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Don't Even Think About It

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He loved her from the start. But wasn’t that always how these things went? Even as an orphan he was well aware of the fairy tales, the true love meetings and the stars in your eyes when you met your soulmate or… whatever you wanted to call them. And this girl – she was most certainly his.

Which was shit luck, really. Because there was zero chance in this realm (or any other) that he would be hers. No, she was too beautiful, too clever, too kind. She had the face of a bloody angel but could kick your sorry arse to Arendelle if she felt you were behaving in a manner unbecoming of your station. Well, her phrase was “acting like a fucking idiot” but Killian tried to pretend she wasn’t so crass – and that he didn’t find it terribly attractive (but it was).

In truth, he didn’t know who she was. He knew her name was Emma and she was probably 13 or 14 – just a smidge younger than himself – and he would always see her walking down the shoreline or climbing among the trees or getting into heated arguments with kids years older than herself about politics and health and love. But she’d also help people carry things or talk to them when they seemed like they were having a bad day. She was a perceptive one – well, when it came to anyone but poor Killian.

She looked straight through him. He wanted to believe that wasn’t a contributing factor to why he loved her so much (and so quickly), but it was just so intriguing. He’d been blessed with a pretty face and messy hair girls loved to run their fingers through and, of course, a lean figure (thanks to all the time he spent working on boats at the docks for cash). So, yes, he got quite a bit of attention from the fairer sex without having to try very hard – but he was also a charming one, so with just a little effort they were usually putty in his hands.

Not that he ever really touched. But he knew he could if he tried and that was a powerful feeling.

But nowhere near as powerful as the tug in his chest when she (so very rarely) looked him in the eyes.

Like now.

He hadn’t even known she was at the market. How that golden hair and ogre-sized attitude had eluded him he wasn’t sure – he was usually hyperaware of her existence anywhere – but there she was, staring at him from across the apple stand like for once she actually noticed he was a living, breathing human with a beating heart (that seemed to beat only for her these days – god he was in trouble).

Though in that moment there was something a bit more important than his own ridiculous infatuation – he needed to make sure Mulan was all right.

“I’m sorry, lass, I didn’t mean to jump in there,” Killian said, offering his hand to help the girl up.

“I appreciate your help, Jones. I was certainly outnumbered and they caught me by surprise. I’m generally much more prepared than that.” Mulan stood up, carefully brushing herself off and controlling her expression once again, allowing the cool, detached mask to transform her soft features.

Mulan was a tough lass. Maybe the toughest he knew. But kids could be assholes and rumors just fueled their asshole fire and ever since Mulan started spending more time with Princess Aurora the rumors had just flown. Some criticized the friendship since Mulan was “nothing but a general’s daughter” (as if fighting for a kingdom was somehow less worthy than being born to own it). Others speculated that the friendship was more than just friends – at least from Mulan’s side – and they somehow deemed that kind of relationship unacceptable.

It was an attack on the latter rumor that led to Killian unleashing his sharp sword and even sharper words that it wasn’t anyone’s place to make assumptions, and even if those assumptions were accurate, that was no place for criticism.

“Love is love, you imbeciles. Why do you give a fuck who anyone else loves, unless you’re just jealous that you’re not?” He’d said, the tip of his blade against the neck of a kid his own age who’d been the ringleader of the attack on Mulan.

And no, it was not an overreaction, despite what the witnesses said to the guards when they arrived. It was bad form – the worst form, indeed – to attack a person’s character in such a manner. Those kids needed to learn it now before they grew up to spread their closed-minded idiocy.

Anyway. Back to the stare. The blonde beautiful girl who’d captured his heart stared straight into his eyes as the guards led him out of the market (without a chance for him to even purchase his goddamn food – just wonderful).

He stumbled back toward the docks, hoping he could scavenge a snack from an empty boat to do something about his empty stomach.

 


 

She loved him from the start. It was a problem. This wasn’t allowed to happen to her.

Was. Not.

Sure, her parents were literally famous for their fluffy happy perfect fucking true love, but Emma was not about to follow in their footsteps. The apple was going to fall far from that tree.

(Well the apples weren’t going to fall from anywhere because her family didn’t exactly eat apples since the incident and blah blah blah. You get the point.)

She didn’t want an epic love story. She wanted to grow up to be a great leader, to serve the people of the Enchanted Forest, to make a difference in the world. For the whole realm, not just one fucking person.

And goddamn but she already knew she’d gladly let the kingdom burn just to look at those blue eyes one more time.

So, you see, it was a problem.

The first time she saw him was at the beach. He was lying against a short dune, propped up on his rolled up vest, just watching the horizon, seemingly smiling at nothing but the gently crashing waves and slowly ebbing tide. She’d never seen a kid so relaxed, so calm, so sure of his own existence.

She was wound tight. That came with the stress of being royalty, of course, but it was especially true when she was trying to desperately to be a new kind of royalty. The princess, though barely a teenager, was already trying to get to know her people, to spread positivity and warmth and happiness – and, of course, to set idiots straight when they were acting like ignorant fools.

Her words and actions probably weren’t as influential as she hoped they would be – since no one actually knew she was the princess. She walked the streets in regular clothes, talking colloquially and never shying away from a bit of mud or soot. The princess was always hidden away as a child, based on the threats from Regina after her attempted curse had failed. Once Snow and Regina had settled their differences and the threat was no longer, the princess’s face was still never revealed to the kingdom – in fact, they never even announced her name. Subsequently, the rumors she’d hear about herself were usually quite unflattering, assuming she was hiding something – maybe a pig’s nose like Princess Penelope had been.

No, in fact she was quite beautiful – not surprising considering she was the offspring of the fairest of them all and the most charming – and that beauty gave her power. She knew it was often the reason she had a captive audience (a little creepy considering how young she was, but whatever – her mom taught her how to handle herself against anyone who tried to hurt her, so she’d be just fine). But it was really her anonymity that gave her the most power. She knew things, heard things, discovered things that she would never have if she’d been known. No one holds back on political opinions on account of a pretty teenage girl being within earshot.

Yeah, she had more power now than she ever might as Queen (well, it felt like it anyway).

And yet none of that held a damn candle to the powerful pull she felt toward the boy resting on the beach.

She mostly refused to speak with him, even when they were in the same crowds, even when she could clearly hear the soft lilting of his voice. He sounded tired a lot of the time, far more exhausted than any teenage kid should be (he looked to be only a couple years older than her at most). But he held the exhaustion of all those worked-to-the-bone peasant grown-ups deep behind his smiling blue eyes.

She never heard him talk about himself, really, or his family. He liked to tell jokes and make people smile, and he never seemed to fill the silence unnecessarily. He’d finish a conversation and just go back to people-watching or walking or napping or whatever he might do. Emma often wondered why she saw him so often. She was out among the people doing what amounted to a reconnaissance mission. What was his deal that he never seemed to just go home?

Emma walked to the market one afternoon with no intent to observe or any of her other princess-related duties – she merely needed to gather supplies so she and her “aunt” Ruby (who was really just a few years older than her) could make dinner.

Then she heard him.

She heard him stand up for Mulan, whom he hardly knew. Felt her heart skip when he said the word love like it wasn’t a poison but a blessing. Saw his defensive strikes against the bullies of the market. The guards (her guards, though they didn’t recognize her or they’d have dropped to their knees in apology) nearly knocked her over as they shoved past her to get to the boy, his sword held to the aggressor’s throat.

And he was looking right at her as they hauled him away, a look like magic in his eyes. Like maybe he was staring into the eyes of a kindred spirit.

She should avoid him. It couldn’t be love. No matter what she felt, she couldn’t get caught up in it. So she shouldn’t even speak to him. Shouldn’t so much as look him in the eyes when passing him down the street. But her life, as full and busy as it was (and as cared for as she was), lacked something. There was a missing piece to her puzzle and as ridiculous and impossible as it seemed, she was inexplicably sure he was the key to finding it.

 


Bread. Stale bread. That’s all he could find on the ship before the occupants were returning and he was tossing himself over the side of the boat, latching himself onto the railing of the dock (and almost dropping his daily sustenance right in the damn water in the process). After a bit of a struggle of limbs and balance and pride , Killian finagled himself over the railing and onto the boardwalk and seated himself on a bench facing the water.

“Well you put on quite the show, sailor,” he heard from behind him.

That voice. He’d heard its timbre, its melody a hundred different times directed at dozens of different people, its tones ranging from sweet to chastising to firm to… well this time it was teasing.

And it was most certainly directed at him.

He turned his head to see those same eyes staring back at him, the ones that were boring into his as he was so inelegantly dragged away less than a half hour ago.

“I aim to entertain, love,” he replied with a smirk. The expression probably didn’t achieve its usual effect considering his heart was hammering in his chest and his eyes were practically popping out of his skull with surprise because how in this realm or any other had the girl who captured his heart finally noticed his pathetic existence?

She sat down next to him without invitation, offering her hand and her name.

“I’m Emma. And you…”

He took her hand and squeezed. “I’m Killian, love. Killian Jones.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon talking.

There were things he revealed (and things he didn’t).

Like how he loved boats (he worked on them, too).

He had a brother (who was now dead).

His parents’ cottage was just down the valley and over the hill (but they weren’t there).

They talked about fruits and carriages and the sexism of riding sidesaddle. She complimented his good form in swordsmanship and his even better form in standing up against assholes bullies.

She was fire and ice all at once, a storm and the most peaceful meadow you could imagine. Now that she’d looked at him, spoke to him, shared with him – he didn’t know how he’d ever go back to loving her from afar.

 


 

What a fucking goof. She’d no idea why he was crawling over the railing of that boat with bread hanging out his mouth but there was something incredibly hilarious about the contrast between his smooth swordsmanship and the clunky escape she was currently enjoying.

Her words clearly startled him, but he recovered quickly enough, seemingly accepting of her company when she gracelessly plopped down next to him on the splintery bench.

The feel of his hand in hers and the sound of his name rolling off his tongue – Killian – yeah, she was in way too deep and should run, run, run away right this second.

But instead – “Too bad you didn’t pocket some juicy peaches on your way out of the market. They’d be much more satisfying than that gross boat-bread.”

“I’m sorry my sustenance isn’t up to your standards, your highness.”

Her stomach dropped and she broke out into an immediate sweat. No, no, no. He knew who she was?

But the quirk of his eyebrow and the twist of his mouth and the gentle rocking of his chest as he chuckled signaled his eerily on-point sarcasm, so the actual princess just laughed along – truly laughed all the way to her belly – because it was now an inside joke between the two of them that even he didn’t understand.

They talked for hours.

There were things she told him (and things she left out).

Her favorite color was purple (because it was in their royal coat of arms).

She lived quite close to the castle (in it).

She liked people-watching (observing her subjects).

And she thought he was great with a sword (and great with his words and his hands and his face and he was just great and, yeah, she kind of loved him – no big deal, right?).

 


 

He pretended to walk toward his cottage until she was far enough in the distance that he could walk back to his bench, find his stashed blanket, and lay back and stare at the stars until he drifted off to sleep.

(Dreams were harder to chase when reality was so fucking perfect.)

(For once.)

 


 

She walked off toward the castle, cutting through the rose bushes to her own little tunnel, the one that would lead to the passage below her room. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t know about her excursions – it’s just that she couldn’t exactly walk through the main doors of the castle when no one knew who she was in the first place. She had to keep some semblance of stealthiness, even though she found a person in which she truly wanted to confide.

He’d understand, right? Princesses could have friends.

She dreamed that night of an extra place set at her parents’ long dinner table, and of the floppy haired, blue eyed boy she wished would occupy the seat.

 


 

They talked almost every day after that – in the few hours of the day that Killian wasn’t working on the ships – and he did nothing but fall further in love with the mysterious Emma. She was brilliant – absolutely the smartest, most well-spoken person he’d ever had the pleasure of talking to – despite the fact that she was almost two years his junior. Not that she appreciated being reminded of the age deficit – no, his jab at her still being a child was met with her jab to his actual face.

“I’m too handsome to have a bruise on my cheek, princess.” She flinched and then scowled.

“Then don’t call me a child, Killian.”

 


 

It was a distraction. She was spending hours each day talking to Killian when she should have been out there observing and talking and spying and behaving like a royal and not a lovestruck teenager. But his stories were captivating, his voice was intoxicating, and even his insults made her insides melt like chocolate in July.

 


 

As the weeks went on, they shared more with each other. He revealed his money troubles, the fact that he often had to steal to get by (since he was alone, he omitted). And she revealed quite the opposite – that her parents were friends of the crown and had an awful lot to spare.

“I’ll just bring you stuff, Jones! Why didn’t you ask? I thought you stole that bread to be funny.”

“Well how was I to know of your connections? All I see of you is wandering the street like me.”

“Yeah, well. The charmed life can be suffocating.” She looked away from him like there was much more to the story, but he let the silence take over, anyway.

 


 

“I haven’t been entirely truthful, Emma.” Killian bowed his head, looking broken.

Neither have I, she thought, but still panicked. She was never going to tell him he owned her heart, but she still braced herself for the very real possibility he was about to break it.

“About what, Killian?” They sat on the bench – their bench, if she was feeling possessive (she wasn’t).

“My brother, Liam. He’s… well he – he died.”

She’d never even met the guy, but a tear started streaming down her cheek. Killian had never said he didn’t have parents, but she just knew he didn’t. And now – now he was going to be all alone.

“What – what happened?”

He took a deep breath and scooted closer to her – something he almost never did, despite their familiarity, their friendship. “Well, Emma, it’s sort of a long story. But this – it’s not new. It’s been years now since he passed. Since he was taken from me. He was on a mission for our King – he was in the Navy – and there was this poison. That bloody monarch sent my brother to fight his battles for him, to play dirty on his behalf.” His voice dripped with rage and sadness. “It’s two years today since I found out.”

She wasn’t sure what stung more – his hatred for royalty or the newly discovered fact that not only was Killian alone, he’d been alone for years. He probably didn’t even live in that cottage over the hill anymore.

Emma felt sick.

 


 

He shouldn’t have said anything at all. Suddenly Emma’s beautiful, innocent face was marred with pity, with pain, with shocked horror. She was obviously putting together more facts than the ones he’d directly provided (she was brilliant, after all), and he was seconds away from dealing with the aftermath – all on a day he had wanted to reserve for mourning alone (but he couldn’t just not see her – no, on this day he needed her more than anything).

But instead of yelling at him or crying for him like she clearly wanted to, she just closed the distance between them and laid her head on his shoulder. She took his hand in hers and held it there for god knows how long until he pulled away.

“I should go home now,” Killian said, still trying to keep up the rouse that he had one.

But Emma wasn’t convinced. She reached into her satchel and pulled out several coins. “Take this. Go to Granny’s and rent a room. This will cover one full week. And don’t you dare try to tell me no, Killian Jones. I’ll cut you with your own sword if I find out you didn’t go.” She thrust the coins into his hand and stormed off, not glancing back even once.

 


 

One week. She’d bought herself one week to figure out how to get Killian a home without losing his friendship. They hadn’t talked much about the circumstances of his brother’s death, what kingdom it even occurred in, but the bite in his tone when he talked of the monarch – there was no mistaking the ire there.

Maybe it was better. Because her stupid silly crush couldn’t grow into something destructive to her own reign if it wasn’t reciprocated. In fact, if the guy hated her, maybe then she could get him out of her head and go back to doing what she’d meant to do in the first place. Be a fucking princess preparing to be a queen.

 


 

He hadn’t seen Emma in three days. He wandered the town, sat on their bench, walked past the park and the market and the beach. Nothing. No sign of the bright blonde hair and musical laugh.

No, the orphan wasn’t good enough for her. He never would have been and it was ridiculous to have thought otherwise.

 


 

“Daddy, you have to ask him,” Emma demanded.

“Sweetheart, I’m happy to help him out. I’ve actually seen the kid working on boats before. I’d assumed – well, hoped, anyway – that he was there shadowing his father or something. He’s a hard worker. A good kid. But if what you said is true and he hates royalty, why would he trust me any?”

Her father had a valid point, but Emma couldn’t think of a plan that didn’t involve royalty since she was it.

“He’s good with boats and ships, dad. And he needs somewhere to go. Tell him you’ll house him if he’ll join your Navy. Or just offer to house him without the Navy part. He could work in the kitchen! Or, I don’t know, scrubbing the castle walls? I just think he’d be happier by the water. But maybe the Navy part would be too upsetting. Just please.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were smitten with this young man, princess.” Her dad scowled, but only playfully. He always said he never wanted to let his little girl go, but also that he hoped she’d end up as happy as he and the Queen one day.

“It’s not like that, father. He’s a good guy. I watched him stand up for Mulan when she was being bullied for her relationship with Aurora. He doesn’t deserve to be alone. He could work here, make friends here, and most of all not sleep on a damn bench out in the rain!”

Her impassioned speech did nothing to dim her father’s smirk, but he agreed to ask, in the end, and that’s all that mattered.

 


 

On the fourth day he didn’t even bother going to look for Emma. She’d obviously had enough of him, so he’d spend his hours off lying in bed rather than wasting his energy trying to casually run into someone who’d clearly run away from him.

But then the knocking started.

“There’s someone here to see you, boy, and you’d better make yourself look presentable before you come down to greet him.” Granny was like the mother he’d never really had and she’d only known him a few days.

“It must be a mistake, Granny. No one even knows I’m here.”

“Oh, someone knows, all right. Clean up and come to the foyer and be polite.”

Emma was the only one who knew where he was, but it couldn’t possibly be her. Granny surely would have said something about your girl, as she was so fond of calling her, ever since she saw the disappointment in his face at the end of the night when she’d never showed. Plus, Granny had said him.

So, out of curiosity, he fixed his hair and righted his clothing and descended the stairs and the gentleman at the door turned around –

And it was the fucking King.

“Good afternoon, Killian. I’m King David.” He reached out his hand toward Killian like they were equals, like they were friends, like he knew and respected him somehow, and not like he was a worthless orphan.

What in the actual hell was happening?

Killian’s body responded before his mind did, reaching his hand toward the King and grasping.

“Your Highness, to what do I owe this pleasure?” He asked, his voice strong and steady, despite his absolute confusion.

“I’m here to offer you a job, Mr. Jones.”

Killian didn’t fully comprehend much after that, hearing words like “kitchen” and “ship” and “your own room” and “on my daughter’s word.”

His daughter’s? How in the hell would the reclusive princess have any damn idea about Killian’s work ethic? No one knew Killian’s work ethic who still walked this realm except for Emma, and she –

Emma.

A family who was “friends of the crown.”

More like was the fucking crown.

Fantastic. He’d bloody well fallen in love with the Crown Princess of the Enchanted Forest. So much for almost unattainable. Let’s upgrade that to don’t even think about it, Jones.

But he kept his cool. “Ah, lovely to meet the father of my closest friend at last. And how is your dear daughter? She seems to have forgotten of my existence, Your Highness. I’m surprised she’d recommend me for a job.” He probably shouldn’t have been so flippant, but there was something just so ironic that a royal was again smashing his life to pieces. Admittedly this was much more pleasant a destruction than the last time, but alas, it was a destruction nonetheless.

“Jones, I want to be honest with you. My daughter is somewhat terrified you’ll never speak to her again. She’s concerned that her grand lie of omission paired with your distaste for royalty has ruined her chances at being your friend. But she still wanted you safe and doing something you liked. Hence, my offer.”

Killian was dumbfounded. Then his mind wandered back over his conversations with Emma – his abhorrence for the King who killed his brother, the way he so scathingly used princess as an insult. No wonder she kept her secret so long.

