Actions

Work Header

Cygnets

Chapter Text

It was a cool night in early October, and Emma went to bed with the windows open. The sighing of the wind through the trees lulled her to sleep. She felt as if she'd barely closed her eyes, however, when she was awoken by the mattress dipping behind her as extra weight was added to it. Her first thought was that Killian had returned from The Crow's Nest, but then a small hand brushed her back, and a quiet "Momma," was whispered in her ear.

"Hey, babe," she said, and rolled over to find Ian and One-Eyed Jim, the former using the latter as a pillow, staring back at her. She knew why he was awake -- nightmares had been chasing Ian out of his bed and into theirs since they had switched him out of his crib a few months before -- but she still asked, "Bad dream?"

He nodded minutely, big blue eyes -- his father's eyes -- watching her serenely. He was sucking rhythmically on his pacifier. It made that peculiar, squishy sort of sound. Emma resisted the urge to pluck it from his mouth. They'd begun weaning him off it as soon as they'd taught him to use the toilet -- they figured one trauma at a time was more than enough -- and he was nearly there, except he apparently had a secret stash of pacifiers somewhere that he went to whenever he had a nightmare. Killian and Emma had confiscated five from him already. They both suspected there were plenty more, but as hard as they looked they couldn't find where Ian had hidden them.

She lifted her arm, inviting him in for a snuggle, knowing he couldn't resist, knowing despite his being two-and-a-half-years-old, potty trained, and sleeping in a "big boy" bed, he still needed to be cuddled the way she'd cuddled him since he was an infant. He scooted closer until he was nestled securely in the circle of her arms. Sweat had turned his blonde waves into wild curls. She pulled her fingers tenderly through his hair, working the tangles loose. Ian gave a deep, contented sigh, and snuggled closer.

"What did you dream about?"

"Sharks," he said softly, the pacifier giving him a little lisp.

"You're safe now," she said, and kissed the top of his head. Then she felt her hair being gently tugged: Ian was playing with it, wrapping it around and around his fingers. It was one of the remnants of his babyhood, from when she'd been breastfeeding him, and he still did it on occasion when he wanted soothing.

The switch to a twin bed -- they'd foregone a toddler bed entirely -- had been difficult for everyone involved. Emma clung to the crib because, well, because she loved it; she loved laying her and Killian's son down to sleep in it every night. But the change was both unavoidable and necessary: Ian had been escaping his crib long before he turned 2, and besides the danger of him hurting himself climbing out of it in the dark, Emma also knew he was just getting too big for it. The first few nights of the new sleeping arrangements had gone smoothly, but then all of a sudden he was waking them up crying.

At first they'd followed the advice of a parenting website (it had been Emma who'd done the research this time, Emma who'd worried about what effects disrupting Ian's bedtime routine would have) and tried walking him back to his bed.

"Everything's alright little lad," Killian had said, swaddling Ian and his stuffed red octopus in the blankets as if Ian was still an infant. "I know you're scared -- nightmares are scary -- but they can't hurt you."

Ian hadn't looked convinced.

"You're safe, babe," Emma had said. "We're here. Your dad and I are here."

"Close your eyes," Killian added. "We'll watch over you until you fall asleep."

That worked for a about a week, until one night Ian woke screaming. They rushed into his room, scooped him up, a shaking, sobbing bundle, and carried him back to bed with them. At that moment, neither of them cared what any book or website said: their little boy was scared, and while his nightmare may not have been real, his fear was.

Emma remembered sleepless nights in the orphanage and many a group or foster home, nights she awoke in terror but had no one to comfort her, nights she cried herself back to sleep, wondering where her parents were and why they'd given her up. And Killian...Killian had his own thoughts on leaving children alone in the dark. His abandonment was a wound that still bled, but she knew Ian was helping to ease the pain of that memory, helping him heal.

Since that night, Ian had ended up in their bed at least three times a week, usually more. Neither she nor Killian really minded being woken up (especially if the alternative was their boy being scared by himself in the dark), and honestly he rarely ever actually woke them anymore. Only extraordinarily bad nightmares made him cry out for them. Generally he just walked himself (and Mr. Jim) down the night-light lit hallway, into their room, and burrowed under the covers with them. So quietly did he creep in that they often didn't realize he was in their bed with them until the next morning. Once she had woken up with Killian spooning her, arms tight about her waist, feet tangled with hers, but with Ian between them clinging to her as if she was giving him a piggy-back ride, arms thrown around her neck, tiny puffs of breath ruffling her hair as he slept.

Emma glanced at the clock. It was only a quarter to midnight, which was unusually early for one of Ian's nightmares. She hoped that was a sign that he was outgrowing them, and not that they were becoming worse.

"Where's dada?" Ian asked abruptly.

Of course.

Killian was the nightmare soother. Ian whined for Emma whenever he was sick or overtired or had taken too hard of a tumble, but it had always been Killian who kept the darkness and the monsters that lurked within at bay. Emma thought it was rather fitting, as Killian had conquered his own darkness (twice) and had helped Emma conquer hers; she could think of no one more fitting to protect their son from it as well.

"Dad's at work," she said. "Do you want me to call him? See if he'll sing you a lullaby?"

"Yea."

Killian sang to Ian constantly, and if he wasn't singing to him he was reading to him or telling him some old story from memory. Emma often came home from the station to find them together on the couch, wrapped up in a book or a story or a song.

Emma grabbed her phone from the nightstand and dialed Killian's number. He didn't answer, which she had sort of expected. It was Friday, and Fridays were big nights for the bar. During the week, Killian, Will, and Smee's schedules rotated so that there were always two people working a day -- with Robin or Ruby throwing in the occasional shift, when they felt like it (or when Ruby needed the extra cash). On Fridays and Saturdays, however, all three hands were on deck to deal with the larger crowd the bar drew naturally during the weekend.

Emma waited a minute before calling Killian again, but got the same result. She looked at Ian, who was looking back, watching her expectantly. He was wide awake, and Emma was too now. There was no going back to sleep for either of them. They could wait for Killian to come home, which could take hours, or...

"Let's go see dad," she said.

-

Emma threw her hair up in a bun, dressed in jeans and a sweater, then bundled Ian in his jacket and his little knit hat, put some socks and his red sneakers on him, and carried him out to the car. Killian glanced over carelessly as she entered the bar with Ian on her hip, then did a double take. He shoved the glass he'd been filling from the tap into Will's hands and rounded the bar to meet her halfway.

"Is everything okay?" he asked, expression anxious. When it came to their son, Killian was a worrier. His hand went instinctively to Ian's forehead, brushing the wavy locks aside to feel for a fever.

"He's not sick," Emma assured him quickly, and the concern left his eyes, to be replaced by curiosity. "He just had a nightmare and couldn't go back to sleep. He wanted his dad."

"Dada," Ian added, grinning around his pacifier, eliciting an immediate smile from Killian.

"Do you have a minute to sing to him or read him a story or something?" Emma asked. Killian didn't answer, he just eased Ian out of her arms and into his, then stooped and kissed her. It was a chaste kiss, just a soft press of his lips against hers, the faint tickle of his beard, but as usual it filled her with warmth from head to toe.

All of a sudden a laugh was bubbling up through Killian's chest and spilling from his lips. Emma drew back and saw that Ian, head resting on his dad's shoulder, had reached up a hand and was petting Killian's beard in the same affectionate way he'd played with Emma's hair earlier.

"He hasn't done this in a while," Killian said quietly to Emma, allowing Ian to continue stroking his face. "Must have been some dream." 

"Sharks," Ian said, frowning pitifully. "They ate me."

"Mmm," Killian hummed, resting his free cheek against Ian's hair. "I don't think your brother should have let you watch Jaws with him."

Emma groaned. Henry had taken to being a big brother like a fish to water -- he was fantastic with Ian, in spite of being a mostly-antisocial teenager -- but sometimes he forgot Ian was 2, not 16.

"Henry let him watch Jaws?"

"Aye," Killian sighed. He began swiveling at the hips, rocking Ian side to side. After a moment, Ian's eyelids drooped, and he started sucking sedately on his pacifier.

"Get that thing out of your mouth," Killian said in mock sternness.

"Nope," Ian answered, grinning broadly.

"Pacifiers are for babies. You're no longer a baby, lad."

Ian just giggled.

Killian eyed their boy, taking his measure, sizing him up with an exaggerated scowl on his face.

"I'll trade you a glass of orange juice for your pacifier," he said.

"O'nge juice and a story."

Emma was unable to stop from smiling. 

"Fine. Orange juice and a story," Killian agreed.

"Deal!" Ian said. He yanked the pacifier out of his mouth and put it into Killian's waiting hand. It disappeared immediately into Killian's pocket. Emma took Ian's willingness to relinquish  his pacifier as a sign that his secret stash was still well-stocked. She wondered how long it would last. A month? A year? She wondered how he had managed to pilfer so many without her noticing. He was a pirate at heart, just like his dad.

"Your father and Lancelot are at the other end of the bar, love. Why don't you join them?"

"You sure you've got him?"

"Aye, Swan. I can handle the bar and this little scamp, no problem, " he said, and winked. "I'll get you a drink."

-

Despite the crowd that packed The Crow's Nest, Killian somehow managed to tend the bar and Ian at the same time. Killian and Smee minded the counter, with Smee occasionally shuffling off to the storage room for refills. Killian had one arm wrapped around Ian and poured beers from the tap, fished bottles from the cooler, and mixed cocktails with the other. Ian clung to his side like a burr, guzzling orange juice from a sippy cup. Killian took orders from customers and flashed his smile, all the while talking in a low voice to Ian.

"And then the princess said -- can you hand this bottle to Leroy, lad? Thank you -- and then the princess said..."

Ian grinned, excited to be included. He passed Leroy a bottle and in return Leroy pressed a dollar bill into his small hand. Ian offered the money to Killian, but Killian said, "That's a tip, lad. It's yours; you earned it. Put it in your pocket!"

Emma sat in between her dad and Lancelot, nursing a bottle of Goose Island, watching Killian and Ian. Sometimes seeing how much they adored each other made Emma physically ache with love for her two boys.

"Looks like Ian might grow up to be a bartender," David said.

"I doubt it," Emma said. "He told me yesterday he wants to be an octopus like One-Eyed Jim when he grows up."

David and Lancelot laughed.

"Who's on duty tonight?" Emma asked.

"You know who," David said darkly.

"Ah," Emma said. She and her father shared the position of Sheriff, with Lancelot occupying a role as "undersheriff", or assistant sheriff, though truthfully they both considered him to have the same amount of authority as either of them. There were also a handful of deputies on payroll whose primary function was to ensure the office was manned at all times. They ranged in capability from Emma and David trusting them to do their own patrols to Emma and David worrying that watching the phones overnight was too big a responsibility. The woman on duty that night was one of the latter. She was well-meaning, she was just...hapless.

Will circled the bar, waiting on tables and groups that were forced to stand because there was no where left to sit. He had an easy manner with customers. More than one group of young ladies burst into flustered giggles whenever he drew near.  

Killian had a few fans of his own, Emma knew (and who could blame them, really: her pirate was undeniably the sexiest thing on two legs), but they knew better than to make their attentions obvious when Emma was around, and Emma knew Killian didn't encourage them to do it when she wasn't around, either.

Will swooped in and blew a raspberry against Ian's cheeks, making him giggle and squirm. Ian loved his Uncle Will.

"You're interrupting my story, mate," Killian chided.

"Sorry, mate, didn't realize," Will said with a cheeky smile.

"As I was saying," Killian said pointedly, "The dragon lay slain upon the ground. The mighty princess retrieved her sword from the monster's breast, cleaned its black blood from the blade, and returned to her horse, which was still waiting at the mouth of the cave..."

-

After half an hour, Ian was passed out, slumped against Killian's chest. Killian continued serving the bar, but it was clear Ian's dead weight was now a hindrance.

"Want me to take him?" David asked.

"Sure," Killian said, sighing in relief. He carefully passed Ian over the counter to David. Emma and Lancelot quickly moved the beer bottles from the path of Ian's dangling feet.

Ian's eyes cracked open as David settled him in his lap, and he looked up at his grandpa blearily, a little crease between his brows.

"Hey, buddy," David said soothingly. "It's alright. Grandpa's got you."

Ian's eyelids fluttered shut again, and he snuggled himself against David's chest. Emma saw her dad's pleased smile. He probably didn't get many moments like those with Neal anymore, as Neal was nearly a full year older than Ian.

"Neal won't be jealous, will he?" Emma asked teasingly.

"I don't know...honestly, I swear he can smell other kids on me like a dog..."

-

It was nearing 2am when the crowd finally started to thin. David and Lancelot had left a half hour before, and Ian was in Emma's lap now, still asleep.

Emma's eyelids were drooping, as well. On the counter before her was the same Goose Island she'd been drinking since she sat down. It was still half-full.

"Why don't you go home, mate?" Will said, nodding towards Emma and Ian. "Smee and I can handle last call and closing up."

"You sure?"

"Of course. Go home with your family."

Killian clapped Will on the shoulder. "Thank you, Will. See you tomorrow."

-

Ian didn't wake up when they put him in his car seat, or when they took him out of it, or when they worked him out of his jacket and hat and shoes and put him back in his bed.

"He'll be okay, won't he?" Killian asked her quietly. He was sitting on the edge of the mattress, stroking Ian's hair, running a finger lightly along Ian's forehead, down his cheek.

"He'll be fine," Emma said. "All little kids get nightmares. It's a part of growing up. The switch out of the crib probably didn't help, but he'll get used to it."

Sometimes she wondered if Marco hadn't accidentally used enchanted wood to build the crib, which had somehow caused Killian's promise -- his love for their boy, a love that had burned inside him, she knew, from the moment they'd heard his heartbeat -- to manifest as a protective force.

"Plus, he knows we're here," she added. "He knows nothing can hurt him as long as we're around."

Killian nodded, accepting her reassurance, eyes still on their sleeping son. She ran her fingers through the short hairs at the nape of his neck. He tilted his head back, into her hand, humming contentedly.

"C'mon, we need to go to bed. He'll be up again in like 5 hours," she said.

"Are you tired, Swan?"

"Not really," she admitted.

"Then perhaps you'd be up for some other activity; something more enjoyable than sleeping?"

"What did you have in mind, Captain?"

With a low growl he grabbed her up and carried her back to their bed.

Chapter Text

It was open house night at Storybrooke Elementary. Killian, Emma, and Ian followed the crowd across the school yard and through the front doors, lit up invitingly against the dark October evening. The main hallway was mobbed with hordes of proudly smiling parents admiring the artwork hung all along the walls, and eager, chattering children pointing out which ones were theirs.

Ian led them by the hand -- well, Ian led Killian by the hand, as his other arm was in a cast from his knuckles nearly to his shoulder -- towards the Kindergarten classrooms. Emma followed close behind, carrying Jackie snuggled against her chest in her yellow sling (she fussed if they put her in the other one, the blue one with anchors on it that had been Ian's). Killian reached back and slipped his arm around Emma's waist, drawing her and Jackie closer, away from the jostling  masses.

"You alright?" he murmured in her ear.

"We're fine," Emma answered, and smiled at him knowingly. Jackie was only 3 weeks old, and they hadn't had her out in such a crowded place yet. He'd forgotten just how tiny newborns were, and how nervous that made him: he feared some fool would blunder into Emma and hurt the baby. Emma, on the other hand, handled it all as easily as if this was their tenth child, not their second. Her confidence bolstered him, eased his worries -- except for when Jackie cried during diaper changes. His heart still broke every time, no matter how much Emma reassured him that it had nothing to do with his technique.

Killian peeked downwards into the sling. The little lass was sleeping soundly despite the noise and the bumpy ride. Killian envied her: he'd very much enjoy a quick nap on Emma's breasts -- in a sling as well, if they had one his size. Both he and Emma were exhausted. Keeping up with the demands of a 5-year-old and a newborn was quite the adjustment; They'd forgotten to factor in Ian's boundless energy when they'd decided they were ready to have another child together. More than once he'd thought that perhaps they should have waited another year, perhaps that would have been easier...but then he remembered that if they had waited they wouldn't have her, they wouldn't have Jackie, and he already loved her sweet little face more than he could stand. Sometimes all he could do was stare at her, still unable to believe that she was there, that she was real, that she was theirs

Abruptly, the children Killian was wading through seemed dramatically shorter, more in line with Ian's height. They had made it to the Kindergarten classrooms. His field of vision finally clear, Killian saw Belle and the twins standing with a handful of Ian's classmates and their parents. Enzo's red-gold hair was unique and easy to locate; Colette was harder to find, but Killian spotted her dark auburn curls next to Rowan's tawny waves. Standing behind Rowan with her hands resting on the girl's shoulders was Regina, looking tense. Robin was beside her, hands in his pockets, relaxed, his usual easy smile on his face.

Ian saw them too, because he suddenly shrieked, "ENZO!", startling every adult within a 30-foot radius, including Killian.

Enzo, an old soul in a young boy's body, a soul possessing infinitely more dignity than Ian, waved back. Ian, undeterred by Enzo's reserved response, pulled his hand from Killian's and pelted across the hallway to his friend's side, barely managing to skid to a stop before crashing into him.

"Oh my God," Emma muttered, low enough so only Killian could hear. "Just what we need. Another visit to the emergency room."

Killian grumbled wordlessly in agreement. Over the weekend, Emma and Killian had decided apple picking would be the perfect first family outing as a foursome. Killian swore he'd only looked away for a second, but next thing he knew Ian had scuttled up the largest tree in the orchard in pursuit of a bunch of apples perched on an absurdly high, narrow branch. Killian had barely had time to utter Ian's name before the boy was plummeting to the ground. It had been three days, but the memory still made Killian shudder.

"Do you wanna sign my cast?" Ian asked Enzo.

"Sure," Enzo answered.

"Dad!" Ian said, whipping around excitedly. "Enzo's gonna sign my cast!"

"Aye, lad, I heard," Killian said, and grinned in spite of himself. Ian was resilient, if anything. His first words after he'd fallen and Killian and Emma had rushed to his side (already knowing something was broken) were, "Look at the apple I got!"

Killian pulled the Sharpie that Emma had informed him he was in charge of from his pocket and handed it to Ian, who handed it to Enzo.

"Can I sign it too?" Rowan asked, eyeing Ian's cast with interest. Enzo was writing his full name -- first and last.

"Uh-huh," Ian answered, getting that goofy, soft expression on his face he got whenever Rowan acknowledged his existence.

Predictably Colette also wanted to sign Ian's cast -- Rowan and Colette were as inseparable as Ian and Enzo.

Regina frowned. "I don't understand why you didn't just use magic to heal his arm," she said.

"Good evening to you too," Killian said brightly, receiving the customary return glare. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Belle purse her lips to hide her smile. 

Robin, ever the peacemaker, said, "I imagine they just wanted to teach him that magic can't fix everything," and shrugged casually.

"Wouldn't you, if you were in charge of keeping him from accidentally killing himself?" Emma asked, and Robin laughed. Regina's expression became less tight.

"We should go in. I think it's about to start," Belle said.

They led the shuffle of parents and children into the classroom, where a young woman Killian assumed was Ian's teacher Ms. Shoemaker -- a young woman with a rumpled appearance, orangey-red hair, and a kind smile -- directed them to sit at the table their son or daughter was assigned to.

Ian and Enzo's seats were next to each other (Killian couldn't imagine what had possessed the teacher to allow that), but Colette's was at a different table, so Belle went with Colette and Emma and Killian took charge of Enzo. Robin, Regina, and Rowan were at yet another table.

Killian helped Emma ease into one of the Kindergartener-sized chairs, then sat with her on his right and the boys on his left.

"Do you want me to take Jackie?" Killian asked Emma. She just gave him that look, and Killian flashed her a grin. He should have known better than to suggest Emma forego any opportunity to cuddle their little girl. Looking back, that time with Ian seemed so brief. He had turned from a baby to a toddler in the blink of an eye, and then from a toddler into a little boy even faster. Jackie was nearly a month old, but sometimes Killian felt as if she had been born only yesterday.

When everyone had found a seat, Ms. Shoemaker commenced a brief presentation that covered classroom rules and expectations, as well as upcoming events and opportunities for parents to volunteer at the school. Ian and Enzo were whispering and giggling, forcing Killian to give them his "scary pirate face" and tell them, "You're being very disrespectful to Ms. Shoemaker," to hush them up. He thought he saw Ms. Shoemaker smile at that, but he couldn't be sure.

A clipboard was circulating the room, and when it reached them Emma rifled through the papers attached.

"We should volunteer to be chaperones for field trips," she said.

"I have no idea what that is, but okay," Killian said. 

"A field trip is just when they take the kids to visit a farm or a museum or something. Parents usually go along to help out the teacher and watch the kids."

"Ian and Jackie aren't enough? You want to watch twenty 5-year-olds as well?"

"Yes," Emma said quietly. "I was always jealous of the kids in school whose parents were chaperones." 

"Then chaperones we shall be, Swan," he said, and wrote their names down on the relevant sheet of paper before passing the clipboard along.

After her speech, Ms. Shoemaker encouraged everyone to check out the treats the PTO had prepared in the school gym, and informed them she would be in the classroom until the end of open house if anyone wanted to chat.

Emma nudged Killian, and Killian turned to Belle, who had come to retrieve Enzo.

"Belle, would you mind taking Ian with you for a moment?"

"No problem. We'll meet you in the gym?" she asked. 

"Aye. Thank you, Belle," Killian said. 

"Thanks," Emma added, with an extra-warm smile of gratitude. Killian knew Belle didn't require an explanation -- didn't expect one -- but they'd still tell her later, although Killian was almost certain she already knew the reason for their request.

A few other parents had stayed behind as well. Emma and Killian hung back in order not to eavesdrop, waiting their turn, hoping to go at the very end to ensure the maximum amount of privacy. When they were the last two left, they stepped forward.

"Hi! You must be Ian's parents!"Ms. Shoemaker greeted them. She had an open, friendly manner, and Killian could see immediately why Ian liked her so much.

"Killian," he said, extending his hand to shake hers.

"Emma," Emma said, and did likewise. 

Ms. Shoemaker caught sight of the sling, and, keeping a polite distance, leaned in. "Is this Jackie?" she asked.

"Yea, this is Jackie," Emma said, beaming. She turned so Ms. Shoemaker could get a better look.

"She's precious! Ian won't stop talking about her."

"Well, that's sort of what we wanted to ask you about," Emma said, and then looked to Killian.

Taking the hint, Killian cleared his throat. "We wanted to ask you how Ian's doing in school."

"Oh, Ian's doing great! You have a very bright boy, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and he's an absolute joy to have in class: he's well-behaved, always positive...he can be chatty though, especially when he's sitting next to his friend Enzo. Sometimes I have to separate the two."

Emma and Killian exchanged relieved smiles. These were all things they already knew about their boy.

"We were worried...because of the baby, that maybe...maybe his behavior -- or his mood -- would change," Emma said. "At home he's fine. We were just worried that perhaps at school he acted...differently."

"Hm. Yes. That sort of thing can be difficult for a child to adjust to, especially if they were previously the only child -- which I think he was, yes? Yes. But he's been great. Really. He had maybe a day or two when he was a little quieter than usual -- I think probably the day Jackie was born -- but then he went right back to his normal self."

"Thank you," Emma said. "That's all I wanted to hear."

"Ian really loves being in your class," Killian added, both because it was true and because it was the sort of thing he knew you were supposed to say in these situations.

"Well, I'm very happy to have him -- "

"Ms. Shoemaker!" Ian interrupted. He bounded into the room, waving his cast above his head like a war banner.

"Ian!" Ms. Shoemaker exclaimed. "Oh my, what happened to your arm?"

Killian and Emma had told her, of course, to explain why Ian would be absent from school for two days, but Killian appreciated that she pretended she didn't know, so Ian had the privilege of relating his harrowing tale.

"I fell out of a tree!" he told her.

Ms. Shoemaker gasped. "You did?"

"Yea!"

"Did it hurt?" 

"It hurt, but I didn't even cry!"

Killian heard Emma's low laugh. Ian did cry, but it hadn't been because of his arm, it had been because, in their rush to get him to the car so they could drive him to the hospital, they had left his prized apple in the orchard.

"Everyone's missed you. Are you coming back to school soon?"

"He'll be back at school tomorrow," Killian said. "He wouldn't let us miss open house tonight though, and, as you can see, he's doing just fine."

"Well, I'm very happy you came tonight," she said, and by the way she smiled, Killian could tell she had something of a soft spot for Ian. That seemed to happen often: the boy was pure sunshine.

"Will you sign my cast?" Ian asked eagerly.

"Of course. I'd love to," Ms. Shoemaker answered, and had the grace not to act surprised when Ian instantly produced a Sharpie from his pocket.

"Blue cast. I like it," she commented as she bent over it to write her name. "It goes with your blue eyes."

"Mmm, the nurse said the same thing," Killian said dryly. He had been certain Ian would choose red (his favorite color) for his cast, and he probably would have if the nurse hadn't told him a blue cast would look very handsome with his eyes.

"Oooh, who's Ruby? I see she signed her name with a heart," Ms. Shoemaker teased. Killian had thought Ian would pass out from sheer joy when Ruby added that particular little flourish to her signature.

Ian blushed bright red and mumbled, "My friend."

Emma snorted. "Ruby's a family friend."

"Ah, I think I understand," Ms. Shoemaker said, and winked at Emma conspiratorially.

They said their goodbyes and left the classroom with the added addition of a large folder full of Ian's artwork from class that he hadn't been able to take home due to his absence from school the previous two days. Belle, Robin, and Regina were outside in the hallway.

"I'm sorry," Belle said. "He was so eager to say hi to his teacher. He got away from me."

"It's alright, he does that," Emma said. "Would you mind holding Jackie for me for a minute? I've got to go to the bathroom."

"I'd love to!" Belle answered, and carefully took the baby from Emma. She immediately began rocking Jackie and cooing down at her.

"That baby looks good on you, Belle," Robin said.

"What do you think, should your mom have another baby?" Killian teased the twins. Enzo's brown eyes were thoughtful, but Colette suddenly looked like she might cry, and Killian, red-faced with shame, had to quickly take Jackie back from Belle so Belle could comfort her daughter.

"Don't listen to your mean Uncle Killian. He was just joking. You're always going to be my baby," Belle said soothingly, wiping a lone tear from Colette's cheek.

Ian looked offended, as if Colette's reaction to the idea of baby siblings was an insult to his baby sibling. He turned to Killian, frowning, and did that "bend down I need to tell you something" gesture. Killian complied, carefully squatting with Jackie cradled against his chest. Ian put his lips to Killian's ear, and said (a little too loudly for being so close), "I like the baby."

Killian turned his head so he could whisper in Ian's ear, and said, "I like her, too."

Ian grinned like they had just shared a secret, then bent down and planted a gentle kiss on top of Jackie's head. Killian had never felt prouder of his son than when he interacted with Jackie: in most things Ian was brash, but he had surprised both Emma and Killian with how cautious and thoughtful he was around the baby.

"You know you're still my baby, right lad? Even though there's Jackie now, as well?" Killian couldn't help asking. He had to, even though he knew it was more for his own reassurance than for Ian's.

"I know!" Ian answered. "Hey, can we get ice cream?"

-

"Ice cream? Are you certain?" Killian asked as they walked back across the school yard to the street.

"Yes!" Ian said doggedly.

"But it's October, lad. Isn't it too chilly for ice cream?"

The truth was he and Emma were tired, and Killian still had to put in a few hours at the bar that night.

"Mom said it's never too cold for ice cream."

Killian couldn't argue with a "mom said".

"Alright," he sighed. "Where to?"

Both Emma and Ian threw him identical looks that suggested they thought he was dense, and he rolled his eyes -- something he'd gotten rather good at over the years, thanks to Emma.

-

The line at Hansel and Gretel's was out the door.

"It appears you two aren't the only ones who don't think October is too cold for ice cream," Killian commented. "Speaking of cold, do you want to wait in the car, love? You and Jackie should stay warm. Ian and I can get the ice cream."

"I think she's fine, actually," Emma said, slipping a hand inside the sling to feel Jackie's feet and legs. "She's doesn't get cold easily. She's just like you two."

Killian smiled and slipped his arm around Emma's waist again and kissed her wind-chilled cheek. "I love you," he said softly.

She turned her face into his. "I love you, too," she said, against his lips.

"Hey! Are you two gonna kiss all night or are we gonna get some ice cream?"

"You know what, I think your mother and I are going to kiss. Why don't I give you some money and you go buy the ice cream?" Killian said, and pretended to reach into his jacket for his wallet.

"Dad!" Ian said, scowling. "I don't want to go alone. I want to get ice cream with you guys!"

"Alright, lad. Alright. We're coming. What flavor are you going to get?" Killian asked, as if Ian might actually order something that wasn't strawberry for once.

"Strawberry!" 

"Are you sure you don't want to try something new? I heard they have a booger-flavored one. I think it's that green one right there."

"Ewwww!" Ian said, while Emma laughed.

"And you, love?" Killian asked, turning to Emma.

"I'm not getting any," Emma said dismissively. "I still have to lose the baby weight."

"Nonsense. You look marvelous, Emma," Killian said immediately, and it was true. Six years and two children had only made his love for her increase. "Besides, you're nursing; you have to keep your strength up."

"Yea!" Ian chirped. "I always feel like I can do all sorts of things after I eat ice cream!"

"See?" Killian said. "Ice cream gives you energy. It's the perfect bedtime snack for both our children."

"Is Jackie going to have some?" Ian asked curiously. He knew how Emma fed Jackie, but the exact mechanics were still beyond his comprehension.

"Something like that, kid," Emma said. "So, one scoop tonight, or two?"

The line moved steadily despite the crowd. Ava caught sight of them, and by the time they reached the counter she already had their order ready: two cones, one with a heaping scoop of strawberry for Ian, one with two scoops of rocky road for Emma and the baby, and a bowl of rum-flavored for Killian (he felt foolish licking it from a cone in public).

They walked back to the car slowly, savoring both their ice cream and the last few minutes before they returned home and their evening out ended. 

"Dad, are you coming home?" Ian asked, turning big, pleading blue eyes on Killian. 

"No, lad, I'm sorry. I have to go to the bar tonight," Killian answered, insides squirming with guilt. He hated the nights he couldn't tuck Ian in. "But I'll be there to take you to school in the morning, and I'm picking you up afterwards, as well."

"Promise?"

"Aye, I promise."

Ian nodded, satisfied; he knew his dad never broke a promise.

-

As was usual for a Tuesday night, the bar was slow, occupied by just a handful of regulars -- the people in town who worked jobs that weren't 9-5, Monday through Friday sorts of jobs. When Killian returned home, he saw the light was on in their bedroom, which meant Emma was nursing Jackie. He went to Ian's room first. The boy was nearly hidden by the blankets, so tightly was he wrapped up in them. He bent to kiss Ian's forehead, breathing in the bubble-bath scent of his hair (one of Killian's favorite smells), and whispered, "I love you." As if he'd heard, Ian mumbled something incoherent and snuggled deeper into the blankets. Killian ran his fingers through Ian's hair once, then left as quietly as he'd come.

Emma smiled at him when he entered their room. She was sitting up in bed, leaning back against the headboard, surrounded by a pile of pillows. Next to her was Ian's folder from school. It was open and his drawings were all laid out as if she'd been sifting through them.

"Hey," she said softly. 

"Hey," Killian answered. He shut the door behind him and started undressing.

Emma was stroking the baby's head as she nursed. It was such a tender sight, one that always made Killian smile.

"She sounds hungry," he observed.

"I think it's the rocky road," Emma said. 

Stripped down to his undershorts and a t-shirt, he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Mmm," he hummed. "You smell like Ian's bubble-bath."

"Yea, bath time was sort of a group effort tonight," she said.

Killian leaned in to kiss her. Her lips were warm and inviting, and he barely resisted parting them with his tongue -- she hadn't been cleared for sex by the doctor, and Killian didn't want to overexcite himself until both of them were actually ready, when they weren't so utterly exhausted (and there wasn't a baby physically in between them). He rested his forehead against hers, just enjoying being close to her at the end of a tiring day.

"What's that look?" she asked.

He sighed. "Just looking forward to the day when your breasts will be mine again."

"I mean, you can get in there too if you want. But I think you'll have to fight her for -- "

He jerked backwards, feeling his face heat up. "Emma! That's not -- I just meant..."

Emma laughed.

"I know, I know. I'm kidding. I couldn't resist, sorry."

"You may have just ruined them for me forever," Killian sniffed. 

"Yea, we'll see if you still feel that way in six months," she chuckled to herself. 

Jackie had decided she was full and fallen asleep, and nipple was replaced with a pacifier by Emma -- Killian swore they hadn't bought any pacifiers this time around (not after how long it took to get Ian to give them up entirely) but one night two weeks ago he'd followed Jackie's cries to the nursery only to find her quietly sucking on a pacifier and Ian sitting cross-legged in front of her bouncy chair, murmuring one of the sea shanties Killian used to sing to him, and Jackie had rarely been without it since.

"What's all this?" Killian asked, indicating all the papers on the bed -- the papers on his side of the bed, preventing him from crawling beneath the covers and passing out.

"Ian's art," Emma said, and he could hear how much she cherished their boy's drawings -- had from the day he picked up a crayon and put it to paper for the first time.

"Here, look at this one," she said, and handed him one that was bigger than the others. Killian took it, and smiled immediately. It was a painting of a pirate ship, which happened to be the favorite subject of both Ian and Killian. Ian drew them constantly, and Killian had thought he'd seen every possible variation. That is, until now: this pirate ship was covered almost entirely with bright red glitter.

"A pirate ship made of glitter?" he asked incredulously.

"What? Pirates can wear eyeliner but they can't have a little glitter on their ship?"

"The eyeliner is to look fierce, Swan. A pirate wears eyeliners to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies."

"And what about a boat made of glitter wouldn't fill you with fear?" she said, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "You know, I think Ian's onto something. Maybe we should give the Jolly Roger a makeover."

"I think not," he said darkly.

"Did you see what he wrote at the bottom?"

Killian dropped his eyes back to the paper. Written in the corner was "To Dad".

"It's for me?" Killian asked. Ian always showed Killian his drawings, but in the end they were bequeathed to Emma, curator of the Ian Jones Museum. Killian didn't think Ian had ever made a drawing specifically for him before.

"Mmhm.”

Killian looked closer, past the red glitter, and sure enough, perched on the decks of the pirate ship were two figures: one with yellow hair, and one dressed in all black: him and Ian.

"Ms. Shoemaker dated it on the back. September 14th. The day after Jackie was born."

Emma paused to let that sink in. She had gone into labor at 4am on a Tuesday and given birth at 7pm later that day. By the time Jackie was born, Emma was so exhausted that it had been impossible to have Ian visit, so they had waited until the next day. Their boy had never gone a full day without seeing either of them, and it had hurt -- a nagging pain amongst the otherwise soaring joy Killian had felt that day.

"He must have been missing you," Emma said quietly.

Killian just nodded. "Aye."

-

The next night, Killian put the painting -- framed and behind glass -- in the bar. He hung on the back wall across from the counter, where everyone would be able to see it.

Chapter Text

The whole thing started with a conversation Emma accidentally overheard.

It was September. She was in the basement, smiling to herself because doing laundry on a Sunday was so ridiculously ordinary and she'd never, ever get over how glorious ordinary was. She'd take folding Ian's underwear (she wasn't sure how he went through so much underwear in a week, but if she had to guess she'd say he changed them throughout the day from Batman to Spiderman to The Flash to Thor as his mood suited) over swordfights and magic and chasing monsters through the woods any day.

Killian was at the bar, working the day shift. The boys were in the kitchen, doing homework -- well, Henry was, at least. Ian was in preschool and just liked to pretend he had homework because Henry did. Ian had a seemingly boundless capacity to entertain himself, whether it be with some quiet activity like drawing or with some fantastically complex game of pretend that hijacked the whole house and everyone in it. Today, he was sitting at the kitchen table with Henry, practicing writing his letters and numbers and his name and the names of everyone he knew, waiting patiently for her to finish the laundry so they could go outside and play hockey.

Emma hefted the gigantic basket of clean clothes onto her hip and started up the stairs. Henry and Ian's voices floated down to her.

"Hey, Henry?"

"Hm?" Henry answered distractedly.

"Who's your dad?" Ian asked.

