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Together One Shots

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Killian had just pulled into the garage after a long day at work. He got out of his truck and walked around to the front door.

When he walked inside, he went over to his wife and greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.

“Hello, love. How was everything at the police station?”

Emma smiled at him before she replied, “The usual – piles of paperwork.”

Killian hummed in response just as they heard, “Liam spit up!”

Emma began to move from her place setting the table when Killian told her, “I got it, love.”

He then moved into the living room and scooped up his six-month old son from his playpen. He asked Anna Elizabeth, “Will you hand me that cloth, love?”

Anna Elizabeth nodded before reaching into the playpen and grabbing the cloth. She then handed it to Killian.

Killian wiped Liam’s face before taking off his bib and carrying it to the laundry room, where he also changed his son’s onesie.

“There you go, little lad,” Killian told Liam, who had taken to playing with the ring around Killian’s neck.

Just as Killian began walking back into the kitchen, his phone rang in his jeans pocket. He placed Liam in his high chair before he answered it.

“Hello, mate,” Killian began. He listened for a few minutes before he said, “Thank you for letting me know. Talk to you later.”

As he slipped the phone back into his pocket, Emma asked, “Who was that?”

“My future brother-in-law. He had some news,” Killian answered.

“I can tell by the look on your face that it wasn’t good news,” Emma supplied.

Killian sighed before he told her, “Belle is having surgery the day after tomorrow to have her gallbladder removed. I knew she’d been having problems with it, but I didn’t know it was that serious.”

“Aunt Belle needs surgery?” Anna Elizabeth piped up worriedly.

“She’ll be fine, kid. Don’t worry about it,” Emma told her as she ran her hand through those blonde curls before casting a look over to her husband, offering him the same assurance.

She then asked him, “Do you want to go to New York?”

“Love, I can’t just leave you and the kids,” Killian started. He took a deep breath and continued, “Besides, Belle has August – her fiancé. She doesn’t need me there.”

“You’re right, she does have him. However, I know from experience that a girl always needs her big brother,” Emma replied with a smile.

She then added, “And I also know that you it’ll drive you crazy if you don’t go see her.”

Killian smiled back at her before he questioned, “How is it that you’re always right, Swan?”

“It’s a gift,” Emma told him with a smirk.

Killian chuckled before he became more serious and said, “Thank you, love. I’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

Emma simply nodded in response.

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 When Belle heard a knock at her door and went to answer it, she was a little surprised to see her brother standing on the other side.

“Killian, you’re here?”

“Aye, love. August called me,” Killian answered before his sister nodded and ushered him inside.

He then surmised, “I’m still trying to figure out why you didn’t call me,” as he raised an eyebrow.

“You have enough on your plate with your work and my niece and nephew. I knew you would drive up here, and I also didn’t want you to worry,” Belle told him.

“I appreciate your concern, love, but it’s a bit late for that now,” Killian replied.

Belle only smiled and shook her head in response.

She then asked, “Do you want some hot tea?”

“I would love some, but shouldn’t you be resting or sleeping?” Killian pointed out.

Belle rolled her eyes before she reminded him, “I don’t have to be on complete bed rest, Killian.”

“But you are having surgery tomorrow, sis,” Killian told her.

“Between you and August both being overprotective and his hovering, I know what Emma felt like when she was pregnant,” Belle said.

“I believe I can speak for both of us when I say that we’re only trying to help, love,” Killian replied.

Belle sighed before she smiled at him and said, “I know. And I love you both for it.”

She then asked, “How about that tea?”

Killian returned her smile and nodded in response.

 

Belle joined Killian at the kitchen table with a bottled water for herself and handed her brother his tea.

She then asked, “How is my nephew doing?” with a wide smile.

“Crawling around everywhere and fascinated by everything,” Killian answered, returning her smile.

“And I know that Anna Elizabeth loves being a big sister,” Belle surmised.

“Aye, that she does. She stubbornly insists on reading to him every night,” Killian said.

“Well, we both know you have Liam to thank for the stubbornness,” Belle told him with a grin.

Killian returned her grin as he reminded her, “You know, sis, you could be rather stubborn as well.”

“How else was I supposed to put up with two older brothers?” Belle pointed out.

“Hmm, as I recall, you made Liam and I feel bad with those blasted puppy dog eyes,” Killian told her.

“Well, I learned from the best,” Belle said before she giggled.

Killian only rolled his eyes in response.

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 The next day, in the late morning, Killian and August were awaiting news in the waiting room of Bellevue Hospital.

Just then, they heard the doctor’s voice, “Family of Belle Jones?”

Both men stood up and made their way over to the scrub-clad man.

“How is she?” August immediately asked.

“She’s fine,” the doctor, Ben Rayburn, began.

“Why do I feel a but coming on?” Killian questioned.

“Miss Jones suffered some significant blood loss. It could be fatal if she doesn’t have a transfusion,” Dr. Rayburn explained.

Killian and August’s eyes widened with worry and panic before the former sighed and ran his hand over his face before moving to his hair. He then said, “It’ll take a bloody miracle for her to get the blood that she needs.”

“I’m assuming that means you know that she has a rare blood type and can only accept the same kind,” Dr. Rayburn surmised.

“Yes, I do. My sister’s appendix ruptured when she was a child. She had to have a transfusion then as well, but it wasn’t a problem then because our father happened to have the same blood type. But he passed away quite a long time ago,” Killian told him.

“I truly am sorry. Since O-negative is so rare, we don’t have enough for your sister. We’ll have to see if we can find a donor,” Dr. Rayburn said.

“How long will that take?” Killian asked, slightly frustrated.

“I’m not sure. But I’ll let you both know as soon as possible,” Dr. Rayburn said.

Just before he turned to leave, August added, “Did you say she’s O-negative?”

“Yes. Do you know someone who is as well?” Dr. Rayburn questioned.

“I am,” August simply answered.

“Mate, are you serious?” Killian questioned with wide eyes.

“Very much so,” August told him.

“Would you be willing to be Belle’s donor?” Dr. Rayburn asked.

“She’s my fiancé – you don’t even have to ask,” August told him.

Dr. Rayburn nodded before he said, “If you can follow me, I’ll let one of the nurses know, and we’ll get started right away.”

August nodded before moving to follow the doctor. However, he was stopped by Killian, who placed a hand on his shoulder and offered him a quick but grateful look. August nodded once again before following Dr. Rayburn.

 

Half an hour later, August returned to waiting room and sat down beside Killian.

August then told the dark-haired man, “They’re giving Belle the blood right now. Dr. Rayburn is one-hundred percent confident that she will be alright. We’ll be able to visit her shortly.”

Killian let out the breath he had been holding before he began, “I’m so relieved to hear that.”

He then turned to face August fully as he told him, “And it’s all thanks to you, mate.”

August waved off Killian’s words when he said, “You don’t have to thank me, Killian. She’s my family now, too. I’d do anything for her – we may not be married yet, but I’m going to be there for her in sickness and in health and for better or worse.”

“I know you will. It’s why I gave you my blessing two months ago – I couldn’t be happier that my sister has found someone who will be there for her no matter what,” Killian told him with a smile.

August nodded and returned his smile. A few minutes later, the nurse came and informed them that Belle was ready for visitors.

When they arrived at her room, Killian told August, “You go on in, mate. I’m going to call Emma and let her know what’s going on. Besides, you and my sister need some time to yourselves.”

“Thanks, Killian,” August replied before opening the door.

August quickly moved to Belle’s side and placed a kiss on her forehead before he sat down in the chair beside the bed.

He took her hand in his and told her, “I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ll be alright.”

Belle smiled at him as she said, “The nurse told me that you’re the reason for that.”

August replied, “Yeah, it was lucky that I have the same blood type as you.”

“You know I don’t believe in luck, August,” Belle reminded him.

“Well, be it fate or destiny, I’m just glad that I still get to marry you in a few months,” August told her with a genuine smile.

Belle took her free hand to caress his cheek as she told him, “I can’t wait to be your wife.” She then closed the distance between them for a sweet and gentle kiss.

As they pulled away, August told her, “I love you, Belle.”

Belle smiled at him sweetly as she said, “I love you, too, August.”

There was comfortable silence for a few minutes before Belle stated, “Thank you, August, for being my blood donor. And for calling my brother – I really am glad he’s here.”

“You don’t have to thank me for the transfusion, but you are more than welcome. And as far as Killian goes, that was a no-brainer,” August replied.

Just then, Dr. Rayburn came through the door.

“How’s the patient?” he asked.

“I feel really great,” Belle told him.

“That’s a good sign. I came to tell you that I want to keep you here for a couple days to ensure that your body responds well not only to the surgery, but to the transfusion. You’ll have to take it easy for a few days once you go home, but then you’ll be good as new,” Dr. Rayburn explained.

Belle nodded in understanding before she said, “Thank you, Dr. Rayburn for everything.”

“Of course, Miss Jones. I’ll be back to check on you later,” he replied before making his way to exit the room just as Killian was entering it.

“Glad to see you’re alright, sis. You had me worried.”

“Well, now you don’t have to,” Belle told him with a grin.

Killian returned it before he crossed the room and handed Belle his phone. She looked up at him confusedly, so he explained, “There’s someone else who’s been worried about you.”

He then pressed the accept button on FaceTime, and Anna Elizabeth’s face appeared on the screen.

As soon as she saw Belle, she practically yelled, “Are you okay, Aunt Belle?”

“You can talk normally, Anna Elizabeth. I can hear you just fine,” Belle explained before she answered her niece, “And I promise I’ll be okay. Thank you for checking on me.”

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she asked, “Is August going to take care of you while you get better?”

“Yes, he is. I’m so happy to have him,” Belle replied.

“I’m glad you’re happy, Aunt Belle,” Anna Elizabeth said.

Belle smiled in response before they talked for a couple more minutes. She then told her niece, “Well, Anna Elizabeth, I’m going to have to go now. I’m sure that Emma wants her phone back.”

“Are you sure you have to go?” Anna Elizabeth asked disappointedly.

“Yes, I am. But don’t be sad – I’ll see you at my wedding in a few months,” Belle reassured her.

The eight-year-old’s eyes immediately lit up in excitement as she exclaimed, “Where I’ll get to be your flower girl!”

Belle nodded before she said, “That’s right. I’m so excited. I’ll talk to you later, Anna Elizabeth. Goodbye.”

Anna Elizabeth waved at the camera before she said, “Bye, Aunt Belle!” The screen then went back, and Belle returned the phone to her brother.

“You’ve done a really great job with her, Killian,” August told his soon to be brother-in-law.

“Thanks, mate, but I cannot take all the credit. Emma has always helped me with her,” Killian admitted.

“Perhaps. But Liam knew exactly what he was doing when he picked you to raise her should anything happen to him and Elsa,” Belle added.

Killian smiled at her in response before he asked, “What about you two? Can I expect any nieces or nephews?”

“Not anytime soon, but one day for sure,” August answered.

“Well, I know for a fact that you two will be great parents. Anna Elizabeth constantly says how much she adores the both of you. And if Liam could talk, he’d probably say the same thing,” Killian told them.

Belle smiled at him as she supplied, “Well, for now, I’m going to focus on being a great fiancé and soon to be wife.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re already there,” August told her.

Belle turned to look at him as she lovingly squeezed his hand. Killian then said, “And on that note, I’m going to go rest up a bit before driving back tomorrow.”

“And relax from all the worrying you were doing,” Belle added.

“Well, love, you are my only sister,” Killian told her before pulling her in for a hug.

As they pulled away, he shook August’s hand before expressing his goodbyes and heading toward the door.

As he rode the elevator down to the lobby and began to exit the hospital, he began to think on how odd it was that August did have Belle’s rare O-negative blood type, and how much of a saving grace that it was. Perhaps it really was fate after all.

Chapter Text

"Anna Elizabeth! Liam! The bus is almost here!" Emma called out from the kitchen.

She soon saw blonde curls sprinting across the house as Anna Elizabeth asked, "How much longer do I have to ride the bus?"

"Until your dad teaches you how to drive," Emma answered.

"He won't even let me drive the boat in open water. You really think he'll let me out on the highway with other cars?" Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"He's just being overprotective – as usual. Besides, you still have a couple years," Emma began before she added, "Now, go, before you miss the bus."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she ran out the door and closed it behind her.

Emma then once again called for Liam, who made his way into the kitchen.

"There you are, kid. You're going to miss the bus," Emma said.

"I don't feel good, Mommy," Liam weakly said.

The blonde furrowed her eyebrows before going to her son and bending down beside him. Her eyes widened with worry when she felt his forehead, which was burning up.

"I think you're sick with something. I'm going to take you to Dr. Whale, so he can see what it is, okay?" Emma explained as she ran her fingers through Liam's dark locks.

"I don't like going to the doctor," Liam declared.

"I know you don't, but don't you want to get better?" Emma pointed out.

Liam only nodded in response.

Emma rose to her feet and was about to pick him up when he threw up all over the kitchen floor.

Liam looked ashamed as he looked down and said, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

Emma took his face in her hands as she reassured him, "It's not your fault, Liam. You can't help that you're sick."

She then glanced at the mess on the floor before back at her son and told him, "Why don't you go lay down on the couch for a few minutes while I clean this up, alright?"

Liam nodded once again and walked into the living room.

 

Emma was on her way to the doctor's office when her phone rang. She quickly picked it up and heard David's worried voice, "Is everything alright, Emma? You're never late for work."

"I'm on my way to the doctor with Liam. He's come down with something – I think he has a fever, and he's throwing up. Depending on what he has, I may have to miss work for a few days to stay home with him."

"Of course, Emma. I understand. I hope he feels better soon."

"Thanks, David. I'll let you know something soon. Talk to you later. Bye," Emma replied. David returned her sentiments before they hung up the phone.

Just then, she pulled into the parking lot of the doctor's office.

When she got out of her yellow bug, she walked around to the back and opened Liam's door. Emma scooped him up in her arms, and the little boy simply rested his head on his mother's chest.

As Emma walked through the door, she was greeted by the receptionist.

"Hello, Emma," she began. The dark-haired nurse then noticed the sick little boy in her arms and asked him, "Do you feel bad, Liam?"

He nodded in response, and Emma then asked, "Is there any way I can have an appointment for like, now?"

The nurse looked down at the appointment book in front of her before she said, "You're in luck. We just had a cancellation. I'll pencil you in, and you will called back in about 10 minutes."

As she looked back up, Emma sighed in relief, "Thank you so much."

The nurse nodded in response before Emma made her way over to one of the chairs. She gently kissed her son's forehead before she told him, "You'll feel better soon, Liam."

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"Mommy, what did Dr. Whale mean when he said I was conta-gi-us?" Liam asked as they were headed back home after a trip to the pharmacy.

"Well, kid, it means that other people can get strep throat from you," Emma explained.

"You, Daddy, and Anna Lizabeth are gonna be sick, too?" Liam asked worriedly.

"You heard what Dr. Whale said – as long as you cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands a lot, we'll all be okay," Emma explained.

Liam nodded just as Emma pulled in the garage.

As soon as Emma and Liam arrived inside, the blonde scooped up her son and placed him on the counter.

"Alright, kid, it's time for your medicine."

Liam crossed his arms as a way to indicate that he didn't like that idea.

Before he could voice his complaints, Emma told him, "Don't start. I know you don't like it, but the medicine will help you feel better."

"Yes, Mommy," Liam resigned.

Emma then grabbed a spoon before unscrewing the lid off the medicine bottle. She poured the clear liquid onto the silver spoon.

She could tell that her son really was feeling terrible when he simply allowed her to give him the medicine instead of trying to do it himself.

As soon as Liam swallowed, he pinched his face in disgust and exclaimed, "Yuck!"

Emma instantly grabbed the apple juice from the refrigerator, and a cup from the cabinet.

She was barely finished pouring when Liam grabbed the plastic cup and downed the contents. The blonde was trying hard not to laugh.

When Liam set the cup down, he asked, "Mommy, will you read Arthur and D.W. to me?"

Emma smiled as she answered, "Of course I will."

She then lifted him from the counter and set him down, and they both made their way to his room.

Liam wasted no time picking out a book and climbing onto his bed. Even when he was toddler, it was clear that he too would be an avid reader. So, Killian had built a bookshelf to place in their son's room as well. Killian liked to joke that it was Belle's sole influence, but both himself and Emma loved to read as well.

Emma sat down beside Liam, who immediately curled up against his mother's side. She took the book from her son's hands and opened it to the first page.

Liam listened attentively to Emma as she read. However, about halfway through the book, he dozed off. Emma didn't even notice until she had finished the book and glanced down at him.

Emma then placed the book on the nightstand before she gently began running her fingers through Liam's thick, black locks. She knew that if she moved, she would wake him, so she was content to stay right there.

As Emma continued to watch Liam sleep, she couldn't help but think about how much he looked like Killian. If his eyes were plain blue instead of blue with a noticeable tint of green, he would be his father's spitting image.

Emma smiled at the fact that Liam also acted like Killian. Her son's second home was on the water. Even at five years old, he had a defined sense of humor and was fiercely protective over his family.

Unfortunately, Emma and Killian could already tell that Liam would have his father's temper, as well as his mother's stubbornness. He already did in some ways.

Just then, Emma heard her phone ring. Liam woke up and grunted before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Emma left the room and leaned against a wall as she answered the call.

"Love, why didn't you call and tell me that Liam was sick?" Killian worriedly asked.

"I'm sorry, Killian. I've been running around all morning with him," Emma explained.

"It's alright, Swan. What does he have?"

"Strep throat. The meds that Whale gave him should help. Since it's Wednesday, he thinks it would be best to keep him out of school until Monday. He should be better by then," Emma explained.

"Sounds good, love. I'll take Friday off and stay with him, so you won't have to miss so much work," Killian told her.

"Thanks, Killian," Emma said.

"You don't have to thank me, love. He's my son as well," Killian said.

Though he couldn't see it, Emma smiled as she replied, "I know."

She then heard the sound of Liam running to the bathroom.

"I've got to go, Killian. I'll see you when you get home. Love you."

"Love you, too, Emma," Killian replied before hanging up.

Emma shoved the phone into her pocket and ran to her son's side. Thankfully, he made it to the toilet in time.

When he raised his head back up, he complained, "I hate being sick, Mommy."

Emma took a rag and wiped his face as she told him, "I know, kid. But I promise you'll feel better in a few days."

"Okay, Mommy," Liam sighed.

Emma ran her fingers through his hair and sighed as well. She felt so bad that her little boy was so sick.

She then said, "Hey, kid, how about you pick out a movie for us to watch?"

Liam nodded before getting off the floor and walking into the living room with Emma right behind him.

He went over to the movie cabinet and stared thoughtfully for a couple minutes before grabbing The Lion King.

Emma set up the movie before settling down on the couch beside her son, who settled into her lap.

 

As soon as the movie was over, Emma and Liam heard the front door open.

Seconds later, Killian appeared in the living room.

He sat down on the couch and ruffled Liam's hair.

"How are you, lad?"

"I'm sick, Daddy. I feel bad," Liam answered.

"I'm sorry about that. But your mommy and me are going to make sure you feel better," Killian reassured him.

"Which means that it's time to take your medicine, kid," Emma added.

"I already taked it, Mommy," Liam refuted.

"You have to take it two times a day," Emma told him.

"No, I'm not," Liam argued.

"Liam, don't talk back to your mother. You will take your medicine like she told you," Killian scolded.

Liam looked down as he said, "Yes, Daddy."

The dark-haired boy then looked up at Emma and apologized, "I'm sorry, Mommy," before wrapping her in a hug.

"It's alright, kid," Emma began before she pulled back to look into his blue-green eyes and continued, "It's like I told you earlier – I know you don't like your medicine, but it will make you feel better."

"Ok, Mommy," Liam responded.

"You know, Liam, some apple juice and a good cheeseburger from Granny's may help the medicine go down easier," Killian suggested.

Liam simply nodded in response before he climbed off Emma's lap and headed toward the kitchen.

"Isn't it a bit early for your lunch break?" Emma questioned when she stood up.

"Perhaps, love, but I'm in charge," Killian pointed out.

"Whatever you say, Captain," Emma teased with a grin.

Killian couldn't help but roll his eyes before he made his way into the kitchen with Emma behind him.

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"I'm full, Mommy and Daddy," Liam said as he pushed his plate away.

"You only ate half of your burger, Liam," Emma told him.

Liam only shrugged in response before he asked, "Can I go to my room?"

"Sure, lad," Killian answered as he ruffled his son's hair.

Liam then made his way to his room.

Killian then observed, "The lad really is sick – he normally has quite the appetite."

"I know. He's been lethargic all day," Emma began before she thought to add, "Except when it comes to taking his medicine."

"He gets it from you, Swan. When you were pregnant with him, myself – and David – had to beg you to take it easy," Killian pointed out.

"No. You two were just hovering," Emma stubbornly refuted with crossed arms.

Killian grinned as he told her, "I think you just proved my point, darling."

Emma narrowed her eyes at him before she smacked his arm.

Killian feigned being seriously hurt before he and Emma went back to eating.

 

Once the kitchen had been all cleaned, Killian looked at the clock on the stove and said, "Well, Swan, I must be getting back to work."

Emma nodded before she asked, "Hey, does parmesan chicken sound good for dinner tonight?"

Instead of replying, Killian pulled Emma in for a lingering kiss.

When they pulled away, Emma grinned, "I'll take that as a yes. That wasn't a short goodbye kiss, Killian."

Killian moved a strand of blonde hair behind her ear before he said, "That kiss was for you being you, love."

"What do you mean?" Emma questioned with furrowed brows.

"Emma, you still want to make dinner after spending all day tending our sick and stubborn little boy. You never cease to amaze me, love," Killian answered.

Emma smiled brightly at him as she told him, "It's just all part of one of the best jobs in the world – being a wife and a mother. Even on sick days."

Killian returned her smile before giving her one more quick kiss and heading out the door.

As Emma turned and headed to check on Liam, she thought about how she really wouldn't change her life for anything in this world.

Chapter Text

Killian had just thrown away the remnants of his to-go meal from Granny's. It had just been him today – Emma and Belle had taken their little ones to see the movie Trolls after Emma got home from work, while the cheerleading coach was taking the girls for pizza as a reward for all their hard work at camp this week.

Just then, Anna Elizabeth came through the door, and Killian asked, "Hello, love. How was practice today?"

"It was bloody fantastic, Dad," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Killian frowned at her answer and turned to face her. He became worried when he saw her tear-stained cheeks.

"Anna Elizabeth, what happened?"

"Nothing," Anna Elizabeth told him, as she began making her way to her room.

Killian followed her as he said, "I can see you've been crying, love. Just tell me what's wrong, so I can help."

As Anna Elizabeth reached her room, she turned to face him and yelled, "How? By feeding me milk and cookies? I'm not a little kid anymore – that's not going to solve anything."

And with that, she went into her room and slammed the door behind her.

Killian sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair. Anna Elizabeth was normally pretty open about what was bothering her and seldom lost her temper, but he supposed that everyone had those days.

He couldn't stand the thought of his daughter hurting. He just wanted to go in there and make it all okay. But he knew that the best thing for him to do was to let her be for now.

With that thought in mind, he made his way to the living room to watch some TV.

 

Two hours later, Killian heard footsteps coming into the garage from his place under the hood of his truck.

He joked, "I knew you couldn't stay cooped up in your room for too long – you'd have to eat eventually."

