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Get your affairs in order.

Killian repeats this to himself, over and over, on the walk back to the ship. It would have been laughable, the idea of that sniveling, mousy man he remembers to be a true threat to his life. It was not his eyes he saw, however, when they were reacquainted.

No, those were the eyes of the Dark One, with skin like a crocodile’s, someone who has power and knows it. The man he met years ago might be dead. Killian might have helped to kill him.

He hasn’t thought much about his actions that day in the years spent with Milah, but oh, he’s thinking about them now. All he had wanted was to see if Milah’s stories had been right—if she truly was married to a coward who wouldn’t even fight for his own wife. And she had been right. Even when her husband believed she was about to be taken advantage of by a dozen pirates, Rumplestiltskin still wouldn’t pick up that sword.

Regret simmers beneath the surface of his anger at the brazen threat against him and his crew. If he had told the truth—that Milah wanted to leave, that she was there of her own volition—things might have been different. But there is no use in dwelling on that now.

The Jolly Roger is where he left her, docked in a quiet port, illuminated by the moon and the stars above.

Well, he thinks, swallowing. If these are to be his final hours, there’s nowhere else he’d rather spend it.

He closes the door to his quarters as quietly as he can, but she stirs anyway.

“Killian, hey.” Milah sits up, eyes bleary. “Did you have a nice time at the tavern?”

He’s speechless for a short moment. Imagines what to respond. I am to die. Your husband has become a demon and he will kill me tomorrow.

He paints a smile on his face while hating himself for it. “It was quite interesting, aye.”

“Next time, I’ll come with you,” she says while he undresses. “Today was just one of those days.”

A day where her longing for her son was too keen to focus on anything else but that. A son whose father has become the Dark One with a reputation equally as dark. What has become of the boy? What has become of Milah’s boy?

“Aye,” he forces out before joining her in the bed.

Get your affairs in order, taunts the demon in his head.

Milah, who had closed her eyes to get ready for sleep again, lets out a startled yelp when he presses his lips against hers.

She sighs when he pulls away. “I’m not in the mood, Killian. I just want to sleep.”

“I know,” he says, shameful. “I’m sorry.”

He just wanted to feel that, one last time.

“I love you.”

He needed to say that one last time, too.

She frowns. “Is everything alright?”

He grins so hard his cheeks hurt. “Of course, love, why wouldn’t it be?”

“I don’t know. You seem strange.”

He feigns offense, playing idly with a strand of her hair. “It’s strange that I love you?”

She lifts an eyebrow. “It’s strange that you feel the need to express it now.”

“Just had a little bit too much to drink, don’t mind me,” he lies—apparently, their last moments are to be spent in deceit. Resenting it, he adds truthfully, “But that doesn’t change the fact that I do. Love you, I mean.” His voice grows soft. “I love you so much.”

She studies his face, lingering for longer than necessary, but there is no way she knows the truth.

Sure enough, she closes her eyes eventually, smiling. He cherishes the sight. “Goodnight, Killian.”

Hours pass. When the night is still dark, he regards the Jolly Roger one last time. He always imagined that if he’d die anywhere, it would be on that ship, or a ship, at least. The way Liam had. Perhaps, in the next life, he’ll see him again.

Killian turns away and starts walking. It’s not like he’ll just let the Dark One kill him—it’s going to be a duel. He has no illusions about his chances, but he will still fight until the end.

After all, a man unwilling to fight for what he wants…

The sun rises, bright amidst the blue, while darkness surrenders. A new day has come. His last.

For a few, fleeting seconds, he feels peace, watching the sky being set aglow. It shatters when he arrives at the site where the duel will take place.

It’s time.