Emma froze.

"What?" Henry said.

"Who's your dad?" Ian repeated, with all the frank bluntness of a constantly-curious 4-year-old. Emma was certain neither boy knew she was within earshot. Some instinct told her not to reveal herself, to wait and listen and see how this played out.

"Dad's my dad, but he's not your dad," Ian continued. "And Uncle Robin's not your dad either...so who is?"

Henry's answer was barely audible. "My dad's dead."

There was silence between them for a moment, and then, "Oh. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It happened a long time ago."

"Before I was born?"

"Yea."

More silence. Ian had never known anyone who'd died; Emma wasn't even certain he completely understood the concept apart from what Disney and Pixar movies had taught him.

"What was he like?" Ian asked suddenly. "Was he like my dad?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know, was he a good dad?"

Because of course Ian's point of reference for everything that was good and right in the world was Killian. Emma wished he was there right then, listening, hearing how much his son adored him.

"I...I don't know," Henry said. "I didn't know him for very long. But...yea, I think he would have been a good dad."

Tears stung the corners of Emma's eyes. Everything Ian had -- everything Emma rejoiced for everyday -- Henry had never experienced.

"Hey, Henry?"

"Yea?"

"You can share my dad, if you want."

Emma's breath caught. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

Before Henry could respond, Ian plowed on. "I didn't ask dad yet but I don't think he'd mind. I mean, you're my brother and he likes you, so he'll probably say yes."

Henry didn't answer for a while. And then he said, "Thanks, Ian. I think that'd be really cool."

-

Emma replayed that conversation over and over in her head for days.

Finally, after a week, Killian said, "You've got to stop beating yourself up about it, love. Neal's death...it wasn't your fault."

"I know. I don't blame myself for that...I just wish Henry had more, you know? I wish Henry had what Ian has."

Killian looked hurt, and it took Emma a moment to realize why.

"No, it's not -- it's just..." She took a deep breath and held it while she gathered her thoughts. Henry was probably the luckiest kid in the world when it came to the sheer number of parents he had: there were Regina and Emma, his co-mothers; there was David, who had been his first father-figure and was still foremost in that category; and there were Robin and Killian, his step-fathers who were both sort of fun-dads-with-a-serious-side types. Every one of Henry's parents loved him, and every one of them applied their own unique combination of skills and wisdom to the task of raising him.

And yet Emma knew there was a small, Neal-shaped hole in Henry's heart.

Emma sighed. "Henry loves you, and he looks up to you like a father. I just wish Neal had been around to do, you know, dad stuff with him when Henry was Ian's age. Henry should have had that."

"I know, love," Killian said, and drew her into his arms. Emma nuzzled his sweater, breathing in Killian's pleasant smell. "You can't let yourself dwell on what should have been. Focus on all the things Henry has now: family, friends, a home. He's happy. And that's because of you."

"It's not because of me," she mumbled into his chest.

"It is, Emma. You brought everyone together. You're the center of things here."

She pulled her head up, ready to argue, but he kissed her.

"You're amazing, Swan," he said against her lips. "But I think you forget sometimes to take a step back and survey all the good you've done. You think yourself a failure because of Henry's father, but that's something you can't possibly fix."

"But I should be able to fix it -- I'm the Savior!" Frustrated, she fisted her hands in his sweater. "Henry never even got to say goodbye."

"Perhaps there's a way he could," Killian said slowly.

"How?"

"Regina once conjured up the ghost of her dead mother, why couldn't we do the same with Baelfire?"

"Cora was in the Underworld. Neal's not. He's dead but he's -- I don't know, he's a different kind of dead."

"Mm. We'll have to find another way then. The veil between this life and the next aren't entirely impenetrable."

Emma suddenly remembered something she'd read once, as a teenager.

"I think I have an idea," she said.

Killian chuckled. "I knew you would. So, where should I say we're going when I tell the boys to get their coats and shoes on? I'm assuming this is either going to require the aid of Belle or Regina. Or both."

"Tell them we're going to Party City."

"You want to contact Henry's dead father in a department store?"

"No, I want to get some decorations and Ian's Halloween costume at a department store. Contacting Neal isn't going to happen for another few weeks."

"Oh," Killian said, clearly still confused.

"I'll explain later," Emma said, hooking her arm through his and steering him from their bedroom. "Right now you just need to help Ian with his costume. He wants to be a pirate for Halloween this year."

"Again?" Killian asked incredulously. "That's the fifth year in a row. Doesn't he want to be something else for a change? Like one of those superheroes he draws all the time?"

"He does want to be a superhero. He wants to be his dad," Emma said, and smiled in satisfaction when Killian's mouth fell open and his cheeks turned pink.

-

It was sunset on October 31. For the people of Storybrooke, it was Halloween, but once upon a time, elsewhere in this world, another people had called it Samhain. Supposedly on this day the boundaries between different worlds could be more easily crossed.

Including the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Which meant that if there was a possibility of Emma's plan working, today was the day.

Emma and Henry stood in Regina's vault. In the center of the room was a cauldron containing a translucent, silvery liquid -- a concoction consisting mostly of the Crimson Crown spell for communicating across barriers. It simmered gently, awaiting one final ingredient.

"You ready, kid?" Emma asked.

Henry nodded mutely, lips pressed into a thin line.

"Just remember -- "

"It might not work. I know, mom."

Emma took a small vial from her pocket. It was the potion to speak with the dead -- the same one Emma had sprinkled over Killian's grave in the Underworld. She handed it to Henry, then turned to leave.

"Are you sure you don't want to say hi to him?" Henry asked.

Emma let out a deep breath.

"I'm sure, kid," Emma said sadly. He'd asked her before, and her answer had been the same. Neal was Henry's father, and Emma wanted Neal to be part of his life...but Neal wasn't part of her life. Not anymore, and never again. Neal was her past, and he'd left wounds in her so deep they had taken years to scab over. Killian was her now and her future, and that was all she wanted -- all she needed.

It had been hard to explain all this to Henry without making it sound as if she hated Neal or resented him, but in the end, she thought Henry got it.

"Ok," he said. He flicked the cork from the vial with his thumb, took a step toward the cauldron, then halted.

"Hey, mom," he said, turning back to her.

"Hm?"

"Thanks for helping."

She smiled. "That's what I do, kid. Oh! Don't forget to tell your dad you want to apply to Harvard. He'll be really proud," she said, and left before the emotions constricting her chest could boil over. She stepped from the room and to the side to lean against the wall just outside the doorway.

Up the hallway, sitting on the stairs leading back up to the mausoleum, were Killian and Ian. They were bent over one of Ian's sketchpads, clearly working on a drawing together.

From inside the room, Emma heard Neal's voice, followed by Henry's. Emma shut out the words and just listened to the sounds of their voices. She didn't want to eavesdrop; she just wanted to know Henry was happy.

Killian glanced up, saw her looking, and winked. Emma felt herself relax. Killian was her anchor, in all things. And Ian...Ian was her sunshine. He looked over too, dropped his marker and trotted over, grinning. He flopped against her, arms wrapping around her legs. He peered up at her, chin resting on her stomach, blue eyes big and round.

"Can I see Henry's dad?"

"Shh," Emma hushed him, afraid Neal might hear.

"Can I see Henry's dad?" Ian repeated, in a whisper this time.

"No," she said, and started walking back towards Killian. She wanted to keep Killian and Ian out of this. Her family was private. Neal's knowledge of it would feel like an intrusion. Aside from that, she didn't want to take Neal's focus off Henry. Henry deserved that.

Ian stayed stubbornly glued to her front. "Is it because he's a ghost?"

Emma snorted. "Not exactly, kid."

"Then why?"

Killian watched them approach with a grin on his face. When they reached the stairs Killian plucked Ian off of her and pulled him into his lap. Emma sat next to them, moving Ian's notebook and markers out of the way. She caught a glimpse of the two pirates Killian and Ian had drawn -- one was Ian, one was Killian. They were clearly drawn by two different hands, but it was difficult to say who had drawn whom, and Emma wasn't sure if that said more about Ian's drawing ability or Killian's.

"Why can't I see Henry's dad?" Ian wasn't quite whining, but it was close.

"You know how you and I like to spend time together just you and me?" Killian asked. He put his cheek against Ian's and rubbed it up and down, tickling him with his beard.

"Uh-huh," Ian said, giggling and pushing Killian's face away.

"Well, it's like that. Henry hasn't seen his father in a very long time. And right now they want to spend some time alone together." He was using the slow, calm voice he used to explain difficult things to Ian -- like how he shouldn't get angry when Neal was mean to him, or that the toilet was not the proper place to sail paper boats.

"Oh. I get it."

"Alright?"

"Yea, alright," Ian said. "Can I see him later, though? Is he going to live with us? Or is he going to live somewhere else with Henry?"

"He's not going to live anywhere, kid," Emma said. "He's not really here. We're just using magic to talk to him."

"Like Skype?"

"Yea. Like a magical Skype."

Ian nodded. "I'm glad Henry gets to see him," he said.

"Me too," Emma agreed.

"I'd be sad if I didn't get to see my dad every day," Ian said, expression changing from pensive to distressed as he said it.

Killian kissed his forehead. "You have nothing to fear, lad. I'm always going to be right here."

"You promise?"

"Mmhm," Killian hummed in response.

"And mom too?" he said, looking to Emma.

"Yea, cutie," she said, taking his hand and squeezing it. "I'm always going to be here."

"Ok, good. Because I don't want to be alone."

"You wouldn't be alone even if we weren't here," Emma said. "There's Henry, grandma and grandpa, Aunt Belle, Uncle Will, Aunt Regina and Uncle Robin..."

"It wouldn't be the same. I'd be sad all the time..." His frown deepened. "Henry must be sad all the time because his dad's not here."

Emma and Killian exchanged helpless looks. Ian had never been so sorrowful before.

"Hey...hey, Ian, it's okay," she said, reaching up and cupping his cheek. His leaned his face into her hand and fixed her with a piteous expression. "Henry's got lots of people that love him. His dad's not here but grandpa and Robin and your dad are sort of like his dads -- "

Ian gasped. "Oh! That reminds me. Hey, dad?"

"Yes?" Killian asked, blinking in surprise at the sudden turnaround in Ian's mood.

"I told Henry I'd share him with you. Is that okay?"

Emma could see Killian struggling not to laugh.

"You did?" he asked, managing to manufacture a shocked tone of voice.

"Yea."

"Hm, well, I don't know...what would I have to do?"

Ian shrugged. "You know, read him books and draw pictures with him and tuck him in at night and stuff."

"Is that it?"

Ian thought for a moment. "You have to make sure he's happy. And if he's sad you have to cheer him up. And you have to tell him all those things about being a good person that you tell me."

"Anything else?"

"Yea. You should take him to the aquarium -- wait, you should take both of us to the aquarium!"

Emma laughed. She had made the mistake of telling Ian about aquariums, and now he wouldn't stop begging them to take him.

Killian heaved a dramatic sigh. "Well, I suppose I could do all those things."

"Even the aquarium?"

"Aye. Even the aqurium."

Ian grinned. "Great! When are we going?"

"Whenever you'd like."

"Now? Wait -- no, I want to go trick-or-treating. Tomorrow?"

"How about we go next weekend?" Emma suggested. "We can take Henry to go look at some of the colleges he wants to apply to in Boston too."

"Yes! I'll go tell Henry!"

He leapt to his feet.

"Nope," Emma and Killian said together, and each grabbed one of his arms and pulled him back onto the stairs.

"Patience, lad," Killian chided.

"You can tell him later," Emma said.

"Is later in two minutes?"

"Later is whenever he's done talking to his dad, okay?"

"Fine," Ian huffed.

"Dramatic like his dad," Emma muttered. Killian shot her a glare.

-

Later ended up being over an hour. Henry emerged into the hallway, wiping at his eyes.

"You ok?" Emma asked.

"Yea. I'm fine."

"How did it go?"

"It was good. It was really good," Henry sniffed. "I'm, um, just gonna go outside for a bit..."

He pushed past them up the stairs.

"If you leave to go with your friends make sure you text me," Emma called.

"Are we going trick-or-treating now?" Ian asked, bouncing up and down on his toes excitedly.

"Actually...no. We're not done here yet," Emma said.

Killian looked at her curiously; Ian looked at her in dismay.

Emma pulled another vial from her pocket, identical to the one she'd given Henry, and offered it to Killian. He took it from her uncertainly, one eyebrow quirked.

She stuffed her hands into her back pockets and bit her lip. "I thought maybe we could introduce your brother Liam to his nephew."

The vial disappeared into Killian's clenched fist. Emma saw the struggle on his face. She'd been planning this from the beginning, but she hadn't told him; she'd been afraid he would find a way to convince himself it was a bad idea if she told him too far in advance.

Ian tugged on Killian's arm. "We're going to see Uncle Liam?"

Killian looked down, into the excited face of his little boy. His expression settled, became one of determination.

"Aye, lad, let's talk to your Uncle Liam."

-

Killian emptied the vial over the cauldron and took a few steps backwards. Ian was out in the hallway, where he'd been told to wait. Sparkling grey smoke billowed from the cauldron, and in the smoke appeared a hazy image of Killian's brother.

"Killian?" Liam asked.

"Aye, brother. It's me," Killian said stiffly. Emma discreetly moved her arm, finding Killian's waiting hand and lacing her fingers through his.

"What...I don't understand. How is this possible? What's going on?" Liam said. He sounded distant, as if he was speaking from a different room in the vault.

"Emma," Killian said simply. "She used her magic to create a spell that's enabling us to speak with you."

"Here, wait..." Emma said, and waved her hand. Liam appeared in front of the cauldron, looking very much like a live, flesh-and-blood person.

Liam blinked down at himself, then at Emma.

"It's just for show," she said quickly. "You're still, um...dead."

Liam nodded. His hands dropped to his side, fists clenched. "Thank you. For giving me the opportunity to see my brother again. And to apologize."

"Apologize?"

"Yes. To you. For how I acted in the Underworld."

"I know. Killian already told me you said you're sorry."

"Still, I would have liked to have apologized to you in person. However, under the circumstances..."

"I know," Emma repeated firmly. "It's fine."

"If there's anything I can do to make it up to you -- "

Emma locked eyes with Liam. He had the same intense stare as Killian's, the same ability to drill a hole through you with just his blue gaze. Words came spilling from her mouth before she could stop herself.

"You don't have to repay me -- honestly, I don't care. But you owe Killian. There's something I want you to do for him."

She saw Killian's head whip around in surprise.

"Anything," Liam said.

"I know you did some bad things, but you did a lot of good things too, and Killian still admires you."

She glanced at Killian, saw his curious, confused expression, and smiled.

"You can make it up to Killian by living up to the stories he's told our son about you."

Emma heard Killian's breath hitch. His hand tightened in hers.

Liam shook his head in bewilderment. "I'm sorry...stories he's told who?"

There was a shy, lopsided grin on Killian's face. He ducked his head, and called, "Ian. Come in here, lad."

Ian's blonde head appeared in the doorway. He studied his Uncle Liam with narrowed eyes for a moment, then slid around the doorway and went to Killian's side. Emma felt the tension leave Killian's body. He ruffled Ian's hair and then rested his hand on their boy's shoulder.

"Is that...?" Liam trailed off, dumbstruck, staring at Ian.

Ian stared back. "He doesn't look like a ghost," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

"No, he doesn't," Killian agreed. "Liam, this is your nephew, Ian. Ian, this is your Uncle Liam."

His voice was overflowing with pride.

"Hi," Ian said, and smiled.

"Killian, you have a son," Liam said, still gaping.

"Aye."

"It appears some time has passed then, since we saw each other in the Underworld."

"Indeed. 5 years."

Liam squatted down so he was on level with Ian.

"Hello, Ian," he said. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm your father's brother."

"I know. Dad said you were in the Navy together."

"We were."

"Before he was a pirate."

"Yes," Liam said hesitantly, "Before...that."

"I'm gonna be a pirate for Halloween!" Ian announced.

Liam's brows knit together. "What's Halloween?"

"It's when you get to dress up like your favorite thing and then you go to people's houses and they give you candy."

Liam still looked dumbfounded, so Emma decided to change the topic -- they only had an hour or so before the spell wore off, anyway.

"Tell Uncle Liam your full name," she prompted. She wanted Liam to know.

Liam looked at Ian expectantly, eyebrows raised and chin tilted down.

Ian bit his lip and grinned. "Killian."

Liam's eyes widened. "Your name's Killian?"

"Mmhm," Ian said. "Because of dad. But everyone calls me Ian. That's because of dad too."

"Emma wanted to name him after me," Killian said softly.

Liam broke into a grin. "I think Killian's a fantastic name," he told Ian. "Your father's a great man."

"Dad's a hero!"

"He is?" Liam asked encouragingly.

"Yea! He fights bad guys and he helps people and he always makes sure my markers are capped so they don't dry up and he builds the best Lego pirate ships!"

Liam's mouth hung open. "I...I don't know what Legos are. Or markers."

"Legos are toys," Emma said. "You build things with them."

"And markers are for drawing!" Ian said. "Do you want to see what dad and I drew today?"

"Of course I do, lad," Liam said, eyes crinkling in a smile. Ian sprinted from the room. Liam's gaze trailed after him.

"How old is he?" Liam asked.

"Four," Killian said.

"Four and a half," Emma corrected, because Ian would have wanted her to.

"Ah, my mistake, Swan. The lad's four and a half."

"I remember you at that age," Liam said.

"What was he like?" Emma asked quickly. She'd never heard about Killian's childhood from anyone other than Killian.

Liam smirked, and Emma noticed his smile and his eyes were the features he shared with Killian.

"Well, my brother here was a bit wild when he was a boy."

"How surprising," Emma said dryly. Killian flashed her a grin.

"He was always running from one thing to the next. And he was always smiling."

"That sounds like someone we know," she said, and nudged Killian with her elbow.

"Ian seems very happy," Liam said quietly.

"He is," Killian said, equally quietly.

"It's because he's got you for a dad," Emma said. She snaked her arm up his back and threaded her fingers through the hairs at his neck. Killian blushed, eyes darting away shyly. Emma pressed on. "You taught him how to swim, you tell him stories, you sing to him -- "

"You sing to him?" Liam cut in. Emma heard pain in his voice.

"Aye."

"Mother used to -- "

"I know. I remember."

There was a tense moment between them, and then Liam nodded sharply.

"The lad's a lucky boy," Liam said.

"I'm the one that's lucky," Killian said, and looked at Emma.

"So, you're happy then?" Liam asked.

"I am," Killian answered, not taking his eyes from Emma. It was one simple word, but it carried so much weight -- the weight of their nearly six years together, the weight of their True Love, the weight of the son they shared and the light he'd brought into their lives.

"Well," said Liam. "Then I'm happy for you. You deserve this, Killian."

Ian bounded back into the room then, waving a piece of paper, and shouting, "Look, Uncle Liam!"

Liam snapped back into indulgent uncle mode, but Emma saw the proud looks he snuck at Killian, and Killian's joyful glow as he watched his son and his uncle laughing. Killian's arm was around her waist. One of his fingers had snuck beneath her sweater and was idly stroking her bare skin, seeking that extra bit of intimate, grounding contact.

Emma smiled to herself. Maybe she did bring people together.

-

The four of them talked for an hour, until it was clear that the spell was finally beginning to fade.

Liam crouched down once again in front of Ian. His blue eyes were serious; insistent.

"Your father's a good man," Liam said. "He's the best man I've ever known. You should be proud of him."

"I am," Ian said.

Liam smiled. "You remind me a lot of your father. I hope you grow up to be just as good a man as he is."

"He'll be better," Killian said, pinching Ian's cheek teasingly.  

"And if you have a little brother or sister one day -- "

"I will," Ian said.

"What?" Emma asked.

"I'm gonna have a little sister," Ian said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Emma and Killian exchanged looks. They'd talked about it, they'd made their decision, they'd been trying...but as far as Emma knew, she wasn't pregnant yet. She was also positive Ian couldn't possibly know any of that.

"Erm, as I was saying," Liam said, stifling a laugh. "When you're a big brother you have to be there for your sibling. You have to help them find their way, but always let them know that it's okay to make mistakes -- nobody's perfect."

Ian nodded seriously.

Liam stood and faced Killian.

"I'll, um, let you two say goodbye," Emma said. "Thank you for doing what I asked, Liam. I'm glad Ian got to meet his uncle."

Liam smiled. "Thank you for letting me meet him."

Emma nodded, then kissed Killian's cheek and steered Ian from the room.

"Bye, Uncle Liam! I'll see you next Halloween!"

-

Emma and Ian waited outside. Henry had texted her that he was meeting Ava and Nicholas for a Halloween party, so they were alone in the misty graveyard. Ian wanted to show her his somersault, which ended up with Emma having to show him how to do it properly. And that's how Killian found her and Ian having somersault races.

"Mom beat me!" Ian said breathlessly, landing in a heap at Killian's feet.

"She's quite the acrobat, that one," Killian said, smirking.

Emma rolled her eyes. Luckily, Ian was too young and too innocent yet to catch Killian's true meaning.

"Your costume's in the backseat of the car. Why don't you go put it on?" Emma said, fishing the keys from her pocket and handing them to Ian.

"Ok!" he said brightly, and raced back to where they had parked the yellow bug.

Killian took Emma's hand and pulled her into his arms.

"You never cease to amaze me, Swan. Thank you," he said softly.

"You're welcome. I know how much your brother meant to you. I wanted him to see how proud we are of you."

"We?"

"Me and Ian."

He ducked his head. "I'm just happy he got to meet our son."

"Next year he'll have to say hi to Henry, too."

"And...perhaps Ian's sister?"

Emma felt a fluttery excitement in her stomach.

"I hope so," she said, and her and Killian shared a smile.

Chapter Text

It was the first Friday of October, which meant it was time for the annual Jones-Gold combined family outing to the pumpkin patch.

"Everyone ready?" Killian asked.

"YES!" Ian and Enzo said together. They were practically falling out the front door of the pawn shop in their eagerness to be off. They were pretending to fight over who had their hand on the door handle, and their playful jostling caused their heads to bump together, pale blonde against red-gold, but that just made them start laughing. Colette was at her mother's side, watching the two boys with her usual disapproval of their antics. Jackie was --

"Where's Jackie?" Killian asked, peering around at 2-year-old height.

"She was just here..." Emma said, craning to the side to check behind one of the counters. "Jackie?"

There was no response.

"I'll go look in the back," Killian said.

Though the shop still bore Gold's name, it had changed much since the days of his ownership. The people of Storybrooke's possessions were no longer held hostage; instead, the store contained mostly antiques and curiosities. What worried Killian, however, were the many mysterious and sometimes dangerous objects that still resided alongside the harmless ones.

"Jackie," he called, parting the curtains that separated the shop from the back room and stepping through. The back room had the same jumble of furniture it had always had, and Killian knew that just because he couldn't see her right away didn't mean she wasn't there. "Jacks...c'mon, little love, where are you?"

"Here," a small voice said behind him. Killian turned around to see Jackie smiling sweetly up at him.

"Where were you, lass?" he asked, crouching down in front of her. She held up her doll in answer. It was a carved wooden thing, a little worn and old-looking, with a painted face and an extravagant pink dress. He blinked at it for a moment, and then said, "Ah. Taking your new dolly for a walk, then? Showing her around the shop?"

"Mmhm," she said, and booped him on the cheek with it in a tiny doll kiss.

Killian grinned. While Ian wore his heart on his sleeve and was exuberantly open with his affection, Jackie was discreet. Her affection was like a butterfly -- when it landed upon you it was beautiful and magical, and it left you smiling foolishly and feeling like the luckiest person in the world.

"Are you ready to go pick out a pumpkin?"

"Yes!" she said. Her green eyes sparkled with excitement.

He took her small hand in his and led her back into the shop.

-

Killian, Emma, and Belle traipsed through the pumpkin patch side-by-side, keeping an eye on Enzo and Ian as they raced ahead to give every pumpkin a thorough inspection, looking for the perfect one. Jackie shadowed them, sticking to her brother like glue, holding her doll tightly in the crook of her arm. Colette trailed the group, looking very much like the reluctant nanny. She glanced back a few times, as if seeking permission to leave the others and join the adults, but each time her pleading stare was met with an encouraging, shooing motion from Belle.

As they walked, Killian reached out and took Emma's fingers loosely in his. She glanced over and smiled, then turned back to watch the kids.

Ian would occasionally turn and present a pumpkin to Jackie for her approval. Most of the time Jackie would shake her head in rejection, the little blonde bun atop her head bobbing from side to side, but finally, after about the twenty-fifth pumpkin, she nodded. Ian ran back to them with the pumpkin and tipped it into the wheelbarrow Killian towed.

"This one!" he said breathlessly.

"Uh, are you sure we want that one?" Emma asked, eyeing the pumpkin. It was large and brilliantly orange, but it was peppered with green nodules like warts.

"Yep!" Ian said brightly.

"And precisely who is that pumpkin for?" Killian asked, feeling like he probably already knew the answer.

"Jackie says it's for you," Ian said, then flashed them a grin before racing away to rejoin Enzo and Jackie.

"You know," Killian said dryly, watching his two children and a boy he considered as a nephew giggling at him in the distance, "I had hoped our children might inherit my wit and sense of humor...but it seems they've inherited yours, love."

"C'mon," Emma said, bumping his hip with hers, "You know it just means they love you,"

"Yes, I suppose there's that," he said.

Ian came back twice more, once with a round, medium-sized pumpkin for Jackie, and a grotesquely large one he could barely carry for himself.

"Now we gotta find mom's!" he said, and was gone again.

Enzo brought an oblong-shaped one with prominent ridges that was yellow-orange, and Colette brought one the size of a cantaloupe. Belle had to shoo her away again.

"She's awfully clingy today," Emma said. Killian side-eyed her. Colette was always clingy.

"Can I ask you a favor?" Belle asked abruptly.

"Uh, yea, of course," Emma said.

"Could you...would you mind babysitting the twins tomorrow night?" she asked, cheeks tinted pink. "I know four's a lot, and Emma you'll be in Boston for the weekend and it'll just be Killian, but -- "

Emma and Killian exchanged grins, and then Emma said, "You've got a date, haven't you?"

"Is it with -- ?" Killian asked slyly.

"Yes," Belle answered quickly, breathlessly. "Yes, it's with Lancelot."

Killian smirked. "Finally."

"What do you mean finally?" Belle spluttered indignantly.

Emma rolled her eyes. "You two have been dancing around each other for years. We've all seen it. We just didn't think it would take you guys this long."

"We have not been -- "

Ian was back again, with Jackie at his side, and this time he was carrying the most perfect pumpkin Killian had ever laid eyes on: it was the size of a basketball with a long, curving stem, and it's radiantly orange surface was pristine -- no warts, scratches, or even dirt.

"For mom," Jackie said.

Emma took the pumpkin reverently and put it in the wheel barrow. "It's beautiful, thank you guys," she said, and squatted down to pull Jackie into her arms, tickling her and raining big, loud kisses all over the girl's face, making her giggle and squirm.

Then Ian gasped, and he looked at Killian with big, wide eyes. "We need to get one for Bonny, too," he said.

The dog.

Of course.

Bonny was a part of the family, dog or not.

Ian took Jackie by the hand and they jogged back into the pumpkin patch. When they were out of earshot, Killian turned to Belle, and said, "Not to worry, Belle. I shall watch the twins tomorrow night. It would be my pleasure."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "I mean, you know they're well-behaved, but all the kids together -- "

"Belle, I managed  a pirate ship for centuries; I can handle four children. Even these particular children."

"Okay, thank you, Killian."

"Would you prefer they spend the night, as well? You don't have to cut your evening short on my account. And I'm certain Ian would love to have Enzo sleep over."

"I don't know," Belle said slowly, chewing her lip, watching the twins in the distance. "They've never really been away from me before. I'm afraid having them spend the night on only the first date might be too much too soon. I don't want them to get the wrong idea..."

Killian nodded thoughtfully. There had been some rough patches between him and Henry, after Ian was born and when Henry was in high school.

"I...I really like him," Belle continued, blushing again. "And I want the twins to like him, too."

"They already do," Emma reassured her. "They've known him their whole lives."

"Yes, but just as my friend, not as my boyfriend."

"Oh, so now he's your boyfriend?" Killian teased.

Belle's blush deepened to crimson. "What I'm trying to say is that for seven years it's been the three of us: me, Colette, and Enzo. It's going to take them some time to get used to the possibility of another person sharing my affections."

"Well, I think it's a really good idea, Belle," Emma said. "I'm excited for you."

She took Belle's hand and gave it a squeeze, and Belle smiled at her gratefully.

"I'm happy for you as well," Killian added. "I think it's fantastic -- oh, bloody hell!"

Colette was crying and clutching her head, and there was a mini white pumpkin lying on its side at her feet. Enzo was speaking calmly to his sister in a low voice, trying to soothe her, while Jackie patted her sympathetically on the hip. Ian was looking back at Killian, the mix of shock and remorse on his face telling Killian two things: that the pumpkin that had hit Colette had come from his hands, and that it had been an accident.

Killian sighed inwardly. The poor girl was honestly like a magnet for airborne objects, especially when it came to Ian -- the boy could be on Pluto or in an entirely different realm, and any rock, ball, or paper airplane he threw would still find a way to hit Colette.

"Looks like it's time to go home," Belle said, and led the way across the pumpkin patch to where their children stood, waiting anxiously for parental judgment.

"Sorry about that," Killian said quietly, knowing Belle understood the situation perfectly, but feeling he needed to apologize for it anyway.

"It's not your fault," she said. "And it's not Ian's fault, either. She's just been a little more sensitive than usual these past few days. I should have let her stay back with us. Truthfully, I think she knows something's different -- something's about to change."

"She's a smart kid," Emma agreed. "She probably knows something's up. You should talk to her."

"Yes," Belle said.

"Hey," Emma said, reaching out once more to touch Belle's arm reassuringly. "It'll be okay. It will be a huge adjustment for them, and it might be a little rough at first, but they'll come around."

By then, they were too close to the children for Belle to be able to reply with anything other than a nod, so Killian strode ahead and said loudly, "Alright. What happened here?"

-

The pumpkin that had hit Colette was the one they'd picked out for the dog. Killian purchased it along with the others, which seemed to somehow offend Colette, and then he, Emma, Ian, and Jackie said their goodbyes.

They picked up Granny's for dinner and brought it home, and when they had finished eating they cleared the table and covered it with newspaper in preparation for pumpkin carving. Ian retrieved the small white pumpkin and presented it to Bonny. The dog sniffed the pumpkin curiously for a full minute, then she took the stem delicately in her mouth and carried it back to her dog bed in the front room, where she laid down with it in between her paws, rested her head atop it, and sat watching them, tail wagging.

"I think she likes it," Ian said, grinning up at him.

"Aye, I think so too," Killian replied, returning Ian's grin and ruffling his hair. "Good choice."

They settled at the table; Jackie, doll clutched tightly to her chest, in Emma's lap, Killian standing, and Ian sitting next to him. Killian was in charge of gutting the pumpkins, a task he had become an expert at over the course of seven Halloweens. He cut out a lid for each pumpkin, and then set about removing the fibrous strands and seeds, which he set in a pile in the middle of the table.

Ian immediately scooped up a handful of the goopy innards and held it out towards Jackie.

"Pumpkin brains," he hissed, and Jackie laughed.

Emma gave Jackie a Sharpie and set her loose on the pumpkin, then Emma took the smallest knife and carefully, painstakingly tried to turn the girl's scribbles into something resembling a face. Jackie watched, sitting still and patient in Emma's lap -- but only because she had a package of fruit snacks to munch on.

They were allowing Ian, under Killian's close supervision, to carve his own pumpkin this year. He took up the Sharpie and bent over the pumpkin, tongue stuck between his teeth and his brow furrowed in a look of intense concentration. Killian loved that look. The boy wore it whenever he was drawing; his blue eyes were focused, and yet faraway, caught up in whatever fantasy world was fueling his illustrations.

He was about to begin drawing, but then he paused. "Hey, mom?" he asked.

"Yea, kid?"

"Why do we make faces on pumpkins?"

Killian felt rather foolish -- he'd been carving pumpkins for seven years and he'd never thought to ask why. He looked to Emma expectantly.

Emma glanced up from Jackie's pumpkin for a moment. "Mm, it's just an old Irish legend about this guy named Jack," she said. "He tricked the devil into agreeing never to take his soul to hell. But when Jack died, God didn't want him either, so his spirit was stuck on earth, wandering around. People carved lanterns out of turnips and gave them scary faces to keep him away."

"Oh," Ian said, looking back at his pumpkin. "I should probably make mine really scary then. Is Jack real?"

"I don't think so, kid," Emma said. "I think this story's just a story."

She looked at Killian, and Killian read her expression perfectly: around here, of course it was a possibility that Jack was real; but telling Ian the truth wasn't worth the consequent nightmares he'd have, so Killian added, "It's just a ghost story, lad, like the Flying Dutchman."

Ian nodded and put his Sharpie to the pumpkin once more, but then paused again. "Hey, mom?"

"Hm?"

"What's a turnip?"

"It's kinda like a beet, I guess."

"Ew," Ian said, nose wrinkling.

"You know, beets sound pretty good right now," Killian teased. "Maybe we should have some for dessert?"

"No!" Jackie said.

"No?" Emma asked, turning her face to nuzzle her nose into Jackie's cheek. "Not even a beet...cupcake?"

"Cupcakes!" Jackie squealed.

"Swan," Killian groaned, while Emma squeezed her eyes shut and bit back a swear.

-

They coerced Ian into taking a shower by holding his pumpkin hostage until he did. He stomped up the stairs and into the bathroom, looking betrayed, and Killian and Emma followed with Jackie, who was also angry with them.

"Cupcaaaaaakes," she whined.

"Tomorrow, love," Killian said. "I promise. Your mother bought the sprinkled ones you like, but you have to wait until tomorrow."

She didn't look convinced. She glared at them the entire time as they took her to the second bathroom and got her out of her clothes, then she tucked herself into a little ball and refused to help get herself into the bath, forcing Killian to pick her up just as she was and lower her slowly into the water, where she sat unmoving.

Killian sighed. "Jackie, lass, if you don't take a bath I'm afraid you'll be too smelly tomorrow to make cupcakes. You're going to frighten them."

Jackie uncurled her body, but she looked up at Killian, and she started crying.

"J-jackie!" Killian spluttered, startled by the big, fat tears rolling down his little girl's cheeks.

"I've got this," Emma said. "She's just tired. She didn't really take a nap today. Will you go make sure Ian actually gets soap in all the places he needs to get soap?"

"Aye, love, I'm on it," Killian said, and with one last look at Jackie, he left that bathroom and went to the other.

Ian was already out. He was standing on the rug, toweling himself dry. He looked up in surprise when Killian opened the door.

"Nope," Killian said immediately. "Get back in there. And use soap this time."

"Dad!"

"Now, Ian," Killian said firmly.

-

When both their children were clean and in fresh pajamas, Killian and Emma took them onto the porch to light the pumpkins.

They put Ian's on the top step as it was the biggest. Killian could tell Ian was proud of how absolutely frightening it was: it had slanted eyes and a huge, gaping mouth with wickedly long, pointed teeth. It put Emma and Killian's, on the step below his, to shame. Lastly came Jackie's, the smallest and the most adorable with its lopsided grin and mismatched eyes.

Emma was crouched on the bottom step with Ian, using her magic to light the candles for the pumpkins. Killian stood back, cradling Jackie in his arms. She had forgiven him, and was now snuggled comfortably against his chest with her arms around his neck.

Emma lit the first candle with a wave of her hand, then placed it carefully inside Jackie's pumpkin before moving onto the next two. Ian watched in amazement, and when Emma noticed his rapt expression, she asked, "What is it?"

"I can see it!" he said. "I can see your magic!"

Emma looked at him in surprise. "Really?"

"Yea! Can I try the next candle? I think I can do it," he said.

Emma looked to Killian, who was equally as shocked. Even when he was in the womb, Emma and Killian had known that their boy had magic, but since his birth he'd only ever produced it sporadically -- and never on purpose.

Now, however, it seemed that might be changing.

Emma smiled slowly, and turned back to Ian. "Yea, you can try," she said. "Do you want me to show you how to do it again?"

"Yea," Ian said.