Though he couldn't see her, Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes at him.

When he raised his head back up, he saw the Chips-Ahoy package in her hands. He grinned as he told her, "I thought you said cookies couldn't fix anything."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile as she said, "You're a dork, Dad."

"Perhaps, but I made you smile, love," Killian told her.

Anna Elizabeth's smile grew as she asked, "Shall I make us some hot tea?" in a spot-on British accent.

Killian returned her smile as he answered her question, "That sounds wonderful, love." He then commented, "And your accent is quite convincing."

"Well, I am half English," Anna Elizabeth responded.

"Well, let's see if you can make tea worthy of your heritage," Killian told her.

He then reached to run his fingers through her hair, but Anna Elizabeth backed away and pointed out, "Dad, your hands are covered in grease."

"Quite right, love. Why don't we go inside, and I'll get cleaned up, and you can make the tea," Killian suggested.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she made her way inside with Killian right behind her.

 

When Anna Elizabeth and Killian sat down at the table, he took a sip of his tea and gave her a thumbs up.

He then carefully surmised, "You seem to be in better spirits, love. I would assume that means you're ready to talk about what happened."

Anna Elizabeth set her mug down before she sighed and said, "Maybe," with a downcast expression.

Killian then reached over and ran his fingers through her hair as he pointed out, "Despite what you think, Anna Elizabeth, I am capable of dealing with the problems of a teenage girl. Who do you think helped your Aunt Belle through her first break up?"

Anna Elizabeth looked up then as she replied, "You mean after her and my dad had to stop you from wanting to find the guy and give him a black eye? Or worse?"

Killian couldn't help but chuckle as he admitted, "You do have a point there, love." He then took a breath and continued, "But I was still there for her, and I have always been there for you, Anna Elizabeth. You do know that I'm a good listener."

Anna Elizabeth looked thoughtful for a moment before she apologized, "Well, first of all, I just want to apologize for yelling."

"It's quite alright, Anna Elizabeth. You want to tell me what that was all about, love?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she took a deep breath and stated, "It's the girls on the squad."

"They're still giving you a hard time," Killian observed.

"Yeah. But today they took it a step further," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"How do you mean?" Killian questioned.

"The last few days we've been working on the new routine for the first pep rally in a few weeks. I already have it down, but some of the other girls are having trouble. When they found out that Audrey had been helping me, they accused both of us of going to the coach ahead of time and learning it," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"I seriously doubt that your coach would show favoritism to the two of you," Killian surmised.

"She wouldn't. But everyone believes it because I picked up the routine easily, and Audrey is captain," Anna Elizabeth frustratedly told him.

She became emotional as she continued, "And now because of me, Audrey is going to have a hard time. It isn't fair."

At that point, Killian pulled her in a for a hug and began stroking her blonde curls.

When they pulled away, he said, "I'm so sorry, love. But this isn't your fault. Audrey is your friend, and she offered to help you. And as far as the routine goes, you've always been a quick learner – it's part of your nature. Those girls just took those things and twisted to suit their own purposes."

"Which is?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"It sounds like to me that they're jealous, love," Killian observed.

"Of Audrey? Sure – she's the captain. But me? Some freshman?" Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"Yes, love, of you. They see how good you are, and they want you to fail. They want to believe you're not good enough, so you'll stop believing it," Killian replied.

Anna Elizabeth took several minutes to consider his words before she surmised, "That actually makes sense."

Killian nodded before he perceived, "And I also know that it bothers you that they don't realize how hard you've been working."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she elaborated, "I'm trying so hard to show that I belong on the squad, but it's like it doesn't even matter. I'm still just the freshman kiss-up."

Killian then told her, "Well, love, the best revenge you can have is to prove them wrong."

"How do you know it'll work?" she asked.

"I've had to do it myself," Killian said.

"Like when?" Anna Elizabeth curiously asked.

"For starters, when I first moved here. As you've already experienced, not everyone wants to make you feel welcome. Some people thought your father was daft for hiring me. They accused him of nepotism," Killian started.

"Why?"

"Because of the lifestyle I had been living with Milah. We were traveling all over the country with no permanent address or career. We both did a string of odd jobs wherever we were staying to keep our heads above water. They deemed me irresponsible, among other things," Killian explained.

"But that's so stupid. My dad wouldn't have hired you if you couldn't do the work. And besides, you wanted to move and live here," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Killian nodded before he added, "Aye. They were wrong in a lot of ways, love. And that was only the beginning – they also didn't think I could take care of you after your parents died."

"Well, I bet they're eating their words now," Anna Elizabeth said satisfactorily.

Killian grinned at her before he continued, "You see, love, I knew what the truth was, and I continued to work hard because that's what I wanted to do. And in the process, I did prove them wrong.

And you, Anna Elizabeth, will do the same thing. It may take some time, but those other girls will see that you deserve your spot on the squad."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him before she pulled him in for a hug. She then said, "Thank you. I'm so glad that you're my dad."

Killian squeezed her harder as he kissed her forehead in response.

As they pulled away, he then told her, "And I'm so glad that you're my daughter."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response before she joked, "So, how mad would you be if I rode away on the back of a motorcycle after graduation?"

Killian shook his head at her before he told her, "Go read a book, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth giggled before going back to her room, taking her tea with her.

As Killian continued to drink his tea, he couldn't help but become reflective.

His brother had considered himself partly responsible for Milah's decision to leave Killian – Liam was the one who had asked his younger brother to stay. Just like how Anna Elizabeth was blaming herself for the other cheerleaders accusing Audrey – both of them were always incredibly hard on themselves. There were times when Killian wished that Anna Elizabeth hadn't inherited those traits from her father.

Killian smiled sadly at the fact that if Liam were still alive, he knew what would have happened if Anna Elizabeth would have stormed through the house like she had. Elsa would have had to play referee between her daughter and husband's stubbornness while reminding the latter that that their daughter was exactly like him.

Even after all the years that had passed, it was still hard on Killian to know that his brother and sister-in-law weren't there to watch their daughter grow up. But, he knew that they were looking down, and they were so proud of the person that Anna Elizabeth was becoming and how he and Emma were raising her.

He knew that all of problems that Anna Elizabeth faced wouldn't be solved with one conversation, and that breaking through her stubborn and independent nature wouldn't always be easy – especially as she got older. However, he did know that the strength and courage that Brennan and Elizabeth had passed down to Liam, Killian, and Belle resided in Anna Elizabeth as well. And that nothing would be able to stop her from always being her best.

Chapter Text

Killian was toting his three-year-old son to the park in Boston. He and Emma had taken the kids to the New England Aquarium.

Just then, Liam dropped his sippy cup over Killian's shoulder and said, "Uh oh."

Killian turned around to pick up when someone beat him to it.

"Here you go, love," a familiar voice said.

"Tank you," Liam told her.

"Hey, lad, why don't you leave your cup here and go play," Killian suggested as he put Liam down.

"Otay," Liam replied before running to the playground.

As Killian turned to face the brown, curly-haired woman, she observed, "I can tell he's yours. He looks just like you."

Killian smiled at her comment before he said, "Aye. He also acts like me, as my wife likes to remind me."

"Sounds like you have the life that you wanted," Milah surmised regretfully.

"Milah, I don't…" Killian began but she cut him off.

"It isn't what you think, Killian. Just hear me out," Milah pleaded.

Killian considered her words before he nodded. He then sat down on a bench and Milah followed.

She took a deep breath before she began, "You can't know how happy I am that you're happily married and have a little boy. Even before your brother asked you to move to Storybrooke, I always knew you would eventually."

"You did?"

Milah nodded before she elaborated, "I knew how much you loved traveling, but you were so close to your family, and your friends in Storybrooke."

"Why didn't you ever say anything?" Killian questioned.

"I knew I would never be able to live that kind of life. But I wanted to hold on to you. Looking back now, it was a bit selfish," Milah admitted.

Killian shook his head before he reassured her, "You weren't selfish. I loved you and our life together. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."

He then stated, "And you're right – I knew you have trouble settling down. I was hoping I could change your mind, but ultimately, I knew I wouldn't be able to. That's why I didn't come after you."

"You have to know how much I regretted leaving you. I know I broke your heart, and that's the last thing I wanted to do. I thought about coming back, but I knew we wouldn't have worked out. We wanted different things. It was hard to forgive myself," Milah honestly told him.

Killian took in her words before he spoke, "I'm not going to pretend that you didn't hurt me. I couldn't be angry with you, but I did spend a long time believing my heart wouldn't mend back together. I wasn't sure I'd be able to move on. But I did."

"Thanks to your wife," Milah surmised.

"It wasn't quite that simple, but she was part of it," Killian replied.

Milah nodded before she smiled and told him, "I know I've said this before, but I am so happy for you, Killian. Truly. It's all I wanted for you."

Killian returned her smile and said, "Thank you, Milah."

He then asked, "Do I have a reason to be happy for you?"

Milah's smile grew as she showed him her left hand, where a ring with a red ruby sat.

"The wedding is three months from now after his tour."

"Tour?" Killian questioned.

"Jefferson is the lead singer of the punk rock band Mad Hatters," Milah explained.

"Ah. Can't say I've heard of them," Killian said.

"Because you probably still only listen to classic rock," Milah said with a grin.

"You are right, love," Killian said as he returned her grin.

He then observed, "The ring isn't exactly traditional, but neither were you as I recall."

"Jefferson isn't traditional either. He's a bit eccentric, but he's a good man. I love him so much," Milah told him.

"I can see that. Congratulations – I'm happy for you, love," Killian told her.

"Thanks, Killian," Milah said.

Just then, her phone rang. As she answered it, she said, "Hey, babe."

After listening for a minute, she told him, "I'll be there shortly. See you soon, love."

When she hung up, she rose with Killian following her.

She then told him, "Jefferson wants me to meet him at rehearsal, so I'll have to be going. It was good seeing you though," with a smile.

"You as well, Milah," Killian told her as he returned her smile.

She turned to leave, but then she stopped and said, "Before I leave, I wanted to ask how your brother and sister-in-law are doing. They always made me feel so welcome."

"Well, actually, they were killed in a car crash seven years ago," Killian said.

"Oh, Killian. I'm so sorry," Milah replied.

"Thank you, Milah. I appreciate it. I'm alright though," Killian said. He then continued, "I'll always have a piece of them through the little girl that they left behind. I became her guardian upon their death – although, she isn't so little anymore."

Milah nodded just as Liam ran up to his father.

"Daddy, see Mommy and Anna Beth?"

"Of course, lad," Killian replied before scooping up the dark-haired boy.

He then looked back up at Milah and said, "Congratulations again, Milah. Goodbye, love."

"Goodbye, Killian," Milah said before turning and walking away.

Killian then began walking in the other direction. As he did, he couldn't help the memories of his life with Milah that begin to flow. Though they were young, they were so in love and so happy. However, he did know that them breaking up was for the best. Just as she had said, they wouldn't have worked out.

And now, Milah was marrying the love of her life, just like he had. And no doubt, they would all be immensely happy until death did them part.

Chapter Text

"Killian, she's in high school, now. We can't expect her to keep going to the daycare center after school," Emma pointed out.

"It's only for a couple hours, love," Killian argued.

"Come on, Killian. You of all people should understand why Anna Elizabeth doesn't want to go. And I agree with her," Emma defended.

Killian considered his wife's words for a few moments before he relented, "I see your point, love."

He then perceived, "And since I know you and our daughter, babysitting Liam is part of the deal."

Emma nodded before she elaborated, "Anna Elizabeth is very responsible, and she's almost fifteen years old, Killian. I know they'll be fine. It's like you said, it's only for a couple hours."

Killian ran his hand through his hair before he told her, "You're quite passionate, Swan." He then continued, "But I do agree with you, love. Anna Elizabeth and Liam can start riding the bus to the house, and she can watch him."

Emma smiled at him before she suggested, "Let's tell the kids."

Killian nodded before he called out, "Anna Elizabeth, Liam. Come here."

Both kids shortly appeared in the kitchen. Emma motioned for them to join her and Killian at the table.

"What's up?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"There's going to be some changes after school from now on. Instead of going to the daycare center after school, you two will ride the bus here," Emma began.

"Yes!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

"Not so fast, love. Your mother and I are trusting you to look after your little brother. You have to be responsible – he's only six and could easily get into anything. We wouldn't let you do this if we didn't believe you were capable," Killian explained.

Anna Elizabeth's expression sobered as she said, "Yes, dad."

He then turned his attention to Liam, "And you, lad. Anna Elizabeth is in charge until Mommy and I get home. You will listen to her and do as she says. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Daddy," Liam replied.

Emma then added, "When you get home, both of you will do your homework. No exceptions. And there will be no snacks, either. I won't have you two ruining your dinner."

Both of the kids nodded in response.

Liam then asked, "Can I go play now?"

"Yes, Liam, you can," Killian replied, and the six-year-old immediately bounded to his room.

Anna Elizabeth stood up and turned to go to hers, but she stopped to face her parents and said, "Thank you guys for not making me go to the daycare center and for letting me watch Liam. I promise I'll do a good job."

"We know you will, kid," Emma told her. She and Killian then watched the teenager retreat to her room as well.

Killian then turned to Emma and ran his fingers through her long blonde locks as he said, "I know we're doing the right thing, love, but it's difficult."

"I know it is. But I promise it'll be fine," Emma told him.

Killian nodded before planting a soft kiss to her lips.

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The first few days were without mishap. However, as life so often proves, it isn't always smooth sailing.

"I finished my homework, Anna Elizabeth," Liam proclaimed from the kitchen table.

"That's good, Liam. I still have a little bit to do, but you can go watch TV," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Liam nodded before making his way to the living room and found Disney Junior. Fifteen minutes later, Anna Elizabeth joined him on the couch.

He then asked, "Do you want to go play with Penny, Anna Elizabeth?"

She looked toward the door and saw the pouring rain. It wasn't thundering or lightening, but she still didn't think it was a good idea, so she replied, "I don't think so, Liam. It's raining outside – it's all slippery and wet."

Liam sighed before he said, "Okay."

Anna Elizabeth saw his downcast expression and suggested, "Hey, how about we read a book? I'll go pick out one of your favorites."

Liam nodded excitedly before Anna Elizabeth trekked to his room. When she returned, she found him gone.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened in panic as she shouted, "Liam!" An idea then hit her.

She made her way out of the back door and saw her dark-haired little brother making his way to the doghouse. He grabbed Penny's leash and attempted to pull her, but the Dalmatian was looking to stay dry.

He crossed his arms before turning around and heading toward the swing set. He didn't care that he was getting wet, he wanted to play. However, as soon as he caught sight of his older sister, he took off running around the yard.

Anna Elizabeth quickly took off after him, chasing Liam around the whole perimeter. It wouldn't have been that hard for her to catch up with him anyway, but he was slowed down when he tripped and fell. He quickly got up but was scooped up by his sister, who brought him inside.

"Liam, I told you not to go outside," Anna Elizabeth gently reminded him.

"I wanted to play," Liam pointed out.

"But it's all wet and slippery and nasty out there," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Liam simply shrugged his shoulders as he replied, "I think it's fun."

Anna Elizabeth shook her head at him before she repeated, "You can't go outside, Liam."

Instead of responding, he turned around and began heading back toward the door. Losing patience, Anna Elizabeth grabbed his arm and turned him around to face her.

"I said no, Liam. Now go into your room and change into dry clothes," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Liam stuck his tongue out at her before he finally listened to what she said.

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she ran her fingers through her blonde curls. She then made her way to her room.

She grabbed a t-shirt from her closet before going to her dresser and bending down to grab a pair of jeans from the bottom drawer. As she did, she heard Liam's voice at her door, "Anna Elizabeth?"

Still frustrated, she snapped, "What do you want, Liam?"

Liam furrowed his eyebrows and huffed before going over to his sister and pulling one of her curls.

"Ow!" Anna Elizabeth complained. In response, she turned to face him and pinched his arm. Perhaps it was a bit immature, but at that point, the responsible babysitter was out the window.

Liam grunted in response before he grabbed the clothes from her hand and ran out of the room. Anna Elizabeth once again took off after him. By the time they arrived in the living room, a tug of war was going on.

"Give them back, Liam!"

"No! You yelled at me!"

"You weren't listening to me!"

"You were mean!"

Just then, Emma came through the door and immediately heard the screaming.

She stalked into the living room and shouted above her kids, "What is going on?"

Both of them began yelling at the same time before Emma put a hand up to stop them.

"One at a time. And no more yelling," Emma started before she turned to her youngest child and asked, "Liam, why do have your sister's clothes?"

"She pinched me," Liam responded.

Emma titled her head toward her daughter and asked, "You pinched your brother?"

"He pulled my hair!" Anna Elizabeth defended.

"Liam, is this true?" Emma questioned.

"I hurted my leg…" Liam began, but Anna Elizabeth cut him off.

"You're hurt?" she asked with panic-stricken widened eyes.

Liam nodded, "I fell when you was running after me, Anna Elizabeth."

Before Emma could even address her son's statement, her daughter covered her mouth as she attempted to hold back the tears and ran off to her room.

"Why is she crying, Mommy?" Liam asked.

"I'm not sure," Emma began hesitantly. She then said, "Let me look at your leg and then I'll go check on your sister."

Emma then picked up her son and placed him on the counter before rolling up the leg of his pants.

He then asked, "Am I in trouble, Mommy?"

Emma sighed as she thought about his question for a moment, "It isn't all your fault, Liam, but yes, you are in trouble. But we'll deal with later, okay?"

Liam nodded sadly in response.

 

Twenty minutes later, Emma slowly opened the door to Anna Elizabeth's room as she said, "Hey, kid, we need to talk."

Anna Elizabeth sighed from her place on the bed as she asked, "Where's Liam?"

"Your father is talking to him," Emma answered.

"I guess this means I won't be babysitting anymore," Anna Elizabeth disappointedly surmised.

Emma responded, "We'll have to see. But first, you're going to tell me why you ran in here."

"He's hurt, Mom. I was supposed to take care of Liam, and he got hurt," Anna Elizabeth emotionally responded.

Emma then joined her daughter on the bed and placed her hands on Anna Elizabeth's as she told her, "Hey, it's okay. Accidents happen."

"But, Mom. He was my responsibility and look what happened," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Emma sighed before she said, "I think it's time you give me the whole story."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she began, "We had finished our homework and were watching TV. Liam wanted to go outside and play, but I said he couldn't. He wasn't happy about it, but he agreed. I then suggested reading a book. When I left to go get it and came back, he wasn't here. I called his name before I realized he must be outside. I went out there, and I saw him. When he saw me, he started running. I chased him, and that's when he fell…"

Emma squeezed her hand and observed, "Liam said when you brought him back inside, you were mean to him. Is that what really happened?"

"Not at first. But he wasn't listening, and I was getting frustrated. I told him to go to his room and change clothes. He stuck his tongue out at me, but he did go," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"And when he came into your room to tell you that he was hurt, you were still frustrated and snapped at him," Emma finished, everything making sense now.

"Yeah," Anna Elizabeth simply replied.

"Listen to me, Anna Elizabeth. Liam should have listened to you, and he shouldn't have reacted the way he did when he didn't get his way. But, you also should have been more patient with him. He's only six – he's still learning right from wrong. And it was wrong of you to snap at him like you did."

"I know. I'm sorry, Mom," Anna Elizabeth genuinely told her. She then stated, "Why was everything so crazy today?"

"Because that's how it is. No kid behaves perfectly all the time – I know you remember sitting in time out quite a few times," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded, knowing her mother was right. However, there was one thing that was still bothering her.

"Is his leg going to be okay?"

"Of course it is. It's nothing but a scrape," Emma tried to reassure her. A few moments later, Emma asked, "Do you remember the time I let you eat half a bowl of blueberries?"

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows as she pointed out, "I'm allergic to blueberries."

"Exactly. It was an accident, but I still blamed myself for it," Emma began before she continued, "Your dad and I had only been back from our honeymoon for a week when he was asked to do a special job. The mayor wanted his house to be recreated as an Italian villa. Killian didn't have all the supplies that he needed for that, so he had to travel out of town to do so. He would have to stay the night, and I was left to watch you. The timing was not so great because I was having insecurities about being a good mother, but everything had been pretty good so far, so I wasn't worried.

The next morning, we went to Granny's for breakfast. You know how much I like fruit, so I ordered a bowl of blueberries to go with my French toast. I knew you were allergic, but I didn't think you would try to eat any of them. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was telling Ruby about the sightseeing that Killian and I did on our honeymoon that I didn't realize you had eaten a blueberry. Or that you kept eating them. It wasn't until you got my attention that I saw that you were all swollen and red-faced. I saw a blueberry in your hand, and I panicked. I was trying my best not to freak out, but I wasn't doing a very good job. Ruby had to drive me to hospital. She wasn't able to sit with me in the waiting room, so there I was. All alone. I kept pacing the waiting room with my mind going through the worst case scenarios. It was all my fault. I wasn't cut out to be mother. You weren't going to be okay. Killian would hate me forever.

But then Dr. Whale came and assured me that everything was fine and told me he sees this happen a lot – even with long time mothers. I didn't want Killian distracted from working, so I didn't tell him until he got home. Though I realized how irrational my first thought was, I was worried how he would react to me letting you eat all those blueberries. But he told me just what I told you – it was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. Do you see my point, Anna Elizabeth?" Emma finished.

Anna Elizabeth took a moment to process before she answered, "I do, Mom. Thank you." She then pulled Emma in for a hug. Emma tightly hugged her back and stroked her blonde curls.

When they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth said, "I didn't realize how much work that kids are and how much constant supervision they need."

"It was good practice, huh?" Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded in response just as she and Emma looked toward the door to see Killian and Liam coming in.

Liam walked over to the bed and climbed up on his sister's lap and began, "Anna Elizabeth?"

"Yes, Liam?"

"I'm sorry that I didn't listen. And that I pulled your hair. And…" the little boy trailed off and looked back at Killian.

"And that I took your clothes," the dark-haired man supplied.

Liam looked back at Anna Elizabeth and continued, "What Daddy said. I promise I'll be good next time."

He then leaned forward and wrapped his sister in a hug, which she happily returned. When they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth apologized as well, "I forgive you, Liam. And I'm sorry that I was mean to you."

"It's okay, Anna Elizabeth," Liam replied.

Emma then said, "Alright, then. How about I go make dinner, now?"

"Please, do. I'm starving," Anna Elizabeth said.

Killian chuckled as he told her, "I don't think any of us find that surprising, love."

Emma, Liam, and even Anna Elizabeth chuckled at that before they all made their way into the kitchen.

The kids sat down at the table while Killian joined his wife. He leaned against the counter and Emma asked, "Do you think there should be a next time?"

"Well, love, I believe it was a good lesson for both of them," Killian answered.

Emma considered his words before she nodded in agreement. She then observed, "I know that she's responsible, and that they get along great – most of the time."

"Aye, love. It's just that Liam, like most kids at one point or another, didn't like being told no. Anna Elizabeth should have been more patient, but I think she realizes that, now," Killian replied.

Emma added, "And she also learned that he does need to be watched constantly." She then stated, "Well, hopefully, next time, I won't walk in on our kids screaming at each other."

Killian kissed her cheek before he told her, "As always, love, you handled it beautifully."

Emma smiled at him as she said, "I don't know about the beautifully part, but I think after nine years, I've figured it out."

