Actions

Work Header

The Captain's Cabin

Chapter Text

“The Captain’s Cabin?” 

Emma squinted up at the sign, covering her eyes to keep the morning light from turning her blind. It was a ridiculous name, if she said so herself. (Never mind that this was their first day in town, and she’d been the one to choose the place.)

“I don’t know about this,” she said, sliding her eyes back to the blonde girl at her side. “We could just get back in the car and find a nice, motel-side Arby’s.”

“We just spent five hours in the car, not counting the five minutes it took to find that parking spot, Emma,” Elsa whined, “If I don’t get to eat whatever it is I’m smelling right now, I think I might cry.”

Emma ceded, but only because the smell of fried seafood was calling to her too.

The two of them stepped out of the misty morning and into the little dockside restaurant, Emma shaking her hair out of her hooded anorak jacket and Elsa flinging her braid back over her shoulder. The lunch crowd was still milling about, mostly older citizens and young parents, and the two were only too happy to take their time finding seats. The walls were stained dark, as if the warm drizzle outside had penetrated the wood, and covered in weather-worn treasures that undoubtedly came from the nearby sea. One side of the small building stood on ground level, but the other seemed to stretch out toward the water. It was nice, Emma had to admit, nicer than the dorky sign on the front had led on.

The two of them chose seats at the end of the long bar, despite all earlier protests about sitting for any prolonged periods (ever again, Elsa had promised, one foot up on the dashboard and the other hanging out the passenger window.) Elsa busied herself tracing the faces of old sailors and fisherman pictured on the walls, while Emma watched the tide coming in. 

It hardly looked pleasant out, but she was certain those little black blobs in the distance were boats. She ran her hand over the windowpane to get a clearer view and squinted again, trying to figure out exactly what kind of vessels had caught her attention.

“Can I help the both of you?”

Emma swiveled on the little barstool and found herself eye-level with a toothy, if welcoming, grin. The man was standing on the other side of the bar, his black shirt emblazoned with the same logo from the sign outside the restaurant. She had no idea how he snuck up on her like that, but Elsa answered him before she could voice her question back.

“You definitely can. We’ve been in the car for far too long, and we need food.”

“I’ll have to see if we’ve got any laying around, then,” he said with a bit of a laugh, seeming to relax into his smile as he regarded Emma more thoroughly. "Where are you traveling from?”

“Boston,” the both of them answered, tiredness coming through in Emma’s voice and restlessness coming through in Elsa’s. 

He clicked his tongue and handed both of them menus, leaning a hip against the bar as he played with one of the bottles on the counter top. “Quite a long ways away, but at least you chose a beautiful day to come up. It’s not always this nice out.”

“You call this nice?” Emma chuckled, wrinkling her nose as she nodded toward the window. “It’s about to rain.”

“On the contrary, lass. I’d reckon the sun’ll be out before you’ve finished your meal.” His smile was challenging her now, as if he was about to reach out into the air and ask her to shake on it.

“Speaking of,” Elsa said, swiveling her menu toward him and pointing at a dish. “Can I get this with curly fries?”


“There’s no way,” Emma said, shaking her head at the man. He was leaned over the counter, arms folded out in front of him. She thought she could see the beginnings of a tattoo on the inside of his arm but refused to inspect any further, knowing his eyes had been following her a little too closely already.

“Ah, but there is,” he sang out. “When you’ve lived here as long as I, you tend to get accustomed to the signs.”

"Nobody’s that good,” She pressed, crossing her arms in front of her. He’d been keeping them (well, keeping her,if Elsa’s less-than-subtle looks meant anything) company ever since they’d ordered a meal, and since then she’d come to know quite a bit about him. His name was Killian Jones, and it didn’t sound like an American name because it wasn’t. He and his brother had come over from the United Kingdom a few years ago and started up business here. They had a sailboat, of all things, moored out at the end of the restaurant’s dock, and that apparently gave him the ability to predict the weather. “You have to have checked an app, or something.”

He shook his head again, eyes sparkling as they regarded her. “I could show you, if you’d like,” he said, a bit of extra something in his voice as he made the offer. “Liam’s not quite done with your orders yet, and it won’t take long.”

Emma gave him a challenging look of her own, then, wondering just how many tourists got an invite out onto his sailboat while their meals were made ready. On the other hand, though, her legs weren’t nearly stretched enough after driving for so long, and she did like the idea of standing again. 

“Oh, go do it,” Elsa said, tearing her straw wrapper into tiny little squares atop the bar. “I’ll wait here for when the food gets out.”

“See? She’ll wait here, for when the food gets out,” Killian said, sweeping his arm out toward Elsa and raising his brow at Emma. “Come on, Swan, don’t make a man beg.”

Again, Emma relented, but only because she would never hear the end of it from Elsa if she acted like going with him was a big deal.


“What made you pick Maine, of all places?”

They were both leaned against the rail of his sailboat (which was more than a little impressive, Emma grudgingly admitted. With something like this at her disposal, she’d probably spend a few cloudy days on the water, too) and watching the little town ferry pick up passengers from the neighboring dock. It’d made three trips since they came outside,  passengers snapping pictures and laughing at the sea spray when they passed over particularly large curls of wake. 

“I could ask you the same,” he countered, twisting his neck to regard her. She didn’t remember him coming to stand so close, exactly, but then the past twenty minutes had gone by without her thinking of a single excuse to run back to Elsa. (It definitely had nothing to do with the way he seemed to talk about the sea like it was his first love, that was certain.)

“It’s different,” she told him with a small laugh. “We’re not moving in.”

“We didn’t think we were either, to be honest. Liam and I had plans to sail up and down the coast, to pack up every time we thought we were getting too rooted down.”

“Guess that worked out for the two of you,” Emma countered, nodding back toward the restaurant. “Big change of plans?”

“You could say that.” His smile turned wistful then, almost dreamlike, and Emma found herself watching him as he turned his eyes back to the sea. She couldn’t tell if it was the way the sun was now warming their faces or simply the way he was born, but the ocean seemed pooled right there in his eyes, too. He turned to her then, catching her off guard once more with his closeness. “I’ll wager your food’s waiting for you now, love.”

Surprisingly reluctant to leave the peaceful, salty air out on the docks, Emma nodded, letting him lead her back inside. Most of the lunch rush had taken off by then, and it was almost too easy to hear her friend’s voice carrying through the restaurant as they stepped back through the doorway.

“- she’s not really my sister, even though she looks it, but we always take this big sisterly road trip in the spring to celebrate meeting each other. She pretends she hates long trips, but I know that - Emma!

Emma’s eyes widened considerably as she saw her friend chatting up a dark-haired stranger, one whose head looked exactly like Killian’s from the angle she had on him. He turned then, a lighter shade of blue eyes meeting hers. He was wearing the same shirt as Killian, too, but all brotherly resemblance ended below eye level.