There were two candles left. Emma took one and lit it. To Killian it looked as if Emma waved her hand and the flame appeared, but Ian must have been able to see something more.

"Got it?" Emma asked, offering Ian the remaining candle.

Ian took it, and with a concentrated frown, he held the remaining candle in one hand and held his other hand above the wick. For a moment, nothing happened. And then the tip of the wick glowed orange, and a thin stream of smoke issued from it...

But then it faded.

Ian dropped his hand, disappointment written clearly across his face.

Emma bumped him encouragingly with her elbow. "I saw that. You almost had it. Here," she said, and wrapped one arm around his shoulders, and gripped both his wrists gently. "Try again."

Ian did, with the same result.

"One more time," Emma said. She moved her hands lower to cup Ian's hands with hers, and said softly into his ear, "You have to feel it, ok? Feel your magic."

Ian nodded, and turned his attention back to the candle. His tongue darted out, stuck itself in the corner of his mouth and stayed there as he scowled in determination.

A flame burst to life -- a flame way larger than expected.

Killian jumped slightly, surprised, instinctively turning to put his body between Jackie, who let out a small gasp, and the fire. Emma and Ian leaned backwards quickly and Ian thrust the candle away, but Emma kept her hands firmly on Ian's, keeping him from dropping it.

"Bring it back down," she said, and Killian was amazed by how calm her voice was. "Draw some of your magic out of it."

The flame at once was reduced to normal size, and both Emma and Ian sagged slightly, breathing deep, relieved sighs. Then Emma laughed.

"Okay, okay," she said. "That was pretty good for your first try."

"Really?" Ian asked eagerly, turning bright eyes on Emma, beaming at her praise.

"Yea, kid. Except for almost burning the house down, sure. When I get back from Boston on Monday, I guess we're going to have to start practicing magic for real."

Ian looked as if both Christmas and his birthday had come early.

-

The four of them piled into Ian's bed to read a bedtime story together. Killian was in the middle, with Jackie on his right, half on top of him and half on top of Emma, and Ian was on his left, beneath his arm, pressed against his side.

Killian was only two minutes into Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia when Jackie fell asleep, but it wasn't until Killian had also finished Good Work, Amelia Bedelia and Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia that Ian's eyelids were finally drifting shut.

He and Emma tucked Ian beneath his constellation-pattern blankets, kissed him goodnight, then turned out the lights and carried Jackie to her room. They tucked her and her new doll in, switched on her little unicorn night light, and tiptoed to their own bed.

"I don't want to leave them," Emma said and she and Killian settled beneath the covers.

Killian slipped his arms around her and nuzzled into her neck. "I know, love. But Henry will be happy to see you."

She nodded wordlessly.

"Don't worry, Swan," Killian said, tightening his embrace. "They'll be fine. They'll miss you, but they'll be fine."

"Not as much as I'm going to miss them," Emma said softly, and she tucked her head down and curled into Killian's chest. Killian heard the little tremor of sadness in her voice.

He kissed the top of her hair. "It'll only be for a few days. You won't miss anything."

"You're right, what could possibly happen in three days?" she asked sarcastically. "Ian might score a goal tomorrow. Or maybe he'll do more magic. Jackie might say a sentence with more than two words for the first time..."

"You know very well that she said 'Ian's a butt' yesterday. That's three words," he said.

Emma sighed and straightened, then turned onto her other side, so her back was pressed to his chest. Killian slid his hand over her hip and beneath her shirt, over her belly.

"And perhaps," he whispered into her ear, "when you come home, we can tell Jackie she's going to have a little sister?"

Emma was four months pregnant, and, although Ian knew, they still hadn't told Jackie.

Emma snorted. "Do you want to tell her she's getting kicked out of her room?"

"Well -- no," he admitted.

"Exactly."

"Even so," he continued, determined. "We still have to tell her. We can't hide it from her forever."

It had been difficult enough already, especially since they'd named the baby.

Evelyn Saoirse Jones.

Evie.

Emma put her hand over his, over her stomach.

"Okay," she said, and she sounded less worried, more relaxed. "When I get back we'll tell Jackie about Evie."

Killian grinned and started pressing kisses to the back of her neck, making her giggle and press her rear end hard into his hips.

"Swan," he growled.

-

Killian was awoken a few short hours later by Ian crawling into their bed and inserting himself into the narrow gap between him and Emma.

"Ian, what's wrong?"

"I had a bad dream," Ian whispered. Killian could see his eyes even in the dark. They were wide and frightened.

"What about?" he asked gently, pulling the boy closer. Ian snuggled into him.

"There was something bad trying to get into the house, but it couldn't because of the Jack-o-Lanterns."

Killian felt a little tremor pass through him.

"That's just a story, lad," he said, and started rubbing soothing circles on the boy's back. "It's not real."

"Are you sure?"

"Aye. Do you want me to go check?"

"Yea."

Killian silently praised the gods that he'd remembered to put his undershorts back on after he and Emma had made love. He slid carefully out of bed, and picked his soft flannel pants up off the floor and put them on. When he got to the door, he was surprised to find Ian right behind him.

"Are you coming?" Killian asked.

Ian just nodded.

"Everything alright?" came Emma's sleepy voice.

"Everything's fine, love," Killian said. "We're just checking on something. Go back to sleep. We'll be right back."

"Ok."

Downstairs, they found Bonny sitting motionless at the front door in a patch of moonlight, peering through the glass. Ian trotted ahead to stand beside her.

"Three of the lights are out," Ian said over his shoulder.

Killian stepped up on Bonny's other side. One hand went automatically to her head to scratch his fingers through her wiry fur. Usually, she'd acknowledge his presence in some way, a look or a whuffle, but this time she did nothing, she was like a statue, staring out into the front yard.

He bent down to look out onto the porch, wondering what had caught her attention. Outside, Ian's pumpkin was the only one lit. It cast its orange, flickering light onto the porch steps. The other three pumpkins were dark and empty-looking.

"Probably just the wind," Killian whispered, although a chill crept up his spine. The story Emma told him rose in his mind, unbidden, as did Ian's dream -- the boy had always had an uncanny knack for knowing things...

"Can you relight them?" Ian asked.

"Of course, lad," he said. He fetched the lighter from the cabinet in the kitchen and returned to unlock the door. Ian and Bonny moved out of the way so he could open it. He stepped out into the cool night air and shivered, this time because of the cold. He was about to step past the first pumpkin when Bonny let out a low growl.

Killian whipped around. He'd never heard her make a noise quite like that. She was staring past him, hackles raised. He looked behind him, out into the yard, but there was nothing, not even a squirrel or a stray leaf.

As he stared around at the darkness, he felt a prickling along his arms as the hair stood on end. Fear shuddered through him.

"Dad," Ian called tremulously.

Killian dropped into a crouch and lit the candles in the pumpkins as quickly as he could, then he turned on his heel and went back into the house, trying his hardest not to run. When he reached the door Ian's hands darted out to pull him the rest of the way in, then he closed the door firmly and locked it.

"Alright, lad, let's go back to bed" Killian said, eager to escape the creepy feeling from the porch. He kept his back turned firmly to the door.

"Can I sleep with you and mom?" Ian asked, still clinging to his hand.

"Of course."

Killian walked Ian back upstairs, and the two of them got in bed beneath the covers. Bonny jumped up to join them, and curled up at Ian's feet, facing the door.

Chapter Text

They got to the rink the next morning just as the team that played before Ian's got off the ice. The waiting room was a jostling mess of red-faced, sweaty 9-year-olds getting peeled out of their soggy equipment by their parents, and starry-eyed 6, 7, and 8-year-olds too busy goggling at their older counterparts to aid the adults attempting to wrestle them into their own protective gear.

Ian's coach looked up as Killian and Ian pushed through the throng. "Jones!" he barked sternly. "You're late."

Ian had two coaches. Coach Brent was in his fifties and had four daughters, and aside from (according to Emma) the excellent way he ran the program, Killian liked him because he always had a smile and a kind word ready for Jackie--in fact, he often joked with Killian that they needed to get Jackie in some skates and on the ice (that day was coming soon, Killian knew, but for now she was too little).

Coach Keith, the man scowling at them now over his clipboard, was a different case entirely. He was young, single, and childless, and Killian tolerated him for two reasons only: the first being that his impatience with the parents did not extend to their children; from what Killian could tell, he was a fantastic teacher, and he treated Ian and the other children well and fairly. The other reason was that Coach Keith ran a tight ship, and Killian could respect that--even if he was slightly irritated by the man's unrealistic expectations of the parents.

Aside from that, Killian had seen other parents publicly disagree with coaches before, he'd seen how poorly that worked out for everyone involved, including the children, and he refused to do that to Ian for the sake of his own pride.

So Killian took one for the team, so to speak.

"Sorry," he panted. "It's my fault."

It wasn't, actually; it was Jackie's--not that she could truly be blamed. Killian didn't want Emma to go to Boston either, and he would have cried and clung to her this morning as well, if he could have. It had taken nearly ten minutes to pry her off her mother, who looked as if she might cry as well, and it had all been downhill after that. Jackie had exactly three meltdowns in less than two hours: first because she her orange juice was too cold (it wasn't), then because her chocolate-chip waffles had too many chocolate chips (they didn't), and finally because they couldn't drive the yellow bug to Ian's hockey game (Emma had taken it to Boston). She was so upset about the latter that she forgot to bring her new doll along, and once she realized that she was even more upset. She cried the entire car ride to the rink, while Ian sat in the seat across from her with his hands clamped over his ears, clearly living his worst nightmare.

As it was, Jackie's cheeks were red and blotchy from a morning of near-constant crying, and she clung to Killian now like a despondent koala.

"Alright," the coach said slowly, taking in Jackie's miserable, tear-streaked face, then dropped his eyes to the list he held. "Um, Jones...Jones...ah, here. You're in blue today, bud."

There was only one hockey program in Storybrooke. Coach Brent's solution to that problem had been to recruit enough boys and girls to create make two in-house "teams", a white one and a blue one, for every age group, and then shuffle the rosters for those two teams every week. Ian was in the mite league, which Coach Brent called the "learning league". The older divisions--squirt, peewee, bantam, and midget--each had the same two in-house teams, plus one "All-Star" team that travelled outside of Storybrooke several times a year to tournaments all over Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Ian took his hockey career seriously, and was determined to turn 9 as fast as possible so he could try out for the All-Star team. He was the coach's favorite, and with good reason--he was a bloody zealot when it came to practicing, and he spent endless hours in their yard banging plastic pucks and balls off the shed, the side of the house, the fence, the cars, and, sometimes, when he got in the way, Killian.

Today was the first game of the season, the first chance for all Ian's practice to pay off. Killian just wished Emma were here to see it--she encouraged him the most, after all, and it was partly because of her that Ian worked so hard.

"Alright," Killian said. "Let's go get you dressed."

Killian herded Ian to a bench that wasn't already occupied. Ian dropped his bag and plopped down, then sat waiting expectantly.

Ah, right.

Somehow the boy could skate forwards, backwards, and sideways at full speed, but he couldn't get his own equipment on. Killian attempted to remove Jackie from around him so he could put her on the bench beside her brother, but she held on to his jacket stubbornly, so he gave up trying and squatted down in front of the bench with her still riding his hip, and set about fishing inside Ian's hockey bag for his shin guards. He found them, and--after a brief struggle--pulled them out from amidst the tumble of other protective gear, wrenched them apart, and stuck one of them on Ian's leg.

"Dad," Ian said. "Other leg."

"Right, right," Killian mumbled, and took the pad from Ian's left leg and transferred it to the boy's right leg.

Usually Emma did this part. She could gear up Ian from head to toe in under five minutes. He'd watched her many times before, but now that he was on his own, he suddenly couldn't remember where things went, and in what order they went there in.

He tried to put on Ian's skates before his socks, and then he accidentally pulled the white socks out of the bag instead of the blue ones, and had to spend a whole minute searching for the blue ones before he realized they weren't in the main compartment, they were in a side pocket. After that he picked up the skates again, only to be informed that the shorts were supposed to go first. Shorts on and tied, Ian graciously offered to tape up his own shin guards, and then it was finally time for his skates.

Killian had just finished the ordeal of tightening and re-tightening Ian's laces until the boy was satisfied--grimacing but satisfied--when they were interrupted.

"There you are," said a voice above him.

Killian unclamped his knees from around Ian's skate, and craned around to see Will standing over them.

"Uncle Will!" said Ian.

"Hey, there, tiger!" Will said, grinning. "You ready to score a goal?"

"YES!" Ian said fiercely.

"That's what I like to hear!" Will said, and leaned down to offer Ian a high-five. Ian slapped his hand back hard, making a sound like a thunder-clap that drew the eyes of those near them.

Will looked at Killian. "Where're the Charmings? I thought they'd be here."

"Neal has a football game," Killian said. "They couldn't-"

"Hey, what's the sign for?" Ian asked, pointing.

"Oh, this?" Will raised a poster board Killian hadn't even noticed he was holding to chest level. It said "GO IAN!" in large blue letters, with the number 7 and some stars drawn around it. With a grin, he gave the paper several mighty shakes, making it ripple and rumble loudly, and let out a cheerful roar to go with it.

The room was silent when Will stopped shaking the sign, and everyone, adults and children alike, was gawking.

"Well? What d'ya think?" Will asked.

"Erm..." said Killian.

"It's AWESOME!" Ian gushed.

Will's grin widened, and Killian, both conscious of other people's stares and sensing an imminent reenactment, stood and thrust Jackie into Will's arms.

"Here," he said, as Will hurriedly dropped the sign in order to take her. "Mind watching her for a bit so I can finish getting Ian ready?"

"Of course," Will said. "How's my favorite little lass, eh?"

Jackie didn't respond to many people--there was a very short list of humans whose existence she'd even acknowledge, let alone interact with--but for some odd reason, she'd always adored Will. Today, however, she was quiet. Will frowned at her tear-stained cheeks, then raised an eyebrow at Killian.

Killian gave his head a little shake. "It was a rough morning," he said.

"Is she upset about Emma leaving?"

Jackie's chin wobbled suddenly, and tears gathered in her eyes. "Momma," she said mournfully.  

Will's eyes widened and he started the bouncing-rocking hip combination that was apparently a human instinct, even for men with no children. "Hey, hey, it's okay," he said soothingly. He planted a kiss on her cheek and rubbed her back. Jackie melted into him and laid her head on his shoulder, her lower lip still thrust out in a pout, two fat tears glittering at the corner of each eye. "Ah, poor little lass. How about you and I go get some candy? Would that make you feel better?"

Jackie perked up, tears evaporated. "Candy," she said brightly.

Killian bit back a protest--it was already too late. The word candy had been uttered, and there was no un-ringing that bell.

Will chuckled. "There's the Jackie I know," he said, and bounced her a bit more on his hip, drawing a smile.

Killian heard the thrum of the zamboni fade from the other room, signaling that it was time to take the ice, so Killian gave Will an I'll murder you later glare--to which Will offered a wink in response--and squatted back down to finish dressing Ian.

"Want anything from the concession stand, mate?" Will asked.

Rum, Killian thought.

-

"He scored two goals, Swan," Killian said, unable to keep the pride from his voice. "And received an assist on a third."

On the other end of the phone, Emma groaned.

"I can't believe I missed it!"

"It's alright, love. I have pictures and Will got it all on video. I'll send you everything."

"Yes," she said. "I want to show Henry, too. He'll be really excited."

"How is the lad?"

"He's fine. Ava hasn't had a chance to visit him yet, so he's kinda bummed about that. He's not upset--he knows she has a business to run--he just, you know, misses her."

"Aye, I understand," he said. Emma had been gone for only 8 hours, and he felt her absence keenly--as if someone had ripped out a vital part of him. "Is there anything we can do to help Ava out? I don't know much about-" he paused to make sure Jackie was still napping on the couch and not awake and eavesdropping, "candy and ice cream, but I know a bit about running a business. Perhaps you and I could cover for her one weekend so she could get away to see Henry?"

"Yea," Emma said softly, and Killian could picture perfectly the warm smile on her face. "Yea, I think that would be really nice. We can talk to her when I get home."

"Alright, love."

He heard her sigh. "So, what else happened at the game? Anything good?"

"Erm," Killian said, racking his brain. "Oh, Ian got a penalty, as well."

"Oh boy," Emma said, laughing. "For what?"

"Hooking."

Emma laughed harder, and the sound made Killian grin. He closed his eyes and imagined she was right next to him. In the background he heard Henry's voice, and then Regina's. Emma's giggling stopped.

"I've gotta go," she said. "We're about to get on this duck tour thing. When is Belle dropping the twins off?"

"Should be any minute now," Killian said, glancing at the clock.

"Alright, tell her I said hi. And good luck."

"Is the good luck for me, or for Belle?"

"Both," Emma said. "Mostly you, though."

"You're not worried about the children, are you Swan?" he asked, concerned.

"I'm worried about you," Emma said. "Four's a lot, Killian. Ian's a lot, on a good day. And you're going to have him and Enzo and Jackie."

"I'll be fine, love. If anything, it'll be good practice for when Evie arrives."

There was silence on the other end.

"Emma? Everything alright?"

"Yea, I just miss you, that's all."

"I know, love. I miss you too. And the baby."

Ian suddenly appeared at his side and tugged on his arm. "Tell mom I miss the baby too!" he hissed.

Killian chuckled. "Ian wants you to know that he misses the baby as well."

"And mom! I miss mom, too!" Ian said, shaking Killian's arm harder.

"And he misses you," Killian amended.

"And she should bring me back a lobster stuffed animal," Ian added seriously. "One-Eyed Jim needs a friend."

"Did you catch that, Swan?" Killian asked.

"I did. Tell him I already got him one. He's all set."

"I shall inform the prince that his lobster has been acquired," Killian said. Ian jumped and whooped silently, then, business finished, raced from the room. Killian watched him go, shaking his head, and asked, "How about for the princess?"

He heard Henry and Regina's voices again, closer and more insistent

"Crap, gotta go. This duck's about to leave without us," Emma says hurriedly. "I'll call you later, okay? Love you!"

Killian smiled, and even though he knew she already hung up, he said, "I love you too."

-

Killian answered the door when Belle arrived with the twins, but before he could open his mouth to greet them, Ian flashed past and nearly tackled Enzo off the porch.

"Nerf gun battle!" Ian yelled, and without another word to anyone, they both leapt down the stairs and ran off into the backyard. Bonny trotted out, politely sniffed Belle's skirt and licked Colette's elbow, then galloped after the boys.

Belle rolled her eyes fondly. "Well, you know where they'll be all evening," she said.

"Aye," Killian agreed. He looked down at Colette. She was still holding to her mother, stuck to her side like a burr, face buried in the crook of Belle's arm. Killian was strongly reminded of Jackie from that morning, and he felt a swell of sympathy for the girl.

"Hey there, lass," he said, smiling at her jovially, but she kept her eyes averted, and Killian sighed inwardly. His efforts always seemed to fall short with Colette, same as with Ian's efforts--although, Killian had never hit her in the head with a pumpkin (or a basketball, paper airplane, or hockey glove, for that matter), so he wasn't quite sure what he'd ever done to get on her bad side.

Nonetheless, she was his goddaughter, and he would endeavor to at least be on her neutral side, even if it took the rest of his life.

"Jackie brought some of her toys into the front room for us to play with, if you'd like," he wheedled.

Colette continued to ignore him.

"And we're going to make cupcakes. They have sprinkles in them. And Emma bought pink frosting. I know you like pink."

More silence.

"Or, if you'd rather, we could throw pumpkins at Ian's head all night. That's fine by me, too."

That time he caught her attention. She shook her head, but she met his eye and half-smiled.

He smiled back, and offered her his hand. "Cupcakes, then?" he suggested. "I won't tell Ian and Enzo we're making them, then you and Jackie can split their share of the batter."

"Okay," she said softly, and let go of her mother's hand to take Killian's.

"Thank you," Belle mouthed silently over Colette's head, then waved and retreated down the porch before Colette could change her mind.

-

The boys rocketed around the yard (trailed closely by the dog, their forever curious observer) until it was dark and Killian called them inside. They made so much noise that Killian didn't need to check in on them to know exactly what they were doing--he could hear the snap of the Nerf guns from the basement and the ping of the foam darts off the walls, and then the drag of plastic hockey sticks on the carpet, and the clang of the tennis ball against the washing machine and dryer.

Killian spent the entire evening with the girls. Cupcake baking went well--at least, no one cried about not getting a big enough spoonful of batter, or fought over who frosted which cupcake, and that, Killian thought, was a sure sign of success.

Afterwards, however, Colette grew melancholy again. She withdrew to the front room and curled up in a corner of the couch with a book in her lap. Killian decided not to push his luck with her, and gave her some space. He thought Jackie might join Colette in the front room, but she disappeared; Killian went looking for the girl after he got water boiling on the stove for spaghetti, and found her in the den. She had her new doll sitting in one of Ian's toy pirate ships, and she was cruising it around the rug. As Killian watched from the doorway, she dragged Ian's stuffed red octopus One-Eyed Jim over to the ship, and slipped on tentacle over the deck.

"Oh, no!" she gasped softly, and Killian smiled--that brought her word count for the day so far up to 23, a new record.

-

The doorbell rang just as they were finishing up dinner.

"I got it!" Ian shouted, and tumbled from his chair to answer the door. He swept it open, and in walked Belle and Lancelot.

Colette jumped out of her chair nearly as fast as Ian had, and went directly to Belle to throw her arms around her mother's waist.

"Hi, baby," Belle said, smiling. She put her arms around her daughter and stroked her hair. "Did you have a good time?"

Colette nodded. Enzo slipped quietly from his own chair and joined them. "Hi, mom," he said, and then to Lancelot, more formally, "Hello, Lancelot."

"Hello, Enzo," Lancelot said, inclining his head slightly.

"How was your date?"

"It was very nice, thank you," Lancelot responded. Killian saw a grin pulling at his lips--it was difficult not to smile at the boy's manner, sometimes; when he was around Ian, he was very clearly a 7-year-old boy, but when he was around his mother or other adults, he effortlessly adopted the poise and dignity of a much older man.

Killian was at the table with his feet hooked around the legs of Jackie's chair, keeping her tucked in until she finished at least one more meatball and another mouthful of spaghetti. So far, she hadn't attempted escape, but Killian wasn't taking any chances. "I wasn't expecting you for a few more hours," he said from his seat, keeping his eyes on the fork Jackie was raising to her lips, making sure the bit of meatball on the end got all the way to where it was supposed to go. "Is everything alright?"

"Yes, everything's wonderful," Belle said, and the flutter in her voice made Killian look over sharply and grin, bringing a blush to her cheeks. "We, um, we just thought it would be nice if the twins joined us for dessert."

"What do you two think about getting some ice cream?" Lancelot asked.

"Okay," Enzo said.

"Colette?" Lancelot asked.

She raised her eyes shyly to his from where she was still hugging Belle, and said, "Yes, please."

Lancelot bent at the waist and held his hand out to her, palm up, and she reached out to take it with a little smile on her face.

-

Killian sent Belle away with four cupcakes in a plastic container ("Hey!" Ian said indignantly. "You didn't tell me you were making cupcakes!"), and then sent Ian and Jackie into the den to watch Moana while he cleaned up the kitchen. When he finished and joined them, Ian was the only one still awake. Jackie was asleep on the couch, snuggling her doll and her favorite blanket--the yellow-chevron-striped one she'd had since birth--with Bonny the dog wrapped around her big-spoon style.

Killian decided it wasn't worth risking triggering the apocalypse by trying to wake her up and get her in the bath, so he bundled her up in his arms, and carried her upstairs and put her in bed just as she was. Bonny followed, and laid down at the girl's feet with her head resting on Jackie's legs. Killian gave the dog a few good scratches, kissed Jackie gently on the cheek, turned the pink unicorn nightlight on and the overhead light off, then went back downstairs to find Ian.

"Ian, lad, would you like to help me light the pumpkins?" he asked.

"Yea!" Ian said, and popped off the couch to follow Killian to the porch.

Killian lit the candles with the lighter, then handed them to Ian to place carefully inside the mouth of each pumpkin. When they reached his pumpkin at the top of the steps, Ian turned to Killian and asked, "Can I use magic again to light mine?"

Killian hesitated.

"Please, dad!" Ian begged. "I can do it! I remember how."

"I don't know, lad," Killian said slowly. "I don't know if you should be doing magic without your mother around."

"C'mon. Please? I won't burn the house down. I promise!"

Killian shook his head. "I don't think so, Ian. I'm sorry-"

"But it's so easy!" Ian whined. He vibrated with impatience. "Nothing bad's going to happen! See?"

Before Killian could stop him, Ian waved his hand. The candle Killian held burst to life, and held jumped in surprise--but it was just a normal, regular-sized flame.

Ian stared at the candle, then slowly, guiltily raised his eyes to Killian's.

"Oh," he said.

Killian grimaced. "Oh," he repeated thunderously.

"Dad, I'm sorry. I-"

Killian cut him off by thrusting the candle at him. Ian took it gingerly and put it inside his pumpkin, then ducked his head. "Are you mad?" he asked.

"Yes," Killian answered, and let that word hang, gave it a minute to sink in, then said, "Do you know why I'm angry?"

Ian was silent, eyes fixed on Killian's knees.

"I'm angry because I don't have magic like you and your mother do," Killian said evenly, "and if something went wrong, I can't just fix it with a wave of my hand. Understand?"

Ian nodded.

"You need to control your magic first before you can just use it willy-nilly however you please."

"Are you going to tell mom?"

"Of course I'm going to tell your mother," Killian said. "You used magic for the first time on your own, and succeeded. She'll be very proud."

Ian looked up, startled--that wasn't the answer he'd been expecting. Killian smiled gently, and cupped the back of the boy's head.

"I'm proud too, lad. I just want you to be more careful. It would kill me if something bad happened to you. Alright?"

Ian nodded, half-smiling bashfully.

Killian jerked his head back towards the house. "Now let's get inside. It's cold out here. And I still haven't seen the end of Moana."

-

Killian woke up in the middle of the night alone. He stretched his arm out, vainly hoping his fingers would find Emma, but there was only empty air. The sheets on her side of the bed were cold. It was strange and unpleasant not to have her beside him. He felt hollow, and that hollowness drove him out of bed and down the hall.

He stopped at Jackie's room and peered inside. The unicorn nightlight on her dresser cast a pale, dancing pink glow over the room. Jackie slept peacefully, and Killian, calmed by the sound of the girl's soft breathing, watched her for a bit. She was so much like Emma--and it wasn't just her green eyes and round cheeks, or her blonde hair, nearly at her shoulders now, that curled up a bit at the ends; it was her spirit. She was fearless and stubborn and independent, but beneath all the layers of toughness, she had a big heart, and the things she loved she loved fiercely.

After a moment, he turned and went down the hall to Ian's room--only to find Ian's bed empty. Cold shock ripple through him. He looked back down the hallway, eyes searching the dark wildly, but it was deserted, and everything was quiet.

Heart in his throat, he bolted downstairs.

Killian almost collapsed from relief when he saw Ian standing beside Bonny at the front door. "Ian," he said in a low voice. "What are you doing?"

The first floor was nearly pitch black, save for what little moonlight filtered in through the windows. Ian was holding the curtain back to peer through the glass panel in the door. Bonny was looking too, her head stuck under his arm, her nose pressed against the glass.

"Look," Ian said, as Killian stepped up beside him. Killian bent down, and looked through the window.

On the porch, every pumpkin except Ian's was smashed to pieces. Orange pulp covered the steps and was sprayed across the sidewalk. Ian's stood untouched, its candle still lit and glowing brightly, the lone guardian against the night.

"It was Jack," Ian whispered.

"No, lad, it wasn't Jack," Killian tried to say confidently. "I was just teenagers."

He only half believed himself--he didn't think there were any teenagers in town with enough balls to smash pumpkins that belonged to The Savior and Captain Hook.

Suddenly, he felt the same uneasy prickle, as if someone was watching him.

This is absurd.

He took Ian by the shoulder and moved him aside, then opened the door. A blast of chill October air hit him, raising goose pimples along his bare arms and legs. He was about to take a step forward, but stopped.

Something was there.

Killian didn't know what it was--he couldn't see it--but it was there, and it was close. He fell still, senses straining, trying to locate it, trying to understand, and then his insides turned to water.

It was breathing.

Killian could hear it breathing.

"Dad," Ian said.

Killian jolted. He looked quickly down at Ian, to see the boy staring back at him with eyes as large and round and doubloons. His hands were gripping Killian's arm--he hadn't even felt Ian grab him--and he was trembling.

Killian shook himself. It was Ian he'd heard breathing--it must have been. He closed the door firmly and locked it, then pulled the curtains back over the window.

"Back to bed," he said. He turned Ian around to face the stairs, and gave him a push in that direction.

"But-" Ian protested.

"No buts," Killian said. "You've got to get some sleep. You and your sister are going to grandma and grandpa's in the morning."

Killian turned back once on their way back upstairs, and saw Bonny still sitting alertly in front of the door, watching it.

Chapter Text

Sunday was perhaps Killian's least favorite day of the week. It consisted of a grueling ten hours at the bar, from 10am to 8pm, catering to an endless stream of brunchers, lunchers, and dinner-goers that marched straight from their meal at Granny's to have a liquid dessert at The Crow's Nest. It was, in short, time he'd much rather be spending with his family, and it was even more of an ordeal than usual today because there was no Emma awaiting his arrival at home.

Ian and Jackie were his only consolation. He picked them and the dog up from their grandparents' house at 9, after he and Will had finished closing up. They were quiet on the car ride home, as well as the shuffle into the house, apparently all worn out from a full day spent chasing around David and Mary Margaret's farm. Even Bonny was exhausted--she trotted straight to her dog bed and laid down as soon as they were inside.

Killian was starving and desperately required food lest he collapse on the spot. Ian and Jackie had already eaten dinner, but Killian wasn't quite ready to put them to bed yet--for some strange reason he didn't want to be awake and alone in that big house--so he stood at the counter scarfing down cold leftovers from the fridge while Ian and Jackie enjoyed a pre-bedtime cupcake.

Jackie, her doll clamped tightly beneath one arm, sat on his hip. He rocked her side-to-side out of habit, as if she was still a babe and needed constant soothing, but she was more than occupied with her cupcake and the delicate removal of all its frosting--it was Killian who needed soothing, it was Killian who felt Emma's absence even more acutely than the day before.

He felt a tad foolish--they'd been away from each other for short periods of time before, and he'd never felt this miserable about it. He thought perhaps it had something to do with Evie, and the instinctual protectiveness that rose up inside him when Emma was carrying one of their children. He wanted Emma and the baby back home and in his arms, where he knew they were both safe.

"Mmm," Jackie hummed.

"You like it, do you?" he asked.

She nodded, eyes glued to her treat.

"My little cupcake princess," he said, grinning. He kissed her forehead, then rotated at the waist to check on Ian, who was unusually silent. He was sitting at the kitchen table, munching his own cupcake slowly while staring thoughtfully into space.

"What's on your mind, lad?" Killian asked between mouthfuls of spaghetti.

"We shoulda got more pumpkins," Ian answered absently.

"We can get more pumpkins next weekend."

"No, I mean because of Jack," Ian said, and looked at Killian seriously. "We need more pumpkins to keep Jack out."

"Jack's not real," he said automatically.

Ian's frown deepened.

Killian thought of the night before, of the certainty he'd felt that there had been something on the porch, standing just beyond the glow of Ian's massive, ghoulish pumpkin...

No, he thought firmly, and forcibly repressed the shiver attempting to crawl its way up his spine. Killian didn't believe in ghosts--at least, not the kind that haunted front porches. He laid his fork down and went to sit in the chair next to Ian's. He leaned forward until his eyes were on Ian's level, and said, "I promise you, lad, Jack's not real. But if it will make you feel better, we can go and get some more pumpkins in the morning."

Ian shook his head slightly. "I want to light my pumpkin now," he said.

When the boy was younger--only a little older than Jackie--he used to have horrendous nightmares. Night after night he'd be driven from his own bed into Emma and Killian's by terrifying visions of killer sharks that swam in the air outside his window, monsters with faces of fire hiding in his closet, and mutant beasts in the woods that wanted to devour him--and night after night Killian could do nothing to comfort the boy save hold him in his arms and tell him it was over, that he was safe. There was no way to convince a child that the things they dreamed up in their heads couldn't hurt them, you could only ease their fears in whatever way possible until they grew out of them.

"I'll get the lighter," Killian said. He started to stand, but Ian's hands on his arm stopped him.

"I wanna use magic. I think it helps," Ian said.

Killian should have expected as much.

"Aye, alright." He followed Ian out onto the porch, shifting Jackie to his left hip to free up his right arm and hand in case he needed to grab Ian by his shirt collar and carry him bodily away from their burning home.

Ian squatted in front of his pumpkin and removed the candle from its gaping, fanged mouth. He raised the candle, took a deep breath, held it-

"Slowly this time," Killian warned, while in the back of his mind, an amused voice wondered if tonight was the night they put Storybrooke Fire Department's response time to the test. Ian tore his eyes away from the candle, nodded once at Killian, then looked back, and waved his hand.

A miniscule flame sparked to life. Ian scowled at it sternly and it grew from a pea-sized dot of orange to a three-inch tall flickering pillar. Satisfied, Ian stuck the candle carefully back into his pumpkin's mouth, then sat back on his heels.

"All set?" Killian asked.

"Yes," Ian said, and stood. He reached Killian, then stopped and stared. After a moment, he started giggling.

"What? What is it?" Killian asked, following Ian's gaze downwards. Jackie was asleep, and her cupcake was smashed against the front of his vest.

Killian sighed inwardly. It looked as if Jackie was going another night without a bath.

-

"Hi," said Emma's soft voice over the phone. "How was your day?"

"It was fine. Just the usual," Killian said, stifling a yawn. "How was yours?"

"It was--hey, are you watching Moana again?"

Killian chuckled. "I am. Ian insisted we watch it before bed."

"How long did he last?"

"Not long," Killian said. He glanced over to where Ian was sprawled belly-down on the couch, fast asleep. One of his legs was jammed in between the back of the couch and the cushions, and the other rested across Killian's knees.

"Is Jackie asleep?"

"Aye. The little lass was so tired she didn't even finish her cupcake."

"Did she eat all the frosting?"

"Yes."

"Then trust me, she was finished."

"I've seen her eat whole cupcakes before-"

"No, you haven't, you just think you have--she eats the frosting, and then gives the rest to the dog."

The dog in question was lying on her side on the rug at Killian's feet. As if she sensed they were talking about her, Bonny wagged her tail, thumping the floor rhythmically.

I brought you into this house, and this is how you betray me? Killian thought, narrowing his eyes at her--the tail thumped harder.

"So," he said. "Tell me about your day, Swan."

"It was good. Henry wanted to take a tour of Harpoon Brewery, so Regina and I took him."

"Sounds lovely."

"It was--well, for Regina and I, at least."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean Henry's only 20, so he couldn't do the taste test at the end."

"I take it he wasn't pleased?"

"Nope. Apparently he thought Regina and I would lie and say he was 21 or something so he could drink."

"I'm assuming that that means you did not, in fact, let him drink."

"Are you kidding me? First of all, it's illegal. Secondly, even if I didn't mind, there's no way Regina would let him."

"Poor lad," Killian said.

"Poor lad my ass. It's not like he doesn't drink--I know he does. It's just, you know, this isn't a barbecue in the backyard where you and David let him have a beer--yea, I know all about that--it's a brewery in the middle of Boston. He can wait until he's 21 to drink in a bar, just like the rest of us. He's fine. He only has until August. He won't die."

Killian didn't point out that August was ten months and an entire school year away--an eternity for a young man Henry's age. He also didn't mention that, during his holidays, as long as Henry wasn't driving home, Killian occasionally let him have a beer or two after his shift at the bar. Although, he thought it rather likely that Emma knew about that, as well.

"How are the kids? Did they have fun at my parents' house?"

"Aye, they did. Your father said they were running around the farm nonstop all day. He also said Jackie seemed quite taken with the ponies."

"Uh-oh," Emma said, teasingly. "If we're not careful, he might end up getting her one for Christmas."

Killian sighed. "We'd have to keep it in the yard. It would eat all your buttercups, Swan, and then perhaps the dog-"

Emma laughed. "Okay, we would not keep a pony in the yard. Even if my dad did get Jackie one we could probably just keep it at the farm. Also, I don't think ponies eat dogs."