"Well, I think you've had plenty of blueberry-like incidents to help you out," Killian pointed out with a grin.

The blonde narrowed her eyes as she questioned, "You were eavesdropping?"

"Maybe a little," Killian admitted. Emma shook her head at him before he continued, "But I think it was a good idea sharing that story, love."

Emma's smile returned as she said, "Just passing on a life lesson. One that took me a while to learn."

"That's mostly because you're so stubborn," Killian pointed out.

Emma narrowed her eyes at him before she said, "Go entertain our kids, Killian."

"And that, my darling, is how I've learned that I'm right," Killian teased. He then kissed her cheek once again before joining Anna Elizabeth and Liam at the table.

Emma shook her head at her husband even though she knew that he was right. And he would probably remind her of it later, much to her annoyance. However, if it meant that she could pass some wisdom onto her children, it was lesson she wouldn't mind learning over and over again.

Chapter Text

"Daddy's not going, Mommy?" Liam asked from the backseat of Emma's bug.

"No, kid. He's helping Uncle August with Matthew's nursery," Emma answered.

"Oh," Liam replied. He then questioned, "Why does Matthew have a room if he isn't born yet?"

"So that he'll have a place to sleep when Aunt Belle and Uncle August bring him home from the hospital," Emma explained.

The blonde then saw her son nod in the rearview mirror.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "Mom, can we listen to my One Direction CD?"

"Who is that?" Emma asked.

"Seriously, Mom? How could you not know them?" Anna Elizabeth offensively pointed out.

"Give me a break, kid. You know I don't know anything if it came out past the 80s or early 90s," Emma reminded her.

"Don't they sing the Story Life song?" Liam questioned.

"Even Liam knows who they are. And he's six," Anna Elizabeth teased.

Emma rolled her eyes in response as her teenager placed the CD in the player.

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"Alright, kid, you need one more shirt and then we'll go find your sister," Emma explained.

Liam nodded before turning his attention to the rack, where he grabbed the first one he saw.

"This one, Mommy."

Emma titled her head to the side as she pointed out, "Liam, I think that shirt may be too big for you, and you don't like Spiderman."

The dark-haired boy then took a good look at the shirt and said, "Oh."

"How about I help you find one?" Emma suggested.

"Okay," Liam told her. The blonde was a little surprised her stubborn son wasn't insisting on doing it by himself, but then again, he was a six-year-old boy. She knew he was getting bored.

Emma then got down on her knees and began perusing the rack. Within a couple minutes, the blonde had found one that she knew Liam would like.

She showed it to her son, who nodded enthusiastically.

Emma then smiled at him and ruffled his hair as she told him, "Let's go see what Anna Elizabeth found."

Liam nodded in response. Emma then rose to her feet, and the two of them took off for another section of the store.

When they arrived, they saw a guy walking away from Anna Elizabeth.

Emma asked her daughter, "Was that Nathan?"

Anna Elizabeth answered, "Yeah. He was school shopping, too. He was asking me about my schedule. Turns out we have an elective together," while rubbing her hands together.

Emma simply nodded, but Liam piped up, "Is he your boyfriend Anna Elizabeth?"

Anna Elizabeth's face turned bright red, and she looked off to the side as she answered, "He's just my friend, Liam."

"Oh," the dark-haired boy answered.

Emma quickly changed the subject as she asked, "Do you have all the clothes that you need, Anna Elizabeth?"

"Almost. There's a couple more things I want to look at," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"We're not leaving yet?" Liam asked.

Emma bent down on his level and told him, "Your sister isn't quite through shopping yet." She then took out her phone, typed in her code, and opened a game.

"Anna Elizabeth will probably have to try some stuff on, so you and me will go sit in the chairs, and you can play this game, okay, kid?" she continued as she handed him her phone.

"Okay, Mommy," Liam replied. He then turned his attention to the game in his hand.

 

About ten minutes later, Anna Elizabeth walked out of one of the fitting rooms.

"What do you think, Mom?"

Emma titled her head to the side as she took in her daughter's flower print skirt with a bright pink top to match. Her blonde curls were pushed back with a headband.

The blonde was trying to come up with a way to word things, and she eventually settled with, "You look beautiful, Anna Elizabeth. The top is really cute, but you have to admit the skirt is a bit different."

"I just thought that since I'll be in high school, I'd change things up a bit," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"So, this was all your decision. There was nothing influencing your decision?" Emma questioned.

"Who would influence me?" Anna Elizabeth questioned back.

Instead of replying, Emma got up and brought her daughter to sit down. She stroked her blonde curls as she began, "You know, your mom wanted to change her look at one time too."

"She did?" Anna Elizabeth curiously questioned.

"Yeah. It was just after Christmas. I had come home from Boston for the holidays, and your mom was on break from NYU. We had decided to come up here to just catch up and hang out. We grabbed lunch, caught a movie, and decided to do a little shopping.

Elsa immediately gravitated toward the brightly colored dresses. She picked out all of this jewelry to match, as well as some more noticeable make-up. None of which was her usual style. When I asked her about it, she told me that she just wanted to try something different," Emma explained.

"See, Mom? That's all I want to do," Anna Elizabeth defended.

Emma couldn't help grin as she continued, "Well, actually, that was only her cover. She had actually met this guy that she really liked. Let me think, he was British with brown, curly hair and blue eyes. Now what was he studying?"

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes as she said, "I know you're talking about my dad."

"Then you know where I'm going with this. I'm going to tell you the same thing I told her – you shouldn't change yourself in any way to impress a guy. You, Anna Elizabeth, are so beautiful. You don't need skirts and dresses to see that. You are also so smart, caring, and funny. You don't have to be anything other than yourself to get Nathan to like you," Emma told her as she ran her fingers through her blonde curls.

"You really think he'll like me back the way that I am? In plain jeans, natural make-up, and unruly curls?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"If he doesn't, it's his loss," Emma began. She then took a deep breath and continued, "Just look at your parents. Elsa got Liam's attention, and she didn't have to change herself to do that. And if you need further proof, consider this. I'm pretty positive that Killian didn't see me in a dress until our first date – which was after he told me that he loved me. And the first time he wanted to kiss me, it was after we had been working on Regina's house all day. Do you get what I'm saying, Anna Elizabeth?"

The teenager let out a breath before she replied, "Yeah, Mom, I do. Thank you." Just as she pulled Emma in for a hug, Liam sprinted over and asked, "Are you done shopping, Anna Elizabeth? I'm hungry."

Both Emma and Anna Elizabeth held in a giggle as the latter ruffled her brother's hair and answered, "Yes, Liam, I'm through. Let me just go change really quick."

A few minutes later, Anna Elizabeth came out of the fitting room, and the trio made their way to the register. Once Emma had paid, both of her children practically dragged her out of the store and to the food court.

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That evening, just as Killian and Emma had settled on the couch after dinner, he asked, "I forgot to ask you earlier, love – how was school shopping?"

Emma pondered her answer before she replied, "It was a bit interesting this year – in a good way."

"What do you mean, love?"

Before Emma could answer, Anna Elizabeth bounded into the living room and asked, "Is it okay if Evie comes over? I want to show her my new clothes."

"Sure, but only for a couple hours – it's getting late. And make sure that Uncle David or Aunt Mary Margaret know what time to come pick her up," Emma told her.

"Mom, she has her license now," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"Oh, that's right," Emma said. She then continued, "Both of you need to still make sure that it's okay with them."

"Of course, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Just before she turned to go back into her room, Emma said, "This time, please make sure that you two keep the giggling and squealing to a minimum."

"We couldn't help it – Evie was excited that Jason asked her out," Anna Elizabeth defended.

"I know, and I understand, but you two were kind of loud," Emma told her.

"Okay. We will, Mom," Anna Elizabeth said before heading back to her room.

"Since when does Anna Elizabeth care so much about showing off her clothes?" Killian asked.

"Since Nathan," Emma responded.

"Ah – the lad that she likes," Killian observed.

Emma narrowed her eyes at him as she surmised, "You're surprisingly calm about this."

"Love, she told me months ago that she likes him. I'm okay with it," Killian explained.

Emma then began feeling his forehead, making him chuckle as he asked, "Swan, what in the world are you doing?"

"Seeing if you're sick. You just said you're okay with our daughter liking a boy," Emma told him.

"As much as it pains me, she is growing up, and I have to accept that," Killian admitted.

Emma smiled at him before she asked, "So, you'd also be okay if a 16-year-old boy starts to like her back?"

"Don't push it, love," Killian told her.

Emma couldn't help giggle as she ran her fingers through his dark locks and said, "Ah – there's the overprotective Killian I know and love."

Killian rolled his eyes in response just as Liam came bounding in the living room.

"Mommy, Daddy, can we watch a movie?"

"Sure, kid, why don't you…" Emma was cut off by Anna Elizabeth coming into the living room and sighing dramatically as she sat down on the couch.

"Everything alright, love?" Killian asked.

"Yeah. It's just that Uncle David and Aunt Mary Margaret don't want Evie driving this late," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"You can always see her tomorrow," Killian pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response before she observed, "So, we're watching a movie?"

"Yup. Liam was about to pick one out," Emma told her.

"Can it, like, not be a cartoon?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

"I like cartoons," Liam defended.

"Ok, um, what about… The Game Plan? I think that's one we can all agree on," Emma added.

"Yes!" Anna Elizabeth and Liam excitedly exclaimed at the same time.

Emma and Killian couldn't help but chuckle before Emma went to go set up the movie.

 

By the time the credits were rolling, both of the kids were fast asleep. Anna Elizabeth was curled against Killian's side while Liam was sprawled out on both of his parents' laps.

Emma scooped Liam and began walking to his room while Killian was trying to move Anna Elizabeth, receiving a grunt in response.

"Come on, love. Let me carry you to your room," Killian whispered.

She sleepily nodded, so Killian picked her up and carried her bridal style to her room.

He laid her down before planting a gentle kiss on the side of her head.

"Good night, love."

He then left her room and closed the door quietly behind him before making his way across the hall to his son's room. He said goodnight to him as well before retreating to he and Emma's bedroom.

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The next morning, Anna Elizabeth stumbled in the kitchen and was greeted by Killian.

"You're up early, Anna Elizabeth."

She simply shrugged in response as she replied, "I went to bed early."

She then went to the cabinet and grabbed a mug before pouring herself a cup of coffee.

"You drink coffee now?" Killian asked.

"I have for a month, Dad," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Killian shook his head as he told her, "Can you maybe stop growing up so fast? You and your brother. It seems like just yesterday you were asking if you could hold him when he was born."

"I remember being so excited that I got to be a big sister," Anna Elizabeth said with a smile.

"Well, love, to be fair, you got excited about everything. And you still do," Killian pointed out.

"I guess that's why I'm a good cheerleader," Anna Elizabeth observed.

"And this year, you have someone to cheer for," Killian replied with a teasing smile.

Just like the day before, her face turned bright red. She then complained, "Daaad."

"Sorry, love, I couldn't resist," Killian began. He then took a breath and continued, "Your mother told me what happened while you all were shopping."

"She did?"

"Aye, love. And as usual, your mother was right – I'm sure that Nathan will like you for you, love," Killian genuinely told her.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she told him, "I see that now – thanks, Dad."

Killian returned her smile as he nodded. He then turned serious as he told you, "But he better not ask you out until you're 16."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes as she said, "You're such a dork, Dad."

Killian's smile returned as he replied, "So, you've said, love."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but giggle just as the other members of the family began to wake up for the start of a new day.

Chapter Text

Killian came home from work to find Emma on her laptop.

He walked up to her and planted a kiss on her forehead.

"Hello, Swan. How was your day?"

"It was fine," Emma replied distractedly.

Killian furrowed his brows in response before he walked up behind her.

"Love, why are you looking at flights to Wisconsin?"

"How else am I supposed to see Sharon?" Emma responded.

"You are not flying out there, Emma," Killian told her.

Emma frowned at his tone and turned to face him. She then said, "You are not serious."

"Bloody hell, Emma. You're almost eight months pregnant. You don't need to be so far away from home - you are not going."

"Since when do you think you get to tell me what I can and can't do?" Emma snapped, raising from her chair.

"I am your husband, Emma," Killian pointed out.

"So you think that gives you the right to dictate my life?"

"When you make decisions without thinking it through, then yes."

"That's a bit ironic coming from you, don't you think?"

Killian sighed before he told her, "You are the level-headed one in this relationship, love."

He then continued, "Which is why I don't understand why you're flying halfway across the bloody country. What about the health of you and the lad?"

"How dare you accuse me of not looking out for our child!"

"You need to think this through, Emma," Killian pointed out.

"There's nothing to think about, Killian. I will see my mother and talk to her. What if you could do the same?" Emma replied.

"I would consider it a bloody miracle because my mother has been dead for 15 years," Killian told her.

Emma's eyes widened as the weight of her words sank in.

Before she could say anything, both her and Killian saw Anna Elizabeth run back into her room with tears streaming down her face.

Killian ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. He then told Emma, "I'll go talk to her."

Emma nodded before she sat back down.

She sighed as she watched her husband's retreating form. This wasn't their first fight - Emma knew she was stubborn, and there were times when Killian refused to back down.

However, they always made sure that it was behind closed doors where Anna Elizabeth couldn't hear.

When Killian opened her door, his heart broke at the sight.

Anna Elizabeth had her face buried in her pillow, and he could hear how hard she was crying.

He immediately walked over to her bed and sat down.

"Shh, love. It's going to be alright," Killian told her as he ran his hand over her back soothingly.

"No, it's not. You and Aunt Emma are not gonna be married anymore," Anna Elizabeth told him between sobs.

Killian then pulled her into his arms as he told her, "That isn't true, Anna Elizabeth."

"You and Aunt Emma were yelling at each other," she pointed out.

"That doesn't mean we're not going to be married anymore. We still love each other very much," Killian reassured her.

"Then why were you fighting?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

Killian took a long breath as he thought about what to say. He then told her, "Even though Aunt Emma and I love each other, we don't always agree on everything. We do fight at times, love. But that doesn't mean we're breaking up. Do you understand, Anna Elizabeth?"

She nodded in response before she asked, "So, you and Aunt Emma are gonna forgive each other, Uncle Killian?"

Before Killian could answer, he heard his wife's voice, "Yeah, kid, we are."

As Killian turned to face her, they flashed each other a knowing look. He then stood up and went to wrap Emma in a hug.

A moment later, they both felt small arms wrapping around both of their legs.

As they all pulled away, Anna Elizabeth exclaimed, "Let's play Candy Land!"

"Sure thing, love," Killian told her as he ruffled her hair.

She then ran off to go get the game with a bright smile gracing her features.

 

That night, as Killian crawled into bed after a shower, both he and Emma said, "I'm sorry."

"Let me go first," Emma began.

At Killian's nod, she continued, "I know I should have talked to you about going to Wisconsin first. But I knew how you would react. When Sharon contacted me, I knew I couldn't waste any time. But this is still something we should have dealt with together. And what I said about your mom - that was completely out of line. I'm so sorry, Killian."

"It's alright, love - you're forgiven," Killian began. He then took a deep breath and said, "And I'm sorry, love. I would never try to dictate over you, and I shouldn't have accused you of not doing what's best for our son. I know how important finding your parents is to you, Emma."

"I forgive you, Killian. I know you were only trying to protect me," Emma told him as she caressed his cheek.

"Aye, love," Killian told her. He then continued, "I know I can be overprotective, but it's only because I love you. And with you being pregnant, I just don't want anything to happen to you or the baby."

"I know, Killian. I do understand," Emma began. She then took a deep breath and continued, "And you're right - it isn't a good idea for me to fly. I was just so caught up in getting to meet Sharon that I wasn't thinking everything through."

Killian then pulled her in for a hug and buried his face in her hair as Emma wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.

As they pulled away, he stroked her blonde locks and told her, "We'll find a way to work it out, Swan. We always do"

Emma smiled brightly at him as she said, "I love you, Killian."

Killian returned her smile and said, "I love you too, Emma," before he pulled her in for a long and lingering kiss.

'As they pulled away, they rested their foreheads against each other's for a moment before Emma laid down, followed by Killian.

She curled up against his side as Killian wrapped his arms around her.

"Good night, Killian."

"Good night, my love."

Killian then kissed her cheek before they both settled in for a good night's sleep, ready to face what the coming months would bring.

Chapter Text

Don't worry guys, I'm not finished just yet :). I still have a couple ideas, and it may just turn into a couple more. I'll just have to see.

I just wanted to tell you that school is starting back tomorrow, and I'll be super busy. So, I won't be able to update until this weekend.

But thank y'all so much for reading these one-shots. The response has been amazing, and it makes me so happy! I appreciate each of you! Thanks again! Until the next one-shot ;)

Chapter Text

"Liam, wake up!"

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she watched her little brother continue to sleep.

This time, she gently shook him as she repeated, "Come on, Liam, wake up!"

The dark-haired boy finally rolled over onto his back as he asked, "Isn't it Saturday?"

"Yes, it is. But I want to make Mom and Dad breakfast," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"Why?"

"Because it's their anniversary."

"What's that?" Liam asked, now wide awake with a curious look on his face.

"I'll explain in a minute. Come on," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Liam then got out of bed and followed his sister to the kitchen.

When they arrived, she bent down and explained, "Ok, Liam, listen. When people love each other, they celebrate the day that they became a couple. It's called an anniversary. 10 years ago today, Mom and Dad got married."

"Oh, okay," Liam responded.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "You ready to make some breakfast?"

Liam nodded excitedly.

He then asked, "Do we get to eat the breakfast, too?"

Anna Elizabeth tried not to laugh as she answered, "I'm sure they'll share," as she ruffled his hair.

She then went to the refrigerator and grabbed the eggs before going to the cabinet to grab the ingredients to make pancakes.

As soon as she grabbed a bowl, she told him, "I need you to crack four eggs in a bowl and stir them up really good, okay?"

"Okay, Anna Elizabeth," Liam responded before doing as asked.

The blonde then began mixing the pancake batter. As soon as she began pouring them on the hot griddle, she heard, "Can I make a pancake?"

Anna Elizabeth thought about for a minute before she answered, "Tell you what, why don't you pour the orange juice?"

"But I want to make a pancake," Liam protested.

"How about I let you put them on the plate?" Anna Elizabeth suggested.

Liam thought for a moment before he agreed. Anna Elizabeth then gently reminded him, "The orange juice?"

"Oh," he responded before going over to the refrigerator.

He placed it on the counter before looking up at the cabinet containing the glasses. He then proceeded to go and drag a chair over to the counter while Anna Elizabeth started on the eggs.

When Liam got down, he noticed the golden brown pancakes sitting in the griddle, which had been turned off.

"Now can I help with the pancakes?"

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile as she answered, "I'm almost finished with the eggs. I still need you to pour the juice, Liam."

Liam nodded before he finally poured the juice, somehow managing not to spill it.

When he looked up, he and Anna Elizabeth then began plating the food.

She handed one of the two plates, as well as a glass of orange juice, to Liam before saying, "You ready to surprise Mom and Dad?"

The dark-haired boy nodded excitedly before leading the way to Killian and Emma's room.

As soon as they walked in, Liam exclaimed, "Mommy, Daddy! Me and Anna Elizabeth made you breakfast because you got married today."

Emma and Killian sleepily sat up and yawned before Emma asked, "What, kid?"

"Liam and I made you breakfast because it's you and Dad's 10th anniversary," Anna Elizabeth answered with a bright smile, as she and Liam handed them their plates and glasses.

Both Emma and Killian smiled brightly at their children. They set the plates on their nightstands before pulling Anna Elizabeth and Liam in for a hug.

"This was a lovely idea. Thank you both," Killian said.

"You're welcome," Anna Elizabeth and Liam simultaneously said.

"And the food is great," Emma added after swallowing a mouthful of eggs.

As Killian took a bite of his breakfasts, he agreed with a nod.

He then said, "It is quite good."

"I guess it's a good thing that they didn't inherit your cooking skills. Or more accurately, your lack thereof," Emma joked, making Anna Elizabeth and Liam laugh.

Killian rolled his eyes before they all resumed eating.

 

When the food was gone, Anna Elizabeth suggested, "We should look at you guys' wedding album. I love looking at it as much as my parents'."

Killian and Emma smiled at her words before Liam curiously questioned, "Wedding album?"

"It's pictures from when me and Daddy got married. You haven't seen them?" Emma responded.

Liam furrowed his eyebrows for a moment before he answered, "No, Mommy."

Emma ruffled his hair before getting up and going over to the closet.

She returned with the white book in hand and settled on the bed, pulling Liam into her lap.

Anna Elizabeth then moved from her place on the foot of the bed to squeeze in between Emma and Killian.

The first pictures were engagement photos.

"Ruby took these, right?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Yeah. We were on a tight schedule, so Ruby took the photos as a favor to me and Killian. She has always loved photography, and she's amazing at it. I kept telling her she should have done it professionally, but she loves working at the diner," Emma explained.

Anna Elizabeth nodded while Liam looked up from intently staring at the pictures to ask, "Daddy, why does this picture have words under it?"

"Well, lad, we used it as wedding invitations. We sent them to our friends and family to let them know when the wedding was so they could come," Killian told him.

"Oh," Liam replied in understanding.

Emma smiled as she looked at the invitation. She then added, "That picture was always my favorite."

The photo was taken from the waist up, and Killian and Emma were both standing sideways. He had his arms wrapped around her waist and had his lips pressed against Emma's temple. She was wearing a blinding smile as she faced the camera. Her right hand was placed on Killian's waist while her left hand was resting on his bicep with the sunlight making the engagement ring sparkle.

Killian smiled at the picture as well before he placed a sweet kiss on her cheek before they continued looking through the album.

"Did Ruby take these pictures, too?" Liam asked.

"We were actually able to find a photographer," Emma replied.

He nodded in response before he told her, "You were pretty, Mommy."

Emma smiled at him as she told him, "Thanks, kid."

Liam returned her smile before he turned his attention back to the book, scrunching his face up in disgust at a picture of his parents kissing, making them and his sister giggle.

When they turned the page, there were pictures of Killian and Emma with Anna Elizabeth, as well as bridesmaid and groomsmen photos.

"You were little, Anna Elizabeth," Liam pointed out.

"Liam, you've seen pictures of me when I was a little kid," Anna Elizabeth told him.

The dark-haired boy simply shrugged in response.

"Yeah, and in all of them, your parents or us had to do a great deal of convincing to let us hold you," Killian reminded her.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she said, "Dad, I wasn't a baby - I didn't want to be held."

"Oh, believe me, love, you never failed to remind us," Killian told her with a grin before he ran her fingers through her curls.

Liam then asked him, "Daddy, where is Uncle August?"

"Well, lad, he and Aunt Belle didn't know each other then," Killian explained.

"Why not?"

"You see, kid, New York is a very big place, and it took a while for Aunt Belle to meet Uncle August. Then, they fell in love," Emma answered.

Liam furrowed his brows in thought before he said, "Okay."

He then turned his attention back to the book as Emma continued to flip through it. He then observed, "That's a lot of pictures."

"Well, it was a very special day for your Mommy and I, and we wanted to have as many pictures as we could to remember it," Killian told him.

Liam nodded before turning to his sister and asking, "Was it fun, Anna Elizabeth?"

"It really was. I was so excited that I would be related to Mom," she answered with a smile.

"I know. I remember your squeals when Emma and I told you we were getting married," Killian added.