“You must be Emma,” the man said, straightening up off the barstool and reaching out a large, square hand. “Liam Jones, privilege to be at your services today.”

Emma could see Elsa’s bright eyes behind him, switching frantically between delight and panic. She had always been terrible at improvisation, especially when it came to someone she wanted to impress. Emma only smiled and shook his hand warmly, not missing the gigantic plate of curly fries that Elsa had placed between them. (She didn’t miss the look Liam gave to Killian, either, but she found herself wishing she’d seen it from Elsa’s perspective instead. As it was, he was standing too close to her for her to see.)

“Nice to meet you. Are you the one I need to thank for the sandwich waiting over at my seat?”

“I am, especially since my second-in-command was nowhere to be found,” Liam said pointedly, aiming his smirk at her instead of his brother this time. She managed not to blush, but there was no hiding the snort that came from Elsa at her seat.

Seeing the food on her plate reminded Emma of their reason for visiting, and she found herself lingering there long after her plate held nothing but crumbs, swapping travel stories with the two men who held the sea in their eyes. It was comfortable, just as much as her ride together with Elsa had been, and suddenly she found herself wondering what else they might have missed if they hadn’t pulled off the interstate to fuel up in the little seaside town. 

(Elsa, for all her part, wasn’t even trying to be subtle as she offered Liam the last long curly fry on her plate, complaining when he told her it’d be ungentlemanly to take anything more from her plate than he already had. Her argument was that he’d made them, after all, and deserved to spend a little time savoring the dishes he made. They didn’t even notice it when Killian snuck the thing off her plate and ate it himself.)

“So,” Killian finally asks, stepping up to tackle the question they’d all been dancing around, “How long are the both of you in town?”

"Oh, we only planned on stopping for a few-” Emma felt the point of Elsa’s shoe dig into her shin then, effectively cutting her off before she could say anything drastic. Emma swiveled back and gave her just as deliberate and obvious a look, wondering what the hell had gotten into her.

“A few days. Maybe a week or two,” Elsa supplied, sipping at her water and refusing to meet Emma’s eyes. “We don’t really have to be back any time soon.”

Emma let it go after a moment, but only because she didn’t want that to be the last smile she saw on Killian Jones’ face. 

Chapter Text

“What do you think they’re talking about out there, Swan?”

Killian sat right next to Emma as they both took over the corner of the bar, necks twisted and bent to properly spy on the couple currently loitering at the far end of the pier. He didn’t feel bad for spying on his brother — not when he was in public and pointedly ignoring the oncoming lunch rush they were about to get — but he didn’t want to get caught, either. 

“Whatever it is, it’s definitely not the scenery. He could’ve picked a better excuse than ‘going out to see the otters playing under the pilings,’ you know.”

“I don’t think they were looking for a better excuse,” he replied, meeting her eyes in what’d become a familiar look exchanged between the both of them. They both saw it when Elsa cornered Liam against one side of the railings and laid her hands on him, taunting him with her nose just inches away from his. “I’d reckon it was just the first thing he thought of.”

 


 

Emma snorted and found it in her to tear her eyes from the pair, turning back to the half-finished plate of onion rings sitting between their elbows. He could see her mind working as she contemplated the smoked bluefish dip on the side of the plate, but even his faithful study of her couldn’t prepare him for the moment when she turned more serious eyes on him.

“Is your brother a good man?” She asked tentatively. He dropped the small onion ring he’d been contemplating before when she faced him fully, knees nearly swiveling into his as she turned her chair. “If he has any intentions to get to know her better, are they good?”

It took him a second to place the spark in her eyes — fierce protectiveness mixed with loyalty and love — but he caught on eventually.

“She just — she didn’t have the best home life growing up,” Emma explained, choosing her every word carefully. He could tell she was trying not to give away too much, and he listened patiently as she bit the inside of her cheek and looked him over. “And if she’s going to spend time getting to know him while we’re here, I don’t want her getting hurt.”

Killian contemplated her more seriously then, trying to figure out just how much of her statement applied to her as well. If he had to guess, he’d reckon Emma was speaking just as much about herself as her friend.  The corners of Killian’s lips tilted up as he nodded, and his smile only widened at the relief that seemed to settle her shoulders. He hadn’t noticed her stiffen up until he saw the tension melt away. 

“Liam’s a good man. He tends to miss certain things when it comes to details and he almost always misses cues to be subtle when the situation calls for it,” he told her, nodding toward the window, “but he’s not capable of much in the way of deception. You need not worry if something’s brewing between them.”

Emma seemed satisfied with that answer for the time being, but she did nothing to turn her calculating expression away from him. It felt a little she was scanning him somehow, like he was being searched, but the front door chimed open the second his mouth opened to ask her about it.

“Lunch rush,” he explained wistfully, picking up the bar rag in front of him and tossing it across his shoulder. “You’re welcome to hang about while I work, love, but don’t feel you need to stay nearby on my account. I’m not likely to forget you while I work.” 

She huffed a little laugh at his flirtation, clearly soothed by their return to more lighthearted conversation, and rolled her eyes his way. The last thing he saw as he ducked through the swinging door to the kitchen was the faint blush on her cheeks, accompanied by her swift determination to study the small drink menu hanging over her head.

 


 

Killian paused at the hand-washing sink, biting back a smile as he caught sight of the calendar hanging by the door of the main kitchen area. Emma and Elsa had officially stayed a good five days over their initial week — Granny had cut them a deal on a room with two twin beds and an adjoining half-bath — and from what he could tell, they had no plans to leave any time soon.

It was interesting, getting to know two women who might up and leave any hour of the day. The sensible side of him kept remembering that they were only traveling through, that their spending money would eventually run out, but the more hopeful part of his heart kept insisting that he ignore it all. There had to be something behind their extended stay that didn’t involve trips to the local naval museum and eating nearly every meal at their small, seaside restaurant.

“Party of five just walked in,” Liam said, announcing his presence in the kitchen and pulling Killian from his thoughts. He made a bit of a show out of washing his hands, pretending that he didn’t see the look in Killian’s eyes. “What? I’m only a few minutes behind. The rush won’t start for another ten minutes or so.”

Calling it a “rush” was a bit of an ironic joke, given the small town they resided in, but early afternoon was always their busiest time of day. They were used to spending it together, maneuvering about the kitchen and managing the floor side by side. 

Killian just shook his head and leaned against the clean countertop, crossing his arms across his chest. “You and I both know this has nothing to do with the rush.”

"Do we now?” Liam asked him, quirking the corner of his mouth up. “Those mind-reading skills would come in handy out on the floor.”

Killian sighed and rolled his eyes at his brother’s terrible sense of humor, all while pulling out the ingredients they needed to make their fish pâté. “You can’t distract me that easily, not when you’re so easily distracted yourself. What were you out there talking about for so long, anyway?”

"You’re awfully nosy, aren’t you? I thought we were to be focusing on food for the next few hours.”

