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Love, Emma

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Time, mystical time

Cutting me open, then healing me fine

Were there clues I didn't see?

 

And isn't it just so pretty to think

All along there was some

Invisible string

Tying you to me?




Present Day -- August, Storybrooke, Maine. 

 

That night, Granny’s dinner is fuller than usual. Fuller with people, fuller with life.

 

It’s an agreeable summer night, the air a cool breeze against Killian and Emma’s bare arms as Mary Margaret and David argue over the color choice of the napkins for their upcoming wedding. Crickets chirp all around them, seeming to mock them.

 

Their plates of food are now empty, and Ruby expertely piles them up on her left arm as Mary Margaret shoots a death glare at her boyfriend. 

 

“White is simply perfect, David.”

 

“So you play Snow White once in High School and now it’s your favorite color? That’s ridiculous, Mary Margaret.”

 

“Is it now? And what kind of color would you go for? Orange ?”  

 

“Well, orange would be a statement for one!”

 

“Over my dead body, David. It’s white or nothing.”

 

If Emma weren’t so distracted by the warmth of Killian’s fingers around hers, she would have probably choked on her beer and mumbled “Mary Margaret - 1, David - 0.” 

 

Thankfully for everyone, the palm that curled around hers a few minutes ago metaphorically threw her straight into a pink cloud kind of paradise. 

 

Looking up from their intertwined fingers, Emma is greeted by the very real purple pink clouds in the night sky, behind Killian and Mary Margaret’s back. They are sitting opposite Emma and David, while Ingrid sits in the middle, a small contented smile on her lips, as she eats her onion rings in silence.

 

Fairy lights hang above their heads. Emma loves fairy lights, she always has.

 

“Why not settle for another color, mates?” tries Killian in a calm, soothing voice, and Emma is surprised he is talking at all. 

 

He should know better. Grave, stupid mistake it is to get between Mary Margaret, David and their napkins. 

 

“NEVER,” the couple answer as one voice, and Emma watches with a chuckle caught in her throat as Killian backs away, hands in front of his face. 

 

“Wohoho, mates. Calm down. The only people you’re allowed to kill are each other.” 

 

And as Emma swallows another grin, she thinks Killian and she haven’t talked about it , but that’s fine. Emma’s brain doesn’t seem able to come up with words, anyway. 

 

A few hours ago, the walk back to Ingrid’s was achieved in near complete silence, and it was weird -- considering with whom she was walking. Actually, cross that -- it was weird to be walking back to her childhood house with Killian Jones, period. 

 

But Emma was able to find comfort in Killian’s lack of words as well, and god knows how talkative Killian can be, she found comfort in his breathy tone when he handed her the box back and the flush on his cheeks, knowing if she could barely hear anything if not for her own heartbeats, surely he wasn’t pulling this any better than she was.

 

“Earth to Emma, would you like a desert?”

 

Emma blinks. Two green eyes are staring at her. 

 

Right. Dinner. Granny’s. Damnit, focus Emma. Ruby’s voice sends a shameful loop down Emma’s belly.

 

“...Mmm, no, actually. I’m fine, for now.” 

 

Ruby’s raising an eyebrow. Everyone is staring at her. Why are they staring? 

 

“Are you sure, Ems?” 

 

“I am. Why do you ask?” 

 

“...It’s just, it doesn’t sound a lot like you.” 

 

And then Emma’s pretty sure her hair stands on end. 

 

“Really.” And each word is meant to sound more threatening than the last. “I. Am. Fine. Ruby.” 

 

She’s not looking at him, but Emma catches Killian’s small chuckle all the same. It’s hard to ignore how easily her rage melts away, and she hides the beginning of a smile behind a napkin. 

 

“Fine.” And Ruby nearly sounds like she is the one who got attacked. (Perhaps she was. But she deserved it.) 

 

As the waitress disappears in a clatter of heels, Ingrid is tapping a napkin against her mouth, delicately, and Emma knows very well what this means. 

 

“Well, it’s already 10pm. I think I’ll leave you youngsters to it.” 

 

Emma watches as Ingrid folds the napkin in front of her, just like she always does, and gracefully stands up.  

 

“Goodnight, kids.” Ingrid grins, and everyone replies with a lively “Goodnight, Ingrid!”

 

A kiss is dropped onto Emma’s forehead, and Emma doesn’t miss the subtle pat on the back Killian receives on Ingrid’s way out. Emma thinks Ingrid’s always liked Killian, but then she stops thinking about it because David and Mary Margaret are coughing, and it is the least natural piece of acting Emma’s had the chance to witness in a while. 

 

They both exchange a sly glance, nod and stand up at their turn, and Emma stares at them -- cheeks burning. 

 

“Yeah, we’ll go, too. It’s getting pretty late, and we flew in very early this morning.”

