."

"Do you want to get breakfast?" she asked him. "Just meet at Granny's?"

He was moving to his small bedroom before she even asked her second question. "Of course, love. How long do you need?"

"Give me half an hour?" she asked.

"I'll see you in a bit then," he told her.

"See you," she said before hanging up.

Deciding to change, he quickly sorted through his clothes, settling on a dark blue shirt to wear beneath his favorite waistcoat. Part of his mind told him he was acting like an adolescent trying to impress the first woman he fancied, but he truly wanted to make a good impression with Emma.

After fixing his hair and the kohl around his eyes again, he seemed it an appropriate time to leave, taking his car to the diner. He would have normally walked, but didn't like going to his work without his car.

He saw he had arrived before Emma, spying her yellow car driving up to park behind his Firebird as he got out.

Even dressed down in jeans and a dark blouse, he thought she was just as beautiful as she had looked the night before.

Going to meet her, he grinned as she kissed him in greeting.

"Morning," he said as she pulled away from him.

She hummed in response. "Morning. And thanks for telling me about this, even if you woke me up."

His smile turned guilty. "Sorry about that, love."

She easily slipped her hand in his as they moved to the entrance of the small building, showing they were together.

"If anyone says anything, let me handle it," he said before they got to the door. He spoke quickly, seeing she was about to protest. "I know you can defend yourself, Swan, but this is my fight, too. I want it to be known that this is my choice, and that you have nothing to do with what happened."

She lightly squeezed his hand in hers, nodding. "Alright."

The patrons in the diner didn't disappoint when they saw them together, most giving Emma looks of disgust.

To her credit, Emma held her head proudly, ignoring the glances shot her and Killian's way.

Settling into a booth, Ruby quickly came by wearing a welcoming expression towards them, contrasting the rest of the diner.

"Let me guess, hot cocoa and coffee?" she said brightly, oblivious to everyone else as she set a couple menus in front of them.

Emma nodded. "Yeah, thanks Ruby."

Nodding happily, Ruby went off to fill their drink orders, leaving them alone.

Only glancing at the menu, Killian heard a couple of faint whispers through the diner, all of the subjects pertaining to him and the woman with him.

"I'm surprised she's even showing her face right now, let alone walking around in public with him," he caught Leroy say lowly to whoever his companion was. "Poor Mara. The girl wants to work things out, and he's walking around with his mistress like it's nothing."

Nearly slamming the laminated paper on the table to stand, Killian moved to confront Leroy, only to be stopped by Emma reaching forward to take his hands in hers.

"Hey, hey," she said quietly. "Calm down. Getting in a fight won't help anything right now."

"Swan, I'm not about to let him talk like that about you," he responded.

Before he could say anything else, he heard Granny's voice coming from near Leroy. "I wouldn't believe this too much. After the hell Mara put him through? We all saw Killian leave her because of what she was doing to him. Remember that one day when he was just in here with Graham and she came in and just started screaming at him? I think this one is just a smear to try to make Emma look really bad."

"See?" Emma said quietly to Killian. "Not everyone believes the story."

"But enough will," Killian warned her.

"I know, which is why I'm paying Regina another visit today," she said in a harder voice. "I don't want to keep fighting like this in front of Henry. I don't want him to get hurt in this."

"I know, but Regina doesn't care," Killian told her sadly. "I don't think she cares how damaging this will be for Henry."

She sighed unhappily, withdrawing her hands from his. "I know."

Ruby came by soon after to take their orders and deliver their drinks, leaving them alone again.

"I'm wondering if maybe I should talk to Archie," she said after a brief silence. "He knows Henry, maybe he can give me some advice on what to do. I want to beat Regina, but not if it means that Henry gets hurt in the process."

Killian gave her a small smile, thinking how Emma was better than him for that. She was willing to put aside her pride for the sake of her son, when his own pride had gotten him in trouble more times than he could count.

"Maybe," he said. "I know that he told Regina that if there was ever a fight for custody of Henry, he'd be called to testify about who would be a fit parent."

Emma's eyes brightened at the new information before they dimmed again. "I just hope it doesn't get too bad for him. He's been through too much already."

Seeing the guilt weighing on her, he reached out, slipping his hand in hers.

He waited until she looked up at him before speaking. "He's a strong lad. He knows you care about him. I won't pretend I know everything about what happened to make you give him up, but I know you did it because you thought it was best for him. And I know he knows that, too."

He squeezed her hand as she nodded, wanting to sooth her unease and hoping that she would sometime trust him enough with the ghosts of her past, knowing the walls she was hiding behind.

As soon as their food was brought to them, Killian had the thought that like his sham union with Mara, Henry's adoption by Regina might not be legitimate. Even though it didn't take place with the establishment of the curse, Regina's identity didn't exist to the outside world. She bypassed a good amount of the process, including the home visits to ensure she was in possession of a good, stable home.

Knowing he couldn't tell Emma because of the aspect of the curse, Killian found himself determined to find a way to prove that Henry's adoption was illegal if it would help her.

Emma pushed her way into Regina's office, fuming at the other woman for the tactics she was willing to go to.

"What the hell are you playing at?" she demanded, holding up the two newspapers featuring herself on the front page. "First, you released a juvie record that was sealed by court order, which as I told you yesterday, is an abuse of power and illegal. Now, you're bringing Killian into this just cause we're seeing each other? What, are you having Sidney stalk us for pictures?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," Regina said sarcastically. "I thought the pain his wife is going through at seeing her husband parading around with a tramp was worth everyone knowing, especially because you're running for sheriff."

Her blood boiling, Emma fought to keep her voice down. "The pain she's going through? What about the pain she's caused him for years? What about the abuse she's put him through publicly?"

"No offence Miss Swan, but I know Mara," Regina said with an air of superiority. "You don't. Granted, she and Jones have their issues, but that doesn't mean you should insert yourself in with Jones."

"Insert myself?" Emma asked in disbelief as she moved to follow Regina out of the office, her gut twisting. "I didn't insert myself into anything. Killian had had enough and decided to leave. Nothing even happened until-"

"Until what?" Regina snapped. "Until Graham tragically died so you couldn't do anything with him?"

Seeing Regina hinting that she had broken up two relationships, Emma felt her calm exterior cracking. "That is not what happened. Graham was my friend, and he was Killian's best friend. There was nothing going on between us."

She didn't dare mention how Graham had essentially given her and Killian his blessing moments before he passed.

"You know all of this is hurting Henry," Emma continued.

"He's fine," Regina said dismissively.

"He's not fine," Emma argued. "I mean, think about it. Watching his adoptive mother throw an illegal smear campaign against his birth mother? You don't think that would be upsetting?"

"All I did was expose him to the truth" Regina said carelessly. "And to everyone else. As for the legality, I did nothing wrong. But you and Sidney will have a chance to get into all that at the debate."

"Debate?" Emma asked in surprise.

Regina's grin reminded Emma of Tom and Jerry whenever Tom thought he ate Jerry. "Yes, Miss Swan. There's a debate. You two can talk about jail time and juvie records and helping break up a marriage, and maybe even your new association to Mr. Gold. He's a snake, Miss Swan. You need to be careful who you get into bed with."

"I'm not getting into bed with anyone," Emma told her.

"Except Jones," Regina replied smugly.

Emma felt herself bristling, her voice coming out sharp. "I was fighting fire with-"

She was cut off as Regina pulled open the door to the way out, a small explosion of flames meeting them.

Falling back onto the stair landing, Emma picked herself up with the urgency that she and Regina had to get out immediately.

"Alright, come on," she said, trying to usher Regina up. "Let's go. We have to get outta here."

"I can't move," Regina cried out, struggling under some wood that had fallen on her. "You have to get me out. Help me."

Quickly, Emma pulled the wood off Regina. She immediately knew it would be near impossible to navigate the flames with Regina's injured ankle the second she looked at it. Remembering they were in a government building and that they had to have certain regulations, she quickly turned to go into the room where the flames came from.

She stopped as she felt Regina pull on her. "You're gonna leave me, aren't you?"

Instead of answering, Emma pulled away, running to the other room. Careful of the flames as she began to feel the smoke choking her, she scanned the room until she saw a fire extinguisher mounted on a wall. Avoiding the flames, she darted towards it, pulling the pin so she could clear a path back to Regina.

She could tell by Regina's shocked face that she truly hadn't expected her to return, finding she was angry.

No matter how much she despised the woman, leaving her to die was a calloused move.

She quickly pulled the other woman up, using the extinguisher to create a path for them out of the building as she supported the other women's weight.