“You’ve always been good at multitasking.” Killian tossed the towel on his shoulder at Liam’s face, laughing a bit when he just barely managed to grab the end of the rag. “Afraid I’ll tell Emma?”

“You wouldn’t be telling her anything she doesn’t already know.” 

“Ah, so there is something going on.”

Liam gave him a pained look, defeated and accusatory all at once, and pulled a cutting board out of its hold to rest atop the counter. “Don’t act like I’m the only one around here who has eyes for visiting blondes. I’ve seen you and Emma together more often than not.”

“That’s different,” he said defensively, a little too quickly for even his own liking. “She and I —” he paused there, unsure of exactly how he was planning to define their new friendship to his brother. Emma had gotten under his skin, he was sure of it, but he was far less sure of her feelings on the matter. Emma had been friendly, but nothing like Elsa to Liam. There were walls around her that he couldn’t quite explain yet, ones she only seemed to fully lower when it was just her and her friend spending time together. 

“She and I?” Liam interjected, reminding him that he’d trailed off. 

“She’s only going to be here for a couple more days,” he said, both of them knowing he was trying to convince himself as much as his brother. “There’s no point in getting carried away with something that might be nothing.”

Liam stopped his search for the right knife and glanced back at him, eyes full of sudden understanding and pity that Killian wanted to ignore.

“Not everyone is going to be like her, Killian. Not every woman is going to leave.”

He had nothing to say to that. Killian could only hold his brother’s gaze for so long before he stepped away, muttering something about going to check on the entreés before rounding the corner. He knew Liam hadn’t mean it harshly, and he knew he was even right, but it was hard enough pushing Milah from his memory without being reminded.

 


 

“I’ve decided something,” Elsa told him and Liam the second they finished up after lunch, cornering them near the bar the second they emerged from the kitchen. “We’re going sailing this weekend before Emma and I hit the road. I think we need to celebrate finding more in this town than we bargained for.”

The blush that rose up on Emma’s cheeks as she waited behind her friend was confusing, but not as much as the ambitious look Elsa shared with his brother. She wasn’t just referring to Liam himself; she had something in mind for the weekend directly involving him and short conversation he and his brother had shared in the kitchen before. 

“You want to go sailing?” He asked them, brow raised and eyes focused on the green-eyed blonde in front of him. His heart swelled a bit when she offered him a tentative nod, as if she felt the same reluctance to be a part of their scheming as he did. 

“We want to learn,” Elsa clarified, smiling widely when his eyes flicked over to hers. “What do you say, Jones? Can you show us the ropes?”

“Aye, love,” he said, thickening his accent just to see Emma’s smile widen a little more. “I reckon I could.”

Chapter Text

“A pirate flag?” Emma squinted up at the skull and crossbones as they waved in the sunny morning breeze, wondering what she was getting herself into.

“Aye, a pirate flag. You didn't notice it last time we were aboard?” Killian smiled at her as he handed her a lifejacket, one that had considerably less wear and tear on it than his own seemed to, and went back to helping Liam tow in the last of the boat's inflatable bumpers. He was right, Emma had been on the deck of the Jolly Roger. Just not this early in the morning.

He and his brother had somehow managed to convince them to wake up early and go sailing — it’s your last full day in town, Liam had whined, pouting and fluttering his lashes in Elsa’s direction. That had been enough to sell her friend on the experience, but Emma was willing to put up a bit more of a fight. What better way to spend their last stop on the trip than whale watching? Killian had asked her, lifting his brow as if there was no other acceptable answer in the world. She couldn’t think of any at the time, and that apparently settled it.

 


 

“Come on, Emma, it looks good up there,” Elsa said, eyes bright and lifejacket buckled like she’d been sailing for years.  She’d always been the early riser between the two of them, happily taking all of the early driving shifts while they made their way up and down the coast on their yearly drives.

"You say that now, but what happens when they shove hooks in our hands and make us carry parrots on our shoulders?"

Elsa's answering laugh was only cut short by Liam's approach, turning from a broad grin into a softer, somehow knowing smile. "Ahoy there, sailor," she sang out, pushing off the rail of the deck to saunter over to him. "Are we setting sail just yet?"

Liam, who looked noticeably less awake than the woman at his side, only nodded and attempted a genial smile to welcome them both. "She always this awake in the morning?" She knew it barely mattered, given how little time they had left, but Emma returned it with a shrug and an emphatic grin of her own.

A call from the bow stopped their conversation before it could begin, all of their heads swiveling toward Killian as his wind-mussed, dark head poked into view. He had the brightest look on his face, like he'd been waiting for today for weeks, and Emma knew better than to question it. Just like Liam's question before, it spoke to a future that wasn't ever going to happen. They were here on a last hoorah, if anything, and she planned on enjoying it exactly as it was. Pretending they had anything else planned...it wasn't worth the pain.

"Liam!" Killian called, jumping from the top of the boat down to the main part of the deck, "Quit flirting and come help tie the cleats!"

His brother looked much more awake after that, nodding them goodbye and practically jogging up the deck to hide the color on his cheeks. They weren't quite far enough away to miss the embarrassed scolding Liam gave his younger brother once they were close, but she and Elsa did their best to hide their smirks.

"So," Emma said, adjusting the straps on her jacket until it didn't pull in the wind, "What's going on with that?"

"What?" Elsa's eyes trailed from the men back to her travel companion, her voice a little too high to be natural. "They're just doing their thing to get the boat ready."

"You know exactly what I mean," Emma pressed, tying her hair up into a high ponytail next. "And you haven't exactly tried to be subtle about it all week. Tell me this whole 'whale-watching' trip isn't just an excuse for him to spend half the day with you and impress you with his...dinghy."

"Emma!" Elsa protested, shoving her lightly in the arm. It didn't do anything to stop her from giggling or noticing that the outburst had drawn Killian and Liam's attention, that had been half the point. "Why are you so curious, anyway? Don't you want to see whales?"

"I do. I just know what you look like when you're planning something," Emma told her, brow raised and daring her to try and derail the topic again. When she spoke again, it was quieter, more sympathetic than she realized she felt at first. "We can't stay another day. We've already lost a couple days on the trip, and we hardly ever get time to spend just us."

"I know, I know" Elsa agreed halfheartedly, sighing a little as she tossed her braid over her shoulder. "But I like it here way more than I expected. I think you do too."

Emma didn't plan on arguing, but she didn't have time to get a word out before the boat engines roared to life. She hadn't noticed Liam come back toward the stern but there he was, pulling the throttle forward to start them off on their journey. The motor was quieter than she expected, especially given how close she and Elsa were standing to it, but then she supposed she hadn't had much opportunity to compare it to anything else.

"That means it has to be time for breakfast," Elsa spoke up suddenly, giving Emma another strange smile before heading toward the little cabin below deck. "I'll call you guys up when the food's ready!"