 

Traitor , shout Emma’s eyes at Mary Margaret, but the small brunette is smiling with all of her teeth out and doesn’t seem concerned by Emma’s impending murder threat.

 

“Enjoy your night, guys,” David looks far too delighted. “Byye.” 

 

“Aha, bye guys.”

  

Away from Granny’s dinner and up Main Street towards Granny’s B&B, the couple vanishes into the night.

 

And just like that, Emma and Killian are alone under the fairy lights.

 

Chirp, chirp. 

 

This time, Emma cannot ignore the childish panic that strangles her throat, as his touch begins to burn her skin and her hand slowly slides out of his palm. She looks down at the green plastic table.

 

What to do now? Jesus, she is not nineteen anymore, she needs to take initiative, and—

 

“Fancy a walk along the beach, Emma?”asks Killian, and Emma is so thankful for the distraction she nearly knocks the table down as she springs to her feet.

 

“Excellent idea!” Why do her legs feel so wobbly?

 

And Killian smirks, and she wonders if he knows just how badly she is afraid, of him, of her, of risking her heart.

 

“Perfect then, let’s sail away.” 

 

But she wants this to work, she wants them to work. She spent a good part of her life agonizing over this relationship, daydreaming about it, and then cursing it, and it better be as good as she thought it would be.

 

.

 

As things turn out, this walk along the beach feels like brutally falling down a rabbit hole. It knocks the wind out of Emma and it is wonderfully terrifying. 

 

The wind blows that night. Salt air dances with Emma’s light dress and Killian’s hair. 

 

Emma’s shoes dangle from her fingers, but she is still shaking like a leaf.

 

Awful, isn’t it, to finally get all you’ve ever dreamed of?

 

She knows it’s not entirely hers yet, she knows she still has to dash forward and grab it with her two hands, and not let it go – on any account. ( Do you want it? )

 

It’s terrifying. 

 

She did not reach out to Killian, this past month, although she knew about his letter...and she probably wouldn’t have reached out first, had he not appeared on her porch. 

 

There is still this stupid fear, down her stomach, this stupid fear that he never cared, he never will, and this is all a sick joke. 

 

(She wants it.)

 

“Should we sit?”

 

“Aye.” 

 

He complies as she sprawls into the sand she feels moist under her toes, sitting down a few inches from him. 

 

Somehow, staring at him still feels illegal. 

 

When he gets a flask of rum out of his leather jacket, she rolls her eyes, and her bracelet glints under the moonlight. For the first time in ages, it is not a painful sight. She does not twist the little charms. 

 

“Really? Is rum your solution to everything?”

 

“It’s not rum, Swan. It’s merely water.”

 

“Is it now?”

 

“Nah, it’s definitely rum. But it never hurts to have a drink between friends.”

 

And at that wicked, wicked word, they both stare at one another and gape slightly. 

 

It should be funny. Except it still itches. 

 

Aren’t they friends? 

 

There are stars reflected in his eyes. There is still this ache inside her chest. 

 

Emma is urged by a desire to look down then, but she doesn’t cave in. Instead, her mouth curves into a smile. 

 

“…Friends or other types of acquaintances,” he adds after a while, and Emma’s smile widens. 

 

The flask of rum is handed to her, and she drinks a few mouthfuls that diffuse a sweet heat and courage down her throat. Lord does she need it.  

 

“Acquaintances, you say, um?” 

 

She licks the small drop of rum that rolls down her lower lip, notices with satisfaction as Killian’s eyes follow the movement of her tongue and widen when he realizes she has caught him red-handed. 

 

“Aye. I believe we’ve been acquainted.” There is a delicious twirl, down in her stomach, that could drown her fears, she knows it, if only she allowed herself to let go. 

 

“Right.”

 

Idiot. Her cheeks burn. It is ridiculous, they are ridiculous and she doesn’t mind.

 

Woosh, woosh , the waves giggle. 

 

As Emma inhales deeply, she figures she has to give him back his flask and that this -- whatever the hell this really is -- is probably going to be more difficult than she initially thought.

 

Her fingers brush against his as his hand closes over the flask -- of course they do -- and Emma couldn’t honestly say who’s to blame.  

 

“Thanks, Swan.” 

 

Oh, how many scenarios she made up in her mind, about him showing up. They all ended with their lips locked together. What she had a very hard time figuring out was the in-between. The talking. The confession. Because there has to be one, right? 

 

She hears him gulp a few mouthfuls of rum down next to her and she refocuses her gaze on him. He clears his throat.

 

“So, erm, any plans for the foreseeable future?” he inquires. 

 

The flask is buried in the sand between them. 

 

“I don’t know, to be honest. For now, I think I’ll stay in Storybrooke. It’s my home.”

 

And then a pause, she glances at him through her eyelashes. A mischievous wave comes crashing at their feet, bites their toes. 

 

“What about you, Killian? Still in Portsmouth?”

 

She watches him tilt his head next to her as he carefully sieves a handful of sand between his fingers, brows furrowed. 