"Oh, oh, ow!" Regina complained the second they got out of the building and Emma set her down. "My ankle! Set me down gently!"

"Seriously?" Emma said in disbelief, trying to gulp lungfuls of air as she continued to choke on the smoke. "You're complaining about how I saved your life?

"The firemen are here," Regina told her condescendingly from her spot on the ground as an old fire truck pulled up. "It's not like we were really in danger."

"Fine," Emma snapped at her. "Next time I'll just- I'll just- you know what? Next time I'll do the same thing. And the time after that. Cause that's what decent human beings do. That's what good people do."

She moved away before she could give Regina a chance to respond, letting the EMTs go to the mayor.

People had begun to gather around, the fire clearly drawing the crowd's attention.

Emma heard one familiar voice yelling, fighting to be let through the line as someone tried to hold him back.

Killian had gotten through before anyone could do anything, running towards her. "Swan!"

Picking her head up, she moved towards him at a slower pace.

"Emma," he said in relief as he halted his run right in front of her, pulling her into his arms and holding her close. "Emma, are you alright?"

She couldn't help her small cough as she nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Examining her, he gently pulled her to the EMTs so they could get her oxygen.

The second the mask was on her, she could breathe easier.

"I heard that there was a fire at the mayor's office and I didn't know if you were still here or not," Killian told her in a low voice.

She nodded. "We were just leaving. We opened one of the doors out and there were flames everywhere."

He sighed, pressing his lips to her hair. "You're safe now. And you're a bloody hero."

She smirked, her eyes wandering to Regina briefly who was fussing about being put on a stretcher. "Not according to her. She thinks we weren't in any real danger."

Snorting, he wrapped an arm around her waist, merely sitting with her as her breathing became easier.

"You really scared me," he admitted quietly.

"Sorry," she said, feeling genuinely guilty for worrying him.

"Don't be," he said as he kissed her forehead.

Leaning against Killian, Emma closed her eyes, feeling safe as the fire was being put out.

Chapter Text

Killian put up the last campaign poster for Emma he had on the bulletin board outside the town hall, eager for the election to be over for Emma even if there was a little over a day left.

He knew she was anxious, and he didn't blame her. Every move she made was watched, making her change her daily routines. He had no problem being out with her, not caring what was said about him, but she was more reluctant to go out in public with him, not wanting to cause him to come under any more scrutiny. He wanted to help her in any way he could, even if it meant their time together was spent in more private locations than out in public.

Stepping back, he began thinking about getting some coffee from Granny's before going to Emma and Mary Margaret's loft, his feet already moving to take him there when he heard a voice that made his decent mood plummet.

"Killian," Mara's voice called.

He knew it wasn't gentleman-like behavior, but he kept moving, ignoring her.

Her footsteps picked up, her voice growing more irritated. "Killian!"

As soon as her hand touched his arm, he yanked it away, finally turning to face her.

"Finally," she said in annoyance. "What do you think you're doing putting up those posters?"

Killian raised his brow in disbelief. "Helping Emma with her campaign. What do you want?"

She looked taken aback, not expecting him to be so short with her, but he'd had it with her. He'd dealt with her for longer than he should have, regretting not leaving much sooner.

"I was wondering what you thought of my little interview," she said finally.

Her smile told him everything he needed to know, that she didn't believe she had done anything wrong. She didn't believe she'd done anything wrong for twenty-eight years.

"I would tell you, but the language I would use to describe it isn't fit for a lady's ears," he said through gritted teeth, feeling anger rising in him. "Though you hardly count as a lady."

Her grin slipped as her eyes narrowed.

"Have you signed the papers yet?" he asked her, wanting to leave.

Mara crossed her arms defiantly. "No, I haven't, because this is ridiculous."

Releasing a sarcastic laugh, Killian shook his head. "How so? Because I'm not letting you use me as your punching bag anymore? You're going to make me appeal this?"

"I'm refusing to sign," she spat out. "Besides, as long as I do, you and that hussy will be going through hell with everyone judging you. You'd still be my husband, and she'd be nothing but the other woman."

Anger turned to fury as he stared her down, realizing she was using the divorce papers as a power play. All he needed was her signature before he could get a judge to sign off on it, and in refusing, it was just finding another way to try to torment him.

"Sign the papers," he said venomously before turning to leave her, all thoughts of picking up coffee pushed from his head.

He briefly considered going to his ship, knowing that the water would calm him, but he felt the pull to Emma strongly tugging him to her, knowing she would provide just as much comfort as the sea.

Mary Margaret let him into the loft when he arrived, smiling warmly at him.

"Killian," she said in welcome.

He nodded cordially. "Mary Margaret."

He looked up as he heard footsteps coming down the stairs, relaxing marginally when he saw Emma.

"Emma," he sighed as she came down.

She stopped in front of him, letting him pull her into his arms. He noticed she looked anxious as she came down, but it shifted as soon as she was with him, making him wonder if he had imagined it.

Creeping an arm up his back so it rested just between his shoulders, she turned her head slightly so she could speak. "Rough day?"

He gave a humorless chuckle. "Not until recently."

"What happened?" she asked as she pulled away.

He sighed as he released her to pinch the bridge of his nose. "Mara is refusing to sign the papers."

"What?" she asked in disbelief.

"How can she do that?" Mary Margaret asked worriedly.

"Apparently it's so she can still have some control," he said in frustration as he raised his hand flippantly. He looked at Emma. "I know they won't not grant me the divorce, but I don't know how long she'll prolong it. And apparently so that you'll only be seen as my mistress apparently."

He could tell she was angry as she spoke again. "So what happens?"

"I can have it appealed," he said as she pulled him to sit down while Mary Margaret handed him a mug.

Taking a drink, he recognized hot cocoa with cinnamon, the drink both Emma and her mother favored.

"If I'm honest, I don't know how well that will go," he admitted.

"Why not?" Mary Margaret asked him as she held her own mug.

"How many cases of abuse do you see where it's the wife's abusing the husband?" Emma asked her, not unkindly. "How are men treated if they say that they're victims?"

Mary Margaret nodded unhappily. "But you have witnesses. Nearly the entire town has seen and heard instances where she's gone after you."

"But just look at the damage that article Sidney wrote did," Killian pointed out. "Now suddenly everyone thinks Emma and I are having an affair, while Mara is the innocent party. And this is even after a good amount of the town was present when I told her I was leaving and wanted out."

"You still have people willing to back you up," Emma pointed out.

Killian nodded, not knowing how to proceed, but feeling Emma right at his side, he knew that at least for the night, he didn't have to worry.

Climbing out of her car in front of Killian's place, Emma straightened her skirt, feeling her stomach twist with her nerves for both the debate against Sidney and the fire at the mayor's office.

She hadn't told him about Gold's involvement with the fire, not knowing how. She felt like a fraud, even if she had no idea that Gold was going to stage the fire.

Going to Killian's door, she took a breath before knocking, knowing he would answer in more seconds.

She was met with his bright smile as he saw her, moving to let her into the apartment. "Swan."

Unable to help herself, she returned a small smile of her own. "Hey."

"Sorry, love, I'll be ready in a moment," he said as soon as she was in. "Go ahead and sit down."

She nodded, moving to the sofa and perching on it.

As soon as he was ready, she looked up at him.

Her voice was small as she spoke, her nerves taking over. "Hey, can we talk really quick?"

She was thankful that he sensed her severity, looking nervous himself as he sat beside her. "Of course. What's wrong?"

Biting her lip, she looked down at her lap, almost afraid that she would see judgement if she met his eyes.

"Gold set up that fire," she said quietly. "He did it to try to help me."

She heard him exhale slowly, still unable to meet his eyes. "When did you find out?"

Surprised at his tone, she looked up, confirming as she looked at him that he wasn't condemning her.

"Yesterday," she admitted. "I went back to check out the office to see what maybe started the fire, and found a rag that smelled like some stuff Gold was using before. He said that the only way I could win this is if something drastic happened."

He reached his hand over, intertwining his fingers with hers.

She instantaneously felt a sense of peace wash over her, that she wasn't alone.

"He's wrong," Killian said gently. "Emma, you don't need to have something dramatic to happen to prove yourself. People here loved Graham, so it means something that he chose you to be his deputy."

Giving him a small, gentle smile, she leaned her head against his, savoring the small, intimate moment.

"What should I do?" she asked quietly. "I don't want to win like this. I won't be any better than Regina if I do."

"I can't tell you," he said with remorse. "It's up to you what you want to do."

She sighed as she pulled away, nodding.