He should refuse the King, insist that he could make it on his own. Just another year or so and he could join the Navy in earnest, could get a true job working on ships or in a tavern. He could survive on his own until then. What he probably couldn’t survive would be harboring an all-consuming love for the goddamn princess while living under the same roof. No, that would burn him from the inside out. She might have been young yet, but those royal types start their courting awfully early and the thought of watching her take a moonlit stroll with some royal wanker from some other idiot kingdom was nothing short of unbearable.

Logically, he couldn’t do this. It would only end poorly and painfully and with his own soul shattered to pieces. But the pull toward her was like an addiction.

He finally answered his King: “Well, if the lady insists. I’ll accept, Your Highness.”

Aye, this would end poorly indeed.

Chapter Text

Since moving to the castle a week prior, he saw Emma – the fucking princess – even less than he had before. In fact, the only times he’d even seen her face had been brief and had only been met by shock and horror from her; she’d duck down whatever hallway or common room was closest.

Killian had hoped that her insistence on him moving to the castle suggested at least an inkling of desire to continue their friendship, but her steadfast avoidance of him suggested otherwise.

She’d been seen spending countless hours with Killian – perhaps she simply didn’t want to be known for cavorting with the orphan. So she gave him a home and a job and took away the only friend he’d ever had. Fair trade, right?

 


 

Her father told her that Killian had accepted his offer and she was elated – the thought of him alone in the world had upset her so much she hadn’t slept a full night since finding out.

Of course, she hadn’t talked to him since then either. So that could be a contributing factor to the sleep deprivation.

(Such things happen when you realize you’re in love with someone who probably hates you now.)

She’d seen him a few times and they’d locked eyes briefly each time. He’d tried to catch her attention each time, clearly wanting to talk, but Emma simply couldn’t handle his pain or rage or seemingly righteous indignation that she hid from him a very important fact about her identity that just so happened to break his trust in her entirely.

So she ran away from him. Every time for two weeks, the second she saw his face she’d run down a hallway or duck into a closet or start speaking with a random member of the staff who was going in the opposite direction from him so she wouldn’t have to have the conversation she was so deeply dreading.

 


 

He decided on Naval service. Working in the kitchen or anywhere else in the castle was just too hard when he was being ignored by the only person in the castle he really cared about, so he chose a path that would mean he’d only be in the castle late at night; in fact, eventually he wouldn’t come back at all – once he was assigned to a ship he would be required to make each journey with it for weeks or months at a time.

Which would break his heart – if there was anything (anyone) in the castle that might be sad to see him go.

 

He started out as a deckhand on the Jewel of the Realm on the first morning of the third week he’d lived in the castle. Mostly responsible for small tasks like cleaning and swabbing and maintenance and pulling the right ropes at the right time (things he was well-versed in already), Killian had far too much time to think.

(Mostly about the princess. Always about the princess.)

But he still made friends.  

There were the guys training him, of course – Robin and Jefferson. The two of them were older than Killian, each well-liked soldiers with families at home. Jefferson’s daughter Grace was all he ever really talked about and Robin’s wife Marian often walked down by the water so their son Roland could wave hello to his father. The two men were often very big-brothery toward Killian, which was equal parts comforting and heartbreaking, so he just tried not to think about it too much.

Then there were the other Lost Boys. While not truly orphans, other boys around Killian’s age had found work on the Jewel for various other reasons – needing to make money for their struggling parents, needing something to keep them busy and out of trouble, or just wanting to get acquainted with life on a ship for when they intended to officially join the Royal Navy.

Smee was of the first variety. His father had passed many years before, leaving his mother with four children to take care of on only her wages as a seamstress. King David, the giving fellow he was, offered to help in any way he could. The family, not wishing for any kind of handout, gladly accepted the King’s offer to give the oldest son a job on one of his most prized ships.

Smee’s best friend was a lanky little fellow named Peter, who happened to be of the second variety – the kind who just needed to keep out of trouble. He was older than Killian, actually, but was entirely averse to the idea of adulthood – preferring to cause trouble of his own while gathering hoards of younger boys to do the same. He was such a “bad influence” that Queen Snow had actually sentenced him to this job rather than throwing him in jail for his most recent bout of teenage rebellion (involving explosives during the yearly festival – Killian wasn’t there, of course, but Emma had talked about it back when they were still friends and apparently it had caused quite the commotion).

Killian spent all of his time with those two misfits and they found an easy rhythm – working, of course, but also chatting and even spending their breaks together. It often took a lot of convincing to keep Peter from doing something stupid and getting the lot of them in trouble, but it kept his mind of she-whom-he’d-rather-not-name so he was appreciative of it.

It was still embarrassing, though, his story that had landed him on the Jewel. He didn’t want to tell them he was an actual orphan – it was just too much to talk about and he preferred to use his time with his fellow Lost Boys as an escape, not as therapy. But he also couldn’t reveal his specific ties to King David’s kindness. Divulging that he knew the princess would lead to an onslaught of questions about all the rumors and Killian knew he couldn’t betray her trust and tell the truth – but he also didn’t want to lie.

So when Smee asked him one afternoon how he’d found himself working aboard such a vessel, Killian answered easily – and almost without lying.

“It’s always been my dream to join the Navy. My brother – he’s almost a decade older than me, so in many ways he feels like a second father – is a Captain of his own vessel in the King and Queen’s fleet. While he’s away I decided it’s time I start my own training and King David saw me doing some repair work down at the docks and offered me this position.”

The guys both nodded, accepting him as a Lost Boy of the third kind, the one who dreamed of the glories of war. He resolved to never tell them he knew war was a nightmare, knew that his accepting this position very well might lead him to the same fate as his Captain of a brother (who truly was his only father figure). No, Killian would keep that information to himself. Knowledge of his emotional scars was a weapon of the worst kind, and he’d already armed the princess with it. The stab of her silence or abandonment or avoidance or whatever the fuck she thought she was doing – that was enough to keep his mouth shut to anyone else.

 


 

Emma’s short heels clicked loudly as she stomped through the corridor, already dreading what was to come. Her parents rarely summoned her to special meetings – she willingly attended each and every one that was scheduled about matters of the kingdom already – so she knew whatever the purpose of this gathering, it certainly was something a bit more personal than the kingdom’s dairy production or the threat of pirates.

No, this was somehow about her. And it probably wasn’t about her royal duties – no, those she executed flawlessly. Were her parents (Heaven forbid) to drop dead at that moment, Princess Emma was fully willing and prepared to take over as ruler. Her parents knew this and trusted her fully.

What topic did that leave up for discussion?

None she cared to deal with.

She wrenched the heavy doors of the throne room open, sweeping into the room with a scowl and a quirk of her eyebrow at her serene-looking parents. They were perched in their chairs, hands clasped together, a perfect picture of true royalty (it was incredible how King-like her father was, considering he’d been born a shepherd. She always respected him even more for that, for changing his stars and becoming such an incredible leader. But at the moment that was neither here nor there).

“Good morning, Princess,” her father greeted her, his kind smile irking her already. It was obvious they were playing the formality card here with whatever they were going to confront her with, and that was fine. If they wanted to play a game with her, she’d just make sure they lost.

“Good morning, your Highnesses,” she said, bowing her head and curtseying as she stopped several feet in front of their thrones. When she stood up straight she clasped her hands together lightly at the front of her gown. Before she’d been summoned, she’d been brandishing her street clothes, ready to hit the town for a day of observation, but her maid had forced her to change into her royal attire before the meeting (so really she should have expected the whole show of propriety). “What can I do for you this morning?” she asked coolly.

“Well, princess, we’ve recognized that the time is fast approaching where you’ll need to step into a more official role for the kingdom. Your anonymity has served you well so far, but in just a few more years you’ll need to be officially presented to the kingdom. You’ll be more than a casual observer,” her father said, tilting his head in a bit of condescension she truly didn’t appreciate. As if her actions in learning about her people were somehow less productive than making vapid princess appearances where all she did was wave her dainty hands. She was doing her duty, damn it, and if they didn’t understand that –

“So we’d like you to do some official visits. Not as the princess, not yet. But as a representative of the crown, at the very least.”

At that, the Queen perked up a bit, dropping the royalty detached guise for a moment. “And we have your first assignment!”

Emma grew suspicious at her enthusiasm. Who would even listen to a teenaged girl as a “representative of the Crown” if they didn’t know she was the fucking princess in the first place?

“Whatever can I do for you, my Queen?” Emma responded sarcastically.

Her parents both scowled at her attitude, but continued their pitch. “We need someone to go speak with one of our Naval captains. There have been some complaints about the way our ranks are being run, so we need someone who can listen to the Captain and his men, who can take that information and make some recommendations about what we should do. Do you think you’re up to such a challenge?” Her father smirked.

Yes! That was actually something she would love to do, something that she’d been preparing herself for. It was an opportunity to show her parents (and herself) that all her self-training hadn’t been for nothing, that she really was capable of making change, that she loved to listen to her people and do what was best for them, and wait just one second – this was fishy.

Naval captain.

“And which ship would you like me to visit, father?”

The Jewel of the Realm.”

Ugh. This had nothing to do with her abilities at all, did it? Nope. This was about Killian.

“For fuck’s sake, dad, you couldn’t have just told me you wanted me to go talk to Killian? Why the fake ‘mission’ for the not-actually-a-princess when that’s not what it was about at all?” She was fuming. This was exactly why she knew her little love thing was the worst thing to ever happen to her. She wanted to lead, not follow. And here she was, being pushed toward him even after she’d run the opposite direction.

“Emma. Language.” Queen Snow was soft, but still chiding.

“Sweetheart, don’t misunderstand me. I truly do want you to complete this task. And others like it. You need to start doing your royal duty,” David rose from his throne, approaching Emma with his arms outstretched.

“But you also need to do your human duty. That boy is your friend. You went to great lengths to make sure he was OK. You can’t just ignore him for the rest of your life.” He rubbed his hands on her shoulders and then cupped her cheek.

That stupid boy would be the end of her.

 


  

Killian was swabbing the deck when he saw her. For once she was actually facing him – not looking at him or anything, but not running away, either.

How embarrassing. Of course she would see him when he was on his hands and knees covered in dirt and suds and not when he was flexing his muscles lifting boxes or pulling ropes.

Not that it mattered. She hated him, so why would he care to impress her?

She was approaching the ship – his ship – but he didn’t dare presume he had anything to do with it. She was probably just observing.

Peter was the closest to the gangplank, so he greeted her, flirting, of course, because he was immature and she was gorgeous. Killian tried to tune them out, but was very soon assaulted with a shout of his name.

“For God’s sake, Killian, have you gone deaf?” Jefferson shouted from the other side of the ship. “They’ve been yelling for you for five minutes.”

He finally looked up to see Peter and Emma much closer to him than they had been before, Emma’s eyes glued to the floorboards, seeming to inspect his cleaning job.

(Or avoiding him.)

“This lovely lass is here to see you, mate. Funny you haven’t mentioned such a fetching young friend, Jones.” Peter was clearly intrigued and seemed to understand implicitly that the beautiful girl didn’t have any feelings for Killian (and therefore was free to be set up with the boy who refused to grow up).

He brushed him off, motioning toward Emma to come stand at the bow of the ship with him, the furthest point from curious ears.

“How can I help you, highne – um, I mean Emma?” He caught himself teasing at her real title and stopped, afraid that its truth could have some repercussions if someone misunderstood.

“Um, I just wanted to… warn you. I, uh, I’m going to be a consultant for the King and Queen so I’ll be aboard your ship, and – well, I just wanted to tell you so things weren’t… weird.”

She still wouldn’t make eye contact.

And it broke him.

“Really, Emma? You don’t want me to make things weird? I thought we were friends! You – I mean…” he lowered his voice, more whisper-shouting than truly yelling. “You’re why I’m here. You’re why I’m not on the street. I was looking forward to being close to you, to maybe being able to spend more time with the only friend I’ve ever had, the only person who’s ever tried to help me other than my brother. But I don’t know if you just didn’t want to associate with the former street rat or if you decided we’re not friends or whatever it is that happened in that little brain of yours, but you’ve gone about it all wrong. I deserved to at least know if I’d been ‘broken up with’ or whatever. I know you’re not a kid, Emma, but you’re certainly acting like one.”

Killian was out of breath. He couldn’t believe he’d unloaded like he did. He couldn’t believe he’d let himself be so angry.

And he also couldn’t believe that it didn’t make her run.

 


 

“I know you’re not a kid, Emma, but you’re certainly acting like one.”

Fuck, that stung.

She’d been immature – that much was evident. But there was so much at stake. And it only made sense what was at stake if you knew she was hopelessly in love with the angry deckhand in front of her, a fact she was most certainly not about to divulge to him. So she really didn’t have any valid excuse for her avoidance of him. Even though she had her reasons. She wasn’t just a child and she wasn’t ashamed of him – no, she was ashamed of herself. She’d wanted him to hate her for being royalty, even though it was obvious from the start (now that she thought about it) that Killian only held animosity toward the corrupt royalty who were responsible for the death of his brother. He’d never said a word against her parents or their kingdom. Not once.

How could she explain herself?

“I’m sorry, Killian. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I just… I just thought you might hate me for being… you, know – for being the princess and lying to you. I was just embarrassed. And I didn’t handle it well. I guess I let my age show a bit.”

She exhaled, closing her eyes and stepping a little further into his space. “Can we – can we just go back to how we were before? I mean I really will have a bit of a job now and so do you, but we could have breakfast together in the hall? Or meet in the evenings at the library?”

She smiled sadly, trying to convey her absolute remorse for how she’d behaved while also seeming hopeful for their future. Taking a chance, she extended her hand. “Friends?”

The world seemed to stop (how melodramatic) in the moments she watched him consider her. She could see the gears in his brain turning, could practically hear his internal monologue trying to decide if her friendship was worth the risk. She knew it was going to be complicated, mostly because she loved him so much it hurt. But a future soldier and a future Queen would have obstacles far beyond her unrequited feelings to begin with.

And then warmth flooded her whole being, tingles shooting from the tips of her fingers all the way to the muscles tightening at her rib cage. Her heart stuttered and her brain shut down and he took her hand and agreed, friends, and she resigned herself to save the pathetic, irrational, idiotic tears until she was alone in her room.

 


  

Friends.

Why in the bloody fuck would he agree to such an arrangement?

A little something is better than nothing at all, right? That was the rationale, at least. Loving her was stupid, could never go anywhere. But maybe a meal or two each week would be enough to keep his soul from shredding itself with the agony that was watching her flee from him like he were cursed. So he’d settle for friends. Even if it was going to kill him.

Unless, of course, it wasn’t deep love he thought he felt. Maybe it was just a little crush. Maybe he was blowing it out of proportion. Maybe spending more time with the girl, seeing her as a true person and not an enigma, would make her real and normal and take her down from the pedestal in his brain where she was bathed in light like a goddamn angel who had absolutely no business sinking so low as to speak to the likes of him. Maybe he’d get over it.

(Definitely not.)

 


 

 

She met him for breakfast the next morning, stealing an extra biscuit from his plate. “Friends share, right?”

He rolled his eyes, but nodded.

 


 

They went for a walk in the town two days later, between Killian’s shifts that afternoon. The awkwardness of their separation had evaporated the second they’d shaken hands and the only tension was his own ridiculous heart fluttering in his chest as they discussed the secret princess’s little consulting business.

“Isn’t it funny how everyone is so sure that the princess is pig-nosed or green or something that they’re not even suspicious about me? I mean seriously. I’m a 14 year old girl ‘working for the King’ and not a single person has thought hmm maybe she’s fucking royalty herself?” She twirled her fingers through her long blonde hair, looking every bit the princess she was, even dressed in breeches and a collared shirt.

“Yeah, the only thing I’ve heard whispers of is how many of the soldiers want to bed you. Which is creepy and I yell at them. Just so you know.”

My hero,” she swooned (sarcastically) (and adorably). “You don’t need to defend my honor, Jones. Nobody saves me but me.”

“Oh, I know it. I’m just letting you know that some of the best guys I know are still pigs. So be careful out there.”

She wasn’t dating or anything. Not yet. But he still worried about the day he’d have to watch her with someone else. So he gave his opinion on good form and all that.

But what he was really saying was you should be with me.

Not that he’d ever say it.

 


 

Emma’s new favorite thing was introducing Killian to her favorite books. He had the most soothing voice (not that she’d ever tell him), so she’d let him read her favorite passages out loud and then they’d argue – always argue – about the meanings, the symbols, the author’s intent. They rarely agreed on a single aspect of a single book – and she loved it.

 


  

Killian’s new favorite thing was walking Emma through the ship, introducing her to all the men so they could weigh in about the operations issues. The Captain realized Killian had a friendship with the girl and trusted him to accompany her – even though it was clear to even the Captain that the lass could handle her own. And he led her around – though followed was more accurate, since she was usually the one directing. And he watched her listen intently, watched her ask all the right questions, take perfect little notes. All the men were enamored with her, not only for her beauty but for her. She was so easy to talk to; she truly listened and understood. Even though it was obvious she was some kind of nobility, she never once looked down on the men who were often crass, poor, struggling, and clearly peasants.

She spoke with Jefferson about his daughter and with Robin about his son. She even brought little gifts for them to pass along to them.

Emma was going to be a wonderful Queen someday.

And he’d forever stay at her service.

 


 

The next years passed much the same. Emma finished her consultation with the Jewel and made her recommendations before moving on to other ships and other stations and eventually she had made her way through most of her father’s military and even into the everyday operations of the court.

She was making a difference. People trusted her and listened to her and not a single person outside the Royal Court (and Killian) had any idea of her truly royal status.

She’d made it on her own and that filled her with pride she could hardly quantify.

That pride was reflected in her best friend’s eyes every single time he looked at her. Killian was the most supportive person she’d ever known – even more so than her parents, really – and it fucking sucked.

She wanted to kiss his stupid face when he beamed with such joy over her successes but she couldn’t because she couldn’t let herself be in love because it would destroy her and her success and everything and love brought down whole fucking kingdoms so she kept her lips to herself and just smiled with appreciation that she had someone in her life who could be so nice without any ulterior motives.

Of course, he was basically the only person on the planet she wished would have some ulterior motives, but that was just her luck, wasn’t it? Or her curse. Or maybe that’s just how life worked. You got to choose one thing that worked out for you.

She chose her kingdom.

So she’d never get Killian.

 


 

Killian had risen through the ranks quickly in just two years, making Lieutenant after his eighteenth birthday.

(Emma had made him cake and sang him a song and that experience was far superior to his promotion, not that he’d ever admit it.)

Robin had become Captain – he and Killian were a great team, actually, Robin having the best military knowledge and Killian being best at managing a ship’s operations (and her men, of course). All who worked on the Jewel were truly comrades, and their trips together were never boring – even when the military aspect didn’t actually involve any action.

Not that Killian was complaining. He loved his position, loved everything about what he did. He felt useful and it was almost addicting.

But he wasn’t looking to meet the same fate as his brother; that was for sure.

 


  

Emma was blindsided by her mother one night at dinner. They were having a full feast even though it was just the three of them, and Emma’s mouth was stuffed with potatoes when her mother spoke.

“So, do you think you’d marry Killian?”

Emma didn’t choke on the food nor spit it out, but it was a close call. She stared at her mother, wide-eyed, as her father did the same. Clearly this hadn’t been a planned attack (for once).

“Excuse me?” Emma snapped. “I’m not exactly looking to get married right now, mother. And why exactly would you assume I’d marry him? He’s my friend.”