 

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about moving back to Storybrooke. Joining the Navy again would not be easy, and I’m not sure it’s entirely what I desire. I mostly did it to honour Liam but it’s never been a dream of mine…” 

 

A pause, a breath, for him, Emma has stopped breathing somewhere after “Storybrooke”. And her mouth refuses to shut. 

 

“Plus, there’s the fact that Graham did mention the need for another deputy,” he casually adds, shoots a swift glance at her. 

 

Oh. Breathe, Emma, breathe. 

 

It’s very hard, then, for Emma to swallow the smile that tingles her lips.

 

“You are?” she asks, curses silently her quivering tone. Clears her throat. Dammit, why did it come out like this?

 

If he notices it, Killian doesn’t show it. Instead, he goes on, the ghost of a smile over his lips.

 

“Aye. I don’t think there’s anywhere else for me to be. It is high time I came home.”

 

Home. The word echoes between them, much like the gentle rustling of the waves.

 

And Emma nods and she has no idea where to put herself, what to say. She settles for telling the truth. 

 

“That’s great. I could really use you around.” A pause. “I’ve missed you.” 

 

Twinkle, twinkle the stars in the night sky, and the constellations in her heart as her eyes meet his. They put to shame the sea of stars in front of them.

 

Emma’s heart is bursting out as he slowly glances down at her lips, and then even more slowly looks up, a dangerous grin overtaking his features.

 

“Aye. I’ve missed you too, Swan. I don’t want to be apart from you anymore.”

 

Hearing him repeat her words is positively the worst thing that could have happened to her heart rate. That one nearly rips her heart out of her chest and sends it ricocheting on the waves. 

 

She nods, laughs a bit, crinkles her nose mostly to hide how flustered she truly is. 

 

“How…How did this happen?”

 

And he sighs next to her, a very dramatic sigh that she recognizes as a poor attempt to hide a deeper kind of pain. She watches as he stretches his legs, digs a shape into the sand with his fingers. 

 

“How did you end up marrying Neal Cassidy, you mean? Poor judgement, if I do say so myself.”

 

The bastard.

 

She elbows him in the ribs, of course, he deserves it. 

 

And he only chuckles, feigns a moan of pain, and… and grabs the arm she threw at him to bring her closer to him. There are grains of sand stuck to his skin as his hand closes over her fisted palm. As he stares at her, all air has definitely been knocked out of Emma’s lungs.  

 

His nose gently brushes hers. Little pulses of magic seem to climb up her hand, her arm, to gently tickle her heart.

  

And she gazes into his eyes, mortified. Swallows hard.

 

“To be fair, he did hide that letter from you. A shame really, it was truly a pearl of literature.”

 

His breath tingles Emma’s lips, and it isn’t fair.

 

She snorts, she tries to at least, because it is hard to do anything when he is this close to her.

 

“David told you,” she mumbles, rolls her eyes dramatically, blushes furiously. 

 

He isn’t denying the letter. He isn’t denying anything. 

 

“Aye that he did. You can’t trust the guy with a secret, love.”

 

She doesn’t know what David told him over the phone, but Emma thinks it is safe to assume that it is somewhere near absolutely everything . And it should bother her, it should bother that secret and private part of herself, but Emma’s tired of fighting against herself, and she lets it go. All of it. 

  

Her hand is still in his, twisted against his chest, right above his heart. She doesn’t mind. They could remain like this, forever, for all she minds. But that wouldn’t be very practical, now, would it? 

 

“And it’s not like I didn’t know…” he continues, and Emma’s mouth drops even more, if it is possible. “I think I’ve known from the moment I met you. Haven’t you?”

 

A nervous chuckle shakes her shoulders.

 

“What exactly have you always known?”

 

“You can’t answer my question with another question, Swan. That’s just not how the English language works.” 

 

“Well, if you could drop the metaphors and double entendre, then perhaps, perhaps I…” A breath. There’s no need to hide anymore, although something ludicrous seems about to explode inside her chest. “Y-yes, I think I knew...But I --” 

 

“-- Good, because in that case, there’s no use for me to hold back from doing this…” 

 

And as she opens her mouth to complain about metaphors and double entendre, again, he leans into her, tilts his face and, as Emma’s heart does a weird leaping thing in her chest, delicately presses his lips to hers.

 

While Emma does think it is definitely very rude of him to interrupt her like that, she cannot bring herself to complain too much. 

 

Neither can she ignore the sudden explosion in her chest, thousands of strawberry bubbles of happiness that taste of childhood and dreams bursting out. 

 

Oh god. She muffles a moan against his mouth, snatches her hand from his grip to tug at his hair, brings him closer to her, as close as humanly possible, presses her mouth harder against his, as hard she can, and she quite literally feels like a house set on fire.