Anna Elizabeth simply smiled in response.

"Yeah, kid, I think you were as excited as I was," Emma told her.

Liam then asked, "Anna Elizabeth, will you come play outside with me?"

"Sure, Liam. But let's wash the dishes first," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"Nonsense – you two woke up early to make breakfast. Your mother and I will take care of the plates," Killian told them.

Liam's only response was climbing out of Emma's lap and off the bed.

Anna Elizabeth moved to follow him but not before she hugged both Emma and Killian and saying, "Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad."

She then crawled out of the bed and left the room.

Emma then said, "We have amazing kids," with a bright smile.

"They take after their mother," Killian replied, as he took her hand in his own and kissed her knuckles.

She then turned to face him and told him, "Not entirely," with a bright smile, which Killian returned.

She then suggested, "Let's go wash these dishes."

Killian nodded, and they both got out of bed and made their way into the kitchen.

 

When the dishes were done (and the kitchen was clean), Killian noticed Emma's smile and observed, "Thinking about our wedding, love?"

"Actually, your proposal. I'm still amazed that you came up with most of that in the moment," Emma told him.

"Really, love? You still doubt me after all this time?" Killian questioned with a grin. He then continued, "I was simply speaking from the heart as a man who wanted to spend the rest of his life with the woman he loved."

Emma's smile grew as she told him, "I wrote it down, you know. And I have it memorized."

"Really, Swan?"

Emma nodded before she began, "Emma Swan, you are the last person I ever expected to fall in love with. But, somehow, my kind-hearted, funny, brilliant, and beautiful best friend has captured my heart. The truth is that you captured it a long time ago, and it will always belong to you.

I know what life looks like without you in it, and it is a miserable existence. I want us to spend the rest of our lives beside each other, facing whatever life brings together.

So, Emma, my love, will you do me the honor of marrying me?"

As she finished, Killian smiled at her and wiped the tears that had begun to well up in her green eyes.

He then told her, "I knew you would say yes, but hearing you say the words made that moment one of the happiest of my life.

A year ago, you told me that I have always been part of your happiness, and love, it is the same for me. Waking up next to you every day for the last ten years has never failed to put a smile on my face. I'm so glad that my heart had overridden my head, and that I admitted I was in love with you, Emma. Because it led to this amazing life that we have together – a life I get to have with my best friend. And I wouldn't have it any other way."

Emma smiled at him as she moved her hand to caress his cheek and told him, "I love you so much, Killian. Happy Anniversary."

"Happy Anniversary, Emma. And I love you, darling," Killian told her.

Emma then closed the distance between them for a sweet and tender kiss. The kiss quickly turned passionate as Killian moved his hands to wrap around her waist, and he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. Though Emma moved her arms to wrap around his neck, she soon pulled away.

"Easy there, tiger. Our kids could bust through the door at any minute," she told him with a giggle.

Killian planted a quick kiss on her forehead and simply responded with a knowing smile. He then retreated to their bedroom to get dressed.

Emma grinned as she shook her head. She then moved to the screen door to watch Anna Elizabeth and Liam. They were currently playing fetch with Penny.

She started thinking about how close she had come to never accepting her feelings for Killian. How she had run away to Boston with the intent of never looking back. She was so glad that she decided to listen to her heart and come home to the people she loved.

She and Killian had faced quite a lot in the last ten years, and all of it wasn't pleasant. However, there isn't anyone else she would have wanted to face it with. As she felt his strong arms wrap around her from behind, she couldn't help but smile. She knew that their journey was only just beginning. It was all part of a love story between two people who never planned on falling in love, but who couldn't imagine their lives without each other.

Chapter Text

"Emma! Look out!"

Her brother's warning was the last thing Emma remembered hearing before rushing to the hospital.

 

She and David had been called to one of the convenient stores on account of a robbery. When they arrived, the robber pulled out a pistol.

David was attempting to get the man to drop his weapon while Emma was ushering the frightened customers to safety.

Everything went downhill when the robber pointed his gun at Emma. David shouted at her, but she didn't have time to grab the gun at her waist before a bullet was headed toward her. David fired his own gun at the robber while moving to protect Emma, earning him a bullet lodged in his shoulder.

 

Emma was now pacing around the waiting room, trying with everything she had in her to remain strong and professional. They were cops - even in a town like Storybrooke, things were bound to get dangerous at times.

She sighed before she saw her sister-in-law, niece, and husband all rush into the waiting room.

Evie immediately ran over to Emma as she asked, "Is Dad going to be alright?"

"Of course, kid. He's in surgery now - you know that Dr. Whale is amazing at what he does. Your dad will be fine," Emma replied as she pulled Evie in for a hug and stroked her brown locks.

When they pulled away, Mary Margaret and Killian asked simultaneously, "What happened?"

"We went to go check out a convenience store robbery, and when we got there, the guy pulled a gun. While David was trying to get him to put it down, I was getting the customers out of there. The next thing I knew, David jumped in front of the bullet so it wouldn't hit me," Emma explained.

"Where's the bastard that did this?" Killian asked, his anger evident.

Emma placed a calming hand on his arm as she told all of them, "Being checked out by one of the other doctors as we speak. I think that David's bullet grazed him. As soon as he's in the clear, I'm hauling him to jail."

Emma was trying desperately to keep the emotion from her voice, but it still came through.

Mary Margaret then suggested, "How about we all sit down while we wait for news?"

Emma, Killian, and Evie nodded before sitting down.

 

An hour later, Evie groaned and buried her face in her hands.

"What is it, sweetheart?"

"I have a biology test tomorrow that I have to study for."

"It is getting late. Perhaps you should go home," Mary Margaret told her as she ran her fingers through her daughter's hair.

"But I want to be here when Dad is out of surgery," Evie protested.

"I promise I will keep you updated, honey. You can see him tomorrow after school. Go study and then get some sleep," Mary Margaret told Evie.

Evie sighed before she reluctantly agreed.

"Come on, love, I'll take you home," Killian suggested.

Evie nodded before she hugged her mother and aunt. She and Killian then made their way out of the hospital.

Mary Margaret then turned to Emma and asked, "So, you want to tell me how you're really doing?"

Emma simply answered, "I'm fine. What's important here is David."

"Emma, I know you still often feel the need to be strong for everyone else's sake, but you don't have to be," Mary Margaret told her.

The blonde then turned to face her sister-in-law and said, "Shouldn't I be the one reassuring you? Your husband was shot."

Mary Margaret took a deep breath before she began, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried sick about him. But he's been a cop for a long time - I know things like this happen. That knowledge doesn't always make things easier, but I know that David will get through this. He's too stubborn to let a bullet to the shoulder bring him down. I have hope - and you should too, Emma."

"I know, and I'm trying. But I can't shake the feeling that this is my fault," Emma admitted.

"Emma, you know that isn't true."

"The bullet was meant for me, Mary Margaret. I should be the one having surgery," Emma pointed out, her voice cracking.

Mary Margaret then pulled her in for a hug. As they pulled away, she said, "Emma, you've been a cop almost as long as David has. You know that they look out for each other and protect their own. This is even more true because you are David's sister - he wanted to protect you. And don't tell me that you wouldn't have done the exact thing for him."

Emma sighed before she said, "Of course I would have. I wouldn't have thought twice about it."

"Then stop blaming yourself."

Emma nodded just before Dr. Whale came into the waiting room.

Both women stood as he approached. He then told them, "David made it through the surgery fine. The bullet was removed cleanly, and he'll be good as new after a few days of rest."

"Thank you, Dr. Whale. Can we see him now?" Mary Margaret spoke.

"Of course," he answered before saying, "If you'll excuse me, I have more patients."

As Dr. Whale left, Emma made a move to sit down but was stopped by Mary Margaret.

"Emma, I'll wait here while you go see David."

"Don't be ridiculous, Mary Margaret. You should go first. I'll be fine," Emma told her.

The petite brunette placed her hands on her hips as she said, "I won't take no for an answer. I know how worried you were about him. And before you can protest, I have a long history of beating David's stubbornness. I can beat yours, too."

Emma thought a moment before she nodded in agreement. She then got up and made her way to her brother's room.

As soon as she walked in, his mind was on the case as if he wasn't shot only hours ago.

"Where's the thief?"

"Sitting in a jail cell. While you were in surgery, he was given a clean bill of health. So, I cuffed him, read him his rights, and took him down to the station," Emma answered.

"Well, he can expect to have a charge of assault to an officer added to robbery," David retorted.

"Easy there, Sheriff. Whale said you need to rest, which means leaving everything to me and not worrying about it," Emma told him.

"I'm fine. I don't need to take time off," David protested.

Emma sighed before she said, "Look, David, you know that I'm every bit as stubborn as you are. And we both know that you'll eventually give into your little sister, so you might as well just surrender now," with a grin on the last part.

David grinned back as he told her, "Now I know why Killian says that he can't win an argument with you."

Emma's grin grew into a smile in response.

She then became serious as she said, "Thank you, David."

"For what?"

Emma narrowed her eyes at him before she elaborated, "Come on, David, you know that the bullet was meant for me. And I'm not sure I would have gotten away with just a shoulder wound. So, thank you for protecting me."

David offered a humble smile as he told her, "You're welcome, Emma. Although your thanks isn't necessary. I was just doing my duty as your partner - and your brother. You know I'd do anything for you."

Emma smiled back at him before she hugged him tightly on his good side.

As they pulled away, she said, "You know, most people don't choose their siblings, but in a way I kind of did. I let you and Mom in - I wanted you guys to be my family."

"We both wanted you to be in ours, and we couldn't be happier that you did choose us," David replied.

Emma then reminisced, "I remember that day like it was yesterday. I came home from studying with Elsa and recognized my social worker's car. My first thought was to run because I just knew that Mom had decided she didn't want me. But something told me to stay.

I trudged inside, still expecting the worst. But then I saw you guys' smiling faces and became confused. Even more so when my social worker left saying you two would give me the good news. When Mom said that she wanted to adopt me and showed me the papers, I almost convinced myself that was dreaming. That day is still one of the happiest of my life."

David smiled genuinely at her before he told her, "Mine too. I expected my life to change during my senior year of high school - becoming an older brother was not part of those plans. But I lucked out because I got a pretty amazing sister - even I had met my match when it came to stubbornness," his smile turning teasing.

Emma rolled her eyes at him before she pointed out, "And now we both have kids who are exactly like us in that aspect."

David couldn't help but chuckle at that.

He then added, "And Jamie and Evie are exactly how we were at their age."

"Oh, you mean he is annoyingly overprotective, as well as annoying in general?"

"You missed out on the annoying big brother as a kid, so I thought I'd give you that experience," David defended, trying (and failing) to sound serious.

Emma couldn't help but laugh in response just as Mary Margaret came in.

"Sounds like someone has stopped carrying around blame on their shoulders," the brunette surmised.

"Yes. She has realized that I was just doing what anyone else in my situation would have," David supplied.

"You do know I am capable of answering for myself," Emma pointed out with crossed arms.

David simply shrugged his good shoulder in response.

Emma shook her head before she stood up from the chair she had been sitting in. She exchanged hugs and goodbyes before she exited the room.

As she walked toward her car, she thought about how neither one of her brothers were biologically related to her. She then smiled because she knew that family wasn't always blood. It was the people who were there for you in thick and thin, and those people you could always count on.

It was the person who would take a bullet for you, and you wouldn't hesitate to do the same for them.

Chapter Text

One Saturday morning, Liam trudged into the kitchen and announced, "Daddy, I'm hungry."

Killian ruffled his son's hair before he asked, "How about some cereal?"

"Lucky Charms?" Liam questioned.

"Of course, lad," Killian replied as he moved to grab cereal, milk, a bowl, and a spoon.

As soon as he sat them on the counter, Liam moved beside him and said, "I'll do it, Daddy," as he looked up with eyes that were a perfect combination of Killian and Emma.

"Alright, lad. Just don't spill anything."

"I won't, Daddy."

A few minutes later, Killian and Liam were sitting at the kitchen table when the dark-haired boy asked, "Where's Mommy and Anna Elizabeth?"

"They went with Aunt Mary Margaret, Evie, and Aunt Regina to see a movie," Killian answered.

Liam's brows furrowed as he asked, "Why didn't I get to go?"

"Well, lad, I don't think you'd like it. It's a girl movie," Killian told him.

"Oh," Liam simply replied before he went back to eating.

 

When Liam had finished, he asked, "Daddy, can we go to the park and play baseball?"

Killian smiled at his son as he answered, "Sure, lad. I'll take you as soon as you get dressed."

Liam nodded excitedly before he sprinted off to his room.

The dark-haired boy soon returned in his Mets jersey, holding the toy version of a baseball and bat, but what appeared to be a real baseball glove.

"Where did you get the baseball glove, Liam?"

"Uncle Robin gave it to me. He said it was Roland's when he was a little lad like me," Liam answered.

Killian smiled as he bent down and ruffled his son's hair. He then told him, "That was nice of him. Why don't we go try out that glove?"

Liam's only response was a smile before he headed toward the door.

When they arrived at the park, the dark-haired boy instantly began putting the glove on his hand.

"Let's play catch, Daddy."

"Sure, lad," Killian told him. He then bent down and continued, "But I think that your glove needs to be on your right hand."

"But, Daddy, I'm left-handed," Liam pointed out as he held up his gloved hand.

"I know you are. But you'll have to catch the ball with your left hand," Killian explained.

"Oh," Liam simply replied before taking the glove off and putting it on his other hand.

Killian then smiled at his son before he took the baseball and asked, "Shall we play ball?"

Liam nodded excitedly before running and finding a spot a few feet from Killian.

Killian then stood back up before he tossed the ball to his son, who easily caught it.

"You're quite the catcher, Liam."

Liam smiled brightly as he said, "Uncle Robin said that, too."

"Well, he would know. He is your coach."

Liam nodded before he threw the ball back to Killian.

They continued like that for several minutes until Liam suggested, "Daddy, will you throw the ball while I hit it?"

"I think that's a wonderful idea, lad."

Liam then took the glove off and handed it to Killian.

"You have to wear it."

"I'm not sure it'll fit, Liam. The glove is made for lads like you, not daddies."

"Oh, okay," Liam replied in understanding before placing the glove to the side and resuming his earlier position, this time with a bat in hand.

"I'm ready," Liam announced.

Killian nodded before he tossed the ball to his son, who swiftly hit it past his father.

Liam smiled brightly before tossing the bat on the ground and running around to the trees, having decided that they were bases.

But before Liam could reach "home," Killian tagged him with the ball.

As Liam sighed in defeat, Killian scooped up his son and began tickling him.

Between giggles, Liam said, "Daddy, that tickles. Stop."

Killian then relented and placed his son back on the ground.

Liam then looked across to the playground and exclaimed, "It's my teacher, Mrs. Aurora! Can we go see her?"

"Of course, Liam," Killian replied. They then began making their way over to her.

When they arrived, Liam shouted, "Hey, Mrs. Aurora!"

"Hey there, Liam. How are you?" Aurora replied with a bright smile.

"I'm good," Liam replied. He then motioned to Killian and told her, "This is my daddy."

"I know your daddy, Liam," Aurora told him.

"You do?"

"Yes, I do. It was quite a few years ago, but I taught your sister," Aurora explained.

"That's why she's so smart," Liam observed.

"You're just as smart, Liam. It just takes you a little longer to do math. But you've gotten better," Aurora told him.

Liam smiled brightly at the compliment just as Aurora's seven-year-old daughter, Grace, ran up to her mother.

"Is Daddy coming?" the auburn-haired girl asked.

"We're going to meet him for lunch, Grace," Aurora answered.

The little girl nodded before she turned and looked curiously at Liam.

"What's your name?"

"Liam," the dark-haired boy answered.

"Do you want to play?" Grace asked.

Liam nodded enthusiastically before the two kids ran off to play.

Aurora then observed, "You know, it's been my experience that most boys his age aren't that fond of playing with girls."

Killian grinned as he told her, "That's mostly true. But the cousin that is closest to his age is Belle's daughter, Colette."

"That's right," Aurora began before she questioned, "How old is she now?"

"She just turned four a couple of weeks ago," Killian replied.

Aurora nodded before she surmised, "You know, sometimes I wish that they would stay that little forever."

"Oh believe me, I know what you mean. Both with Liam, and Anna Elizabeth. I still can't believe she's in high school, now."

"It doesn't even seem like it's been that long ago since she was in my class. It makes me feel so old," Aurora told him.

Killian nodded in agreement before he added, "Yeah. She's already thinking about what she wants to go to college for."

"What would that be?"

"Teaching," Killian replied. He then elaborated, "While Emma and I work with him as much as we can, Anna Elizabeth is the one who helps with his homework right after they get home from school if he needs it. So, you probably have her to thank for his improved math skills – she's really quite good with him."

Aurora smiled as she told him, "Well, if she's really serious about it, I would glad to offer any help I can."

Killian returned her smile as he replied, "That's a lovely offer. Thank you – I'll be sure to tell her."

Aurora nodded just before she said, "You know, Liam really is a great student. As I've said, he's improved so much in math, and he's reading at a third grade level."

"That's really wonderful," Killian began. He then asked, "So, you have no problems out of him?"

"None at all," Aurora began. A thought then crossed her mind and she continued, "Though this isn't necessarily a problem, I think you should know that instead of using "boy" and "girl", he uses "lad" and "lass". It's not a bad thing per se, but I'm afraid that he'll get confused, and in turn, confuse the other students. He also answers "aye" instead of "yes"."

Killian scratched behind his ear as he admitted, "He hears me use lad and lass quite often. One would think I wouldn't since I've lived over here so long, but I still use a lot of British sayings and words. I'll be sure to work with him on using "boy" and "girl", as well as "yes"."

Aurora nodded in response just before she remembered something.

"Grace and I have to go to the store and grab a few groceries." She then asked, "Will I see you at open house next week?"

"Ay…yes, you will. Myself and Emma will be coming," Killian answered.

Aurora then told him, "Great. I'll see you both then."

Killian nodded in response just as Aurora called for her daughter, and the two of them were on their way.

Liam then ran up to Killian and stated, "Daddy, I want you to swing with me."

"I think I may be a little big for that, Liam," Killian told him, trying not to laugh.

Liam shook his head no in response before he grabbed his father's hand and proceeded to drag him over to the swings.

As Killian carefully sat down in the swing beside his son, it brought him back to a conversation he had with his brother that didn't seem quite as long ago as it actually was.

 

"Aren't you a little big for that, brother?" Killian teased as he came up to Liam and Anna Elizabeth in the park, where both were swinging.

Liam rolled his eyes just as Anna Elizabeth exclaimed, "Uncle Killy!" and launched herself into his arms.

Killian scooped her up and hugged her before he said, "Hello, love. Are you having fun with Daddy?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded excitedly before she told him, "Down, pease."

Killian shook his head before placing the little girl back on the ground. As she sprinted back over to the swings, Liam told her, "Hey, love, I'm going to talk to Uncle Killian for a bit. You stay where Daddy can see you, okay?"

"Otay," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Liam ruffled her curls before he and Killian made his way to a bench.

"So, how was your coffee date with Emma?" Liam asked with a teasing smile.

It was Killian's turn to roll his eyes as he answered, "It wasn't a date, Liam. It was two friends having coffee."

"Did you pay for the lass's coffee?"

Killian resisted the urge to scratch behind his ear as he replied, "Perhaps."

"You went out with a woman to whom you are attracted to, and paid for her beverage. That is the definition of a date, little brother," Liam pointed out.

"First off, it's younger brother. And second of all, I only paid because it was my suggestion to go out – but it was not a date. I am not attracted to Emma."

"So, you deny that you think she's beautiful?"

Killian sighed exasperatedly as he pointed out, "She is beautiful. But it means nothing – you know I've always noticed the beauty of the fairer sex. I am a guy after all."

"Too true, Killian," Liam began. He then took a breath and continued, "But you also told me that you think she has a marvelous sense of humor, you like that she's independent, and that she has such a kind heart despite everything she's gone through. Tell me, what does that sound like to you?"

Killian narrowed his eyes at his older brother before he told him, "Ok, I will admit that I said those things. But it wasn't all at the same time. You listen far too closely and read way too much into things. Emma has practically become my best friend. Best friends know a lot about the other and admire and respect one another. It doesn't mean I'm falling in love with Emma."

"I never said anything about love," Liam told him, trying and failing to hide a smile.

Killian once again sighed as he said, "Clearly, you aren't going to change your mind, so let's just change the subject."

"I am sorry, Killian. I don't mean to upset you – I'm only trying to help. I just want you to happy, brother."

"I know you do, Liam," Killian simply replied.

He then took a breath and changed the subject as he asked, "Is Anna Elizabeth ever going to learn to say my name?"

Liam shook his head at his brother as he reminded him, "Killian, she's only two; she's still learning how to talk. She'll eventually get it."

"So, you've said."

"Dealing with children requires a great deal of patience. It takes time for them to learn new things. You'll understand one day, little brother."

Killian scoffed at the idea. He then elaborated, "Not likely, Liam. As much as I love being an uncle, there's a great deal of difference between that and being a father. You're a great father to Anna Elizabeth – I don't know that I could do it. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't know what I was doing – it's taken me this long to learn how to look after my niece."

"You're far too hard on yourself, Killian. While it is a learning process, you're a natural with children. Not just with Anna Elizabeth, but with Jamie and Evie as well," Liam told him.

Killian sighed heavily as he replied, "Even if I did fall in love again and got married, and we decided to have children, I would never be able to measure up to our father. Despite his accident, he never gave up on doing everything he could to make sure that you, myself, and Belle were provided for. And when he was gone, you stepped up to the plate. You refused to have us be separated and became the provider at only age 16. I would fall short."

Liam sighed as well as he replied with utmost sincerity, "Killian, I know that you feel the need to reach that bar that Father and I unintentionally set. But in my mind, you already have. I am so proud of you, and I know that our father is as well. You are a good man, little brother."

Killian offered a small, but genuine smile as he said, "Thank you, Liam. That really means a lot."

Liam returned his brother's smile as he said, "And if the day does come where you find yourself married with a child, don't worry, Killian. Being a father doesn't mean that you are your child's superhero all of the time. It means that you are there for them no matter what and you love them unconditionally.

You already have such a big heart, even though you don't let everyone else always see it. You will do a great job raising him or her – I have complete faith in you. Why do you think I picked you to be Anna Elizabeth's godfather?"

The full weight of Liam's words finally began to sink in for Killian. His smile grew as he wrapped his brother in a hug.

When they pulled away, Killian joked, "Just do me a favor, alright. If that day does come, and I do turn out to be a great father, I would appreciate if you lay off the "I told you so's."

"You think I'd do that, little brother?" Liam questioned, feigning innocence.

"I know you would, Liam," Killian told him.

Liam couldn't help but chuckle before a hungry two-year-old ran up to him, and the three of them made their way to Granny's for lunch.

 

As Killian made his way back to reality, he said, "As usual, he was right," with a small smile.

"Daddy, who are you talking to?" Liam suddenly asked.

Killian shook his head from his thoughts and turned to answer his son.

"No one, Liam."

The dark-haired boy titled his head to the side and looked at Killian curiously.

Killian took a deep breath before he told Liam, "I was just thinking about something that my brother told me."

"Uncle Liam?"

"That's right. He was always good at giving advice," Killian told his son.

"What does advice mean?"

