"Twenty-eight years?" Hook asks, his anger flaring red. "I didn't sign up for this to wait another bloody quarter century."
He sees the shift in Cora's eyes—he knows he's said the wrong thing before she even speaks. "Very well, then, you won't have to."
He starts toward her. "Cora, wait—"
With a flick of her wrist he feels himself flying through the air, slamming through the magical shield she's created, and landing hard on the ground. He gasps in pain and looks up at the cloud of purple smoke billowing toward him.
"No. No!" He rises and turns back to the magical shield, pounding his fist and hook against it, but it will not yield.
Then the smoke is on him.
~ ~ ~
Twenty-eight years and Eleven days later
The first time Emma speaks to Killian Jones (he insists on being called Killian—only his parishioners call him Father Jones) is the morning she starts her new job as deputy. She's already noticed him several times—how could she not? It's not every day you see a sinfully attractive priest with a prosthetic hand (more of a hook, really, that splits in two like pincers). He's not the type of man to go unnoticed.
He's at the counter at Granny's when she arrives for her early breakfast before heading to work, and Granny is beaming at him like he's made of rainbows. When he turns to Emma with a smile she starts to understand why, because he's even more attractive up close. There's just a hint of an English accent in his voice as he congratulates her on her new job (apparently he and Graham are friends) and shakes her hand.
"I've been telling him for ages that he needs to expand his department. One man can't police a whole town without overextending himself."
She manages to formulate some appropriate responses to his ongoing small talk but her eyes keep drifting down to his mouth, slightly mesmerized by his lips. He finally wishes her a good day and turns back to Granny to flirt harmlessly while paying his bill.
Emma sits and clutches her coffee cup but her eyes follow Killian as he leaves, imagining what his body might look like underneath the black slacks and the gray tweed sport coat he wears over his black clergy shirt.
Ruby sidles up beside her holding a coffee pot. "It should be illegal for a priest to look that good, right?"
Emma smiles. "No kidding."
"You know," Ruby leans even closer to murmur in Emma's ear, "Episcopal priests are allowed to marry."
"I didn't know you were the marrying type."
Ruby shrugs. "I'm not. It just makes me wonder what else he might be willing to do, under the right circumstances."
Emma tries not to dwell on that thought—especially when, two evenings later, she sees him jogging through town in a tight t-shirt and shorts that give her imagination a much clearer picture.
~ ~ ~
The second time Killian speaks to Emma Swan comes almost two weeks after their first meeting.
He's visiting Graham over lunch at the station, and listens to his friend's confession with concern, but no real surprise.
"I think I'm starting to—to—care for her, you know?" Graham stammers, staring listlessly at the take-out sandwich on the desk between them.
Killian's noticed Swan quite a lot since she arrived in Storybrooke—how could he not? Strangers don't come into town every day, especially not ones with stunning blonde hair, flashing gray-green eyes and a way of wearing jeans that makes it hard to not stare. He may be a priest, but he's still a man. And so is Graham—a lonely, heartsick man.
It doesn't surprise Killian one bit that his friend is developing feelings for his new deputy.
"You know what this means don't you, mate? You have to give up Regina. For good." He's given Graham this same advice dozens of time, but he never listens. That woman is like a cancer on Graham's soul, sapping his will and wearing him down, but she's an addiction Graham hasn't been able to break. Maybe these new feelings for Emma will help (though Killian worries that Graham will try before he's ready, and fears his friend might come out the other end more broken than before). "You'll never be able to have a healthy relationship with anyone else until she's out of your life."
"I know." Graham nods, still not meeting Killian's eyes. "I know I have to quit her."
They are interrupted by the sound of the door opening. Swan strides in with her usual confident posture, and Killian's breath catches in his throat a little when she smiles at them. He looks away quickly. Giving into those feelings of attraction won't do anything to help his friend. They'll only make things worse.
She exchanges some casual greetings with both of them, and he and Graham share stories about some of Storybrooke's more colorful and ridiculous criminal offenses with her as they finish their sandwiches. Killian tries not to stare at her smile, and he excuses himself as soon as he can.
No, Graham's feelings for Emma don't surprise him at all. But his own do.
The third time Killian speaks to Emma Swan comes a mere four nights later, when he answers his phone to hear her shaken voice telling him to come to the hospital—Graham is dead.
~ ~ ~
Even though the funeral is four days after Graham's death, Emma is still in shock. Killian's heartfelt eulogy filled with stories of friendship and kindness doesn't help one bit. She skips out on the graveside service—it's just too much.