 

Thump, thump, cries her heart, as their lips dance together, as his hand gets lost in her hair, and no air reaches her lungs and this goddamn flower keeps blooming inside her chest and there isn’t any space between them, and she’s pretty sure she’s combusting into flames, but it’s fine, it’s really fine when his mouth opens and gives her access to his tongue.

 

It’s a gentle kiss, in spite of the passion. It’s such a gentle kiss, in the way with which his hand tenderly lingers in her curls, as if he were afraid she’d shatter under his touch, or in the way his other arm curls around her waist, holds her tightly, but not too tightly, so as not to break her it seems.

 

Years of yearning will do that to you, make you afraid of shattering the glittering and fragile object of your affection.

 

And when they let go, burning forehead against burning forehead, because they really, really need to breathe, Emma doesn’t want to run. In fact, she doesn’t want this to ever end. And she doesn’t know it, but she smiles. 

 

“Then why –” he begins, his lips lightly, delicately brushing against hers as he speaks. 

 

And how dare he be talking! She can barely breathe. 

 

“—why the wedding?” she lazily answers against his lips. “Because I didn’t think you cared…” A pause. “You never told me you did... You didn’t even call, after the k-kiss.”

 

Damnit, that was harder to spit out than anticipated. And it probably sounded more accusing than she wanted it to, but she forgives herself. 

 

The painful memory allows her to step back a little, to gaze into his blue eyes and discover his cheeks crimson and an awestruck look on his face, as well as a lot of guilt and tenderness.

 

A sigh. “Of course I didn’t. I was waiting for you to do it. You were bloody engaged, may I remind you.”

 

Her brows furrow. 

 

“And I did! But you didn’t answer.” Silence. “Tink did.”

 

She watches his features with weariness. She watches as he frowns. Backs away slightly, to gaze into her eyes, seems to seek the truth. And then, sighs. 

 

“Of bloody course. Tink.” Emma watches as he rolls his eyes dramatically, hisses a few insults between his teeth. 

 

She thinks he is still infuriatingly handsome. 

 

Another nervous laughter begins rattling her body, because this is ridiculous, they are ridiculous, they just had to talk it out and it would have been fine but -- 

 

“Seems like our lack of communication isn’t only on us.” 

 

Emma smirks. “Well, it’s mostly on us.” 

 

“Point taken.” And it’s unfair because he smiles a bright smile then and her heart jumps once more.

 

And he looks down, again, at her lips, and Emma feels frozen only she is burning. She needs to kiss him again, and forever, probably. 

 

“But if you cared--” Why is he talking again? She opens eyes she didn’t know she had shut to dart a murderous gaze on him. He doesn’t see it, the fool, keeps talking instead. “--why did you ask me to forget our kiss?”

 

That nearly knocks her out. “Our kiss? Which kiss?”

 

She doesn’t know just how right she is to ask this question. 

 

He raises an eyebrow. His cheeks are flushed and his hair dishevelled, and Emma has to focus to look into his eyes and not stare at his swollen lips. 

 

“You mean to tell me you don’t remember?”

 

 And his eyes do a weird twitching thing. He doesn’t seem alright. And he sounds a little bit as if a part of himself has just died.

 

“I mean… I sure as hell think I would remember this.” Oh, she totally would.

 

“Your nineteenth birthday,” he exhales, and if he could raise his eyebrows any harder, they’d get stuck up his hairline, “we kissed on the rooftop right before you fell to the ground.”

 

Well, she does remember the wicked headache she got that day, but she thought it was caused by the alcohol and…

 

“No…Yes?” A pause. She frowns. Realization sinks in. Well that would explain a lot, indeed. “We did?”

 

That would explain his crumpled face as she asked him to forget their night, it would explain why he avoided her all through summer, and why he stayed with Milah, and why she started dating Neal in the first place, and oh -- they are two idiots, aren’t they? 

 

“Aye. And you specifically asked me to forget that night.”

 

If she keeps frowning her eyebrows will remain stuck forever. She frowns harder.

 

“But I had no memory of that kiss.”

 

“Bloody hell.” And Killian lets go of a very dramatic sigh, shakes his head.

 

Emma’s mouth forms an “O” as she watches Killian glance further away, to the sea, and she begins to understand years of struggle could have been avoided, had they, had they…well, talked about it, it seems.

 

An angel passes. 

 

“Damnit,” she whispers. 

 

And Emma is surprised to find a chuckle tickling her throat. Why is she laughing? This isn’t funny. 

 

He still isn’t looking at her. Impish waves keep nibbling their toes. She hates how heavy everything suddenly feels. 

 

Emma thinks that all this time he thought-- he thought she didn’t care, but she did, oh she cared, and...

 

Emma breathes in, fingers pressed to her temples. Shrugs a bit, breathes out and casts an eye on Killian. He doesn’t seem alright. But she knows how to distract him. 

 

“Since I don’t remember, allow me to ask: did you kiss me?”