Killian considered his words before he answered, "Well, if I ever had a problem or I was worried about something, Liam would always tell me something that would make it better."

Liam nodded before he asked, "What was you worried about, Daddy?"

Killian once again took a deep breath before he reached out to his son and said, "Come here, lad."

Liam got out of the swing, and Killian pulled him onto his lap before he began to explain.

"You see, Liam, a long time ago, when Anna Elizabeth was a little girl, and Uncle Liam and Aunt Elsa were still alive, I would sometimes watch her. Sometimes, I would wonder what it be like to have a wife, and a little girl or boy of my own. But ultimately, I would get rid of those thoughts because I didn't think it would ever happen. I was sure I wouldn't find someone to love like Uncle Liam loved Aunt Elsa, and I knew that I wouldn't be a good father. But Uncle Liam told me that if it ever did happen, he knew that I would be a great father, and that I didn't have a reason to worry."

Liam took several minutes to process what Killian was saying before he simply told him, "Uncle Liam was smart."

"You think so?" Killian asked with a smile.

The little boy nodded before he said, "You play baseball with me and take me fishing and read to me and sing to me. I love that you're my daddy. You're the best." He then wrapped his arms around Killian's torso.

Killian hugged his son back tightly before he pulled away and kissed the top of Liam's head. He then told him, "And I love being your daddy, Liam. I'm so glad that you're my little boy."

Liam smiled brightly in response.

Then, as expected, he asked, "Is it time to eat, yet?"

Killian couldn't help but chuckle before he responded, "How about we go grab a couple of burgers from Granny's?"

"Mine has to be a cheeseburger," Liam pointed out.

"Of course, lad. Let's go," Killian replied before they both got out of the swing and began walking towards the diner.

As they did so, Killian couldn't help but watch his son. The son that was so much like himself. He would have given anything to be able to spend more time with his own father, as well as his brother. He already missed them so much, and now that he was raising his own son, it made him miss them even more.

He let out a breath just as he heard Liam's voice, "Daddy?"

"Yes?"

"I'm big now, but will you give me a piggy back ride?" Liam questioned with childlike innocence shining in those blue-green eyes. The same innocence that Kilian still sees in Anna Elizabeth's eyes every once in a while.

Killian smiled down at his son as he answered, "Of course I will, Liam." He then scooped him up and placed him on his back.

As they continued towards Granny's, Killian smiled as he thought about how next to Emma, fatherhood was the best decision he had ever made.

Chapter Text

"Are you ready for your first baseball game, lad?" Killian asked Liam as he scooped him up from his playpen.

"Even though he's only eight months old?" Emma pointed out with a grin.

"I have you know that I was around Liam's age when my mother and father took me sailing the first time," Killian told her.

"Oh, I don't doubt it, Captain," Emma teased.

Killian rolled his eyes in response.

Emma then became more serious as she asked, "And you're sure you have everything? Bottles? Baby food? Diapers? Wipes…" but was cut off by her husband.

"We went through this last night, love. We'll be fine – you don't have to worry."

Emma smiled at him before she said, "I know – I just can't help it sometimes."

"It's alright, Swan," Killian told her as he returned her smile.

He then grabbed the diaper bag from the table before he kissed both Emma and Anna Elizabeth goodbye and headed out the door.

The eight-year-old then carried her empty cereal bowl to the sink before looking up at Emma and asking, "Didn't you say that we got to go to the store?"

"Yep, kid, we do," Emma replied.

"But we got food," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Emma resisted the urge to laugh as she told her, "I know, kid. But there's some other things that we need."

"Oh, okay," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Emma smiled at her before she told her, "Alright, Anna Elizabeth, I'm going to clean up the dishes and you go get dressed. And then we'll go to the store."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she ran off to her room.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

"Mommy Emma?" Anna Elizabeth asked as they were walking up to the register.

"What is it Anna Elizabeth?"

"Can I get an apple juice?"

"Sure, kid," Emma replied as she ran her fingers through her curls.

The small blonde then sprinted over to the small freezer that held drinks.

When she returned, Emma checked out, and the two of them made their way out the door.

Emma and Anna Elizabeth then walked out to the bug, and placed the groceries in the trunk.

Before they had even left the parking lot, Anna Elizabeth turned on the Disney CD and found "I See the Light" from Tangled.

Emma smiled at the sound of Anna Elizabeth singing over Mandy Moore's voice.

However, when the second verse came on, the small blonde went quiet.

"Anna Elizabeth, why did you stop singing?" Emma questioned.

"It's the boy part," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"Oh, of course," Emma replied.

By the time that the song was over, Emma was pulling into the garage.

She and Anna Elizabeth went inside and quickly put everything away.

The small blonde then suggested, "Mommy Emma, can we build a fort?"

"A fort?" Emma asked, slightly confused.

"The last time I stayed with Evie, we builded a fort and it was so fun! We read books and colored and watched movies!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Emma smiled at the little girl before she answered, "That does sound like fun."

She then asked, "How about you help me move the chairs from the kitchen into the living room so we can make our fort?"

Anna Elizabeth's eyes lit up before she sprinted to the circular table and began dragging one of the chairs.

 

About 10 minutes later, the four chairs had the corners of the blanket tied around them. Emma and Anna Elizabeth were laying underneath them on another thick blanket and several pillows. Each of the blondes had a coloring book in front of them and were coloring away.

Anna Elizabeth looked over at Emma's picture and told her, "Your picture is so pretty!"

"Thank you, Anna Elizabeth. So is yours – Snow White and the Dwarfs look very good."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she asked, "Are you coloring Rapunzel because she's your favorite?"

Emma smiled at her as she answered, "Well, I do like the movie Tangled."

"I do, too. Flynn is my favorite – he's funny," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"He is pretty funny. He makes me laugh," Emma agreed.

"Like Daddy Killian?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

Emma smiled once again as she replied, "Yes, like Killian."

"Is that why you love him?" Anna Elizabeth then asked with childlike innocence.

"Well, there's a lot of reasons why I love Killian, and him making me laugh is one of them," Emma responded.

The blonde expected more questions but Anna Elizabeth simply nodded in response.

They colored in silence for a couple of minutes before Anna Elizabeth exclaimed, "I'm finished!" and held it up to Emma.

"That is really good, Anna Elizabeth," Emma began with a smile. She then suggested, "How about you go and hang it on the refrigerator?"

Anna Elizabeth shook her head before she said, "I want Liam to have it."

Emma's smile grew as she told her, "That's very sweet. I know he'll like it."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she asked, "Can I go put it in his room?"

"Sure, kid," Emma answered as she ruffled her curls.

Anna Elizabeth then ran off to her brother's room.

When the small blonde didn't return as quickly as she should have, Emma knew that something was up. So, she crawled out from the fort and began walking to Liam's room.

Just as Emma guessed, Anna Elizabeth was standing in the rocking chair trying to hang the picture over Liam's crib.

Emma shook her head in response. Before she could say anything, however, her eyes widened in fear when she saw that Anna Elizabeth was about to fall.

Luckily, Emma's fast reflexes paid off, and she was able to catch the little girl before she hit the floor.

When both were standing upright, Emma asked, "Anna Elizabeth, why didn't you call me to help?"

"I wanted to do it by myself," Anna Elizabeth answered, reminding Emma of both Liam and Elsa.

Emma then bent down on Anna Elizabeth's level and explained, "I know you want to do everything by yourself. And while that is a good thing, you have to realize that sometimes, everyone needs help. Do you understand?" as she ran her fingers through her daughter's curls.

"Yes, Mommy Emma," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Emma nodded before standing back up.

"Can we color some more?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Sure, kid," Emma answered with a smile.

Just as Anna Elizabeth sprinted off to the living room, Emma's phone rang.

The blonde quickly answered it and said, "Hey, Anna, what's up?"

"Hey, Emma, I was actually hoping that you could do me a favor?" Anna replied.

"I'd be happy to help. What is it?" Emma told her.

"Well, the kids and I were looking at the photo albums the other day, and I realized that most of my high school pictures were taken with Elsa and are in the scrapbook that I made for her. Would you mind taking some pictures of those photos with your phone and sending them to me?" Anna said all in one breath.

"Of course I would," Emma replied.

"Thank you so much, Emma. You're the best!" Anna squealed.

Emma couldn't help but chuckle at Anna's enthusiasm before she told her, "No problem, Anna. I'm going to get off here now so that I can find the scrapbook."

Anna responded, "Of course! Say hi to everyone for me!"

"That goes for me as well. Talk to you later, Anna," Emma told her before Anna bid her goodbye and they hung up the phone.

Emma just decided to leave Anna Elizabeth to her coloring before making her way to her and Killian's bedroom.

As she arrived, she instantly went to the closet and began fumbling around.

It wasn't long before she had found the scrapbook. She quickly went through and snapped pictures that she knew that Anna would want.

Just as Emma had closed it and was texting the pictures, Anna Elizabeth came bounding into the room.

Her blue eyes immediately went to the scrapbook and asked, "Is that the scrapbook that Aunt Anna made Mommy?"

"Yes, it is. Aunt Anna wanted a copy of some of the pictures," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response. She stood quietly for a few minutes before she asked, "Can we look at it?"

Emma offered her a smile as she answered, "Of course we can."

Anna Elizabeth then questioned, "Can we look at in the fort?"

"Sure, kid," Emma replied.

Anna Elizabeth then grabbed the scrapbook from the bed and carried into the living room with Emma behind her.

As soon as Emma had settled cross-legged in the fort, Anna Elizabeth climbed into her lap. Said scrapbook was a collection of photos and such from Elsa's high school years that Anna had made her for graduation. Since the whole scrapbook wasn't filled, Elsa had gone back and added some later pictures as well. Anna had given the scrapbook to Killian a couple months after the accident, knowing that one day Anna Elizabeth would want it.

As they flipped through the scrapbook, Anna Elizabeth observed, "Mommy was very happy in all these pictures."

"Yeah, she was. We had a lot of good times in high school," Emma reminisced.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "What was this picture?" as she pointed to a picture of Elsa, Anna, Emma, Ruby, Mary Margaret, and Regina.

Emma studied the picture carefully for a few minutes before she answered, "Oh, that was a concert we had all went to for this band that we loved."

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

As they continued perusing through the book, the small blonde surmised, "There's a lot of pictures of Mommy and Aunt Anna."

"Yeah, there is. They were very close," Emma told her.

"She was a good big sister, wasn't she?" Anna Elizabeth asked as she looked up at Emma.

"She was – she loved Aunt Anna very much, and did everything she could to take care of her when their Mommy and Daddy went to Heaven," Emma explained.

"Do you think I'll be a good big sister like Mommy?"

Emma smiled at her before she ran her fingers through her hair and told her, "You already are, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back at Emma in response.

The next pictures in the book were those that Elsa had added, and they soon saw photos of her and Liam.

"It's Daddy!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

"Yep, that it is. You see, Aunt Anna didn't fill the entire book, so your mommy added some more," Emma explained.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes lit up as she looked at her parents. When she came to an ultrasound picture, she became confused.

"What is this?"

"That is a picture of you when you were in Mommy's tummy," Emma told her.

"Really?"

Emma nodded before she said, "Elsa was so excited when she found out she was having a baby. It was one of the happiest days of her life. And then when you were born, she wore one of the biggest smiles I'd ever seen."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she looked back at the black and white photo. She then said quietly, "I miss my mommy."

The scrapbook was placed to the side before Emma turned her around and wrapped her in a hug. She simply kissed her head in response before she told her, "I know you do."

They sat like that for a while, with Emma running a soothing hand through Anna Elizabeth's curls and down her back, before they pulled apart. Emma wiped the few tears that had formed in Anna Elizabeth's eyes as well as her own.

Emma then told her, "You know how much your mommy loved you. And even she isn't here anymore, that love isn't going anywhere – she will always be your mother."

The small blonde nodded in response, but Emma could tell that she had something on her mind.

"Hey, kid, is there something you want to say?"

Anna Elizabeth looked up at Emma with those big blue eyes and asked, "Do you really think that Mommy is looking down from Heaven?"

Emma stroked her curls as she answered, "Yes, I do, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth then told her, "I think she's happy that you married Daddy Killian."

"Why do you think that?" Emma questioned, not entirely sure where this conversation was headed.

" 'Cause you get to be my mommy now," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Emma offered a small smile as she asked, "And what do you think about that?"

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows for a moment before she answered with a question, "Do you remember when you and Daddy Killian told me that you and him is my mommy and daddy now?"

Emma simply nodded in response.

The small blonde then asked, "Do you think that Mommy would be okay if I called you Mommy all of the time?"

Emma held in her emotions as she answered, "If that is what you want to do, Anna Elizabeth, I know she would be okay with it."

Anna Elizabeth then wrapped Emma in another hug as she said, "I want you to be my mommy, Aunt Emma."

As they pulled away, Emma responded, "I would love very much to be your mommy."

Anna Elizabeth smiled in response. However, it slightly faded as a thought occurred to the eight-year-old.

She then asked, "Can I still think of my mommy and call her that when we talk about her?"

"Of course you can, Anna Elizabeth. Like I said earlier, Elsa will always be your mommy, and the love that she had for you isn't going away. I'm just taking care of you now for her," Emma explained.

Anna Elizabeth nodded as she smiled brightly at Emma. She then told her, "I love you, Mommy."

Emma returned her smile as she told her, "And I love you, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth then suggested, "Can we play Chutes and Ladders? I love playing it with you."

"Sure, kid," Emma replied. She then got up and made her way back to her room to retrieve the game from the closet.

By the time she made it back, however, Anna Elizabeth was fast asleep. Emma bent down and kissed the little girl's forehead before sitting beside her and watching her sleep.

It would be an understatement to say that this isn't quite how Emma foresaw becoming a mother. While she was aware that she would never truly replace Elsa in Anna Elizabeth's heart, Emma knew how much that little girl loved her, and that she did see Emma as her mother as well. The only thing that truly mattered is Anna Elizabeth, and that she was loved and cared for.

Some would say that being a parent to a child that isn't yours is difficult. But for Emma, it was the easiest job in the world. There's no place she would rather be than right here, watching the little girl who held a place in her heart as not simply a niece, but as a daughter.

Chapter Text

"You know, Killian, I thought this was supposed to be a surprise party," David joked as he helped set up the table in the garage.

"You know I can't keep anything from Emma. Besides, if I didn't tell her, Mary Margaret would have, mate," Killian reminded him.

David shook his head just as Emma and Mary Margaret came into the garage carrying cake and food.

"Swan, this is your party – you should let us do all of this," Killian pointed out.

"I tried to tell her that. But you know she can't stand doing nothing," Mary Margaret added.

"You do know that I'm right here, Mary Margaret?" Emma defended.

"Come on, Emma. Even you admit how stubborn you are," David told her with a chuckle.

Emma rolled her eyes before she muttered, "You're the one to talk."

Just then, Liam came running into the garage.

Anna Elizabeth followed close behind and told him, "Liam, Mom isn't opening her presents yet."

"I want her to see my present first," Liam argued.

"Liam, when it's time to give Mommy her presents, yours will be first," Killian told him.

The dark-haired boy nodded in response.

Just then, David asked, "Hey, Anna Elizabeth, where's Evie?"

"Talking to Jason on the phone," Anna Elizabeth responded.

David nodded, and Killian then asked, "So, what do you think of Jason, mate?" with a teasing smile.

"Just wait until it's your turn, mate," David refuted with crossed arms.

"Ok, you two, chill," Emma said just as Robin and Regina arrived.

"Hey, Emma. Happy Birthday," Robin told her with a smile.

Emma smiled back in response.

Regina repeated his sentiments before she added, "We would have been here earlier, but since someone ruined the surprise, we didn't think it was necessary," with a glare in Killian's direction.

Killian rolled his eyes in response before Robin added, "That, and we were talking to Roland," with a knowing look toward his wife.

As Evie bounded into the garage, Mary Margaret said, "Ok, then, everyone's here. So, let's get started."

"Not quite, love. A few more people are coming," Killian stated.

"But I thought that Belle, August, and the kids weren't coming home from Disney World until the day after tomorrow," David observed.

"I wasn't referring to my sister," Killian clarified with a sly smile.

Emma narrowed her eyes at him as she questioned, "What did you do?"

However, her question was answered when Nick, Noah, Courtney, and the kids came into the garage.

Emma's eyes widened as she asked, "Guys, you're here?"

"I know that we're all normally super busy, and all you get is a phone call or card, but Killian said that he wanted to surprise you this year," Noah explained.

Emma turned to flash a smile at her husband as she told him, "Thank you," as she squeezed his hand.

"You're welcome, love," Killian told her.

She then went over to her father, brother, and sister-in-law and wrapped them in a hug.

Emma wasn't surprised when Katie's arms came around her as well while Faith just stood there and offered a small smile.

As she pulled away, she said, "I'm so happy to see all of you."

"That goes for us as well. Besides, this is the first time I get to actually celebrate my favorite daughter's birthday," Nick told her with a grin.

Emma smiled genuinely at him because she knew that he was serious despite his teasing tone.

Anna Elizabeth then piped up, "Can we eat now?"

"Yes, love, we can eat," Killian told her as he chuckled, along with everyone else.

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Emma came in the house to find Faith sitting at the table with her head laying on crossed arms.

"Hey, kid, I thought you were with Anna Elizabeth and Evie."

Faith sat up and shrugged. She then said, "They're just so… peppy."

Emma grinned as she responded, "They've always been that way. Mary Margaret and I thought that they may grow out of it, but obviously not."

She then added, "And Anna Elizabeth is a cheerleader, so it comes with the territory."

Faith simply nodded in response before she laid her head back down.

As Emma watched her and thought for a moment, she realized that it was more than simply Anna Elizabeth and Evie being too peppy.

"You're overwhelmed aren't you? With all of this family that you have now," Emma carefully perceived.

"Like you would know," Faith told her.

"Better than you might think, kid."

Faith rolled her eyes before she snapped, "Don't act like you understand. Noah and Courtney try to, but it doesn't work. Noah was adopted as a baby – he never remembers not having parents. I get that his mom died, and it is really awful, but at least he knew her. I will never have a chance to speak to my mom or my dad again."

With that, she stormed from the kitchen and into the backyard.

 

About 20 minutes later, Emma went to go check on Faith.

"Hey, kid, do you want some cake?"

The auburn haired girl shook her head in response.

Emma looked at her curiously for a few moments before she carefully said, "Your parents are worried about you."

"They're not my parents," Faith pointed out.

Emma considered her words before she asked, "Do you know that the only people I'm biologically related to that's here is my dad and my son?"

Faith gave Emma a strange look as she observed, "Wait, what? That can't be right."

Emma simply nodded in response.

"But that doesn't make any sense. What about David and Anna Elizabeth and Regina?" Faith asked, hopelessly confused.

"You see, Faith, you know that I've only known my dad and Noah for a few years and that I was adopted. But what you don't know is that Mom – being David's mother – didn't adopt me until I was 14."

Faith's eyes widened in response.

She then asked, "Really?"

"Yep," Emma responded.

Faith nodded before she observed, "So, like, Regina must be Mary Margaret's sister."

"Actually, she's not," Emma began. At Faith's furrowed brows, she continued, "You see, Regina has known Mary Margaret and David since they were kids. And then when I moved here, I became friends with her as well. We've all known each other such a long time and we're so close, that we're practically family."

Faith looked down as she said, "That must be nice."

Emma squeezed her arm as she told her, "Look, I do know how you feel. It can be overwhelming when you've had no one and suddenly you do. And you probably also think that Noah and Courtney will eventually give up on you and send you back. But I'm here to tell you that they love you so much – they were so excited to adopt you and your sister. You have to believe that."

Faith took a few minutes to take in Emma's words before she sighed and admitted, "I know that they do. They're great, and I love them, too, even if I haven't told them. But it's hard because…" trailing off.

"They're not your parents," Emma finished.

Faith nodded before she explained, "Katie was only three when she died – she hardly remembers them. But, I do, and I feel like I'm betraying them somehow," desperately trying to keep her emotions in check.

Emma squeezed Faith's hand as she told her, "You asked earlier about Anna Elizabeth being related to me, and well, she's not. I'm going to tell you the same thing that I told her when she came to the realization that Killian and I were her parents."

"Did you guys adopt her?" Faith questioned.

"Sort of," Emma began. She then took a breath and further explained, "Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was four. Killian's older brother was her father, and since Killian was her godfather, he became her guardian. A little over a year after that, he and I were married.

When I was pregnant with Liam, Anna Elizabeth began to realize that Killian and I were now her mom and dad. Even though she was only seven, she had the same thoughts that you do."

"What did you tell her?" Faith genuinely questioned.

"Killian and I told her that we both love her like she is ours. We knew that we wouldn't ever really replace her parents, but since they couldn't be here, we were going to take care of her like she is ours.

All of that is still true to this day. Even though Anna Elizabeth's memories of Liam and Elsa are scarce, she still thinks about them. She can still honor their memory while seeing us as parents. You don't have to let go of your parents – in fact, they're probably happy that you and Katie aren't in foster care anymore and that someone loves both of you and are taking care of you two."

"You really think so?" Faith asked.

"I know so," Emma assured her with a smile.

Faith offered a smile – a real smile – in return.

She then said, "Thank you, Emma."

"You're welcome, Faith."

Emma then began walking back toward the house, but Faith's voice stopped her.

"Did you really mean it?"

When Emma turned back around, she questioned, "Mean what?"

"In the kitchen earlier – that you guys are my family?"

Despite Faith's strong exterior, Emma could hear the vulnerability in her voice.

The blonde grinned as she answered, "Yeah, kid. You're stuck with us now."

Faith returned Emma's grin in response.

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After everyone else had already left, Noah pulled Emma aside and said, "Faith told Courtney and I what you said to her. We both really appreciate it – we've been worried about her. She hasn't had the easiest time adjusting."

"It was really no problem. I care about her, too," Emma began.

She then grinned and continued, "She reminds me of myself when I was first adopted."

Noah returned her grin before he turned somber and said, "Yeah, I think she needed someone to talk to who really understands her."

"Hey, you and Courtney are amazing parents – Faith told me as much. She's just overwhelmed with the big family, and she misses her mom and dad," Emma reassured him.

"We do get that – she just tends to keep everything inside," Noah explained.

"Don't worry. She will come around, and she will learn to completely trust you. She's already getting there," Emma told him.

Noah took in her words before he said, "You know, Anna Elizabeth and Liam are both really lucky to have you as their mom."

"And Faith and Katie are really lucky that you chose to be their dad," Emma replied with a smile.

Noah smiled back at her as he said, "Believe me, I'm the lucky one. Despite everything, Faith and Katie are both amazing – I love being their dad."

"And that's why everything is going to be okay," Emma told him.

Noah's smile grew as he said, "You know, you're pretty good at giving advice."

Emma returned his smile as she said, "That's what older sisters are for."

Just then, Courtney got Noah's attention.

He quickly turned back to his sister and told her, "Happy Birthday, Emma." He then pulled her in for a hug.

As they pulled away, she said, "Thanks Noah."

He smiled at her before they exchanged goodbyes and Noah left to follow his family. However, Faith soon came running back through the door.

To Emma's surprise, the teenage girl wrapped her in a hug. As they pulled apart, Faith said, "Thank you, Emma. For listening and talking to me."

Emma smiled as she replied, "You are more than welcome, kid. You know I'm here for you if you need me."