The Queen looked as if she was going to respond, but she was interrupted by David’s raucous laughter. “Really, Emma? Friend? That’s the word you’re going with?”

“David! Get yourself together,” Snow warned him before looking to Emma. “Sweetheart, I just – we’re going to present you to the kingdom soon. As the princess. And not long after that you’ll need to start courting. Earnestly looking for a husband, Emma. And I know that’s not been something you’ve wanted, necessarily. But it’s good to have a partner. And you need to have children. And love is a powerful thing.”

She was so genuine, her mother. So pure and sweet and Emma just wanted to slap her.

“I know it’s a powerful thing, mother. But power can be a bad thing. Marriage is not something I’m looking for right now at all. I just want to learn to be a good queen!”

“But someday you will have a King, Emma. Mine turned out to be a shepherd, but he’s the greatest human being I know. And we’ve seen you and Killian together. If it’s not love, then it’s at least clear that you think he’s the greatest person you know. And he thinks the same of you. I just – I just want you to think about it, OK?”

And after dinner she swiped a bottle of wine from the kitchen, stuffed it under her skirts, and sent for her Aunt Ruby to do anything but think about Killian.

Except, of course, it came back to Killian.

“You and Graham?!” Emma shouted, a bit too loud (her cheeks fiery from the alcohol and her eyes wide from shock. “But I thought you guys were just friends?”

“We were, Emma, but he’s just so wonderful. I guess we were headed here all along. We’re so similar and can talk for hours and I mean, come on, he’s kind of the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.”

(Second most handsome in Emma’s opinion, but OK.)

Emma’s mother had been right. She would have to marry eventually. It was her royal duty and she did take those duties seriously. Could she make it with Killian? What was the harm in love when it wasn’t toxic? Killian would never hurt her. And maybe he wasn’t particularly attracted to her – he’d never made a true move on her despite his flirty attitude toward anything else with breasts – but she could grow on him, right?

The thought of one specific queenly/wifely duty that had her heart racing, of course, was the whole making babies thing. Not if it were with some dull prince she married out of obligation, no, that sounded like a horrible chore. But Killian. She could imagine their naked bodies sliding together, his lips on her neck, his hands moving between her legs. More than once she’d imagined him undoing the laces of her dresses or breeches, pulling off her corsets, sucking one of her nipples into his mouth. Yes, that particular duty was certainly a concept she could get used to.

But shame washed over her when she remembered one clear problem with that scenario: he’d have to want her, too.

And he obviously didn’t.

To settle for courting and marrying someone when there were no feelings at all wasn’t a terrible fate. But courting a man you loved who didn’t love you back – that was one of those crazy things that led to crazy Queens and wars and destruction and that was just not fair.

 

The next day at breakfast Emma mentioned to Killian the relationship upgrade, as Ruby had eloquently called it, between Ruby and Graham.

“She said that the whole friends to lovers thing was actually kind of the best and she’s really happy. I saw them this morning walking in the garden and it was adorable.” Emma was making general conversation, but she also was very curious about his reaction.

“Oh, really?” was all Killian said, a look of true surprise and something else on his face. Horror? Confusion? Disgust? Emma couldn’t tell but it certainly didn’t look hopeful or like he could relate with any possible blooming feelings in his own chest, certainly not for the girl in front of him or he might have winked or smiled or offered her some sort of warm affection, right? So she slammed the door shut on the lingering flutterings in her gut and backpedaled to avoid awkwardness.

“But that’ll never be us,” she said.

He scoffed. “Of course not.”

 


 

That was it, wasn’t it? The confirmation he’d been dreading for years.

They really were never going to become anything.

That morning on the ship he was mostly useless, getting yelled at by Robin at least six times for improper handling of all kinds of things.

But he couldn’t even think straight. He thought maybe perhaps there was some kind of possibility that the princess would grow to love him, would see him for the man he could be. He was rising in the ranks – by the time she would be truly active as royalty, he could be high up enough in the Navy that courting the princess wouldn’t be out of the question.

But she’d squashed that dream.

(It was his own fault for hoping.)

 


 

Killian had started spending more time away from Emma, and she was forcing herself to not be affected by it. If he wanted to go out with his little ship buddies and drink into the night, getting wasted to the point where he never even made it to breakfast with her then that was just fine. And if he stopped reading with her because he had evening obligations with other people, well that didn’t bother her either.

(She needed to get better at lying if she was going to be Queen someday.)

She and her father were meeting with a fisherman who’d recently seen evidence that Captain Blackbeard, a most dreaded pirate, had been pillaging ports near the Enchanted Forest. They were standing on the man’s boat, listening to his account (the fire, the cannons, the screaming), when something equally horrifying to Emma was seen in her periphery.

It was Killian – her best friend whom she hadn’t seen for three whole days – walking toward town with a woman on his arm.

She was brunette, beautiful, vibrant. She looked to be somewhat older than Killian, but the way she was clinging to him, the way her eyes sparkled up at him – it was clearly a romantic relationship they had.

One Killian had failed to mention to Emma.

One that had taken her by surprise and therefore took her attention off the poor man in front of her who’d nearly been killed in a pirate attack.

How dare she let love and jealousy and those other stupid, silly emotions get in her way when it was her fucking destiny to rule this land and help all those in it. She was a goddamn savior according to some seer who’d made a prediction during the Ogre Wars.

Two years ago she promised herself she was not going to let this boy get in the way of her life, her birthright. And here she was, letting him.

She turned back to the fisherman who hadn’t noticed her distraction (he was too caught up in his own emotional turmoil which was much more valid than hers).

Her father asked her later what had upset her so much while the fisherman told his tale.

“People died, dad. Isn’t that allowed to be upsetting?”

He knew that wasn’t it, but he didn’t push.

 


  

At first she was a distraction. Milah was fiery and loved adventure and just wanted to live and she made Killian forget all the things that made him miserable. They went dancing and they went sailing and she liked to drink with the rest of his crew and he thought nothing could break his perfect little bubble of denial.

Until his princess saw them.

Emma didn’t appear surprised – perhaps someone had already told her (he certainly hadn’t. He hardly saw her anymore with all of her official meetings and all his avoidance tactics).

Emma’s body wass stiff, her face controlled. Those princess lessons must have been paying off because she was exuding zero emotion – positive or negative – and it was horrifying. Emma was usually so full of life. Had being royalty finally caught up with her? Probably.

“Good afternoon, Killian. How are you?” she asked, calmly and politely.

“I’m well, lass. And how are you?” He would play her formality game.

“Just delightful. We’ve just struck a new deal with Arendelle, so the King and Queen shall be quite happy,” she said with a flat smile. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met.” She turned to Milah and extended her hand.

“Milah Gold. And you are?”

Emma gave her name and the women smiled and Milah asked her a few questions about working for the King and Queen and the only time Emma’s careful mask slipped was when it was clear that Killian had never mentioned her to Milah.

She looked a little broken.

Had he broken her?

God he was such an arse.

She didn’t know he loved her. She didn’t know he was only distracting himself from his broken heart. To her, he was just her very best friend who’d abandoned her.

It wasn’t royalty hurting her, it was him.

So maybe she really was better off without him at all.

Milah was wonderful. He might be able to love her someday. He could choose to love her. That was far stronger that soulmates, wasn’t it?

 


  

Emma hadn’t seen Killian since that day in the gardens with Milah. They’d walked off hand in hand and Emma could only imagine them embracing at her doorstop, kissing against the door frame, maybe even her inviting him into her place – she was certainly old enough that she might live on her own. And once they were inside –

Nope. Don’t even think about it.

So Emma’s life went on, chasing leads on pirates, revisiting laws on gambling, talking with local businesses about tax rates. She was getting shit done.

 


 

It was time for his first long mission. They were boarding for a two-month venture, their goal to reach a trade deal in the Land of Oz. Milah had come to the docks to wish him goodbye, leaving him with a self-portrait (she was a wonderful artist) and a nice, long kiss, her fingers tangled in his hair and her tongue stroking against his so insistently it was almost like she was trying to make sure he could feel it for the next 60 days.

He knew that the most intimate touch of hers was nothing compared to even an innocent touch of another, but he just had to put that right out of his head if he didn’t want to drive himself insane.

“Come home to me, darling,” Milah whispered against his ear.

He kissed her cheek, stuffing her photo in his pocket and beginning his duties.

It would be a long two months.

 


 

She was formally called to the throne room four days before her seventeenth birthday. Now, it’s not like there was some law or anything (she’d checked), but princesses were most often presented to society for courtship on their sixteenth birthday. They hadn’t directly asked her, but she’d been awfully adamant that she didn’t need to court, so sixteen came and went without real issue.

But she’d been working so hard and really finding a home and a purpose in her royal duties. She was ready to be the princess.

And they were ready to present her.

So she knew why she was being summoned the second her maid requested her.

“So we’re presenting me, then?” Emma asked as soon as she walked into the room, skipping the hellos and how are yous.

“Only if you’re ready, sweetheart,” the Queen responded, sitting on her husband’s lap rather than in her own chair.

Emma knew her mother was being genuine. She was so blessed to have parents who truly had her best interests in mind.

The King and Queen were so in love – True Love – the kind that broke fucking curses, the kind that created her. They just wanted her to find the same.

And she wouldn’t. If ever there ever was a True Love for her it was Killian and he was off fighting the good fight and being a good guy and coming back home to his girl, his girl who was most certainly not Emma.

But she still needed to be presented, needed to court and marry.

She might not find love, but she’d find a companion, a partner. She’d be sitting in her own damn chair when it happened, but other than that, she’d rule just like her parents someday.

“I’m ready.”

 


 

They’ve been away for 38 days when a bird landed on his shoulder. It was bright blue and it was singing and he’d recognize it anywhere – it was the one that spent most of its life at the tree outside the Queen’s window. Emma’d talked about how her mother had always been great with birds, had used them to relay messages much faster than sending them by foot (or in this case when one couldn’t send them by foot).

He hesitantly reached toward the animal, noticing that there was, in fact, a small message strapped to his foot. He gingerly untied the twine and unrolled the note, the bird flitting quickly over to the edge of the ship as if waiting for a command or a reply.

Killian read,

Dear Killian,

I’m very proud of all of your accomplishments so far. My daughter is an excellent judge of character, so I knew I made the right choice in taking you in and offering you the position on the Jewel.

What my daughter is NOT is a different story. Forgive me for speaking to private matters that may not be my business, but it seems to me that Emma has feelings for you. She misses you fiercely. (Perhaps it’s just strong friendship, but I suspect otherwise.) She’s been excellent at her royal duties – don’t get me wrong – but she lacks her usual spark, and I sense it’s because she’s missing you.

I wish she would put herself out there, lay her heart on the line. But I sense that she isn’t willing to take that risk. Maybe someone else should. (Hint, hint)

I know that you’ve been courting another, so – again – forgive me if I’m misunderstanding. But I think you love my daughter and I think you could grow to be a great leader… even a King.

That being said: Emma is being presented as the true Princess in three days’ time. By the time you receive this, the ball may have already occurred – I don’t know how fast Snow’s birds are.

Robin tells me you’re a brave man. Please remember there is bravery of heart as well.

Good luck on your journey, Lieutenant.

King David

 

Well, fuck.

Killian fled to his quarters to retrieve a new slip of paper. He ripped it in two and began to scrawl:

 

Dear King David,

Your kind words are so appreciated. You’ve been like a father to me and to be complimented by you means more than I can say.

As for your daughter, I can’t imagine you’re correct in your assessment as she’s indicated many times over the years that she does not feel anything for me beyond friendship. She’s probably just lonely and will cheer up once all the Dukes and Princes begin courting her.

You’re a perceptive man, though, and I imagine that means you know my feelings on the matter. If only I were royal, I suppose.

Again, thank you, sir. I hope my bravery serves your kingdom well.

Lieutenant Killian Jones

 

The second scrap of paper was the difficult one. He’d known this day was coming, but he’d hoped he’d be there to see it. He could have taken Milah to the ball, kept his mind off the fact that Emma was dancing with so many others, but at least he could watch her descend those stairs like she was always meant to do. What message could possibly replace that experience?

 

Congratulations, Princess

 

That’s all he wrote.

 


 

The funniest part of it all was how shocked the kingdom was. Seriously. There’d been some “random” teenage girl trusted to do important business for the Crown – mysteriously the exact same age as the elusive Princess, in fact – and not one person ever suspected Emma was her?

There’d have been fewer gasps from the audience if she did have a fucking pig nose.

So she descended the stairs in her light blue gown, her hair swept up off her shoulders to show off her neck and collarbone, the wispy accents on her arms making her look almost bird-like (but in a majestic way – seriously she’d been shocked at her own reflection, to be quite honest). The men of the ball were far more interested in the evening now that they saw she was beautiful – typical – but she was trying not to hold it against them. Most of them knew who she was – as in, they knew who Emma was, and not just “the princess” – so it was entirely possible they were intrigued by her personality and not the carefully perked-up swells of her breasts.

She danced with so many of them that night. It was really quite exciting – not necessarily because of the men, but because she loved to dance. Her maid had been teaching her the steps, but there was nothing like the experience of the ballroom, the dozens of couples dressed their best and twirling about the floor in tandem. Even when the men weren’t particularly graceful Emma still truly enjoyed it. Not having been raised a princess, she was able to be just a bit less formal than maybe she should have, and all those around her seemed to appreciate it. The ballroom floor didn’t have to be so stuffy; she found that her spirit was a bit contagious, far more people were laughing and enjoying themselves by the third dance than at the first (and that was without any added alcohol as they’d not stopped a second to take a sip).

As for the men themselves, some were quite nice. Others were dull. None were truly rude or terrible, which was quite the relief. The worst was Prince Hans, who honestly was just a bit full of himself with very little to back it up. But mostly Emma found that they were all very tolerable and it was entirely possible her life partner were in this room.

(Don’t think about Killian. Don’t think about Killian.)

Her last dance of the evening was with Baelfire, a Duke whose family had been tied to the Evil Queen’s and therefore hadn’t always been welcome in the castle. Her father had recently mended ties with Baelfire’s, and the young man was happy to be among the joyous crowd – just like Emma, he’d never participated in a ball before. They laughed and talked throughout the dance and when it was through Emma felt as if she hadn’t gotten enough of his cheer, his carefree personality, so she asked him if he’d like to take a walk with her through the garden before he departed for the evening. He took her hand in his own and though she didn’t get the zap of electricity that she’d known a few times before when touching another, it felt warm and safe and she squeezed his hand tightly in appreciation for the gesture.

They talked a little about politics – Bae had lived a somewhat sheltered life and had always resented anything magical, so their views were a bit different in many ways. But Emma found it refreshing – she always enjoyed a bit of verbal sparring, especially with someone so intelligent and well-spoken.

But she hadn’t prepared herself for the possibility of more. He’d just conceded that she might be right about it not being fair to punish by death and she had smiled in victory and suddenly his lips were touching hers and she just froze.

She’d never once in all of her life imagined kissing anyone but Killian. She’d never imagined kissing at all before him and she was so fucking in love with him that even when she tried to imagine anyone else she just couldn’t. She’d spent some time with Marco’s son August, and Ruby was always going on about how cute he was, so one night Emma was lying in bed, thinking about Killian in a way she never ever should let herself, and she tried to just … substitute him into her fantasy. But as soon as August’s face popped in her head she almost felt sick, like anyone but Killian was wrong.

And at first Bae did feel wrong. His lips were soft and his gentle caress down her arm was soothing, but he wasn’t who she wanted. He was smart and fun and she’d just gotten used to the idea of even having a friend who wasn’t Killian. She wasn’t ready to be touched by anyone but him (not that he’d ever touched her to begin with).

But she had to face facts. Killian didn’t want her. In fact, he did want someone else. He was with Milah and Emma was a fucking Princess who was going to need to court and marry and why the hell shouldn’t it be Bae? She didn’t have to marry him just because she kissed him back. Hell, she never had to see him again if she really didn’t want to. It was her choice.

So she decided to kiss him back.

It was awkward at first, since she’d never done it (and because she was so nervous). But Bae was very gentle and didn’t dare push her. Eventually she was moving her lips solidly against his and grasping at his waist and he was tilting his head to the side to deepen the kiss and she opened for him, letting him show her what to do.

She pulled back after a few minutes and he leaned back in to press little kisses to her cheek and forehead.

“I’m sorry, Emma, was that OK? Perhaps I should have asked you, but you were just so adorable, and I – ”

She unclasped their hands and brought a finger to his lips. “Hush. It’s fine. I just – well, I mean it’s probably pretty obvious I’d never done that before. Sorry if I wasn’t good at it.” She chuckled, shaking a little.

“Princess, you were perfect,” he replied, taking her hand back in his and kissing her knuckles.

He walked her to the castle doors and bid her goodnight (this time with a bow and not a kiss).

The only sound in the hallway was the gentle click of her heels and the swishing of her dress and she knew she should be giddy and skipping but the only thing she felt was adored but still mostly sad.

Because she was adored by the wrong person.

But she forced herself to smile, to tell the story excitedly to her maid, to Ruby, even to her mom. She needed to play the princess, after all, and what was a princess without a romantic love story?

(A fucking useful one, thank you, but that was beside the point.)

 

It was two days after the ball when she woke up to a message on her bedside table, a ripped piece of paper rolled up and tied by a bit of twine. Unraveling it, she gasped. She’d recognize that writing anywhere.

Congratulations, Princess

She couldn’t explain why, but she cried until her maid knocked at her door to announce lunch three hours later.

Chapter Text

“I’m not fucking going!” Emma shouted, her heart hammering against her rib cage like prisoners banging on a jail cell (yeah, that’s right, you stay locked up in there and you’re never coming out).

“Emma, not only is this your royal duty, but you consulted with those men about how the ship was run. You should be checking to see if the corrections we put in place were successful or not!” Emma was trying to cut in, but her father just kept going. “And most importantly, young lady, your best friend in the world is on that ship and I refuse to let you act like a brat just because you’re mad at him for getting a girlfriend!”

What? How could he possibly think that had anything… “Seriously, dad? Why in heaven would I care if Killian had a girlfriend. I want him to be happy.”

David stared her down, allowing his eyes to bore so deeply into hers she was sure he could hear her thoughts (Killian Killian Killian).

She stared right back, daring him to say something else, preparing herself to show her poker face if her father inched any closer to one specific truth she was looking to make false (that’s right; she was great at poker. It wasn’t a game for princesses, but her title hardly even counted).

After at least three full minutes of silence, David spoke again. “You should be there and you know it.”

 

-

 

The Jewel of the Realm made landfall at the edge of Snow White’s castle in the Enchanted Forest on a Sunday afternoon. They were welcomed by their families and friends and other soldiers and some royal representatives, too, of course, and Killian knew he shouldn’t hope that the Princess would be among them but he definitely had hoped and the way his heart fell when he saw the woman he was actually courting rather than the woman he was in love with… well that’s when he knew several things.

The first of these things was that he was an idiot. Obviously. Emma was a Princess, and more than that she was entirely uninterested in a romantic attachment. He knew she would have to marry, but she saw it as more of a business contract. She was never going to love Killian, and he needed to get the fuck over it.

But the second of these things was that he was being terribly unfair to Milah. God forbid she’d seen the moment it registered that Emma wasn’t in attendance – she didn’t deserve to feel like she wasn’t enough and it was the most ungentlemanly thing Killian could do to be the one who caused her to feel that way. And maybe she hadn’t noticed. But maybe she had.

(She did.)

“Afternoon, sailor,” Milah said as she approached, a content smile on her face. “It’s good to see you, Killian.”

