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The Twenty Questions Trap

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Moonlight filtered into the room, throwing a soft glow over everything it touched, most notably the couple sprawled out on the bed. Emma and Killian had managed to find a rare 24 hours of peace in the midst of Killian’s return, his trip to the Land of Untold Stories, and the wake of Gold’s deal with Hyde.

They had politely informed everyone that they simply wanted 24 hours together ,with no interruptions unless it was absolutely necessary. Emma had entrusted David with this task and told him to text if there was anything he needed, but he had assured Emma that they’d get their time together.

They had planned to make the most of their time together- make dinner, maybe watch a movie, engage in some other activities, but as Killian started pulling food out of the refrigerator and noticed Emma’s drooping eyes, the dark circles under her eyes and a look of overall fatigue, he’d put everything back and announced that they were going to catch up on some sleep.

Emma had protested, pointing out that they didn’t know the next time they’d get time alone, uninterrupted, and shouldn’t they spend time awake, at least? Killian had simply given her a knowing look, and asked when the last time she’d gotten more than a couple hours of sleep was- something Emma had a difficult time discerning, but she admitted it was probably before she became the Dark One.

So Killian had marched her upstairs and deposited her on their bed, muttering something about finding a book and “get comfortable, Swan, I’ll be back in two shakes."

Emma had smiled at his more antiquated terms before deciding against getting up to get actual pajamas, simply taking her shoes and jeans off, and stealing the t-shirt that Killian had left on their bed after moving his single chest of belongings in- most of the items were personal, but he did have some clothes that he’d acquired since he’d become a more permanent resident. Emma expected this, but what she was shocked to discover was that Killian actually owned just plain t-shirts (and that they were extremely soft, and had decided she’d definitely be stealing them in the future; she just didn’t expect it to be so soon).

So she slid under the covers in Killian’s t-shirt and a pair of underwear, listening to Killian root around downstairs for one of the books he had brought with him, and began feeling more relaxed than she had in a long time. She was already half asleep when she heard Killian coming back up the stairs, but was alert enough to see him smile widely when he saw her wearing his shirt. He promptly stripped down to his boxers and, after folding his clothes neatly and putting them on a nearby chair, he joined Emma beneath the covers.

“I must say, I think you look better in my clothes than I do, which is really saying something,” he said teasingly, pulling her into his arms.

Emma responded with a sleepy sound of acknowledgement, before mumbling, “I thought you were going to read.”

“Aye, although I find myself growing rather tired, now. I think I’ll just sleep.”

Emma was already asleep, though. He allowed himself a few quiet moments to look at Emma, looking almost carefree as she slept in his arms, and willed himself to remember this moment for the rest of his days, and also took a moment to remember how close he had come to having none of this. He pressed a gentle kiss to the top of Emma’s head, and followed her into slumber.

 

-/-

 

He awoke nearly ten hours later, warm and ravenously hungry. It’s dark outside now, and Emma is wrapped around him, almost like she’s afraid to let go of him in her sleep, but she’s still dead to the world and a part of Killian is pleased, that she’s gotten to catch up on sleep, but another part is still hurting that this is the most sleep she’s gotten in nearly 3 months. He reaches out to run his fingers through her hair, fanned out behind her, and she begins to stir.

“What time is it?” she mumbles, nestling closer to him.

“Somewhere around 4 in the morning. I didn’t mean to wake you, love,” he says, apologetically. “Do you think you’d be able to go back to sleep?”

Emma shakes her head ‘no,’ and adds “I’m hungry.”

Killian begins to untangle himself from Emma, and states, “You’re in luck, then, because I’m quite famished as well. Shall we go see what the ice box has to offer?"

Emma snorts, because she knows that Killian knows it’s a refrigerator- but she also knows that he’s faking confusion to get a laugh out of her.

“It’s a fridge, dummy,” she mumbles, getting out of bed and following him blearily down the steps, into the kitchen, where she slumps down into a chair, still not quite awake from her deep sleep.

Killian sets a glass of water in front of her, and she gratefully gulps it down, feeling the sleepy fog around her brain clear just a little bit.

“I can’t believe we slept that long,” she says, and he nods.

“I’d wager we needed it. Do you feel any better?”

“A lot, actually. Thank you,” Emma admitted, grateful that Killian had convinced her to get some sleep.

She stood up and wandered over to the fridge. “Do we have anything good?”

It was hit or miss, she thought, whether there would be any food left to eat (besides the mountain of pancakes from the breakfast David had made her that morning), but she knew there was some peanut butter and some bread, so worst-case scenario, it was peanut butter sandwiches.