"You never know, love," he said darkly. "Ponies are vicious creatures."

"Alright, just because you got bit by one once at Rowan's birthday party two years ago-"

"It left a scar, Swan!" he whined.

She laughed again. "I think I need to come home soon. You're starting to sound like one of the kids."

"Am not," he huffed, in perfect imitation of one of Jackie's pouts. He felt rather like pulling a face and stomping his foot, as well, but he restrained himself.

"Goddammit. I really miss you," Emma said. "And them."

"We all miss you as well, love."

But especially me.

I miss you more than words can describe.

"Will you give them each a kiss for me?"

"Your wish is my command," he said. "Will you tell Evie that her daddy loves her and says goodnight?"

"Of course," Emma said. "We can't wait to see you guys tomorrow."

"Me either." He couldn't wait to put his arms around Emma again, to slip his hand beneath her shirt and feel the tiny life growing in her belly stir beneath his fingers. "Will you call me before you leave in the morning?"

"Yea. We're gonna try to get out of here early so we beat the traffic. We should be home around noon."

"Shall I have lunch waiting?"

"Oh my God, please," Emma moaned. "I've been dying for a grilled cheese and some onion rings since we got here. And the baby really wants like two pints of Ava's vanilla bean ice cream."

"Well, if the baby wants it, then how can I say no? Don't worry, love, I'll make sure neither of you are disappointed--oh, speaking of, did you get Jackie something?"

"Yea, I got her-"

"It's not a pony, is it?"

"No," she said. "Ian's getting a stuffed lobster, and I got Jackie this Make Way for Ducklings book, and some little rubber ducks for the bath. I saw a really cute doll, but I know she's not really into those, so I had to pass."

"Oh, I don't know, love," Killian said. "She seems to be enjoying the one you bought her the other day."

"The what I did what with?"

"The new doll you just bought her. The one with the pink dress. Jackie rather likes it. She's been taking it everywhere with her."

"Right," Emma said slowly. She was silent for a moment, and then, "Um, hey, listen. I'm about to fall asleep over here. Can I call you in the morning?"

"Of course, love. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Killian, I love you."

"I love you too, Emma."

-

Killian carried Ian up to bed and tucked him in. He didn't feel much like getting into his own bed, as it was empty and Emma-less, so he poured himself two fingers of rum from the kitchen and sat on the couch in the front room. Before long, he laid his head back on the pillows, and fell asleep. Beside him, lying on the couch cushion inches away from his hand, his cell phone vibrated, the screen flashing "Emma" over and over, but he didn't wake.

-

The next thing Killian was aware of was the sound of breaking glass and Ian shouting, "DAD!"

Killian jolted to his feet. The tumbler he'd been holding slipped from his fingers and fell to the carpet, soaking his socks through. The sharp, spicy smell of rum reached his nostrils, clearing his head instantly. He spun, searching for the source of the noise and for Ian, and found both immediately.

The front door was open, blown wide by the storm. Killian guessed it had slammed against the wall, shattering the window pane and flinging shards of broken glass all over the entryway. Ian was standing at the foot of the stairs.

"Don't move!" Killian barked. He stepped carefully around the glittering  ruins of his front door window and gained Ian's side. Ian seemed frozen, staring forward, out at the storm.

"It's alright, lad," Killian said. "Go back upstairs. I'll clean up and be right there to-"

"The pumpkin," Ian said.

Killian turned. On the front porch, the light in Ian's pumpkin was out, extinguished either by the wind or the rain.

"It's fine. It was just the storm. Go upstairs, and-"

There was a creak from the floor above their heads. Ian gasped and looked up, and Killian tensed. He knew this house, knew every groan and sigh it made and why, and he knew that sound was much too loud to be from Jackie or the dog.

Someone else was in the house.

"Ian," he said, in a low, clear voice. "Go get my cell phone from the couch, then go into the bathroom and lock the door. Call your grandparents, and tell them to get over here right away. Don't come out unless either I or they tell you to. Understand?"

"Dad, what-"

Killian heard snarling from upstairs--the dog.

"Now, Ian. Don't argue, just do it," he said, then leapt into motion, sprinting up the stairs to Jackie's room. He burst through the door, fully expecting to have to tackle something or someone to the ground, but stopped abruptly--no one was there, save for Jackie and Bonny.

Jackie was sitting in bed, holding her doll to her chest with both hands. Her green eyes were wide and frightened. Bonny stood in front of her, hackles raised, growling the most ferocious growl Killian had ever heard from her.

Except they were alone, and the dog was snarling at thin air.

"HEY! GET AWAY FROM HER!" Ian shouted from behind Killian.

Bloody insolent child.

Killian whirled. Ian was standing in the doorway, fists clenched, glaring at something past Killian.

"Ian, I told you to-"

"I SAID GO AWAY!" Ian bellowed, his face turning bright red.

"Ian, there's no one here! Stop shouting!"

Ian looked at him incredulously. "Can't you see it?"

Killian felt close to shouting himself. "See what?" he demanded.

Ian stomped forward and grabbed Killian's hand. "That!" he said, and pointed.

Killian felt a tingle like an electric shock run up his arm. He turned, and, this time, he saw it.

Bent over Jackie's bed was a dark form--human in general size and shape, but comprised of whirling black shadows, more smoke than solid mass. As he watched, it leaned in closer and reached one arm out for Jackie.

"No!" Killian yelled. He tried to move, but couldn't--Ian's hand was tight on his arm, so hard his fingernails bit into Killian's skin, and somehow he was holding Killian in place.

"Ian, let go-"

But Ian didn't appear to hear him. He took a deep breath--Killian realized then that the boy's entire body was shaking--and roared, "GO AWAY!"

All the lights in the room, even Jackie's unicorn nightlight, blazed with a pure white glow that Killian recognized as Emma's magic--only it was Ian that was doing it. The dark form screeched and hunched inward on itself, flinching away from the light. Ian took another step forward, and the lights flared brighter, nearly blinding Killian.

"Leave," Ian said. His hand fell from Killian's wrist. The dark form winked away, out of Killian's vision, but as it did he felt something rush past him, like a strong gust of wind--a second later, the front door slammed shut.

The white light faded, leaving the room lit only by the gentle pink glow of the unicorn nightlight. Jackie was wailing. Ian was standing in the middle of the room, panting.

Killian shook himself--he had no clue what precisely was going on, but he knew he needed to get his children to safety.

"Let's get out of here before that thing decides to come back," he said. He scooped Jackie up from her bed--doll, blanket, and all--and carried her towards the door.

"Dad, the doll!" Ian yelled. "It's the doll!"

Killian looked down at Jackie's doll. "What are you talking abou-"

"Dad!"

Ian grabbed his arm again, and the doll changed. The sweet smile twisted into an ugly, demented leer, the peachy skin faded to gray, and the previously vacant eyes were suddenly alive.

Killian stared, horrified and repulsed. Emma hadn't given Jackie that doll, and neither had Killian nor anyone else, for that matter. The doll had merely shown up in Jackie's arms.

It had shown up in Jackie's arms in the back room of Gold's shop.

-

Downstairs, Killian dug his phone out from beneath the couch. It informed him he had 17 missed calls from Emma, the most recent of which was over two hours ago. He didn't need to call her back to know that she knew, and that she was coming home.

While Ian put on his jacket and helped Jackie into hers, Killian called Belle. She knew exactly what doll he meant when he told her what had happened.

"Get to the shop right away," she said. "I'll meet you there."

-

Killian tried to stay calm as he settled Ian and Jackie into the car. His skin was crawling, and it took every ounce of his self-control not to rip the doll from Jackie's hands and fling it into the rain. He tried not to look at it, he tried to keep his eyes trained on his trembling fingers as he struggled with the belt buckles of Jackie's car seat.

Her cries had quieted to whimpers. She stared up at Killian, miserable and confused. "Hey, lass, it's alright," Killian said soothingly. "It's alright. Everything's alright."

He brushed her wet hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ears, then ran the backs of his fingers gently over her cheek. Her whimpering stopped. "There's my tough lass. There's my girl. We're just going for a ride, okay? Just going to see Aunt Belle. Are you cold?"

She shook her head, but he tucked her blanket more firmly around her anyway, taking care to avoid touching the doll.

"Ian, lad, do you see anything?" he asked.

"No," Ian said. He was kneeling in the seat across from Jackie, looking from window to window.

"Alright. Keep watch. Tell me if you see anything."

"What about my seatbelt?"

"I'll drive slow. Just hold on tight."

-

The lights of Gold's Pawn Shop were on, lighting Killian's way like a beacon. Belle held the door open for them as they rushed through the rain to get inside, and then closed and locked it behind them.

"Did you bring the doll?" she asked.

"Aye. Jackie has it."

"Alright. Its box is in the back. Once the doll's inside, its powers will be contained. The faster we get it in there, the faster this will all be over."

Killian nodded, and followed her towards the doorway to the back room.

"Where are the twins?" he asked.

"I dropped them at Lancelot's on the way over. I don't want them involved."

His insides squirmed with guilt. "Belle, I'm sorry for waking you," he said.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Killian. I'm only sorry this happened in the first place. I should have kept a closer eye on that doll."

"Do you know how it got out?"

Belle shrugged. "Jackie must have taken it out. That's the only explanation."

They were nearly at the back counter when there was a deafening boom and the entire building shuddered. Killian stumbled to a halt in a squelch of wet boots, and spun towards the door in time to see it vibrate on its hinges as the pawn shop was hit again.

"Is that it?" Belle whispered.

"I think so," Killian said, without taking his eyes off the front door. "Does the shop still have a protection spell on it?"

"It's old--it's as old as Ian. I don't know how strong it is anymore."

"There's a newer one on the back room, correct?"

"Yes. Emma put it on there a few months ago."

Killian turned and briskly passed Jackie into her arms. "Take her. Stay in the back room and get the doll back into that box."

He strode quickly to the side wall and pulled a likely-looking cutlass down from a display.

"What about you?" Belle asked.

"I'm going to hold it off," he said. He hefted the cutlass, testing its weight, then ran a finger along the edge--it was sharp.

This will do just fine.

Belle hesitated. "Killian-"

They both jumped as another impact shook the shop.

"Belle."

Belle held out her hand for Ian. "Ian, come on-"

"No, he's staying with me."

Ian looked at him quickly. "Really?" he asked.

"Aye," Killian said. "I need your help. Belle, please, go."

She gave him one last worried look before turning and jogging into the back room. Killian glimpsed Jackie's green eyes watching him over Belle's shoulder before the curtain swished closed behind them and they were gone.

Killian took a deep breath, then knelt in front of Ian.

"Do you remember-" he paused as the shop was hit again, "Do you remember what you did in Jackie's room earlier, with the lights?"

"Yea," Ian said slowly, licking his lips, his eyes darting from Killian's to the front door and back.

"Do you think you can do it again?"

He had Ian's full attention now. The boy frowned at him, brow furrowing. "Yes," he said.

"Alright. If that thing gets through the door, I need you to use your magic on the lights. Will you do that for me?"

Ian nodded.

"And if I tell you to run, will you run into the back room?"

"Yes."

"I'm serious this time, Ian," Killian said, voice hard. "When I tell you to run, you need to run."

"Ok."

Killian cupped the back of the boy's head and pulled his forehead to his lips for a brief kiss, then stood. He faced the door, cutlass held outwards, and tugged Ian behind his back.

"You stay there, understand? Stay there unless I tell you to run."

Ian pressed close and buried his hands in Killian's shirt. Killian blinked. He could see the creature again, ramming its body into the door, pounding the wood with its fists, and he could see the faint, shimmering ripple of the protection spell in the air, growing fainter and fainter every time the creature struck it.

Killian watched it, and waited.

"Ian, are you ready?" he asked quietly.

"Yes," came Ian's voice, soft but determined, and Killian grinned.

The creature hit the door again, only this time there was no resistance from the protection spell--it was gone.

"Alright, lad, now!"

The shadow rushed forward, hands outstretched. Every light in the room flickered suddenly, going dark--Killian braced himself, preparing to fling Ian backwards even as he flung himself forward--and then they lit back up, gleaming with the pure white light of Ian's magic. The creature slowed, trying to cower away from all the lights at once--but there were too many. It began to shrink and drift towards the floor, its smoky form dissolving, like fog in sunlight.

"Ian, you're doing it!" Killian said.

The creature open its mouth wide, and let out an unearthly scream that rattled Killian's ear drums. Ian yelled, and his grip on Killian's sides became painfully tight. The white glow stuttered, then began to fade.

"Dad," Ian cried, then let out a shaky gasp and collapsed against Killian's legs. His magic blinked out, plunging the shop into darkness.

Fuck!

Killian reached behind him one-handed and hauled Ian to his feet, keeping his body and the cutlass in between his son and the creature, which was slowly straightening.

"Ian, run!" Killian shouted, but Ian was dead weight on his arm. He stumbled backwards, tripping over the boy's feet.

The creature leapt at them, and exploded.

A shower of brilliant white sparks burst from the shadow's chest, blinding Killian. He reeled, startled, and turned instinctively to draw Ian against his chest, into the protective circle of his arms.

"Is Ian okay?"

Killian whirled around to see Emma, standing where the shadow had just been.

"Mom!" Ian said, and darted from Killian's side to barrel into Emma's middle.

Emma's arms went around him and squeezed. "Hey, are you okay?"

Ian nodded into her coat.

Emma looked up at Killian, eyes wide. "What the hell was that?" she asked.

Killian opened his mouth to explain, but he was interrupted.

"Momma!"

Emma's face crumpled. "Baby," she said, reaching out for Jackie, who was reaching back, falling nearly out of Belle's arms. "I missed you."

Jackie wrapped herself around her mother, nestling her head beneath Emma's chin.

"Miss you too, momma," she said. "Bad doll hurt me."

Emma closed her eyes, laid her cheek on Jackie's forehead, and cried.

-

Emma and Killian were lying in their bed with Ian and Jackie, both fast asleep, between them. Ian was curled up around One-Eyed Jim and his new stuffed lobster, who was currently nameless, and Jackie had her entire face snuggled into her yellow-striped blanket, and she held a tiny rubber duck in one hand.

Emma hadn't taken her eyes off either of their children since they returned home, and she gazed at them now, fingers absently tracing patterns over Jackie's cheeks and through her hair. "I can't believe I go away for two days and some evil spirit attached to a creepy-ass doll tries to attack my little girl," she said.

Killian swallowed hard, his eyes flickering down to the scratches visible on Jackie's arms--according to Belle, the doll had not wanted to be put back in its box.

"I'm sorry, love, I should have-"

"Shh," Emma said, and raised her eyes to his. "It's not your fault. I saw the doll too and had no idea. What could you have done?"

Killian shook his head wordlessly. Emma lifted her hand from Jackie's hair to trail her fingers along Killian's jaw.

"I love you, you know that?"

He leaned into her touch.

"You would have fought a ghost with nothing but a friggin' sword to protect our kids."

"And I would have failed-"

"But you didn't. You kept Jackie and Ian safe-"

"Safe?" he scoffed. He felt his lips pull into a grimace. "I nearly got Ian killed, Swan. And Jackie-"

"She's okay," Emma said, silencing him. "She's got scratches, but she's okay. She's a tough chick, Killian. Tuesday at Day Care she's going to be showing all the other kids her battle scars and telling them that she almost got eaten by a demonic doll."

Killian couldn't help chuckling.

"And Ian's even tougher," Emma said. "He's like you--nothing scares him. Face down an evil ghost with dad to protect his sister? No problem. And his magic? Fuck, Killian, I felt it from down the street. He's strong. He's gonna be stronger than me one day."

Killian smiled as pride filled him up, expanding inside his chest like a warm bubble.

Emma returned his smile. "Let's just maybe have Regina run like a magical diagnostic scan on all our kids' toys from now on, okay?"

Killian raised an eyebrow. "You bought that lobster from a store, correct, Swan? Not some shady van down by the river-"

Emma swatted his arm. "Shady van down by the river," she muttered, shaking her head. "I regret teaching you that phrase. And yes, I bought the lobster and the book and the rubber ducks from a store. They're all normal. No evil spirits."

"Good," Killian said, grinning. He reached over and slid his hand beneath the hem of her tank top. He laid his fingers over her belly, and Emma rested her hand over his.

"I'm happy I'm home," she said.

"Aye, love, me too. This house just doesn't feel the same without you."

Killian felt whole again, with Emma beside him, their children in between them, and the baby kicking his fingers.

He and Emma closed their eyes, and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Killian returned home from the bar just after 2am. The house was dark, which meant everyone was asleep--there was a slim possibility that Evie was still awake, reading by flashlight beneath her blankets, but he thought it was rather late, even for her. He parked the yellow bug, and was just stepping onto the curb when a brief flash of red and blue lights caught his eye.

He stopped and turned. A squad car was rolling up the street silently. He watched it approach, and as it drew nearer he saw Lancelot was driving, though he couldn't imagine why he would be-

Oh.

"Bloody hell," Killian huffed.

The squad car halted in front of him with a faint squeak of the brakes. The passenger side window was open, and Killian leaned down to peer inside.

"Evening," Lancelot said, grinning.

"Good evening," Killian returned evenly, then shifted his eyes. The rear passenger window was rolled down as well, and wedged into the gap between the frame and the curved slice of glass was a blonde head. There was a streak of vomit down the door, originating roughly from where Ian's face lay.

"He alright?" Killian asked, though he guessed by Lancelot's lack of urgency that there was no immediate crisis.

"Well, he's alive. As for being 'all right'..."

"M'fine," Ian said faintly. "M'awake."

Killian nearly jolted.

Not unconscious then.

He wasn't sure whether to laugh or be angry. On the one hand, Killian had been only slightly younger than Ian's 16 years when he started drinking, but on the other, he knew that the expectations for the behavior of minors were different here, and he knew that it was this world's rules that Emma cared about, not the Enchanted Forest's--and, therefore, those were the rules Killian would enforce.

He also had to admit that, while he may only be mildly annoyed by the fact that his son was experimenting with alcohol underage, he was enormously irritated by what was apparently a flagrant disregard for caution and a lack of self-control.

As per usual.

"What happened, exactly?" Killian asked Lancelot.

"We broke up a party in the woods about an hour ago," Lancelot said. "Most of the kids got away, but this one was in too bad a shape to run."

"Who else was there?"

"Looked like a bunch of Storybrooke High kids. Probably seniors. Some juniors."

"Neal?"

"Yea. He stayed with Ian until I got to him, then split."

Killian nodded. Neal had been throwing parties in the woods all summer. It had started out with just a small group of friends sharing a case of what Emma called "shit beer" out by the Wishing Well, but of late his little gatherings had grown out of hand, to the point where Emma stopped letting them get away when they ran, and started bringing them back to the station and calling their parents to come pick them up.

As far as Killian knew, Ian had never been involved--he'd caught the boy once or twice lifting a few beers from the bar to drink with Enzo and Rowan down by the docks, and a month ago he'd happened in on the boy refilling a bottle of very expensive rum from Killian's private stock with water to replace the half  he'd drunk with the twins to celebrate their birthday, but-

Killian realized something.

"Where's Enzo?" he asked. If Ian was in trouble, Enzo was never far behind. The two were cohorts--or partners in crime, as Emma liked to say.

Lancelot opened his mouth, but Ian got there first.

"Grounded," he said slurrily.

"Ah, right." He'd almost forgotten. Enzo had been busted nearly a week ago for the black market he was running in the high school. He dealt mostly in small electronics, which weren't too much of a problem, as nothing had been acquired illegally--alas, however, the crib notes, test answers, and pre-written essays were a tad problematic. Killian had never seen Belle so furious--he wasn't certain Enzo would ever be ungrounded. At least, not before his wedding day.

Killian sighed down at Ian. "Perhaps it would have been better if we had grounded you as well," he said, then quirked an eyebrow, even though he knew Ian couldn't see, and added, "Remind me again why we didn't?"

"Cos Enzo ssssaid I 'ad nothin' t'do widdit," Ian said.

"And your mother and I believed that?" Killian asked dryly.

Ian giggled into the door frame.

They didn't believe it--not really. Usually it was Ian pulling Enzo into trouble with him, but this time it had been the other way around: Enzo was the mastermind, and Ian the sidekick. Emma and Killian knew Ian was involved somehow, but as Enzo had kept his mouth shut and unblinkingly shouldered all the blame, they decided to honor his sacrifice and pretend they believed their son was innocent this time.

This time.

"Alright," Killian said. "Thank you for bringing him home. Are you going to--will there be any consequences?"

"First time for him, so no," Lancelot said. "Plus, I figured Emma's wrath will be more punishment than anything I could do, anyway."

You have no idea.

"And for Neal?"

Lancelot shrugged. "It was either chase Neal or take care of Ian. I technically didn't catch Neal so there's nothing official I can do."

"Nothing official as in-"

"As in I'll be paying a visit to the Charmings' farm tomorrow, yes," Lancelot said. "There had to be a hundred kids out there tonight. With a bonfire. One of these times, someone's going to get hurt. Snow and David need to put an end to this."

Killian nodded. "Aye, I agree."

He hadn't minded so much about the parties before, but he found he minded very much right then.

"Do you need help getting Ian inside?" Lancelot asked.

"I think I can manage," Killian said, more out of stubborn pride than actual belief that he could manhandle a wasted teenager discreetly through a fifty yard obstacle course of stairs, creaky floors, whatever toys and clothes his daughters had chosen to leave lying about on said floors, and a sleeping Emma.

The latter presented the most danger, to Ian's well-being as well as Killian's, were they caught sneaking in.

Killian moved to the rear door, and tapped Ian's head sharply with a finger.

"Sit up, lad," he said.

The head slid off the window and back into the car. Ian blinked up at him with slightly unfocused eyes.

"Dad?"

"Aye, it's me. You have to get out of the car. Can you stand?"

Ian's brow furrowed. "Yea. F'course."

Killian opened the door, and, unsurprisingly, Ian came with it, sliding head-first out of the backseat.

"Fuck!" Killian yelped, just as he managed to catch Ian by the armpits and keep him from face-planting on the cement.

Lancelot swore and leapt out of the car--the interior light blinked on, revealing more vomit in the backseat and the inside of the door--and then Lancelot appeared at Killian's side, helping him pull Ian upright and onto his feet. They got Ian's arm slung over Killian's shoulders--which wasn't so great a feat considering the boy was now as tall as Killian--and then Killian wrapped his hook arm around Ian's waist.

"Got him?" Lancelot asked. He hovered, hands outstretched, ready to catch Ian if he fell again.

"Aye, I think so," Killian said, shifting a bit to get a firmer hold on Ian's wrist. "Thanks again, Lance. I mean it--not only for this, for the whole thing."

"No problem," Lancelot said. "Don't tell David this, but...I have a bit more of a soft spot for Ian than for Neal. Plus, I know you or Emma would do the same, if Enzo were in that situation."

"Aye," said Killian, because he would. Enzo was his godson, and he cared for the boy as much as he cared for his own son. "I'd shake your hand, but both of mine are occupied."

"Not a problem. I'll see you around. Give Emma my regards," he said.

Killian chuckled. They both knew Emma was going to lose her shit when she found out about Ian. He turned his back to Lancelot and the squad car, and slowly, painstakingly, began trudging towards the house, carrying Ian along with him.

"I dun like this," Ian said. "Can't...can't think."

Killian felt him shake his head.

"Hush, lad. You don't need to think, you just need to move your feet. Here come the stairs. Are you ready?"

"S'born ready."

You were technically born four months premature on a pirate ship in the middle of a storm, far beyond the reach of doctors or a hospital, but sure, let's go with 'born ready'.

The stairs were a struggle, and Killian quickly regretted allowing Lancelot to leave. Ian stumbled three times, and twice Killian smashed his knee hard against the edge of one of the steps as he tried to keep Ian from falling and hurting himself. As it was, he was sweating and limping by the time they reached the landing.

Killian stood on trembling legs and breathed a sigh of relief--one set of stairs down, one more to go--but then froze. He had no idea how he was going to wrestle his keys from his coat pocket, open the door, and get Ian through the door--all on his own, all one-handed, all silently.

And then the door magically opened.

Well, not magic, really.

Evie.

She stood in the doorway, wearing her pajamas patterned in rainbows like fish scales, rubbing at her eyes with a fist. Her hair, tousled from sleep, surrounded her head and shoulders like a curly brown cloud.

"What are you doing awake, lass?" Killian hissed. "You should be sleeping."

"My window's open. I heard you."

"Did anyone else hear?" Killian asked quickly. "Is your mother awake?"

Evie shook her head, yawning. "No, she's still asleep."

She held the door while Killian dragged Ian in, then closed it quietly behind them.

"What's wrong with Ian?" she asked.

"He's fine, lass. Nothing to worry about," Killian said. She looked unconvinced, so he deflected. "Where are your glasses?"

"Upstairs."

"Why aren't you wearing them?"

Evie shrugged, but Killian knew the answer. A boy in her class was teasing her about her glasses, which Killian thought was absurd and ridiculous and made him want to murder that child. Apparently, however, that sort of thing was frowned upon--as was encouraging your daughter to punch said boy. Killian's solution, therefore, had been to tell Jackie to suggest that course of action to Evie on his behalf, only it seemed his Evie had too gentle a heart for violence.

He stuffed his frustration away--now wasn't the time to deal with that--and said, "Can you do me a big favor?"

She nodded.

"Can you go upstairs and close the bedroom door so your mother doesn't wake?"

"Mmhm," she said.

"And then can you get a bottle of water from the fridge and meet me down here in the bathroom?"

"Okay," she said, and pattered away towards the stairs.

"Evie?" he called, and she stopped. "Put your glasses on, please."

She didn't answer, but Killian saw her shoulders slump inwards a bit--perhaps he would murder that boy, after all.

As soon as he heard his and Emma's bedroom door click shut upstairs, he hauled Ian to the bathroom. The toilet seat was down, so Killian carefully deposited Ian atop its fuzzy blue cover.

Ian's eyes flickered open, and he swayed. His face was ghostly pale. "I'm gonna be sick," he mumbled.

Killian snatched the small garbage can from next to the sink and pushed it into Ian's hands just in time. Ian heaved, and Killian heard something wet and heavy splatter into the bag. The smell that wafted up made his stomach turn, and he almost dove for the sink to empty his stomach as well. Luckily, changing the diapers of his three children and two godchildren had hardened his stomach a bit, and he managed to hold himself together.

Jackie appeared in the doorway just as Ian finished retching. She raised an eyebrow at her brother, slumped over with his entire face still in the garbage can.

"Mom's gonna be so pissed," she said.

"She's not awake, is she?"

Jackie shook her head. "No. But can I please be there when she finds out?"

"No. What are you doing up?"

She shrugged. "I heard you and Evie talking."

"Does no one in this house sleep?" he asked.

At this rate, Emma would be down any second.

"We sleep," Jackie said. "You're just loud."

The girls were light sleepers, like him.

Evie arrived with a bottle of water in either hand. She looked at Ian and frowned. "Is he gonna be okay?" she asked.

"M'dying," Ian wailed into the garbage can.

"He'll be fine," Killian said, over Ian. He took the water bottles from Evie and set them down on the edge of the tub. "I need you to do me another favor--both of you."

Evie nodded, but Jackie scowled.

"Jackie, please."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine," she said.

"Evie, I need you to go upstairs and bring me down a fresh pair of pajamas for Ian. Jackie, wait right there."

Evie trotted from the bathroom, Jackie sighed and leaned against the doorframe, and Killian evaluated the damage. Bits of vomit clung to Ian's shirt and jeans, and his shoes were soaked and muddy. Mixed with the stench of bile was the stale scent of cheap, nasty beer. Ian needed a shower, but Killian knew there was no way that was happening until tomorrow morning. For now, the most he could do was get the boy cleaned up a bit before bed.

He wrenched off Ian's shoes and handed them to Jackie. She pulled a face but took them, holding them delicately between thumb and forefinger.

"Back porch," he said.

When she returned, Killian had Ian stripped down to his undershorts and sitting without the support of the garbage can. He gave her the bundled up ball of Ian's vomit smeared clothes, and said,  "Throw those in the wash, please. And then you're free. You can go back to bed."

She moved away, and Evie filled the gap, carrying an armful of Ian's pajamas.

"Here you go," she said. "I brought his NASA t-shirt because I know he likes that one."

"Thank you, lass," he said, and paused to drop a kiss on her forehead. She had her glasses on, Killian noticed. He couldn't imagine why anyone would want to make fun of her for them; they were purple-rimmed and precious--she was precious. Evie was the kindest, sweetest soul he knew.

"Do you want help?" she asked.

Killian looked at Ian for a moment. "Aye. Do me a favor and help me hold him still."

Evie nodded, and moved in beside the toilet. She gently held Ian's head steady while Killian cleaned his face, neck, and hands with a warm washcloth.

One of Ian's eyes cracked open. "Where'm'I?" he asked.

"You're at home. You're in the bathroom," Evie said. "Dad's cleaning you up."

His eye closed. "Everything's spinning," he muttered.

"No, it's not. You're okay," she said, running her fingers lightly along his forehead.

"Thank you," Ian mumbled, eyes still closed.

"You're welcome," Evie said, and she wiggled her finger against his cheek, as if she was tickling him.

Killian heard Jackie's footsteps coming up from the basement, and then going upstairs. He rinsed out the washcloth, then wet it again and went in for round two. He tried not to think about how the last time he did this, Ian had been 4 and playing with rubber ducks in the bathtub. He remembered the day Ian told him he didn't need his help to take a bath anymore.

I can do it, dad.

Killian had been proud and sad at the same time. Watching your children grow up was both astonishing and heartbreaking; becoming more capable, independent human beings meant they also outgrew their need for you, usually well before you outgrew your need to feel central in their lives. That had been the most difficult to go through with Ian. He was the first, after all, and every experience with him for Emma and Killian was both novel and singular. Jackie had grown out of things faster than Ian had, but what Jackie grew out of, Evie grew right into. But when Evie started growing up...somehow Emma and Killian both knew she was the last, that this was it for them, and every bit of baby furniture, every onesie and tiny pair of socks, and every children's book donated or packed away was a farewell.

Killian missed them as babies sometimes--he loved his children; he loved the people they were and the people they would become; he loved their quirks and their faults; he loved their smiles and their laughs and their sense of humor; he loved the mix of traits they'd each inherited from him and Emma--it was just that occasionally he longed for the tiny bundles he used to hold nestled beneath his chin in the rocking chair in the nursery, or the small bodies that would mysteriously appear in his and Emma's bed at night to snuggle with them, just because.

Although this--this washing and dressing of a man-child as tall as himself--was not precisely what Killian had in mind when he wished his children were still a little bit dependent on him.

He finished cleaning the boy's face, shimmied the pajama pants up his legs and pulled a t-shirt over his head, then uncapped one of the bottles of water Evie had brought, and raised it to Ian's lips.

"Drink this," he said.

Ian shook his head.

"Ian, you need to drink some water."

"I...I can't."

"Ian-"

Jackie's footsteps were coming back down the stairs, fast. She slid into the bathroom and bumped into Killian.

"Mom's awake!" she said.

"Fuck. M'fucked," Ian groaned.

"Watch your language in front of your sisters," Killian barked, then turned to Evie and Jackie. "You two, get into the den and don't make a sound. Pretend you're not there," he said. Two sets of green eyes blinked at him, and then they scampered.

Killian looked back at Ian. There was no covering this up. The boy looked half-dead, slumped atop the toilet with his head resting on the tank. Killian had hoped to keep the boy hidden until he was recovered enough to face Emma, but-

He heard Emma's bare feet on the floor, whispering up the hallway from the kitchen, and then she was in the doorway, blinking in the bright light from the bathroom.

"Hey, love," Killian said weakly.

"Hey. What are you doing up-"

She spotted Ian. A frown settled on her lips, and she crossed her arms over her chest.

"Neal have another party?" she asked.

"Aye."

She was silent, staring at Ian, who was either asleep or pretending to be. Killian waited, feeling the seconds tick by.

Finally, she grunted, "I knew we should have grounded him." She lifted her eyes to his. "How long were you going to keep this a secret?"

"Only until he could stand on his own two feet again, love. There's no point talking to him now; he's too far gone. I wanted him to be more himself before we passed judgment. And I wanted to spare you having to see him this way."

Her lips tightened for a moment, pressing into a thin line, and then her mouth relaxed, and her expression softened.

"Where are the girls?"

"Erm, they're asleep, aren't they?" he tried.

She leveled him with a flat glare, and Killian grinned. There was no getting anything past his Swan.

"They helped me get Ian cleaned up," Killian said. "I told them to hide. I was worried your anger might burn down everything in its path, love. I didn't want them to be collateral damage."

She snorted. "They're not in trouble," she said. She stepped back into the darkness of the hallway and said loudly, "You guys can come out. I'm not mad at you."

After a moment, Evie and Jackie crept back into the bathroom. Evie slipped her arms around Emma's waist. Emma reached down and brushed Evie's dark curls behind her ears.

"Ian's sick," Evie said.

"He's not sick," Emma said.

"He's drunk," Jackie said.

"Alright," Emma said, raising her eyebrows pointedly. "On that note, go back up to bed. Both of you. I'll be there in a minute to check."

Evie and Jackie left reluctantly with one last glance at Ian--a sympathetic one from Evie, and a wickedly gleeful one from Jackie. Emma waited until their footsteps had retreated up the stairs and into their rooms, then she looked at Killian once more.

"He's grounded. Like, big-time grounded," she said.

"I agree," Killian said.

"And he's still going to work tomorrow," she said. "I don't care if there's puke coming out of his eyeballs; he's going."

"Aye, love," Killian said carefully. An 8-hour shift at Granny's with the hangover Ian was likely to have would be more punishment than his actual punishment.

"You're sitting up with him all night, too," she added. "And you can be in charge of him all day tomorrow."

"I understand," he said.

"Please don't ever try to hide something like this from me again. I know you were going to tell me eventually, and I know you were just trying to protect me, but he's my kid too. I mean--no, I don't want to see my 16-year-old wasted, but I'm his parent, so it's sort of my responsibility to deal with it too."

Killian nodded. "You're right, Emma. I'm sorry."

She stepped into the bathroom, past Ian's sprawling legs, and went up on tiptoe to kiss Killian lightly on the cheek.

"I love you," she said. "You're a good dad for taking care of him like this."

"I only wish I could have prevented it in the first place," he said. He should have been harder on Ian when he'd caught him with alcohol before, he should have put a stop to it right then and there.

Emma shrugged. "He's a teenager, Killian. And he's Ian. He's bound to do stupid things. We just need to make sure he stays alive and in one piece until he grows out of it."

"Aye, and that the town stays in one piece."

"Don't jinx it. Seriously. The whole levitating car thing...that had better be it for property damage from this kid. I don't need Regina telling me my son's a delinquent again."

"He did fly David's pickup truck right through her office-"

Emma closed her eyes, held up a hand, and started backing towards the door. "Stop. Just stop. Let's never talk about that again. I'm going to bed. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, love," he said, grinning.

Emma paused and leaned in to brush Ian's hair off his forehead and plant a kiss there, then she turned on her heel and swept out of the bathroom.

"I'm gonna kill my shithead little brother," he heard her mutter.

It wasn't until after she was long gone that Killian realized he should have asked her for help getting Ian upstairs.

---

Ian threw up again in the morning, once in the shower, and once in the street as they were getting into the car. Killian thought he would decorate Granny's front walk with his stomach contents, as well, but he clamped down, and held it in. He shuffled off into the kitchen to grab his apron, and Killian took one of the tables in the corner. He opened his book--Henry had finally convinced him to read Game of Thrones--and settled in. He had read two pages when Granny appeared at his elbow.

"What happened to Ian?" she asked as she set a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. "He looks like something the wolf dragged in."

Killian didn't think that's how that phrase went, but he didn't argue.

"Neal had a party in the woods last night," Killian said, sipping his coffee.

"Ah. He's not going to throw up all over my customers, is he?"

Killian eyed Ian's pale, haggard face from across the room. "I'll think he'll be fine."

"Good, because I'm not cleaning up after him."

---

For hours, Killian watched Ian bus tables. His movements were slow and labored as he slogged from booth to booth, and every loud noise--the clatter of glasses and plates, the ringing of the bell announcing another order was ready, or Granny's sharp voice cutting over the chatter in the diner telling him to hurry up--made him wince. A few times he bolted for the bathroom, but he was never gone for long.