But, over an hour later, she finds herself driving by the cemetery again. Finally she parks and walks out to the grave. The cemetery staff is still filling the grave with a little Bobcat excavator, and a light snow has started falling. She stands under the shelter of thea large tree, watching as scoop after scoop of earth tumbles into the grave. She fingers the shoelace tied around her wrist that she salvaged from Graham's boot. She's not sure why she kept it. Maybe to remind herself that someone out there cared about her, even if just for a few weeks.
"You look cold."
She turns to see Killian, standing not far from her. She's not sure if he's been there all along or if he just walked up—she's been too caught up in her own thoughts to notice.
He smiles at her, but his eyes are red, and she can tell he's been crying. Suddenly her own feelings of loss seem trivial.
She looks at the ground. "Just a little. I like the snow."
He nods. His hand is in the pocket of his warm peacoat, but his hook hangs at his side. "I do, too." He says softly. After a moment of silence he adds, "I wasn't ready to leave him, yet."
She looks up to meet his eyes, and in that moment she sees a reflection of herself—someone as lost and broken as she is. Her rational brain tells her it can't be true. He's a man of god, a pillar of the community, not a screwed up loner like she is. But her instinct tells her that she's right, and her instincts rarely fail her. "Me too," she says softly.
They stand in silence until the grave is full and the Bobcat pulls away. They wait a few minutes longer, watching the snow fall, and then, as if by unspoken agreement, they turn to walk back to the parking lot. They don't speak except to say goodbye, but somehow Emma feels as if they've said much more.
~ ~ ~
On weekdays Killian's afternoons and evenings tend to be filled with appointments and errands, youth groups, bible study, 12-step meetings, organizing volunteers, manning the food pantry, and dozens of other duties that come with running an isolated parish. But his mornings are more relaxed.
On impulse, two days after the funeral, he picks up two coffees to-go at Granny's and brings them by the Sheriff's station at exactly 10 am. Emma raises her eyebrows in surprise, but based on the dark circles under her eyes and the chaotic state of her desk, he made the right call. "I just thought you could use a mid-morning pick-me-up," he says when she asks why. As they drink their coffee he helps her decipher Graham's filing system and then cleans the coffee pot and starts a fresh batch—it looks like she has a long day ahead of her.
An hour later she looks a little less lost, and he feels a little less lonely. This is what Graham would have wanted.
"Thanks," she says with a soft smile as he heads for the door to get back to his own work. "I did need a pick-me-up."
He tries not to dwell on the feelings her smile stirs within him, and as a result can think of little else for the rest of the day.
~ ~ ~
When Killian shows up at the station with mid-morning coffee a third day in a row, Emma starts to get annoyed. Does he really think she's so incompetent that she needs his help? That she can't handle it on her own? Yes, his help is nice, but she really doesn't need it.
She shares her complaint with Mary Margaret that evening, and her roommate, as usual, manages to cut through to the heart of the matter. "Did it occur to you that he might not be doing it for you? Maybe he's doing it because he needs the company. Graham was his best friend. I think maybe, out of loyalty to Graham, he's trying to fill that void by befriending you."
"What does he need me, for? He's friends with half the town." Emma's never had many friends in her life, and she can't imagine being so desperate for one that she'd pester them with coffee every single day.
"Being someone's priest is different from being their friend," Mary Margaret says gently. "I think you should go easy on him. Give him a chance. And in a few weeks if he's still annoying you I'll help you find a way to let him know nicely."
Emma nods, feeling guilty. "I actually do like him. I just…wasn't looking for any more friends. I'm not good with the whole emotional bonding thing."
Mary Margaret's eyes twinkle in reply. "You're getting much better with practice."
The next morning Emma puts on a welcoming smile when Killian turns up right at ten. Okay. She'll try the whole friendship thing. She's supposed to be putting down roots, after all—for Henry's sake—and roots include things like friendship.
By the time he stands to leave she realizes that her smile isn't forced any more.
"Swan," he says, "you know Christmas is this weekend? Of course you know. Well—this week is always one of my busiest of the year. Special services, parties, a children's nativity, dinner invitations. But the day after Christmas I finally get a chance to relax. Graham always used to join me the evening after Christmas. We'd eat junk food and watch old movies. It was a sort of tradition. I—I—would you be interested in joining me for that, this year?"
She hates being put on the spot, but she can see that same lost and broken look in his eyes that she noticed back at the cemetery, and she can't think of a valid excuse. She can almost hear Mary Margaret's voice in her head telling her that this is the sort of thing real friends do for each other. She sighs and answers, "Yeah. Sure. Okay. Um, sounds like fun."
His answering smile makes her heart race a little and sticks in her mind long after he's left.