"You know we're going to be brought up," she told him. "I'm sorry that you're going to be dragged into this.

"It's alright, love," he responded. "You can say whatever you want if we come up. You have my blessing to speak about Mara and I."

"I don't want to make all of this worse for you," she said apologetically.

He shook his head. "You won't. You have my full support, Swan. Whatever you do, I'll be there."

Part of Emma felt like crying in relief. She had never had someone so willing to support her so much before, especially for something so monumental. She wasn't used to someone caring about her, much less to have it so early in a relationship.

"Thank you," she said softly.

Killian just nodded before sweetly kissing her.

"We need to go," she said as they broke apart. "I can't be late."

Giving her a small smile, he stood before offering his hand to help her stand.

She easily took it, keeping close to him as they moved out of his apartment until they reached her car.

"Regina's not going to be moderating, is she?" she asked as she drove.

He shook his head. "No. Usually Archie does the things like that."

Nodding, she tightened her grip on the steering wheel, some of her nerves returning. She had always hated public speaking.

Killian remained close by her as she moved to go backstage, reading her discomfort and staying with her as long as possible.

Glancing around, she saw Sidney at a makeup mirror deciding on ties while Archie practiced his opening speech. Peering through the curtain, she saw only a few people had moved to sit in the audience, Regina and Henry among them in the front row.

Henry smiled encouragingly at her when he caught sight of her and Killian, but she found it did little to settle her growing nerves.

Emma looked up as she heard footsteps approaching, seeing Mary Margaret come toward them.

She smiled warmly at Killian before giving Emma some index cards and a bottle of water.

"I'm not gonna win," Emma said lowly, voicing her fears.

"What are you talking about?" Mary Margaret asked in surprise. "Everyone's talking about what you did in the fire."

Emma shot a guilty glance toward Killian, who wrapped his arm around her comfortingly, silently telling her she had his support.

"No, Henry's right," she said, knowing what she would be doing when she got up on stage. "I can't beat Regina at this, not the way she fights. Watch and see."

"Is this really just about beating Regina?" Mary Margaret asked her.

"It's just…" Emma said before trailing off, looking out the curtain again.

"Henry," Mary Margaret said in a soft, knowing voice.

Emma nodded. "I want to show him that good can actually win."

She felt Killian exhale as he tightened his arm around her.

"That's why you want to win it for him, but why do you want to win the election for yourself?" Mary Margaret pressed.

"That is why," Emma told her. "I want to show him that a hero can win. And if I'm not, if I'm not a hero and I'm not a savior, what part do I have in his life?"

She smiled weakly as she released a watery laugh. "Okay, there it is."

"There it is," Mary Margaret said with a warm, almost motherly smile.

Tenderly brushing his lips to her forehead, Killian pulled her closer to him. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a hero for your son, love."

Emma hummed, snuggling into him as she nodded, wanting to stay with him and her roommate for as long as possible before she had to go on stage.

"I'll give you guys some time," Mary Margaret said after a moment before looking over to Killian. "I'll save you a seat."

"Thanks," he nodded.

Mary Margaret gave Emma one last encouraging smile before she left. "Good luck."

Emma nodded in thanks.

As soon as Mary Margaret was gone, she looked at Killian, doubt returning. "I don't think I can do this."

"Yes, you can," he encouraged. "You're going to beat Regina."

"But what if I don't?" she asked.

"That's not going to happen," he told her. "I've yet to see you fail, Swan. This will be no different."

She released a sigh as she turned to face him fully, hugging him tightly.

She couldn't remember the last time she felt so safe being held by someone, much less going to someone so willingly to be held.

Too soon, people began moving around, signaling she had to go up and he had to go to his seat.

Pulling away slightly, she gave him a lingering kiss.

"Good luck," he said as he released her.

Nodding, she moved to go to the other side of the curtain, facing the audience from her chair.

She couldn't help but smile as she saw Killian sit between Mary Margaret and Henry, the boy suddenly smiling widely. She felt a hint of smugness at the plain look of displeasure Regina wore.

Everyone settled down as Archie went to the podium, speaking clearly as he addressed everyone in the hall. "Tragedy has brought us here, but we are faced with this decision, and now we ask that you listen with an open mind, and please vote your conscience.

"So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to the candidates, Sidney Glass," he gestured to the other side of the podium where Sidney sat before gesturing to Emma, "and Emma Swan. Glass, Swan. Sounds like something that a decorator would make you buy."

He was met with silence, making him release a nervous laugh. "Wow, crickets. Okay, Mr. Glass, your opening statement."

Stepping back, Archie let Sidney have the podium.

As soon as he started speaking, Sidney sounded just like any other politician to Emma. "I just wanna say that if elected, I wanna serve as a reflection of the best qualities of Storybrooke. Honesty, neighborliness, and strength. Thank you."

Looking towards the crowd, she had to fight a laugh, seeing that Regina was nearly feeding him his lines while Killian rolled his eyes at the sight. She couldn't believe the qualities that Regina had put in Sidney's opening address, almost wanting to remind her and Sidney on the spot how they illegally released her sealed juvenile records and published a fake story to slander her and Killian.

Archie stood up at the podium again, speaking clearly into the microphone. "And, Emma Swan."

Steeling herself, Emma forced herself to stand and walk to the podium. Her stomach was in knots knowing what she was about to do. Looking out, she saw most people looking at her expectantly.

The two faces that stuck out the most were Henry and Killian's, both encouraging, but while Henry was hopeful, Killian was supportive.

"You guys all know I have what you would call a, uh, troubled past, but you've been able to overlook it because of the, um, hero thing," she began, ready to bite the bullet. "But here's the thing. The fire was a set up."

Gasps came from the crowd, many of the people looking around in shock and confusion.

She saw Gold near the back, his face a mask of calm. Killian's warning of being careful around him ran through her head, making her believe the calm was nothing but a facade.

"Mr. Gold agreed to support me in this race, but I didn't know that meant he was going to set a fire," Emma continued. "I don't have definitive evidence, but I'm sure. And the worst part of all this, the worst part of all this is I let you all think it was real, and I can't win that way. I'm sorry."

Silently, Gold rose, leaving the hall.

Emma stepped back from the podium to return to her seat, letting Archie take control of the crowd. Her eyes went to the front row, seeing that while Regina appeared smug, Killian was watching her.

"You okay?" he silently asked.

She offered him a small smile by way of answer, causing him to nod.

"Okay, this comes as a bit of a shock," Archie asked. "But we need to go on with the debate."

He glanced at one of his cards. "Sidney, you've been reporting the news in our town for as long as any of us can remember. How will you use that experience in becoming sheriff?"

Stepping away, he moved to the side to allow Sidney to take his spot at the podium again.

Standing proudly, Sidney looked at the crowd. "Reporting on the news in this town has allowed me the chance to really get to know its citizens. Everyone in this town I call a friend, and because of that, I feel that as sheriff, I can be someone to help resolve any problems that may occur within our quiet little town."

He finished with a nod, stepping back to his seat.

Archie pulled another card. "And now Emma, this is something that I know many have been curious about, but due to a couple of headlines about you in the paper, specifically one about a certain someone you are seeing, people are questioning your morality. What do you say to those that doubt your ability to be sheriff for that reason?"

Emma felt a spike of anger at the question, though she knew it was coming sooner or later. She saw Killian's jaw tick, knowing he was feeling a similar anger.

Gripping the podium, she forced herself to remain calm as she addressed the crowd. "The article in question that everyone has been talking about is nothing but slander, and only talks of one side. Many people over the years have witnessed the verbal and emotional abuse of the man I'm seeing, yet now that he's decided to leave a loveless, abusive marriage and chooses to start seeing someone else for a chance to be happy, his wife is suddenly the victim. He was never asked for his side for the story, and when we saw it, we both knew it was to hurt me, but the article has hurt him too. I don't think it should be my morality being questioned, but instead the one that decided to paint a victim as the villain in a failed marriage."

Stepping away, she saw many people looking uncomfortable, wondering if they were questioning the validity of the articles published about her. She hoped they were, at least for Killian's sake.

Focusing on individuals, the phrase if looks could kill ran through Emma's mind as she saw Mara glaring at her. Regina looked nearly as angry from her spot in the front row, but Emma ignored them, listening as Archie prattled off Sidney's next question.

Scanning the crowd, Emma immediately spied Killian as he made his way towards her after voting, passing by people to get to her.

He only stopped once he was in front of her, meeting her tight hug.

"You did wonderfully," he said only a couple inches from her ear. He pulled away from her to look at her. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I need a drink," she replied honestly.