At noon, Ian sat in the chair across from him. Killian raised his eyes from his book to see a pair of identical blue ones staring back at him. The boy looked perkier than he had that morning, but not by much.

"What's on your mind, lad?" Killian asked, closing his book and setting it down.

"You don't have to stay here all day just to rub it in, you know," Ian said.

"Is that why you think I'm here? To rub it in?"

Ian shrugged. "I know you're angry-"

"Yes, I'm angry. And yes, your mother's angrier-" Ian's face went paler, at that, "But you're our son, and above all we care that you're okay. I'm here to make sure you don't collapse. You might not remember this," Killian said slowly, raising an eyebrow, "but you were in very bad form last night."

Ian cheeks and ears started to turn pink, and he ducked his head. "I...I kinda don't remember," he said.

Not surprising.

"Well, what do you remember?"

"Um," Ian screwed his face up as he thought. "Lancelot, I think? And...and maybe Evie?"

"How about from before that? How did you get yourself into such a state in the first place?"

Ian looked away, and his eyelids drifted half-closed. "I don't know. I was just stupid. I thought I could hang with Neal and his friends...I guess I tried a little too hard."

"I think perhaps you should stick to hanging around with Enzo and Rowan--not that you really get into any less trouble when you're with them," he amended, flashing back to the flying car incident. It was a simple story, really: Ian had bet Rowan he could levitate a car and fly it, just like Harry Potter, and after a brief test run on the farm, Ian and Enzo had driven--flown--David's pickup truck to the Mayor's office, where Rowan was spending the day, to gloat. Only, of course, Ian had lost control and crashed the car right through Regina's window.

Ian looked as if he knew exactly what Killian was thinking, and was trying not to laugh, so Killian scowled. "Just try to stay out of trouble at least until after Christmas, will you?"

The smile Ian was trying to smother turned into a grin.

"Incoming!" said a loud voice, startling Ian and Killian nearly out of their seats. Granny pushed past Ian and deposited a huge, greasy cheeseburger and a basket of fries in front of him. "Eat that," she said, then followed up with a glass of water and a cup of coffee that was nearly white from the amount of creamer it contained. "And drink these. You have one hour for lunch, then you're back on the floor. And you'd better be moving faster or you'll be staying longer."

"Yes, m'am," Ian said, something that would have earned anyone else a smack upside the head. He grabbed the burger with two hands, and dug in. He was halfway through when Emma and the girls walked through the door. He caught sight of them, and immediately started choking.

"Um, hey," Emma said, eyeing Ian as she, Evie, and Jackie picked chairs around the table and sat down. "You okay?"

Nodding and trying to smile, but still coughing, Ian nodded.

"You sure? Do I need to do the Heimlich?"

Ian shook his head.

"I can do the Heimlich," Jackie offered.

"Punching your brother in the stomach is not technically the Heimlich maneuver," Emma said. "But nice try."

Ian and Jackie glared at each other across the table with narrowed eyes. Emma folded her arms on the table, and leaned in. "Seriously, kid. How do you feel?"

Ian put his burger down and swallowed. "Like garbage," he said, eyes downcast once more.

Emma nodded, satisfied, then produced a plastic bottle of aspirin from her coat. She set it on the table next to Ian's coffee. "Take two or three of these," she said. "They'll help with the headache."

"Thanks," Ian said, and did as she instructed. Emma watched, a look of pity on her face that was mirrored on Evie's. Killian could see Ian's discomfort beneath the weight of so much sympathy, so he changed the subject.

"So, tell me ladies, how was your morning?" he asked.

"It was nice," Emma said, smiling.

"How did hockey practice go?"

"Good," Jackie said with a fierce grin. "I think I'm gonna be Captain this year."

My little hockey queen, Killian thought.

She was giving Ian a run for his money. More and more when they played together in the yard it seemed she was winning.

"You're gonna have to beat that kid Jacob down for Captaincy," Ian said around a mouthful of French fries. "He's good too, and he really wants it."

"Whatever, I can beat him," Jackie said, tossing her golden hair off her shoulders with a shake of her head. "All he's got is that stupid toe drag move, and he's not even that good at it. You can see it coming a mile away."

"He's got a quick shot though."

"Mine's quicker."

"Yea, but he's more accurate."

"Well, then you should practice with me more so I can beat him."

"Only if you ask me nicely," Ian said, popping another fry into his mouth.

"Please, butthead?"

"Nope."

"Please, jerkface?"

"Nuh-uh."

"Please, oh favorite big brother of mine?"

Ian shrugged. "I don't know. You kinda forgot handsome-"

Jackie made a gagging noise.

"And 'hockey master'," Ian continued. "So-"

"Oh, bite me," Jackie drawled. "I'll just ask Enzo to do it."

"Enzo?" Ian spluttered. "ENZO?"

"You know," Killian said, cutting in before Ian burst a blood vessel, "being Captain doesn't just mean that you're the best player. It means you have to lead your team by setting an example and by encouraging them to try their best."

"I know," Jackie huffed, rolling her eyes. "I just don't want Jacob to get it. He's such an arrogant little turd. I'd rather die than be on a team under him."

"That's a little harsh," Ian said. "And it's not like being Captain's that great-"

"Says the guy who's been his team's Captain since he was 8."

"Yea, but being Captain is like being the teacher's pet. Do you want to be the teacher's pet?"

"Shut up, Ian," Jackie said. "I'm gonna be Captain, so stop trying to make me change my mind. I'm gonna be Captain, and then I'm gonna shove my skate so far up Jacob Prewitt's butt-"

Killian cleared his throat loudly. "Anyway," he said, looking pointedly at Jackie. "Why don't you tell me what else did you did this morning?"

"We went to the little cafe by the docks for breakfast after hockey," Emma said.

"Oh? And what did you get there?" he asked, even though he already knew.

"Chocolate croissants," Jackie and Evie chorused.

"We got one for Ian too," Evie said. "It's at home."

"Thanks," Ian mumbled sheepishly into his coffee.

Evie beamed, then her eyes lit up and she turned to Killian. "Oh, oh, oh! I got a book!" she said.

"Really?" Killian asked. "May I see?"

"Yea! I-"

She went silent.

"Evie, what's wrong, lass?"

She was staring across the diner, at a group of boys who had just walked in and ordered milkshakes at the counter.

"That's the boy that's been making fun of her," Jackie said. "The one with the buzz cut and the orange shirt."

Killian moved to stand--he had no idea what he planned to do what he knew he was going to do something--but Emma laid her hand over his wrist, stopping him.

"As much as I'd love to see the kid who's been making fun of our daughter get punched in the face," she said out of the corner of her mouth, "I can't let my husband, a grown-ass man, punch a 4th grader in public."

"What if it wasn't in public?" he asked, thinking of the parking lot out back. He'd never been able to kill someone with just a look before, but that didn't stop him from trying. He glowered at the boy with all his might, hoping he might drop dead, or perhaps just burst into flame--but, alas, nothing happened.

"Evie," Ian said in a low voice, leaning across the table towards his sister.

"What?" Evie muttered gloomily.

"When that kid looks over here, I want you to make a murder face at him, okay? Like, squint at him real hard like you're trying to set him on fire."

As I was just doing, love.

"What?" Evie asked, wrinkling her nose at Ian. "Why?"

"Just do it."

Evie's eyes slid to the boy just as he and his group of friends left the counter, milkshakes in hand, and headed for the door. The boy's eyes snapped to Evie, pulled as if by magnetism, and Killian heard Evie grunt as she pulled the meanest face she could manage.

"Uh-" the boy said, and the rest of his sentence was drowned out as his drink cup exploded, dousing his face and the front of his shirt with chocolate-colored goo.

"Ian!" Emma hissed. "Did you just-"

Ian whipped around. "Nobody messes with Evie," he growled.

The boy was gasping and trying to wipe milkshake out of his eyes while his friends stood around gaping.

Evie looked at Ian. "He's going to think I did that!" she said, biting her lip.

"Good," Ian said. "Now he'll stop bothering you."

"But what if he finds out it wasn't me and then starts making fun of me again?"

"Then I'll teach you how to do that for yourself. That, and some other things. Your glasses look awesome, Evie. Don't let anyone make fun of you for them. Don't let anyone make fun of you for anything."

"Goddammit," Emma said.

Everyone at the table fell quiet and looked at her.

"I was trying to be mad at Ian," she said, one hand flailing helplessly in midair. "But I can't anymore--not after that."

"Does that mean-" Ian started, a hopeful light shining in his eyes.

"Oh, no," Emma said. "You're still grounded. Like, super grounded-"

"She's going to make you do my chores and Evie's chores for a month," Jackie said.

"And you're only leaving the house for school, hockey, and work," Emma said.

"And you're going to help me give the Jolly Roger a new coat of paint," Killian said.

Ian quirked an eyebrow at him. "I was going to do that anyway," he said.

Killian shrugged. "Aye, but I felt as if I needed to throw something in there, as well."

"And if I catch you drinking again before you turn 21, you'll be doing community service at the Mayor's Office until you're out of college," Emma said, eyes narrowed dangerously.

Ian gulped.

---

That evening, after dinner, Killian and Emma were enjoying a dessert of hot chocolate--Killian couldn't bring himself to add rum, not when he remembered certain smells so vividly from the previous night--while they watched Ian practicing magic with Evie in the front room. They were sitting cross-legged on the floor with One-Eyed Jim lying between them, and from what Killian could gather, Ian was trying to walk Evie through levitating the stuffed red octopus.

Emma had her chin resting in her hand, smiling fondly.

"What are you thinking, love?" he asked quietly.

"Just--them. I don't know. The bonds they have with each other--Ian and Jackie and Evie...they're so different. I like it," she said, and sipped her hot chocolate.

"Aye," Killian said. Jackie was downstairs, and he could hear the telltale pounding of the tennis ball against the washer and dryer and walls that informed him she was practicing her shot--Ian had drawn up targets for her and taped them to various surfaces around the basement.

As they watched, One-Eyed Jim shuddered, then leapt into the air--he rocketed towards the ceiling, hit it with a soft thump, then fell limply back to the floor. Evie drew her knees up quickly to her chest and clapped both hands over her mouth.

"Evie, Evie, it's okay," he heard Ian saying.

"Should we go over there?" Killian asked, looking quickly to Emma.

"No," Emma said softly. There was a small crease between her brows, but her green eyes were calm. "She's okay. She's just afraid of her magic. She's got a lot of power--she's like Ian--but it scares her."

Their sweet Evie.

Killian nodded and raised his mug to his lips. "I know Jackie's rather upset she missed the magic gene, but frankly I'm rather grateful--can you imagine?"

Emma snorted. "By now, there'd be nothing left of Storybrooke."

A thought struck Killian.

"Emma, do you remember that thing last year, with the shed? When it caught fire?"

He conjured an image of the shed in the corner of the yard ablaze, Evie on her knees beside it with her hands covering her face, weeping, while Ian stood at her shoulder, frantic...

"Yes," Emma said carefully.

"Ian said that was him."

"It wasn't. It was Evie," Emma said.

Killian set his mug down. "How do you know?"

"I know Ian's magic," she said. "And I know Evie's magic. That was Evie. It was an accident."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

She looked at him, guiltily. "You were really mad at Ian," she said. "I didn't know how to tell you that you yelled at him for nothing."

"Ian never said anything," Killian said, almost accusingly.

Emma shrugged. "Of course not. Evie was scared she'd get in trouble, so he took the fall for her. And, I mean...after the way you yelled at him? There's no way he would have thrown her under the bus after that. He fully intends to take that secret to his grave--so let him."

Killian turned away sharply, back towards where Ian was sitting, smiling at Evie as she scowled down at the red octopus, who was hovering a foot off the floor.

"You know," Killian grumbled, "it's really hard to stay mad at the boy when he's so bloody good."

"I know," Emma said. "I blame you."

Chapter Text

July

It's the final day of their family vacation—well, not family vacation, exactly, since one member opted to stay home.

Emma tried to convince Henry to come, but, in the end, the allure of an empty house was apparently stronger than the allure of a week in Florida with his parents and 4-year-old brother. Emma couldn't force him to go, so she let him stay home, and she put David on stakeout duty to ensure things didn't get too rowdy—and also to prevent any co-ed sleepovers (she knows Henry's sexually active, but taking steps to ensure he's being safe and actually facilitating said activity are two entirely different things).

So far, David reported, Henry's only had two parties—mostly he just seems to be enjoying having the house to himself.

Emma gets it: living with a 4-year-old isn't easy, especially when that 4-year-old idolizes you but also treats you like a tree he needs to climb before it runs away. It's exhausting and sometimes annoying for Henry, but he does his best, and both Emma and Killian are pretty damn proud of the responsible yet indulgent big brother he's become—which is why Emma's allowing him this break while she, Killian, and Ian spend the week at a small beachfront resort in the Florida Keys.

Their six-day stay flew by in a whirl of sunshine, sand castles, and Ian flinging himself into the water like he's got fins and gills, and now Emma's lying in bed, Ian in her arms and Killian at her back, staring through the sliding screen doors at the white sand and the strip of viridian ocean just beyond their patio, wishing it wasn't all about to end.

Tomorrow morning it's back to Storybrooke, back to reality, back to getting Henry ready for his senior year of high school and Ian ready for preschool.

She curls more tightly around Ian, and tries not to cry—crying about the future is what sent Killian into panicked husband mode and prompted him to book this little getaway, but crying isn't going to stop time.

Time is turning her baby into a little boy, and her teenager into an adult, and there's nothing she can do about it.

"What's on your mind, love?"

Emma almost laughs. "How did you know?"

A kiss is pressed behind her ear. "I always know when you're worried, Swan," he says.

Emma sighs.

"Do you want more kids?"

He goes still for a moment, and then he says, quietly, "Of course I do, Emma. You know I do."

Emma hears the longing in his voice, longing she always knew was there, only-

"How come you never said anything?"

She feels him shrug, and then his body relaxes, settles more firmly against hers.

"I knew you knew how I felt, Swan. There was never any need for me to say it. I always assumed that when—if—you ever felt the same way, you'd say something."

"Only, I never said anything."

"Aye," he says, pressing another kiss to the back of her neck. It feels like an apology.

He thinks she's done.

He thinks she's made up her mind for good, and he's accepted it.

"Killian-"

"You don't have to explain, love. I understand."

"No, Killian, you don't. I-"

She pauses, bites her lip.

Ian was not planned. Finding out she was pregnant three weeks after bringing Killian back from the dead was a shock—being a mother again was not something she'd really imagined for herself, but there she was, about to be one anyway.

It took her a little while to accept (Was she ready? Could she do it? Did she even deserve it?), but eventually she realized that she was being given a very special opportunity—a chance to have all the things she missed with Henry, and a chance to share those things with Killian and a child they made together.

She loved Ian from the moment she saw those three positive pregnancy tests staring back at her from the bathroom sink—even while she was panicking, a fierce love was already roaring to life inside her. Raising Ian, watching him grow from a tiny little peanut with fluffy blonde hair into a grinning toddler who got into literally everything and then into the little boy in her arms, the boy who had her stubbornness, Henry's curiosity, and Killian's capacity for love, has filled her heart with more happiness than she could have imagined.

She was beyond content, but only recently, as she recognized Ian was growing up and growing out of needing her, did she realize she wants more.

She wants another little bundle to hold close to her chest, to cling to her hair while she breastfeeds, to reach for her in the morning and fall asleep in her arms at night; she wants to see Killian with a baby on his hip, smiling joyfully, and she wants to hear him singing lullabies again.

She turns her head , and as she does he lifts his so she can see his eyes.

"I want to do it again," she says. "I want to have another baby."

Another child that was hers and Killian's.

He smiles, hesitantly. "Emma, do you mean it?"

"I do. I'm ready."

He grins and kisses her, mouth pressing hard against hers. His hand slides from her hip to her stomach, slipping beneath her t-shirt so that his warm fingers are caressing her bare skin.

"Easy tiger, we're not alone," she says.

His hand retreats back to her hip. He eyes Ian thoughtfully for a moment, before asking, "How much longer do you think he'll sleep for?"

"Probably another hour."

"Then what do you say we leave the boy here and go to the bedroom to have a 'nap' of our own."

"I'd say that sounds fantastic, Captain."

---

September

Planning another baby is different. It feels different.

Every gesture is charged with meaning, every small thing seems heavy with significance in the delicate dance that is conception. It's less romantic than Emma thought it would be. She finds herself worrying about things she never worried about before: position, angle, timing, did her having an orgasm after affect anything?

Killian's mentality seems to be that he can make it happen, if only he tries hard enough.

However, it's been two months, and Emma's still not pregnant.

She went to the OBGYN, created a calendar that charted her "fertile periods", she chokes down a prenatal vitamin every morning, the condoms were thrown (with great pomp and ceremony) into the trash, and her and Killian have been having sex nonstop like hormonal teenagers—but still, no baby.

Emma almost expected things to happen right away—she and Killian had sex one time without a condom in Camelot, and they had Ian, so why should it be more difficult now, when they're actually trying to conceive?

Emma tries to pretend that she's not disappointed, that she's not worried, but it's hard when, the longer it takes, the more she wants it.

"Maybe we should ask Regina to open a portal to Camelot," she jokes one Sunday evening, while her and Killian are in the kitchen preparing Ian's lunch for the next day.

"Why?" Killian asks her quizzically, glancing up from the carrot sticks he's counting into a Ziploc bag and raising an eyebrow.

She shrugs. "We got pregnant with Ian there, maybe we can get lucky again."

He looks at her, searchingly, but she keeps her eyes fixed on the peanut butter she's been sculpting onto a piece of bread for at least two minutes longer than necessary.

"Emma," he says. "You don't think...that you—Emma, it's not your fault, love."

She feels her chin wobble, and she bites her lip in an attempt to stop it before Killian sees.

But he does see.

"Come here, Swan."

He wraps his arms around her, and she clings to him, hands fisting in his shirt, her face pressed into his shoulder.

"It'll be alright, love," he says softly, stroking her hair.

"But what if it doesn't happen? What if can't-" She swallows hard, unable to continue.

"Everything will be alright," he repeats, and kisses the top of her head.

---

October

Emma's still not pregnant, but she's so busy working overtime at the station that she doesn't have time to worry about it too much.

Last year, David and Mary Margaret bought a farm twenty minutes north of town, and, over the summer, David started the slow, months-long transition from Sheriff to full-time farmer, so now it's just Emma and Lancelot at the station, surrounded by a handful of deputies Emma still isn't sure she fully trusts.

Most days, everything's so hectic that Emma wouldn't remember to eat lunch if Killian didn't bring it for her—likewise, Killian probably wouldn't remember to eat dinner if Emma and Ian didn't bring it to him at the bar every evening. The population of the town has been growing steadily, and every year a fresh wave of brand-new 21-year-olds is added to the mix. Business has been booming, and The Crow's Nest, besides its relatively small size, competes seriously with The Rabbit Hole and Aesop's Table.

Home life is busy, too.

Henry's looking seriously at colleges and planning campus visits, when he's not drowning in homework, at hockey practice, or hanging out with Ava, that is. There are days where Emma feels like she only sees Henry for meals, and days where Emma can't remember if they even exchanged words.

Ian's another case entirely. He's not adjusting to preschool as well as Emma thought he would. At least once a week he tries to stage a "mutiny" by asking anyone who wants to go home to raise their hand.

It actually amuses Killian, although, after the 6th time, he sits Ian down at the kitchen table (in the same configuration they have Henry in when Henry needs a serious talking-to, so that Ian knows he's in trouble), and has a conversation about how, in a classroom, the teacher is the captain.

"Is your captain putting you in danger?" Killian asks.

"No," Ian admits, sullenly.

"So is it okay for one of her crew to stage a mutiny?"

"No."

"No," Killian agrees. "And what do you think shall happen on this ship," he gestures at the house, "Should you attempt another mutiny at school?"

"The brig," Ian replies.

The brig is their code word for both time-out and being grounded.

"Aye, lad. The brig."

The mutinies stop, but Ian finds other, more creative ways to express his displeasure.

One day, on her way into the school to pick up Ian, Emma passes a group of his classmates exiting with their parents, and all of them have mustaches drawn on their faces. Regina walks past with Rowan, also with a mustache, and throws Emma probably the nastiest look she's ever given her.

Emma groans inwardly, fearing what she'll find in the classroom.

Ian's sitting alone at one of the tiny tables in a tiny chair, his arms crossed over his chest, glaring into space. He's sporting his own impressive handlebar mustache, and Emma has seen enough of his homemade tattoos to know that it and all his classmates mustaches were made with Sharpie.

Emma's too angry to speak as the teacher tells her the story of what happened. She stands in front of him and plants her hands on her hips, but he stoutly ignores her the entire time.

Outside, halfway to the car, Emma stops and whirls on him.

"What were you thinking? Why did you do that?" she demands. He looks at her, eyes wide and startled, and Emma realizes she's yelling—why is she yelling?

Fuck.

She tries never to yell. She knows yelling solves nothing—at least, she knows loads of foster parents yelling at her never solved anything.

Emma takes a deep breath and forces herself to calm down. She tucks her hair behind her ears and squats down in front of Ian, then takes his hands in hers and gives his fingers a gentle squeeze.

"I'm sorry for yelling," she says, and Ian nods, still wary. "Do you know why I'm upset?"

"You're mad because I drew on everybody—but they wanted me to!"

"I believe you," Emma says, and pauses, gives that a moment to sink in. "I'm not upset because you drew on them—I'm sure you asked and I'm sure they said yes—I'm upset for a few other reasons."

"What?" he asks.

"First of all, I'm upset because the teacher told you not to draw on other people, and you didn't listen to her. Secondly, I'm upset because you used Sharpie, and me and your dad tell you all the time not to draw on yourself with Sharpie, because it's permanent. Third, I'm upset because you took the teacher's Sharpies off her desk when she wasn't looking."

He crumples, unable to deny any longer, even to himself, that he did something wrong. Tears well in his eyes.

"Are you gonna tell dad?"

"Dad's gonna find out," Emma says, matter-of-factly. "We don't keep secrets in our family, remember? You can tell him, or I can tell him. Which do you want?"

"I'll tell him," Ian says, unsteadily, and then bursts out crying.

Emma hugs him and holds him until he calms down, but he whimpers the entire car ride to the bar, and as soon as they walk in, he starts crying again.

Killian's face is totally bewildered as Ian runs, mustached and sobbing, into his arms.

"What's wrong, lad?" Killian asks, but he's looking at Emma. She folds her arms over her chest and grimaces; he nods, understanding that whatever Ian's crying about has nothing to do with him being hurt.

Killian lifts Ian up, carries him around to the front of the counter, places him on its surface, and sits on one of the stools.

"Tell me what happened, Ian," he says calmly. Emma takes the stool on Ian's other side, so that her knees rest in between Killian's.

Ian sniffles and wipes at his eyes, then says in a rush, "I took the teacher's Sharpies off her desk and then drew mustaches on everybody. I'm sorry!"

Luckily, Ian starts crying again, so he doesn't see the struggle Killian goes through to hide his grin.

Emma rubs Ian's back until he gets himself under control enough to look them in the eye—she hates seeing him cry, even when he's just crying because he's upset that he's in trouble.

"Are you gonna put me in the brig?" Ian asks Killian. His face is bright red, his cheeks are splotchy, and his nose is running. In short, he looks utterly pathetic.

"No, lad," Killian says. "I'm not going to put you in the brig. You are going to write an apology letter to your teacher, however. And you will not draw on other students in school again, whether they ask you to or not, understand?"

Ian nods.

"C'mon, let's get you cleaned up and then we can go home."

"Don't you have to work tonight?" Emma asks.

Killian shrugs. "Will and Smee can handle it. Besides, I'm tired, and I just want to go home and spend the evening with my family."

Killian has to carry Ian home, since apparently crying for nearly a full hour rendered his legs useless. They order pizza and snuggle up together on the couch in the den to watch Hocus Pocus. Henry joins them, and Emma thinks that, if this is it, if it's just her and Killian and Henry and Ian and forever, then it's okay. They're enough.

---

November

Henry's high school hockey team manages to secure a spot in a tournament in Boston over Thanksgiving, so Emma, Killian, Ian, Emma's parents, and Neal make the voyage together. Ava drives down separately to watch a few games, but has to return to Storybrooke for Thanksgiving dinner with her dad and brother.

Storybrooke High finishes the tournament in the middle of the pack—which is impressive if you take into consideration the short amount of time the program has been active, and the fact that the coaches were previously cloth dyers in the Enchanted Forest. Henry's played a pretty solid right wing on the third line for the last two years, but the team's star player being too sick to attend the tournament bumps Henry up to the second line, and he scores a goal on a power play during their last game—which makes the overall loss easier to bear.

They stay in Boston the whole weekend, and Emma and Killian take Henry around to a few different colleges while David and Mary Margaret take Ian and Neal to the Aquarium and the Children's Museum.

Henry likes Harvard best, of course, but he doesn't mind BC, BU, or UMASS, either. Emma knows he'll get into at least one of them, and even though it hurts to imagine him moving away, she's happy he'll be getting out into the world on his own and seeing what things are really like, outside of Storybrooke.

On their last evening in Boston, Killian surprises her with a private, romantic dinner at a restaurant downtown, followed up by a night in a hotel with a magnificent view.

Emma goes to the window, and her breath catches. The lights of the city are beautiful. Boston was the first place she chose as a home, and she actually sort of misses it.

"What's all this for?" she asks.

Killian steps up behind her, hands wrapping around her waist. "For you, Swan. I know you've been stressed lately."

"We've all been stressed lately," she says.

"Aye, well, I thought we could use a night to ourselves."

Emma leans back into him. He nuzzles his face into her neck and kisses her.

"The bathroom has a hot tub," he says, trailing his kisses upwards, towards her ear. "I thought perhaps we could spend some time relaxing in there, and then..."

"And then?" she asks, already feeling the heat rise in her belly and pool between her legs.

"And then I thought we could continue trying to add another member to our crew."

"Another little pirate, you mean," she says, grinning.

"Aye, Swan; what do you say?"

She turns in his arms, so her the front of her body is pressed firmly against his.

"I say we save the hot tub for later and get started on that little pirate now," she says in a low voice. She slips one hand slowly down his chest and into his jeans to palm his hardening length.

He gasps, eyes fluttering half-shut, and then he grins at her, wickedly.

"As you wish," he growls.

---

December

It isn't until nearly 1am when Granny's Christmas Eve party finally dies down.

Ian crashes on the car ride home, exhausted from a sugar overload and from an evening spent trying to weasel quarters out of everyone at Granny's so he and Enzo could play Twelve Days of Christmas on repeat on the jukebox. His pockets jingle as Killian carries him upstairs to his bedroom, and Emma wonders how many quarters they'll find on him when they change him into his pajamas.

The answer is $2.75 worth.

When Ian's in his candy-cane striped pajamas and tucked securely in bed with One-Eyed Jim under his arm, Emma and Killian sneak the gifts from Santa out of their closet and put them under the tree beside all the others.

Emma's excited for Ian to open his presents this year—she's excited every year, but this year they got him ice skates, so he can learn to be a hockey player like Henry (Ian's technically still too young yet for the hockey programs in Storybrooke, but Emma and Killian signed him up for Learn to Skate classes).

Killian slips his arm around her waist, and they stand, admiring the Christmas tree glowing softly in the nook by the bay window, until Killian yawns, and says, "Bed?"

"Wait. There's something I want to do first," she tells him.

"Oh?" he asks, grinning and raising an eyebrow.

"Not that," she says. "Something else."

He continues to look at her expectantly.

"I have a feeling," she says.

"A feeling, Swan?" he asks, still confused.

"Well, not a feeling, really. More like...nausea."

He blinks, and then a gleeful light slowly enters his eyes.

"Swan..." he breathes. "Do you mean—are you..."

"I don't know," she says, and she's suddenly so excited and nervous and jittery that she actually starts bouncing on her toes. "That's what I want to find out—here."

She takes one of the gifts from beneath to tree, one that was mixed in with Ian's Santa gifts but is actually addressed to Killian, and hands it to him.

"Open it," she says, smiling, and he does—inside is a box of pregnancy tests.

He throws back his head and laughs, then grabs her hand and runs towards the stairs, pulling her with him.

This time, Emma's not alone sitting on the edge of the tub; this time, Killian's there too. He sits with their entwined hands resting on his thigh, and knee bouncing up and down impatiently.

"Do you think it's ready yet?" he asks, for the tenth time in less than a minute.

He doesn't even wait for a reply this time, he jumps to his feet and snatches the pregnancy test off the sink.

"What does it say?" Emma asks

He stares at it, eyes slowly widening and mouth falling open until he's gaping.

"Killian," she prompts, louder.

"Emma," he says, and swoops over to snatch her up into his arms. He crushes her lips in a kiss, and Emma grabs his shirt collar, holding him there. Finally, he pulls back, grins at her, and says, "We're having another baby!"

---

Emma can't wait to tell Ian that he's going to be a big brother, so they tell him the next morning.

"Really?" he gasps, and then spins around to pounce on the pile of still-wrapped presents, searching for one that's baby-shaped.

"Ian!" Emma calls. "Ian, Ian! She's not in there."

Killian turns his head and gives her a sharp look. "She?" he asks.

She?

Why did Emma say that?

She shakes her head, shakes it off—must have just been a slip of the tongue.

It's Henry's year to spend Christmas morning at Regina's, so Emma can't tell him until he arrives in the afternoon, but when she does, he doesn't seem surprised.

"Oh, awesome. Finally," he says.

"What? Finally? What?"

"Nothing," Henry says, grinning. "Congratulations!"

---

January

Killian's already reading pregnancy manuals again ("I need to refresh my memory, Swan."), and their refrigerator is stocked with things like Greek yogurt, blueberries, broccoli, and three times the usual amount of eggs.

And saltines. So many saltines. The morning sickness is worse this time around, and Emma basically goes through a box a day—her cabinet looks like the cracker shelf at the grocery store.

"Where're my cookies?" Ian asks, rummaging in the cabinets, pushing aside boxes and boxes of oatmeal and Special K.

Killian plucks him off the counter and sets him on the floor. "Mm, I'm afraid there aren't any cookies. How about some spinach instead?"

Ian looks at him like he's lost his mind, then he looks to Emma for help.

"Killian, you'd better tell him where you hid the cookies. Otherwise he's going to tear the kitchen apart tonight at 2am looking for them."

Killian sighs, but he does as she asks—because he knows she's right.

"Alright, lad, you can have one cookie."

Killian pulls the package of Chips Ahoy from their hiding place, and removes four cookies. He puts on in his mouth, and hands one to Ian.

"Who're those for?" Ian asks shrewdly, pointing to the two remaining cookies.

"Your mother," Killian says simply, around the cookie.

"How come she gets two and I only get one?"

"One's for the baby," Killian explains patiently.

Ian frowns. "If I have a baby, then can I get two cookies?"

"Boys can't have babies. Only girls can."

"That's not fair."

Killian sits at the kitchen table, across from Emma.

"Trust me, lad," he says. "One day, when you see your wife puking her guts out into the toilet every morning, you'll be grateful boys can't have babies."

Emma kicks him in the shin, so hard he jumps and bits of cookie fall from his mouth and down the front of his shirt.

"C'mon, kid," Emma says, patting the empty chair beside her. "I'll split the baby's cookie with you. She's still small, she doesn't need the whole thing."

Ian climbs into the seat and smirks smugly across the table at Killian, who chuckles and takes another bite from his cookie.

---

February

Killian keeps track of everything. He shows Ian every week how big the baby is inside Emma's belly—for some reason, all the pamphlets, books, and even the internet compare the size of the baby to a fruit or vegetable; so, every week Killian has the corresponding fruit or vegetable, and he holds it up to Emma's stomach so Ian can see.

Week 10 is a green olive, and when Killian pops the olive into his mouth after comparing it to Emma's stomach, Ian bellows in shock.

"It's alright, it's alright," Killian says quickly. "It was just an olive."

"Oh," Ian says. "Okay. I was about to be really mad if you ate the baby."

---

March

Ian turns 5, and it's bittersweet. Emma loves watching him grow, but she hates that, as he gets older, some things are lost forever.

They have a family party at the house the weekend before, and Emma sends cupcakes into school the day of. Ian comes home with a gift from his teacher: a brand new set of metallic markers—Ian's not the teacher's least favorite student anymore; he managed to work his way into her top 3 (the number 1 spot of course belongs to Rowan). Emma thinks it's because, once he toned down his mischievous behavior, she realized he's actually a smart kid. She told Emma at a parent-teacher conference that Ian's her best reader—she's actually surprised he can read at all, because most kids in his class can't—and Emma gets to proudly inform her that it's because he reads with Killian every night (usually to the baby).

---

April

They find out they're having a girl, and Killian's overjoyed. It takes a week for his smile to fade—and that's only because he stumbles into the Lego minefield that is currently their front room.

"Do you need to go to the hospital?" Emma teases him, as he massages his foot.

"No," Killian grumbles, then he sighs. "I'm grateful this next one's a girl, Swan. I think one Ian is just about all I can handle."

Emma raises an eyebrow. "I don't know why you think just because it's a girl that she won't be just as difficult as Ian."

"Because I think she'll be just like you, love."

"Still don't know why you think that means she won't be difficult," Emma says.

"I never said she won't be difficult; I merely said she'll be just like you."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning that even if she were to set a dastardly booby trap such as this," he says, and glares at the Legos strewn all over the carpet and wood floor, "I couldn't possibly be mad her."

Emma snorts. "Oh, you are so screwed."

---

May

Emma buys a book of baby names, and reads it when things get slow at the station.

One afternoon, when Killian arrives with their lunch, he sees the book, and says, "I thought we already agreed on a name."

"Huh?" she says, looking up from reading the description for Madelyn.

"Five years ago. Jacqueline."

Emma stares. "You want to use a name we thought of five years ago?"

Killian shrugs, and grins. "I quite like it. Jacqueline Jones has a nice ring to it. Besides, we already know we choose Jacqueline."

"Huh?" she says again.

"The unicorn horn."

"The unicor—oh, right."

The unicorn horn.

She was afraid getting pregnant while she was the Dark One had affected the baby, so she used a unicorn horn to get a glimpse of her unborn child's future—and more.

Emma closes the book, and makes a face at the grilled cheese sitting in front of her.

Remembering things from when she was pregnant with Ian is hard—and not normal, that-was-five-years-ago hard, it's strangely hard. Those memories feel resistant, or like she's trying to see them through a thick fog that also makes her brain hurt.

"So?" Killian asks, startling her back into reality.

"So, what?"

"The name, Swan. Jacqueline—or Jackie, if you will."

Emma sighs and sits back.

Jacqueline Jones.

Jackie Jones.

She liked it five years ago, and she still likes it now.

"Alright, what about a middle name?" she says, taking a huge bite of her grilled cheese. "Any ideas?"

"Well," he says, waving a French fry around idly as he thinks. "Technically I believe Henry picked Jacqueline when he suggested Jack, so...perhaps we could let Ian choose the middle name?"

"Are you sure you wanna let our 5-year-old choose his little sister's middle name? He's probably going to pick T-Rex or Banana or something."

"Jacqueline T-Rex Jones," Killian says, as if considering it. He bites the fry he's swinging around in half. "I could live with that."

---

June

Emma feels Jackie move for the first time while she's in the yard watering the buttercups. After that, Killian touches her belly more than usual (if possible), waiting patiently for the day he feels her, too. It happens one night a few weeks later when he has his head on her stomach, humming The Wheels on the Bus because Ian got it stuck in everyone's heads—Emma feels Jackie movie, and then Killian starts laughing.

"I guess she doesn't like that one," he says, eyes twinkling. "She got me right in the cheek."

One night, the three of them are on the couch watching a movie, when Killian starts, pulls his hand off her belly, and puts Ian's hand in its place. He then lays his hand over Ian's and presses, until Ian starts giggling.

"Is that really her?" he asks.

"Yep," Emma replies.

He's curious about how the baby is in there, so Emma finds an illustration online that's suitable for view by a 5-year-old to help him visualize.

"She's upside down?" he asks, wrinkling his nose at the picture on Emma's phone.

"Not yet. But she will be soon. She has to come out head-first."

He blinks, and looks at her belly. "Where does she come out?"

"Bath time," Killian says briskly, hustling Ian off the couch and out of the den.