Faith returned Emma's smile as she told her, "You're a pretty cool aunt."

Before Emma could reply, Noah was calling Faith's name, and she was out the door.

Once they had left, Killian came up to Emma and wrapped his arms around her.

Emma then told him, "Thank you for the almost surprise party and for getting my family here. I loved every minute of it."

"I'm glad, love. All I want is your happiness," Killian said, as he moved a piece of hair behind her ear.

Emma then reached to cup his cheek as she told him, "You know, I was reminded today that there was a time where I never thought any of this would ever even be possible.

But now, I have so many people who love and care about me. I am surrounded by such an amazing family who I know I can always count on. I hope to never take any of you for granted."

"I don't think there's any chance of that, darling. Because we are the lucky ones to have you in our lives," Killian told her with love and sincerity.

She smiled at him as she said, "And that is worth more than any present."

She then closed the distance between them for a kiss. Like so many of their kisses, it was filled with love and passion. Killian wrapped his arms tightly around her and deepened the kiss as Emma wrapped her arms around his waist as well. The kiss went on before Emma felt something in his back pocket.

She slowly pulled away and giggled as Killian chased her lips.

"That's bad form, Swan."

Emma grinned before she showed him the envelope.

"What's this?"

Killian looked at it for a moment before he told her, "That is a letter from Sharon."

"A letter?" Emma questioned.

"Aye, love. I suppose it's for your birthday," Killian answered.

Just then, Emma's phone rang in her back pocket. She quickly grabbed in and supplied, "Looks like I'm about to get my answer."

Killian went to go check on the kids as Emma answered her phone and said, "Hey, Sharon."

"Hi, Emma. I just wanted to call and wish you a happy birthday. I feel terrible that I missed your party."

"Please don't apologize. It's perfectly alright. I didn't even know that Dad and Noah were coming. I'm just happy to hear from you," Emma told her.

"You are my only daughter, Emma, and I love you," Sharon told her.

Emma couldn't help but smile at those words. She then told her, "I love you, too…Mom."

"Oh, Emma, you don't have to call me that. I know how close you were to your adoptive mother," Sharon said.

"I want to," Emma began before she elaborated, "I learned a long time ago that family isn't always blood. We aren't family because we share DNA – we're family because we can count on each other, and because we love each other. No matter what. That is way more important than what my birth certificate says. You are my mother."

Emma could hear the emotions in Sharon's voice as she asked, "Do you really mean that?"

"Absolutely," Emma replied.

There was silence for a moment before Sharon told her, "This is the last thing I ever expected myself to say, but I am so happy that you found me, and that I get to be your mother. I know you will always see Ruth as your mother, but I hope you can find room for me as well."

At that point, Emma was struggling to hold back tears as she replied, "Of course I can."

Emma then heard silence, and she knew that Sharon was contemplating something before she finally said, "I had hoped you would. In fact, it's why I sent you that letter."

"Oh, yeah. Killian gave it to me earlier, but I haven't read it yet. What is it?" Emma told Sharon.

"You know that I always wanted what was best for you, even though I wasn't the one who could give it to you. Shortly after I made the decision to give you up, I wrote a letter that I wanted you to have one day when you old enough to understand why I did what I did.

Unfortunately, I stuck inside my copy of Emma, and by the time I gave birth to you, the letter was forgotten. It had gotten lost in the move to Wisconsin, and Dylan only recently found it. With everything that's happened since you found me, the letter probably will only feel redundant at this point…" Sharon was cut off.

"No, I want to read it," Emma began. She then took a deep breath and continued, "I shouldn't be surprised at this point – especially since you gave up a job in one of the fashion capitals of the world to be close to me – but it just reaffirms that you really did put me first. I'd love to read it."

"I'm really glad to hear you say that, Emma. The letter is one part of your birthday present," Sharon told her.

"What's the other part?" Emma asked.

"The copy of Emma I was reading when I was pregnant with you. I know that your name was chosen simply because I was put on the spot, but I still want you to have the book. Looking back now, I have always loved that name, and I am glad I chose it. Even though I was giving you away, I still wanted to be the one to name you – so you could at least have something to show that I really did love you," Sharon answered.

As touched as Emma was by the gesture, she still had to ask, "Are you sure? I know how much you love that book."

"I can always get another copy of it. You should have the one that inspired your name," Sharon replied.

Emma smiled as she answered, "Thank you so much, Sh…Mom."

"You're so welcome," Sharon began. She then continued, "I have to go now. Happy Birthday, Emma. I'll talk to you soon. Goodbye."

"Bye," Emma replied before hanging up the phone.

She then looked at the envelope in her hand. She walked over to the couch and sat down before opening the envelope and taking out the letter inside.

She carefully opened the worn paper and began to read.

 

Dear Emma,

When you read this letter, I hope you can forgive me. Giving you away was the easiest decision I ever made. Not because I didn't love you, but because of how much I do.

The only way I could give you the life that you deserve is by giving you up. I couldn't be a mother. I wouldn't have any idea how to raise a child. My own mother blamed me for my father leaving, and I resented her for it. I didn't want that for you. I wanted you to have your best chance. All I ever wanted for you is to be cared for and loved.

It is my hope that when you read this letter, you have a family. A father. A sister or brother. And most of all, a mother. A mother who would understand what it means to put your child above everything, even it seems selfish to others. A mother who would understand why I didn't even hesitate to give you away. A mother who will love you like her own flesh and blood.

I hope she teaches you all the things that only a mother can. I hope she wipes your tears, takes care of you when you're sick, and gives you the best advice. But most of all, I hope she teaches you to be strong, kind, understanding, and forgiving. I hope she teaches you the meaning of family – something I never really had.

Your life won't always be easy. People will try to tell you that I was selfish in giving you away. They will try to tell you that you weren't good enough for me to want you, and that you will never be good enough or worth it to anybody. You will be tempted to believe it, and you may start to believe it yourself. I know this because you get from me. You will have heartache, pain, and disappointment. Sometimes things will not turn out how you want them to, and it will make you question everything. Sometimes everything won't be alright.

Despite all of this, you will come out stronger than ever. Whatever you go through will make you resilient. It will make you a conqueror, and you will be able to face whatever life throws at you. It will make you realize that you do have a place in this world, and that you do matter. It will make you see that life is difficult, and make you appreciate what you have even more. It will make you see just how precious that you are.

I do love you, Emma, and that is at the heart of all of this. The only thing I could do for you is to let someone else take care of you. I was simply a means for someone else to have a beautiful and amazing daughter. And perhaps one day, an equally amazing wife and mother. It is my hope that you can understand this.

When, not if, you do become part of someone's family, I want you to know that you deserve it. You deserve to be someone's reason for happiness. You deserve to be someone's everything. You deserve to be someone's missing piece. You deserve to be the person that someone else has always wanted and can't live without.

More than anything, I hope that your life is everything you want it to be and more. I hope you are surrounded by people who constantly tells you how loved that you are, so that you will never forget it.

Love, Sharon.

 

As Emma folded the letter, she couldn't help the tears that began to flow. She had spent so much of her life believing she wasn't good enough. She had spent so much time being afraid to trust people for the fear of getting hurt. And she knew so much of that had stemmed from the fact that her parents had given her away. Though Emma had managed to work through those insecurities, they were never far from her mind. Especially today, because she knew that Faith was dealing with the same thing.

But now, she knew that all Sharon ever wanted for her was for her to have a family. And she had found them, and Emma was grateful for them every day. They didn't always get along, but they were amazing. She had built a life and had two amazing kids with the man she loved, and she was surrounded by her brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Her parents were only a phone call away, along with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It had been seven years since she found her birth family. It had been a decade since she realized that Storybrooke was her home. It had been over twenty years since Ruth adopted her. Yet, it was still surreal at times that Emma had gotten what she had always wanted as a child, but stopped believing it could happen.

Her birthday was always a reminder of how much her family loved her. But the truth was, they didn't need a special day to tell her that they loved her – they did that anyway. Maybe not always with words, but with their actions.

She thought about what she had told Sharon. Family was the people who were there for you during whatever life threw at you. Family was the people who would always stand by your side. Family was the people who may let you down, but the love you had for them could overcome anything. Her family was the living proof that the people who are family aren't always blood.

Chapter Text

"Killian, why are you overreacting? You know that Anna Elizabeth has had a crush on Nathan for two years now," Emma pointed out.

"I wasn't aware that he felt the same way," Killian defended.

"Really, Killian? That's what you're going with?" Emma questioned.

Killian narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms before he pointed out, "It's a fair assumption, love."

"Come on, Killian. There's no way you're that clueless. He's about as subtle as you are."

Killian huffed as he said, "You're really not helping, Swan."

He then added, "She's not 16, yet."

"Her birthday is only a couple weeks away. He wants to take her to prom, and the deadline to turn in tickets is next week."

Killian sighed in response. He was losing this battle.

He then told her, "I know, love. It's not like I didn't know this was coming, but now that it's happening..." trailing off as he ran his fingers through his hair.

Emma then reached up to caress his cheek before she said, "I know that you don't like the idea of her dating, but she is growing up, Killian. We have to let her. She's strong, independent, and stubborn - she can take care of herself. We can trust her."

"I know, Swan. It isn't her I'm worried about trusting," Killian told her.

"We both know that Nathan is a great kid. And he obviously cares about Anna Elizabeth. You have to admit that it shows how much he respects us and her because he asked our permission. That isn't something you see a lot, if at all, anymore. It was sweet of him."

Killian sighed once again as he said, "You know, I wish I had a reason to argue against this."

"But?" Emma questioned.

"I suppose we should tell Anna Elizabeth that she can go to prom with Nathan," Killian relented.

"And?" Emma gave him a knowing look.

"They can start dating," Killian finished.

Emma smiled at him as she said, "Let's go give her the good news."

Killian nodded before he and Emma got up from the couch and into Anna Elizabeth's room, where the blonde was reading.

"Hey, kid, can we talk?" Emma asked.

Anna Elizabeth put her book down, and both Emma and Killian could see her excitement as she asked, "Is this about Nathan? Can I go out with him?"

Killian took a deep breath before he answered, "Your mother and I have talked about it, and we've decided that you and Nathan can, uh, start dating," as he scratched behind his ear.

Anna Elizabeth hopped up from her bed and wrapped her parents in a hug.

"Thank you guys! This is awesome!"

"We're glad you're so happy," Emma told her.

"Are you kidding me? I've had the biggest crush on Nathan for, like, ever," Anna Elizabeth said.

"We know, love," Killian added.

Emma squeezed his hand as Anna Elizabeth told them, "I have to call Nathan and tell him."

"Wouldn't you rather tell him in person?" Emma suggested.

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows in thought for a moment before she pointed out, "Yeah, I would. But tomorrow is Saturday, and we're going to that music festival. How am I supposed to see him?"

"Anna Elizabeth, you know we'll be back before dinner. He can come by after and you two can talk," Emma assured her.

"Alone?" Killian added.

Emma tightened her grip on his hand before Anna Elizabeth asked, "Please, Dad?"

Killian knew he had already agreed to her dating, but it was still so hard to watch his little girl grow up. He took yet another deep breath and answered, "It'll be fine, love."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at him as she said, "Thanks, Dad."

Killian nodded and smiled back at her in response.

Emma then said, "Alright, we all have a long day ahead of us, so we all get some sleep. I'm pretty sure Liam has been out for a couple hours already."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "That's because he's seven."

"You still need sleep. I mean it, kid," Emma told her.

"Yes, Mom," Anna Elizabeth said as he placed the book on her nightstand.

They all exchanged goodnights before Emma and Killian went to their bedroom.

 

A couple of hours later, Emma observed, "I know you're not asleep, Killian."

She then rolled over to face him and was met with those blue eyes staring at the ceiling.

"How'd you know, Swan?" Killian asked softly.

Emma knew his question was rhetorical, but she answered anyway, "Well, let's see, we've been best friends for 16 years and married for almost 11 - I know you better than anyone."

Killian sighed as he turned over to face her. He then began, "I can't help but worry."

"About Anna Elizabeth," Emma supplied.

"My greatest fear is that he'll break her heart. She doesn't deserve that, Swan. I can't bear to see her hurting. I already know what that looks like, and I don't want to see again - I never want to see it," Killian told her, his voice thick with emotion.

Emma said nothing at first. She simply wrapped her arms around him and held on tightly. Killian pulled her closer to him as he settled on his back.

They just held each other in comfortable silence for what seemed like hours before Emma adjusted her position to look at him.

"I'm worried, too. We both know what a broken heart feels like, and it isn't something I want my only daughter to go through. But, I want her to have the experience of dating and young love because it is an amazing experience. And with that comes the possibility of heartbreak, but it's all part of life, Killian. It is just as probable that this won't end badly, but even if it does, Anna Elizabeth will be okay. It's like I told you earlier - we both know how strong, not to mention stubborn and independent, that she is. We can't control this, Killian. We just have to let it happen."

Killian let out a breath before he placed a kiss on Emma's forehead.

He then told her, "I'm so glad that we're in this together, love. I don't know what I would do if I had to raise her by myself."

Emma then kissed him softly before slowly pulling away.

She caressed his cheek as she told him, "You won't ever have to worry about that."

Killian smiled in response and placed another kiss on her forehead.

He then sighed and looked back up at the ceiling.

"I'm going to be a bloody wreck when she gets married."

Emma couldn't help but grin as she answered, "Oh, believe me, I know. But let's get through prom first, shall we?"

"Indeed, love," Killian answered.

Emma then told him, "Good night, Killian."

"Goodnight, Swan."

The blonde then settled back in against her husband's chest, and they both finally drifted off to sleep.

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The next evening, Anna Elizabeth was a bundle of nerves. She kept pacing around the house and rubbing her hands together.

"Mommy, Daddy, is Anna Elizabeth okay?" Liam asked.

"She's just nervous, lad," Killian answered.

"Why?"

Killian exchanged a look with Emma. She considered her words before she spoke, "You know Anna Elizabeth's friend, Nathan, right?"

The dark-haired boy nodded in response.

Emma then continued, "Well, he's coming over so he and your sister can talk about being boyfriend and girlfriend. And it makes Anna Elizabeth nervous."

"She shouldn't be nervous. She likes Nathan, and he likes her. They'll have fun," Liam pointed out.

Emma smiled at her son's innocence before she answered, "Well, kid, it's a bit more complicated when you're older. You'll get it one day."

Liam nodded in response just as they heard a knock on the door, followed by Anna Elizabeth's nervously excited voice, "He's here!"

As Killian went to answer the door, he was stopped by Emma's hand on his chest.

She gave him a stern look as she told him, "You go help Liam set up the game."

"I'm not a child, Emma," Killian pointed out.

"No, but Nathan will probably be nervous enough without you trying to scare him," Emma refuted.

"I wasn't going to do anything of the sort," Killian told her.

Emma's response was raising one of her eyebrows and crossing her arms.

"Fine, Swan," Killian relented before going over to the kitchen table.

Emma then went and opened the door to a very nervous looking Nathan.

"Uh, hi, um, Mrs. Jones."

The blonde gave him a reassuring smile as she told him, "Hey, Nathan. And you can just call me Emma."

Nathan nodded before Emma ushered the brown-haired teenager inside the house.

Emma then told him, "Anna Elizabeth is right..." but was cut off by the curly haired blonde rushing over to them.

"They said yes!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed before she wrapped Nathan in a hug. He stood awkwardly for a moment before he hugged her back.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth's cell phone rang in her pocket.

As she grabbed it and looked at the caller ID, she said, "Oh, this is about competition next week."

The blonde then went into the living room to answer the call.

Emma could tell that Nathan's nerves had calmed when he took a breath and spoke, "Both of you know how much I care about your daughter. She's one of my best friends, and I have a lot of respect for her. You don't have to worry."

Emma smiled at him before she flashed a look at Killian.

His arms were crossed as he nodded at the seventeen-year-old. Killian then told him, "We're counting on that."

Nathan nodded in response.

Liam then piped up, "Can we play Trouble now?"

Emma walked over and ruffled his hair. She then responded, "Yeah, kid."

"Are you and Anna Elizabeth gonna play?" Liam asked Nathan.

"Well, I was actually hoping to just hang out with your sister," Nathan answered.

Anna Elizabeth then came back over and told her parents, "You guys did say that me and Nathan could talk outside, right?"

"Yeah, kid," Emma answered with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth returned her smile before she and Nathan walked off to the backyard.

Killian tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at his wife as he asked, "How you'd convince her to go out there instead of in her room?"

"Our daughter is under the illusion that they're alone because we can't hear them, but we have a perfect view of them through the screen door," Emma told him with a smile.

Killian smiled back at her as he pointed out, "So, love, you are actually just as overprotective as I am."

"Maybe a little," Emma admitted before they sat down at the kitchen table to play the game with their son.

 

By the time it was dark outside, Anna Elizabeth and Nathan had come back inside just as Emma was putting away the game.

"Where's Dad and Liam?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

"Your brother wanted a bubble bath, and Killian is making sure he doesn't overflow the tub like you did," Emma answered, with a teasing smile in her daughter's direction.

"Geez, Mom, I was six," Anna Elizabeth pointed out, as her face turned slightly red.

Nathan couldn't help but chuckle before he said, "I have to get going."

"I'll walk you out," Anna Elizabeth told him. A thought then crossed her mind, and she turned toward her mom and asked, "If that's cool with you?"

"Sure, kid," Emma began. She then added, "But it shouldn't take longer than five minutes."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she and Nathan headed out the front door.

When they arrived at his car, a classic Mustang - courtesy of Nathan's father, a mechanic - Anna Elizabeth complained, "I can't believe Mom said that. It was so embarrassing."

Nathan grinned as he told her, "It's cool. Her and your dad are only looking out for you."

"I know," Anna Elizabeth simply replied.

Nathan then became serious as he told her, "I'm really glad that you get to be my girlfriend, Anna Elizabeth."

"Me too," Anna Elizabeth began with a bright smile. She then continued, "I still can't believe you had a crush on me, too."

Nathan returned her smile as he told her, "Well, believe it, Princess. You're pretty amazing."

Anna Elizabeth blushed deeply before she commented, "I'm still not sure about the nickname."

"I've told you that it's a compliment."

"Yes. But you've never explained why," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"Well, you do love fairytales. You've read all of the original stories. And thanks to my two-year-old niece, I've seen all of those Disney princess movies quite recently, and you remind me of them. Beautiful, yet strong," Nathan answered, though he found it hard to keep the nervousness from his voice.

Anna Elizabeth blushed once again as she began twirling her hair.

She took a deep breath before she told him, "Our five minutes is probably up, so I'm going to get inside before my dad comes out here and goes all overprotective. So, I'll see you at school on Monday."

"See you then," Nathan replied before getting in his car and driving off.

As Anna Elizabeth walked back inside, Emma teased, "One minute to spare."

The teenager rolled her eyes as she pointed out, "You're my mom. Shouldn't you be like cool with me dating?"

"I am cool with it. But I still want to protect you - you are my only daughter, and Nathan is your first boyfriend," Emma defended.

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she replied, "I know, Mom."

Emma then told her, "And if there's anything you want to talk about, you know I'm here."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she told her, "Thanks, Mom."

Emma smiled in response.

She then started to head toward her and Killian's room when Anna Elizabeth said, "There actually is something I wanted to ask you."

Emma turned back around and asked, "Yeah?"

"Um... did Graham have a nickname for you?"

"Hmm... not that I can really remember," Emma answered.

Her expression then changed to a grin as she asked, "Does Nathan have one for you?"

Anna Elizabeth rubbed her hands together as she answered, "Maybe."

Emma's grin changed into a smile. She decided not to inquire, but something did occur to her.

"Hey, kid, isn't prom the second week in April?"

"Yeah, it is," Anna Elizabeth simply answered.

Her eyes then widened as a million thoughts began racing in her mind.

"There's so much to do! I have to find a dress and shoes and someone has to do my hair and makeup..."

Emma cut her off, "Chill, Anna Elizabeth. Evie is going to prom, too. And you know how your Aunt Mary Margaret is - I'm sure she has some ideas, and is planning to take Evie shopping."

Anna Elizabeth let out a breath and nodded.

Emma then told her, "Let's get through cheer competition first. Then we'll tackle prom."

"Sounds like a plan, Mom," Anna Elizabeth responded before she headed off to her room.

"What sounds like a plan, love?" Killian questioned when he came back into the living room as Anna Elizabeth shut her door.

"Getting Anna Elizabeth ready for prom," Emma answered.

"That shouldn't be too difficult, love," Killian surmised.

"You would say that," Emma retorted.

Killian grinned as he told her, "I'm only trying to help, love."

Emma returned his grin and shook her head at him in response.

He then asked, "Did Nathan go home?"

"Yeah, Anna Elizabeth just came in from saying goodbye to him," Emma answered.

"So, what happened?"

"I don't know - I was in here," Emma replied, and instantly wished she had lied.

"What do you mean you were in here?" Killian asked.

"She was only out there for, like, five minutes," Emma tried to reassure him.

"That doesn't make me feel better - a bloody lot can happen in five minutes," Killian pointed out.

Emma sighed as she told him for what felt like the millionth time, "Killian, you have to stop overreacting and trust our daughter. We've been through this."

Killian ran his fingers through his hair before he told her, "I'm sorry, love. It's just difficult for me - I still see her as that little girl running around in a princess costume."

"I know you do, and I understand. But you have start loosening your grip some - we both have to," Emma said.

"I can't make promises, but if it means our daughter will be happy, I'll try," Killian relented.

"That's all I - and Anna Elizabeth - want," Emma told him.

She then wrapped him in a comforting hug, which he gladly returned.

As they pulled away, Killian told her, "I do get a say in her dress."

Emma shook her head and grinned as she replied, "What am I going to do with you?"

Killian simply shrugged his shoulders and offered a teasing grin in response.

Chapter Text

"Evie, I have something to tell you!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed as she walked into her last class of the day, a drama class she had with her cousin.

"Nathan asked you out," Evie responded.

"What? How'd you know?" Anna Elizabeth asked in surprise as she sat in her desk.

"Come on, Anna Elizabeth. The quarterback of the football team finally asks someone out, and you don't think everyone knows about?" Evie pointed out with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth blushed deeply in response.

The blonde then changed the subject, "You decided what kind of dress you want for prom?"

"Not yet. But Mom and I are going next weekend. Are you and Aunt Emma going to come with us?" Evie answered.

"I think so," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Evie nodded before she asked, "Are you going to try to match the theme?"

"What's the theme?"

"Fairytales," Evie simply answered, and noticed how Anna Elizabeth's face turned red.

Evie grinned as she asked, "Okay, Cuz, what's with the blush?"

"Nothing," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Before Evie could press further, the teacher was starting class.

The brunette quickly whispered, "You better tell me later."

Anna Elizabeth gave a small smile in response.

 

With only a few minutes of class left, the teacher allowed the students some free time.

Evie instantly turned to Anna Elizabeth and told her, "Okay, spill."

"Spill what?" Anna Elizabeth asked, feigning innocence.

Evie rolled her eyes in response.

Anna Elizabeth grinned before she began, "Alright, Evie." She then took a breath and continued, "I blushed earlier because Nathan's nickname for me is Princess."

Evie tilted her head as she grinned and observed, "It suits you."

Anna Elizabeth returned her cousin's grin.

Evie then asked, "So is Uncle Killian, like, super overprotective?"