~ ~ ~
Killian still isn't sure if inviting Emma to his place was a good idea. He still brings her coffee every weekday morning, but he's taken to calling her "Swan" to put a little more distance between them, and she's responded by calling him "Jones." He likes that distance. He needs it. The last thing he needs right now is to develop an infatuation for the woman his best friend had feelings for before he died.
She shows up at his place—a small condo one block from his church—bearing a gift of some homemade cookies (she says Mary Margaret baked them, which, she jokes, makes them safe to eat) and a tin of gourmet hot cocoa mix.
"I was going to bring a bottle of wine," she says, "but Mary Margaret told me you don't drink."
He nods. "That's right. I don't." He doesn't elaborate and she doesn't pry, thank goodness. He's not ready to dredge up those demons tonight.
He's made buffalo wings and homemade macaroni and cheese, and they fill two heaping plates and settle in front of "It's a Wonderful Life."
"Ever since coming to this town I feel kind of like George Bailey touring the world that would have happened if he wasn't alive," she says quietly toward the end of the movie.
She shrugs. "I just see Henry and his life here and how different it is from the type of life I would have been able to give him. Some days it makes me think I made absolutely the right choice when I gave him up. Other days I can't help but think it was the biggest mistake of my life."
His heart goes out to her. There are more than a few choices in his past that he wishes he could revisit. "You can't dwell on the past," he says. "No one can. All we can do is look at the present we've been given, and do our best with it to build a better, brighter future. That's all anyone can do."
Her answering smile is more than a little sad. "Yeah. That's what I try to tell myself. But some days are harder than others."
When the movie ends he asks if she's up for one more. She agrees and he pulls out his DVD of "The Princess Bride."
Emma raises an eyebrow. "Seriously? You're a Princess Bride fan?"
"It happens to be a cinematic classic. Don't tell me you don't like it?"
She laughs. "Of course I like it. I'm just surprised by your taste. You surprise me a lot, actually."
"I'm delighted to blow your pre-conceived notions of a man of the cloth out of the water. This was one of my favorites growing up. I liked to pretend I was the Dread Pirate Roberts." He feels a nervous stirring in his gut at the sight of her open, happy smile.
"More like Captain Hook," she teases, "but with better style." She looks down nervously, as if she fears that she's crossed some sort of line by joking about his disability. "Sorry. I—"
"It's fine," he says quickly. "I do hope my look is at least a little better than the perm and waxed mustache."
"Just a little."
Her bright eyes send tingles up and down his spine, and tension hangs in the air between them.
"I'll just…" His voice trails off as he leans forward to put the DVD in the player.
By the time she says goodnight and takes her leave, Killian knows he's in deep trouble. His common sense tells him that he ought to put this to a stop to this before he gets sucked in any deeper. But his common sense isn't the loudest voice in his head right now.
The next morning at ten he brings her another cup of coffee.
~ ~ ~
Emma learns quickly that Killian knows exactly how to be a good friend. He's there for her every step of the way when she decides to challenge Regina and run for Sheriff. He consoles her when Regina digs up her past and has Sidney print it in the paper, he praises her when she saves Regina from the fire, and then, after that humiliating debate and her unexpected win, he's the only one who seems to understand how bittersweet her win feels.
He sits with her in the sheriff's office the morning after her win, drinking their usual coffee.
"I just feel like a pawn—Gold's pawn, Regina's pawn. They keep pushing me back and forth and I hardly get a chance to figure out how to stand on my own. I'm just not sure it was worth it." She shakes her head. "Henry saw me at my worst. And I never wanted him to find out about how I had him."
"He loves you in spite of your past," Killian says. "If he can let it go, so should you."
"Easier said than done. I've been running from my past for years, and it just keeps catching up with me. You don't what that's like."
"Don't I?" He holds her gaze with an expression that makes her regret her flippant comment. He continues in a low, intense tone. "You know by now that I run a 12-step group at the church. Has it ever occurred to you that the group isn't just for the benefit of the community?"
Her eyes go wide as the realization kicks in. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"It's alright," he says. "I've never told you about my past, before coming to Storybrooke. I didn't grow up here. I was born in London—lived there until I was seven. My dad died when I was little, and my mum fell in love with an American businessman. Moved us to Boston to marry him. But he, uh, wasn't a nice man. He was an angry drunk. Used to beat my mum. Eventually started in on me and my older brother, too. As soon as my brother turned eighteen he enlisted in the army to get away, and four years later when I turned eighteen I followed suit. I was already a heavy drinker, but I kept it under control enough to do my duty. I served a tour in Iraq and then came back to serve on a base in California. My brother was on his third tour in Iraq by then, and was due back in two weeks when he was killed. My mum couldn't handle it. She committed suicide a week later."