 

His blue eyes flash in the dimness as she smirks.

 

She doesn’t think she has seen him look this offended before. 

 

“I beg your pardon? You bloody kissed me, Emma!”

 

His high pitch does make her chuckle. 

 

“Don’t give me that offended look. That does sound like something you’d do.”

 

Oh, the wrath sparkling in his gaze then, it’s a sight for sore eyes, and she cannot stop smiling.

 

“Nah, you were the one who melted onto my lips and sucked the bloody life out of me, perched on your high heels.”

 

“They weren’t that high. And, at least I did something about my feelings.”

 

“Well, you forgot so it was pretty useless in the end, anyway.”

 

“Hey!”

 

And her fist punches his chest, and he captures it again, traitor, and time stands still for a moment, as they glance at each other. 

 

Everything still feels very fragile and terrifying. But that’s quite alright. 

 

And then with a swing of his hip, he shifts her under his weight, onto the sand, and her body meets the ground softly. 

 

His face surrounded by dark, tousled hair hides the moon from her sight, but as her breath catches in her chest, she doesn’t mind.

 

“You were saying?”

 

“Mmm…”

 

Emma thinks sand will get stuck in her hair. And it’s going to be a pain to wash it out. But that’s okay. 

 

They’re only twenty-three, murmurs her inner voice, they’re allowed to be young and stupid and messy and –

 

“Well, I’m glad it didn’t take us another ten years to figure our shit out. Wouldn’t be nearly as sexy.”

 

“Speak for yourself, Swan.”

 

“Idiot.” 

 

And without a second thought, or a first, she raises her face to capture his lips, drink his breath, because she is allowed to, and this is right and all she’s ever wanted. 

 

.

 

Up the beach, down Main street, Killian and Emma walk along the roads of their childhood.

 

Emma doesn’t know where they are going, but it doesn’t seem to matter, not just yet. 

 

Fear is of course lurking in one deep corner of her mind, but it is easy to ignore it while her hand is safely tucked in his.  

 

“Where are you staying?” she asks as they shift to stare at one another. 

 

Granny’s green B&B sign flashes behind Killian’s back. 

 

Amusement sparkles in his eyes. “Granny’s.” 

 

Emma remembers New York’s cold street lights, and the snow melting onto her lips, and Killian’s damp hair, and the sad glimmer in his blue eyes and her cold, shaking hand in his. 

 

It was the night she decided to give him up, not knowing, not knowing he cared too. 

 

It was the night she would have burned in hell to hear him invite her into his hotel room. 

 

(Was it worth it, all the pain, in the end?) 

 

“Fancy a last drink, Swan?” 

 

Streetlights dabble gold beams into his blue eyes. 

 

She nods, a little out of breath. Something soft and awful swallows her from inside. 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

And down the road, up the stairs, they go, hands clasped together. Her bracelet jingles up the stairs. 

 

Emma remembers standing on his porch before her eighteenth birthday party, forehead pressed to the door, eyes locked on her phone screen, heart beating fast, fast. 

 

“Come in whenever you want, I’m ready!” And her stomach twisting at his reply. 

 

Things were so easy while she was still convinced that she was in love with him and she would never love anyone else and they had all the time in the world. 

 

She was wrong, but that’s also fine. 

 

(Isn’t pain just pain?) 

 

Click , he’s unlocked the door, and Emma steps forward to gaze inside. Beyond Granny’s questionable decoration choices, everything is clean and proper and Navy and Killian. What a relief. 

 

It is quite late now, and exhaustion burns Emma’s eyes, circles her throat and crudely brings to light her fears and insecurities. She feels bare, exposed, vulnerable under the dark green chandelier. 

 

For a short moment, she fears there will be too much to mend between them, too many scars over their chest for them to offer their hearts again. 

 

“Make yourself at home, Swan.” 

 

The red leather jacket is dropped onto the bed just as he neatly folds his own on a chair by the wall. 

 

And she keeps staring at those four walls, at this cramped room, and she thinks a month ago she was marrying someone else. 

 

She’s still scared. Is she supposed to be scared? 

 

“You okay, love?” he nudges her. 

 

His hand softly grabs her shoulder. 

 

She shrugs. If she is honest with herself, she does feel a little bit overwhelmed. This room is too silent. She can almost hear past echoes of their hearts breaking. 

 

“Yes, I’m just…” 

 

“Reminiscing?” 

 

A smile. “That’s not the word I would have gone for, but yeah.” 

 

His hand hurtles down her arm and slides into hers. His touch still shoots electric trails all over her skin. 

 

“Want to sit down, Swan?” A nod, and he’s tucking her down with him. 

 

When Killian switches on the small outdated TV on the wooden table in front of them, Emma sighs in relief. 

 

And when still no words echo between them, Emma feels his eyes burn the skin of her cheek. 

 

New York again. A cold bench. The snow falling onto his hair. This pain, in her chest, as he utters her name. Milah. 