He grinned, offering his arm to her. "Well, I know where we can go to get you one."

Giving him a small smile, she looped her arm through his, keeping by his side as they left. It was such an old fashioned gesture, but it was so fitting for Killian, and Emma found that she liked it. She liked how old fashioned some of his gestures were, marking him as different from the men she had been with before.

Walking to Granny's, they went to the counter, settling in a couple of stools.

Ruby came by, out of her usual uniform in favor of something that looked more in place in a club.

"Two rums," Emma ordered.

Nodding, she reached to the other side of the counter, pulling two glasses and filling them with amber liquid.

"Thanks," Emma said as Ruby passed them the glasses.

"You remembered," Killian teased, holding up his rum before taking a drink.

She shrugged before taking a drink of her own. "Well, yeah."

"You know, for what it's worth, I'm proud of you," he told her.

Feeling her cheeks flush, she nodded. "Thanks."

It was different for her. She wasn't used to having someone supporting her and being proud of her.

"Somehow, I don't think I won," she admitted. "Between outing Gold and the questions they gave me."

"You stood up to Gold," he told her. "People aren't likely to forget that. As for the questions, you showed them the kind of people both you and Sidney are."

Smiling weakly, she rested her head on his shoulder, to which he rested his cheek on the crown of her head.

"I hope you're not saying this just because you secretly voted for the other guy," she said, trying to make light of the situation.

"Hardly," he snorted. "I firmly believe you were the better candidate. Graham believed in you, and so do I."

Unable to help herself, she pulled away so she could slant her mouth against his, the kiss tasting like rum.

"Thank you," she whispered as they broke apart.

"I'm only telling you the truth, love," he replied.

Nodding, she finished her glass.

"Another?" Ruby asked when she saw both their glasses were empty.

"Oh, hell yes," Emma responded.

They didn't look up as the bell to the door rang, only looking instead looking as someone filled the seat beside Emma.

Henry held out a radio to her.

"Hey, Henry," she said. "What's this for?"

"You stood up to Mr. Gold," Henry said simply. "That's pretty amazing."

"Told you," Killian said quietly before taking a generous gulp of rum when Ruby refilled their glasses along with a glass of milk for Henry.

Emma lightly elbowed Killian in the ribs, making him chuckle.

"Well, he did something illegal," she told Henry.

"That's what heros do," Henry replied. "Expose stuff like that."

He raised his hand, muffling his voice so only she and Killian could hear him. "I shouldn't have given up on Operation Cobra."

Emma smiled down at him, finally seeing him looking happy for what felt like the first time in a long time.

"I thought I might find you here" Regina's voice came from the entrance. "With Jones and a drink. And my son."

Ignoring the jab, Emma smiled wryly as she looked at Sidney, who had accompanied Regina inside. "Here to card me, officer?"

"Not at all," he said. "In fact, I think I'll join you."

"Here?" she asked in confusion. "I don't know, I think they're setting up a back room for the victory party."

"Well, you'll have to tell me what that's like," he replied.

Clearly reluctant, Regina held out the sheriff's badge. "Congratulations, Sheriff Swan."

"Wait, what?" Henry asked.

"It was a very close vote, but people really seemed to like the idea of a sheriff brave enough to stand up to Mr. Gold," she said.

"Are you joking?" Emma asked, feeling suddenly excited.

"She isn't joking," Sidney said seriously.

Regina gave Emma a conspiratorial smile. "You didn't pick a great friend in Mr. Gold, Miss Swan, but he does make a superlative enemy. Enjoy that."

As soon as she and Sidney walked away, revealing the people who had supported Emma arriving for the victory party, Emma laughed.

"Well, congratulations, love," Killian said, grinning widely.

"Thanks," she said happily.

Chastely kissing her, he rested his forehead to hers. "I told you, Swan, I've yet to see you fail."

Emma hummed. "Well, how about we go to that party?"

Finishing his glass, he nodded. "Lead the way."

Chapter Text

Killian set a paper in the graded pile, pulling another to look it over.

He had noticed that since Emma came to Storybrooke and time started moving forward that his students' grades had improved, making him wonder if Regina purposefully made it that his students periodically got bad grades. Considering everything else she had done, he wouldn't have put it past her.

Hearing someone knocking on his office door, he glanced up from the paper, knowing he wasn't supposed to have any meetings and wondering if it could be a student.

"Come in," he called.

He felt himself smile the instant he saw Emma enter his office, carrying a couple paper bags and a drink tray.

"Swan," he said warmly.

"Hey," she greeted. She held up the bags. "I thought you might like some lunch."

Moving to clear an area of his desk, he nodded. "Aye, love. But are you sure the good citizens of the town can handle their sheriff having lunch?"

Smirking, she set down their lunch. "I think they can. I picked up your usual for you."

Taking the bag she offered him, he nodded. "Thanks. Go ahead and pull up the chair."

She glanced back at the chair, settling into it across the desk from him.

"I know I probably should have called you before, but I knew your class was over," she told him as she separated their drinks.

"It's fine," he reassured her. "In fact, it's welcomed."

Giving him a small smile, she passed him his cup.

"I'm guessing you're grading papers?" she asked him.

He nodded as he took a bite of his sandwich. "Yeah. More like the papers from their labs."

"What did you have them do?" she asked curiously.

"Measure light fragments from a prism with different filters," he replied. "Grading it isn't the most fun, but it's a good experiment for them."

"What's the problem with grading it?" she asked curiously as she stole one of his fries.

"Some of the students have different results," he explained. "Women can see more colors than men generally, so they can see more from the prism. To men, a spot can be dark, but to women, the area will be colored."

Emma nodded, her interest visible. "So the girls will have different results from the experiment than the boys."

"Exactly," he nodded.

"Huh," she replied, making him chuckle.

"I would offer to let you sit in on one of the classes one day, but I don't think my students would enjoy that too much," he told her.

She grinned mischievously. "You don't think the sheriff sitting in would make them pay attention?"

"Quite the opposite," he grinned.

It was a small moment, them getting to have lunch together in his office, but Killian hoped that it could possibly turn into a regular occurrence, much like them having lunch together at the station.

"So, we haven't gone on that second date yet," Emma said after a moment. "I'm thinking tonight if you're not busy?"

He found himself grinning. "I have nothing planned. I'm assuming you're planning our evening this time?"

"You bet," she teased. "You got to plan the last one, I get this one."

He nodded as he grinned. "Fair enough."

Before she could say anything else, her phone rang, making her pull it from her jacket pocket.

"Sorry, I need to take this," she said before answering. "Sheriff Swan."

Killian watched as her expression became more serious, feeling uneasy.

"Hold them," she said to whoever was on the other line. "I'll be right there."

"Is everything alright, love?" he asked as she hung up.

"Mr. Clark says some kids were trying to shoplift," she said as she began gathering her trash. "Sorry, but I've got to go."

He shook his head as he stood. "Leave all that, Swan. Don't worry about it."

Rounding the corner of his desk, Killian lightly kissed her. "Thanks for lunch."

Giving him a small smile, Emma nodded as she moved to leave his office. "I'll let you know about the plans later tonight."

He nodded as he watched the door close behind her.

Killian received a call the second he stepped foot in his apartment, pulling his phone as he set his satchel with papers down on his small kitchen table.

He answered immediately when he saw Emma's name on the screen. "Swan?"

"Hey, I hate to do this, but I could use some help," Emma said apologetically from the other end.

Already moving back out to his car, he pulled his keys. "With what?"

"Have you heard of an Ava and Nicholas Zimmer?" she asked.

He shook his head even knowing she couldn't see him. "I'm afraid not. Are they the kids from earlier?"

"Yeah," she replied. "I need some help tracking down their father."

"Where are you?" he asked as he started his car.

"I brought them back to the loft," she replied.

"I'm on the way right now," he told her.

"Thanks," she responded before ending the call.

The drive to the loft was short, taking less than ten minutes. He took the spot behind her bright yellow car, turning off the engine and pulling his keys before going into the increasingly familiar building.

Emma let him in the second he knocked, looking worried.

"What's going on?" he asked quietly from his spot beside her, seeing a young boy and girl eating and talking to Mary Margaret.

"I tried to get their birth certificates but Regina already checked them out," she said in a low voice. "She also already called social services. And wants to put them in separate homes."

"So foster care is her immediate answer?" he asked unhappily.

"It might not come to that," she told him, lightly touching his arm. "I might have an idea."

He watched her in confusion as she quickly climbed the stairs, returning a few moments later with a cardboard box.

The kids, Ava and Nicholas, both looked up as she approached them, Killian following close behind her.