---

July

After much deliberation, Ian chooses Winter for Jackie's middle name.

"It's like Snow White, but different," he explains.

Killian looks at Emma. "What do you think, love?"

"I think Mary Margaret's going to shit a brick when we tell her."

"That would probably hurt," Ian says, brow crinkling in concern. "Maybe you shouldn't tell grandma."

---

August

Being pregnant in the summer is the worst. Emma is never not boiling hot, sweating, and swollen, all at the same time. She can't sleep comfortably in any position, and therefore barely sleeps at all. Moving is difficult, now that her stomach is roughly the size of a small planet, and Ian's taking advantage of her limited mobility by wreaking more havoc than usual around the house and yard, which is making Killian extra irritable as well.

To top it all off, Henry is off to college, but Emma can't go because she would literally crawl out of her skin if she had to sit in the car for 4 hours. That, and she'd have to stop to pee every 15 minutes.

The only bright spot is that the nursery is finally finished.

Killian and Henry painted the walls with bright, watermelon-colored polka dots, as per request, and Marco refurbished all of the old furniture from Ian's nursery, including the crib—the upholstery is pale pink now, and the miniature woodwork on the roundels is a deep gold.

Emma stands in the center, on the yellow and white chevron-striped rug, and sighs in contentment.

"Is it acceptable?" Killian asks.

"It's perfect. She's going to love it."

Killian grins and hugs her gently from behind, hands on either side of her beach ball-sized belly

"I can't wait to meet her," he says quietly, and lays his cheek on her shoulder, his face buried in her hair.

"Me either," Emma says.

Soon, Emma thinks. Soon they're going to meet this little girl that's part her, part Killian. Emma just wants to hold her already, nuzzle her soft skin and inhale that new baby smell; she wants to see who Jackie looks like—her, or Killian, or her grandparents, or a mix-

There's a crash from downstairs, followed by a loud yelp, and then an, "I'm okay!"

"Bloody hell," Killian growls into her shoulder, then turns towards the door, and bellows, "What fell?"

"I did," Ian calls back.

"Off of what?"

"Um..."

"IAN."

"The top of the refrigerator."

Killian makes a sound of frustration deep in his throat, and huffs, "I swear, sometimes I think he was raised by a pack of mountain goats."

"Do you want me to tell you that it's your fault for hiding the Fruit Roll-Ups up there, or do you want me to pretend that-"

"The second one, Swan. Obviously, the second one," he says, and lays his head back on her shoulder.

Emma chuckles, and reaches back to stroke his hair. "Alright, then yes, our son was raised by wild animals."

"Thank you."

---

September

She's here.

She's finally here.

The labor was long, the delivery difficult—no hemorrhage and no stitches this time, though, so she guesses that's a plus. Killian holds her hand the entire time, he brushes the hair from her sweaty forehead, he kisses her in between contractions, in between pushes, and tells her she's doing great.

As soon as Jackie's in her arms, it's as if all that pain never even happened—all Emma knows is that tiny, scrunched up face, the wet little head with its swirls of dark gold hair, and the feel of the baby's heat and weight against her bare chest.

Killian hovers next to her, nervously. "She's beautiful," he says, voice cracking, and after the nurses clean Jackie up, bundle her in a blanket, and put her in Killian's arms for the first time, he cries. "Hello, little love, I'm your father. I've been waiting to meet you for a long time."

Emma might cry a little bit too, seeing Killian with tears of joy on his cheeks and an ear-splitting grin on his lips—God, she never knew she could feel so happy, only-

There's one thing missing.

Killian brings Ian in the next day. Someone—Emma suspects Mary Margaret—dressed him in a t-shirt that says "Big Brother".

"Hey," Emma says, when he walks in. "Come meet your new sister."

Ian grins and climbs onto the bed with her and the baby.

"Careful, Ian," Killian cautions. "Remember, you have to be gentle."

"He's okay," Emma says—she knows he'll be gentle; she felt how tender Ian was whenever he hugged her pregnant belly. Ian crawls up next her and lays down with his head on her shoulder, and Emma shifts the baby in her arms so he can see better.

Ian studies Jackie for a few minutes before he tilts his face up and says solemnly, "I missed you."

She leans down and kisses the tip of his nose, the only part of him she can reach without moving too much. "I missed you too, kid," she says, and smiles.

Ian snuggles closer, and reaches out one hand to touch one of Jackie's feet through the blanket.

"She's so tiny."

"She is," Emma agrees.

Ian moves his hand higher, first touching softly one of her hands, and then her cheek.

"Can I give her a kiss?" Ian asks.

"Go for it."

Ian sits up, bends slowly and carefully over the baby, and kisses her forehead, then whispers, "I love you," before settling back against Emma's side.

Later, after Ian falls asleep next to her, Emma looks at Killian, and says, "I think we did pretty good."

Killian leans down and kisses Jackie, then Ian, and then her. "Aye, love, we did."

Chapter Text

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring—save for Killian Jones's three children, apparently.

Having just seen them all off to bed, Killian is surprised and a bit disgruntled to hear their voices. It's late, he and Emma are exhausted from another raucous Christmas Eve party at Granny's, and both of them desire nothing more than to put the gifts from Santa under the tree and crawl into their own bed, to dream of sugar plums or whatever.

Emma pauses halfway through changing out of her dress and into a pair of pajamas. "Will you go deal with that?" she sighs. "They listen to you."

"No, they don't," Killian sighs back, stripping off his undershirt and dropping it to the floor. "Our children answer to no one, but they especially don't answer to their father."

"Please," Emma says, pleadingly.

He struggles for a moment, his need for sleep wrestling with his sense of duty, until the good husband in him pins and strangles the selfish voice that's screaming for his pillow and blanket and Emma in his arms.

"Alright, Swan. I'll go be the bad guy," he says. He finds his flannel sleep pants and a clean t-shirt and finishes dressing.

"I love you," Emma tells him as he leaves their room, and he grumbles wordlessly in response.

The hallway is dark, but Killian could navigate it with his eyes closed. Killian follows his children's voices down the hall to Ian's room, where there's a slim line of pale light glowing around the closed door. He's prepared to storm in, all thunder and lightning and pure doom, but what he hears stops him in his tracks.

"Dear Lord Santa," Ian says, just loud enough for Killian to be able to hear him through the door. "This year, please bless me with a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Wall Calendar."

Not likely, Killian thinks.

Ian already ran that one by Emma, and her response was, “When you have your own apartment and I don’t have to see it everyday, sure.”

"You're gross," Jackie says.

"You're gross," Ian replies. "I saw you looking at pictures from old ESPN body issues online. Tyler Seguin, really? You know he's like 60 now, right?"

"Shut up."

"Jacks, he's older than dad-"

"Shut up!"

There's the sound of a fist connecting with an arm, and Killian almost opens the door then—but then Evie speaks.

"Can I go now?" she asks, loudly but with a sweetness only she can manage (courtesy of her grandmother Snow's genes, Killian's certain).

Evie's 7, and the only one of the three who still believes in Santa Claus. Ian's 14, and outgrew Santa ages ago; Jackie's 9, and Killian thinks she could have gone another couples of years believing—only she found Emma's secret stash of Santa's gifts the previous year, and came to the conclusion that, not only are parents jerks, they're deceitful jerks.

She refused to talk to them for a full week, afterwards, and had all of her messages to Emma and Killian relayed through either Evie or Ian. Killian fully expected her to spill the beans, so to speak, to Evie, but she hadn't.

She did, however, rather self-importantly announce to Ian that Santa's wasn't real, and when he replied, "Duh," she punched him for not appreciating the magnitude of her discovery.

"Sorry, E. Jackie's older, she goes first," Ian says.

Jackie clears her throat a tad more dramatically than necessary, and says, "Dear Lord Santa, please bless me with an internship in your company—preferably somewhere in the flying animal or breaking and entering department. Thank you."

Killian chuckles quietly to himself.

Also not likely.

Although, he amends, thinking of the set of lock picks Emma found hiding in Jackie's underwear drawer a month ago, if Santa was truly real, I'd bet my right hand he'd take you up on that latter offer.

"Ok, ok, very nice," Ian says. "But now, the moment we've all been waiting for..."

Another throat clearing, this time from Evie. "Dear Santa, this year I would really like my own pair of ice skates-"

"What? What's wrong with my old skates?" Jackie says, indignant. "If you're not going to use them I'll take them back-"

"Let her finish," Ian hisses. "And what are you going to do with a pair of skates that don't fit anymore, anyway?"

"None of your business, Ian, you big nosy ass-"

Killian decides to enter the room then.

Three heads—three human and one dog—swivel towards him. They're all crammed together on Ian's bed, with Bonny right in the middle.

"Aren't you three supposed to be asleep?" he asks. He's not annoyed anymore, he's more amused, but he still puts a disapproving dad edge to his tone.

"We have to finish praying to Santa, first!" Evie says, earnestly.

"Yea, dad, we have to finish praying to Santa," Jackie says, and Ian gives her a warning elbow to the side, which she answers with a glare.

"I know it's Christmas Eve," Killian says. "But I don't believe you pray to Santa."

Ian swings his arm up and points at Killian. "Lord Santa strike him down!" he barks.

Killian raises an eyebrow, and shakes his head.

"Please, dad. Please can we finish?" Evie says. She gives him her best pleading stare, complete with big, green puppy dog eyes—the lass was cute and she knew it. Luckily for Killian and Emma, she was very unlike the other two, and didn't use her powers for mischief.

He leans his shoulder against the doorframe, and crosses his arms over his chest. "Alright then, you lot. Finish."

Evie beams at him, and then turns back to her brother and sister, who bow their heads along with her.

Evie clasps her hands together, as if she truly were praying. "I know my brother and sister play hockey, but I want to do figure skating." She pauses, and Killian sees her open one eye to sneak a peek at Ian and Jackie.

"Keep going, lass," Killian prompts.

Evie closes her eye again. "So, I would like a pair of figure skates—because I like Jackie's skates, but I don't think you can figure skate in hockey skates." She pauses again, only this time she squeezes her eyes tighter, and says in a rush, "Also can you talk to my mom and dad and tell them I want to take figure skating lessons okay thanks bye Santa!"

There's silence, and then Evie, Jackie, and Ian all open their eyes and slowly look at him.

"Do you three do this every year?" Killian asks.

They exchange glances, and Ian and Jackie shrug. "Yea, pretty much," he says.

"How come I've never noticed?"

"There's a lot you don't notice, dad," Ian says, smirking.

Killian thinks of the lock picks again, and his good humor evaporates.

"Bed," he says sternly, in the same tone of voice that he'd order a man aboard his ship to be taken to the brig.

Jackie and Evie hop off Ian's bed and scurry towards the door, the dog at their heels. Bonny follows Jackie, who slips bye with a hurried "Goodnight!", but Evie stops and hugs him around the waist. She presses her face into his t-shirt, and says, "Dad, do you think Santa heard me?"

Killian slips his arms around her shoulders and hug her closer.

"Aye, little love. I think he did."

"Do you think he'll bring me what I asked for?"

"I know he will."

Evie pulls her head up, and looks at him with a tiny crease between her black brows.

"How do you know?"

He freezes. It's a tentative moment. Is she having doubts? Or is she just looking to her daddy for reassurance? Killian remembers how sad Emma was the previous year when Jackie stopped believing in Santa Claus.

"I know Santa will bring you what you desire because Santa brings all the good little girls and boys what they want for Christmas, and you, Evelyn, are a very good little girl."

She smiles at him, and Killian can breathe again—just looking for reassurance, then.

He bends and kisses her atop her curly brown hair. "Alright, off to bed."

She gives him one last squeeze before saying, "Goodnight, Ian," over her shoulder, and running after her sister. Killian turns and watches both of them all the way into their rooms, then looks back at Ian.

Every year at Christmas, it hits Killian just how much his children have grown—are growing. Emma and Killian spent their first Christmas together when Ian was still in the womb, and here they are, 16 years later, with their son nearly as tall as Killian, and two daughters Killian always thinks of as the babies, despite evidence to the contrary.

It's painful, but it's beautiful at the same time. Killian wouldn't trade this future he built with Emma for anything. He's the luckiest man in existence.

"Dad?" Ian asks.

Killian forgets sometimes how perceptive he is.

"Nothing, lad. Just thinking," he says. "I'll see you in the morning. Get some sleep."

He makes to go, but Ian steps forward.

"Hey, dad?"

"Hm?"

"Thank you in advance for the gifts. I can't wait to open them."

Killian's about to brush it off with an Of course, you're welcome, but something about the glint in Ian's eye makes him suspicious.

"How do you know what your mother and I got you?" Killian asks.

"Oh, we found mom's stash—you guys are really starting to slip, you know that?"

Killian narrows his eyes. "I checked on those presents this morning. None of them have been opened—or tampered with."

Ian does the grin and eyebrow combination that always gives Killian the eerie sensation that he's looking into a blonde-tinted mirror. "Ever heard of an X-acto knife?" he asks.

"You didn't," Killian says.

Ian shrugs. "Honestly? It was either do that, or let Jackie open them on her own and have her give the whole thing away. She can't rewrap a present to save her life."

Killian glares. "Does your mother know?"

"No."

"Then I'm going to pretend I didn't hear any of that. Your mother would be heartbroken if she knew you two had already seen the gifts she bought you—you know how much effort she puts into making Christmas special for the three of you."

Ian's grin slips, and he looks down. "Yea, I know." He's silent for a moment, and shifts his weight from side to side before looking back up once more. "Seriously, though. Thank you. I know it's probably expensive, but I really, really wanted to go see the Bruins/Pens game, and-"

"Stop talking," Killian says, cutting him off. He keeps his glare in place for a second, and then softens it. "There're two tickets. The game's in a week, so decide who you want to go with."

"Mom," Ian says instantly. "Obviously. I mean—it's not that I don't want to go with you or something it's just that hockey is more mom's thing than your thing and of course I'm not gonna ask Enzo or Rowan or something because you and mom got the tickets for me and-"

"Goodnight, Ian," Killian says, and smiles before he closes the door on Ian's babbling.

Killian pads back down the hallway, checking in Evie as he goes (wrapped up in her blanket with her mermaid doll beneath her cheek) and Jackie (not asleep, but doing a very good impression of it) before returning to his own bedroom.

The light's are off, and Emma's already nestled beneath the covers. Killian slides in beside her, and fits his body against hers. She sighs contentedly as his arm wraps under her waist, and she moves her own arm until her fingers find his and entwine.

"Everything ok?" she asks.

"Everything's perfect, love," he says. "All our little pirates are asleep." He kisses her behind the ear, and then settles his cheek against her hair. "Merry 16th Christmas, Emma."

"Merry 16th Christmas, Killian."

Chapter Text

Growing up, Emma never really cared for Valentine's Day. She rarely stayed in one place long enough to make friends at school, so February 14th was usually just a harsh, candyless reminder that nobody in the world cared about Emma Swan.

When her own kids started school, all of that changed.

For Ian, Jackie, and Evie, Valentine's Day is like Halloween without the costumes.

For Killian, it's like Halloween with only half the possibility of instant cavities.

For Emma, it's a cherished reminder that her and Killian's children aren't growing up the way she did, so every February she very happily takes them to the grocery store and lets them spend an hour scrutinizing the packages of little paper valentines and dinosaur size bags of candy.

It's all so simple, and yet it makes them so happy that Emma doesn't mind when Jackie complains loud enough for the entire store to hear that they never have hockey valentines, or when Evie convinces her that she needs both the unicorn and the cute animals valentines, or when Ian changes his mind eight times, including once when they're already inside the car in the parking lot.

Of the three, Evie is the most into it—probably at least partly because her birthday is the 13th, so, combined, she enjoys a two day long celebration every year.

This year, since Jackie is 14 and a high school freshman and too old or too cool or too something for valentines, and Ian is 19-about-to-be-20 and in college, Evie's the only one sitting at the kitchen table making valentines.

Emma helps, because there's only so many years of this left but also because it's an excuse not to be doing some of the housework she needs to be doing.

They have a sort of assembly line thing going: Evie fills out the to's and from's, folds the paper card and secures it with the appropriate sticker, then informs Emma which piece of candy to attach to it—the kid is insistent that everyone get a card so that no one feels left out, but Emma quickly picks out a distinct pattern to the way she assigns candy to card.

"Ooh, Gary Whale gets Fun Dip," she says as she tapes the package of powdered candy to the valentine Evie handed her. "You must think he's cute."

Evie's blush is adorable, nearly as dark as the fuchsia frames of her glasses, and Killian's grunt from beside the sink is amusing—the comment was more for his benefit; Emma knows he doesn't like the idea of his babies having crushes on boys, and she can't help teasing him about it.

"Gary's okay," Evie mutters, green eyes fixed on the name of another one of her classmates that she's currently misspelling on the next valentine.

Emma lets her finish before she says, "Hey, babe? John is J-O-H-N, not J-H-O-N. And there's an 'i' in his last name."

"Oh." Evie pauses, and studies her writing for a minute, chewing her lip and tapping her purple gel pen on the table. "Is it bad if I just cross it out and write it again?"

"Yep. Throw it away and give him a new one."

Evie puts the ruined valentine to the side with a forlorn glance at the picture of a smiling, sparkly-eyed cupcake that will now go to waste, and selects a new card.

As she spells out John Bernier with great care, she suddenly snorts with laughter. "Jackie used to spell Jacob Prewitt's name wrong every year because she hated him so much, remember?"

"Yea, I remember," Emma says.

Every single year.

Jackie and Jacob hated each other since Preschool, and have been on-the-ice rivals since they started playing Tyke hockey. Mary Margaret says that just means they'll get married one day, but Emma's pretty sure Jackie would put a skate through Jacob Prewitt's face before she let that happen.

"So," Emma says, taking John Bernier's valentine from Evie. "What candy is John getting?"

"Um..." Evie surveys the candy spread out on the table before her. "He can have an Airhead."

"Mm, John must not be very cute then."

"Mom!" Evie splutters, flushing bright pink again.

Emma shrugs. "Hey, I'm just sayin'. Gary gets Fun Dip but John only gets an Airhead. Gary must be really special. Is he the boy you kissed at that birthday party-"

There's a crash from the sink as whatever Killian was washing slips from his fingers.

"Are you okay?" Emma asks quickly. Judging by the sound, something broke—apparently his babies kissing boys is a very touchy subject.

"Fine, Swan," Killian answers gruffly. "Your favorite coffee mug, however, is not. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Just put it to the side and I'll fix it later."

He nods stiffly without looking at her, and sets the soapy mug and its broken off handle on the counter. His movements are more rigid as he resumes rinsing the dishes.

Emma guiltily decides to keep further Gary Whale comments to herself; she does, however, whisper out of the corner of her mouth, "Did you kiss him?"

Evie nods minutely, eyes averted and cheeks flaming red. Emma gives her a gentle nudge with her elbow and a small smile.

6th graders playing spin-the-bottle at a birthday party is normal, fairly innocent stuff. One day soon, Evie will be older and will start getting into more not-so-innocent activities, and when that day comes Emma wants her to be comfortable coming to Emma and talking about whatever she needs to—she'd rather Evie ask her the most awkward questions a parent could ever have to answer than not ask at all.

Emma tries to be the same way with Jackie, but Jackie's not as open with Emma as Evie is.

As Emma's thoughts turn to her oldest daughter, the front door flies open and Jackie storms in. She drops her hockey bag and sticks to the floor with a clatter, kicks off her shoes, sending snow and slush flying everywhere, and races towards the stairs.

Emma stands automatically, poised to intercept, but she catches sight of Jackie's face, sees it scrunched up in anger, sees the tear stains on her cheeks, and stops. Jackie runs up the stairs and disappears from sight.

"Oi!" Killian yells after her. "Come back here and clean up your mess!"

There's no response from Jackie save for the slamming of her bedroom door from above.

Killian glares at the stairs, jaw clenched.

"Give her a few minutes to cool off," Emma says, before Killian can decide whether or not he's going to pursue the matter or not. He looks at her, and Emma thinks he's going to argue, but then he jerks his head up and down wordlessly and returns to the dishes.

Jackie's been testing their limits lately, first with small things like skipped classes and missed curfews, then with cigarettes she was pilfering from customers at the Crow's Nest and selling to her classmates, alcohol she was stealing from the bar itself and drinking with her classmates on school property, and finally with the "party" Emma busted two weekends ago on the Toll Bridge that involved Jackie drinking with a group of senior boys.

Killian wanted names, he wanted addresses, he wanted to wring the necks of the five varsity hockey jocks that invited his daughter to drink alcohol with them in the woods.

Emma barely managed to talk him down, and she's still not sure she made the right decision in doing so because all that rage with no outlet only made him short and snappish with Jackie in rapidly increasing intensity.

They were used to Ian doing stupid things, but Jackie misbehaving like this is new.

With an inward sigh, Emma addresses the wide-eyed 11-year-old next to her. "Back to valentines?" she suggests.

"Ok."

Emma pulls her fingers briefly through Evie's dark curls and drops a kiss atop her head before sitting back down.

Jackie was the one who let slip the information about Evie kissing a boy at a birthday party—"let slip" in a desperate effort to deflect her parents' attention while they attempted to lecture her on how foolish it was for a 14-year-old girl to be alone in the woods with a bunch of 18-year-old walking, drooling erections (not the exact words they used, but close).

Evie's handing Emma the next valentine, when they're interrupted again—this time by Ian. He walks into the house and stumbles over Jackie's bag.

"Goddammit," he mumbles, and gives the bag several big kicks to move it to the side. "Pick up your shit!" he shouts up the stairs.

"Ian," Emma says, warningly.

"What?" he says, shrugging unapologetically. "She screamed at me the whole ride home."

"For what?"

"I don't know—existing?"

Killian gives him a hard look, which Ian returns for a long moment before he looks away and visibly settles. He takes his coat off and hangs it up, removes his shoes, then steps into the kitchen.

"What are you guys doing?" he asks, eyeing the spread of candy on the table.

"Valentines. Wanna help?" Evie says.

"Right now? I thought people were coming over?"

"Not for another hour," Emma says, glancing at the clock. "We just put the mostaccioli in the oven."

"Who's bringing the cake?" Ian asks.

"Ava."

"Is it an ice cream cake?"

"No."

Ian makes a face.

"It's not your birthday," Emma reminds him. "In three weeks you can have whatever kind of cake you want. Tonight, we're having-"

"A rainbow cake!" Evie bursts in excitedly. "Ava said she can do it! It's gonna be rainbow on the inside and have rainbow sprinkles on the outside!"

Ian grins. "Ok, I guess that's fine."

As he rounds the table to the empty chair on Emma's right, he brushes up against Killian (passing so closely, the two-inch height advantage he has on his dad is obvious), and lifts the hook and brace hanging from the back of Killian's jeans without Killian noticing. He sits, slips his hand into the brace, and uses the tip of the hook to sort through the pile of candy until he finds a strawberry Laffy Taffy.

"Can I eat this one?"

"Mmhm," Evie hums as she writes out a new valentine.

Ian drags the candy across the table with the hook, then unwraps it and pops it into his mouth.

"Can you find me a candy for..." Emma squints at the name on the paper valentine she's holding. "Amy Murphy?"

"Isn't that one of the girls you said is a jerk to you, E?" Ian asks.

"Yea," Evie says, shrugging and keeping her eyes on the name she's writing.

"Ok, give her this one," Ian says, and slides a banana Laffy Taffy towards Emma.

"That's mean," Evie says reprovingly.

"Yea, well, she's mean," Ian retorts. "You should tell her that she's just lucky she doesn't get a punch in the mouth instead-"

"Ian," Emma says, mostly out of obligation. She knows all about the middle school mean girls squad. She called the teachers on the middle school mean girls squad and talked to the parents of the other girls getting picked on and spearheaded a moms' meeting with the principal to put an end to the reign of the mean girls squad.

Evie's the sweetest one of them all, and Emma won't let her sweet girl get bullied because she's too gentle and kind-hearted to fight back the only way those other girls would respond to—with claws.

Being nice shouldn't be a flaw, and Evie shouldn't suffer for it, especially not at the hands of some silly little chits who think Gossip Girl reruns are real life.

"Give her a Fun Dip," Evie says.

Ian narrows his eyes.

"I'm not punching anyone, Ian," she says, scowling. "She hasn't said anything mean to me in a month. Now give her a Fun Dip."

"Ian. Fun Dip," Emma says—if Evie, the one getting picked on, refuses to be petty, then Emma has to resist pettiness as well, even if she doesn't want to.

Ian does as he's bid, but he mutters, "Jackie would punch that girl. That's why no one ever bullies her."

Emma's about to scold him—does everyone in the house have to be in a sour mood on Evie's birthday?—when Evie speaks.

"It's also why Jackie has no friends," she says quietly.

The kitchen falls silent as everyone freezes, and then Emma and Killian both turn questioningly to Evie.

"What?" Evie asks, startled, looking back and forth between them.

"Jackie has no friends?" Emma repeats.

Evie shrinks a little in her chair and doesn't answer. Emma looks at Ian; he doesn't say anything either, but Emma sees the truth in his eyes.

"What about Celeste?" Emma asks. She tries to conjure up images of the faces of any of Jackie's other friends, and finds that she only has vague memories of what her classmates and teammates look like—the only one Emma can picture clearly is Celeste McKinney, the red-headed daughter of Ariel and Eric McKinney.

"That's just one friend, mom," Ian says. "Besides, have you seen Celeste around lately?" When Emma has no response, he continues, "They've been growing apart ever since Celeste dropped out of hockey halfway through the season last year. When Jackie made the soccer team in the fall and Celeste didn't, Celeste stopped talking to her."

"But they've been best friends since Kindergarten," Emma protests.

Ian shrugs.

Stubbornly, Emma says, "You've been away at school. How do you know all of this but we don't?"

"We talk," Ian says. "You should talk to her too, instead of just yelling at her all the time."

Guilt and sorrow make Emma's stomach clench painfully.

"Fuck," she breathes, and frowns up at Killian.

Did they really just mess up this badly?

He gazes back steadily while he dries his hand and stump on a dish towel, then his eyes drift towards the stairs. "Ian, Evie, give your mother and I a minute alone."

Evie rises from her chair immediately, scoops up her paper valentines, and trots down the hallway into the den. Ian opens his mouth and starts to protest, but Killian cuts him off.

"I don't care how old you are, I'm still your father and this is still my house, and you'll do as I say," he says sharply. "This isn't about you. Now go. And leave my hook."

Ian roughly shakes Killian's hook and brace off of his wrist, snatches up a handful of strawberry Laffy Taffys, and follows Evie into the den. Killian glowers at his back until he's out of sight.

"Don't be so harsh on him, Killian," Emma says. "He was hoping he'd finally see Rowan this weekend and she didn't show. Again."

Supposedly, Ian and Rowan are still together, but Emma's seen less and less evidence to support that recently.

In compliance with Emma's You Must Go To College Before You Can Be Sheriff decree, Ian chose to attend the University of Maine, which was both close enough and far enough away from home for all his needs. Rowan applied to several schools across New England, two in the Midwest, and two in California, but in the end decided to attend the university for magic in Camelot.

Ian visits home on the weekends as often as his hockey schedule permits, while Rowan, on the other hand, rarely ever returns to Storybrooke, even during holidays, and even when she knows Ian will be around.

Killian shakes his head slowly. "It's not that, Swan. Something's going on with him and he won't tell me what it is."

"Are you sure it's not just about Rowan?"

Did Emma mention that Ian also said he hardly ever hears from her anymore?

"I'm sure, love," Killian says, voice softening a fraction. "We've talked a bit about Rowan. There's something else."

Emma feels like another weight's been added to her shoulders. If she's honest with herself, she knows Ian's not happy at school. Hockey seems to be the only thing he's not completely unhappy with, but whenever Emma tries to talk to him about it he shrugs it off and says, "I'm just a fourth liner, mom. Nothing special."

"Do you think Henry knows what it is?" she asks.

"It's a strong possibility."

"Do you want to talk to Henry about it later?"

"Aye."

"Okay, then that's what we'll do," she says, then, "Can we talk about Jackie now?"

Killian nods, and sits. He slips on his brace and tightens the straps before he extends his hand, palm up. Emma slides her fingers through his, and squeezes.

They've been doing this parenting thing for a long time now, and sometimes it feels like they know what they're doing and that what they're doing is right, but there are always new challenges, new hardships to get through, new opportunities to feel like amateurs again.

"How did we not see it?" she whispers.

Killian's thumb strokes back and forth across her knuckles. "She's been at hockey practice after school every day until 6 o'clock. She comes home, eats dinner, does her homework...on the weekends there's more practice, games, travelling to tournaments..."

He's right. Jackie's been busy, but she's been playing well and her grades have been decent—aside from the incidents recently, which were, to be fair, more sneaky and devious than usual, Emma didn't notice anything was off.

"She didn't tell me about Celeste," Emma says. She can't even remember the last time she saw the redhead. Over the summer, maybe? Jackie and Celeste never really stuck around the house the way Evie and her group of girlfriends did, but preferred to cruise Storybrooke on their bikes and hang out at the park or in town.

"Aye, love. Nor me," he says, and half-smiles, ruefully. "Our girl's never exactly been one for confiding in others."

"Yea, I think maybe she got that from me."

He squeezes her hand.

"Do you want to talk to her Swan, or shall I?"

"I will," Emma says.

No matter the ups and downs, there's always been one constant: they get through it together.

"Can you help Evie finish her valentines?"

Killian smiles. "Aye, I'll help the lass with her valentines."

The old pirate's riddled with soft spots, but the biggest one is probably for Evie, the child who turned a man of the sea into an enthusiastic part-time gardener.

Emma makes enough noise going up the stairs for Jackie to hear her approaching. Emma knocks on Jackie's bedroom door and pauses for a full three seconds before opening it a crack and peering inside.

Jackie's lying curled up on her bed, facing the wall. On the floor around her lie scattered all her stuffed animals, casualties of her anger.

"Can I come in?" Emma asks.

There's no response, which isn't strictly a "no", so Emma goes in.

Jackie's still in the sweatpants and warm-up jacket she wore home from the rink, with what smells like layers of sweaty compression gear underneath. Emma tries not to gag at the smell—hockey stink is something Emma has been inhaling for over 15 years and still hasn't gotten used to, and it seems like no matter how often she washes Jackie and Ian's equipment, the stench lingers. They always come home from hockey smelling like they spent the night zipped up in their gear bag.

Emma sits delicately on the edge of the bed, near Jackie's feet, and says, "Wanna tell me what's wrong?"

The voice that speaks is muffled by the yellow-striped baby blanket pressed to Jackie's face. "Coach moved me off the first line," she says.

Emma's actually shocked to get an answer at all, let alone that quickly

"Did he say why?" she asks.

"He said I've been slacking."

"Have you?"

Jackie doesn't answer right away.

Emma leans down and picks up one of the stuffed animals off the floor. It's a pony, super soft and turquoise blue. David got it for her on her 3rd birthday, because Emma and Killian said no to a real pony. It's one of Jackie's favorites—if she would ever admit to having a favorite, or even liking stuffed animals at all.

Emma puts the pony—named Horsie, of all things—beside Jackie's elbow.

"Have you?" she repeats.

"Yes," Jackie says, quietly. Her arms, crossed over her stomach, unfold, scoop up Horsie, and pull him into a crushing hug that would make the poor creature's eyes pop, if it had any.

"Any particular reason?" Emma asks delicately. In her head, she sees Jackie flying up the ice, long blonde ponytail streaming out behind her, weaving in and out of the boys as if they were standing still. She used to think Ian was hockey-crazy—until Jackie started playing.

"Nobody likes me," Jackie whispers.

"What?"

"Nobody likes me," Jackie says, louder.

The words That's not true are on her tongue, but she bites them back. She puts her hand on Jackie's hip and says, gently, "Hey."

Jackie turns her head slightly, and looks at Emma with one green eye.

"Talk to me," Emma says. "Tell me what's been going on."

The green eye disappears behind the blanket again.

"Do you want me to go get your dad? Would you rather talk to him?"

"No."

Emma sits, and waits. The minutes tick by. She counts the books on Jackie's shelf, and then the books stacked beside the shelf, and she's about to start counting the zig-zag stripes on the curtains when Jackie rolls onto her back, and slides her feet into Emma's lap.

Jackie doesn't say anything, but she's plucking at Horsie's mane in a way that Emma decides means she's open to conversation.

"What happened with Celeste?"

"She doesn't want to be my friend anymore," Jackie says dully, eyes fixed on the stuffed animal resting on her stomach.

"Because of soccer?"

"No. Other stuff."

"What kind of other stuff?"

Again, Jackie's answer is silence, and Emma forces her rising frustration back down, forces herself to remember that sharing her feelings is not in Jackie's nature—remember her first period debacle?

It was only a year ago, in the spring. Emma realizes it must have been pretty soon after the thing with Celeste first started—Emma did notice then that Celeste hadn't been around for a while, and even asked Jackie about it, but Jackie shrugged it off, and Celeste was at the house a week later. The two were together all summer, and then school and soccer and hockey happened...

She's filled to the brim with guilt again.

I messed up, babe, she thinks.

Her preoccupation with the mean girls squad at Evie's middle school is partially to blame, but it's not an excuse. She should have noticed, she should have asked, pushed, made Jackie talk.

But she didn't, and now here they are. Emma just hopes it's not too late.

Let's start at the beginning.

"Ian said you and Celeste sorta started growing apart after she quite hockey last year."

Jackie makes a face, a downward quirk of her eyebrows and a small compression of her lips. Emma expects more silence, but Jackie actually answers this time.

"She said I'm too much of a tomboy and that she can't be my friend anymore because boys will think she's a lesbian."

Emma's mouth almost drops right off her face as it falls open in shock.

"Celeste said that?" Emma asks.

Celeste and Jackie were always two of a kind—two twin tomboys. Emma knows how bad girls can get, and it was comforting to know that Jackie had a friend who was just like her. Hearing that Jackie's best friend since Kindergarten turned on her makes Emma's feel sick and angry. She has to choke back the several thousand nasty comments climbing up her throat before she sets a really bad example for her daughter.

"Why did Celeste say that?" Emma says, as evenly as possible.

Jackie shrugs. "I don't know. She just changed, mom. Now it's like all she cares about is boys and makeup."

"And she's upset you didn't change too?" Emma guesses.

"I don't want to change," Jackie says, frowning, voice suddenly hard-edged and full of the fire Emma's used to. "I like me."

Emma smiles. "I like you too."

Jackie's eyes flicker briefly up to Emma's and then back to Horsie. Her cheeks flush a pale pink.

Emma gives her a minute and waits for her blush to subside before continuing. "Tell me what else has been going on recently. Why are you so interested in drinking with senior boys all of a sudden?"

Now Jackie goes pale, making her freckles stand out golden-brown against the winter ivory of her skin. Emma sees her walls start to creep up, and panics.

"Jacks, please," she says. "Talk to me."

Don't stop now, kid.

Jackie bites her lip in a gesture Emma recognizes—she's pissed.

"I thought he liked me."

The use of he instead of they gives Emma pause.

"Who?" she asks, cautiously.

"Victor."

Victor Whale.

God fucking dammit.

Gary Whale was a decent kid. His older brother, on the other hand, seemed like a total tool—sort of like his dad. He's a senior, and enough younger than Ian and older than Jackie that Emma never had any reason to interact with him until recently, when Jackie made the varsity hockey team.

"What happened?"

"I don't really have any friends, mom," she answers, fingers now twiddling nervously in Horsie's tail. She doesn't give Emma a chance to respond to her statement, and instead rushes on. "The guys at hockey have been inviting me to do stuff, and I know they're way older but no one else wants to hang out with me I said yes."

Emma has to dig her fingertips into her thighs to keep her voice flat while she asks, "What sorts of things have they been inviting you to do? Besides the things I already know about?"

She watches Jackie's expression while Jackie takes her time replying, all the while plotting inside her own head; between her and Killian, they could make a teenage boy disappear without a trace, no problem. Emma probably won't even feel bad about it, not if she finds out he did something to Jackie...

"Victor invited me to his house last weekend-"

"You said you were at the library working on a group project for English," Emma says, not bothering to mask her irritation. Is she seriously getting so stupid in her old age that Jackie lied to her face and she didn't notice?

"I was at the library."

"Clearly not."

"I was. I went to Victor's house after."

"Without telling me."