 

(Pain is just pain.) 

 

“What are you thinking about, Swan?” 

 

She blinks, licks her lips. Breathes in. 

 

Will not look at him. 

 

Augusta airport this time. His back, his image printed in blood over her retinas, this dark shape she cannot forget, forever turned on her. 

 

“The past.” 

 

The pain. 

 

Storybrooke’s town hall. Her weary eyes twitching back and forth from Neal towards the door. Begging Killian to appear. And he doesn’t. (Or he does, but he’s too late.)

 

“Listen, Emma,” and his fingers have found hers again, and they are soft, and she looks up to discover his eyes even gentler, and his lips spread in a tender smile, “The past is behind us and we cannot change it.” 

 

“But there’s been so much pain…” 

 

She sounds like she is twelve again, she can almost touch Ingrid’s wooden fence under her fingers, can almost feel the tingling fear that a splinter might get stuck in the tender skin, and she can almost smell the yellow irises, and it almost brings her to tears. 

 

“I know. But we can do better now.” 

 

She nods. Can they do better? What if all of this is just a chimera and they’ve both idealized their love and what if … What if none of this is real? 

 

She should sleep. Her eyelids are heavy and her eyes burn. 

 

But then his hand cups her cheek, and its warmth brings her back to reality, tethers her. Her own palm settles above his as she leans into his touch. Closes her eyes, for just one bit. 

 

She is so tired. Morpheus is luring her into his arms. 

 

“As long as I am alive--” Oh, but then he is talking, and his voice is velvet against her skin, and she opens her eyes to stare at him. She’s pretty sure he can hear the thump of her heart. “--you can live with the conviction, Swan, that I will always be by your side.” A pause. “Always.” Another silence, his words sinking into her skin, as his fingers trace butterflies along her neck. A smile. “I’ve always been in love with you. From the moment I met you.” 

 

Oh . Her eyes widen. Thump, thump

 

She is swallowed by a gigantic wave of confused feelings. She thinks an earthquake is shattering the windows and shaking the walls. She thinks a tear rolls down her cheek, but she is not crying. 

 

And it’s not like she didn’t know, she knew, but, but also she didn’t, for so long, and this is all very confusing and unexpected but very much expected, and he keeps staring at her and she doesn’t know what to say, for fuck’s sake. 

 

And the only answer she can come up with is her trembling hands caressing his cheeks and then slowly grabbing the lapel of his t-shirt, and then, finally -- the pressure of her lips against his. Tender, at first, and then furious, desperate, hungry. 

 

She wants to tell him, I loved you when you walked away from me, the first time, and the times after that, as well. I loved you although you never looked back at me, and I couldn’t look forward. I loved you when you were avoiding me, and I loved you when I didn’t think I loved you anymore. But mostly, I loved you from the moment I met you. 

 

Instead, she presses her mouth into his, fiercely, for all of those times she wishes she had been brave enough to kiss him and she didn’t. 

 

And Emma forgives them both. Forgives their past mistakes and heartaches. 

 

They will do better. (They want to, and that’s already half of the journey, isn’t it?)

 

 

A number. Nineteen. Emma’s nineteen tonight. He’s been for a while now. (He feels a hundred years old since Liam left. Feels like he’s been holding his breath for centuries. Only the pain doesn’t flatter.)

 

They’re on a rooftop. Emma’s pink dress floats in the wind, much like a pirate flag. Her smile, that night, is bright, vivid, infuriatingly confident as she glances down at his lips. 

 

The waves crash against the sand, back and forth, back and forth. 

 

Her body is warm against his chest. Both of his hands hold her waist. 

 

Time stands still, as she stands up on her tip toes and kisses him. 

 

It’s an explosion, then, in his chest. A mercurial bliss. 

 

And this time, he catches her before the fall. He doesn’t let her go. This time, his grip is secure around her waist, his fingers firm around her hips as she stumbles forward and they chuckle together. 

 

This time, she doesn’t forget their kiss. 

 

No.

 

Instead, she stares deeply into his eyes and she says: “I’ve been meaning to do that for a while, now.” 

 

And he says: “I’ve been waiting for you to say that.” 

 

And if everything is easy, it’s only because it is a dream. 

 

.

 

A ray of sunshine tickles Killian’s eyelids. His face crinkles, he groans, opens one hesitant eye. 

 

Bloody hell. What a dream. Or a nightmare, he cannot really tell. 

 

There is a weight against his chest, bitterness at the back of his mouth. 

 

He glances down. Emma . She fell asleep in his arms last night while he was slowly rocking her, and they forgot to close the shutters and now Killian will never fall back to sleep again. 

 

His eyes still burn. 

 

He gazes at her face buried in the hollow of his neck, blonde hair across his chest. He smiles. 

 

A hospital room, eight months ago. A blinding, golden light. Her sleepy smile. “ Oh , you’re awake?” 