“Let’s see, pancakes?” she asked, and Killian shook his head. “Peanut butter toast? Plain toast? Eggs? I haven’t exactly been super great about grocery shopping lately,” she admitted.

“I’d wager there have been other things on your mind, love,” Killian said understandingly, and she was again, grateful for this man- that he sidestepped the hidden meaning of her statement- (dark ones don’t need to eat, then she hadn’t eaten while he was dead, and then Hyde had come to town and the shit had really hit the fan; honestly she didn’t know how her parents always had their fridge stocked, now that she thought about it).

“Oh! Grilled cheese?” Emma asked, spying some cheese sitting on a shelf that miraculously was still good.

“That sounds good to me,” Killian said. “Do you mind if I watch? I’d like to know how to work some of this,” he said, and accompanied that statement with a wide gesture that she assumed meant all of the kitchen appliances.

“’Scuse me,” Emma said, playfully bumping her hip against his, “You live here too, now. You don’t have to ask.”

Killian smiled warmly at her, and she kissed his cheek before turning to start the sandwiches.

When they were finished, Emma and Killian sat at the table to eat, and Emma smiled, realizing that she was only wearing a t-shirt, and Killian was only in his boxers- if someone had told her 10 years ago that this is what her life would be now, that she could have this with someone, let alone that she would have this with Captain Hook she would have laughed at them. And yet, here she was.

Killian noticed her smiling, and asked, “What are you thinking about, love?”

“Just…this,” she gestured between them. “I’ve never had this with someone, and I never thought I would.”

Killian’s answering smile was bright, and he picked up her hand off the table and kissed it in response.

“Shall we return to bed, then?” he asked, with an indecent grin, pulling her up and toward the stairs. Emma simply followed as he led them up and into their room and deposited her on the bed, and she’s instantly surprised when he lays down next to her and curls into her side, but if this is what he wants to do, she isn’t going to complain, so she wraps her arms around him and begins to run her fingers his hair.

Which is what had brought them here, moonlight streaming in through the open curtains, Killian’s head on Emma’s chest, holding her close.

A few moments pass in silence, until he asks in a quiet voice, “What was it like when I was dead?”

Emma feels like someone has punched her in the stomach, and she sucks in a breath of air. Killian starts next to her, and she knows he’s about to apologize, and tell her to forget it, so she beats him to it.

“Honestly…it blurs together. I felt so empty, and I kept reliving that last moment- seeing them take you away, watching you die, and knowing it was all because of the mess I’d created. It was just so hard.” She knows her voice is getting unsteady, and she feels Killian begin to respond, but she shakes her head and he understands: she needs to get through this before he says anything, so he settles for squeezing her hand.

“It was even worse when we got back, though. Everyone kept telling me, ‘At least you got to say goodbye,’ but all I could think of was how I had failed, and the irony of it all- I’d brought back so many people’s happy endings, I’d beaten so many other impossible odds and gotten out of all these difficult situations, but when it came to you, I had failed so spectacularly. And knowing that you were still down there- were you in pain? Would you succeed? I had told you to move on, but I didn’t want to have to live without you, and-“ she breaks off at this point, knowing that her words are becoming more difficult to understand, and takes a moment to collect herself before she breaks down completely.

“It was like then you were really gone, and I knew that I would never see you again. And then when I heard you call my name, in the cemetery- I thought that maybe I’d finally lost it and I was going crazy, but you were- I’ve never felt so relieved in my entire life, Killian, God,” and now she’s crying full on, and she can feel his tears as well, hot against her neck as he pulls her close and chokes out, “Gods, Swan, I never wanted to put you through this; I never wanted this for you, I’m so sorry, Emma.”

She shakes her head and tries to pull herself together. “It doesn’t matter. You’re- we’re here now. It doesn’t matter.” She feels him pull himself up again, sure that he’s about to argue that it does, in fact, matter, that he’s caused her pain, but she doesn’t want to talk about this topic any more tonight, and tries to lighten the mood.


“Ever heard of Twenty Questions?” she asks, and watches him pull his signature, ‘No, your world is strange,” face. “It’s a game that kids usually play, at sleepovers or whatever, but basically you just ask the other person questions and they have to answer.”

Killian slides down a little in the bed, resting his head on her stomach and wrapping his arm around to place his hand on her hip.

“Ask away, love,” he says, squeezing her hip.

“Tell me about being in the Navy- did they really teach you to read ancient Greek?”

He smiles. “Aye, they did. It was the first time I’d ever had any structure, in a positive way- they educated me, taught me to fight, to dance,” he adds, and hears a soft chuckle from above him. “Liam and I were together, and we worked hard, and it was the happiest I had been up until that point in my life.”