He smiled a genuine smile – she really was one of the most wonderful women he’d ever known – and pulled her into his arms for a loose hug.

“Lovely to see you, Milah.” He smiled again, but this one less genuine as he was back to fixating on his less-than-gentlemanly behavior toward this wonderful lass.

When she pulled back, she kept her hand in his, murmuring her welcomes to the other soldiers as they disembarked the ship. When all the other soldiers had passed, Killian tugged on Milah’s hand, directing her toward the nearest bench just down the docks (not his and Emma’s), motioning her to sit.

“I know what you’re going to say, Killian,” she said, standing resolute as he sunk onto the splintered wood of the bench. “I know I’m not it for you. I’d hoped to be, but I’ve seen it in your eyes. It’s Emma, right?”

Shit. Was he seriously that obvious about it?

Milah stood calmly above him, her hand still in his, waiting for a response. It hadn’t been a rhetorical question.

“Aye, I do have feelings for her. They won’t go anywhere, of course, but they’re causing me to treat you poorly and that’s inexcusable. I’m truly sorry if my behavior has caused you any pain at all. It was certainly not my intention and I care for you and – ”

“It’s fine, Killian. I know. I was upset for a moment, but you’re a good man and you’re doing your best. I’m not sure why you haven’t just told the girl how you feel. You don’t deserve to have this weight over your soul.”

“Milah, how could you possibly be worried about me in all this?”

“It’s quite easy – I’m a better person than you, darling.”

Milah finally sat and they laughed together, just for a moment.

“I’ve been offered a proposal. One of the heroes of the Ogre War wants to marry me, and I think I should accept. He’s a brave man, a good man. And he’s not in love with a fucking princess. So there’s that check in the pro column.”

Killian froze at her sharp words until he noticed her smirk. Such a funny, strong woman, and he couldn’t make it work.

God, he was a bastard.

Killian and Milah parted on pleasant terms and after placing one last brief kiss on her knuckles, he made his way back toward the ship. He watched as the other soldiers chatted with comrades, embraced their families. Everyone had girlfriends and wives and children and parents. And Killian had nothing.

Well, almost nothing. King David swept through the pack of sailors nodding his thanks at each one before coming to a stop at Killian’s side.

“Lieutenant, I trust you brought my ship home in good condition?”

“Of course, sir. I endeavor to protect all that is yours,” he said in a teasing tone (but with tragedy in his heart). “Now care to offer me another adventure, your Highness?”

“No immediate trip on the high seas, I’m afraid. But there’s plenty here to keep you busy. Let me show you your next mission, mate,” David said, leading him back onto the ship, a set of maps rolled up under his arm.

Killian might not have had family, but being mates with the King should probably be enough (for now).

 

So he spent the next weeks working harder than ever. King David believed in him, had entrusted him with various duties beyond those he was assigned as Robin’s Lieutenant, and he was determined not to let him down. Not to let the kingdom down. (Not to let his the princess down.)

Emma was still avoiding him. Well, she was avoiding him again. The last time he’d seen her was that awkward time in the gardens with Milah. Could she have been jealous? Had King David been right about her possible affections?

No. Of course not. The timing had probably been a coincidence. She was finally coming into her own, had been preparing to become a princess. She’d outgrown him was all. He’d just have to live with that.

 

-

 

For the third time that day, Emma was asked to watch her language.

“I’m a Princess, father, as you keep fucking reminding me. I will speak however I please.”

“If you’re a Princess, Emma, then put on the damn dress!”

“No! I will do as I please. My deportment has absolutely nothing to do with my abilities to rule or to consult or to run or speak or anything for that matter. They’re just clothes.”

Emma was just about sick of the comments on her clothing. She couldn’t fucking win. See, she’d grown up a regular child. Just a girl. She wore the same skirts and dresses and even breeches as all the other girls in the village. And once she became a servant of the crown, she dressed a bit more professionally, but still in a casual manner – no shining diadems or diamond encrusted skirts. But suddenly she became a princess and was expected to be pleasing to the eye at all times. As if that had anything to do with her brain. At first, she complied with her parents’ wishes that she “dress her part.” But then she started getting flak from those men she’d been working with all along that her frilly outfits made it hard to “take her seriously.”

“You don’t have to dress a woman like a man to give her authority,” she’d defended. Because it was true. She could wear whatever she damn well pleased and be exactly as good at her job or her birthright.

But everyone had to comment. Too girly. Not girly enough. The colors are too drab. Your hair is too flouncy. Why don’t you do something with those nails?

Not a damn person had commented on her appearance (except perhaps to say that she was pretty) before they put that fucking crown on her head. And now it seemed her brain was far less important to anyone than the amount of cleavage she bared or the type of earrings she donned for dinner.

Emma was sick of the fact that she’d been simultaneously given more and less power when she was named Princess. Sure, she could command people a bit more often. But it still seemed she was taken much less seriously in the end. So, no, she wasn’t being a brat when she was cursing at her father. She was just fed up with the inane details of Princesshood.

All she ever wanted was to make a difference.

Well that’s not true. Her heart had betrayed her and had one other very strong want that she’d made good and sure to avoid (in the interest of pursuing the other).

Not that the idea of making a difference with him by her side wasn’t a wonderful fantasy. In fact, it seemed like it could be perfect.

But she’d been pushing him away long before he’d left for his duties. She was hardly even his friend. And as for more than that… he had Milah now, and she was a wonderful woman who would make him happy, who wouldn’t complicate his life with all this royal bullshit.

Certainly as a man he was in lesser danger of being dismissed for his talents if his outfit weren’t perfectly pressed, but regardless she’d never want to put him in the position to be judged that way in the first place. He deserved better.

He was being useful. Her father trusted him and he would serve the Crown well. He’d get his happy ending – she’d make sure of it.

(As for Emma, she didn’t need a man. She could adopt an heir, right?)

After another ten minutes of arguing with her father, her voice hoarse and her will broken, she stepped into a fluffy green gown, shoved a tiara crookedly through her loosely curled hair, and stormed out of the room.

She only made it ten feet before crashing into a warm, solid being, his arms wrapping around her to keep her upright (even though the many layers of skirts could have easily broken her fall).

Looking up, she finally realized exactly whose arms she was wrapped in, whose bright blue eyes were boring into her own, whose cheeks were flame red with embarrassment or anger.

“Killian?”

 

-

 

It might have been the worst decision he ever made. But he couldn’t get his idiotic best friend off his mind and honestly it didn’t matter how in love with her he was – that wasn’t the point. If he was going to keep doing his job and doing it well, eventually she would be the Queen and therefore his boss so she’d better stop making everything so fucking awkward and just talk to him. Ex lovers and former friends and all kinds of complicated relationships had to be civil for the sake of their duties, and he was going to demand the Princess recognize that. He would offer her his congratulations in person and she’d damn well accept it.

So he marched straight toward her rooms, ignoring the guards’ protests.

“I’m a close personal friend of Your Highnesses. I move about the castle as I please,” he grunted out as he stormed past them. They knew this, of course, and didn’t pursue him – no, he kept his eyes on them over his shoulder as he stomped down the hallway, swiftly, swiftly until a flash of green and gold smashed into his side, knocking the wind from his lungs. He reached out his arms to steady the girl (half a second from falling on her ass) when he caught a whiff of her hair.

Fuck. Of course it was Emma.

“Killian?”

He hadn’t prepared enough for this. Shit. He was angry and shocked and not fully in his head and no, no, no he was about to say something stupid.

“Oh, so you do remember my name then, Princess? Seemed like you’d forgotten it. And me.” Yep, very stupid.

“Excuse me?” Killian had never seen Emma look angrier than this and he should have backed down, but seeing her, finally looking into the eyes of the girl who’d been unknowingly crushing his soul for years – it made something inside him, his very soldier-like self-control, crack.

“You heard me. I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend your delicate royal sensibilities or maybe I just don’t rate with you anymore. But it would have been nice to at least maintained a professional relationship as I am one of your humble servants, your majesty.” He spat out the last two words like they were curses and he saw the fire in Emma’s eyes, the disdain, but also the hurt – it wasn’t until that moment he remembered her fear near the beginning that he wouldn’t be her friend anymore because of his hatred for royalty. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Yep, that’s right, Killian. The pretty princess is too busy modeling tiaras to keep up with soldiers covered in seawater. God, why do I even try with you?” She started to storm away, but he loosely tugged on her elbow, causing her to whip back around to face him again, her expression morphing quickly from furious to royally blank.

“You don’t try! I came back from two months at sea and you didn’t even bother to talk to me afterward. I’m sorry I missed your ball, but I was out doing my duty for your family, so if that’s why you’re mad then you’re insane.” He knew it was himself he was mad at for missing the ball. But it seemed like his thoughts were spilling out of him in an uncontrollable torrent, anger directed at exactly the last person in the world he’d want to upset.

Emma had composed herself and spoke coolly, clinically, without emotion. “I never said I was mad. I’m a princess and a diplomat and I have responsibilities to my people and I was pretty sure you were busy anyway, so why would I waste my energy?”

Busy? I spend my entire life in your castle and on your ship, milady, so it’s not exactly like I’m unreachable.”

As quickly as she’d shut down her emotions, they came surging back out again. “What, so you bring Milah onto the ship? Classy, Killian, really. At least swab the deck after you’re done, for god’s sake.”

Emma flushed immediately, as if she had revealed something unintentionally. And truly she had. Well, Killian hoped, anyway. Jealousy might actually be a good sign in the end. “Is this about Milah?” he asked with a smirk.

“I don’t give a fuck about Milah. You can do what you want.” The venom in her voice was unreadable. Either his jealousy suspicion was exactly right – or completely wrong.

“Emma, I’m not even with her anymore. Seriously, why are you avoiding me or mad at me or whatever this is?” He gestured between them, his hands flailing in the air as he spoke. “I can’t take it anymore and it’s not as if we can avoid each other forever, so just tell me what the sodding problem is so we can fix it and move the fuck on. Why are you acting like this?”

“Because I love you, you dumbass!”

He didn’t have even a second to process that very important admission, because the sound of not-so-far-off explosions ripped them from their not-so-private moment.

Rocks were crumbling and glass was shattering and the whole front of the castle was shaking as booms rang out.

He reached for Emma, trying to shield her, but she was having exactly none of that, lifting her skirts to sprint toward the commotion. Knights were gathering and King David was marching down the hallway, barking out orders in the kindest manner despite the shock and terror.

Killian followed Emma (as always), sprinting down the hallway and ducking random debris. The noises sounded much like cannon fire, but much of the damage seemed far too high up and too substantial to be caused by any ship’s cannon (and how would they have gotten one on land undetected?).

That’s when the bright green zaps of lightning became apparent, ripping holes in the exterior of the castle and leaving an egg-like stench behind.

“Emma! Where are we going?” he finally shouted, uncertain of her intentions.

“To help, duh.”

God, only Emma would say duh during a fucking firefight.

Amidst the explosions Killian heard a blood curdling scream, followed by a cackle. From a hole in the castle walls he saw a group of his men, Captain Robin at the front, being surrounded by a green-faced woman riding a broom.

Riding a broom.

So this was a magical issue then. Great.

“Emma, this way!” Killian saw an opportunity to crawl out a window and down some rubble to more quickly get to the dock where most of the damage was originating.

The two of them ran toward the Jewel, mindful of the falling rocks and bits of the ground that were on fire. Killian looked to Emma every few seconds, trying to understand her expressions, to offer silent support for the fact that her home was literally crumbling, but it seemed that the thought hadn’t yet occurred to her.

She was only concerned for her people. Always for the kingdom. Always the savior.

As they ran, they got closer to the cannons, the yelling, the atrocities being committed – and could finally see the cause.

Captain Blackbeard stood at the edge of the docks, his sword against the throat of Roland, Captain Robin’s young son. It seemed that Blackbeard was working with the green-faced lass in attempts to overthrow the castle. To Killian it didn’t seem like a well-formed plan – Snow and David’s army would surely defeat them in the end (even if they did cause some damage along the way), so why even try?

Roland’s cries shook Killian out of his thoughts – they didn’t have time right now to deal with the why. For now, they just needed to stop them.

As soldiers and knights started flooding out of the castle and marching toward the ship, Blackbeard’s men started fanning out, running straight at their enemies with swords. The cannons seemed to be enchanted with magic, because they were being fired clear from the sea and were still able to hit the castle with enough force to cause damage. Flecks of green were clear upon impact – the magic likely came from the green-skinned witch flying above them. Though it seemed she had enchanted the weapons, she wasn’t truly doing any further damage at the moment – it was almost like she was searching for something.

Snow and David were running toward them, swords in hand, when the witch cackled again, her eyes falling on Emma.

Emma. That’s what the witch had been looking for.

“Killian!” Emma screamed, obviously aware of the witch’s attention. “Go to Roland. Please! I’ll take care of Greenie.”

The witch landed on the ground and Emma looked at him sternly, as if to say don’t even think about pulling some saving the damsel in distress shit. So he nodded at her in agreement, focusing on his belief in her rather than his fear that she would be hurt, and he ran toward the shore where his friends were being threatened.

 

-

 

The witch wanted Emma. Of course she did.

There had been more than one reason Emma had lived in anonymity for so long. Sure, she loved her reconnaissance missions, her time amongst the people, but her parents had an entirely different motivation: Emma’s safety.

Regina had wanted to curse the whole land to a land without happy endings, a world where Regina would finally feel that she’d gotten revenge on Snow for the mistakes of her 10 year-old self. And they’d stopped the curse, had reasoned with Regina. All was well.

Except that there was the prophecy. The one that stated that the child of Snow White and Prince “Charming” would be the greatest force there ever was – of good or evil. And could end up fighting for either side. So of course there would be people who wanted to control Emma, to use what she would become for themselves.

So she hid. She stayed anonymous. She did her good deeds and lived her “normal” life. And she never felt the inklings of any kind of power. So she’d grown overly comfortable in life, complacent that she needn’t worry about anyone trying to use her for evil. After all, what would she be able to do given her day job, mediate someone to death?

The green woman was approaching her on foot now, and Emma knew she was helpless against magic. Magic didn’t respond to a roundhouse kick to the face. Magic knocked you on your ass without anyone having to touch you. And Emma wasn’t knocked out yet. So Greenie must have needed her awake.

“Nice to finally meet you, dearie!” the woman purred, her high-pitched voice mismatched from her lilting accent.

“Wish I could say the same. You seem to have a bit of something on your face there, though, madam.” Emma knew that smarting off wasn’t the best option for this moment, but sometimes she just couldn’t help it. But before she had a moment to think, her wrists were being bound by magical fetters, the heat of them tickling at her skin.

“Well aren’t you a feisty one? You’ll serve us well.”

The witch’s hand rose up and made a squeezing motion and suddenly Emma couldn’t breathe. Her body was levitated off the ground, dangling as if by her neck, and she was powerless to fight back.

Somewhere in the background she could hear her father demanding the witch to stop. A few of the dwarves were there, too, and she heard Ruby’s wolf growl signaling that she’d transformed.

Maybe if she just went quietly with the witch and the pirate, they’d leave her people alone?

No. They wouldn’t. Whether or not they’d use Emma or they’d terrorize them in some other manner, they weren’t just going to give up, call a truce. No, Emma had to fight.

 

-

 

Blackbeard was there for his own purposes, of course. Killian knew that he was probably hired help, there to do for the witch whatever she needed of him, but that pirate had a personal history with Robin Hood. Robin was a good man who’d been a thief, one who’d stolen from the rich and given to the poor. King David had rewarded him for his valiance (and forgiven his trespasses). Blackbeard, one of his former “victims,” however, had not. So of course he took Roland, had the witch magically tie Robin up so he’d have to watch whatever dastardly thing he was about to do. Treasure for treasure, in Blackbeard’s eyes, certainly.

With the magic lady distracted, Killian was sure he could get the child back with force.

“Oi, Blackbeard!” he hollered, swaggering up to the circle of pirates and guards. Smee and Peter were just behind Blackbeard, fighting against a few scrawny deckhands, and Killian gave them the I have a plan eye.

Blackbeard was a proud man, the type who would brazenly speak of his exploits and skills rather than just finishing his job and moving the fuck on. Killian could take advantage of this.

“And who might you be, boy? No one worth my time, I’m sure.”

“Why, I’m Lieutenant Killian Jones, Captain. I’m the best sailor in the land, other than my Captain of course. Robin Hood – he’s a true honorable man. And you’ve got his son, it seems. You won’t get away with this, you know.”

Smee and Peter had ditched their adversaries and were moving toward Killian when he caught sight of another in his periphery: Queen Snow.

Blackbeard started responding to Killian in just the manner he’d predicted: listing the towns he pillaged and “conquered,” adding up the value the jewels and gold he’d amassed, naming the lasses he’d bedded along the way (Killian could only hope that Roland didn’t understand that part). Killian provided the sufficient is that so and really replies to keep him talking as his men got closer to the flailing boy.

But Queen Snow didn’t know the plan. Could she tell that Killian had it under control? Did Killian even have it under control? He hoped so, but he really only had the Roland rescue planned. Once Blackbeard attacked Killian, he wasn’t sure if he’d win or not. Killian had never learned to fight dirty, not like a pirate would. This was a risk either way.

“…so you see, boy, that’s why Robin Hood owes me everything he’s got.  That’s why I’ll make him watch as I kill his son. No man dares make a fool of me.” And as if choreographed, that was the moment Smee and Peter finally lunged at Blackbeard from behind, knocking the sword from his hands as they grasped Roland’s hand and bolted.

“How dare you!” Blackbeard grunted as he retrieved his sword, raising it to strike toward Killian. He got into fighting stance and stepped toward the pirate when Queen Snow apparently made up her mind to intervene.

“Oh, pirate? Wouldn’t you rather fight a Queen than a lowly Lieutenant?” Snow practically sang, her sword crossing Blackbeard’s.

“I’ll not hold back for your being a woman. And I certainly wouldn’t hold back on account of your royal status.”

“Of course not.”

Killian was attacked by more of Blackbeard’s men, so he was more than occupied even if he wasn’t fighting the Captain. The other pirates weren’t terribly skilled, but just as he’d feared with Blackbeard, they fought dirty. Swords were clashing, blood was flying – Killian was so busy fighting for his life (and keeping an eye on Snow and Blackbeard) that he couldn’t even locate Emma and the witch.

(Please let her be OK. Please let her be OK.)

Killian knocked out another man with the hilt of his sword and then punched out a second in rapid succession, when out of the corner of his eye he saw that Snow was losing ground. And others were approaching.

He sprinted toward the Queen, coming to her side just as another of the pirates tossed Blackbeard a dagger, which he caught with his free hand, thrusting it forward to plunge it into his opponent’s heart.

But Killian was faster than Blackbeard. He wasn’t skilled enough, didn’t have the time or the means, to get the dagger from the evil man. But he could step in front of Snow.

That’s when the searing pain set in and it all went a little black.

 

-

 

Emma was going to lose consciousness soon if she didn’t figure a way to get just a little more oxygen. The witch was still holding her up by one arm, but was also communicating with a creature – what looked like a monkey with wings – apparently sending a message of victory to whomever had sent her here in the first place.

But it wasn’t victory. Not yet. Emma would find a way.

She clutched at the magical (and invisible) force against her neck, wavering between pulling against it with all her strength and relaxing to try a calmer escape. Neither was working and eventually the witch would knock her out, drag her away, and probably kill all the people she loved in the process.

