Killian eyed the mug she set in front of him. “What is this?” he inquired, raising it and sniffing cautiously at the contents. The aroma was surprisingly dark and rich, with an underlying hint of spices. That, at least, was something familiar to him.
Emma smiled tentatively. “It’s hot cocoa – melted chocolate and milk. Good for a day like today.” Outside the wide windows of Granny’s, the autumn rain was coming down in icy cold sheets, buffeted by arctic blasts off the sea.
“Is it always spiced with cinnamon?” The flavor was appealing, spreading warmth in his chest the way nice, dark rum did. She was right, this was a good drink for a cold and rainy day.
She shook her head. “No, but I like it that way. Mary Ma-Snow-Mom does too. And Henry.” The affection was clear in her eyes as she told him about how Henry had tried to use that connection early on – before the curse was broken – to convince her of her parentage.
Killian was uncharacteristically silent as Emma continued on, her own usual reticence broken as she spoke of Henry. Their return to Storybrooke was still new enough that mother and son were rarely apart, the only thing keeping the boy from her side being school. Even that was not a deterrent. He suspected that an affinity for cinnamon-laced cocoa was not the only thing shared between them.
He didn’t know what traits Milah and Baelfire shared. Milah spoke of many things, but she never spoke of her son. That pain was too deeply rooted and always fresh. It never faded in all the time they spent together. Every morning she stood on the bow with her gaze riveted towards some distant land, her lovely face frozen in a rictus of grief. In those moments, she blamed Rumplestiltskin for being a coward, Rumplestiltskin for refusing to run away and see the world, Rumplestiltskin for not being the man she dreamed of – but most of all, she blamed herself for leaving her boy, her baby, her Bae.
Because she could tell herself that a pirate ship was no place for a boy – and it certainly wasn’t. She could tell herself that she was giving him his best chance. He was safe in the village now, the Ogre Wars a distant memory. But in the palest shades of dawn there was only one truth: she abandoned her son. No matter how much she loved her life now, that would always be her biggest mistake and her bitterest regret.
And so she mourned, taking her time until her tears dried before she turned back with a bright smile and a challenge for the day, telling him to bring her the horizon.
And because he loved her, he never said a word. His crew, loyal first to him and eventually to her, respected the ritual as well.
Emma was history repeating itself. Only she had been separated from her son twice: once, to give him that better chance, and again, when the Wraith pulled her into a strange new land.
But whilst Milah kept silent on the subject of her son, Emma did not. She waxed lyrical on her son’s stubbornness, his bravery, his persistence, and his overwhelming belief. She spoke of strange things, like Operation Cobra and movie marathons, big things such as his progress in school, and little things, like his fondness for Dr. Hopper’s (“Wait, Jiminy Cricket!”) dog.
Because Emma, unlike Milah, would not let a paltry thing such as a journey to another world keep her from her son. Not this time around. Speaking of him kept that hope alive.
And Killian, because he loved her then and did not know it yet, never said a word. That hope was everything bright and new and fresh, just like her.
“You’re not listening to me, are you? Hook!” Emma was staring at him, one eyebrow raised and a familiar look of exasperation on her face.
“Of course I’m listening, Emma,” Killian drawled, and proceeded to repeat her statement word for word. Just because he was silent did not mean that he was not listening.
Milha’s love for Bae had only made her miserable. Emma’s love for Henry had done the impossible and broken the curse.
Most of all, Henry made Emma happy.
Her face lit up. “Henry!”
The boy slid into the booth, shivering slightly from the cold and rain. If he was surprised by Killian’s presence, there was no sign of it in his expression. “Captain,” he acknowledged.
Killian smirked and inclined his head. “Henry.”
Curious eyes alighted on the mugs. “Is that hot cocoa with cinnamon?”
Emma made another move to get up. “Of course, I’ll-“
Killian waved a hand at her. “No, allow me.”
Mother and son regarded him with twin expressions of gratitude and surprise. Really, he was turning a new leaf, sort of. How was kindness a surprise? “Thanks, Hook – I mean, Killian.” Emma’s voice was soft. Henry chimed in.
“It’s my pleasure.”
He watched them as he waited for Ruby to place the order, their heads bent together as Emma likely berated him for making the walk from school to the diner in the rain. They made for a wonderful picture. A family, he thought.
And perhaps, one day, he would join them.