“What were you like back then?” she asks, resuming running her fingers through his hair.

“Well, for starters, I was a strict rule follower, and against any form of drinking,” he chuckles, “and I had a ponytail.” Emma bursts out laughing at this, and he feels a rush of warmth run through him- she rarely laughs like this, and even if it’s at the expense of his past self, he’s pleased to elicited this reaction from her.

“God, I would pay to see that,” she laughs. “Wow. When did you get rid of it?”

“Not long after I turned to piracy, I’m afraid. Turns out a pirate with a ponytail isn’t very fearsome.”

“How many languages do you speak?” she asked.

“Excuse me, aren’t I supposed to be asking some questions as well, love?” he asks teasingly.

“It’s just, you know so much more about me, than I do about you, I feel, and I want to know,” she admits quietly, and his heart clenches.

“About three languages, English included. Not so many, all in all.”

They get into a comfortable rhythm, mainly Emma asking questions about him, but he asked a few as well, when suddenly Emma realizes this is the opportunity to ask him about something she’s wondered for years.

“How hard was it to learn to swordfight? How old were you?”

“Well, Liam taught me a little when I was not seven, but that was common in the Enchanted Forest. I learned a little when I worked aboard the merchant ship in servitude, but I learned true form and technique in the Navy. And then I spent 300 years practicing.” He chuckles to himself, completely relaxed, rubbing circles into her hip with his thumb.

In hindsight, he really, really should have seen it coming.

“So how did I beat you at Lake Nostos, then?”

He freezes, and he knows that above him, she’s wearing a triumphant smile.

“Since, you know, I’d never really held a sword before, and you have all of this proper training and centuries of experience…how’d you lose to a newbie, Captain?”

He chuckles, low, and presses a kiss to her stomach through his t-shirt.

“Well, I may or may not have been a little distracted, I admit. And I may have also…thrown the fight.”

“I knew it!” Emma crowed above him. “It didn’t really occur to me until we were in Neverland, that I shouldn’t have been able to beat you, but I wasn’t about to give you the satisfaction of knowing that I had figured it out, and that you were so much better than I was. You were kind of insufferable back then,” she says playfully.

“Well, you were absolutely abhorrent with a sword, love. I swear, when you punched me, I was glad for the excuse to stop fighting you, for it would have been bad form to beat someone who was clearly so inexperienced,” he smirked.

Above him, she scoffs and lightly hits his shoulder as he laughs.

“But…why? I mean, the last time I saw you, you’d given me that speech about how you were ‘done’ with me, and so angry I’d left you up on the beanstalk. Why did you help me?”

“Well, I knew that I had the bean, so there was an alternate way to travel to Storybrooke without completely invoking Cora’s wrath upon myself. And, I couldn’t bear to leave another son without his mother, especially knowing how hard you fought to get back to him. And, although I had just met you, I was already beginning to have feelings for you- something that I wasn’t too pleased about at the time, mind you- I didn’t want anything in my way, even myself, in a sense. But as much as I tried, it seems I cannot resist you. So, I resolved to help you, without you knowing."

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

He simply gave her a look, and she conceded, laughing, “Okay, true,” knowing that she either wouldn’t have believed him, or would have been extremely affronted at his implication that her sword fighting skills weren’t up to par (which she knows, but doesn’t like being reminded of, being surrounded by people who have been sword fighting practically all their lives).

“I’m glad,” Emma says, anchoring her hands in his hair. “Thank you, Killian, for always putting me first, even when I didn’t know you were.”

“Well, you know what they say,” he says lightly, “Ladies first.”

She laughs and lightly smacks his shoulder. “I take it back. You’re still insufferable.”

He laughs heartily, and she grins.

“You know what else they say?” she asks.

“Hmm?” he says absentmindedly, slipping his hand under her shirt to stroke the skin there.

“Age before beauty,” she says deviously, and in a flash he’s above her, pressing his hand into her side where he knows she’s ticklish, even if she’ll never admit it.

“You’ll pay for that, love,” he says as she laughs and slaps his hand away from her ribs.

“I’m counting on it, Captain,” she says, lowly, giving him a come-hither look, and the mood in the room has changed from playful to charged in an instant.

“Good,” he says darkly, lowering his lips to her neck and lightly sucking, listening with satisfaction as she gasps beneath him.

“I love you,” she murmurs, one hand curled in his hair and the other on his back, and he smiles, feeling warm all over.

“Aye,” he says. “And I love you. But don’t think that means I’ll go easy on you,” he finishes, punctuating this statement with a bite to the juncture of her shoulder and neck.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she retorts, and he sends another silent prayer of thanks upwards that he had been sent back to this woman.