"I wanna show you guys something," Emma said as she pulled a white wool blanket from the box.

"What's that?" Nicholas asked shyly.

"It's my baby blanket," she told him and his sister, holding it close to herself. "It's something I've held onto my whole life. It's the only thing that I have from my… from my parents. I've spent a lot of time with a lot of kids in your situation. And all of them- all of us, we held onto stuff."

Killian felt his gut churn, thinking of Liam's old possessions that he refused to part with, mainly the ring on the chain that suddenly felt very heavy around his neck. While there was nothing of his father's that he desired, he often wished that he had been able to keep some memento of his mother's.

Emma looked between the two kids. "I want to find your father, but I need your help. Is there anything of his you've held onto?"

"I might have something" Ava said tentatively before her expression became drawn. "But if I give it to you, you'll make sure we stay together, right?"

"Right," Emma said after a moment, knowing it wasn't a promise she could keep.

Slowly, Ava pulled a chain with a heavy pendant from her neck, handing it over to Emma.

"A compass," Emma said as she examined it.

Killian leaned in closer to look at it, seeing the craftsmanship despite the condition.

"Our mom kept it," Ava told them. "She said it was our dad's."

"Thank you," Emma said, before looking back at Killian. "Have you ever seen anyone with this?"

He shook his head. "I'm afraid I haven't. But I know who would be able to tell us unfortunately."

She nodded, looking unhappy herself at the prospect of going to visit Gold.

"Did you find them?" Ava asked as Emma tucked the compass safely into her jacket pocket.

Emma looked up in surprise. "Who?"

"Your parents," Ava explained.

"Not yet," Emma replied sadly before she suddenly looked determined. "But I'm gonna find yours."

"I'll keep an eye on them," Mary Margaret told them.

Emma nodded in thanks before leading Killian out of the loft and to her car.

Seeing her expression, Killian knew the situation was personal.

"So, love, any ideas how to tell their father about them once we find out who he is?" he asked her lightly.

She shrugged as she pulled her car out of its spot. "Just tell him the truth. He has twins that have been on their own and need him."

He let the silence go between them for a moment before speaking in a softer tone. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," she shrugged. "This… this kind of hits close to home."

He nodded, thinking about what he knew of her history. "That's… understandable."

Slowly, he reached into his shirt, withdrawing Liam's ring. "You're right about keeping things when you're an orphan."

She spared a quick glance at the ring before looking back at the road.

"I have a few other things that belonged to my brother that I've never been able to part with," he told her. "I don't have anything of my mother's unfortunately."

Visibly swallowing, she nodded.

"How did you get the idea to ask if they had anything of their father's, anyway?" he asked curiously.

"Henry," she told him. "Henry came into the station earlier and asked about his dad and if I have anything of his."

He nodded, wondering about the boy's father, but knowing it would be best to let Emma tell him about it on her own.

She pulled into the spot just in front of Gold's shop, turning off the engine of her car.

"Let's get this over with," she told him unhappily as she moved to get out of the car.

He didn't take it personally, knowing she was still less than amicable with Gold and didn't like having to see him.

Leading the way into the shop, Killian let himself be the first one to be seen as Gold looked up as the bell chimed.

"Jones," the other man nearly sneered before seeing Emma. His face suddenly morphed into a smile. "Emma. How lovely to see you. I'm flattered you'd take time off your busy schedule for me. What can I do for you, Sheriff?"

"I'm looking for information on this old compass," she said as she pulled out the old compass to hand it to him. "Any idea where it could have come from?"

"Well, well," Gold said in interest as he took the compass to examine it. "Look at the detail."

He pointed to the center of the needle. "You know, this is crystal, this jeweled setting? Despite the rather unfortunate shape it's in, this is ultimately a very unusual piece. The person who owned this obviously had very great taste."

"And where would someone like that buy it?" Emma asked boredly.

He smiled at her. "Well, right here, of course."

"Do you know him?" Killian asked impatiently, wanting him and Emma to get out as quickly as possible.

Gold's smile turned cold as he looked at him. "Indeed. A piece like this is difficult to forget."

"Do you happen to remember who bought it?" Emma pressed.

"Well, I'm good with names, Miss Swan, but maybe not that good," Gold told her lightly as he moved behind his counter to pull a box of cards and begin to rifle through it. "However, as luck would have it, I do keep quite extensive records… and… yes, here we are."

She gave him a knowing smile. "What's your price?"

Killian couldn't help flashing a warning glance at her, his stomach twisting with nerves.

Seeing to know Killian's discomfort, Gold flashed him a malicious look before smiling calmly at Emma. "Forgiveness."

"How about tolerance?" Emma countered, alleviating Killian's nerves.

"Well, that's a start," Gold said, placated. "The compass was purchased by Michael Tillman."

"Anything else?" she asked.

"Just a name," he replied. "I generally find that's all one needs.

"Good luck with your investigation," he called as they turned to leave.

Unable to help himself, Killian turned to look back at him one last time, seeing Gold looking back at him smugly, knowing he couldn't do anything.

Turning away from him, Killian rested a hand on Emma's waist as they went out, only releasing her when they reached her car.

"Michael Tillman," she muttered before looking at him once they were in her car. "Do you know who that is?"

"Aye," he said. "He's the town mechanic. Just head to the garage and we'll find him."

She nodded as she turned over her engine.

Killian didn't know what to do as Emma pulled up in her spot in front of the loft, at a loss for how to help her.

"Wait," she said as he moved to the entrance.

He noticed she had pulled her phone, hitting some button before bringing it up to her ear.

"Hey, it's me," she said to who he assumed to be Mary Margaret. "I need you to come outside right away."

There was a pause before she spoke again. "Don't say anything in front of the kids, but well, it's not."

She hung up and stuffed her phone back in her pocket.

She suddenly moved closer to him, slipping her hand around his prosthetic.

He looked at her in surprise at the ease in which she touched him while a dark part of his mind wondered if she would just as easily touch him if it was his hook.

Mary Margaret came down a couple moments later, bundled tightly in her coat. "What happened? Did you find their father?"

Slowly, Emma nodded. "Yeah, we tracked him down."

"And?" Mary Margaret said expectantly as she started to grin, clearly thinking the kids were about to be united with their parent.

"He doesn't want the kids," Emma said lowly.

"And you don't wanna tell them," Mary Margaret surmised, her grin slipping.

"I can't," Emma told her. "Because all I'll be telling them is the false hope I gave them is exactly that."

"The truth can be painful, Emma, but it can also be cathartic," Mary Margaret said softly.

"I agree on the painful part," Emma muttered.

"No child wants to hear that their parent doesn't want them," Killian added, unable to help thinking of his father. "Especially if they're being abandoned in their time of need."

Emma shot him a glance that was both curious and understanding, like she knew he had had a childhood just as tragic as her own.

"Well, hey, look," Mary Margaret said hopefully. "You told Henry the truth that his father's dead and he's handling it great."

"I didn't tell him the truth," Emma replied seriously.

Killian looked at her in surprise, Emma having never divulged any information about her son's father.

"What?" Mary Margaret asked in shock.

"Henry's father was no hero," Emma said in a low voice. "Trust me, he does not need to know the real story."

Her eyes suddenly brightened. "Maybe we can hide the kids, just until we can find a family for them- someone to take care of them."

"Yes, hiding the twelve year olds is a good plan," Mary Margaret retorted sarcastically.

"You have a better idea?" Emma shot back.

All Killian could think about was the fear he had suffered when he was a boy at the prospect of being separated from Liam, how they both knew at any moment one of them could be sold off and never see each other again.

"My place is small, but I can possibly take them," he said, not wanting the twins to be separated. "They won't be-"

"Do you guys hear yourselves?" Mary Margaret asked them as she shook her head, cutting him off.

"Yeah, we do," he said, keeping his voice even. "All of this is coming from someone who's been in foster care as a child, and someone who's greatest fear growing up was being separated from his brother when he didn't have anyone else."

To her credit, Mary Margaret looked taken aback. Her voice dropped as she spoke again. "Maybe there isn't an idea. Maybe you just have to-"

She was interrupted as Regina's voice cut through the air. "Sheriff? Shouldn't you be on the interstate?"

"What are you doing here?" Emma questioned, bristling as she looked at the woman.

"Seeing to it that you do your job," Regina said with an air of superiority.

"You know that you don't have to check up on me," Emma told her. "I know what I have to do."

"Really?" Regina asked factitiously. "Because those kids are supposed to be in Boston tonight."

"Well, if her Majesty commands it," Killian remarked, feeling anger rising.