She hurried off before Emma could follow, leaving her to sigh back against the railing and consider the sharp snap of the sails in the wind.

"So, Swan, I hear you like the look of our dinghy?"

Emma jumped, head swiveling toward the place where her friend had been only half a minute ago. Killian looked more than pleased that he'd startled her as he came up from around the side of the cabin himself.

"You were listening?" She accused, trying to regain her composure. He didn't need to think his closeness affected her more than his sneaky approach had.

"Couldn't help it," he said proudly, as if they were back in the small bar instead of on the sea. "I wanted to hear your take on the day. I hope it's not offensive to say so, but you don't take me as the kind of lass who normally wakes this early."

"I'm not," Emma exhaled a little laugh, regarding him from the corner of her eye, "But I was promised whales."

"Aye, you'll see them today. Weather's perfect for it," Killian nodded, turning his gaze out toward the water. "Most tourists don't go out on the boats until the weekend, either, so we won't be crowding them. They like a bit of clouds."

"Really?" Emma asked, feeling more comfortable now than she had before. Her conversation with Elsa felt charged, but listening to Killian talk about the sea was almost like listening to a poetry reading. He could have been talking about rocks and seaweed, but the clear love in his voice snagged her straight away.

He didn't stop at describing whale watching conditions either. The further they pulled away from land, the more they picked up wind, he taught her all about his boat. If his love for the Jolly Roger hadn't been clear when she was first introduced, it was more than obvious now.

"Liam's got to take us out slow," He explained over the wet roar of the motor, "We're not very far from where they come in the morning, and wake does not make for happy whales."

"Uh-huh. Do you speak whale too?"

"Only humpback, I'm afraid," Killian replied, shaking his head shamefully. "The pilot and the finback languages are a bit tricker to pick up."

"You'll have to teach me when —" Emma caught herself, frowning at the words that she'd managed to catch on her tongue. "-when we see them," she quickly amended. If Killian noticed the slip, he didn't say a word, only glancing at her and offering a little nod.

 


 

"They're beautiful!" Elsa cried, hauling herself so close to the rail it seemed she'd slip off with one wrong step. "Emma, did you see the size of that one's tail?"

Elsa had emerged with a tray of breakfast snacks, seeming to completely forget about calling Emma for assistance. The four of them had set out a makeshift picnic, using their lifejackets as food trays once they found their way to their destination, and somehow her friend had been the first one to spot a pod of whales headed their way.

"I can see just as well as you — they're kind of far, still aren't they?" Emma squinted into the distance, sure she was seeing a splash of fins on the horizon but unable to spot much else.

"I can fix that," Killian beamed, hopping up from his spot. "Sit tight, we've got a couple pairs of binoculars floating around below deck somewhere."

Emma watched him go, wondering about the enthusiasm that seemed to radiate from him the entirety of their trip. She'd never seen him upset, not truly, but this was something else. Emma only noticed her stare had lingered when she heard Elsa cough quietly behind her to catch her attention again.

"Emma and I really appreciate you both going to the trouble," she said, smiling earnestly at the older Jones brother. "Finding this town, finding the two of you —”

“It was definitely a surprise,” Emma interrupted, trying to shoot Elsa a warning look. There was that feeling again, the feeling that all of this was scripted somehow, and she didn’t want anything to do with it. “We’ll have to make it a destination point next year.”

“Right,” Liam said, smiling politely between the both of them. Emma didn’t miss the nudge of Elsa’s knee against his as they sat, but thankfully the conversation died away regardless. By the time Killian returned the whales were closer, almost close enough that his binoculars no longer mattered.

“Bloody hell, they’re moving fast today!” He remarked, wordlessly slipping one of the binoculars to Liam. He twisted toward Emma, offering his hand out to her rather than sitting back down with the group. “C’mon, Swan, that’s a terrible spot for a view.” 

She obliged, thankful that she could trust him to be without an ulterior motive, and followed him toward the port side of the boat, able to clearly hear the whale song now.

“They really are beautiful,” She told him wistfully, watching as water sprayed up in a cascade. “I can see why you like coming out here.”

“Not like that, you can’t,” he said. Emma felt his side slide up against hers as he dropped the binoculars from his own eyes, holding them in place and beckoning her close again. “Stand right here and tell me if that’s not one of the most amazing sights you’ve ever seen.”

Emma slipped her hand around the side of the binoculars, feeling his linger until he was sure she had a firm grip. She couldn’t help the little gasp she let out as she pushed the lenses to her eyes, amazed at the detail in front of her. “Killian, this is —”

“Don’t put them down, love!” He discouraged, chuckling a bit at her wonder, “just have a look.”

She watched them for what felt like half an hour, too mesmerized with the dips and plunges and cresting, swirling dives of the whales to even pay attention to the rest of their company. A small part of her mind barely registered Killian's continual presence at her side, but she found she didn't really mind it. They were moving so gracefully for their size, and when she asked him about it he only had a trace of amusement in his voice.

"They're very gentle, very wise creatures. That pod is familiar to us, in fact. I think they recognize the sails when they come up to say hello."

He had that same affection in his voice as before, and this time Emma couldn't help tearing her eyes away from the view. To her surprise, he was looking right at her, and the only thing she could think to do was hand him his binoculars back.

"Sorry. I've been hogging these for a while."

"It's fine, love," he told her softly, hiding whatever expression had been in his eyes and replacing it with gratitude. "Take your time."

 


 

“He likes you, you know.”

Elsa had cornered her below deck, catching her off-guard as she washed the remnants of salt spray and lunch off her hands. Whale watching had been more than Emma had ever expected again, and she'd excused herself for a moment just to reconcile the fact that this wasn't part of her everyday life. For as long as she could remember she'd dreamed of a house by the sea and someone to share it with, but life had given her an apartment in Boston that was less than five minutes away from her friend. Sure, she could dream, but that didn't make it any harder when she had gotten a taste of the real thing.

"What?" She asked, shoving her thoughts away. "Of course he does. We made good friends here."

"You know that's not what I mean," Elsa said, a slow smile coming over her face. "I mean he cares about you. Has feelings for you. Wants you to stick around."

"I can't, Elsa," she started, silently begging her friend not to open old wounds. "You know we only have a few more days left of the trip, and I wanted to see —"

"This doesn't have to end with the trip, Emma. That's why Liam and I came up with this whole plan. We wanted to get you out here, see if you liked it, see if this could be, you know, more than a one-time thing."

Emma stilled completely, fingers curling around the edge of the countertop. "You planned this?" She asked quietly, eyes slowly moving from her friend to the stairs up to the deck. "This whole thing was a matchmaking scheme for me and Killian."

Elsa caught on immediately, dropping the butter knife she was cleaning and moving to Emma's side. Her face only sank more as Emma held up her hand, stopping her advance.