All the people she loved. Where were they? She’d sent Killian to help Roland. Had he made it? What had the witch done to her father? She’d heard him nearby. And her mother – she hadn’t heard a word from her. Her vision was hazy, clouded – she could barely make out the shapes of those struggling around her.

At least the cannon fire had ceased, all the pirates now caught up in hand-to-hand battle. Or, well, sword-to-sword mostly.

God, she was going to die, wasn’t she?

That’s when she heard a loud grunt paired with the piercing scream of her mother. Had her father fallen? She tried desperately to focus, finally noticing that her father was just beside her, magically bound and gagged against the castle wall.

So, not her father?

“Killian!” Peter screamed.

No. No, no no.

Something bubbled up inside of Emma, deep from the pit of her stomach. It was like a flood of warm, a flash fever, a tingling sensation covering every inch of her. Suddenly she felt like she was floating – truly floating, not just being held in the air by her throat. She didn’t feel like she was dying anymore. In fact, it was like every single cell in her body had never been more alive. A fuzziness swirled all through her body, prickling at her skin as it moved closer, closer to her heart until suddenly it pulsed from her chest, a sweet tinkling in the air accompanying a booming wave.

Less than a second later, she dropped from her place midair and landed on her feet, her skirts swishing against the dirt as the scene in front of her slowly came into view.

Silence. Stillness. Every single person who’d been fighting was on the ground, unconscious, knocked out by some kind of… energy? An energy that had come from inside herself.

She allowed two seconds of confusion before the crisis at hand brought her back to the moment.

Killian.

She ran toward him, his body slumped on the ground in a puddle of red.

“No, no, no, no, no,” she chanted, lifting his head and looking for the source of the blood.

Her fingers found it quickly: a stab wound to the chest.

(Which sounded a lot like love.)

Emma shattered. She ran her fingers through his hair and cried and cried, sobbing over his body, listening to his breaths become shallower, feeling as his pulse slowed.

“Come back to me, Killian,” she pleaded, her right hand hovering over his wound like if only she could cover it he’d stop bleeding. She bowed her head, defeated. Of course she’d lose the man she loved. It was all her fault. She should have just gone with the witch, should have done something. Anything that would have saved her love.

And then she felt it again. The bubbling, the heat, the tingling, the pulsing (gentler this time). She opened her eyes and looked down at Killian again, only to see her hand over his heart glowing pure white (little hints of a rainbow peeking out between her fingers). The heat pumped from her palm and Killian gasped, his eyes shooting open like he was waking from a nightmare.

“Killian?” she asked, blinking rapidly and clutching him tighter. Before he could respond, she ripped his shirt open to reveal the perfectly sculpted muscles of his chest, the dark dusting of hair, and zero evidence of a dagger ripping him open.

“Emma? What happened to everyone?”

She finally focused on the rest of the castle grounds – not a single person was awake beside the two of them.

“I, um, I think I did that. Oops?”

“Guess you’ve been practicing your fighting technique recently?” he asked, clearly confused. She’d have to fill him in later on the whole pulsing thing.

(She was pretty sure it was magic, but that was too terrifying a concept to deal with at the moment).

“Something like that,” she responded with a smile, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to Killian’s forehead. He was safe and everyone would be OK and Emma would deal with the scary magic thing later but for now everything was fine.

She was just about to get to her feet when Killian yanked her back down (apparently he was at full strength again that quickly). “Why don’t you try that again, Your Highness?” he asked with his usual, carefree smirk. And before she could respond, his lips were over hers. He was gentle, slow, just nipping lightly as he wound his fingers through her long hair. It was sweet and mostly innocent, but Emma was on fire all over again, feeling the prickles of the magic in her, causing her to jump back before she did something insane like accidentally turn Killian into a frog.

Perhaps she should have spent less time with her subjects and a little more time reading about magic? She was prophesized to be powerful, after all (how irresponsible of the future Queen, she chastised herself).

“Are you all right, Swan?” Killian asked her with confusion. “Should I not have…?”

“No!” She cut him off. “I mean, yes. I mean, the kiss was good; we just should probably hurry up and detain all the bad guys before they wake up.”

 

-

 

“Explain it to me one more time,” Killian began, dragging the last of the knocked out pirates into the brig. “You heard your mom scream and then knocked out every single person simultaneously with some weird energy which you also used to heal my stab wound?”

“Uh, yeah. Something like that. What do you think we do with the witch?” Emma asked, clearly changing the subject. She was leaving something out. A big something, Killian could tell. It would come out eventually.

“Didn’t your parents hold Regina in a cell that kept out magic?”

“Yes, but I’m pretty sure it was in the dungeon and I don’t know how we’ll get her there before she wakes up.” She paused. “Unless...”

Emma leaned down next to the green witch’s unconscious form, grasping her hand and they –  poof – disappeared.

Huh.

 

Hours later, once everyone had awoken from their magic-induced slumber, Killian was on his way down to the brig with King David – their intent to figure out who had hired the two villains to crash the castle. David had been mostly quiet, still reeling from being forced to watch his wife and daughter nearly perish, until just before they went below deck on the ship.

“Killian, just one moment, please.”

Killian’s throat closed and his fingers clenched in anticipation of the disappointment. David was surely going to berate him for not doing more to save his wife and daughter.

“Your Highness?” he asked hesitantly.

And then the King pulled him into the tightest hug of his life.

“Thank you, Killian. You laid down your life for Snow. And you’d have done the same for Emma. I’m so proud of you, Jones. Just so you know.”

Killian was stunned for a moment, but finally found his voice just as the King pulled back.

“Thanks, mate.”

 

Their interrogation of the pirates took hours, hours before one of them finally cracked (“Greenie” – or Zelena, as was her true name – didn’t open her mouth even to eat, so they didn’t bother interrogating her). But a pirate cracked. And they got a name, one that struck fear in the hearts of anyone who knew it, in this realm or any other.

“Rumplestiltskin.”

There were rough waters ahead – Killian was sure of that.

 

-

 

Magic. According to the Blue Fairy and Tinkerbell, she’d been born with it. Being the product of True Love meant it was part of her from the beginning.

“But why didn’t I know about it until today? I mean, yes, I’d heard the prophecy, but I didn’t believe it. I think we mostly only agreed to keep me hidden just in case anyone else believed it and tried something. Not because we thought it was true.”

“Well, dear, the magic within us is usually activated by the thing that from which it was created. In your case, I’ll bet it was love.” The Blue Fairy knew that Emma was scared and confused so she was trying to be gentle. But Emma knew the weight of all of this, the burden she now had to carry. Magic always came at a price. Even if it wasn’t her choice, she would end up paying it.

Would her parents or Killian get dragged down with her? She couldn’t let that happen.

“Don’t be so glum, Emma!” Tinkerbell said with a sympathetic, hopeful smile. “I know a thing or two about soulmates. And you’ve found yours. Go to him!” The fairy was literally bouncing up and down, her green skirt shaking glittery dust all over the floor of her parlor.

Fairies were a nightmare for her maids to clean up after. But they did know about love and magic. And apparently she was in need of guidance on both.

 

Emma wandered down to the docks, feeling a strange sense of being entirely lost and yet achingly close to home at the same time. She knew where she was going; she knew who she wanted to see. But she ambled down the wooden path as if she were out for a stroll and not about to have the most important conversation she’ll probably ever have in her own life.

(Sure, she’d have more important ones for the kingdom, for the greater good, but this one was for her.)

The Jewel of the Realm wasn’t moored too far down the way, so Emma slowed her pace, not as eager to spill her guts as she should be. Not that she was spilling. Technically she’d already blurted out her feelings for him before the weird half-epic battle of pirates and witches and True Love magic. But still. It was horrifying.

It was even more horrifying when she saw a figure hunched over on a bench, dark hair sticking up all over the place as if the poor bastard had been running his hands through it for the last hour. She’d know that disheveled mess anywhere.

Whether he heard her footsteps or felt the tension bursting from her chest (she honestly looked down a few times to make sure her fear hadn’t taken on a literal form – she wasn’t sure the range of her magic quite yet), he sat up straight and faced her.

“Good evening, Emma.” He was smiling, so that was probably a good start.

“Hi, Killian. How do you feel?”

“Well, certainly not like I was stabbed in the chest just today. So, thank you for that.”

“Guess the healing did its job then.”

“Aye.”

Silence stretched between them. Heavy silence. Painful silence. Silence so thick she again had to make sure she wasn’t causing some actual representation of her feelings to cloud the air.

Then he stood up and kissed her.

This kiss was less gentle. He crashed his lips against hers, moving them in perfect rhythm with hers, holding her cheeks in his palms as if worried she might disappear if he let go. She wrapped her arms around him, stroking the muscles of his back, his shoulders, his arms. Emma started feeling a familiar warmth flooding, magic bubbling up inside her. But rather than pull back, she sank further into him, opening her mouth and pressing her tongue gently against his lower lip. He opened for her and tilted his head, deepening the kiss, and Emma saw literal fucking rainbows behind her lids, her palms pleasantly burning as she dragged her fingers down his chest. His fingers were playing with the ends of her hair and she could feel him smile. Could he feel the magic, too? Maybe he was just thinking how ridiculous it was that he was making out with his best friend.

With that thought, she started smiling, too, pulling back to press their foreheads together lightly.

No wonder she’d only ever wanted to kiss Killian. He’s the only one she’d ever need.

But she probably still needed to say something, explain herself. So she gave him a gentle nudge backward, ensuring those perfect lips and dangerous tongue were at least a few feet from her so she could think clearly for just a second.

She decided to just go big.

“I’ve loved you since before we’d ever spoken.”

Killian’s brows shot up as his eyes went wide, his face flushing almost imperceptibly. He was quiet, quiet for too long, his eyes looking all over in confusion or frustration until finally he exclaimed, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

Well, that was unexpected. Based on the fairies’ words, she kind of just assumed his feelings were similar to hers. True Love had to go both ways, right? Unrequited couldn’t be true and she’d never have been so open if she wasn’t sure that he at least liked her but he seemed horrified, disgusted, angry at her for loving him and suddenly the words that had spilled from her mouth felt like a poison ripping through her veins, threatening to burn her from the inside out.

(This is why future Queens shouldn’t fucking fall in love.)

“What, is that such a horrible concept? Sorry my affections repulse you so much!” she spat, her embarrassment running so deep she was sure she was flushed scarlet down to her belly button.

“No, love. No.” He closed the distance between them slowly, carefully, approaching her like one might approach a spooked mare. Her heart was pounding and her skin humming as he reached down and took her hands into his own, his eyes soft and his whole energy calmer. He exhaled slowly and smirked at her, rubbing his thumbs along the backs of her hands. “I only mean to say that we’re bloody idiots, the pair of us. Because, darling, I’ve loved you just as long.”

They went quiet after that, just staring at each other. How had she not realized? Of course he loved her, too. Looking back on their years of friendship, the fear of the moment removed, it was agonizingly clear that she had always been the most important thing in his life.

(That’s what made it scary.)

After a minute or so of staring and smiling and mostly feeling like an idiot (seriously, you’ve got to be fucking kidding), she stepped fully into his body, taking his hands behind her back. He took the hint and embraced her fully, her own hands going around him as she tucked her head below his chin, her ear pressed against his chest (thump, thump, thump).

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to love you. And I was scared. So I never let myself hope that you might feel the same.”

“Aye, love, I was fearful as well. You were far too good for me. Long before I knew you were a Princess.”

“Think of all the time we’ve missed now! Years, Killian. Years of unnecessary misery.”

“Don’t even think about it, love. I’ll stay by your side from now until the stars burn out. No matter what you want me to be to you. I’ll be there.”

Emma’s heart fluttered and filled with warmth… until his entire sentence sunk in.

“What do you mean ‘what I want you to be?’ What else would I want you to be but mine?”

Killian suddenly adopted his Lieutenant stance. “Emma, you’re the Princess. You’ll be a bloody Queen within the next decade. I’d understand if you wanted to choose another to be your King.”

That’s when Emma shoved him. Hard.

“Killian Jones, I’m only going to say this once so you’d better fucking listen.” Her voice echoed down the docks, bouncing between the ships like a rubber ball. The various fishermen and sailors on their boats nearby each peeked over their railings to catch a glimpse of what was causing the ruckus. “You are the greatest man I’ve ever known besides my father. Who, by the way, is the greatest King our land has ever had. You know who else will be a great King? You. You’ll be a king and a husband and a father and my friend and a whole bunch of other great things so shut your fucking mouth about me wanting anyone but you. Got it?”

Emma poked him in his chest, hard enough that he might bruise but she couldn’t really control herself right now. What a fucking idiot.

An idiot who was now laughing.

Laughing like a fool. Doubling over in a fit of near-giggles.

(It sort of made it hard to be mad at him.)

“Are you laughing at me, Killian?” she asked, her voice small as she started to worry that, once again, she’d gone too far, said too much.

Finally he pulled himself together and once again melted into her embrace, easing her fears. “No, my love. It’s just funny. A little orphan boy is going to be King.”

Their quiet moment didn’t last long. Of course her father, coincidentally down at the Jewel speaking with Robin, had heard the raised voices, probably wondered which drunk sailor would be getting a talking to. Emma saw the very moment it registered in his mind that the noise had been coming from his very inappropriate Princess of a daughter. She also saw the moment it registered that her arms were wrapped around the Lieutenant, one of the King’s very favorite soldiers.

(He tried to look stern, but she knew he was elated. He’d been rooting for them since they’d met.)

 

-

 

Shit. Of course the King was there. Of course he would witness Killian pressed up against his daughter for the first time. Of course he would come to play protective daddy, and probably to say I told you so.

The King made a face that was equal parts smile and frown, his eyes flicking over Killian’s for just a moment before turning to his daughter. “Emma, I believe you’re needed elsewhere. If you could please disentangle yourself from the good Lieutenant, and perhaps try to avoid future outbursts in public, please?”

She unwrapped her arms from around Killian (he suddenly felt cold without her warmth against him), but took one of his hands instead, standing proudly like the royalty she was.

“Calm down. We’re going.”

“Excuse me, we?” David tried to chastise.

(Killian was surprised by the we as well.)

“My shit’s his shit now. We’ll be in the council room with the ambassadors until dinner. Let the cook know Killian will be joining us tonight. And for the foreseeable future.”

Killian’s heart skipped. So that’s all it took? He was with Emma now. Apparently permanently.

The orphan and the brave little stranger. The Lieutenant and the Princess. The (future) Captain and the Queen.

They could be the pirate and the bar wench, for Heaven’s sakes, and it wouldn’t matter. They were Killian and Emma.

And they’d change the world together.

Chapter Text

Together was such an odd concept to Killian. Mostly because it wasn’t so different at all. They had their meals together and took walks and sat in on each other’s meetings. They shared opinions and argued and laughed and supported one another unconditionally.

But then there was the touching. That part was new.

(But everything he’d ever wanted, if he was being honest.)

At breakfast she’d hold his hand, softly stroking the backs of his knuckles with her thumb, even as she chatted animatedly with her parents, the servants, visitors to the castle. She’d sit tightly against him at council meetings and briefings, her hand often wandering over to his thigh, the warmth of her touch comforting him when emotions were running high (as they often did when they discussed military strategy with the dwarves – how the hell do they know what it’s like to be a soldier, anyway, he’d whisper gruffly in Emma’s ear as the short men shrieked between one another. They’re more experienced than you’d think, Emma always assured him).

And then there was their alone time. Their true alone time, not just the semi-chaperoned strolls in the garden. You see, Emma was a proper princess, of course, and courting her, as he was, generally involved very strict boundaries. Boundaries that his perfect princess vehemently ignored.

(Sneaking around was a whole lot easier when you were courting a powerful sorceress.)

Emma would bid Killian goodnight at the edge of the castle, each bowing to one another as she held out her hand and he pressed his lips softly against her fingers, their eyes locked together conspiratorially despite the chaste gesture. Killian would turn his back and walk into the night and just as his body was shrouded in shadow, he would magically poof away – and suddenly he was in the bedroom of his beloved, free of the watchful eyes of the kingdom and all the rules of courting.

“God, I missed you,” Emma mumbled against his lips as she crashed herself against him, her small hands gripping at the lapels of his jacket like any force in the realm could ever compel him to move away from her (it couldn’t). He responded in kind, pulling her hips against his and combing his fingers through her long hair, running his tongue along her bottom lip and relishing in her answering moan.

“I left your side not five minutes ago, darling. That’s hardly enough time to miss me,” Killian said, pressing his forehead against hers as they caught their breath. Their hands were wandering, caressing, just enjoying their freedom to feel. After so many years of bottling their emotions, they were just so done. Open affection was something they’d never again deny themselves.

“One second apart is long enough for me to miss you, Lieutenant.” Her voice was low, seductive as her fingers trailed down his neck to scratch through the exposed hair on his chest. And Killian couldn’t help that his body was responding… enthusiastically.

And holy bloody hell, how much he wanted to go down that avenue, escalate their mild groping and frantic kissing to something a little more satisfying. But magic-induced privacy or not, Emma was still the princess. And princesses weren’t exactly supposed to take certain risks before their weddings.

So as much as Killian wanted to lay her down, peel her dress off, and bury himself inside of her, he knew he had to step back, take a few breaths, and order the little Lieutenant back at ease.

His precious princess didn’t approve of that decision. “Where are you going?” she whined as he took a step back, removing his body from hers save for his left hand still entwined with her right.

“Nowhere, my love. I’m just… taking a moment is all.”

“I thought we had a pretty good moment going on over here,” she said, using all her (deceptively powerful) arm muscle to pull him back to her.  

Of course she would make this harder for him.

Emma,” he groaned, allowing her to coax his body back to hers. She trailed her mouth up his neck, her lips barely brushing his skin. He shivered, his body shaking with unfulfill-able need as she chuckled, closing her lips around his earlobe.

Ah, fuck, you’ve got to stop that.” He meant it. He really did. Yet he couldn’t help the way his hips rocked into hers, his fingers gripping at her ass and his eyes rolling to the back of his head.

“No, thank you,” she whispered before dragging her tongue down the column of his throat, her teeth nipping at the cords where his neck met his shoulder. She tugged on his hand again, leading him toward her bed (fuck, she was trying to kill him), when he stopped dead in his tracks (a miracle, considering only 1% of his body’s blood was currently anywhere but his damn cock).

He finally jerked his hand out of hers, backing up against her dresser defensively. “No! Emma, we have talked about this. I’ll not sully the reputation of the princess all for some lust.”

At that, her confidence seemed to melt away, replaced by a fear he never associated with his brave best friend, his True Love. “Lust, Killian, that’s what you’re calling this? I love you. With more than my whole heart. I just want to be with you. Why is that so terrible?”

“Because you’re a princess, love. The princess. I can’t go knocking you up like a common whore!”

Oh, you’ve already knocked up some whores, have you, sweetheart? Just wonderful. That makes me feel really special.”

“Emma, come on. You know what I mean. You know that people would think poorly of you, whether or not it’s fair, that – ”

“We can be safer, Killian. I mean you don’t have to – we can just… I mean, the maids have said that you should be able to tell when you’re going to… finish… and then you can just – we can make sure I don’t get pregnant.”

“Emma, you can’t even say the words! Maybe we’re not quite ready for that step, anyway, and we’re certainly not ready for a kid, and I’m not going to be the one who causes the downfall of who would certainly become the greatest Queen this realm has ever known, so can’t you just listen to me for once?”

He could feel the redness of his face, the anger seeping out every one of his pores. He loved her more fiercely than words could possibly capture and he was not going to do anything that would tarnish her. Not a single chance.

(The heartbreak in her eyes almost swayed him. Almost.)