 

He would pinch himself if he had a hand to spare. 

 

Those six months, without her, thinking she didn’t want him, were some of the bleakest of his life. 

 

It was like losing a limb, only he lost two. And he had to keep on learning how to walk without an anchor, how to live without a hand and without hers to hold. 

 

And then, David’s call, one morning. 

 

“They broke up, Killian. Neal found your letter. I think you should do something about that, or I will personally come to murder you in your pitiful apartment, do you hear me?” 

 

Emma snores lightly against his skin. He traces the shape of her jawline with gentle fingers. 

 

He is terrified. Perhaps it is the only way to be, for now. 

 

Perhaps it is good. It means they’re trying. They’re evolving, together, for the first time in ages. 

 

A grunt, her small hand spread across her face, she’s starting to wake up, he can tell. 

 

There is still a lot of sadness in his chest, for the boy who loved a girl and suffered deeply for it. For the boy who lost everything and still managed to lose more through the years, until there wasn’t anything left to lose. 

 

Liam’s smile from his car window. A wave. And then void, nothing. 

 

Killian clenches his jaw. 

 

“Hey,” a small voice groans, “if you keep staring at me while I sleep, it’s going to get creepy.” 

 

A grin. 

 

“Sorry love, couldn’t sleep.” 

 

Emma lifts her chin, green eyes shimmering in this golden morning light, and she tries a sleepy smile. 

 

“Morning, Killian.” 

 

“Morning, Emma.” 

 

“Am I crushing you under my weight?” 

 

“I think I’ll survive, love.” 

 

She still hesitates to kiss him, he sees it in the small start of her head backwards, so he bends forward to kiss her. 

 

It’s a sloppy morning kiss, but he wants all of them. 

 

Last night, they absolutely did not take time to undress. Emma fell asleep like a rock, and he was too afraid he’d wake her up to try and remove his clothes. 

 

But she seems very much awake as her legs curl around his hips, and it is very hard for Killian to ignore the way her dress climbs back up her thighs and gives away the beginning of her red panties. 

 

He can feel his cheeks become hot and red, and suddenly Emma’s smirking at him. 

 

“Like what you see?” 

 

He swallows down. 

 

“It’s quite alright, aye.” 

 

A squeeze of her thighs around his torso, he is trapped, and his heart leaps. 

 

“Alright?” she repeats. “That’s definitely a disappointing answer.” 

 

As for Killian’s heart, it’s practically bursting out in his chest by now. He gulps. 

 

He cannot say he hasn’t thought a lot about it, what it would feel like to go beyond a simple kiss with Emma. How her skin would taste under his tongue. 

 

He may have started to think about it at around age fifteen, when he saw her come back from summer vacation all tan legs out, and he can still hear Liam’s mocking tone “If you open your mouth any wider, little brother, you’re going to swallow flies.” 

 

The thoughts worsened after their kiss. There were some lonely, desperate moments as well during which he imagined tracing the shape of her body, much like his fingers flutter against the side of her leg right now.

 

His eyes don’t leave hers, scrutinizing her to know if he is allowed to go further. 

 

“We don’t have to, if you don’t want to, Emma,” he whispers. 

 

The wicked smile she shoots him is a sufficient answer. “Oh don’t worry, I want to.” 

 

And then her lips find his again and his fingers are gripping her thigh now, clutching her skin, leaving marks, climbing back up some more and feel the soft skin right under the fabric of her dress. 

 

She moans against his mouth, and it’s a wonderful sound, and suddenly they are both wearing far too many clothes and they have to hurry or they’ll combust into flames. 

 

Emma straddles him just as her nimble fingers pull her dress up and throw it over her head. 

 

“Couldn’t have done it better myself,” he mumbles and it’s very hard to look anywhere else but at her naked body.

 

But she’s already getting impatient with his t-shirt, and she groans. “Come on Killian, help me. Raise your arms up.” 

 

“Didn’t think you’d become such a morning person, Swan.” 

 

She laughs a bit as his t-shirt hits the floor in its turn in a muffled sound, and she does this thing where she stops to gaze into his eyes and he will die for a lack of oxygen. 

 

He watches as she swallows, ogling him. 

 

“Some things are worth waking up for.” 

 

And then she’s melting into the skin of his neck as her fingers sift through his hair, and Killian ceases completely to think. 

 

.



A month later -- Augusta Airport. 

 

Emma clutches Ingrid’s yellow irises against her chest. Her hold is gentle but her lips form a firm line.  

As she stares at the Arrivals Board in front of her, the beat of her heart is drumming in her ears, and she is pretty certain oxygen is having a very hard time reaching her lungs. 

He’s only been gone a week , mumbles her inner voice, but Emma’s too happy to pay attention to her pride. 

She glances up, and a breath of relief escapes Emma’s throat as the light next to Portsmouth changes color.  