"No.” The word seemed to ring out in the quiet of the cabin, punctuated only by the sloshing of waves against the hull of the ship. They were getting choppier now, a sure sign that rain was on its way, but Emma could barely hear them at all. “This was a pit stop, Elsa. A pit stop. We were never supposed to meet them, and even if we did, it’s not some kind of mega-cosmic move of fate! People don’t just fall for each other in seven days, and if you think for a second that he’s not going to go running to the next blonde that accidentally finds her way into their diner...”

Emma trailed off, suddenly feeling an angry mix of nausea and emotion rolling around in her stomach. She was on the verge of tears, she knew it, and this time when Elsa moved in closer she didn’t have the focus to fight it.

“Emma,” Elsa pleaded, making her hate the softness in her voice, “Not everyone is going to leave you. Maybe they’re not —”

“I can’t do maybe!” she bit out, jaw clenched to try and keep her emotions in check. “I can’t be the subject of some game you’re trying to play because you think I need somebody!” 

She refused to look at her anymore, knowing exactly what she’d see if she did. Emma only let herself slip down onto the seat cushions near the sink once she heard her friend move away, trying to ignore the sound of a muffled voice asking if they could cut their trip short. 

She refused to let herself think of the possibility that he wanted her, even as her ears strained against her will to hear their replies. There was nothing to want, nothing he could have seen in her in just a few days that could merit whatever Elsa was imagining. She laughed humorlessly, both at the tears staining her shirt and the circumstances she found herself in. Now all the meaningful looks and orchestrated split-ups made sense. She had no idea how long they’d been doing it, and she felt like a complete idiot. 

The worst part, if she let herself admit it, was she’d been perfectly happy before. The familiar pain of longing settled down in Emma’s chest as she stared out the small port window, putting up no fight when it continued making itself a home far after she heard the motor roar to life.

Chapter Text

A/N: Sorry for the long wait, and the emotions that come with this update, but you can look forward to an extra chapter as repayment!


 

"You need any help with the bags?"

Elsa came gently forward, sliding her hand along the rain-slicked side of the car until she could see Emma's legs hanging out of the backseat. It was chillier back home than it had been by the water, somehow, and the goosebumps on her arms matched the ones on her friend's legs. She watched Emma shake her head belatedly, and that was all she could handle.

"Hey!" Emma's eyed widened as the protest left her mouth, muffled by Elsa's elbow swinging dangerously close to her chin. Her friend was crawling over her and shuffling into the seat until her hips and knees pressed into Emma's, and no amount of scooting further into the worn leather seemed to create more room. There was no escaping her now.

"I just got off the phone with Regina," Elsa told her, with cheer that didn't reach her eyes. "She said she pulled some strings with the layout design team. We've got a four-page spread to work with."

"That's good," Emma responded quietly.

"You know that means we'll have bylines on the cover," Elsa pressed. "We're going to be household names for all those fancy-pants subscribers. I think that deserves a chocolate-flavored celebration."

Emma nodded again, staring at the nail polish on her toes. It faintly registered in her somewhere that four pages was a hell of a deal for one of the summer issues, that she'd be kissing Regina's stilettos when she got back to the office for the opportunity. She and Elsa had been travel writing for years, had photographed up and down both coasts and almost all fifty states, and this was going to be their first opportunity to grace the cover of Wanderlust. It should have been the exact thing she needed to hear to bring her out of the funk she'd fallen into, but she didn't feel much like celebrating.

When she didn't answer, Elsa laid her head on Emma's shoulder and reached up to rub a consoling hand between her shoulders. Emma knew the words were coming before she said them, just as much as Elsa knew she didn't want to hear them, but she didn't shrug her off just yet.

"I just want to see you happy, Emma. Wherever that happens, and whoever that happens with, I'm here for you. Well, not here here, because I'm going to be upstairs working on the copy, but you know what I mean."

"I know," Emma replied, letting her head rest against the back of the seat. "I'll be up soon."


Elsa managed to slip out of the car with a little more grace than she'd had entering it, leaving her in the quiet. The sun poked out from the last remaining rainbclouds, taking away the morning chill and sending steam up from the pavement her feet dangled over. Everything smelled like rainfall, but she couldn't get the salty sea air out of her lungs. Her roommate didn't know it, but Elsa's words from earlier that morning kept playing in her head. At first, Emma's cruelest thoughts had come out — she'd told herself Elsa was being selfish, that she'd only wanted to set her up with Killian to spend more time with his brother — but even the angriest part of her wouldn't tolerate it. As usual, all of her anger and hollow sadness turned inward, pointing right at her heart.

He cares about you. Has feelings for you. Wants you to stick around.

Emma pulled her head off the seat and watched a couple of raindrops race down the window, resting her own chin where Elsa's had been. She'd been fighting off the urge to replay everything in her head for the entire ride home, without much luck, but she was determined to leave it all in the car. She and Elsa had writing to do, edits to make, and she needed a clear head if she was going to write about the little coastal town they'd left behind.


Killian retreated out to the docks after the dinner rush ended, per Liam's less-than-gentle request. His brother had every right to be frustrated with him, of course. Killian had messed up two orders, from regulars, no less, and being upset with himself for losing his focus wasn't helping matters. All he needed was five minutes of fresh air, five minutes of nothing but seagulls calling and the sound of cars pulling along the downtown stretch, and he could go back to the life he'd been happy with before Emma and Elsa had come to town.

The sound of glass landing on wood broke him out of his thousand-yard stare. He turned and looked at his elbow, finding a finger's worth of rum waiting for him.

"Don't worry. I left Will in charge of the kitchen," Liam reassured him, before Killian could ask. He took the glass and swirled the liquid around a little, keeping his eyes on the fading light.

"I'm not certain that's going to keep me from worrying," he answered quietly, taking a sip.

"Killian..." Liam reached up and scratched at the back of his ear, trying to find words that had the least chance of setting his brother off. Things had been fragile between them all day, and the rigid set of Killian's shoulders didn't give him much hope. "It's not your fault."

"I know," He answered tightly, turning his eyes up to look at Liam for the first time. "I had just as little idea of what you two were up to as she did."

"That's not fair," Liam said quietly.

"Fair, Liam? What's fair about pushing two people together when they were living perfectly happy the way things were? What's fair about making assumptions and orchestrating more than a week of time spent with someone else?" Killian watched his brother's eyes flicker with shame, and he set the glass back down on the weathered rail with more force than before. "She checked up on you, when you and Elsa were getting cozy with each other out here. Asked if you had good intentions, if you were worth her getting to know in the time she had here. It's all I could bloody well think of when they drove off this morning. "

Liam had the decency to look ashamed, but he didn't let Killian's statement stand on its own for long.

"I wouldn't have done a thing if I didn't think the both of you weren't interested in each other."

"She's not," he spat out, remembering the careful distance she'd set between them. Even when Emma was close, watching whales breach the surface and brushing his side, a part of her had felt far away.