Her face quickly morphed into a mask he recognized as professional apathy. “Fine,” she bit out, and with a flick of her wrist and a puff of smoke, Killian was suddenly leaned against the bed in his own cabin, utterly and totally alone.

 

-

 

Everything had been fine. Perfect. Wonderful.

And then Killian went all gallant on her and pissed her off and now she’d been avoiding him for three days straight.

It was immature. She recognized this. But how utterly humiliating was it that her True Love seemed to view fucking her as the absolute worst idea in the world? And the antiquated notion that she was somehow ruined just because someone had gotten under her skirts was ridiculous. Especially when it was – once again – her True fucking Love who’d be doing it. She was going to marry him. It was his children she’d bear. (Eventually.) It wasn’t going to fuck with any bloodlines just because she loved him so much she didn’t want to have to wait.

So to have him uphold those ridiculous concepts and reject her in the meantime… it hurt. (It probably didn’t hurt more than his three-day absence, but sometimes her stubbornness got the best of her.)

“Emma, dear, can you please focus?” Glinda commanded, her sickly sweet voice breaking through Emma’s cranky stream of consciousness.

Glinda had been training Emma in the use of light magic ever since her powers revealed themselves. Regina had offered to help – and Snow was even open to her assistance, believing truly in her redemption – but in the end it seemed more beneficial for Emma to learn from someone else whose powers were rooted in love.

The problem, though, was that Glinda was somehow very intolerant of Emma’s magic motivation. See, Glinda’s love was all-consuming, was like a light inside of her just bursting through her skin. Emma’s was a bit more like a rope, tethered between her own heart and Killian’s (she hadn’t discovered the magic until him, after all). Meaning that when she was feeling dark and twisty on the Killian-front, her magic wasn’t exactly cooperative.

“Emma, you have to look inside yourself here and feel the warmth of love and how it touches you and everyone around you. If you focus it on just Killian you’ll end up burning down the castle instead of lighting this simple flame!” Glinda was as frustrated as Emma had ever seen her (Snow and Red agreed), and Emma wasn’t responding well to her criticisms. Emma was a strong, independent young woman. How fucking embarrassing was it that her power was rooted in a guy?

Emma!” Glinda shouted as the curtains behind them started smoking.

Oops.

The more experienced witch conjured some water to put out the fire, before taking a few deep, cleansing breaths (Gods, Emma was going to turn the happiest sorceress of them all into a messy ball of nerves).

Glinda squeezed her eyes closed and appeared to count to ten. “Emma, why don’t we talk about it?” she offered, moving toward the table in the corner of Emma’s study.

Emma didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to face her own idiocy. But she also didn’t want to cause the fall of her own goddamn kingdom just because she couldn’t control her emotions magic.

So Emma reluctantly sat down next to Glinda, her eyes locked on absolutely anything but Glinda’s.

Then Glinda reached over for Emma’s hand.

And Emma broke.

The usually very strong, very controlled, very together diplomat and Princess, started sobbing. Glinda pulled her into a full hug, her frustration melting away with something akin to understanding.

When Emma’s breathing slowed (and her embarrassment started poking through), Glinda quickly comforted her, reassuring her with stories of her own magical struggles. She was much younger when she was training, of course, but it was similar enough. You are not alone, Glinda was telling her. You are not weak.

But the conversation quickly devolved into relationship advice and, not knowing whom else she could consult (she loved and trusted her mother but did not want to talk about this with her), Emma revealed the reason for her “fight” with Killian.

“I know it shouldn’t matter, Emma, but it does. He’s a good man to care so much for you,” Glinda assured her when she revealed her feelings of rejection.

“Well of course he cares! He’s my True fucking Love. It’s just not fair. I don’t want to deal with a royal wedding right now. And he’s right – it’s not time for kids. We have a lot of shit to conquer before that. But I love him. And I want to love him… in every way possible.”

Her cheeks flushed deeply and she winced, still ashamed for talking about such matters. But Glinda nodded at her with understanding.

“Well, Emma. Life is not fair… However,” Glinda paused, a mischievous grin crossing her features that Emma had never seen before. “There are perk s to being magical…”

 

-

 

It would happen when the love of his fucking life wasn’t even talking to him.

Killian was finally, finally being promoted to Captain.

And he couldn’t beg an audience with the only person he wanted to tell.

The men, his friends, his makeshift family were all very happy for him. But he just wanted to tell Emma, to celebrate with her, to lift her in his arms and twirl her around and kiss her senseless. But no. Instead he was sitting on their bench, all alone.

(The space between his fingers had never felt so empty, his lips so unkissed.)

 

-

 

Once Emma had talked through her issues with Glinda (and came up with at least one solution), she was finally able to focus and get some magic accomplished. She was moving objects again with ease and learning incantations and blessings and most importantly, offense and defense. And, to her absolute pride, Glinda was able to teach Emma to channel her feelings of love other than the romantic ones, making her feel far less like her own self-worth was entirely dependent upon Killian.

So she left the castle feeling light, excited, happy for the first time in days. Despite the discomfort of having to apologize and try to explain herself (even though she knew Killian would forgive her, no questions asked), she was still giddy with excitement about seeing him again. She wanted nothing more than to jump into his arms, wrap her legs around his waist, and kiss him like the stars were falling out of the sky (propriety be damned).

She was practically skipping down the lane like a child when she ran headlong into Peter, who was apparently distracted with his own excitement.

“Whoa! Pete, I’m sorry about that. I’m out of it, I guess.”

“It’s OK, Emma!” he replied, his smile just beaming. “We’re probably out of it for the same reason, anyway.”

“We are?” Unless he was also in love with Killian and needing to apologize for trying to seduce him, they probably weren’t on the same page.

“The big promotion?” Peter’s eyebrow quirked almost inhumanly toward his hairline in an expression he couldn’t have picked up anywhere but from Killian.

Shit. The promotion. Killian’s promotion to Captain.

Of course her father announced it while she was being an immature idiot (he might have done it because of that – her father was a meddler, after all).

“Yeah, I’m off to find the Cap now, actually,” Emma responded, as if the information weren’t new to her. It was somewhat comforting that Killian hadn’t told his mates of her avoiding him – at least she knew that he knew she’d come to her senses. But that would mean he’d been alone with his feelings for all those days and that could wreck a person (she’d know).

She sprinted down the lane, gathering up her skirts when she started to trip over them on the cobblestone. It was a testament to her character that so few people stared at her as she passed – apparently she was the type of princess who’d made the concept of princesshood a little less stuffy. Or maybe they just knew it was so Emma. Either way, she didn’t care.

If it weren’t for a gang of kids slowing her down, she might have missed him. Rather than celebrating on his ship with his men, Killian was sitting alone on their bench, his elbows propped on his knees and his shoulders slouched down as he stared at the ground.

“Killian?” she asked by way of announcing herself.

The immediate joy in his eyes, the way his whole body perked up just about killed her (he was more than she’d ever deserve).

“Emma! Did you hear, darling?”

He stood to approach her and she launched herself into his willing embrace, hugging her arms so tightly around his neck that she was probably threatening to cut off his air supply. He didn’t seem to mind, though, hugging her back just as tightly.

“Yes! Only because I ran into Peter on the way to see you, though. I’m so sorry I wasn’t here for the announcement. And I’m sorry I’ve been avoiding you and that I got mad that you wouldn’t – ”

“Love, don’t you dare apologize. I might have been right in my actions, but I went about it the wrong way.” Killian cupped her cheeks, placing a feather light kiss on the tip of her nose, despite her disapproving glare.

“Killian, you can’t seriously be trying to take the blame here,” she said as he pulled away, still rubbing his hands up and down her arms (seemingly to prove to himself she was really, actually standing there – silly man).

“We shall share it. As we share everything.”

At that, the mouthy princess was speechless.

 

-

 

They never seemed to learn from their mistakes, did they? After years, years of miscommunication, of thinking the other didn’t love them when they always had, you’d think they’d get better at talking to one another during tough moments. Killian knew that he’d hurt Emma’s feelings before, but instead of confronting her afterward, asking that she talk to him, he just pouted like a fucking child and let it go three days without them speaking. Three days in this realm he’d never get back again.

Gods, he was an idiot.

But he was a happy idiot that after Emma had sought him out, that he hadn’t had to spend very long alone with his good news.

Just a day later, there was a ball to celebrate the promotions (Robin was made commodore as well), and Killian was just as excited to spend some time with Emma in his arms on the dance floor as he was to be honored for his accomplishment.

He hadn’t seen Emma at all the day of the ball (too many preparations, she’d said), so it was with an even more heightened sense of anticipation that he stood waiting for her at the bottom of the grand staircase. They were introducing the court one by one, in ascending order of rank – meaning his Emma was the next to last to descend to the ballroom floor. He waited and waited, trying desperately to keep his soldierly wits about him, to stand still, but he couldn’t help bouncing on his heels until finally they introduced the Crown Princess.

“Announcing Princess Emma Swan and her escort, our guest of honor Captain Killian Jones,” Grumpy shouted, almost sounding truly cheerful for once in his life.

And that’s when his eyes finally found her – a vision in red, gliding down the stairs like some kind of angel. Or temptress. Or both.

His heart thudded out of his chest as it swelled to make room for all his love for her, all his pride, all his excitement that after so long of feeling hopeless, it finally seemed he was getting all he ever dreamed of.

A ship. A family. A chance to make a difference.

And her.

 

-

 

She’d never been so nervous in her life. Which was absolutely ridiculous. She’d negotiated treaties to end decades long feuds before – how was one ball so important?

Well firstly, because this was her first formal appearance with Killian. Everyone knew they were together – they made it quite obvious, really – but this was what would be the beginning of the rest of their lives. She was a princess now and she’d become a queen and then eventually she’d be the queen’s mother and never ever would her life be without formality, pomp, and royal nonsense. Could they survive the royal nonsense together?

(The glint in his eye as she’d descended the stairs said oh hell yes).

But she was nervous about more than the ball – she was also nervous for what came after.

She’d decided that sneaking around wasn’t the way to do this thing. No, she wasn’t ashamed of how much she loved Killian and how she wanted him with her always, so that afternoon as her mother had been placing the heirloom tiara on her head, Emma had made her little announcement. “Killian’s going to stay with me tonight.”

But her mother didn’t flinch. “Glinda taught you the enchantment?”

“How did you know about that?” Emma practically screeched, her eyes going wide.

“Regina told me about it and said Glinda would probably know it as well. I was going to suggest it eventually. I know you’ve a lot you want to accomplish before you have kids, and I understand it’s hard to put off on having them when you’ve already found the person you’re going to spend your life with. Just don’t forget, the thing I’m proudest of is you. So don’t put it off too long.”

“Mother, are you seriously suggesting I get pregnant?”

“I’m just saying it’s not a bad thing, sweetheart. You’re allowed to want that, too.”

And she did want it. She wanted everything with him. Even if she hadn’t learned the enchantment, she’d still have told her mother he was staying with her that night. If only so she could be held the whole night the way he held her through the ball, the firm muscles of his arms rippling beneath her fingers as he spun her around (and the press of his lips against hers each time the music changed).

By the end of the night the flush of his cheeks matched the hue of her dress, the gentle hum of his rum intermingling with the steady exertion of staying at the center of the ballroom for every single dance (Emma and Killian could certainly make the most of a moment).

But all the color left his face in the middle of the last dance when she leaned in to finally whisper, stay with me tonight?

 

-

 

It had been the most beautiful torture to dance with Emma all night, feeling her body against his, enjoying her gentle smiles and knowing glances. Every once in a while he detected a sort of anxiousness that he merely attributed to their first ball finally together.

That is until she made the blood drain from him. Stay with me tonight?

“What do you mean, Emma?” he stopped mid-dance, narrowly avoiding toppling over another couple.

“I mean I’d like you to stay with me in the castle tonight,” she said, casual but determined.

“Didn’t we just talk about this?” Killian gently tugged on her hand until they were behind a set of pillars, not necessarily in a private place, but at least a less hazardous one.

“You won’t get me pregnant. I did an enchantment so I can’t. Just for now, I mean. Not forever. So we can be together now. If you want. Or you can sleep on the chaise. Or you can sleep with me and we don’t have to actually do anything. I just want to be with you. Always.”

Killian was silent for a few moments, just trying to process what he’d just been presented with.

How was he so lucky to get everything he wanted?

“Lead the way, sweetheart.”

 

-

 

Despite it being her idea, despite it being her True Love accompanying her, despite that this was something she deeply wanted, Emma’s heart was still thumping a nearly painful syncopated rhythm against her ribcage. Killian seemed to sense her anxiety, rubbing his thumb softly across the back of her hand as they approached the door to her rooms.

“Emma, darling, did you have a good evening?”

What a ridiculous question. “Of course I did, Killian! I never knew how much I could enjoy a ball until I spent one with you.” Memories of her very first ball, the many suitors, the ever-present ache in her chest at missing her best friend caused painful little stabs in the back of her skull. But he’s here now, you idiot, she thought.

She tugged on his hand as she jerked the heavy door open, banishing all stressful thoughts of their past (and future) so she could only think of tonight.

Killian helped her undo her gown and corset before politely averting his gaze, allowing her to get into bed in only her shift. He began removing his own uniform, but Emma didn’t extend him the same “polite” courtesy. Her eyes raked over him as he undid his top buttons and exposed more of his chest than she’d ever seen (why couldn’t he keep a few more of those buttons undone, anyway?). She smirked at him and he blushed and it felt like nothing else she’d ever experienced – the lust mixed with trust and joy and love.

But he still looked hesitant. “Emma, I love you. More than anything in the whole realm.” He hesitated.

“But?”

But I don’t want to rush this. Can we – can we just sleep? I want you so much it hurts, but I don’t want this to be something we’re doing just to get it over with. I want to cherish you.”

“You don’t think we’ve waited long enough?”

Despite the heaviness of the conversation, Killian managed a genuine chuckle. “Oh, my love, we certainly have. But a little longer won’t kill us.”

“Speak for yourself,” she muttered (unintentionally aloud), rolling to her side so that she was no longer facing him. He wasn’t rejecting her – he wasn’t – but her blushing cheeks apparently felt otherwise.

The bed dipped as Killian eased himself down, pressing his weight against her back, shirtless and wearing only the pair of linen pants she’d left out for him (preparation was key; any great ruler would know). He left a careful amount of space between his hips and hers, draping only his arm over her shoulders, his breath tickling her neck as it puffed out his nose and in through her hair.

“I truly didn’t mean to upset you, love,” he whispered, brushing her chin with his thumb. “Emma?”

She paused, breathing slowly before rolling over to face him.

“You haven’t.” She snuggled closer to him and he chuckled. Good thing for her, he seemed to find her impatience endearing. “I respect that you want us to respect each other. Take our time. I’m sorry if I pressured you too much.” It was never OK to push someone like that. Maybe Emma’s blush was a little bit related to shame. Maybe it was a little bit of a lot of things.

Killian kissed her lightly on the forehead and pulled her closer so their torsos were fully touching. “Why don’t we forgive ourselves right now for everything. All of it. We’ve had some bumps along the way, but we’re in this thing, right?”

“Forever,” Emma breathed, tightening her grip on his shoulder blade and tucking her head beneath his chin.

They were quiet after that for a while, just enjoying the feel of one another’s warmth next to them. It was probably the longest they’d ever gone being so close without it devolving into a tangle of tongues and teeth and insistent touches.

Yes, it was the longest they’d gone with their passions at a simmer, but it was only a matter of time before it turned to a boil.

It started with Killian caressing the fabric at Emma’s waist, and then her hip, and then his hand was dangerously close to the warmth between her thighs. She responded enthusiastically, kissing the skin of his chest, his neck, biting at his earlobe. Killian shifted them so he was hovering over her, finally, finally bringing his mouth to hers, kissing her greedily.

Emma’s knees lifted practically of their own accord, bending and spreading so Killian was nestled firmly between them, the evidence of his arousal pushing lightly against her belly as they kissed and kissed and kissed.

Emma pushed herself more firmly against him and he grunted at the added friction, his willpower clearly snapping as he reached down to the hem of her shift and tugged until it was settled above her belly button.

The whoosh of air between her legs caused her to jump, but Killian quickly trailed his fingers back down to where she was throbbing for him, a sigh escaping her lips as he rubbed gentle circles on her clit.

“Think we’ve waited long enough now?” She asked with a chuckle, hoping he truly wanted her (she would argue he started it, but that sounded immature even in her own mind).

“Gods, yes,” he grunted as he pushed two fingers inside of her, slowly, reverently massaging her slick walls. “Does this feel good, love?”

Good? There probably wasn’t a word for how it felt. Emma moaned and sucked harder on the skin of his neck rather than replying, until it occurred to her that he had no more idea what he was doing that she did. She knew she wanted him, but it’s not like she’d had any experience before beyond the use of her own fingers.

“Yes, Killian, just like that. Oh,” she assured him as he hit a particularly sensitive spot. But she grew impatient. It wasn’t his fingers she wanted, after all.

She reached down and tugged on his hand, urging his fingers out of her and guiding them to her lips. She sucked his fingers into her mouth, running her tongue along their lengths to clean him off, surprised at the taste of herself. Her eyes were locked with Killian’s as his rolled into the back of his head, clearly enjoying the gesture.

Needing to feel all of him, Emma reached down and tugged on his pants, trying to be gentle in her request that he get them the fuck off. He stood completely off the bed, yanking them down and kicking them away, standing to stare at her as she lifted the shift off herself (slowly, of course – he’d wanted to cherish after all, didn’t he?). The flood of feeling in her belly as she took in his appreciation of all of her – and as she took in all of him – was a feeling she’d never before felt, never even heard described in a book or by an overly chatty townsperson or servant. No, to Emma it was like she was the only person who’d ever felt this way before, ever understood such love and devotion.

(She was not going to cry. Absolutely not.) So she took a deep breath and crooked her finger to beckon him back. Wanting him to understand her (continued) impatience, she lay down flat, allowing her legs to fall open as her head hit the pillow.

“Emma, you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Don’t let me forget to tell you that every day,” he said gruffly as he settled himself over her, his lips just barely brushing hers.

“You’re not so bad yourself, sailor,” she whispered, reaching between them to finally touch him, just trailing her fingers up and down his length.

He groaned again, her movements obviously pleasurable in some manner. “Love, please. I need to be inside you.”

Emma let go of him, shifting her hands so they were making a path up his chest. She cupped his cheeks and locked eyes with him, her eyes simultaneously cool with clarity and on fire with passion. “Please.”

And seconds later he had repositioned himself firmly at her entrance, his length nudging her with one last request for permission. Emma caught his lips in a deep kiss, rolling her hips into his. She was ready.

And then he pushed inside.

 

-

 

He’d meant it when he said they should wait. He wanted to plan it out, maybe take her on a little trip to get her away from her never-ending duties for a day or so. He wanted to get her favorite foods and a music box with her favorite song and he wanted to cover the room with rose petals or lilies. He wanted to show her exactly how special she was in every single possible way before he so selfishly took her.

But then it hit him, her body curled against his as innocently as they’d ever touched before: it didn’t need to be some planned out ceremonious event. They loved each other every single second of the day. She’d been right. They wanted each other. They were going to be together forever. Why wait even one more minute to show her?

So their touches escalated and their clothes were shed and before long he was atop her, pushing himself inside her warmth.

The feeling was nothing short of overwhelming at first. Being surrounded by her, feeling her gently squeezing him as her hands tightened on his back, listening to her heavy breathing and little moans – it was already enough that he felt like he would fall over the edge before he even started moving. He slammed his eyes shut, trying to allow her to adjust and allow himself to calm.