“He’s landed,” she whispers to herself, flowers still pressed to her chest.

She glances down, careful not to damage the beautiful bouquet Ingrid offered last night, over the dinner table. 

“I know how much he loves them,” Ingrid smiled. 

Another look at the clock. He should be here any time now. 

Her heart skips a blissful beat. 

A part of her still cannot believe this is real. That he is coming home, for good, that Emma found them a cute apartment near the beach and they’re going to get everything they’ve ever dreamed of.  

“Are you sure you want to do this...I mean, we could wait, and I could go back to Ingrid’s for a while…”

A butterfly in the dark, a kiss in the night. 

“I’ve never been so sure of anything…” 

Gazing all around her, Emma spots the familiar large window in front of her. It still shows a blurry reflection of her body. Emma frowns. Well, that will never change. One hand reluctantly gives up on the flowers to comb her hair. 

It is now mid September in Storybrooke, Maine, and Emma has to admit she’s missed him.  

It wasn’t the kind of missing him she was far too familiar with only two months ago. It wasn’t a burning ache in her chest. It was just like losing your glasses and finding them again on your bed table, where you left them. It’s a kind of missing she knew to end. And it made a great difference. 

As she remains very still, feet stuck to the ground, she remembers shaking, bouncing up and down on her feet, waiting for him to come back the first time, four years ago. 

Nothing’s really changed. She is still Emma and he is still Killian. Except everything’s changed. 

It feels like another lifetime. Emma smiles down at the flowers in her hands. A very peaceful sunflower blooms in her chest. 

The crowd of people around her brings Emma back to the present. More people gather together, and Emma understands they are all just as eager to see their loved ones as she is.

And she waits, knowing her love is about to arrive. 

Another few minutes go by, and time seems to slow down. She clenches her jaw. Unclenches it. C ome on, relax, Emma.  

And then… And then , there he is.

“Killian.” The blissful whisper escapes her throat as a brutal wave of bliss sweeps her off her feet. She doesn’t hold it back. It isn’t scary anymore. 

She’s somehow thankful to notice he hasn’t changed one bit, but it’s only been a week, what was she expecting? A tender hue of blue meets her eyes and smiles in recognition.

“Emma, my love,” he mirrors her happy sigh. 

Her heart beams as they walk towards each other, their pace sure and quick and knowing, and in a few steps he lets go of a thousand suitcases to pick her up from the ground.  

“Careful, Killian, your flowers,” she complains even as her feet quit the floor.

And she tries to hold the bouquet away from his face, but he doesn’t seem to care and presses a long kiss to her mouth instead.  

She sighs happily into his embrace, wraps her arms around his neck, and her senses are filled by him – his smell, a strong cologne she is only too familiar with, his skin under her fingers, his tousled black hair.

“I missed you,” he exhales against her cheek, and drops another kiss to her cheek. 

She slowly backs away, smiling. “It’s only been a week…” 

He raises an eyebrow that challenges her to lie some more. She chuckles, crinkles her nose, mumbles: “Okay, I might have missed you too…” 

He sighs a dramatic sigh, rolls his eyes. 

“Now, you nearly gave me a heart attack, Swan. I was this close from flying back to Portsmouth.”   

Idiot, her inner voice snorts, unimpressed. But her heart isn’t very concerned, and a giggle jolts out of her throat. Even her cheeks give her away, flush furiously, and she hates them for it - come on, it’s been a month now. 

Her hand lingers on his face, tracing the little scar on his cheek.  

“Are you going to take those flowers, or should I keep them for myself?” She attacks in a coy, sharp tone. 

He flutters his eyelashes. The fucker. 

“If the lady insists.” 

A roll of the eye, a bright smile, and Emma’s heart sighs -- defeated. And the flowers carefully slip into his hand. 

He drops another kiss to her lips. “Thank you, love.” 

“Of course, Killian.” 

And then there is this very dramatic moment during which they both stare at his three enormous suitcases and wonder how the hell they are going to make this work. 

“Damnit. Did you have to take your whole life with you?” 

“Well, a blonde lass did ask me to move in with her.” 

Her fist punches his shoulder, playfully. Another sigh echoes all through the airport’s hall. 

“Well, let’s go, I guess.”  

 She’s quick to grab the bag he let go of to hold her and seizes two red suitcases. And he watches her, the fucker, flowers in the crook of his arm and the third suitcase secure his hand. He seems infinitely entertained. 

“Don’t you dare laugh in my face, Killian Jones.”

“Well, if it weren’t for the flowers, I could maybe hel-”

“-- NO. You keep the damn flowers! For once Ingrid offered them.” 

And as they are walking down the airport like old times, Emma knows they’ll do better. They already are doing better. 

(Emma thinks pain is just pain, and they should have known sooner, they should have known better but she also thinks that doesn’t matter because surely there is no kind of pain that cannot be absolved by a lot of love.)