"You're sure about that? I may not do things the way you like them to be done, but I don't do them without reason. There's going to come a time when you have to let yourself feel something again."

The words bit at him more sharply than Liam intended. They didn't often speak of Milah, or the hurt that still made his heartbeats a little heavier, but now Liam was tearing a hole in his carefully constructed walls as if they'd never been built to begin with.

"I'm not saying you're wrong about what happened," he continued, turning his own eyes out toward the water with an air of finality, all the fight seemed to leave him in one long sigh, "but I am telling you this: a man who doesn't fight for what he wants deserves what he gets."

Liam pushed off the side of the dock rail then, making his way back to the kitchen, and Killian only spoke up after the door closed, leaving him alone with the pounding waves and the setting sun.

"Maybe next time."


Emma sat staring at the pile of clothes in her small suitcase, trying to figure out how long she could get away with doing laundry and setting her clothes in her drawers. It always felt pointless, unpacking when another trip was always waiting just on the horizon. Maybe more time on the road would help, she thought, sinking down and folding one of her legs under her. Maybe somewhere with piney mountains or sprawling flatlands would help her remember the way traveling always made her feel. There was almost nothing like the feeling of the road flying underneath her, of watching the miles tick up on her odometer. Thinking about it seemed to make her feel better, so she went downstairs to suggest it to Elsa herself.

"I was thinking of not unpacking," she started, approaching Elsa where she'd perched in the living room. "If Regina's feeling generous enough to give us a four-page spread, she might feel like sending us out again early."

She should have known better than to expect eager agreement from the woman in front of her. Instead of asking what Emma meant, she only closed her laptop and set it on the floor next to her chair.

"Emma, I really do feel terrible about what I did. You know that, right?"

"I know, and I'm not mad. Not at you, at least, that's not —" she stalled, wondering if acting surprised about her abrupt reply was worth the effort. "I just thought that maybe a change of scenery would help."

Elsa looked at her with sympathy and made room for Emma to sink down on the couch next to her, turning all of her attention on her friend. When Emma didn't choose to say anything else, she mustered up all of the thoughts she'd been gathering before Emma was ready to hear them. Now seemed a good a time as any.

"Emma, I know you. I know you'd rather hurt yourself than let someone else have the chance to do it, but I also know you weren't born that way. You and him have that in common, apparently."

Emma looked up, confused at where the conversation was headed.

"Liam told me a few things about Killian while you were whale watching together," she explained, trying to help Emma understand. "To me, it sounded like he's exactly as scared of being left behind as you."

She sat for a wide-eyed moment, taking in the meaning of Elsa's words. Thankfully, her friend didn't begrudge her the silence.

"I don't know him any better than you, and I can't promise you'll go off sailing into the sunset without a hitch," Elsa continued, her voice somehow urgent and gentle all at once. "But I meant what I said before. We've got a good thing going here, you and me, but this doesn't have to be it."

"What made you so sure he — what made you think he felt the same before?" Emma finally asked, afraid of the answer as much as the question itself. Elsa brightened before she even answered and turned to face Emma fully this time, the softness never leaving her eyes.

"I wasn't, at first," she started, surprising Emma again. "but then I realized it was because he's so similar to you. He puts his guard up differently, with flirty looks and charm, but it's still obvious when you look at it the right way." She saw that Emma didn't look convinced, so she continued on. "And then I saw the way he paid attention to you. As far as he was concerned, we were basically tourists, but he wanted to remember you, Emma. He had this look in his eyes — I know you think these things are cheesy as hell, but bear with me — it looked like hope."

As much as she wanted to write her words off, as much she wanted to disagree, Emma knew she was right. She'd seen it for herself, felt it for herself. There had been a lingering sort of feeling around Killian after the first few days, after she got past the good looks and the inviting, small-town attitude he'd put on display. She knew he'd been as clueless as she was about the entire thing. She knew she'd left with little more than a muttered thank-you-goodbye to give to him, after all of the welcome he'd shown her. What she didn't know was the extent of the truth in Elsa's words. Two weeks of knowing someone wasn't enough to know everything, and she was certain it wasn't enough for him to be sure about her, especially if he was as similar to her as Elsa claimed.

She sat for a while, giving Elsa silent permission to continue her work on the article as those two weeks replayed in her mind. Her eyes were set on the pictures of bright coastal towns and her roommate's intermittent writing, but she couldn't focus enough to even edit helpfully. The racing feeling in her blood was picking up with every heartbeat, and when she finally spoke her own voice sounded distant.

"What if we're wrong?" Emma asked, startling Elsa a little. "What if he's not hoping for anything?"

Elsa's answering smile was a little disconcerting, but she felt the unmistakable feeling of hope flutter in her chest.

"Well...then I wouldn't say no to a trip to the mountains."

Emma stood up slowly, her feet carrying her to the dish that held their keys and spare change, and wondered when exactly her body planned on waking up. Things like this were reserved for movie montages, for overplayed song lyrics, not for regular people who tended to ruin their own lives before someone else could.

"Go on," Elsa encouraged as her fingers traced over the keyring, turning her attention back to the computer in front of her. "Call me when you're there."

Chapter Text

"Fair, Liam?”  He had asked. Well, Killian thought a little bitterly to himself, spat was a better word to describe the tone he’d taken with his brother.  “What's fair about pushing two people together when they were living perfectly happy the way things were?"

That was just it — he wasn't perfectly happy with the way things were. He had managed something like it before, but there was no returning to the way his life had felt in the weeks before Emma Swan blew into town. She'd barely left twenty-four hours ago, and discontented loneliness had seemingly irrevocably taken her place, following him around the restaurant like the persistent morning fog that clung to the windows. 

He forced himself to find his way downstairs before the day grew too long — Saturdays were by far the slowest day of the week, but they were still open, and Will had yet to show up for work. It was getting impossible to tell which days he actually had off at this point, but Killian kept his mouth shut as he scrubbed his hands clean.

He only ever realized how much he missed a quiet kitchen when their newest hire was gone. The hiss of onions caramelizing, the sizzle of Liam's catch of the day as it seared on the griddle, the hypnotizing rhythm of vegetables being chopped against a wooden cutting board — it all fell together with the sound of lapping waves that floated through the open bay window, the exact distraction he needed. Killian found it much easier to focus on cooking than on his own problems, especially ones he should have been able to forget by now.  Try as he might to focus on cutting perfectly bite-sized pieces of salmon in front of him, his mind kept trailing out the door, and he nearly cut himself for lack of attention. 

He simply couldn't convince himself that Emma was someone to forget.


 

"I can barely hear you, Emma. What's going on?"

"I'm in traffic," Emma repeated impatiently, sagging in her seat. She'd given up on craning her neck to see how much longer she would be idling behind the moving van, all the energy from her gas station coffee having left her system hours ago.

"Nearest exit?" Elsa suggested helpfully.

"Two miles back."