Regina gave him a look that a lesser man would have cowered at, but he only met her with a glare of his own.

He knew that just like Gold, Regina was fully awake, and took it as a threat that he would address her in such a way. He'd never been afraid of her, even when she could easily reach into his chest and crush his heart. Everything she was doing was nothing more than a power play.

Regina turned her glare to Emma. "Get those brats to Boston."

She turned before anyone could say anything else.

"I'll go get them ready," Mary Margaret said quietly, retreating back into the building.

Emma released a heavy sigh of defeat, guilt clouding her eyes.

An idea suddenly struck Killian. "Swan, you know, the police cruiser isn't maintenanced as often as it should be. It would be a shame if you had issues with it on the way out of town."

Her eyes suddenly brightening, Emma leaned up to give him a quick kiss.

Waiting out by Emma's car with a couple of drinks, Killian felt his chest flutter as he caught the joyous expression on her face as she left the loft and made her way over to him.

"I'm guessing it worked?" he asked hopefully.

She nodded. "Michael Tillman is now the proud father of twelve-year-old twins."

He grinned widely as he handed her a disposable cup of hot chocolate.

"Sorry about our date tonight," she said, leaning against the hood of her car and motioning him to do the same.

"Don't forget, Swan," he said. "You helped to reunite a family. I'd say that's far more important."

"Well, you did help," she pointed out. "You came up with the idea for the car trouble."

"Then I'd say we make quite the team," he replied.

She cuddled into his side in response, making him easily wrap an arm around her.

He looked down towards her as she sipped her drink, her happy, content expression warming him more than their drinks ever could, knowing he would do anything for her.

He was struck with the sudden realization that he was in love with her.

He had guessed for a little while he was falling for her, but hadn't realized how deep his feelings for her were in that moment, hadn't realized when everything in him shifted to her. The recognition washed over him like gentle waves instead of a tidal wave, like it was something that had always been a part of him.

Unaware of committing the action, he smiled at her.

"What?" Emma asked, suddenly self conscious.

His smile softening, Killian shook his head, knowing he couldn't tell her, that she wasn't ready. "It's nothing, love."

They looked up as they saw Henry approaching them, holding a small box.

"What's up, kid?" she asked him curiously, her grin towards him welcoming.

"Pumpkin pie. I- I'd thought you'd like some," he said sheepishly. He suddenly became worried. "It was pumpkin, right?"

"Right," she said, her smile turning loving.

Her remark to Michael Tillman about why she didn't have Henry sounded in Killian's head, making him feel a strange mixture of warmth and melancholy. He knew without a doubt she loved her son immensely, but couldn't have him.

"Gimme that," she said playfully to Henry, taking the offered box from him.

Henry looked up at her in a way that Killian could only describe was filled with awe and pride. "What you did, with Ava and Nicholas, you really are changing things."

Before anyone could respond, the loud noise of a motorbike made them look down the street.

Killian furrowed his brow, knowing no one in the entire town had a bike.

The stranger stopped on the other side of the street, propping his bike up and pulling off his helmet.

"Hey," he said, looking at the three of them.

Killian noticed that the other man's eyes lingered on Emma too long for his liking.

"Hey," Emma said evenly.

"Is this Storybrooke?" he asked.

"Aye," Killian said, not trusting him.

"Any place to get a room around her?" he continued on.

"Uh, you're staying?" Henry said in confusion.

"That's the plan," he said. "Just looking for a bed."

"Granny's Bed and Breakfast is just up the road," Emma told him slowly, pointing in the direction of the place. "Another two blocks."

"Thank you," he responded as he moved to get back on his bike.

"Hey," Emma called. "I didn't catch your name."

"That's cause I didn't give it," he smirked.

"I believe the lady asked for your name," Killian spoke up, his gaze icy.

"I need to leave some mystery," the stranger said before hitting the throttle and taking off in the direction of the bed and breakfast.

"I don't trust him," Killian said lowly.

"I don't either," Emma responded before she looked down at Henry. "I thought you said strangers don't come to Storybrooke."

"They don't," Henry replied.

Looking off in the direction the stranger on the bike took off, Killian shook his head. "Somehow, I have a feeling we're gonna need to keep an eye on him."

Emma nodded, brushing her fingers over his hand reassuringly.

Chapter Text

Pushing her way into the station, Emma nearly collapsed into her chair in her small office before she felt her stomach rumble loudly. She groaned, already tired from getting emergency supplies from the upcoming storm, but couldn't find the energy to get up to go to the diner.

Even knowing she would have to keep her phone on her just in case anything happened, she considered taking off early, knowing she didn't have anything to do. All of the paperwork was done, and she hadn't received any calls out so far.

Regina had been the only one to see her all day, informing her she wanted her to find out about the stranger in town.

The man seemed relatively harmless, even if something about him seemed familiar. Part of her didn't trust him, believing both Henry and Killians words that no strangers ever came to the town.

She was just cursing herself for not getting anything from Granny's while she was there.

She looked up as she heard the front door to the station open, familiar footfalls following.

"I thought you might like some food," Killian said, smiling warmly as he rounded the corner. "Grilled cheese, just the way you like it."

Unable to help herself, Emma grinned widely. "Fries?"

"Onion rings," he replied proudly.

"Good," she said, her smile widening. "I was just testing you."

Leaning down, he gave her a quick kiss.

"Thanks," she told him as she began rifling through the bag and grabbing an onion ring. "I was actually just kicking myself for not getting something from Granny's when I was there earlier."

"Why were you there earlier?" he asked curiously as he began going through his own bag.

"That guy from last night," she told him. "Regina wanted me to check him out."

Her brow furrowed as she remembered her unusual deal with him. "He still didn't give me his name, but in exchange for letting him get me a drink sometime, he did show me his typewriter."

Killian suddenly paused his meal, looking at her in a mixture of worry and confusion. "Is that a euphemism I'm not aware of?"

She couldn't hold back her grin as she shook her head. "No, he said he's a writer. Remember that box he had on the back of his bike?"

He nodded.

"He had a typewriter in there," she said.

Finally looking more relaxed, he nodded again before looking at her in curiosity. "He made you promise him that he would get you a drink sometime? Do you want me to go with you whenever that happens?"

Emma shook her head, knowing Killian wasn't doing it out of jealousy, but offering merely to give her backup.

"I'm pretty sure I can handle him," she told him. "He seems harmless enough. Besides, I can always bring you up if he tries anything. He seemed a little nervous when I mentioned you."

She rolled her eyes at his proud smile.

"So are you heading home soon?" he asked her.

"I was thinking about leaving just as you came in," she admitted. "What are you doing out, anyway? Shouldn't you be hunkering down for the storm?"

"I was actually going to head down to the docks after this," he told her. "She's in port, but I need to make sure the Jolly Roger is secure."

Remembering his boat, she nodded. She hadn't gotten to see it yet, neither of them having the opportunity to plan for her to see it.

"Do you want help?" she offered. "I know I don't know anything about boats, but I'm pretty sure I can do something."

"Ship, love," he corrected gently. "She's not a boat. And I do think we can find something for you to do."

He winked at the end, making her chest flutter at the endearing way he did it, the eye that was supposed to remain open closing slightly.

"Alright, then," she said happily.

He helped her clean up after they finished their meal before locking up the station, with her leading him to her car.

"Where at the docks?" she asked as she began driving them to their destination.

"The eastern side," he told her. "It's a little more secluded, letting her have more room."

She fought an amused smirk, unable but to help thinking that Killian was playing up his watercraft. She had admittedly not been to that side of the small marina, but knew most of the types of boats that docked there.

Taking the directions he gave, she pulled into the small lot and followed him out.

Her jaw nearly dropped when she saw that Killian hadn't been exaggerating, a ship looking straight out of a pirate movie meeting them.

He looked at her proudly, sweeping his arm out towards the ship. "Behold, the Jolly Roger."

His expression became amused. "Not quite what were you expecting?"

"I thought you were exaggerating," she said faintly. "I didn't think you actually had a freaking ship."

Chuckling, he rested his false hand on her waist to guide her to the gangplank. "Come aboard, Swan. I'll get you properly introduced."

She nodded as she let him lead her to the ship, taking his offered hand to step on the wooden deck.

Looking at him, she knew the ship was a great source of pride for him, that he treasured it. He touched the wood almost reverently as he moved along the deck, showing her around.

Inspecting the vessel, Emma knew it wasn't a reproduction, that it was an authentic ship that was at least a couple centuries old. It was well loved and taken care of, making her curious how Killian came into possession of it.