"I knew you'd say no."

Emma just raises and eyebrow and stares until Jackie drops her eyes back to her stuffed animal.

"So, what happened at Victor's house?" Emma asks.

"He said he was having a party because the house was empty, but there was no one else there when I showed up."

"Go on," Emma says, her anger warring with her mounting dread.

"I—I don't know," she stutters. "I thought it was weird—I mean, I got what he was doing, but I don't like him like that and I just thought...I thought we were friends and he wouldn't do that to me."

"Did he do anything to you?"

"No," Jackie says, looking back up at Emma. "I left."

"Did he try to stop you from leaving?"

Jackie shakes her head.

Lucky for him, Emma thinks.

"He won't talk to me now," Jackie says, bitterly. "And neither will any of the other guys on the team. At practice they pretend like I don't exist."

"Did you tell your coach?"

"No!" Jackie says quickly, horrified. "I can't tell on them! Then they'll definitely never talk to me."

"So?" Emma says. "Is their friendship worth it?"

Jackie scowls, stubbornly ready to argue, and then the fight leaves her eyes, and her shoulders sag.

"No," she whispers. "It's not." She's silent for another moment, and then she says, "Celeste tried to warn me. I didn't believe her."

"Maybe Celeste actually does still want to be your friend, then," Emma says.

Jackie's eyes light up hopefully, sending a jolt of sympathy through Emma that's so physically painful her breath catches. She thinks about Lily, about how she wished she had tried harder to understand the other girl instead of shutting her out and cutting her off.

Emma lays both her hands over Jackie's ankles and gives them a gentle squeeze. "Look, I'm not saying what Celeste said or how she's been acting is okay, but maybe you two can talk and try to work things out. If you can you can, and if you can't..." Emma shrugs. "You can find new friends."

"Okay," Jackie says, the hopeful light in her eyes dimmed but not vanquished.

"Alright," Emma says, giving Jackie's shins a pat. "I have to go downstairs and get ready, and you need to shower."

Jackie retracts her legs, and sits up.

"Are you going to tell dad?" she asks.

"Yea. The three of us are going to sit down and talk about all of this."

"Now?"

"No, tomorrow. Everyone will be over soon for Evie's birthday."

Jackie nods, and then grins. "Are Henry and Ava bringing the baby?"

"Yes—and no, you cannot call him 'Ham'."

"Aw, why not?"

"Because his name is 'Samuel'."

"Yea, but-"

"Sam rhymes with ham, I know, I get it."

Two weeks ago Ava and Henry welcomes their third child and first son into the world. They named him Samuel, but because he was born at nearly ten pounds and because Emma's own son is a wicked demon child, he was immediately dubbed "Hamuel".

The nickname has been a source of great amusement for everyone except Ava, which Emma definitely understands.

"Can I please just call him Hamuel once?" Jackie begs.

"No," Emma says. "At least not for another five and a half months."

"But Ian's going to do it!"

"And Ian's going to get slapped," Emma sighs. "And he will deserve it."

She moves to stand, but before she can get her feet under her Jackie jumps forward and throws her arms around Emma's neck. She doesn't say anything—she doesn't say I love you or Thank you, she just squeezes Emma tight.

Emma leans her head against Jackie's.

"I love you too, kid."

---

When Emma leaves Jackie's room she finds Killian hovering at the top of the stairs.

"I thought you were downstairs," Emma says quietly.

"Ian's handling the valentines," Killian says. "I wanted to be up here, just in case." He throws an anxious glance over Emma's shoulder, towards Jackie's bedroom. "Is she alright?"

Emma smiles; every day she's astonished by how deeply Killian loves their children. As angry as he might be right now with Jackie's recent behavior, he still puts her happiness and wellbeing first.

Emma steps forward, into his arms, and slips her hands around his waist. She leans into him and tucks her head beneath his chin.

"The three of us have a lot to talk about," she says, "but yea, Jackie's fine."

She feels tension leave Killian's body, feels his shoulders and arms relax. His fingers slide beneath her shirt, and he presses his warm palm flat against the small of her back.

"Mm," she grunts, appreciatively.

He chuckles, a sound she hears reverberating deep in his chest, and kisses the top of her head. She closes her eyes—fuck, she could stay there like that forever, just her and Killian and his strong chest and warm arms...

Downstairs, the doorbell rings, announcing the arrival of the first birthday guests, and, somewhere else downstairs, Evie screeches with excitement. Thundering footsteps race along the floor below them, from the den to the foyer, and Emma sighs.

"Here we go," she says, smiling in spite of her emotional weariness.

"Here we go," Killian agrees.

Chapter Text

Killian's carrying the trash out to the dumpster behind the Crow's Nest when he hears a crunch of gravel behind him. He whips around, but it's already too late; he has just enough time to register the blow to the back of his head before he's descending into blackness.

---

He finally comes to what feels like an eternity later, to find himself sitting on his ass in the dirt with his wrists shackled behind his back, a pole pressed firmly against his spine, and his head aching fiercely. His vision is blurry, and trying to focus it only intensifies the pain in his skull, but he grits his teeth and does it anyway.

Killian keeps his chin tucked down, feigning unconsciousness, and examines his surroundings through his lashes.

Luckily, he realizes where he is right away, though it has more to do with the tang of salt in the air mixed with the stench of fish than it does with what he can distinguish of the darkened warehouse. It's the old cannery, the one that shut down nearly a decade ago.

"He's awake," says a voice. It's faint, and seems to tremble in the air like a frightened mouse.

Killian recognizes it, and lifts his head, struggling to keep the fury that rages in his chest from showing on his face.

A man who introduced himself to Killian several weeks ago as Dr. Jekyll is standing several feet away, wringing his hands with his shoulders hunched, as if he's trying to shrink in place.

Standing closer, the pointed toes of his shiny black Oxfords nearly touching the soles of Killian's boots, is another man, a man Killian's never seen before. He has a long, pale face with a square jaw, a cruel mouth, and a wicked scar running from temple to cheekbone.

"Excellent," the man says, and raises his arm. It might be the lighting or it might be Killian's imagination, but his eyes gleam red.

Without warning, a gunshot rings out. There's a piercing pain in Killian's stomach, followed by a burning sensation. He's been shot before, but never in the belly, and the sting is a thousand times greater than he ever imagined. A scream tears loose from his lips. He crumples to the side, but a hand grabs his arm and yanks him upright. There's more pain, this time in his shoulder, sharp—and then Killian's ripped in half.


Hook tumbles roughly to the ground. Pure reflex has him on his feet and facing his attackers in an instant. He sees the timid man dressed all in pale brown cringing in a corner, and the tall man with the eyes of a demon—and then he sees himself, slumped against a pole with blood pooling in his lap, and even before the silver-haired Killian yells, "RUN!" with what looks to be quite possibly his last breath, Hook's sprinting towards the door.

He hears the fiend with the scar bellowing, and then he hears a flurry of footsteps on his heels, but Hook's fast, and he knows how to disappear.

He's pressed to the side of a warehouse, blending with the shadows, watching the men in long, grimy white tunics scouring the docks in a vain attempt to find him, when he notices the pain. He presses his hand to his stomach, and it comes away coated with blood. His other self was shot, and it appears Hook bears the same wound. He needs to find somewhere to regroup and tend to the bleeding, and fast.

A hazy image appears in his mind, floating gently to the surface like a piece of treasure rising from the depths of the ocean, and when he closes his eyes to see it better, the image resolves into a house. It's large and gabled, a light bluish-gray trimmed in white. Inside lives a woman with long golden hair and sparkling green eyes.

Hook knows her, vaguely, the same as he knows the other version of himself lying in the cannery fifty yards away. She can help him, if he can reach her.

He sucks in a deep, bracing breath, slips around the corner of the warehouse, and begins stumbling his way towards the house.

Every step is agony. The pain in his belly feels like acid eating away at his guts. His head is throbbing, courtesy of another injury inflicted upon his other self. Several times Hook's forced to stop to prevent himself from passing out, but as soon as he's recovered he continues, survival instinct driving him forward, a memory that's not truly his guiding his feet.

He reaches the white picket fence and staggers through the gate and up the porch, leaving a trail of red along the sidewalk, and a smear of it on the front door. The cold air inside the house is a blessing compared to the summer heat outside, and it clears his head—only for a moment, but a moment is all he needs.

"SWAN!" he roars, just before he tilts sideways. He hits the wall and slides down it until he's sitting in a heap at the bottom, atop a pile of shoes.

Strength flees his body, causing his head to droop. He stares dully at what's before him, a strip of wood flooring and several pairs of gym shoes. Something's not right, something's gnawing at him, something besides the bullet wound in his belly and the lump on his skull. He continues to stare, but it's not until he hears thunder on the stairs that it clicks—the shoes are all different sizes.

Footsteps pound towards him, one set coming from above, the other from below, and two girls appear in the foyer almost simultaneously.

No, Hook thinks mournfully. Not them. Anyone but them.

"Dad?" the younger, dark-haired one asks.

The blonde with the ponytail scrunches her face up and lifts an eyebrow. "Did you dye your hair?"

Children. Killian Jones has children, and Hook just left a trail of blood right to them.

He tries to stand—he needs to leave and he needs to find the demon that did this and he needs to kill him before the girls wind up in danger, and then he needs to figure out a way to save Killian and put this right so that the girls don't lose their father—but all he manages to do is send a searing dagger of pain ripping through his abdomen. He presses his hand to his stomach and hisses through his teeth, slumping further into the wall as a fresh, hot wave of blood slips through his fingers.

One of the girls gasps, the other swears.

"Fuck!"

"Watch your language," he mumbles, though neither girl hears him.

"He's bleeding!"

"Dad, what happened?"

"Dad!"

Hook attempts some sort of answer, but he can't get his mouth to work any longer. His tongue is too heavy in his mouth. Blackness creeps in around the edges of his vision, and he suddenly feels lightheaded and floaty. He tips forward.

"Shit! Grab him!"

Two sets of hands catch him by the shoulders, halting his body, but his mind continues falling, spiraling, down, down, down into the darkness.

---

Hook drifts in and out, wavering between the light and the dark.

He hears the girls' voices, high-pitched and panicked, and then he hears another voice—the voice that's haunted his nightmares since the day it cackled gloatingly over him as he knelt on the deck of the Jolly Roger clutching the bloody stump that used to be his left hand.

I killed Milah, the Dark One taunts, I'll kill them too. I'll rip their hearts from their chests and crush them while you watch.

Hook strains, struggling to rise out of the void. His eyes flicker open and he sees the dark-haired girl bent over him, brow furrowed and sheathed in sweat. Standing behind her is her sister, chewing her lip worriedly. His stomach feels strange, no longer burning but pleasantly cool, like the caress of the wind on a hot day.

He turns his head, eyes sliding past the girls to the corner, where the Dark One stands, fingers steepled beneath his chin, teeth bared in a feral smile. Hook opens his mouth to shout, to warn the girls, to beg them to run, only to plunge back into oblivion.

---

He wakes up groggily, his thoughts as fogged as his vision. He blinks at the expanse of white above him. Killian's memories tell him that he's in the front room, not the foyer—the ceiling here has a stain from some sticky toy that the boy accidentally got stuck up there when he was 4. Hook's also no longer lying on the floor, so, if the plush softness and the distinct odor of dog is anything to go by, he must be on the couch,

Something sharp pricks his throat, and Hook freezes.

The blonde girl is perched on the edge of the couch, hovering over him with blazing green eyes and a knife pressed to his neck.

His knife, probably. If he patted down his sleeves and belt, he's certain he'd find himself weaponless. He moves his hook arm, subtly, and judges by its weight that he's currently without his hook as well.

"Who are you?" the girl asks.

Hook wonders briefly, wildly, if he could get away with the lie, pretend he's their father, take Killian's place. He has the man's memories whirling around inside his skull, memories of singing to all three of his children in the womb, holding them in his arms as squalling babes, reading to them, teaching them to swim, to sail, drying their tears and tucking them in at night.

His heart aches for it, for that life. It's his...only not.

He is a part of Killian Jones, and Killian Jones is a part of him, but he's not these girls' father. To assume so would be an insult to Killian and everything the man's become since he left Hook behind for good.

Before Hook can decide exactly how to answer the blonde girl's question, she repeats it.

"Who. Are. You?" she growls through gritted teeth, and applies the blade more firmly to his throat.

Jackie, Hook thinks. Her name is Jackie.

They named her almost on a whim, based on a comment made offhandedly five years prior to her birth by Henry, Killian's stepson. She looks just like her mother, with a touch of Killian in the shape of her eyes and a trace of her grandfather David visible in the fullness and curve of her lips. She's a girl all the boys watch—only not too closely, as the sharpness of her tongue and her loose fists are rather well-known facts around Storybrooke.

Jackie raises her eyebrows. Hook recognizes that expression: if she has to ask him who he is a third time, she'll draw blood.

He clears his throat, lightly. "The name's Hook," he says, one corner of his mouth lifting in a grin. "Captain Hook."

The girls exchange looks. Hook can't help but notice that they're not nearly as impressed as they should be. Did he not just tell them who he is? Has their father not told them who he is? Hook certainly has Killian's memories of doing so, and memories of finding them reading that blasted storybook and asking their bloody difficult question, so why-

Jackie turns back to him. "Are you a time-traveler?"

"No," he answers, a bit miffed but doing his best to hide it.

"Was there a curse or something? Did dad get turned back into you?"

"No."

The younger girl leans closer. She's seated on the coffee table with her elbows resting on her thighs and her hands clasped between her knees.

"Where is he?"

Her voice is more gentle than her sister's, but Hook hears the steel beneath the lilting tones.

Evie.

Another name plucked from a movie.

She picked up a bit of his accent, somehow, and of the three she does the most accurate impersonation of him—better even than the boy. In terms of appearance, Evie is a blend of Emma and Killian, with the stronger emphasis on Emma; from Killian she inherited a more oval face, dark hair, jet black brows, long, dark lashes, and a softer, more sensitive mouth. She's the one everyone assumes needs protection, but Killian has enough memories of bruises from figure skating and broken toes from ballet for Hook to know she's tougher than she looks.

"Your father's right where I left him," Hook says.

"Is he alive?"

"He was."

The prick of the knife again. It's starting to get annoying.

"What happened to him?" Jackie asks.

"Same thing that happened to me."

A crease appears between the girl's brows. "Why are you, you know...you?"

Her question's not exactly explicit, but Hook understands.

"I don't know," he admits. "The demon who was with that man Jekyll did something, and-"

"Wait," Evie interjects, craning so far forward she nearly slips off the table. "Did you say Jekyll? As in Dr. Jekyll?"

"Aye."

The girls share another look, this one wide-eyed.

"You know him," Hook says.

"He must be doing the Mr. Hyde thing," Jackie says quietly to Evie, then she turns once again to Hook. "He must be doing the Mr. Hyde thing to other people."

"Only instead of transforming the person he's splitting them?" Evie asks.

"I guess so," Jackie says with a shrug.

"Why?"

"Does it matter?"

"I don't know. A little. Yes?"

"Maybe he wants an army of villains," Jackie suggests. "Or maybe he's just an asshole who likes to cause chaos."

"Probably the villain army one is more likely," Evie replies flatly.

"Whatever. I don't know. You've read the book. You tell me."

"Jackie, you've read it too."

"No, I haven't."

"Yes, you did! You did a report on it! I remember you talking to mom about it."

"Just because I did a report on it doesn't mean I read it. I had more important things to do."

"Hockey is not more important than school."

"Not for you it isn't. Geez, you sound like mom and dad. I didn't get a scholarship to BU for school, I got it for hockey."

Evie's eyes are popping. "It is for school!"

"It's for hockey."

"It's to play hockey while you're at school!"

Hook decides that now, while both girls are distracted, is as good a time as any to make his escape. He has places to be and a demon to kill, after all.

He seizes Jackie's wrist and twists. She gasps in surprise and drops the knife.

"I'm sorry for this, lass," he says. Lightning fast, he twists her arm further, forcing her off the couch and to her knees, then springs past her to his feet. Before he can take two steps, however, his entire body goes numb—he's still standing, but he's frozen, completely immobilized.

Dark, wavy hair appears in his peripheral vision, and he sees a hand with glittery nails laid gently over his arm.

Hook forgot about Evie's magic—or rather, he's only just remembering.

Hook knows that, with a single touch, she can either mend bones, or break them. Killian has memories of countless hours spent drilling the girl in hand-to-hand combat, with Emma beside him coaching Evie on how to use bursts of magic to joints and pressure points to maximize the damage.

Her hand on his arm doesn't seem quite so gentle anymore.

"Sit down," she says icily.

The knife returns, to prick his side.

"Make one wrong move and you're going to need a kidney transplant," Jackie says. Hook can see her ponytail, bristling like the tail of a particularly pissed off cat.

Feeling returns abruptly to Hook's limbs, and he obeys without protest. As he sits back down on the couch, he realizes something: he's no longer in pain.

"You healed me," he says. His hand jumps to his stomach, but Evie slaps it away.

"Yes," she says, straightening and folding her arms over her chest.

"Why?"

"Because we thought you were our dad."

"What made you realize I wasn't?" Hook asks. He directs his question at Jackie.

"The hair and the Halloween costume kind of gave it away," she says evenly, though her glare has enough heat to start a brushfire, and Hook does not especially appreciate how expertly she's holding his knife.

His hand strays once more to his stomach. Evie eyes it, but makes no move to hit him again. He slides his fingers beneath his shirt, expecting to find blood and ragged flesh, but instead feels only smooth skin and old scars. The bullet wound was deep, and getting to the house was enormously taxing on his already overwrought body; he would have bled out if not for the girls' help.

Hook feels himself flush suddenly. His actions were impulsive, brash, and perhaps not the best course of action. The girls are frightened, confused, and they deserve the truth.

"Listen," he says. "I apologize for-"

"Where were you trying to go?" Jackie says, cutting him off. "Dad told us all about who he used to be, so if you're Captain Hook that means all you care about is vengeance—only Rumplestiltskin is dead. He's been dead a really long time."

Another memory takes hold, momentarily blinding him to his surroundings. Hook sees darkness and a red door; the boy, terrified, clinging to him; the crocodile's claws digging into Killian's arm, refusing to let go; the flash of his cutlass and stinging pain; the loss of his left hand, for the second time.

Hook shakes himself. His vision of the Dark One earlier was what it always is—just a ghoulish apparition sent to haunt him, usually in his dreams or when he's had too much to drink. Even if the crocodile was alive, Hook knows what Killian Jones knows: vengeance is not his happy ending. His happy ending is those girls. It's the boy who wears his name like a badge of honor. It's Emma Swan. It's his stepson and his daughter-in-law and his grandchildren and his future, yet-to-be-born grandchildren.

Killian Jones yelled for Hook to run, because he knew Hook was his only chance to protect all that, to protect his loved ones from Jekyll and that demon and whatever they have planned for Storybrooke.

He looks up. Both girls are watching him, warily. Evie is rocking gently from side to side, a habit she picked up from babysitting her nieces and nephew and cousins.

"Where's your mother?" he asks.

"In Boston," Jackie says.

Ah, that's right.

Emma Swan is in Boston, with the boy—the boy who's no longer a boy, but a man.

A calm settles over him. He's on his own, but that's fine. He's always been a survivor, and he won't let tonight be any different.

Hook stands, slowly. Evie goes still, tensing, and Jackie's grip tightens on the hilt of Hook's knife. Hook tries to ignore the fact that Jackie is as tall as him.

"The demon who shot your father and then split us in two is still out there," he says. "I have to-"

Evie sucks in a sharp breath. "Dad got shot too?"

"Aye, I said that earlier, didn't you hear?"

"You never said dad got shot," Jackie says, going pale beneath her freckles.

"I said the same thing that happened to me happened to your father. I thought you understood what that meant?"

Jackie's cheeks flame red. "Are you fucking kidding me?" she screams. "Our dad's been bleeding to death somewhere this whole time and you never said anything?"

"I did say someth-"

Jackie punches him square in the jaw. Hook sees it coming, and lets it happen—what he isn't prepared for is how hard she hits him. He reels backwards and sprawls onto the couch, hand leaping to cover his face.

"Jackie!" Evie shouts.

Hook wipes the blood from his nose and mouth, and stares at his fingers.

She punches like her grandfather. How is that possible?

"Dad could be dead!" Jackie bellows. Betrayal flashes in her eyes, and Hook feels his insides shrivel with shame, a sensation that makes him wish for his bullet wound back.

He's letting her down, because he isn't who she needs him to be—because he can't be who she needs him to be.

"Your father's fine-"

"He's not fine, he's shot!"

"As long as he didn't try to run away he should still be alive."

Jackie stares at him, horrified, then whirls on Evie. "We have to go get him."

"Grandma and grandpa-"

"We don't have time, Evie. Dad could die. We have to get there now."

"I don't think that's a good idea-" Hook starts.

"Then it's a good thing you're not in charge of us, isn't it?" Jackie snarls. "We're going whether you want us to or not, and you can either help, or you can fuck off."

He sees the little girl who expertly struck the wooden practice sword from Killian's hand with her own when she was 5, and told her father right then and there with that single gesture and a vicious glare that she demanded to be taken seriously. He sees the little girl who gleefully leapt out of Killian's arms into the ocean when she was 2, and nearly gave him a heart attack.

Hooks sees Emma Swan, the toughest lass he's ever known, and he smirks.

Jackie's nostrils flare. "I swear to God if you're thinking something creepy right now I'm going to punch you in the face again."

"I was only thinking that you remind me very much of your mother."

"But were you thinking it in a creepy way?"

"No, I was thinking it in a...proud way," he says, and slings his thumb through his belt. "You have an excellent jab, by the way."

"Grandpa David taught me."

"I know."

Jackie narrows her eyes, but both her frown and her shoulders relax. "Are you coming with us?"

"Aye, lass. Killian would kill me if I let anything happened to either of you—and then your mother would bring me back to life just so she could murder me herself."

Two pairs of lips twitch, but neither girl smiles.

"Are you and dad going to be one person again?" Evie asks.

He nods, once. "Neither of us is whole without the other."

I won't take your father away from you.

"Where is he?" Jackie says softly, no longer demanding an answer, but pleading for one.

"Jekyll and his demon have him tied up in the old cannery by the docks."

Jackie turns to her sister. "Evie? Can you get us there?"

Evie bites her lip. "Yes. But once I do, that's it for me. I have to save my energy to heal dad."

"Alright. We can text grandma and grandpa as soon as we get there and tell them we need backup."

"They're going to be so pissed we didn't wait."

"Better for them to be pissed at us than for dad to be dead."

"Should we call mom, too?"

"Mom's in Boston, she can't do anything. Plus, if we call her she'll just tell us not to go and then we'll both we grounded when she gets back."

Evie sighs, and bobs her head in agreement.

"You ready?" Jackie says.

In answer, Evie raises one of her hands in the air, and curls her fingers. Just before her hand closes into a fist, a bow appears in it, trailing wisps of pale white smoke. With a jolt, Hook recognizes the weapon. It was commissioned by Killian, carved from a piece of the Jolly Roger, and gifted to Evie on her 13th birthday.

There are several more poofs of white smoke, and, in succession, a quiver materializes on Evie's back, then a thin, curved cutlass in Jackie's hand—another birthday gift from Killian, when Jackie turned 16—and, lastly, Hook's hook reappears on his brace, and he finds himself holding sword.

"It's dad's," Jackie says, slinging her own sword into a scabbard slung over her shoulder. "Don't lose it."

Hook nods to himself as he hefts the blade, testing its weight and balance. "My other weapons?"

Evie presents a woven basket filled to the brim with his various small pistols and knives. On the kitchen table is the pile of fruit that previously occupied the bowl. Hook takes each item out and tucks them one-by-one into their various hiding places inside his clothes. Evie ties her hair back, fingers deftly weaving it into one thick braid and then wrapping it into a bun at the name of her neck. Jackie leaves the front room and crosses the foyer to the pile of shoes beside the door, where she lets out a cry of dismay.

"What is it?" Evie asks.

"He bled all over my new Vans," Jackie grumbles.

Evie rolls her eyes. "Put on another pair."

"But those are my ass kicking shoes."

"You don't have ass kicking shoes. Only mom has ass kicking shoes; you just wish you did."

Jackie stomps over, wearing a pair of yellow high-top sneakers spattered in blood. "You know, I made a mistake earlier. You don't remind me of mom and dad, you remind me of grandma."

She says it like an insult, but Evie lifts her chin and replies primly, "Someone has to be the voice of temperance and reason."

Now Jackie rolls her eyes, managing to do it a thousand times more dramatically than her sister had. "That's what they should have named you. Temperance. Temperance Jones."

"Temperance is a virtue," Evie says, in a sing-song voice. The girls grin at each other.

"Alright," Jackie says. "Let's go rescue dad."

Chapter Text

Mom's transported them via magic a million times, so Jackie's prepared for the pale cloud that blooms out of nothingness, conjured by a mere wave of Evie's hand; she's prepared for the way the world turns white when the cloud engulfs them, for the momentary pressure on her bones, the rushing in her ears like a heavy wind blowing, and the jolt to her knees when they touch down in the dockside parking lot next to the old cannery.

Captain Hook, however, lurches when they land and hits the gravel gracelessly. Jackie looks down at him with pity—dad would be so embarrassed.

"First time?" she asks, lips twisting in a mocking smile.

Evie throws her one of those tired, exasperated, Evie sort of looks, like she's wondering for the thousandth time how she was born into a family with such complete, need-to-be-looked-after idiots for siblings. Jackie rolls her shoulders in a shrug, but turns away so Hook can pick himself up off the ground and dust off his ridiculous leather jacket in private.

She can't help the unfriendliness. She really can't. Everything about Hook is just...wrong. He shouldn't be wearing dad's face and he shouldn't sound like him and he should not be saying things like, "You remind me of your mother" like he's all proud of her or something.

Hook's not dad, and what terrifies her is that—if they don't hurry things the fuck up—he might be the only thing she, Evie, and Ian have left of him.

The thought makes her shudder as she and Evie crouch low and follow Hook at an awkward trot across the parking lot to a stack of crates. They reach the crates and drop down behind them, and while Hook surveys the white-coated guards arrayed around the warehouse's side door, Jackie studies him out of the corner of her eye.

Hook looks like how dad looks in pictures from when Ian was a baby. Even in Jackie's earliest memories, dad had flecks of grey in his hair—which says a few things about Ian's Terrible Twos (and Threes). Now, dad's hair is mostly steel grey, with a few streaks of dark color still valiantly clinging to life. Hook's hair, on the other hand, is pure black, and he doesn't have the permanent smile lines around his eyes and mouth that dad does.

The way he talks is different too—sharper, somehow. And there's something behind his eyes that Jackie didn't like, something wrathful, waiting to be let loose.

He may be who dad was, but Hook's definitely not the same guy that crawled around on all fours so she could sit on his back and pretend he was a horse, or the guy that put on a tutu to have a pretend tea party with Evie, or the guy that stayed up with her all night when she had the stomach flu—or even the guy that helped her cheat at Monopoly to piss off Ian.

Hook's like some alien living in dad's skin and doing a half-assed job pretending to be him.

Hook looks at her then, and Jackie realizes he was aware she was watching him, and let her do it—now, his raised eyebrow is asking her a question.

Are you quite finished?

Jackie glares. Usually mom's the one that gives Jackie the feeling that she's being X-rayed, not dad. She doesn't like it. She doesn't like Hook—did she mention that?

In one crisp move, she unsheathes her cutlass and lays it across her knees. "Are we doing this or not?" she asks.

Hook's other eyebrow joins the first to form an incredulous stare. "What's your plan, lass? Are you going to just run over there screaming and waving your sword around?"

"Yes. Is that a problem?"

Hook snorts, and looks away. "You really are just like your mother," he grumbles.

"Alright then, genius, what's your plan?"

Hook's silent, watching Hyde's henchmen pace, then he says, calmly, "We likely won't be able to take down all the guards before one of them warns Jekyll and his demon that we're here-"

"So? They probably already know we're coming."

Hook sighs, and rolls his eyes towards her in exasperation. "Can you be stealthy?" he asks.

Jackie almost laughs in his face. If Jackie wasn't a stealth expert she'd literally be grounded constantly.

Mom and dad don't know how often she sneaks out of the house, the parties she's been to, the actual number of boyfriends she's had—or that she actually dated Victor Whale for a while, once he graduated and stopped being such a douche. They also don't know that she lost her virginity—not to Victor Whale, thank the gods (the not-a-douche thing turned out to be temporary).

Telling Hook all that would probably be like telling dad all that though, so all she says is, "I'll try my best," and smiles sweetly.

Hook regards her sugary smile doubtfully, but nods . "We can't engage them all at once; there are ten of them, and two of us-"

"Three of us," Evie interjects.

She scowls, but Hook turns a dark look on her, eyes flashing dangerously.

"Two of us are fighting, and one of us is staying out of the way and making sure she has the strength to magically heal her father," he says, voice hard.

Evie presses her lips together, and Jackie can practically see the scream she's sealed inside. She wants to reach out and pat her sister's shoulder, but she's pretty sure she'd lose a few fingers if she did.

After a long moment, Evie looks away and busies herself with the arrows in her quiver. Jackie takes a deep breath, and looks down.

Dad gave the cutlass to her two years ago, when she turned 16.

She hasn't had much occasion to use it—or really any occasion to use it, other than swinging it around in her room when no one's home. Mostly, it resides in a case displayed atop her dresser.

It's beautiful, with a simple guard and a grip wrapped in plain black leather, but ocean waves engraved along the blade. Her initials stand out in gold on the pommel: JWJ. She'd balked at the inclusion of the W, because who the hell lets their 5-year-old pick out a middle name for his little sister? Winter? Were they out of their minds? They should have vetoed that and chosen something better, something that didn't make her sound like a fairytale princess.

"Have you ever killed someone before?"

Hook's voice is low, gentle, and it freezes the blood in her veins.

"No," she says. A tremor passes through her—only it doesn't stop, it lingers, a minute quivering in her bones.

"Can you kill someone? If you have to?"

Jackie closes her eyes, seeking the calm place she goes to whenever she spars with dad, seeking the void.

Dad was clear when he started training her how to use a sword that it wasn't ever to hurt people, it was only to protect herself and her loved ones.

She loves swordplay, with the same fierceness that she loves hockey. Jackie knows who she is when she has a sword in her hand; she knows her purpose.

She imagines dad in the cannery, bleeding to death. Alone.

A quietness overcomes her.

"Yes," she says, answering Hook.

This is to save dad. She can do it. She can do whatever she needs to do.


Jackie and Hook slip around the crates, and Evie takes her position, an arrow nocked and ready. She keeps an eye on the guards, watching for the moment they spot the two figures creeping up on them, darting from crate to parked car to crate, circling closer.

Evie doesn't get why Jackie doesn't think Hook is like dad. He's exactly like dad.

There's something kind of darker and angrier about him, and his hair isn't grey, but at his core he's the same person as Killian Jones, husband to Emma Swan, father of four, grandfather of four, sailor, gardener, and secret dog lover.

Neverthesless, Evie does want her real dad back, and if they're going to succeed, she needs to focus.

Concentrate, Evie, she tells herself, but as she attempts to slow her breathing, her heart starts beating frantically.

Shooting at people is different than shooting at targets in the woods with grandma and Uncle Robin. There's no blood when you shoot a tree, there's no screams of pain when you put five arrows through a bale of hay.

Sweat breaks out on her palms, and she wipes them hastily on her jeans before resettling her hands on the grip and bowstring.

I could use magic, she thinks.

Evie could wave her hand, lower the pulse of every guard in front of the warehouse until they fell unconscious. No one would have to die, or get hurt.

The problem is, if she does that she'll have to juice left to heal dad. She's not like Ian, she doesn't have his seemingly limitless supply of magical energy. It took a lot out of her healing Hook's wounds and teleporting the three of them here; she's finished if she uses magic on the guards.

She feels her phone vibrate in her back pocket—probably responses to the SOS text she sent out the moment they arrived at the warehouse. Her grandparents will be on their way, probably Henry and Will Scarlet and Uncle Robin, too.

They won't arrive in time, though. Dad's bleeding out and Jackie and Hook are about to attack the guards and Evie can not afford to stand here and do nothing.

She gets that everyone thinks she's too nice, she gets that everyone thinks she's sweet and gentle and needs to be protected. Dad always tells her to use that to her advantage, to let people underestimate her. All the things he taught her...he knew one day she'd be in a position to use them—he knew one day she'd need to use them.

Grandma and Uncle Robin knew it too.

Evie takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, and finally feels her heartbeat get itself back under control.

She knows who she is. With this bow in her hand, the bow dad had carved for her from a piece of his ship, she knows what she's capable of.

Ahead, she sees Jackie and Hook brace themselves, prepared to leap from their hiding spots. Evie raises her bow, pulls the string back to her ear until the fletching tickles her cheek, and chooses her first target.


Hook praises the gods that it's dark out, and that the demon's henchmen are hard of hearing. He and Jackie spring out from behind the cluster of barrels they were crouched behind, and directly into a knot of three guards.

He runs the first through without hesitation, and as he frees his sword and spins to face the second, he sees two guards standing near the door suddenly sprout arrows from their chests in quick succession. The two men go down with soft cries.

Bloody hell.

Hook doesn't have time to dwell on it, however. He takes down the second guard, and then looks to Jackie.

She's trading blows with the third man they ambushed, who's fending off her blade with both a baton and a strange metal cylinder. Jackie's skilled, but she's clearly looking for a way to incapacitate the man that doesn't involve killing him—and it's costing them precious seconds.

Hook lunges in and delivers a killing blow. Jackie sidesteps the man's plummeting body, and glares at Hook with eyes full of green fire.

Hook knows that look—rather, Killian know that look. He's seen it often, after hockey games or soccer matches, after rounds of Mario Kart with Ian and Enzo and Neal, after a frustrating training session with the sword...

His little girl doesn't like to lose. And when she loses, she gets angry.

Another guard leaps over the three Hook killed. With a snarl, Jackie flies at him, dodges his baton, and hamstrings him neatly.

Over the guard's shout, Hook hears Jackie's small gasp of surprise. Past the guard's flailing limbs, Hook sees her expression of pure horror. It's the first time she's used a sword to cut flesh, and the feeling isn't quite what she imagined.

She hesitates, and the guard she just cut down uses the opening to lash out with his metal cylinder. He shoves it into Jackie's stomach, and she screams. Hook's breath catches. The device doesn't pierce her flesh, but instead flashes and sparks and sends a wave of miniature lightning bolts crawling over her skin. She convulses, fingers curling, lips pulling wide in a grimace of pain, then collapses to the ground and lays still.

Hook's immobilized, caught up in another of Killian's memories, of the day Ian rode Jackie around on his bike pegs even though Killian told him not to. Ian crashed, predictably, and Jackie got pinned beneath the bike. One of the metal pegs sliced her leg open nearly to the bone. Her cries were like nothing Killian had heard from her before, and he thought the agony that tore through him at the sound would rupture his heart in his chest.

Hook feels that same anguish now, like a spike driven through his breastbone.

The guard slithers closer to her, dragging himself across the gravel on his one good leg, and raises his baton, aiming a blow at her head.

Hook darts forward, fear and rage propelling him like twin jets, but before Hook can reach the man an arrow takes him in the throat. Hook skids to a halt. He hears footsteps behind him and spins, opening another guard from shoulder to navel in a spray of blood; he spins again, dodging the guard's falling body, and puts his sword through the belly of the man directly behind him—the final obstacle between them and the cannery.

Hook frees his sword and stands for a moment, panting, surveying the parking lot to ensure there's no one left, then turns and drops to his knees beside Jackie.

Her eyes are open, staring dazedly up at the night sky. Golden hair is spread like a halo around her head.

"Jackie!" Hook says.

At the sound of her name, she blinks.

"I'm fine," she mumbles, and tries to sit up.

Hook reaches out to help, but she pushes his hand away.

"I'm fine."

Evie joins them, trotting over with an arrow still nocked to her bowstring but pointed safely at the ground. Her eyes are wide and fixed on Jackie. She opens her mouth to speak, but Hook cuts her off.

"I thought you agreed to stay put," he says, using the same voice he'd use with any member of his crew who disobeyed a direct order.

"Technically, I did stay put," Evie says, returning his dark look, then turns her head sharply back to Jackie. "What happened? Are you okay?"