Emma heard her pause and tried picturing the conversation as if she was still back at home — Elsa was likely still in her pajamas, draped across the couch with a bowl of cereal gracefully balanced on her stomach and her braid dangling all the way down to the floor. Their tv would be on in the background, completely ignored as she skimmed over work emails on her phone, and everything would be as peaceful and quiet as her impromptu road trip hadn't been. It wasn't the first time Emma had considered turning around by any means — this time, it was the world stopping her instead of her friend’s reassuring voice on the other line.

"Would it help if I told you Regina loves the pictures you took? She went on for a while about the article itself — I'm high fiving you over the phone right now, so you know — but she loved all of it."

"Really?" Emma frowned a little, unable to help feeling suspicious after receiving genuine praise from her boss. Regina Mills was the Miranda Priestly of the travel publishing world, and it wasn't often that she even mentioned Emma's photography work, even when she let it feature prominently in the magazine. "What'd she say?"

"Let me pull up the email...she said she'd never wanted to go and visit a tiny seaside town before in her life until she looked over what we sent her."

"Wow." Emma tried picturing their boss' sleek car parked on the side of the cobbled street. She could see Regina now, her expression disdainful and her expectations low as she pushed the door and was greeted by the bustle of a small-town lunch rush, trying her best not to touch the grease stains on the plastic menus. It made her smile until she pictured Regina encountering the brothers that ran the place.

Never mind that she was eventually going to end up in the same place she could still picture so vividly in a few short hours — Emma was still nervous. She'd made them leave so abruptly, cut ties with Killian and his brother before they could even explain their side of what was going on, and she was sure the time that had stretched between now and then wasn't helping her case. If Killian even wanted to hear her out, it was going to be messy. Emma had refused to let herself get this far for so long, and she wasn't sure she remembered how to willingly put her heart on the line.

"Maybe now's a good time to practice what you're going to say to him," Elsa told her, realizing what the dead air between them was about.

"You say that like I already have something in mind."

"Well you've got to have something," she argued. "You're about an hour away, right?"

"Assuming I don't spend the night in this car," Emma whined, inching herself that much closer to the next vehicle ahead. She wasn't sure if she even wanted the traffic to get moving again — it was a much better excuse to stall than any others she could have dreamt up. Emma watched a few fat droplets slide down her windshield as Elsa brainstormed. She had no doubt that the storm was slowing things down, but knowing the why didn't help her any. 

"You don't have to tell him everything, Emma," Elsa said, her voice growing more gentle. "He'll understand you even if the words aren't edited and proofread."

Emma stared at the sky ahead of her, unsure if she believed her friend's words for the moment. People didn't call her prickly because she was easy to know.

"What would you do if it was you?" She asked tentatively, watching the brake lights die on the truck in front of her. 

"If it were me? I'd kiss him first, and explain myself later."


 

It was as if she'd never left the place. Emma pulled into town and drove the short stretch of downtown until she found herself parked in the same spot she and Elsa had chosen last time, trying desperately to convince her heart that it didn't need to beat so quickly. One look at the brightly colored storefronts and the small, cheerful signs that adorned them had her sure that another moment spent waiting in the car was unthinkable. Getting out of the car was easy; it was the actual act of walking up to the door and pushing herself back into a world she'd convinced herself wasn't hers that took effort.

The warm, inviting scent of food was just as present in the misty air as it had been the day they arrived, and it welcomed her without prejudice as she stepped inside. Neither Liam nor Killian were present, at least from what she could see, and she wasn't sure whether that made things better or worse. Elsa had been able to help her organize her thoughts to some extent, but every minute that passed took some of her nerve with it.

She sat herself down at the very last seat of the bar and drew imaginary patterns in the wood grain, telling herself that she wouldn't have long to wait. She'd come all this way to speak to him, and the one place he was sure to be was his own restaurant.

Except he wasn't there. She sat through the morning rush, politely telling the tall, lanky busboy running around the place that she didn't need anything besides the coffee he'd brought her earlier, but she was barely containing herself now. Maybe he did know she was here. Maybe he'd snuck out a back door to avoid her. Emma figured she deserved no less — it wasn't much different from what she'd done herself. The coffee, as rich as it was, was a poor substitute for the sleep she'd lost driving here, and the fragile hope that Elsa had managed to instill in her on the drive over was slowly receding, like the tide she could see out the window.

Emma shoved the stool away from the bar and stood up, making her way across the quiet floor of the restaurant and out the door to the docks. She needed somewhere to think, somewhere to make up an actual plan for herself, because suddenly everything she had to say felt insignificant. 

Sorry I'm emotionally screwed up. Sorry I'm incapable of letting myself be happy without being terrified. Sorry I couldn't even say sorry before I left...and I’m sorry that I left in the first place. 

She muttered the words under her breath and let them fall into the ocean below, not noticing the shuffle of footsteps on the wooden planks behind her.

“I’d pretend to be surprised you were here, but Elsa contacted me. Thought it made sense to be honest this time,” Liam told her, leaning against the side of the railing. “It was just to make sure you got here safe.”

Emma was still catching up with his sudden presence at her side, but she could understand the second meaning in his words. It meant that her arrival hadn't gone unnoticed, even with a message from her friend. She looked up at him, expecting to see a warm, guilty smile on his face. What she got instead was an expression as unreadable as the opaque sky behind him.

"When you left, you didn't explain yourself. Elsa took the time to tell me about your work after the fact, but I know we scared you off. I wanted to apologize for my actions, too."

"Thank you," Emma was ready to make her apologies, too, but Liam held up his hand.

"I mean it, Emma. It felt like my brother and I had gotten to know the both of you for far longer than the two weeks you spent here. I took liberties I wouldn't have on someone I felt like I knew less. And, as you've probably gathered, my feelings for Elsa may have skewed my perspective a fair bit."

Emma finally found it in her to smile. At least she hadn't managed to destroy that with her rash decisions.

"I didn't mean to do the whole dramatic scene thing. You and Killian showed us a hell of a good time, I'm just...not good at letting myself be happy, I guess."

He chuckled, and comfortable silence fell on both of them. Emma felt a new appreciation for the older brother's persistence, for the almost paternal comfort his stocky frame gave her just by standing close. She'd come to apologize to the younger Jones brother, but talking to Liam now made her realize how important his feelings were to her, too. How had they managed to wedge themselves in her heart so soon?

The clouds remained as she told him about Regina's compliments — apparently, small town restaurants were the new high-end bistros as far as the tastes of the rich and traveled went —  and promised an advance copy would be making its way to their door. She was stalling in earnest, now that they stood next to each other with understanding and forgiveness stretching between them. 

He had yet to mention Killian at all, and she was starting to wonder why. There was a chance that he was simply waiting for her to ask for herself, or that he was simply trying to save her a little heartache. Her eyes fell to inspect the watch on her wrist, fingers slipping under the leather band as she tested her question in her mind before speaking it aloud, finally making it real.