"Ugh, yes. And it's only been two days," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"He'll come around. My dad did," Evie assured her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

She then carefully asked, "So, you're going to prom in a group, right?"

"You don't have to tip-toe around it, Anna Elizabeth. I'm totally over Jason," Evie told her.

"You sure, Evie?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Of course, Anna Elizabeth," Evie reassured her.

The brunette then joked, "But I do want to hang out with you at some point during prom. You better not be too wrapped up in your boyfriend," with a wide grin.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back her before she admitted, "I'll honestly probably come find you to help calm my nerves."

"Hey, you'll be fine. Nathan is an awesome guy who's totally into you. Even though you're a dork sometimes, he obviously likes you for you. Just be yourself, Anna Elizabeth," Evie reassured her.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at her as she said, "Thanks, Evie," before the bell rang.

 

When Anna Elizabeth and Liam arrived home, the dark-haired boy asked, "Can we finish that book we was reading?"

"Wouldn't you rather wait for Mom and Dad? You know we've been reading it together," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Liam furrowed his eyebrows in thought before he answered, "Oh, that's right. But it's such a fun story."

"I know, but I think you can wait," Anna Elizabeth began. She then continued, "But, if you finish your homework, you can read your AR book to me. Sound good?"

Liam nodded in response. He then proceeded to the kitchen table, took out a red folder, and went to work.

Anna Elizabeth moved to follow him, but was stopped by a knock on the door. Before she went to answer it, she placed her backpack on the counter.

The blonde opened it and was greeted by a few girls from the cheerleading squad. A confused look enveloped Anna Elizabeth's face as she observed, "I thought we weren't starting those extra practices until tomorrow."

"We're just having a little get together with the team and thought you might want to join us," one of the girls, Heather, answered.

Anna Elizabeth glanced behind the girls where she indeed saw the girls from the squad, along with a few guys she knew to be their boyfriends. She instantly got a bad feeling.

The blonde then surmised, "You seem to have invited a few more people than just the squad."

"I told you she'd be too chicken to come," Stephanie answered. She had been the ringleader of the girls giving Anna Elizabeth problems her freshman year. While all the other girls now respected Anna Elizabeth, Stephanie still didn't like her.

"Ok, so, it's really doesn't have anything to do with the team, but it'll be a fun party. We all know that Nathan asked you out, so you could bring him," Heather explained.

This wasn't the first time Anna Elizabeth had been subject to peer pressure from the team, especially since most of the girls were older than her. She couldn't deny that part of her wanted to go, but she also had a bad feeling in her gut. And both Emma and Killian had taught her to always listen to her gut.

"I really can't go, you guys. I'm babysitting my little brother," Anna Elizabeth told them. It was the truth, and it would save her from having to deal with the ramifications of everything else.

"Okay, that's cool. We'll see you later, Anna Elizabeth," Heather responded with a smile.

Stephanie, however, still loved to rub Anna Elizabeth's age in her face.

"Please, we both know that isn't the real reason you can't go. You're afraid your mommy and daddy will find out and punish you," Stephanie mocked.

Anna Elizabeth kept her cool as replied, "I hope you and Zack have a good time at your party. Like I said, I have to go check on my brother."

Stephanie rolled her eyes before she began to leave. She was halfway down the driveway when she stopped and said, "You know what? I really don't even know what Nathan sees in you, or why he waited for you. You're still that same immature girl who waltz into cheerleading camp last year and acted like she was better than everyone else. Eventually, he'll move on to someone his own age."

Anna Elizabeth was about to respond when she heard Nathan's voice, "That's where you're wrong, Stephanie. You are older than Anna Elizabeth, but she's still more mature than you because all you want to do is be the center of attention and start drama when you're not."

Stephanie huffed and walked away. Anna Elizabeth and Nathan then watched Zack, along with the other guys, drive away.

Anna Elizabeth then turned to Nathan and told him, "Thank you for that. She really is a drama queen."

"Of course, Princess. That's what boyfriends do," Nathan responded with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back at him before she added, "You know, I could have handled that myself. I have a lot of experience dealing with her."

"I know you could have, but I couldn't let her talk to you like that," Nathan answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she asked, "How'd you hear what was going on anyway?"

"Well, I was driving by with the top down and heard everything," Nathan answered.

"You mean, over your rock music?" Anna Elizabeth teased.

Before Nathan could respond however, Liam ran over to his sister and asked, "Are you okay, Anna Elizabeth? That girl was being mean to you."

"You were listening, Liam? You're supposed to be doing your homework," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Liam looked down at the floor before he looked back up and told her, "I know. But she was mean, and I wanted you to be okay."

"Thank you for checking on me, Liam. I'm okay – I promise," Anna Elizabeth responded.

"That's good," Liam said.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him before she told him, "Okay, Liam, now I need to you to go finish your homework."

Liam nodded in response before he returned to the kitchen table.

Anna Elizabeth then turned back to Nathan, who said, "I really should get back home. But I'll call you later, if that's cool?"

"Of course it is. Talk to you later," Anna Elizabeth told him. Nathan nodded before heading back to his car.

As the blonde shut the door, she leaned her back against it. She couldn't help the giddy smile that formed on her face. Nathan – one the absolute sweetest guys that she knew, who was also pretty popular and could easily get any girl to be his girlfriend – was her boyfriend. The mere thought made her blush.

She quickly shook her head from her thoughts and grabbed her backpack. She then went over to the kitchen table to tackle Algebra.

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A very exhausted Emma trudged through the door two hours later than normal. She immediately went into her and Killian's bedroom and crashed on the bed.

A couple of minutes later, she heard footsteps and Killian's voice, "Long day, love?"

Emma sat up and told him, "You have no idea. 10 minutes before our shift was over, David and I get this call from someone complaining about some teenagers having a loud party. We went over to check it, assuming it was harmless fun."

"I take it that wasn't the case," Killian supplied.

"No. When we got there, they were arguing. Some of them had found their parents' alcohol stash, and were playing a drinking game, while the others were trying to get them to stop. We had to do a breath-alyzer test on all of them, and even though all of them weren't drinking, we still had to bring them all in. There was underage drinking at a party that no one's parents knew about," Emma explained.

Killian sat on the bed and began rubbing Emma's back soothingly in response.

She then breathed a sigh of relief and added, "I'm just glad that Anna Elizabeth wasn't there."

"What? Why in the bloody hell would Anna Elizabeth be at a party like that, love?" Killian asked.

"Because, it was a party that the cheerleading squad had set up. Over half of the squad was there, along with their boyfriends," Emma answered.

"Do you think she knew about it?"

"Oh, she was invited to the party, but she turned them down. Or at least that's what Heather told me," Emma told him.

"I think it's safe to say that it's the truth, love. We both know that Anna Elizabeth is responsible and this isn't the first time she's dealt with peer pressure, Swan," Killian pointed out.

"I know. That isn't what this about," Emma said.

"Then, what's it about?" Killian asked.

Before he could answer her, the teenager in question came into their room.

"Hey, Heather just text me and told me that she can't go to competition because you arrested her?" Anna Elizabeth stated very confused.

Emma motioned for her to come sit on the bed before she began to explain, "It's a long story. And I'm going to start off by asking if you knew about the party that the cheerleaders were throwing."

"Yeah," Anna Elizabeth replied. She then added, "I said no."

"Just like that?" Emma questioned.

"Of course," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"Love, your mother and I were both your age once. I know you thought about going," Killian pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she began to explain.

"Ok, part of me thought about going, especially when they said I could bring Nathan. But, I just had a bad feeling about it, and you guys told me to trust my gut, so I did."

"What did your gut say, kid?" Emma questioned.

"That their parents didn't know about it because Heather told me it was just a get together with the girls at first."

"Well, you were right not to go. David and I got called on account of a neighbor complaining about noise, and when we got there, some of the girls, along with their boyfriends, had been drinking. The other girls were trying stop them and it resulted in a big argument," Emma explained.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened. She took a moment to consider her mom's words before she asked, "So, you and Uncle David arrested everyone?"

"While it was true that not everyone was drinking, there was still underage drinking involved at an unsupervised party," Emma elaborated.

"So, that's why a lot of the girls can't go to competition. They're grounded," Anna Elizabeth observed.

"Yeah, kid," Emma answered. She then took a deep breath and added, "And since so many of the girls were there, none of you can make it to competition."

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she said, "It's not fair."

"I know it isn't, love. You've been working so hard, and now it's all going to waste.

But, I can also see the other parents' point of view. What those girls did was wrong. If you had been there, you'd be grounded as well. The only place you'd be going is school and back home," Killian told her.

He then took a breath and added, "I am really sorry this happened, love."

"I am too, kid. And we're both proud of you for making the right decision. We know it wasn't easy," Emma chimed in.

Anna Elizabeth replied, "I'm really glad I decided not to go, too."

She then added, "Besides, even if I had gone, I couldn't have stood Stephanie for very long anyways."

Emma then said, "Yeah. Heather told me what she said to you - don't take any of that to heart."

"I won't. I've heard a lot of it before. And for the stuff about Nathan, he basically shut her up," Anna Elizabeth said.

"Nathan was here?" Killian asked.

"He was driving by and heard Stephanie. So, he stopped and helped Anna Elizabeth out," Emma explained.

Anna Elizabeth smiled and slightly blushed before she pointed, "I could have handled it myself."

Both Emma and Killian chuckled before he said, "If I had a dime for every time I heard that from either one of your mothers, we could buy quite a few prom dresses."

Emma rolled her eyes while Anna Elizabeth giggled.

Emma then said, "Speaking of prom, since we don't have to worry about competition, we could go dress shopping this weekend instead of next."

"Really?" Anna Elizabeth questioned as her eyes lit up.

"Sure, kid. You are going to be beautiful - I'm sure Nathan will think so, too," Emma told her with a smile.

"Considering that's one of the reasons he calls me Princess, I don't doubt it," Anna Elizabeth replied, her smile bright. However, when she realized what she said, she blushed and buried her face in her hands.

She then got up and left the room with a quick goodnight to her parents.

Emma grinned and shook her head before she surmised, "So, that's his nickname for her."

"He calls her Princess?" Killian questioned.

"Come on, Killian. It's cute that he has a nickname for her," Emma told him.

Killian scratched behind his ear as he admitted, "I suppose you're right, love. And it is rather fitting."

"Was that so difficult?" Emma asked with a teasing grin.

"Actually, it was," Killian told her.

Emma rolled her eyes in response.

She then told him, "I'm exhausted, so I'm about to go to sleep."

"Whatever you say, my Swan," Killian responded with a grin.

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"Anna Elizabeth, how many dresses do you have in there? Are you going to let us see one?" Evie told her cousin through the fitting room door.

"This is the one! I love it!" Anna Elizabeth responded.

"Then come out, kid," Emma said.

Anna Elizabeth then opened the door and stepped beside Evie.

The brunette's dress was a strapless and short dress. The bottom of the red dress was flowy while the top was covered in a diamond pattern. Evie had paired it with a pair of sparkly flats.

Anna Elizabeth's dress was short in the front and long in the back. The aqua blue dress had a single strap that went across the shoulder and through the middle of the bust of the bodice. The bodice itself had a diagonal line of diamonds across it. The bottom of this dress was also flowy.

Emma and Mary Margaret wore bright smiles as they took in their daughters' appearance.

"Both of you look absolutely beautiful," Mary Margaret told them.

"Really?" the girls asked in sync.

"Absolutely," Emma said.

Anna Elizabeth and Evie's expression changed to a smile as the latter said, "Well, it looks like we have our dresses, Cuz. Everything else will be easy after this."

Mary Margaret and Emma smiled before the blonde suggested, "How about you two get changed, and then we'll find you some shoes, Anna Elizabeth."

"Okay, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied before she and Evie went back into their dressing rooms.

Mary Margaret then said, "Oh, this brings back memories from when my mom took Regina, Ariel and I dress shopping for prom. I loved looking at all the dresses - I had such a hard time deciding."

"It's probably because you wanted to impress David," Emma surmised.

"Oh, I did. I had to find the perfect one - Mom and Ariel were helpful, but Regina was getting impatient," Mary Margaret replied.

Emma couldn't help but chuckle before she said, "That doesn't surprise me at all."

She then added, "Although, she probably wasn't worse than Ruby. She was convinced that Elsa and I needed to stand out and kept pulling these neon colored, sparkle covered dresses for us to try on."

Emma then began to laugh and was soon followed by Mary Margaret.

Anna Elizabeth and Evie then came out of the dressing rooms, and the brunette asked, "What's funny?"

"We were just thinking about how Aunt Regina and Ruby were on the pushy side when we went prom dress shopping," Mary Margaret explained.

"Well, if you were as fixed on impressing Dad as Anna Elizabeth is on Nathan, I can relate," Evie teased.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes and slightly blushed before she said, "Let's just go find me some shoes."

 

Half an hour later, Emma, Anna Elizabeth, Mary Margaret, and Evie were in the midst of lunch from the food court.

Anna Elizabeth had a giddy smile as her phone lit up with a text message.

"That must be Nathan," Evie observed, with a teasing smile.

As Anna Elizabeth looked back up, she pointed out, "You keep teasing me about Nathan, but you were just as bad when you were with Jason."

Evie ran a hand through her hair as she said, "I wasn't either."

"Hey, you two. You're both entitled to being nervous - we're talking about your first real boyfriend here," Emma pointed out.

"It doesn't apply to just the first one, Emma," Mary Margaret told her sister-in-law with a grin.

"I know you're not talking about me and Killian," Emma surmised with raised eyebrows.

"You were so nervous for your first date with him. You called me because you couldn't decide what to wear, and you kept pacing all around your apartment. You were even worse when you thought he was going to propose. Not to mention your wedding," Mary Margaret pointed out with that same grin.

It was Emma this time who blushed slightly as she admitted, "Okay, you've made your point. I was nervous." She then continued, "The point I was trying to make is that it is normal," as she turned to look at her niece and daughter with a smile.

The two girls smiled back in response.

Just as they started back eating, Anna Elizabeth heard her name being called. She looked over to see Alexandra and Jane making their way over.

The blonde stood up and hugged them both. As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth told them, "I hate that I don't have any classes with you guys."

"I know. It's absolutely dreadful," Jane agreed.

Alexandra couldn't help but smile as she said, "You and your British English."

Jane rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "It's not like I can help it - I don't know why you feel the need to point it out. Anna Elizabeth doesn't."

"That's because I'm used to it. You guys know my dad is British, too," Anna Elizabeth told them.

Alexandra then changed the subject and asked, "So, what brings you guys to the mall?"

"Prom dress shopping," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Both Jane and Alexandra grinned.

Jane then asked, "So, are you excited to be going to the junior and senior prom?"

"Excited and nervous," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"It'll be awesome. You'll see," Alexandra stated. She then continued, "Besides, you're going with one of sweetest guys in school."

Anna Elizabeth slightly blushed as she replied, "I know."

Jane then added, "You'll have to tell us about it since we have to wait until next year."

The girls then heard their names being called. They exchanged goodbyes before heading on their way.

The blonde then sat back down and continued eating her chicken tenders.

Emma could tell her that her daughter was distracted and asked, "Hey, kid, you alright?"

"I just realized that I'll be the only sophomore there. What if I look stupid?" Anna Elizabeth replied worriedly.

"Oh, sweetie, you won't. You just focus on having fun with Nathan and your friends. That's all that counts," Mary Margaret reassured her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

She then questioned, "Why do I stress over everything so much?"

"You get from Liam and Elsa. After losing their parents, they felt the need to be in constant control, and they planned out everything to the last detail. They didn't like the feeling of not knowing or uncertainty. But they were able to help each other let go of those fears and just live, and you have to learn how to do the same thing, Anna Elizabeth," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she said, "I'll try, Mom."

Emma smiled at her in response.

Mary Margaret then added, "How about we do some more shopping? We have to find some lovely makeup for you girls to go with your dresses."

"You do realize that prom is over two months away," Emma pointed out.

"It can't hurt to look," Mary Margaret said.

"Come on, Aunt Emma. I need some more foundation and eyeshadow anyway," Evie pleaded.

"Okay, fine. You guys win," Emma told them.

Mary Margaret, Evie, and Anna Elizabeth smiled in satisfaction before they all threw away their food containers before they headed to another store.

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When Emma and Anna Elizabeth arrived home, the teenager asked, "Hey, Mom?"

"Yeah, kid?"

"What you said about my parents - about them helping each other let go. Is that how they fell in love?" Anna Elizabeth asked with genuine curiosity.

"It's part of the reason," Emma began. She then smiled and continued, "They were kindred spirits."

"Like you and Dad are?" Anna Elizabeth asked with a smile.

"Just like us" Emma answered, her smile growing.

Anna Elizabeth grew serious as she asked, "Do you think I'll find that one day?"

Emma then stroked her daughter's curls as she began, "You, kid, are entirely too much of a hurry to grow up."

She then continued, "While I admire that you have tenacity about everything you do, that you are able to handle most things with grace and maturity, and that you're searching for purpose in your life, you're just turning 16 in a couple weeks. You need to just live your life and have fun. Everything may not happen how you want it, but it will happen how it's supposed to. You have no reason to worry, kid - just enjoy yourself."

Anna Elizabeth then wrapped Emma in a hug. As they pulled away, the teenager said, "Thanks, Mom."

"Any time, Anna Elizabeth," Emma responded.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at her before she suggested, "How about you tell me more about you and my mom's adventures in prom with Ruby?"

Emma giggled at her daughter's description before she replied, "Sounds like a plan. But first, let's get your dress hung up."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before going off to her room.

Chapter Text

When Killian and Emma woke up on Saturday morning, they found Liam sleeping between them.

Although, perhaps being on top of them was a more accurate description. Emma had fallen asleep on Killian's chest and had her arms wrapped around him. He had his arms wrapped around her waist as well.

Their son was currently resting on his stomach. He was laying a bit sideways with his head on Killian's bicep with the rest of his body sprawled on his mother's arms and part of her back.

Killian commented, "He must have made his way in here last night."

"It seems like it," Emma began. She then continued, "The real question is how we're supposed to get up without waking him."

"Given his current position, love, I don't think that's possible," Killian told her.

He then turned his attention to Liam and said, "Wake up, lad."

The dark-haired boy's only response was continuing to snore softly.

Emma then added, "I need you to wake up, Liam."

He then woke up slowly and rubbed his eyes. He managed to maneuver off of his parents and sat on the other side of Killian.

When Emma and Killian untangled and sat up, she asked, "You have a bad dream, kid?"

Liam shook his head before he told his parents, "I just wanted to sleep in here."

"That's more than alright, Liam," Killian said with a smile as he ruffled his son's hair.

They all then heard noise coming from the kitchen.

Emma surmised, "That must be Anna Elizabeth making herself some breakfast to hold her until lunch. I'm not sure how long we'll take shopping."

"We're going shopping?" Liam groaned.

Emma and Killian chuckled before he said, "No, lad. Your mother and Anna Elizabeth are going prom dress shopping."

Liam nodded before he asked, "What's prom?"

"When you get in high school, there's a dance called a prom. It's where everyone dresses up

and goes with their friends or boyfriends and girlfriends. It's a lot of fun," Emma explained.

"Oh," Liam replied. He then asked, "Is Anna Elizabeth going with her boyfriend?"

"Yes, she is," Emma answered.

"He's nice," Liam said.

Emma grinned before she teased, "Well, maybe you should convince your daddy of that."

Killian rolled his eyes before they all got out of bed to start their day.

 

Liam was still eating his cereal when Emma and Anna Elizabeth left.

Between mouthfuls of Lucky Charms, the dark-haired boy stated, "Daddy, I want to play basketball."

"Sounds fun, lad. We'll go once you finish eating and get dressed," Killian replied with a smile.

Liam nodded in response before he took another bite of cereal.

Several minutes later, Liam carried the bowl to the sink before sprinting off to his room.

As Killian moved to wash the dish really quickly, his phone rang.

He answered it and listened attentively for a couple minutes before saying, "Sure thing, mate. I'll be there shortly." He then hung up his phone and slipped it back in his pocket.

When Killian was placing the bowl back in the cabinet, his son came sprinting back into the kitchen.

Liam then asked, "Is the basketball in the garage?"

"I believe it is, Liam," Killian answered.

Before the little boy could take off, Killian bent down on his level and told him, "I have to go by the warehouse to help Leroy unload supplies, alright, lad?"

Liam nodded before he questioned, "Then we'll go to the park?"

Killian nodded at his son in response before ruffling his hair.

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"You're late," Leroy scolded as Killian and Liam made their way toward the truck.

"Only by a couple minutes," Killian pointed out.

"I'm supposed to meet my brothers to watch the game. I don't have all day," Leroy told him, his impatience clear.

At that point, Killian crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow as he sternly reminded him, "I could just as easily leave you to do all of this by yourself. Do you want my help or not?"

Leroy's demeanor changed as he said, "Yes, boss."

Killian nodded and was about to go to work when he heard Liam's voice, "Can I help, Daddy?"

Normally, Killian would have let him, but Leroy seemed more grumpy than usual today, and Killian didn't want to make it worse.

He then turned and bent down on his son's level and told him, "Your help is greatly appreciated, lad, but I think that Leroy and I can handle it."

Liam looked disappointed, so Killian thought of an idea, "Tell you what, I have a special job for you. You can be the supervisor."

The dark-haired boy's face lit up as he asked, "What's that?"

Killian motioned to a chair that was close to the truck and told his son, "You are going to sit right there and watch Leroy and I unload the truck. It's a very important job - can you do that?"

Liam nodded excitedly before running off to the chair, where he immediately began watching Killian and Leroy intensely.

Killian then proceeded to get to work.

 

When the two men were finished, Liam ran up to Killian and asked, "Was I good supervisor, Daddy?"

"You did an excellent job, Liam. I'm proud of you," Killian told him.

Liam smiled brightly before he said, "I still like helping better."

"Well, maybe you can next time," Killian told him.

He then turned to Leroy and said, "Well, mate, our job here is done. I'll see you on Monday."

Leroy nodded curtly in response.

As Killian and Liam were heading toward the door, the latter shouted, "Bye, Leroy!"

The man offered another nod in response.

Once Killian and Liam were in the truck, the dark-haired boy climbed in the middle of the backseat and rested his arms on the console.

He then said, "Daddy, I think Leroy needs a nap. Then he wouldn't be grumpy."

Killian tried not to laugh, but he couldn't help it. He then said, "You know, lad, I think you may be right."

Liam smiled in response before settling back in the seat.

 

They arrived at the park a few minutes later.

Liam practically leapt from the backseat with the basketball in his hands.

He immediately rushed over to the basketball court, leaving Killian to run after him.

Liam then shot the ball and smiled when it went through the net.

Killian then went to grab the ball and stood on the opposite side of the goal from where his son had.

Killian was about to take his shot when Liam stopped him.

"Daddy, you have to shoot from the same spot. We're playing horse," the dark-haired pointed out.

"Ah, of course we are," Killian replied with a smile.

He then walked around to where his son had been. He threw the ball, and it bounced off the side, "missing" the shot.

"Yay!" Liam declared triumphantly.

Killian ruffled his son's hair in response.

They continued to play the game, with Killian going easy on his son. Killian did get a couple letters on Liam, but the dark-haired boy beat his father.

"I won!" Liam exclaimed.

"So, you did. Good game, lad," Killian told him.

Liam's blue-green eyes then focused on something behind Killian.