"Yea, I'm fine," Jackie says. "He just had like a Taser or something. It's okay. It just stunned me."

She squeezes her eyes shut for several breaths, and when she opens them her gaze slips sideways, to the body lying nearly at her feet, bleeding from the arrow wound in his neck and the gash on his thigh.

Hook sees her face go pale in the moonlight, her freckles standing out starkly against her colorless cheeks.

"Don't look at that, lass," he says firmly. "Look at me."

Jackie does, lifting her deep green eyes to Hook's. He didn't notice it before, but she has Killian's long, dark lashes.

"Are you certain you're not hurt?" he asks gently.

Slowly, she nods.

Congratulations, lass: you just survived your first battle.

"Can you still fight?" he says.

"Yes."

"Can you?" Hook twists around to look at Evie, but she's looking at her phone, her face bathed in the blue glow from its screen.

"Evie," Jackie says.

"What?" Evie replies absently. After a moment, she blinks and looks at Jackie, who raises her eyebrows. "I'm not texting."

One of the eyebrows drops disapprovingly.

"I'm not," Evie insists. "I'm reading grandma and grandpa's texts. They're on their way."

"How long?" Hook asks.

Evie bites her lip. "Ten minutes."

Hooks shakes his head. "We don't have that long."

"Let's get moving then," Jackie says, she plants her palms in the gravel to push herself up, but Hook stands first and offers his hand.

Jackie hesitates only a split second before she takes it and allows Hook to pull her to her feet beside him. She stoops to retrieve her sword, and Hook almost grins when she wipes the blade clean on the white jacket of the guard who attacked her.

Wordlessly, Hook, Jackie, and Evie walk to the cannery door, stepping carefully around and over the bodies that litter the parking lot—the majority are dead by Hook's hand, but he counts four with arrows in their shoulders or thighs that are still alive.

Hook pauses when he reaches the door.

Both girls are clearly shaken, both a little on edge from the adrenaline and the sight of blood. Hook wishes he could send them away, tell them to go home where it's safe, but the truth is he needs them.

"Alright, let me worry about Jekyll and the demon," Hook says. "Your only job is to get to your father."

Jackie and Evie nod. Hook can see in their eyes that, for them, there's no turning back—they're here to rescue their dad, and nothing's going to stop them until he's safe.

Evie lets out a deep breath, and Jackie's hand tightens on the grip of her cutlass.

Hook grins.

Killian Jones is a smart man. He knew he couldn't protect his daughters from the world, so instead he taught them how to protect themselves from it.

Hook opens the door, and plunges into the cannery, Jackie and Evie on his heels.

Chapter Text

The demon doesn't give them even a second to orient themselves before he attacks. A blue-white flash illuminates the dark warehouse, blinding them, and Hook has just enough time to shoulder the girls out of the way before a lightning bolt takes him square in the chest.

His muscles seize and pain surges through his body, sharp and hot. He yells, unable to help the scream that tears from his lips.

And then it's gone.

He's on his knees, hand and hook braced against the ground, panting and shaking, skin prickling unpleasantly.

"Dad!"

He thinks that's Evie, but it's difficult to be sure over the ringing in his ears.

"Go," he manages to ground out, hoping he's speaking out loud and not just inside his own ahead. "Get to your father."

He doesn't bother checking to ensure they're obeying, he just shoves himself roughly back to his feet, and takes off in the direction the demon's attack came from. The world tilts drunkenly around him, nearly throwing him off balance, but he keeps his legs moving, and pushes through it.

Hyde's directly ahead, hovering half in the shadows beside an enormous piece of mechanical equipment. Hook doesn't see Jekyll, but he doesn't care, he has eyes only for Hyde.

Hyde smirks when Hook's furious glare meets his, the scar along one side of his face pulling the corner of his mouth up at a gruesome angle. He raises another of those strange metal cylinders. Killian waits a single heartbeat, then dodges to the left. The lightning bolt careens past. It crackles in the air, close enough to raise the hair on Hook's arms and the back of his neck; he doesn't stop, or slow, he continues plowing forward.

Killian's exactly where Hook left him, slumped against the pole he's still tied to, sitting in a puddle of his own blood. It's far too much blood, but Hook doesn't have time to dwell on it, doesn't have time to wonder if Killian's still alive, doesn't have time to hope that he's still alive.

Hyde attacks again. Hook ducks and rolls, passing beneath the lightning bolt this time. It brings him close—close enough to see panic take hold in Hyde's eyes, and he grins. However the demon expected the situation to play out, this wasn't it.

Hyde's eyes dart past Hook, his arm swings around, aiming the metal cylinder at a different target—at the girls—but Hook leaps forward, stretches, and knocks the weapon smartly from Hyde's hands with his cutlass. It's flies upwards, into the dark, and disappears.

Hands empty, Hyde's defenseless, and Hook takes full advantage. He strikes, driving his sword up and into the demon's chest.

Hyde gasps. Blood gushes over Hook's hand; he tightens his grip and shoves harder, rage lending him strength. When Hyde begins to crumple, Hook lets him fall, and allows his cutlass to slide from his hand. He follows Hyde down, sinking to his knees beside the man's body, mindless of the pooling blood, intent on watching the life drain from Hyde's eyes.

Only, something's wrong. Hyde's not dying. He's laughing. He's on the ground, both hands pressed to where Hook's cutlass protrudes from his body, and he's laughing.

Hook freezes.

And that's when he hears it, a scraping, shuffling sound in the gravel. Hook spins, flicking a knife from his sleeve and into his hand as he does.

Jekyll's standing over him, poised to drive the metal cylinder he's holding into Hook's skull. Hook tries to get out of the way, twisting sideways and slashing out with his knife, but he knows it's too late.

There's a shout from somewhere else, one of the girls, screaming his name.

Hook closes his eyes.

The air ripples above him, disturbed.

Hook braces himself.

Jekyll grunts.

In his mind, Hook conjures an image of Jackie and Evie, and holds tight.

The blow never lands.

Instead, something heavy crashes to the ground beside him.

Hook opens his eyes.

Jekyll's lying on his back, eyes staring blankly at the shadowed ceiling. There's a sword protruding from his chest, a sword with a guard fashioned to resemble ocean waves, and JWJ inscribed on the pommel.

Hook straightens, and looks over, to where Evie's crouched beside Killian's body, and Jackie's standing with her legs braced and both arms flung out in front of her. She's pale, but her eyes hold none of the uncertainty Hook witnessed before.

"Nicely done, lass," Hook says.

Jackie relaxes, dropping her arms to her side. "Hyde?"

Hook turns to Hyde, to find Hyde dead, staring just as blankly at the ceiling as his cohort.

Savage glee rips through him.

Bastard.

He stands, and yanks his cutlass free before he joins Jackie and Evie.

Killian looks terrible. His head is hanging down loosely, his face is colorless beneath the iron gray of his hair and beard, and there's dried blood at the corner of his mouth and on his lips. If he's breathing, Hook can't tell. Evie has her hands, both of them glowing with a brilliant, sparkling white light, pressed to Killian's gunshot wound, a mirror image of the one Hook previously bore. Jackie is kneeling on her father's other side, cradling his limp hand with both of hers.

"Is it working?"Jackie whispers. Even in the dim lighting, Hook can see tears glimmering in her green eyes.

"I don't know," Evie mutters, brow furrowing.

A long, tense moment passes. Evie continues to pour magic into her father's wound. Hook waits, and as the adrenaline fades, dread floods in and takes its place. What if they're too late? What if Evie can't revive him? Hyde died when Jekyll died; will Hook die if Killian dies? He feel a dark pit open up inside him, ready to swallow him whole.

Hook's afraid to die. He's afraid to grow old, even-

Killian takes a deep, shuddering breath, chest heaving and chin jerking up. His eyelids flutter, gaze flicking back and forth between Evie and Jackie before his head tilts back and hits the pole. His eyes find Hook's and hold them for a long moment before they drift slowly closed.

"Dad?" Jackie asks, tremulously. Her hands are still wrapped around Killian's, her knuckles white.

"Mmm," Killian hums backs.

Evie bursts into tears, and falls sideways into Jackie, who wraps one arm around her sister.

An awareness blossoms in Hook's mind, an awareness of Killian that wasn't there before. He can hear the man's heartbeat, feel his pulse, both like echoes inside his own body. It must not have been there before because of how close Killian was to death.

Hook reaches out and puts a hand bracingly on Killian's shoulder.

"Good to have you back, mate," he says.

Killian grimaces and grumbles an oath—and oath that sounds distinctly like fuck you—and Hook grins.

---

Killian recovers slowly, and by degrees. Color gradually returns to his cheeks, his breathing becomes less labored. He keeps his eyes closed, only opening them every so often to peer at Evie and Jackie.

Evie's clearly exhausted, Hook assumes because of magical exertion. He suspects Jackie's arm around her shoulders is the only thing keeping her from collapsing beside her father. Jackie holds to Killian's hand, as if afraid to let it go.

Reinforcements arrive, bursting from several different doors simultaneously. Two men, one with a bow and one with knives, converge on the bodies of Jekyll and Hyde. The younger man, Will Scarlet, nudges Hyde's corpse with the toe of his boot before shrugging at his companion, Robin of Locksley.

Another group, three men and one woman, run to where Hook, Jackie, and Evie are clustered around Killian.

The man who reaches them first Hook recognizes as Henry. For a moment, the memory of a scrawny, mischievous ten-year-old with a stubborn frown jars with the image of the broad-shouldered, stubble-jawed 36-year-old before his eyes. Henry's no longer a child, but a grown man with four children of his own—children that call Killian grandpa and beg him for stories from his pirating days.

Henry's quick brown eyes take in the entire scene—from Hook and Killian to Jekyll and Hyde—before falling on his sisters.

"Are you guys okay?" Henry asks. They nod, and he heaves an audible sigh of relief. He jerks his head towards the two corpses. "Is that really Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?"

"Yea," Jackie says. She hasn't looked in Jekyll and Hyde's direction since she killed the former.

"Cool," Henry says, with a grin. His gaze probes deeper, scrutinizing Evie's pallor, the spray of red across Jackie's shirt and the flecks of it on her chin, Hook's blood-soaked front and the small, circular tear in his leather doublet, identical to the bullet hole in Killian's shirt. "So, are you, like, Killian's evil half?"

"His other half," Hook growls, bristling.

Henry's grin grows. "How does that work? How did it happen-"

A cough interrupts them, and they swivel their attention to Killian.

"Henry," he says, his voice a rasp, one eye cracked open and fixed on Hook, "I want you to punch that man for me."

"Who? Captain Hook?"

"Aye."

"Why?"

Killian lifts his head and opens his other eye to glower at Hook. "I told you to run," he snarls.

"Aye, you did," Hook responds.

"Dad," Jackie says, "he helped us rescue you."

Killian, face darkening rapidly with anger, ignores her. "You were supposed to protect them, not put their lives at risk!"

There's a thread stretched tight between them—the thread of their shared life force—and it vibrates with fury, from both sides.

Hook feels his lips twist into a scowl. "If I hadn't let them help—"

"Let us?" Jackie squawks.

"—then you'd be dead, so would I, and your daughters would be left hating themselves for doing nothing when they could have saved their father!"

Along the thread that connects them, their anger surges, collides.

"Hey," cuts in a voice, gently, the one word like water dousing a fire.

Emma Swan's parents are standing behind them. They're both as visibly aged as Killian, faces lined, creased at the corners, but while David's hair is mostly white (though still full), Mary Margaret's hair remains raven-dark.

It was David who spoke. He's smiling faintly, amusedly, and when Hook looks at him his eyes practically twinkle with mirth—but it's Killian he addresses.

"Let's get you out of here, huh?" he says, and without waiting for Killian's agreement, he stoops, gets an arm beneath Killian's shoulders, and starts hauling him to his feet. Henry helps, supporting Killian's other side. Killian tries to shake them off after a few steps, but Henry and David hold firm, and one of them tells Killian to shut up.

Hook stands and helps Jackie and Evie up. Mary Margaret collects Evie's bow and tucks it into the crook of her arm alongside her own. Beside her is a boy that must be Neal—he resembles Emma in that they both take after their mother, but there the resemblance ends. Neal's hair is dark and curls sharply around his ears, his eyes are more tilted and catlike, and his face is longer and less circular.

Neal offers Evie his arm. She takes it, sliding both her hands around his elbow. Neal then looks at Jackie, one brow raised in question.

"If you touch me, I'll slap you," Jackie says. "I don't need help."

Neal shrugs, and walks away with Evie's head resting on his shoulder. Her footsteps are sluggish, trudging.

Will Scarlet appears on Hook's left, Robin to Hook's right. He barely managed to keep from flinching—he didn't notice them approaching.

"I believe this is yours," Will says, and offers Jackie her cutlass back.

Jackie takes it, frowning. The blade is sparkling, wiped clean of Jekyll's blood. A crease appears between her golden brows. Her lashes lower, hiding her eyes.

"I'm sure you did what you had to do," Robin says, voice low but carrying.

Jackie doesn't look at him, but she nods.

Will turns to Hook. "I think I remember you," he says, grinning obnoxiously. "I think you punched me in the face once." He's perhaps only ten years younger than Killian, but something about him is still youthful and boyish.

"Keep smiling at me like that, and I'd be happy to do it again," Hook growls.

Will only smiles wider.

Chapter Text

The next hour passes in a blur. Cars and vans with sirens and flashing lights descend on the cannery. Men in uniforms pour from the vehicles and begin inspecting the bodies Hook, Jackie, and Evie left strewn across the parking lot—those that are still alive are put on stretchers and taken away immediately; those that are already dead are zipped into black bags.

Two black bags are carried from the warehouse itself, and Hook recites a silent prayer to whoever's listening that Jekyll and Hyde's spirits find only torment in the afterlife.

David and Henry put Killian on a bench along the seawall, facing the water. He sits with his hand pressed to his stomach, staring out at the horizon, the line where the rippling black of the sea meets the velvety blue of the night sky.

Evie sits beside him. Killian's hook arm lifts to circle her shoulders. He presses a brief kiss to her forehead before returning his gaze to the sea. Jackie chooses Killian's other side, and perches along the top of the bench with her sneakers on the seat—Mary Margaret attempts a look of disapproval, but Jackie either doesn't see it or just ignores it.

Hook keeps his distance. No one pays him much mind.

He watches the group gathered around Killian, talking, asking questions, piecing together the events of the night. Their voices are low, soothing; they laugh, smile warmly, touch Killian on the shoulder. The man has friends here, people who care about him, people who see him as an equal, a peer.

It's a stark contrast to a captain's life amongst his crew—a stark contrast to Hook's life. He has no one like Will Scarlet, who's like a younger brother to Killian, and an uncle to his children. He has no one like Robin, whom Killian has spent many a long evening with, discussing fatherhood and the tribulations of life in the Land Without Magic. He has no one like David and Mary Margaret, whom, despite the similarities in age, are as protective of Killian as they are of their daughter.

Hook feels Killian's emotions, feelings of comfort, of calm. They resonate in Hook's mind, part of him, and yet separate.

When the various cars and their flashing lights and their sirens are finally gone, Will and Robin depart, filtering away into the night with calls of "Goodnight!", "See you tomorrow!", and "Glad you're not dead, mate!"

Neal leaves more quietly, with a mumbled farewell to his parents, something about Lancelot and needed at the station, and then Chloe and Leo and lunch tomorrow. Hook searches Killian's memories for the names mentioned: Lancelot is the captain of one of Storybrooke's three precincts, and Neal's a deputy under his command; Chloe Herman is Neal's girlfriend and the mother of their young son Leo, a boy with green eyes and honey colored hair.

Killian looks over then, eyes finding Hook's in the dark, and Hook takes it as his cue to approach. Henry, David, and Mary Margaret shuffle aside, create a gap for Hook to step into.

"Do you have any idea why Jekyll and Hyde did this?" David asks, his tone suggesting that his question is a continuation of a previous discussion.

"No, and I didn't exactly stop to ask," Hook says.

Henry shrugs. "In the book, Hyde was an embodiment of pure self-indulgence, vice without restraint or morality. If he and Jekyll used the serum they used on Killian on other people it would have created chaos in Storybrooke—I mean, imagine if they put it in the water supply-"

"But why did they use it on Killian first?" Mary Margaret interjects.

"To test it out?" Jackie suggests.

"And Killian just happened to be the first person they came across that they thought they could kidnap?" David says skeptically.

"That's not it," Hook says. He can feel everyone's attention on him, feel their curiosity like something physical against his skin. "They chose Killian on purpose. They thought a man with a dark past—even a reformed man—must still have that monster inside of him, just waiting to be let loose."

"They were wrong," Jackie says loudly, angrily, green eyes blazing. Hook thinks she's defending her father, until she adds, "Hook's a pirate, but he's not a bad guy."

Something flares along the thread that connects Hook and Killian—something hot and bright.

Love.

Killian's worst fear was that his children would find out about his past and would reject him for it. He worried that would be his punishment for not deserving them, for not deserving Emma and their life together.

He was wrong, of course, but the depth of his children's love for him, the fact that it's equal to his love for them, still astounds him, still makes his heart swell with joy. Hook lets that feeling wash over him, consume him. He never thought he'd feel that way again—never thought he could feel that way-

A buzzing sound pierces the night, and Henry jumps, startling everyone around him. He fumbles a cell phone from his pocket and squints at its screen. "Mom's almost here," he says.

Jackie stiffens. "Someone called her?" she asks, gaze straying to Evie, who rolls her eyes.

"I called her," Henry says, tucking his phone back into his jeans. "Before we got to the warehouse. I didn't know what we were getting into. She's bringing Ian."

Killian nods. "Thank you, lad." His emotions have cooled, receding back along the thread between them, leaving nothing but a faint, lingering warmth in Hook's chest that he cups both hands around and cradles.

"I'm gonna go then," Henry says. "Sam's sick and Olli hasn't been sleeping well. I don't wanna leave Ava alone to deal with all that." He pauses, brow furrowing in concern. "You're sure you're okay?" He looks pointedly at Killian's stomach, which Killian is still clutching.

"Aye, I'm fine. I just need some fresh air," Killian says.

"I guess we'll go too," David adds, glancing at Hook, looking him up and down once more with that glint of amusement in his eye.

"Would you mind dropping the girls at the house on your way?" Killian asks.

"Sure," Mary Margaret says. "Do you want one of us to stay with them?"

"We're not leaving," Jackie splutters loudly.

"They should be fine on their own, provided they steer clear of any other versions of me that may be currently running around Storybrooke," Killian says to Mary Margaret with a faint grin, then, to Jackie, "Yes, you are. You've done enough. Go home, and wait for your mother and I to return."

Jackie doesn't move.

Killian's stern stare softens. "Give your old man a moment of peace with his younger self, would you, lass?"

Jackie bites her lip, arms tightening, hunching in on herself slightly. "Is he...does he have to go?" she asks, glancing at Hook.

"Aye." Killian glances at Hook too. A ripple passes between them. "He's a part of me."

"He can't stay to, you know, teach me how to fight?"

"What's wrong with my teaching?"

Jackie shrugs. "I don't know. He's kind of more...badass than you."

"Now he definitely has to go."

They share a smile.

"Bye, dad."

"Bye, lass."

Jackie slides off the bench and steps onto the gravel. She turns, waiting for her sister. Evie leans into Killian and hugs him. Killian presses his cheek to her hair.

"See you at home," he murmurs.

"I love you, dad."

"I love you too, lass."

Then, before Hook knows what's happening, Evie's up off the bench and hugging him, thin arms crushing his ribs, her face buried in his coat. His heart stutters a beat, and he freezes.

"Are you really leaving?" she asks.

"Aye," Hook says. "This is farewell."

Tentatively, he eases his arms around her shoulders.

Her arms tighten, and he presses his nose to the top of her head. Her hair smells of flowers, and he smiles. Gardening. Evie was never particularly fond of swimming or sailing, so gardening is what she and Killian did together, how they grew their bond.

"Goodbye," she whispers.

"Goodbye, my little goldfish."

She laughs. It was their nickname for her—something about being the smallest, mixed in with some other thing about a type of cracker she was crazy for as a child. Even in Killian's recollections the exact origin is a bit hazy, lost in time and buried beneath layers and layers of other memories.

Evie pulls away, taking the scent of flowers with her. Hook knows better than to expect a teary send-off from Jackie—and he's not disappointed. She passes by with something like a smirk on her face, and a look in her eye that's not quite approval, but very close to it.

"Oh, dad," Jackie says, over her shoulder as she follows her grandparents towards the parking lot, "tell Ian I want my dog back. He can't keep her all to himself in Boston."

"You can tell him yourself when we get home," Killian says.

Hook watches Evie and Jackie until they're out of sight. His heart feels pulled in their direction. He suddenly wishes he had more time, though he knows it's not possible. He turns, forcefully dragging his eyes away from where he last saw the girls, and finds Henry grinning at him.

"Are you sure he can't stick around?" Henry asks. "The kids will kill me if they find out Captain Hook was here and they didn't get to meet him."

"I'm sure," Killian answers. "Whatever Hyde did to us has to be reversed. We weren't meant to be separate."

"Yea, but what if you guys-"

"Goodnight, Henry," Killian says firmly.

Henry rolls his eyes skyward, exasperated. "Fine, but you're the one who's going to explain to Bea and Minnie the reason why they didn't get to meet Captain Hook."

"Bold of you to assume they haven't met him already."

Henry chuckles as he walks away. Hook watches him as well, turning over Killian's memories of the boy while he does. Their bond grew slowly, and took a lot of work; it wasn't until Henry was about to become a father himself that he and Killian became truly close.

A spike of agony pulls Hook's attention back to Killian. He whirls, and finds Killian hunched over on the bench, hand pressed tightly to his stomach, fingertips digging into his shirt.

"You alright, mate?" Hook asks, rushing to Killian's side.

Killian nods, but a pained gasp hisses through his teeth.

"Do you need—should I get someone?" Hook asks, twisting around, searching for Henry.

"No," Killian says quickly. "I'm fine—rather, I will be once Emma gets here."

Emma.

Killian's memories of her shine the brightest in Hook's mind.

He hesitates, watching as Killian lets out a deep breath, and lets his shoulders sag. He leans back, tips his head back, and closes his eyes.

"You sure you're alright?" Hook asks.

"Yes, it's just the bullet."

Hook blinks. "The bullet?"

"Aye."

"It's still in there?"

"Pretty sure."

Hook frowns, but Killian merely smiles. After a moment, he laughs.

"I almost died," Killian says. He sounds shocked.

"Aye, but you didn't," Hook says.

"How many times have we said that to ourselves?"

Hook sighs. "Too many to count." He sits next to Killian, and gazes out at the harbor, at the moonlight reflected on the still surface of the water. Calm nights at sea were always his favorite, when nothing seemed to move, when the only sounds were the creaking of his ship and the gentle sloshing of the waves against its hull. It was the only time he ever felt truly peaceful.

"I wish I still looked like you do," Killian says quietly.

"I wish I had what you have," Hook replies instantly.

A moment of silence passes, and then Killian asks, "If the Dark One hadn't been dead, would you have gone after him? Sought your revenge?"

"No," Hook says. "After seeing the girls...no. Were you afraid that I would? When you first saw me?"

"No."

Hook raises an eyebrow at that.

"I know what Hyde didn't," Killian says. "You and I aren't like him and Jekyll. We weren't driven by the desire to sin for the sake of sinning, or from the pleasure we derived from it. We were driven by revenge."

"And there's no revenge to be had here."

"Correct. But more importantly, our family's here."

Our family.

That bit of warmth Hook's nursing in his chest grows.

"He underestimated us," Killian continues. "And he paid the price for it."

"He's not the first to have done so."

"Aye, and he certainly won't be the last."

He underestimated the girls as well, Hook thinks, but he senses it would be unwise to speak those words aloud, so instead he asks, "Are you still angry with me?"

He knows he doesn't have to specify for what.

Killian looks over sharply. "I'm their father," he growls. "It's my job to murder anyone who puts them in danger—so yes, I'm still angry."

In spite of his heated tone, no actual anger flows along the thread in between them. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Hook sees Killian smile.

"They fought?" he asks.

"Aye," Hook says.

"I wish I could have seen it."

"I imagine you will, in my memories—though you may be disappointed."

"Oh?"

"Jackie used what I believe is actually Prince Charming's signature move to defeat Jekyll."

Killian's eyes narrow. "She threw her sword?"

Hook grins.

"Who taught her that?" Killian says, voice rising indignantly.

"I imagine your father-in-law taught her that."

"How dare he."

Hook huffs out a laugh. "If it makes you feel any better, she threatened me with a knife to my throat. And I think she would have stabbed me in the kidney if I'd given her a reason to."

"Oh, she would have, and it does—I taught her that last one. The first bit's all her mother though."

As if summoned, Emma Swan arrives.

A gust of wind brushes Hook's back, and he turns in time to see an enormous cloud of pale gray smoke clear, revealing three figures. Two of them are clearly human, one of them barks. The barking one launches itself over the bench and into Killian's lap in a flurry of teeth, claws, and drool

"Argh, bloody dog!" Killian snaps, as a dog with mottled gray-and-black fur smothers his face in kisses.

The remaining two figures are bickering.

"What the hell was that?" Emma demands.

"What?" Ian says. "It was just a little magical speeding. The Bug's full of latent magic. It'd be insulting not to take advantage of it."

"No, I meant teleporting us! Did you even bother putting the car in park first?"

"I don't know. Does it matter?"

"It matters if my car's currently buried in a tree!"

Hook stands up from the bench, drawing their attention. Their argument fades as they both look over.

The boy—man, Killian amends—grins, and the woman steps forward. Her hair is somehow still more gold than silver, and she's as stunning as the moment Hook first laid eyes on her. He can't be sure if that memory is his, or Killian's; he's not entirely sure where they diverged, where their edges meet, or even if the border between their two selves is crisp or blurred.

What he does know is that she's the light that guided him from the darkness, and he loves her.

Emma reaches up, cups his cheek with her hand, and regards Hook with calm green eyes.

"I'm quite real, love, I can assure you," he finds himself saying. It's difficult to breathe. He feel both light and heavy at the same time. Heat flushes his cheeks, spreads down his chest, below his belt.

"Careful, mate," Killian says, out of the corner of his mouth (clamped shut against the dog's assaulting tongue).

"Oh, God," someone else drawls, someone with a voice eerily similar to Killian's but lacking his accent. "This isn't going to be like the last time there were two of dad, is it?"

Hook pulls his eyes from Emma's to look at Ian, his firstborn, the son that made him a father. Killian's memories cascade through his mind, memories of watching the boy be born, of guiding his newborn son into the world, of singing him to sleep at night, rocking him in his arms when he was fussy, reading him stories, teaching him to swim, of watching him grow from a squalling babe into the man that stands before him. He's a startling sight to behold. Hook has the strange sensation of looking into a blonde mirror—a mirror that's also taller, which Hook is surprised to find profoundly irritates him.

"This is a story I definitely need to hear," Ian says, folding his arms over his chest—arms and a chest that are both broader and more well-defined than Hook's or Killian's, which is also incredibly annoying.

"Later," Killian sighs, standing. The dog jumps from his lap but stays pressed against his legs, gazing up at him with her tail wagging. Killian glares at her for a moment before rounding the bench and joining them. He winces as he walks.

"Are you hurt?" Emma asks. Her hand disappears from Hook's cheek, and he barely restrains himself from snatching it back.

"I'm alright," Killian says.

Emma snorts, and Killian smiles guiltily. His hand strays to his stomach, and Emma pounces. Killian flinches, but remains otherwise still as Emma runs her hands over him.

"Evie got most of it," he says.

"She did a pretty good job," Emma mutters.

There's a small crease between her brows. She stills, bringing both hands to rest over Killian's stomach. Soft white light pours from between her fingers and spreads, rippling outwards, passing over Killian's entire body before fading. When she brings her hands away, once of them is clenched in a fist.

"Better?" she asks.

Killian stands straighter, taking a deep breath and blinking, as if coming fully awake. "Aye," he says. "Thank you, love."

Emma opens her palm, revealing a small, round bullet.

"I thought so," Killian says, grinning down at it. "Don't tell Evie."

"I won't," Emma says. She lets the bullet fall to the ground, then goes up on her tiptoes to kiss Killian. Killian's hook arm snakes around her waist, bringing her closer, and his hand raises to tangle in her hair. The dog squeezes out from between them just in time.

"So," Ian says, turning away from the display his parents are putting on. "What's up?"

"Pardon?" Hook asks, leaning down to pet the dog snuffling his pant leg. Her fir is thick and wiry, but not unpleasant to touch. When she raises her head, he runs her velvety ears between his fingers, and she licks his wrist.

Ian smiles. "Her name's Bonny. You got her for me-"

"For Christmas," Hook says. "The year your sister was born."

"Yea."

Hook does the math quickly in his head. "She's rather spry for being 18."

"I may have, uh, fed her a little Elixir of Eternal Youth."

Hook smirks.

Ian actually blushes. "One of grandpa's dogs died when I was 12. I didn't want Bonny to die too."

"So now she'll live forever?"

Ian tilts his head from side to side, considering. "Probably. I don't know how well we made that potion though. Honestly, she could start aging again any day."

"Who's we?"

"Me and Rowan-" he cuts himself off. His mouth snaps shut, and his expression becomes suddenly closed.

Before Hook can react, Killian's voice interrupts.

"Officer Jones," he says, and sweeps past Hook to pull Ian into a crushing hug.

"Hey, dad," Ian grunts, grinning and returning his father's hug even as his father squeezes the air from his lungs. Killian claps him heartily on the back a few times before stepping away.

Hook tries not to stare. Standing that close, the resemblance between Killian and Ian is even more striking. The shapes and angles of their features are identical, from hairline to cheekbones to chin, and from jaw to eyebrows to ears. The only difference between them, aside from height and breadth, is their hair color, the splash of freckles across Ian's nose, and Ian's clean shave.

"I know," Emma says, appearing beside Hook to pat his arm sympathetically. "I still can't get over it, either." She sighs. "God, it feels like he was born yesterday, and now he's...that." She ends her sentence with a gesture in Ian's direction.

"He's an officer?" Hook questions, more for an excuse to continue talking to her than anything else.

"Police officer," she clarifies. "In Boston."

"He's been there for some time?"

"Three years, I think. We're trying to convince him to come back home, but he's being stubborn."

"Aye, well, from what I understand, it runs in the family."

Emma smiles up at him. Hook feels that flood of heat again, and memories rise unbidden to the surface, memories of what her body looks like naked in the moonlight, what it feels like wrapped around him, the sensation of being sheathed inside of her, her nails raking his chest, her lips pressing kisses to his neck-

"Oi!" Killian's voice rings out, making Hook jump several inches. "That's my wife and the mother of my children you're having those thoughts about."

A loud groan from Ian follows. Emma smirks, as if she too could read Hook's thoughts, and then says, "You ready to go?"

"Not really," he says, breathlessly.

"It won't hurt."

"I know. That's not why-"

She silences him with a kiss. He freezes, afraid to move, afraid she'll pull away if he does. Her lips are soft, her kiss light and warm. There's a catcall, somewhere in the background, sounding much more far away than it probably actually is. Hook's vaguely aware of Killian's protests, also distant to his ears.

Emma pulls away, but the warmth on his lips remains. He opens his eyes slowly, to find her smiling gently at him. She takes his hand and places it between her breasts, over her heart. Hook swallows the moan that tries to climb out of his throat. She covers his hand with one of hers, and then places her other hand on his chest, over his heart.

"Goodbye," she says. Her palm grows hot. Her other hand is squeezing his.

"Goodbye, Emma," he says, just before a bright flash of white light nearly blinds him.

Her smile is the last thing he sees before everything goes black.


Killian opens his eyes. He's lying on the ground, Emma and Ian hovering over him.

"What happened?" he grunts.

"When Hook disappeared, you collapsed. You okay?"

"Aye-"

Bonny appears and thrusts her wet snout into his face. He splutters and rolls to the side, away from her slobbery kisses. Bonny tries to follow, but only manages to get in one good lick of his ear before someone yanks her off of him.

"C'mon, Bonny," Ian says. "Let dad get up."

Killian pushes himself slowly to his feet. When he straightens, the world spins, and he presses his hand over his face. Emma's hands appear on his back and elbow to steady him, and he leans gratefully into her, inhaling the wonderful mix of scents that is his wife.

Hook's memories rear up in Killian's mind when he closes his eyes, and he lets them play out. He relives the night through Hook's eyes, everything from his flight from the docks and his first encounter with the girls to the fight in front of the cannery and Hook's brief duel with Hyde.

Evie and Jackie both killed a man tonight, Evie in defense of Jackie's life, and Jackie in defense of Hook's. Emma and Killian will need to talk to them, assure them they did what they had to do. Killian regrets that it happened. He would have spared them that, if he could.

Even so, he smiles to himself. They fought well.

"Killian?" Emma asks, voice low in his ear.

He opens his eyes, and looks into Emma's. While he was bleeding to death in that warehouse, he'd thought mostly of her, had tried to replay every memory of her his tired brain could dredge up. He held on because of her, hoping that she'd find him, if he could just stay alive long enough.

He was angry at Hook for dragging the girls into the situation, but the truth is, without them Killian would probably be dead, and Emma would be weeping over his corpse right now instead of standing in the circle of his arm, fitted to his side.

"Let's go home," he says.

They start walking towards the road. Ian stays a few steps ahead, giving them some space and some privacy. Bonny trots at his heel, tongue lolling from her mouth.

"You know," Emma says, playfully, "my birthday's coming up soon, and I bet if we looked we could find some more of the serum Jekyll used on you-"

Ian lets out a roar of disgust. "Oh my God! If you're gonna say shit like that then would you please fucking whisper it?"

"No one asked you to eavesdrop," Killian points out.

Ian's fists clench. Then, in a petty gesture, he waves his hand, conjuring a cloud of pale gray smoke to whisk him away, leaving Bonny to bark at the empty air.

Emma sighs. "You know, it's actually pretty impressive that we can still provide him with a few traumatizing childhood memories at this stage of the game."

Killian tightens his arm around her. "Did you manage to convince him to come home?" he asks, ignoring the way his insides clench in immediate, hopeful anticipation.

"Not yet," Emma says. She shrugs, but she leans her head into Killian's shoulder. "He'll come home eventually."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes."

"You've seen it?"

"Yes."

"Seen it, seen it?" he asks, referring to her occasional prophetic glimpses into the future.

"Yes—oh, by the way, how do you feel about more grandchildren?"

"Ian?"

"Yea."

"When?" Killian asks, stricken.

"A ways off," Emma says. "But sooner than we think."

"With whom?"

Emma doesn't respond, but the look on her face says that she knows, but doesn't want to say.

"Rowan?" Killian guesses.

Emma's glance answers for her.

"I thought they broke up-"

"I know, I know," Emma says. "But their story isn't over yet."

"You're certain?"

"Yes," Emma says, a brief smile flickering over her lips.

"Did you tell Ian that?"

"No."

"He might come home if you did," Killian says.

Emma scowls, and guilt twists in Killian's gut—Emma considers herself responsible for Ian's departure from Storybrooke, as she was the one who initially pushed him out to go to college.

"I'm sorry, love," Killian says quickly. "That's not how I meant it."

Ian left because Rowan broke his heart, and just like his parents, Ian ran from it and buried his pain in a fruitless pursuit—not the pursuit of vengeance, but the pursuit of achieving a purpose in life great enough to distract himself from the truth. And the truth that Ian either hasn't figured out or hasn't accepted yet, is that there's only one place he belongs—only one place he's ever and will ever belong.

Emma nods, then leans forward, into his chest, and wraps her arms around his waist. He hugs her back, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, fingers tangling in her hair.

"Tell me more about our...our grandchildren," Killian says.

Emma chuckles into his shirt. "I think we're going to have a lot."

"We already have a lot."

"We have four."

"Four is a lot." Killian shakes his head. "I'm not ready."

Emma's hands fist in the back of his shirt. "I just want him back," she says.

"He'll come back, Swan."

"Oh, now you can read the future?"

"No, but I know our son, Emma."

He closes his eyes and lays his cheek atop Emma's head. In his mind, he sees what Hook saw, he sees himself standing next to Ian—two men, nearly identical on the outside, and nearly identical on the inside, too.

Killian smiles. "Family will bring him home."