Then he felt her hands drift from his back, her nails scratching lightly up his arms until her fingers came to rest on his cheeks. After a moment her fingers danced upward, poking at the lids of his eyes. “Look at me, please?”

Killian opened his eyes just as she thrust her hips forward, settling him even deeper inside her. Her mouth dropped open in a sigh before she breathily asked, “Are you OK, Killian?”

He tried to think of a word to describe how he was feeling, but he was entirely at a loss, so he simply murmured, “I love you,” and slid out of her, thrusting back in sharply. Over and over, he pushed inside her, trying desperately to keep his eyes on hers the whole time. His nerves were all on fire, pulsing with deep pleasure and flooding his consciousness with nothing but Emma. He never thought he could feel more for her, but this moment, being whole with her, was something he never expected to be so… perfect.

And he knew the guys would mock him for such thoughts. Even Smee, the mildest of them, was still crass when it came to romancing women.

But that’s not was this was. It was love.

“Killian, more,” Emma begged, meeting his thrusts with fervor. He picked up the pace, the feelings finally becoming too much for him to focus on her face. So he let his eyes fall closed as he bent down to her neck, licking and nipping and sucking as she panted, her moans getting higher in pitch with every thrust.

Even knowing that she’d done the enchantment, he was hesitant to let go – what if it hadn’t worked? True Love or not, the less forgiving residents of the kingdom wouldn’t look well on the Princess knocked up before marriage.

But there was nothing he could do to stop his body from taking everything hers was offering. He spilled himself inside her as she pulsed around him, her legs shaking and her fingernails digging hard into his shoulders.

They were sweaty, spent, fully sated but he managed to once more profess his love for her before they rolled onto their sides and gave into the pull of exhaustion.

“I love you more,” is the last thing he heard before late the next morning, when he was awoken to the same sentence, spilling from the mouth of the most wonderful woman to ever walk the realm.

 

-

 

They’d been openly courting for several months, and life was nice. Calm. Happy. Her parents had accepted that Killian had given up his own quarters in favor of remaining in hers. All the kingdom’s subjects came to expect that the two of them were a package deal – she’d weigh in on military matters just as he’d consult on diplomacy.

Emma was making a difference with her people. They were making treaties with other kingdoms, solving feuds and rivals within their own. She’d changed the way that courts were run, introducing more ideas of democracy within the monarchy, trying to ensure that the rulers retained their power without abusing it, without taking agency from the commoners. Being among the “normal” people for so long, Emma had come to truly understand how they felt, and they trusted her.

With Killian’s help, she’d truly felt like she was fit to be a Queen. She could do good.

But, of course, the universe wanted to test her, didn’t it?

The invasion happened on a Tuesday morning. The Southern Isles were a kingdom fraught with internal turmoil and distrust. The royal family was too large, always fighting amongst one another. The oldest brother, the Crown Prince had promised an agreement of peace was soon coming, but apparently several of his younger brothers didn’t agree with his decision – and decided they could take the Enchanted Forest for their own.

But Emma wasn’t about to let them.

Her parents were away on a goodwill mission – visiting Agrabah for the Queen’s birthday and meeting with several military leaders while they were there. This, of course, left Emma in charge. And Hans, the youngest of the 14 princes of the Southern Isles, believed she was weak.

That fucker was going to learn just how wrong he was.

Emma pulled the mirror from her pocket that connected her to Killian, warning him of the oncoming attack. Hans had done some research, got some things right, as he knew their Navy was strong. He was attacking by land, descending from the mountains behind the castle. So Killian gathered his men to assist, those best at hand-to-hand combat being summoned first.

Emma didn’t anticipate them needing to literally fight, though. No, she was going to knock that son of a bitch out without having to so much as touch him.

The fairies were the ones who had alerted her to the disturbance, and they’d immediately cast a protective shield around the castle itself. Emma conjured a similar protection for the streets of the town, the homes of those she was charged to keep safe. And then she poofed herself right in front of Hans and his little army.

“What in the devil?” He squealed, apparently shocked by her appearance (first mission: accomplished).

“Not quite,” Emma responded, flourishing her hand and sending strings of magic bursting forth, wrapping around the legs of their attackers, shackling them to the ground. “Can I help you gentlemen?” she asked innocently. If they wanted to believe her beauty and the fact that she had boobs made her weak, they had that freedom.

But they certainly didn’t have the freedom to move, now did they?

“Gods, I thought we were done with magical nonsense!” One of the men grunted as Hans stared at her blankly. It was obvious he hadn’t anticipated this outcome.

Emma continued to smile, even twirled in her beautiful gown once before Killian arrived, armed with soldiers and weapons (that they’d never need).

“Good morning, love! This isn’t how I expected to greet you this morning,” Killian said, brushing a kiss on her cheek. “Why haven’t you transported them to the cells yet?”

“Well, I’m a bit tired. Don’t want to use all my power if I don’t have to. Can you guys haul them there yourselves? They’re already bound for you.” Emma smiled again at Hans, a nice fuck you kind of grin, before Peter and Smee and Jefferson and all Robin’s other men grabbed the attempted invaders and made for the dungeon.

Idiots.

 

-

 

There was nothing more incredible than watching his Swan kick ass. She was going to be an amazing Queen one day, was already an amazing person, one who cared far more about the wellbeing of the people in her kingdom than any ruler he’d ever heard of. He tended to think in near-hyperbole when it came to Emma, every facet of her being stunning him, but he swore it all truth. Being with her, being around the King and Queen, reassured him that royalty itself wasn’t evil. Just because it resulted in the loss of his dear brother, just because one King was corrupt, didn’t mean they all were. He saw David. And more than that he saw himself.

He and Emma weren’t married yet, but he hoped they would be. He would become King. He could atone for the sins that took his brother. He could be the man Liam knew he could be.

After Emma defeated Hans (with very little effort and almost no assistance, really), he knew her time to rule was coming soon. And he knew they could handle it.

They would be great.

 

-

 

One of the scariest things to Emma was always the continued threat of Rumplestiltskin. He was a meddler. He had more than once tried to manipulate others, tried to get to Emma for some dark, evil reason.

So they researched. They read old folk tales that were centuries old, yet appeared to reference the same man. They talked to his victims; they consulted with the Blue fairy and with Tink.

And they learned very little. They knew the imp wanted power. They knew he wanted freedom from a dagger that apparently could control him.

But they knew little else. And it scared Emma to her core, especially when she knew what was coming.

“Emma, sweetheart, we’d like to speak with you. Alone,” her father suggested, more stern than he ever was. He nodded toward Killian, clearly asking him to leave them to talk.

Emma wasn’t having that, of course. “Anything you have to say to me you can obviously say in front of Killian. Always.”

It was Snow who replied. “We know, Emma, but this has to be your choice right now. True Love or not, he’s not your husband. And you know what discussion we need to have. It’s time, Emma. It’s your turn to rule.”

“If you so choose,” her father finished quickly.

Of course she would choose. It wasn’t even a question. So that probably wasn’t the question they were really asking.

She wavered. Push them with Killian standing there, or do the kinder, more respectable thing and ask for a moment of privacy with her parents? Killian would understand, even if it weren’t what she wanted to do.

“Killian, would you excuse us for a minute? I’ll be right out.”

“Of course, your Highness,” he responded coolly, brushing his lips across her knuckles as he bowed. Cheeky bastard.

When the door to the chamber clicked shut, she locked eyes with her father. “So what do you really want to talk about?”

David shuffled uncomfortably from one foot to the other, looking everywhere but at Emma. So Snow stepped in.

“Emma, you’re going to be Queen. And traditionally, a Queen is married…”

Oh. That was the choice they were referring to.

“So you want me to marry Killian.”

“If you so choose,” her father repeated.

“Why the fuck should it matter? We do just fine right now. What, I don’t get a crown and scepter until I’m bound in matrimony? I can rule just fine with him as my partner without having to get married to do it. I’m so sick of useless traditions that make it seem like a girl can’t do things without a guy literally attached to her!”

“I know it’s not fair, sweetheart. But you love him. So why does it matter?”

“That’s exactly why it matters!”

Emma was so frustrated she couldn’t even form coherent words anymore, opting to grunt and run away instead.

So becoming of a future Queen, she thought, rolling her eyes at her own immaturity.

Shit happens.

 

-

 

You would think castle walls would be a little more soundproof.

Killian was two rooms away from Emma and her parents, but could still pretty clearly understand the words falling from their mouths.

Emma didn’t want to marry him. That was the basic summary of the argument.

So when she came bursting out of the chamber and he heard her heels clicking toward him, he tried desperately to forget. She was going to come to him for comfort, for support, and she shouldn’t have to be faced with his own complications to her life – complications being that he wanted to marry her more than he wanted anything else in the world – and it only mostly shattered his being to find out that wasn’t what she wanted.

She found him minutes later, and, as he anticipated, she wrapped herself around him, soaking in his warmth and comfort as she often did after trying times.

Because he was her anchor, her support, her love.

(Apparently he was hereverything except future husband.)

“Killian, what’s wrong?” she asked after a few moments of silence. He realized his hug was stiff, his hands not rubbing her back or combing through her hair as they usually did. He was failing at hiding his feelings.

“Which is it, Emma? Do you not want me to be your husband or do you not want me to be your King?” he blurted out, something akin to word vomit that simply couldn’t be stopped.

“Excuse me?” she shouted, pushing away from him harshly.

“I’m sorry, love, but the walls aren’t thick enough to drown out how much you don’t want to marry me. And I do apologize for being a bit upset about it, but I can’t seem to control it right now. I’ll require some time to process this before I can properly comfort you, love.” He was trying to be sincere and anything but cruel, but he couldn’t control his tone, the emotional break in his voice. He was sure she was going to respond with anger, was going to storm out on him like she stormed out on her parents, but instead she wrapped her arms around him in an even firmer hug than before.

“Killian, no,” she started, nuzzling her cheek into his chest. “I love you with my whole being. You know that. And I want to be your wife. Eventually. But I don’t like that the whole world requires that I need you. That I can’t be me, be Queen without you.”

He melted into her embrace, finally offering his full comfort to her as she was offering to him. “What’s so bad about needing someone? I need you. It doesn’t make me any less myself just because I’m better for having you with me.”

“Yes!” she shouted, pulling back from him just enough to make eye contact. “Which is why I want our marriage to be a totally separate thing from me getting crowned. We deserve our own time that’s just about love. Not about politics.”

“So it’s not that you don’t want to marry me, you just want it to be on our time. Am I getting that right?”

“Exactly, Killian. I love you too much for our partnership, our love, to be boiled down to rules or tactics. We’ll save the fucking world, because we’re awesome together. We’re not just marrying for looks, you know.” She winked at him, and he knew very well, their little spat was quite finished.

“Well you must admit, Swan, we do look quite good together. Imagine the children.”

(He did. Often.)

“They’ll be beautiful. Someday. For now, we can do a lot of practicing though…” she said, kissing a path up his neck.

(And if they were both yawning at the round table the next morning, well that was just because they practiced so very well.)

She was crowned Queen in a glorious ceremony a month later, and the party lasted for a week at least. Snow and David took a brief vacation, setting sail for a fortnight trip that was to include absolutely zero politics. They were elated and Killian was so happy for them, finally getting a chance to just enjoy being in love.

(He tried not to think of all the implications, but he knew damn well that David looked at Snow the same way he looked at Emma. And he knew where that led.)

 

Emma had been Queen for two months when there started being rumbles of Rumplestiltskin reemerging, striking up deals and getting closer to the castle, to Emma. They gathered their armies to protect the borders and tried to keep informed with the magical beings of the land as well, consulting with the fairies whenever they could.

Blue heard that there was something scaring off creatures in the Eastern forest, so one night they decided to form some parties to investigate. The dwarves were still constantly arguing among themselves, and Grumpy and Doc especially were not agreeing about where they should start.

Their babble had gotten just about intolerable when Killian finally announced a plan that they both could deal with.

“Whatever, guess I’m with the King tonight, then,” Grumpy grumbled.

“You know I’m not actually the King, dwarf,” Killian grumbled right back.

“Might as well be, Cap.”

 

-

 

Emma had been Queen for four months when she decided she wanted to marry Killian. It had been long enough that it didn’t have anything to do with her coronation anymore. And there was no reason to keep avoiding it. Plus, she really couldn’t stop dreaming of little boys with bright blue eyes and curly blonde hair or girls with Killian’s floppy hair and expressive face.

She wanted to be his wife. She wanted to have his babies and run the country with him, not just with his assistance.

But she had no idea how to subtly let him know she’d finally changed her mind.

 

-

 

Emma wasn’t subtle when she changed her mind about marriage. Killian had caught her looking at her belly in the mirror, playing with her left hand ring finger, smiling secretly when they touched or sat together.

And she went back to being very nervous around him when they were alone, fidgety and anxious like she was keeping a secret or trying desperately to figure out how to tell him bad news.

But he knew. It was good news.

He knew just how he should do this. He wouldn’t stand on ceremony. He wouldn’t make a giant ordeal. He wouldn’t do it in front of the entire kingdom. No, their love was their own. And he’d keep it that way.

So one evening, after a long day of mediation and planning, Killian led Emma to their room, his fingers firmly nestled between hers. She could tell something was off – she kept looking at him suspiciously – but he simply tugged her along and sat her down on the bed, smiling broadly the whole time.

“Emma Swan,” he started as he kneeled in front of her. “I think it’s about time we make this official, don’t you?”

Her eyes went wide, finally understanding his secret giddiness on their walk home, but soon her face morphed into a mirror of his own absolute glee.

“Yes!” she squealed, holding out her hand for the ring he hadn’t yet had a chance to retrieve from his pocket. He chuckled and reached into his jacket, presenting her with a white gold band with a green diamond nestled at the front – a near replica of her mother’s ring.

“It was made by the very same man who made the ring your mother wears. It took forever to track it down, but the stone is cut from the same rock. It has the same good luck in it, I think. Not that we need luck, my darling. Of course, I could return this if you’d prefer something else…”

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned, again nudging her hand forward so he could place the ring where he knew it belonged.

Her eyes sparkled the same green as the ring on her finger, and Killian thought he could never be a happier man than he was in this moment.

 

-

 

Emma didn’t want to wait for a super fancy wedding. Sure, it was going to be fancy. She was the fucking Queen, of course. But she wanted it fast. She was done waiting. So they threw together a sufficient banquet with plenty of flowers and fanfare. Nearly everyone in the kingdom was invited to the nuptials and nearly everyone was going to attend, her Majesty being beloved by most and respected by all.

The kingdom was buzzing with happiness and hope the day of the ceremony. Emma’s magic was stronger than ever, it feeding off the good feelings and love that surrounded her. She was even able to spice up the flower arrangements when they just weren’t enough sparkle for her. With a snap of her fingers, they were fuller, brighter, more colorful – basically just a visual representation of how she was feeling inside. So happy. So loved.

Her parents walked her down the aisle and each kissed her on the cheek when they “gave her away.” (Though she truly hated the implication she was anyone’s property, she knew her parents would appreciate the moment, so she agreed to allow it).

They were about three quarters of the way through very cheesy vows, when the back doors of the hall flew open with dark magic. Emma could feel the blackness invade her happy bubble – she could practically hear evil theme music as the shadow emerged from the doorway to reveal itself.

“I’m guessing my invitation got lost in the mail?” a maniacal voice called out. His skin was golden and scaled, his hair ratty.

Rumplestiltskin.

Emma tried to capture him with magic, but he deflected it, inching closer to her and Killian.

Killian tightened his grip on the hand she was still holding, the gesture causing Emma to feel a renewed surge of love within her. Love was not weakness; it was strength, she reminded herself.

“What are you doing here, Rumplestiltskin?” Emma boldly asked.

“Ah, so you’ve heard of me!” he cackled, clearly full of pride.

“What do you want?” Emma demanded.

“What do you think, Princess? Power,” he started, speaking animatedly with both hands. “True love is magic. You obviously know that. But what happens when the product of True Love finds her True Love… I’m not great at mathematics, dearie, but that sounds like an awful lot of power to me.”

“That’s Queen, and yes. Love is power.” Emma grabbed Killian’s hand, intent on finishing the ring portion of the ceremony, when Rumplestiltskin magically produced a dagger - and used it to slice off Killian’s hand.

Shrieks came from the audience members, but no one moved at the sight of the blood – which was when Emma realized Rumple had frozen them all in place.

Asshole. He wanted a captive audience for his mutilation.

Emma acted quickly, magically producing a bandage around Killian’s bleeding stump before forcing her thoughts back to happiness. She remembered Glinda’s instructions – focus on love. Even in the darkest time, she had to focus on love to control her power.

And she did. She thought of her mother and father, of Ruby and the dwarves. She thought of the kids she used to play with in the streets and the shop owners and sailors. She thought of all the people she helped and all the lands that were better because of her family’s belief in serenity, in love. And, of course, she thought of Killian, the little boy she fell in love with who also fell in love with her.

A rainbow burst forth from her chest, its power rippling through the crowd, freeing them all from Rumple’s spell.

And then she choked the imp, raising his body in the air with her magic. He was left gasping and she knew she shouldn’t channel even a bit of anger with her light magic, but this fucker had tried to ruin her wedding day, had just cut off her almost-husband’s hand, for God’s sake. Pure evil couldn’t be afforded much kindness when it was so inherent, so vicious.

And why them? Why this situation? She couldn’t stop her curiosity.

“If you wanted our true love magic why didn’t you just disguise yourself as a peasant and walk past us and pluck our hairs or something like that? Does everything have to be some grand-ass scheme that spans decades and involves every fucking person in the realm with you? Gods, no wonder you always fail.”

He gurgled a bit, obviously trying to respond, so Emma loosened her magic slightly – enough to allow him an explanation.

“The ceremony was awfully rushed, dearie. Why else would you be getting married now… but for the sake of a child?” Many in the crowd gasped, including her parents – suddenly hopeful that perhaps it was true.

“We’re getting married for love you twit,” she shot back before magically sealing his mouth shut for the moment.

Killian, huddled on the floor next to her, was her first priority. She cuddled him to her, rocking him back and forth as he stared at the space where his hand once was.

“I’m sorry, love,” Killian choked out between sobs. “I’ve gotten blood on your wedding dress.”

That idiot would be more concerned with her outfit than with his own blood loss.

Glinda ran to Emma’s side as soon as she made her way through the crowd, Regina trailing not far behind. The three of them knew that their combined power could bind the Dark One forever, sealing the power away – along with the man – inside of his dagger.

Though Emma wasn’t happy with the ethics of it, Rumplestilstkin was too big a risk to let go. He wasn’t like Regina – he wasn’t about to just change.

And she couldn’t take the risk for her kingdom.

 

-

 

Killian was struggling with his recovery. Not because he wouldn’t survive – the blood loss hadn’t been so bad since Emma had sealed the wound so quickly. But being without his hand was more than he could cope with. He wasn’t whole anymore, couldn’t be as much for Emma, even if he finally was her husband.

(He knew he couldn’t have everything he wanted without paying a price.)

So he was sullen for a while. Distant. Ineffectual. He didn’t accompany Emma to as many meetings, didn’t convene his men so often, didn’t even visit the pubs with them anymore.

But of course his Emma was having none of that.

“Killian, please come to bed,” she purred one night, her nude form covered only in the sheet on their bed, the swells of her breasts barely concealed and one of her legs fully exposed.

“Not yet, love, I’ve got some charts to examine.”