"I came back to talk to Killian," she confessed, unable to pull her eyes back up to him just yet. "I was hoping I'd run into him before it got too late so I could explain. That's assuming he wants to talk to me at all."

"I won't lie to you, he's been frustrated," Liam admitted, not sure how much was safe to say. He recalled Killian's lack of focus in the kitchen and how it had turned to almost obsessive focus instead. He'd never seen more symmetrically cut lemon wedges in his entire life. Killian always tended to be harder on himself than anyone else. "And I think you two have stubbornness in common...but I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't staring out the upstairs window right now, watching us have this conversation."

Emma wouldn't let herself turn and look, but she watched the reflection of Liam's eyes as they turned back up toward the restaurant behind them, searching the reflection for a silhouette she was still a little afraid to see.

"There's a stairway by the back door that leads up to our loft," Liam encouraged, his voice softer than before. "You're welcome to use it, if you don't want to wait for him to get his nerve up."

She didn’t get halfway up the steps before she heard the door at the top opening up.


 

"Emma?"

He didn't look as haggard as Liam's description had her expecting. There was a new tightness to his eyes that hurt — he never looked at her like that before she gave him a reason to — but otherwise, Killian was exactly as she'd left him a day ago. If he was surprised that she was back at all, he was doing a good job of hiding it in his tone.

"Hi," she answered back. "Can I come up?"

Killian pulled the door open further and let her in, silently welcoming her into a modest, airy living room. Like restaurant downstairs, the place was cluttered and colorful, filled with obvious memories of the brothers' lives together. A large, square casement window sat slightly open behind the sectional couch and a blush colored Emma's cheeks. If he had been standing watching her speak to his brother, he would have heard every word. 

"Would you like anything to drink?"

He caught her attention again with the polite request, which was more a reminder for her to say what she came here to say than anything else. She hated the formality in his voice, missed the little crinkle at the corner of his eyes when he usually looked at her, and for one wild second she considered Elsa's solution to everything. He wasn't so far away that she couldn't reach out for his shirtsleeve and tug him right to her. Not physically, at least.

"I'm a travel writer," Emma blurted out, catching him off-guard with the strange explanation. "I pay month-to-month rent in a city I barely live in, and I'm on my second passport. I go from place to place and stay just long enough to get the assignment done. I've gotten so good at saying goodbye I've basically stopped saying hello to begin with."

He'd stopped still on his way toward their open kitchen, and she couldn't keep her eyes off of his. His surprise was obvious enough now, but she was too deep into her haphazardly prepared speech to stop and question it. 

"We weren't even supposed to stop in here — the food was really, really good, but our assignment was the next town up. We just got off the end of this annual road trip...we were going to wrap everything up with a story about coastal New England life because it was convenient. You screwed everything up."

"How's that?" Killian's shifted back where he stood, and Emma was sure he was taking it badly. There was a decision waiting to be made in his eyes, and her poorly cobbled sentences weren't helping.

"You're the first person I knew I was going to miss when I left."

The look in his eyes shifted, and Emma's fell to the floor beneath her shoes. When he didn't say anything she nodded to herself, biting her lip and thinking it was probably for the best. Hours of driving didn't mean she had earned his forgiveness, even when she'd been as honest with him as she could. 

"Anyway, I don't mean to take up your time off, or anything. I just wanted to apologize for screwing up whatever it was we were starting to have."

 

Slow footsteps made their way to her ears, but her eyes were closed. A hand fell on her shoulder and she squinted to fight the tears back, wishing he could have just let her down from the other side of the room where he'd been before. Careful fingers lightly squeezed her arm, and a soft voice asked her to open her eyes. Emma wasn't ready, but she looked at him anyway.

"I missed you too."

Killian's hand moved carefully off her shoulder, his fingers skimming the side of her neck before they wove into the hair behind her ear. He took his time pulling her close, making himself clear, and Emma's eyes fluttered shut by themselves when his lips came to hers. She didn't end up needing to pull him to her at all as he kissed her, but Emma's hand found its way up to his chest anyway. Her other found the scar on his cheek, the one she'd been craving to map out since it first caught her attention. If she thought she had his full attention before, she'd been mistaken. His lips were soft and gentle, and his hands were warm and steadying everywhere they held her. 

The salty air in the room tasted sweeter once she pulled herself away to breathe. Emma felt like she was getting off far too easy, all things considered, but Killian refused to let her apologize when she tried it again. His argument was she wasn't gone long enough for him to get mad at her in the first place, that he'd blamed his brother for most of what had gone wrong, and he wouldn't have her explain that, either.

"For the record," Killian told her, still brushing his thumb across the side of her temple, "I only came to the window right as Liam pointed me out. He's always had a flair for the dramatics."

"You're talking to a woman who drove half the night, sat in hours of traffic and almost turned around twice to get here."

"I'm well aware." He smirked, and the crinkle at the corner of his eyes came back. "I'm glad you did...and I'm hoping you're not planning to do the same tonight."

He had a point. That much time on the road had already taken a considerable amount of energy out of her. "Does Granny rent out rooms in the afternoon?"

She didn't, it turned out, but Killian had a suitable backup plan.


 

Emma had always been able to fall asleep in new places. It came with her traveler's spirit, the easy ability to slip off almost anywhere she rested; spending the night with a heart free from the weight she'd woken up carrying made it that much easier. She'd woken up early, a vaguely familiar, musical noise stirring her from her sleep, but her alarm hadn't gone off yet. Sitting up and brushing her hair out of her eyes, Emma searched for the source, listening intently for a repeat performance as the gulls called overhead. 

"It's whale song," Killian said, suddenly appearing in the doorway of the cabin. The entire sailboat shifted as he made his way down the steps, carrying two plates of breakfast on his arm, and Emma turned her quirked eyebrow on him to ask for a better explanation. "They're always a bit boisterous like this after a good rain."

"Oh." She made room for him to sit next to her on the bed and smiled shyly. It seemed like he'd been up for a while, already dressed in his work clothes and attending to the breakfast crowd, and she felt a bit guilty for pulling him away from his work. "I could have come inside. You didn't have to bring this out here."

"Maybe I wanted some peace and quiet," he shot back, handing her a fork. "It gets a bit crowded with three of us in the kitchen."

"Fair enough." Emma forgot to care about morning breath and how rumpled last nights' clothes probably looked on her after being slept in. She leaned in and caught his lips in a quick kiss, mumbling good morning as she pulled away.  

"How much time do you have before you need to go back in?" She asked him as they ate, watching sea spray hit the porthole window.

"Liam and Will can handle it. Why?"

"I don't want to leave the boat just yet," she said plainly, still getting used to the taste of easy honesty on her tongue.

"Well then," Killian answered, taking a quick glance out the window at the rising sun outside before turning his gaze back to her, "Mind if I stay awhile?"

The End.