"How do you even have this?" she asked in amazement as he led her through the underside of the ship through what would be the crew's quarters.

He didn't answer until he led them into the captain's cabin.

"It was originally Liam's," he told her. "I got it after he died."

Slowly, she nodded in understanding, going up to him and slipping her hand in his, knowing it was painful for him to speak about his brother.

"Well, I would say it's in good hands," she told him.

"Maybe we can take her out sometime," he proposed hopefully. "I'm a hell of a captain."

Humming, she leaned in to quickly kiss him. "I'd like that."

Fully grinning, Killian moved them to the ladder leading them to the quarterdeck. "We need to make sure she'll weather this storm, first."

Smiling, Emma followed him back up to the deck.

Sitting on one of the barrels on deck, Emma rolled her shoulders, already feeling some soreness in her body, but was proud of the work she got done with Killian.

Seeing how easily he moved to do what needed to be done, she no longer had to wonder at how he obtained the physique hinted at beneath his shirt and jacket. The work was hard, but she knew for him it was a labor of love.

"Alright there, Swan?" he asked from near the steps leading to the helm.

Gripping the gunwale to pull herself up, she nodded. "Yeah, just need a second."

"Don't worry, love," he said as he moved to some of the ropes. "I just need to check a couple more parts of the rigging, and she's all set."

She caught his faint laugh at her groan of relief, rolling her eyes as she moved to follow him.

"How long have you been doing this, anyway?" she asked as she watched him look over the ropes.

"All my life," he told her. "When I was younger, my father would take my brother and I out."

She started slightly, realizing it was the first time he had ever mentioned his father.

"After he left, my brother and I continued to be at sea," he continued. "To be quite honest with you, I have trouble with my land legs often because I've spent so much time at sea."

Nodding, she watched as he secured the last rope.

"She's all set," he said in satisfaction before he looked skyward. His voice dropped. "And not too soon, either. This storm is moving in, fast."

"You can tell that easy?" she asked in amazement. "How?"

"You learn to predict the weather when you've spent most of your life on the water," he told her as he led her off the ship. "Feel the heaviness in the air?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

He gave her a wide grin as they reached her car. "It's gonna be a big one."

"Better get you home, then," she said as she started the car and cranked up the heat, feeling cold despite the physical work.

The silence between them was comfortable, the only noise being the sound of her engine as rain began to fall.

"Maybe you should stay a while," he told her as it became heavier as his house came in sight. "I don't feel comfortable with you driving in this."

"All of the emergency supplies I got are back at the loft," she protested.

"And I have more than enough," he told her.

Pulling up to the building, she had to admit the rain had begun falling heavier than she expected so soon. Weighing her options, as well as thinking about what she truly wanted to do, she nodded, turning off her car. "Alright."

Rain immediately soaked them as they left the shelter of her Bug, nearly running to get to the apartment.

Killian unlocked the front door, ushering her inside out of the rain before closely following her.

Moving the hair plastered to her face out of the way, she fought a shiver, even with the house warmer than outside.

"Here," he said, taking her jacket from her. "I'll start up the fireplace. It will be warmer in just a moment."

Emma nodded in thanks, watching him hang their jackets.

Toeing off her boots to prevent mud from getting everywhere, she hugged her arms tightly around herself, unable to believe how much they got wet from such a short amount of time outside.

"Do I need to get you some dry clothes?" he asked her as he kneeled in front of the fireplace.

"No, I'm fine, thanks," she replied.

Warmth greeted her a moment later, Killian having gotten the fire going.

Setting her phone on the small coffee table so she could hear it if it went off, she moved to where Killian drifted to in the tiny kitchen.

"I have some stuff for hot chocolate if you want," he offered as he scratched behind his ear. "I know it's not the same as Granny's, but I stocked up in case you were ever over and wanted any."

Something told her that he wasn't used to trying to take care of someone else, or at least hadn't been for a long time. She found it more adorable than anything else, seeing him looking so nervous despite the rugged exterior he usually projected.

As much as he said she was someone he wanted to figure out, Emma found Killian to be just as complicated, able to so easily go from arrogant to sweet to protective. Something about him almost suggested that he had a wisdom beyond his own twenty-seven years, that he had an old soul.

Almost shyly, she nodded. "Thanks."

Giving her a soft smile in return, he pulled a couple of mugs for them.

Emma was foreign to the concept of someone wanting to actually be with her, but found herself wanting the experience. Despite the threat he posed to her walls, she wanted to stay with him, wanted him to choose her.

Even in the short amount of time they knew each other and his ability to at times infuriate her like no other, she cared deeply for him.

She accepted the mug from him before going to sit down, pulling her legs close to her and almost curling into him as he sat beside her.

She almost didn't recognize the contentment she felt, the feeling unfamiliar to her. She was so used to being alone, she hadn't realized she would enjoy being with someone so much.

"Do you have any work you need to do?" she asked curiously.

He shook his head. "No, everyone's on break, so I don't have to worry about any papers or such."

Nodding, she rested her head against his shoulder, relaxing further as he snaked his arms around her.

Something he said earlier came back to her mind, weighing on her until she looked up at him, wondering not for the first time exactly how alike they were.

"You said something earlier," she said softly. "About your father? I've never heard you talk about him before."

Killian stiffened slightly before releasing a hard breath, nodding. "Aye, I did. I don't like speaking about him."

"Sorry," she said quickly, wanting to give him an out. Her own past was painful enough, giving her empathy for him. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."

He hesitated for a long moment before he shook his head. "No, I want to. I want you to know."

Emma felt a rush of affection for him at his admission, slowly stroking her hand along one of his arms as he held her.

"My mother died when I was young," he started. "I think I was maybe six, but I remember her promising she would stay as long as she could. She had fallen sick, and she knew she wouldn't recover."

"I'm sorry," she said gently.

He responded by gently tightening his arms around her.

"After she passed, my father moved us around a lot," he continued. "I thought it was because he was mourning our mother, but I was happy because he was with Liam and I.

"After about a year, we were on a boat somewhere, and he abandoned me and my brother. Turns out he was a wanted man, and used us to settle his debts so he could escape. The people he left us to were… less than sympathetic to say the least. They saw us as their property, and weren't afraid of physical punishments."

Emma felt herself pale as she looked at him in horror, unable to believe a parent would abandon their child to that. At least she wasn't essentially sold to anyone when she was abandoned, whereas Killian and his brother were.

His voice dropped to something she didn't know whether to be embarrassment or shame. "The wounds have long since healed, but I still have many of the scars from that time in my life."

Wanting to soothe him in any way she could, she reached up to slant her mouth over his, cradling his face in her hands.

There was no heat in the kiss, merely serving to comfort him, but he had no objections to it as he tugged her so she was nearly in his lap.

She rested her forehead against his as the kiss ended, his scent surrounding her as she remained close to him.

"You didn't deserve that," she murmured. "I can't even imagine that."

Giving her a small, sad smile, he shrugged. "It was a long time ago, Swan. It's in the past."

The haunted look in his eyes alone told her he had more than just the physical scars from his childhood.

Something about his vulnerability made her want to open up to him, knowing he would understand.

"I met Henry's father, Neal, just before I turned seventeen," she told him.

He met her eyes in realization at what she was doing.

"It was the first time I wasn't alone, so I fell in love with him," she said, keeping her voice even. "I had actually stole the car he had already stolen, so that's how we met. We survived off of petty thefts, but we always talked about having something more. About making a home."

Nodding, he gave her a small, sad smile as he raised his hand to gently stroke his thumb along her jaw.

Swallowing the lump growing in her throat, she knew Killian would be the first person she ever told about her past. "He found a wanted poster of himself because he stole some watches before he met me. He wanted to run, and I wanted to help him, so I retrieved them for him and he went to fence them. He gave me one before he left, and when I met at our rendezvous, the cops were waiting."

She shrugged sadly. "He left evidence on me and got away."

"Your record," he said faintly.

Her smile was sorrowful, knowing she was coming to the truly painful part. "About a month after I was in jail, I found out I was pregnant. I knew I couldn't be a mother and give him a life he deserved, so I put Henry up for adoption. I didn't even look at him after he was born, because I knew I wouldn't be able to let him go if I did."

She let out a bitter laugh. "I thought I was giving him his best chance, and now I'm not so sure I did."

Killian gave her a sad smile. "You're here for him now. You're making sure he has a chance by being here now."

"But what if I'm making it worse?" she asked him. "Regina doesn't want me around, and is doing everything to make me leave. I will fight her, but what if it hurts Henry? I already lied to him about his dad because I wanted him to have a parent he can look up to, and he already knows I have a record."