Emma's throat is tight with shame for her comments and her self-obsession. She's been acting like she has a monopoly on hard-knocks instead of remembering what her instinct told her weeks ago—that he's just as broken as she is.
He continues his story, his tone surprisingly gentle. "My drinking got out of hand, and I started smoking weed, too. One day I went to work high. I was unloading a truck full of heavy equipment, and I wasn't in my right mind. I toppled a heavy crate down onto my own hand. Crushed it beyond saving. My commander took pity on me and got me an honorable medical discharge, though I didn't deserve it." He shakes his head, staring off into the distance.
"Even that wasn't rock bottom, yet," he says softly. "I went back to Boston. Tried to find work. But my old high school friends pulled me back into a bad scene pretty quickly. There was a girl. I—" His voice catches. "I fell hard and fast. She was my everything. But she was just as messed up as I was. And she was getting pulled into harder stuff—heroin." He shakes his head and takes a deep breath to steady his voice. "It wasn't until she died of an overdose that I bottomed out. But I was lucky. My mum's old priest found me. He took me in, got me into a 12-step group, got me work. He saved my life. And in the process I found my own call to serve God and my community." He smiles softly. "I've been sober eight years this past November, and received my ordination four and a half years ago. That's when I came to Storybrooke to take over the parish here."
Emma swallows hard and blinks her eyes against the rising tears. "I shouldn't have assumed. I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for. I understand. And I didn't tell you all this to earn your sympathy or your pity. I've told the same story hundreds of times at meetings, and I told it to you for the same reason I tell it to them—to give you hope. If someone as fucked up as I was can remake their life the way I have, so can you. So can anyone." He smiles, and her heart skips a beat.
Could she really find the kind of peace in life that he's found? It's still hard to believe, but he makes her want to take that leap of faith.
"I'm always here if you ever need to talk," he says. "You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah." She nods. "I do."
A week later he tells her that she and Henry are welcome to spend time together in the church rec-room, if they ever want privacy from being watched by Regina and the gossips who report to her. He hands her a set of keys to the church, and she looks up at him in wonder. "You really trust me with these?"
"Of course I do. And not just because you're sheriff, though that doesn't hurt." He winks, and she feels a tingle of excitement in her gut that she hasn't felt since Graham.
At that thought she looks away. She's not ready to take a chance like that again. Not yet. But she's still glad to be a friend.
~ ~ ~
In early February Emma confesses to Killian that she lied to Henry about his father.
Killian refrains from speaking as she tells him the real story—a story that, she admits, she hasn't told anyone, ever.
He tries to stay calm and collected, but it's hard when all he wants to do is track down the son of a bitch who hurt her and punch him in the face. Not a very charitable attitude. He'll have to pray for forgiveness later. Right now he just wants to be angry that any man dared treat Emma like that.
"He gave this to me," she says, fingering the swan pendant she wears around her neck. "I kept it to remind me never to trust anyone like that again. But now that I've found a home here, I'm starting to wonder if it's time to believe in people again. Maybe I'm ready. I don't know."
"I hope you are," he says. "You deserve a place where you can feel safe. You've earned it." On impulse he rolls up his sleeve and shows her the tattoo on his arm.
"Milah," she reads. "Was she the one you told me about? The one who—"
"Who died of an overdose." He nods. "This reminds me daily of how much I've lost. But it also reminds me of how much I've overcome, and it drives me to help others find a way out of their own pain. Maybe that's what your swan can be for you."
Her smile is soft and thoughtful. "Yeah. Maybe it can."
Later she tells him that she's worried about a stranger that showed up in town who seems suspicious. He can't help but laugh.
"Not so long ago you were that suspicious stranger, darling. Maybe he deserves a chance, too."
She smiles and rolls her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Right again, Jones."
"It's a talent."
~ ~ ~
Emma watches intently as Killian sits with Henry at a table in the church rec room teaching him to fold a perfect long-flying paper airplane. He has a natural rapport with Henry that she would have killed for a few months ago.
They way they lean over the paper together, carefully making perfect straight creases, sets her tingling in a not-at-all maternal way. She's been attracted to Killian lots of times (too many times), but she had no idea how much of a turn-on seeing him get along with Henry would be.
When she drops Henry back at his house later that afternoon she has to go for a long drive around town with the windows rolled down, letting the cold winter air wash over her until she shivers.
She's still getting a handle on her relationship with her son and her new job. She doesn't have time for a boyfriend—especially one she'd have to share with God. That's just not in the cards, no matter how much her body might want it.