“No, you’ve got a wife to examine. Please?” He and Emma hadn’t been intimate since their wedding, his injury and subsequent shame too much for him to handle. Emma had joked a few times about their marriage not technically being legal yet – consummation was required – but he could tell she was truly starting to hurt being avoided by him in that manner.

He really did need to stop sulking, but how was he to love her when he only had one hand to do it with?

With an exasperated grunt, he lifted himself up from the table and swaggered toward the bed, still nervous but also so fucking turned on. His Emma was gorgeous and it had been physically painful to keep himself from her as long as he had. He could be an idiot that way. But he was still nervous.

He was even more nervous after he lay down, after they starting kissing, after she started divesting him of his clothing, when she whispered gently in his ear. “You think maybe it’s time to try for a baby?”

He slowed his fingers between her legs, pulled back to stare at her – noting her absolute not caring that it was a stump running up and down her waist rather than a hand and also noting her absolute joy at saying the word baby.

So many thoughts were running through Killian’s head. Could he take care of a child one-handed? But just thinking of a little girl that looked just like Emma was enough to convince him – it was worth the try.

The only issue was the power factor. Rumplestiltskin might have been nuts. But he wasn’t wrong. Love did create power. And sometimes that power was literal magic.

“He or she will be crazy powerful, right? Look at you. Now add another pair of true love to that. There’s great potential for good or evil there. Aren’t you scared?” He asked honestly.

“Don’t you believe in us, Killian? We’ll raise our kids well. Raise them to be leaders, to be kind, to be selfless and hopeful and all the things we are and my parents are and your brother was. There’s always danger, but there’s potential for such good. I’m not about to take that away from us, from them.”

Gods, Emma was incredible. Of course she would find the best in the situation – her mother had taught her well.

“I do believe in us. Let’s try it, love.”

 

-

 

She giggled, actually fucking giggled for the first time since the wedding. Their life had been fraught with tension and danger since then – many serious matters came far before reconnecting with Killian, her best friend and lover. No, they had to be royalty first.

But this, this is what she’d been missing. Loving him so freely, so openly. Making him feel whole, knowing herself that he made her feel the same.

So when she stood from the bed, fully naked and practically glowing with joy, she continued to laugh, just because it felt so good. The incantation to lift the pregnancy block was simple, caused only the smallest pulse of energy in the room – but it was enough that Killian knew the moment it had been successful.

He pulled her back into his arms and she’d never felt safer in her life, his fingers and stump playing along her back softly, sensually, before he rolled her over and slipped inside.

It didn’t feel different but it felt different, knowing what could happen now, knowing what they wanted to happen. The panting, the moaning, the writing and shaking and the feel of him spilling himself inside of her – it was heady, strong. A far more powerful kind of magic than even she, the most powerful sorceress in the land, could have ever understood.

 

-

 

He was finally going to be King. Emma had wanted a coronation ceremony immediately after the wedding, but with all of the other problems, they simply hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Which was mostly his fault. He was healing and then he was sullen and then he was getting used to the fact that he was walking around with a hook braced to his left arm like he was a fucking pirate rather than the ruler of a great land.

By the third time he’d ripped his own clothes unintentionally with the hook, he snapped. He wanted his goddamn hand back.

What if Emma was pregnant? How in the bloody hell was he supposed to deal with a child when he couldn’t keep from harming himself? He needed to take care of her, to be her husband and her King and her support.

He didn’t want Emma to know his feelings of failure, so he had to find a different kind of magic for his plan – he was going to ask Regina to help him get his hand back. He slipped out of bed one morning just days before the coronation, dropping a nervous but sweet kiss on the forehead of his wife. He scurried down to the stables, preparing to mount a horse, when suddenly there was a whoosh and a puff of glittery smoke.

And his pajama-clad wife was scowling in front of him.

“And where might you be going, dear husband?” she asked with a smile on her face and a threat in her eyes.

“I was just… going to visit a friend.”

“Regina is your friend now?” She accused.

He didn’t know how she knew it was Regina he was going to see. Perhaps he’d muttered in his sleep. Perhaps he was that transparent to her.

Her next words confirmed his transparency, as she seemed to know his exact motivation. “If you need to get your hand back for yourself then fine, but don’t you dare do it for me. All I need is you!”

Her words rang true, truer than anything else in his world. She did accept him. But he couldn’t seem to accept himself yet.

“I can’t even wear our wedding ring, Emma,” he finally whispered, totally ashamed.

She took a moment to process before stepping closer to him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and shaking him. “You don’t need one! I don’t need one,” she insisted. Emma reached down and yanked the band off her finger, stepping closer to Killian and dropping it into his pocket. “It’s beautiful and symbolic and lovely, but it’s removable. My love for you is not.”

At that, Emma yanked his remaining hand forward, turning his forearm so his wrist was facing up. She held out her own right arm next to his and flourished her left hand, a swirl of glittery magic surrounding them. When the magic disappeared, two tiny black matching designs revealed themselves on their arms – the neck of a swan facing the curve of a hook, mirrored to create a perfect heart.

“There. That’s a little more permanent. Is that enough for you, Your Majesty?” Emma asked with a smirk, tracing the outline of his tattoo.

“You’re always enough, my love,” he responded, leaning forward to kiss his True Love, his best friend, his Emma.

 

And they lived happily ever after.

Well, mostly.

(But we’ll get to that later.)

Chapter Text

The King was a spoiled man. He’d come from being an orphan, a child laborer, a loner – to being the goddamn King of the Enchanted Forest. He’d married the love of his life. He’d won epic battles. He’d changed the organization of the military. He got his favorite foods every night in his large, comfy castle.

And his children – by Gods, he had the best children in all the realm. Henry came first, adopted by he and Emma when his parents died in a tragic accident. He was so full of hope, full of belief and happiness and Emma couldn’t stand to see that go to waste. So they gave him a home where everyone in the caste became his family – surprisingly enough, even Regina loved the boy, and they formed quite the bond in his years as a little prince.

Liam came next, just months after the adoption of Henry. The night Emma realized she was pregnant, she’d used her magic to light little fireworks spelling out big brother over Henry’s place at the dinner table. He’d cried with happiness that he’d have a little sibling – even though he’d be almost a decade older than him or her, he was elated. And when it turned out to be a boy he was even more excited. Henry rocked his brother to sleep and played with him and tried to teach him words and colors. And best of all, he told him stories. Henry was quite the storyteller – Emma even suggested he start writing down the histories to pass down to their descendants.

After Liam, Killian wanted nothing more than a daughter. He loved his boys, but he couldn’t help but dream of a bouncing little girl, all green eyes and blonde girls just like her mother. And when Emma once again announced she was pregnant, Killian was sure he was about to get his baby girl.

(The King, you see, had become a spoiled man.)

He wasn’t upset when a baby boy came screaming out; after all, he did have his mother’s eyes. Davy was sweet and well-behaved; in fact, many in the castle accused the queen of using magic to calm her baby since he was so pleasant.

Killian loved his boys more than anything in the world – except, of course, his Emma. He’d never believed he’d be so lucky to have a wonderful kingdom in addition to the love of a real family.

 

-

 

It was absolutely ridiculous to be this nervous about good news.

And it was good news, damn it. Emma already had the most loving family she could imagine… and now it was about to grow. But she couldn’t help the shaking of her hands, the swirling in her gut, the absolute nervousness of telling her husband.

He wanted a girl so badly. What if she couldn’t give it to him?

She was a spoiled woman. He gave her everything she ever wanted: love, loyalty, companionship, a chocolate fountain every night after dinner when she’d had a rough day. He was her partner in everything – he made every single day of hers better. And he’d given her three beautiful boys with hearts of fucking gold.

She owed him a daughter.

(OK, yes, that sounds bad. But she just wanted to make him happy. That’s not a crime.)

But thievery was a crime and it was time for court to convene to decide a young man’s punishment, so Emma had more important things to think about than how to break the news to her husband that he might have another son.

“Henry! Liam!” Emma called, the boys scrambling quickly from their place in the library to stand at her side. She picked Davy up from his crib and nestled him into her side and the Queen proudly led her princes to the Great Hall.

 

-

 

Despite the formal (and important) reason for the gathering, Killian was excited to see his wife and sons. They came sauntering into the hall just on time, Emma throwing him a cute (but somewhat reserved?) wink. Perhaps this case had been bothering her as much as it had bothered him.

The accused thief was an orphan, stealing just to get by. He wasn’t a kid, but he wasn’t an adult yet, either, and Killian knew what it was like to not know how you were going to get food or shelter. How could you possibly punish him for just trying to survive?

And still, thievery was a crime.

(Sometimes the King just wanted to say fuck the law because there were bigger things in the world. But then he reminded himself he was a ruler and the laws were for the good of all men and blah blah blahhhh.)

Henry and Liam sat down at the back of the room, Henry taking Davy into his arms so proudly that Killian wanted to cry. His boys were perfect. His boys were safe and happy and well cared for.

But what if they weren’t? What if there was an uprising, if he and Emma were overthrown and the boys were left to fend for themselves? It wouldn’t seem so wrong then for them to steal some food.

Emma came to his side, sitting in their large chairs as she placed her hand over his.

“Your Highnesses, this boy may have broken the law, but the kingdom has broken him. After his parents were killed in battle, he took to the streets, taking small jobs here and there. But it wasn’t enough, your Highnesses. He had to eat,” the appointed counsel began. Killian squeezed his wife’s hand, knowing this was going to be a difficult case to handle. They couldn’t appear weak or allow the law to be broken – but how could they punish a boy who had no other choice?

At that moment, the Queen raised her free hand, motioning for the counsel to stop.

“Thank you, sir, but I’ve heard quite enough.” Emma stood, walking slowly toward the young man (whose eyes were trained on the floor in shame, in fear, in anticipation of possible beheading). Even once she was standing nearly eye-to-eye with the boy, he’d still not looked up from the floor.

“What’s your name, young man?” she asked, reaching out her hand to tilt his chin to face her.

“I’m… I’m Oliver, Queen Emma.” He was shaking and Killian wished to reach out to comfort him, but he wasn’t quite positive what his wife was about to say, so he simply sat back in his chair, a look of empathy on his face.

“Hi, Oliver. It’s nice to meet you. I’m so sorry that you’re alone. My husband was once alone. And I can’t be certain if he ever resorted to lawbreaking to get by, but I know he struggled. But you know what? He was a good boy with great potential. And I think you could be, too. I wish you’d come to the castle when you were struggling. I would have helped you. As I would any struggling young man or woman. I cannot ignore that you stole – you will need to atone for that through some uncompensated work – but I’d like to offer you a home in the castle and a job as well. My father and husband could use someone like you if you’re so willing to commit yourself to my army.”

Killian’s heart filled with warmth. Why he ever doubted that she would show pure mercy was beyond him. And for her to believe in Oliver because she’d once believed in Killian – it reminded him once again just how far they’d come.

“Th-thank you, your Highness. I really – I’m so sorry that I broke the law. I was just… I was too ashamed to ask for help. My mother was a strong lady. She taught me to be self-sufficient. I just – I didn’t want to think she’d be disappointed in me.”

Emma’s face softened as she cupped his cheeks. “You will make her proud, Oliver. I promise.”

(And if Killian wiped away a tear, well maybe it was allergy season, OK?)

 

-

 

Emma hated that her people still feared her in some way. Of course she knew there needed to be a clear line drawn to denote that royalty was royalty, that they had power and made the decisions and protected the land. But Emma had done nothing but be kind to her people. She could fuck someone up in a second if she needed to, but her people? They were the ones she’d do anything for. She wanted them to be safe, happy, successful, productive – she really would have helped Oliver if he’d only asked.

(And if she wiped away a tear after leaving the hearing, well pregnancy hormones will do that to you.)

She led her boys outside to the garden, determined to enjoy the sunshine of the day. Henry refused to led Davy out of his arms – the two of them played endlessly, their giggles echoing against the castle walls. Killian was busy with Liam, telling him stories of pirates and princesses, and Emma was just enjoying herself too much to discourage romanticizing crime (they were royals, after all).

Content that everyone else was safe and happy, Emma lay down on a bench, hiking her skirts up so her pale skin was feeling the direct warmth of the sun.

(Yes, it was inappropriate, but she was inappropriate so give her a break.)

She fell asleep rubbing her still-flat belly, wishing that if she wished hard enough, she could ensure it was a wide-eyed little girl growing inside her.

 

-

 

Killian was having one of those out-of-body experiences. The whole day had been such a reminder of how far they’d come – and how far they had to go yet. Henry would one day be King and Liam probably a great Captain and Davy – well he was too young to know what exactly was going to be his passion, but Killian knew he’d be something great. Just like he and Emma.

Emma was fast asleep, practically a glowing angel as her bright white skin basked in the sunlight. Her eyes were fluttering with dreams and her hands were resting softly on her belly and Killian suspected that placement was entirely intentional and probably meant something wonderful, but he didn’t dare hope.

He loved his three boys – his heart had swelled impossibly large in his chest with the extra love each had brought him. And as much as he hated the sleepless nights of having an infant, the vomit, the shit, the endless tears, he’d still be the happiest man in the kingdom if another kid was on the way.

Sure, a little girl would be nice, would be different, but another little boy would be just as wonderful. He could see another council meeting, another hearing, a grand convention, he and Emma sitting at the head of the room with their four children watching from the back, Henry holding Davy and Liam holding the newest child, all blonde hair and blue eyes and ill-timed gurgles and screams.

He’d never get used to the warm and fuzzies that came from having his own perfect family, his own happy kingdom, his own happy ending.

How did he ever get so lucky?

 

-

 

The next morning, Emma was chatting with the kitchen staff as breakfast was prepared, just nibbling on biscuits as she waited for her lazy bones husband and children to emerge from their rooms.

And just in the middle of Ashley’s joyful recounting of the weekend’s summer festival, Emma felt the familiar churn of her kid mucking up her digestive system. Or whatever caused the morning sickness.

Fuck. She’d avoided this the first two pregnancies. Apparently her luck had run out.

She ran to the nearest chamber pot and the biscuits that were so delicious on the way down were not quite so nice on the way back up as Emma choked and heaved.

And of course, of course that was the moment Killian decided to roll out of bed and come fetch his breakfast.

“Love, what’s going on? Does it feel like poison? Should I fetch the apothecary? Or Regina? What about Glinda? I’m sure your mom and dad know the quick ways to retrieve antidotes. Do you think it was Rumplestiltskin’s former men? Oh, no. Oh, gods.” Killian was talking a mile a minute, rambling and grasping at her hair, her cheeks, her belly. Despite having no attempts on their lives since the imp took Killian’s hand, he was always first to jump to the bad conclusions.

“Killian, no. It’s not poison, per se. It’s more like… a parasite.” She knew she had a glint of sarcasm in her eyes, but her poor husband was too far gone in his worry to detect it.

“A parasite? I’ve never heard of that being used to hurt someone. Why would they do it? Maybe Regina has a cure…”

He was clearly hesitant to leave Emma’s side, but also impatient to get her help. It was adorable and once again she prayed to all the gods she could think of that she was going to give him the daughter he so wanted.

“Killian,” she started, very serious once again. It’s just a baby. Ours, actually. It seems to not want mama to digest any food to give us nutrition, so I can already tell this one is going to be a pain in the ass. Guess we were bound to get a rebellious one eventually.”

And then Killian’s jaw went slack, his hand gripping her hair just a little too tight.

 

-

 

A baby. How could he have forgotten that he already fucking knew? He was just so terrified of the world taking away his Emma (he didn’t deserve her, after all) that his first thought at her vomiting was poison, an assassination attempt, rather than the normal sickness of a pregnancy that he already guessed was happening.

Fuck. He needed to control himself better and maybe express his joy before she got the wrong idea.

“Truly, love? We’re to have another one.”

“Yes, you doofus. Now please give me some privacy so I can finish spilling my guts. And get ready to tell the boys. But not without me!” she shouted before pushing him away and turning back to the chamber pot.

He wished he could help ease her discomfort, but there was little he could do but support her wishes. And if her wishes were for him to get the fuck away from her, then so be it.

Killian ascended the stairs again to rouse the children and get them down to breakfast. After all, he had some wonderful news to share very soon.

And wonderful news it turned out to be. The boys were nothing short of elated when Emma announced the news. Davy didn’t quite understand except that he’d have another friend to play with. And Liam was excited to be a big brother all over again (having two little brothers surely made him a bigger brother, he explained). Henry – he had some great goals for the boys. “Another one?” he shouted. “We can start a band!”

Killian’s heart swelled at he looked at Emma, her face content and yet still somehow marred with worry. There were things that could go wrong, of course, and they were in for a few more months of sleepless nights. And the stress – another whole human they’re responsible for? Aye, that could cause some anxiety. Not sure how to soothe her without starting a conversation that was distinctly not for this time, Killian simply took her hand and smiled at her.

And her answering smile was like the bloody sunrise.

 

-

 

They were all so happy. It was happy news for fuck’s sake. But Emma knew that even Killian could tell she was panicking. He tried his best to make her feel better without raising concern with their overexcited sons, but she knew the conversation was coming as soon as they retired to their own chambers.

She couldn’t disappoint him. Not after everything they’d been through. Not after being her very best friend for decades, for protecting her, for supporting her, for understand her. He loved her unconditionally, he trusted her, he believed in her, and he celebrated the person she was.

And she just wanted to make him happy.

(Pregnancy hormones.)

When they got to their bed that night, he gently coaxed her to sit, his strong hand resting on the small of her back. “What is it, love?”

Was this the moment to tell the truth? Ugh. Of course it was. She always told him the truth. No matter what.

“What if I can’t give you a daughter, Killian?” she heard the stammer in her voice, felt her shaking hands, knew that the woman Killian was gazing upon was hardly his headstrong wife.

But he grasped her shoulders anyway, staring deep into her eyes as if to burn his words straight through to her brain. “Darling, I don’t care. I don’t care what you give me. It could be a dragon for all I care. I love you and I love our children. A little princess would be adorable; there’s no denying that. But another prince? It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.”

The sincerity in his voice, the love in his eyes – it was too much. And, of course, Emma started crying. And then she got embarrassed for crying, which only made her cry harder. But Killian understood. He held her until her sobs had quieted and some rationality had returned to her.

And she looked up at him and chuckled.

“It’s OK, love. I knew what I was getting into when I became friends with you.”

 

-

 

He loved her from the start. The second that little girl started crying, the moment his eyes met hers, he was gone. He looked at Emma, all sweaty and red and exhausted and she smiled brighter than he’d seen since they were kids.

“There you go, babe. You got your girl, “ she said through panting gasps as the caught her breath. The midwife handed her the baby and Killian kneeled next to them, his heart swelling larger yet again as he took in the pride in his wife’s eyes and the wonder in his daughter’s.

Killian leaned down to kiss Emma and then the baby, taking just one last moment alone before the boys came crashing in and demanded attention from their sister.

As he glided his fingers over the perfect brown hair of his daughter, Killian imagined her life. He imagined teaching her to sail and to shoot an arrow. He imagined Henry teaching her to read. He imagined the first battle she’d fight or treaty she’d negotiate because certainly she’d have her mother’s gumption even though she had her father’s eyes.

For a moment, just one brief second in time, Killian wasn’t a King. He wasn’t a Captain. He wasn’t anything but a proud husband and father and he wanted nothing but a quiet moment alone with his family.

He looked up for a moment and noticed Emma’s eyes drooping, her jaw going slack.

“Darling, don’t fall asleep before we’ve a chance to introduce the princess to her brothers.”

“I wouldn’t even think about it,” she responded with a sleepy smile.