"He wants you, love," he soothed. "I would say you're doing the right thing by being here. You said it yourself that the only reason you don't have him is because of the legality."

He shook his head. "And he already has a parent he can look up to."

Slowly nodding, she let out a watery laugh, amazed at the truth in his words. "Sorry. I'm really bringing the evening down, aren't I?"

"No, you're not," he said with a small shake of his head. "We would have learned all of this about each other sooner or later. Look at it this way," he said with a trace of amusement. "Now that we have some of the worst parts out of the way, we know we won't scare as easily with each other."

Despite the situation, he managed to lighten the mood, making her laugh.

She noticed he had said 'some of the worst parts,' making her wonder how much more of his past he had yet to reveal to her, but found it didn't matter. She trusted him to tell her when he was ready, no matter how long it took.

He was just as fragile as she was, something she was always reminded of.

"Well, I would say we could watch a movie, but I have a feeling the power is going to go out soon," he said lightly.

"I'm surprised it hasn't gone out yet," she admitted.

"Give it time," he chuckled.

The silence they slipped into wasn't uncomfortable, even just sitting together watching the flames of the fire as the rain pounded and thunder eventually roared.

After a bright flash of light and a particularly loud boom, the lights went off, leaving the fire as their only source of light.

"Well, there it goes," Emma said after a beat.

Killian laughed deeply beside her, allowing her to feel his body shake.

The experience of making dinner with someone she was seeing was new but far from unwelcome, finding she took pleasure in the domestic act. They moved together easily around his small kitchen, even with him showing her how to cook a couple parts of their meal by means of the fireplace. Their conversation flowed easily as they worked, talking about trivial little things.

The heavy atmosphere that had hung over them previously had completely disappeared by the time they sat down for their dinner together.

She let him pull her back down to the couch with him when they were done. Listening to the storm outside, she knew she would be staying the night with him. She had never stayed the night with another person after Neal, always leaving right after the fun was over and avoiding returning back to her place unless she was alone.

Killian was making her break her habits in every possible way, yet she wasn't scared.

"So, how did you end up becoming the professor of astronomy at the college here?" she asked him curiously.

"I just fell into it," he replied. "As soon as Liam and I got out of our situation, we enrolled in the Navy. We both received an extensive education during that time, but Liam passed and circumstances arose that I left and ended up here. I couldn't exactly find a job with the boats here as we don't ever get any tourists, so I decided to use my education for something else."

She hummed, nodding. "Have you ever thought about doing more?"

"For a long time, no," he said quietly. "I always thought this would be it. I was prepared for it, to be honest."

Something about his voice made her move closer to him to rest her head against his shoulder.

He rested his cheek on her hair, sighing in contentment.

"And now?" she asked him softly.

She lifted her head just as he did, seeing his blue eyes intense on her.

"Now, I feel like I've gotten a second chance," Killian nearly whispered.

Emma didn't know how to respond other than to close the distance between them to kiss him.

As he pulled her nearly into his lap, she thought how he was her second chance, too, how for the first time in a long time, she was truly happy being with someone.

She cupped his face in her hands as he pressed her closer to him, her body molded to his as the kiss filled with heated passion. Flush up against him, she felt a hunger more intense than anything she ever remembered feeling. Almost on instinct, she rocked against him, feeling evidence that he wanted her and eliciting a groan from him that sent a wave of pleasure through her. Emboldened by his reaction, she slid her tongue along the seam of his lips, only for him to move his along hers a beat later.

"Emma," he said as he pulled away slightly, sounding absolutely wrecked.

"I want this," she told him as she pressed another kiss to his lips. "I want you."

He nearly attacked her as he kissed her again before suddenly pulling away.

"Love, while I have no objections to here, maybe we should move to the bedroom," he said in a strained voice.

"Yeah," she said breathlessly. "Yeah."

Reluctant to break contact with him, she moved off his lap to stand on shaky legs, only for him to recapture her lips with his as he stood.

In a quick movement that surprised her, he gripped the back of her legs, easily lifting her and prompting her to wrap her legs around his waist.

She knew she shouldn't have been surprised at how strong he was, having seen him just hours before working on his ship, but nevertheless was with the ease that he picked her up.

He didn't break away from her or falter his steps the entire time he walked them back to his room, only setting her down once they were beside his bed.

Her hands traveled down his neck and chest to the buttons of his waistcoat, her haste making her clumsy as she undid the buttons. She didn't bother to push it off before she was already working at his shirt.

His hand slid under her own shirt, his touch hot as his calloused fingers moved across her skin. Suddenly growing impatient, she nearly tore his shirt from him, running her hands along his exposed stomach and chest before pushing his shirt off him. The material catching on his brace, he released her long enough to roughly pull it away before he began helping her out of her own shirt.

He moved to begin kissing down her neck as she ran her arms up his back, feeling the scars he had warned her about. She felt him almost relax under her touch, guessing he wasn't used to being exposed, let alone being touched.

She felt his hand on her back a moment later, his hand trailing up her spine to the clasp of her bra. Pulling away enough so she could toss it away, she felt his skin on hers, as well as the hair that trailed down his torso, making her crave more.

With an almost violent kiss, she trailed her hand down his arms, pausing when she reached the edge of his prosthetic. She didn't know whether he wanted it on or not, knowing he would see it as a vulnerability.

If he wanted for it to remain, she wouldn't force him to remove it.

He froze beneath her, hesitating as his eyes traveled to the black brace.

Time seemed to stop as he slowly reached for it, watching her as he undid the straps until it was loose enough to pull from his arm.

There was no repulsion as she saw the scarred skin, knowing it was just a part of him. Slowly, she reached for his blunted arm, tenderly caressing it before setting it at her waist, letting him touch her with it.

She couldn't describe the look on Killian's face as he exhaled before he was kissing her again, except it looked like something she wasn't wanting to think about yet.

Her hands moved to his jeans as he began to kiss along her jaw and move lower, fumbling with the button as he was suddenly at her breasts, all coherent thought leaving her as his lips worked over her.

Grabbing a hold of his hair, she brought his mouth back to hers, kissing him wildly as he deftly undid her jeans, pushing them and her underwear down and leaving her bare before him.

Determined, she finally got his pants undone, pushing them off of him before he led them to his bed. Taking him in, his toned body decorated with ink and scars, she thought he was beautiful.

She fell back willingly, dragging him on top of her as his body began to cover hers.

He only paused for a brief moment, moving to the side to pull something from his bedside table.

"I hoped this would be happening soon," he said almost sheepishly as she saw the foil packet in his hand. "I wanted to be prepared for if it did."

Smiling, she nodded before moving to help him with the condom, knowing his lack of hand would make it difficult. She suppressed a proud smile at the groan he released as well as the tremor that ran over him as she touched him, guiding him to her as they fell back into their previous positions.

They both inhaled sharply as he entered her in one smooth glide, both of them stilled as he let her adjust to him.

Realizing she had closed her eyes, Emma forced them open, seeing Killian watch her with nearly black eyes, only a faint ring of his bright blue visible.

"Move, please," she pleaded in a breathless voice, shifting her hips and pressing into his lower back.

He nearly growled as he began moving in a steady rhythm, making her gasp.

In an effort to pull him closer, she wrapped her legs around his hips as her hand buried in his hair. Balancing on one arm, his hand found hers, intertwining his fingers with hers by her head.

"Killian," Emma choked out as he began to move faster, thrusting harder.

His forehead rested against hers before capturing her in a searing kiss, her hand releasing his hair to run his back, feeling a light sheen of sweat.

Tension quickly building up in her, she moved to match his every thrust until she snapped, releasing a cry as her release washed over her.

Killian followed her a second later, shuddering above her before he nearly collapsed on top of her.

Both of them breathing heavily, she lightly traced her fingertips in nonsensical patterns on his back as they came back to themselves.

She mourned the loss of contact with him as he pushed himself up to throw away the condom before he pulled her against his chest, his arms wrapped around her.

Idly running her fingers through the hair on his chest, she released a content sigh.

"You know, I've never cuddled with anyone after," she admitted quietly, feeling safe confessing to him.

Humming warmly, she felt him brush a gentle kiss to her brow. "Then I'm honored to be your first."

Chuckling, she nestled further into him as he drew the blankets up to her shoulders.

Hearing the storm had become a light rain, she found she didn't want to move from the bed with him.

She knew she was about to experience another first for herself with him as she closed her eyes, letting his steady breathing and heartbeat lull her to sleep, barely hearing his murmured good night.