Killian turned to see David walking toward them.

"Uncle David, I beat Daddy!" Liam announced.

"Well, from my experience, Killian was never very good at basketball anyway," David teased.

Killian rolled his eyes in response.

Liam then asked, "Can I go play on the playground?"

"Sure, lad. I'll just be on the bench watching you," Killian answered.

Liam nodded before he ran off to the swing set.

As Killian and David began walking toward the park bench, the former surmised, "I know what you're up to, mate."

"I can't just hang out with my brother-in-law and nephew," David pointed out.

"Not when he's supposed to be on patrol," Killian told him.

David sighed as he admitted, "Okay, so you caught me. I know that Anna Elizabeth dating is hard for you."

Killian ran his fingers through his hair before he said, "Emma must have told you."

"She did mention it, but I would have guessed anyway," David told him as they reached the bench and sat down.

Killian sighed before he admitted, "Nathan is a good lad, and I can see how much he cares about Anna Elizabeth. I'm slowly learning to be okay with them dating, but it's still hard for me to see her growing up. Emma says that we have to let her grow up because she is, and it's a good thing. I know that she's right, but it doesn't make things any easier."

David squeezed his shoulder as he began, "If there's anyone who knows how you're feeling, it's me. I'd give anything for Evie to be that little girl who couldn't go to sleep without me reading her a story. And it's the same with Jamie - he'll be in third year of college in the fall. I don't have a little girl or boy anymore. It's hard."

"But you seem to be coping with it well," Killian surmised.

David offered a small smile as he told his brother-in-law, "You didn't live here when Mary Margaret was pregnant with Jamie, but I was terrified to be a father. I lost my own father when I was 6 - I was worried I wouldn't be good enough to raise another human being who would be completely dependent on me. By the time Evie came along, I was more confident.

But, I never stop worrying about them - I don't think parents ever do, no matter how old they are. However, both of them have made me so proud. They're smart, resourceful, confident, and courageous. And they're too stubborn to let any kind of problem bring them down. I know that they'll be alright when they really are on their own - that's how you know you've done your job.

You and Emma have done an amazing job raising Anna Elizabeth - I know that Liam and Elsa would say the same thing.

Some of my best memories in high school involve Mary Margaret, and if my daughter and son can have those type of memories, then I want them to have them - and they do. They will look back one day and smile.

I know you want the same thing for Anna Elizabeth. The only way you'll be happy for her is if you learn to let go. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to protect her, but it's not going to hurt to ease up."

Killian sighed as he took in David's words. They truly resonated with him. All he wanted was his daughter's happiness, and those giddy, nervous smiles that she wore when Nathan was so much as mentioned were doing exactly that. Though it was hard to admit and even harder to accept, it did make Killian smile to know that Nathan did make Anna Elizabeth smile more than she already did.

As Killian looked back over at David, he was glad that even though his brother was no longer here, David was as close as he could get.

Killian then spoke, "Thank you, David. I really appreciate it."

David smiled as he replied, "Of course, Killian. That's what family is for."

Killian returned his smile in response.

David then said, "I really do have to get back to work. I'll see you later."

"Aye. See you later, mate," Killian replied.

Before David got up to leave, he asked, "Can I offer you one more piece of advice?"

"Sure," Killian replied.

David motioned to Liam playing on the playground as he told him, "Don't get so caught up in Anna Elizabeth growing up that you forget to enjoy the moments with Liam, who is still a little boy in a lot of ways. He still needs his daddy to make everything better."

Killian nodded in response before he watched David leave.

He then turned his attention to his son on the playground. He couldn't help but smile as he watched him play.

He and Emma had a beautiful son. Even though he was every bit as stubborn as his mother and at times, every bit as short-fused as Killian was, there were few things in life that brought Killian as much joy as spending time with Liam.

 

Killian watched his dark-haired boy play for a little over an hour before Liam came running over to him.

"Daddy, I'm hungry."

"Then how about we go by Granny's then?" Killian suggested.

Liam nodded excitedly in response.

He and Killian then made their way to the truck.

When they arrived at Granny's, Liam immediately crawled up on the stool on the counter, and Killian sat beside him.

When Ruby walked over to them, she asked, "The usual, you guys?"

"Yes, love," Killian replied. He then grinned and observed, "You know, Ruby, I'm still wondering how you manage to keep everyone's usual's straight."

Ruby returned his grin as she replied, "Years of practice." She then turned to go put in their order.

Liam then asked a question that Killian hadn't been quite expecting, "Daddy, why did Mommy say that you don't think that Nathan's nice?"

Killian sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as he thought of a way to answer his son.

He then took a deep breath before he spoke, "You see, lad, it's not that I don't think he's nice. But I just worry about your sister having a boyfriend."

"Why? They like each other a whole lot," Liam pointed out.

"I know that, Liam. You probably won't understand this completely, but part of me wants your sister to stay a little girl forever. I don't want her to grow up," Killian explained.

"Like on Peter Pan?" Liam questioned.

"Yes, Liam. Just like that," Killian replied.

"But Wendy, John, and Michael came home from Neverland. They was okay with growing up," Liam told him.

Killian smiled at his son and kissed the top of his head in response.

As they pulled away, Killian told him, "That is right, lad. And I really am happy that Anna Elizabeth and Nathan like each so much. I know they're happy, and that makes me happy. I do like Nathan - he is nice, just like you said."

Liam smiled at his father in response just as Ruby set down their food.

The dark-haired boy then looked up at the brunette and asked, "Can I have extra mustard?"

"Oh, that's right," Ruby replied before handing him the yellow container.

"Thank you, Ruby," Liam told her.

"Sure thing, junior," Ruby replied with a grin.

Killian rolled his eyes in response as Liam asked, "Junior? My name is Liam."

Before Ruby could answer, she had more customers to check on.

Killian then began to explain, "She knows your name, lad. She called you junior because you're a lot like me."

"Oh," Liam simply replied before he put the mustard on his cheeseburger and began to eat.

Killian smiled and shook his head before he started in on his food as well.

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Killian and Liam arrived home shortly after Emma and Anna Elizabeth.

 

Belle and August had to make a trip to the publishing company that they work for, a half-hour drive. Both Colette and Matthew were napping, and Belle hated to wake them. She and August had asked Killian to keep an eye on them while they were gone.

Killian wound up staying a little longer than planned because once Colette had woken up, she asked if Liam could play a little longer, and Killian couldn't tell her no.

 

Killian then asked his wife and daughter, "How was shopping, loves?"

"I got everything for prom," Anna Elizabeth answered excitedly.

"I'm glad, love," Killian replied as he kissed her forehead.

The teenager then stated, "I'm hungry. Do we have pizza?"

"Uh, I don't believe so, lass. But we can order one from Granny's," Killian suggested.

"Sounds like a plan - I really don't feel like cooking," Emma said with a grin, making Killian and Anna Elizabeth chuckle.

"Maybe we could make it pizza and a movie?" Anna Elizabeth timidly suggested.

Emma and Killian exchanged a look before the blonde said, "I think we can manage that." She then added, "I know you two won't make a mess."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but roll her eyes before she nodded, while her brother stated, "I won't, Mommy."

Halfway through the movie, Anna Elizabeth got a text. When she read it, "Is it cool if Nathan comes over tomorrow?"

"His mom already talked to me about it, and it's okay with them," Emma began. She then turned to her husband and asked, "What do you think, Killian?"

Killian took a minute to think about it before he answered, "It's perfectly alright with me, love. I already know him pretty well, but I'd like a chance to talk to him and get to know him better."

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened both in shock and excitement.

"Really, Dad?"

"Absolutely, love," Killian told her with a smile.

"Thank you!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed as she wrapped Killian in a tight hug.

Liam then huffed, "I can't hear the movie."

"Sorry, Liam," Anna Elizabeth apologized, receiving a satisfied smile in response.

All four of them then turned their attention back to the TV.

 

When the movie was over, the pizza boxes, paper plates, and paper cups were all disposed, and the kids retired to their room, Emma observed, "That was surprising what you said to Anna Elizabeth about Nathan."

"I meant every word, Swan," Killian told her.

"I could tell - that's why it's so surprising," Emma surmised.

"I'm sensing a question coming, love," Killian observed.

Emma nodded before she asked, "What brought it on?"

"A conversation with your brother. He told me that I need to let Anna Elizabeth experience life and to not hold on quite so tightly. It really got through to me. The more I thought about it also made me realize something," Killian explained.

"What was that?" Emma asked curiously.

"That I went through the same thing with Belle," Killian began.

He then took a deep breath and elaborated, "I admit that I was overprotective with Belle just like I am with Anna Elizabeth. I was so worried about my sister having her heart broken again that I didn't give August a fair chance. It was only when Belle told me that she loved him that I realized that I did need to lighten up and give August a chance. If anyone could make her open her heart again, he was surely worthy of my sister.

While love is indeed too strong of a word to describe what Anna Elizabeth has with Nathan, they clearly care about each other. You would have to a bloody idiot not to see it.

There's still no certainty in a relationship like theirs where they're still so young, but that just as easily applies to any relationship.

Anna Elizabeth is happy, and for her sake, I will back off. And I will give Nathan a fair chance. I'm not going to stop trying to protect my only daughter, but I will loosen my grip a bit," Killian finished before he took a deep breath.

Emma smiled brightly before she wrapped her arms around his neck in a tight hug.

As they pulled away, she planted a longing kiss on his lips. Before they got too carried away, Emma broke the kiss and told him, "I am so proud of you, Killian."

Killian rested his forehead against hers and caressed her cheek with his hand. They stayed like that for a moment before he adjusted his position to look into her eyes.

He then told her, "While it's true that David's advice hit home, it was simply an echo of everything you've been doing to help me deal with our daughter growing up. I couldn't do this without you, Swan. I know you've heard this many times before over the years, but it's still as true as the first time I told you: You are one of the most amazing women I have ever known. I know I can get through anything with you by my side. I am so in love with you, Emma."

Emma couldn't help the tears welling up in her eyes. Even after all this time, Killian's heartfelt speeches still got to her, and she knew that they always would.

As he used his thumb to wipe her eyes, she told him, "And I am in love with you, Killian."

He offered her a genuine smile before pulling her in for another kiss, one that she happily returned. And as it turned passionate, she didn't break it off this time.

Chapter Text

A few months had passed, and prom was only a week away. It was all Anna Elizabeth and Evie could talk about.

For the most part, Killian was dealing with Anna Elizabeth and Nathan dating, and with her driving. The 16-year-old girl had wanted to drive Elsa's car, so Killian, with the help of Nathan's dad, Jesse, had fixed it up for her.

She was currently pulling in the driveway after having dinner with Nathan and his parents.

When she walked in the door, she yelled, "Mom, Dad! I'm home!"

"We're in Liam's room!" Emma shouted back.

Anna Elizabeth then walked into her brother's room to find Liam and Killian playing Mario Kart while Emma watched.

The teenager sat beside her mom on Liam's bed and asked, "Who's winning?"

"Me!" Liam exclaimed.

"Well, you picked Mario, and everyone knows he's the best," Anna Elizabeth told him with a smile.

Emma then asked, "So, how was dinner?"

"It's was great. Rebecca makes really good spaghetti," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Killian then joked, "Well, love, you're never one to complain about food."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes while Emma giggled.

The blonde then asked, "Was the company as good as the food?"

"Yeah. Jesse and Rebecca are cool - Maddie was also there," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"That's Nathan's little niece, right, lass?" Killian questioned.

"Yeah. She's two. She's adorable, but she kept going on and on about the Little Mermaid," Anna Elizabeth told them.

"I hate to burst your bubble, love, but you did the same thing with Peter Pan," Killian pointed out.

"And with Snow White," Emma added.

"Okay, I get it. Geez," Anna Elizabeth said.

Both Emma and Killian chuckled in response.

Liam then tugged on his father's sleeve and pointed out, "Daddy, you're losing."

Killian then looked back at the screen and saw that Luigi had indeed had a turtle shell thrown at him.

The green clothed man was quickly recovered, and Killian continued racing against his son and the other characters.

A few minutes later, Liam huffed, "Daddy beat me," with crossed arms.

Emma ruffled his hair as she told him, "Come on, Liam, you know you can't win every time."

Liam sighed before he said, "Okay, Mommy."

Killian then said, "Alright, lad. I think that's enough Mario Kart for today."

"Can I play one more time with Anna Elizabeth? Please?" the dark-haired boy asked.

Killian and Emma shared a knowing look before they glanced over at their teenage daughter, who nodded.

Emma then told him, "One more race, and then you have to get a bath and study for your test tomorrow."

"Yes, Mommy," Liam responded.

As Anna Elizabeth slid onto the floor beside her brother, he handed her the controller and asked, "Are you gonna be Princess Peach or Daisy?"

"That's my only options?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"You're a girl, and those are the only girl characters," Liam pointed out.

"Oh, of course," Anna Elizabeth began. She then pretended to think about it before she answered, "I think I'll be Princess Peach."

Liam nodded in response, and soon enough, he and his sister were racing.

Killian and Emma then left the room, and the blonde surmised, "I think he misses her not being here as much."

"He isn't the only one," Killian told her.

Emma caressed his cheek before planting a kiss on his forehead.

"Come on, let's go see what case Gibbs is trying to solve," she told him with a smile.

Killian returned her smile before they both made their way to the couch.

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The next afternoon, Anna Elizabeth was walking toward her vehicle at school when she heard, "Princess!"

The blonde turned toward her boyfriend and pointed out, "You know, I think you call me that more than my actual name, and it's exhausting having to explain it."

As Nathan reached her, he shrugged and pointed out, "You know I don't care about what other people think."

He then added, "And you shouldn't either."

"I know," Anna Elizabeth simply responded.

Nathan then smiled and told her, "In another week, you'll feel like a real princess."

Anna Elizabeth turned red as she rubbed her hands together.

After a moment, her confidence grew, and she commented, "So, I guess that makes you my prince."

Nathan chuckled before he said, "Well, I look forward to sharing a waltz with you."

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened slightly, but recovered before Nathan could notice.

The blonde then surmised, "So, they're taking the fairytale theme pretty seriously, huh?"

"Yeah, but it's cool. My sister-in-law insisted on my brother and I taking dance lessons for their wedding," Nathan explained.

Anna Elizabeth nodded as she thought up a quick excuse, "Well, I was a little kid in all the weddings I've been in, but uh, my dad's, been, uh, teaching me."

Nathan smiled at her as he told her, "I know you're nervous, but it'll be fine. I'm sure you're a wonderful dancer, Princess."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back at him. They then hugged goodbye, and they went on their way.

 

When Anna Elizabeth and Liam arrived home, the blonde collapsed on the couch and sighed dramatically.

"What's wrong, Anna Elizabeth?" Liam asked worriedly.

"It's nothing, Liam. I'll be fine," Anna Elizabeth reassured him.

Liam furrowed his brows at her before he wrapped his arms around her in a hug.

As they pulled away, he said, "It'll be okay, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him as she told him, "Thank you, Liam."

Liam returned her smile before he asked, "Do you think that Penny will want to play fetch?"

"I'm sure that she will. Let's go," Anna Elizabeth told him before leading the way to the backyard.

While playing with their Dalmatian, the blonde's cell phone rang.

She grabbed it from her pocket and looked down to see her mom's picture.

Anna Elizabeth answered it, and said, "Hey, Mom."

"So, your dad's been teaching you how to waltz?"

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she replied, "You saw Nathan."

"Yeah, I did. Why didn't you tell him the truth?"

"I didn't want to look like a dork," Anna Elizabeth admitted.

She then heard her mother take a deep breath before she spoke, "I know that a year age difference is a big deal in high school, and that you're worried about being the only sophomore at prom. But I'm sure that Nathan would have understood - he already does."

"I know. I panicked," Anna Elizabeth told her.

She then asked, "Dad will teach me, right?"

"Of course he will," Emma assured her.

She then stated, "But you should know that your dad is starting a new project next week. He's on a tight deadline and will have to work late every day to get it done. He'll be exhausted by the time he gets home."

"That's not what I want to hear, Mom," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"I know, kid. If we would have known earlier," Emma began. She then took a deep breath and continued, "But don't worry about it. We'll work it out. I promise."

Anna Elizabeth was trying her best to stay positive as she answered, "Thanks, Mom."

"Sure thing, Anna Elizabeth," Emma replied.

They then exchanged goodbyes and hung up the phone.

As soon as Anna Elizabeth shoved the phone back into her pocket, Liam shouted, "Come on, Anna Elizabeth!"

The blonde forced a smile as she went to go play with her brother.

 

That night, Anna Elizabeth was wide awake and staring at the ceiling.

Just as she turned over on her side, she heard, "Love, are you awake?"

"Yeah, Dad," Anna Elizabeth replied as she sat up and turned on her lamp.

Killian then came through her door and sat at the foot of the bed.

He then observed, "Someone tells me that you need to know how to waltz."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she said, "I know it's short notice, and I know I should have been straight up with Nathan, but everything's been crazy lately."

"Hey, love, it's alright. That's life - it happens. Everything will work out," Killian assured her.

"That's what Mom told me earlier."

Killian then reached out to stroke her curls as he said, "Well, love, it's true. I will teach you how to waltz - it will be my pleasure."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as she hugged him and said, "Thanks, Dad."

"You're welcome, love."

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth questioned, "What about that house you're working on? Don't you start tomorrow?"

"Aye, love, I do. But I'm off on Sunday, and I'm sure we can find some time next week," Killian told her.

"But isn't waltzing like super elegant and stuff? I want it to be perfect for prom," Anna Elizabeth reminded him.

"You've really have to stop worrying, Anna Elizabeth. I assure you that you will be a marvelous dancer," Killian told her with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief before she nodded.

"Okay, Dad," she said.

Killian then stood up and kissed her head. As he pulled back, he said, "Good night, love."

"Night, Dad," Anna Elizabeth replied before burying herself underneath the covers.

As Killian left the room, the blonde knew that everything would be okay.

Chapter Text

"Go, Liam!" Emma shouted as her son stepped up to the plate.

When he hit the ball, both Emma and Anna Elizabeth cheered.

Emma then turned to her daughter and said, "You know, kid, you're pretty into this game."

Anna Elizabeth shrugged as she responded, "He's my little brother."

"Well, he's lucky to have a sister like you," Emma told her.

The curly-haired blonde smiled in response.

Liam's hit had won his team the game, and all of the eight and nine year-old boys were currently jumping up and down in excitement around Robin.

"Good game, lads. I'm proud of each of you," Robin told them as he gave each of them a little plastic trophy, as he did each game.

The boys then began finding their parents and other family members.

Emma and Anna Elizabeth met Liam on the field, and the dark-haired boy shouted, "We won! Did you see my good hit?"

"We did. You played very good, kid," Emma told him.

"Totally," Anna Elizabeth agreed as she ruffled his hair.

Liam smiled brightly at them. His expression then turned solemn as he told Emma, "I wish Daddy was here."

Emma got down on his level and hugged him.

"I know you do, kid. But I promise he'll be here for your next game," she assured him.

Liam nodded in response.

As Emma stood back up, Robin surmised, "I suppose Killian is hard at work on that new project."

"Yeah. It would have been nice if they would have given him more time, but they waited until last week to decide to fix up their parents' house for their anniversary," Emma told him.

"I'm sorry, love. I do understand, though. Regina was called in on a case last minute because the other lawyer decided that it was a conflict of interest," Robin told her.

"You know, after all of this is over, we should just go spend a day at the beach. I think we could all use some relaxation," Emma said.

"If you're serious, Emma, I think it's a marvelous idea," Robin told her with a smile.

Emma smiled back at him before her kids were ready to go.

 

When they got home, Liam asked, "Can we put a puzzle together?"

"Sure, kid," Emma told him as she ruffled his hair.

She then added, "But, first, I need you to go change out of your uniform and put it in the laundry."

"Yes, Mommy," Liam replied before running off to his room.

Emma then turned to Anna Elizabeth and asked, "No plans later today?"

Anna Elizabeth shook her head in response.

Emma then told her, "It's okay if you do, kid. I do understand if you want to hang out with Nathan, Evie, or some more of your friends."

Anna Elizabeth then tucked a loose curl behind her ear as she said, "Well, actually, Nathan's brother and sister-in-law invited us to a car show."

"That sounds fun. Why don't you go?" Emma told her.

"Really, Mom?" Anna Elizabeth asked as her eyes lit up.

"Of course, kid. I know that you do actually like hanging out here, but I still want you to have fun. Besides, your dad isn't working tomorrow, and he wants to take you and your brother fishing. So, you can go today," Emma said with a smile.

"Thanks, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied with a bright smile before running off to her room.

Liam then emerged from his room and carried his uniform to the laundry room.

When he returned, Anna Elizabeth was leaving.

"Where are you going Anna Elizabeth?"

The curly-haired blonde bent down on her brother's level and told him, "I'm going to a car show with Nathan, his brother, and his brother's wife."

"Okay," Liam said disappointedly.

Anna Elizabeth then took a breath and explained, "Listen, Liam. I'm in high school now, and I can drive. You know I have a lot of friends, and now I have a boyfriend. I want to spend time with them."

Liam nodded in response.

Anna Elizabeth then spoke again, "But you, Liam, will always be the best little brother. I love you so much, and just because I'm not here as much doesn't mean that I don't, okay?"

"Really?" Liam asked with big eyes.

Anna Elizabeth then pulled him in for a hug. As they pulled away, she ruffled his hair and told him, "I will always have time for you, Liam."

The dark-haired boy smiled brightly in response before hugging his sister once again.

As they pulled back, Liam told her, "I hope you have fun, Anna Elizabeth," with a smile.

"Thanks, Liam. I'm sure that I will," Anna Elizabeth replied as she returned his smile.

She then stood up and said, "Bye, Mom!" before she headed out of the door.

Liam then turned back toward Emma, who had set up the puzzle on the kitchen table.

He then made his way over to table and plopped down in the chair.

His blue-green eyes roamed over the puzzle intensely before settling on piecing together the bottom corner, while Emma went to work on the top corner.

That might not be the standard when it comes to puzzles, but Liam was adamant. Emma had learned that in things like this, it's best to let him be his little stubborn self.

It took them less than an hour to put the Robin Hood puzzle together, and as soon as Emma put it away, Liam already had the next activity in mind.

He came to Emma with a deck of cards and asked, "Can we play Go Fish?"

Emma smiled at her son as she answered, "Sure, kid."

As they sat down at the table, Liam took the cards from the pack and began "shuffling" them.

The dark-haired boy then asked, "Can I have a snack?"

"Sure, kid. There's some cookies in the cabinet," Emma told him.

"Chocolate chip?" Liam asked.

"You bet," Emma told him with a smile.

Liam returned her smile before he ran off to the kitchen, and Emma took the opportunity to correctly shuffle the deck.

When Liam came back and sat down, Emma commented, "That's a lot of cookies, Liam."

"It's for both of us, Mommy," Liam told her.

Emma smiled at him as she said, "Thank you, Liam."

Liam smiled back brightly at her in response.

He then grabbed the deck and began passing out the cards.

Once the cards were in front of their faces, Liam asked, "Do you have a red 8?"

Emma took a moment to look at her cards before she answered, "Go fish."

Liam sighed before he grabbed a card from the deck.

Emma then asked, "Do you have a black 4?"

Liam nodded before handing over his card.

He then observed, "How do always win, Mommy?"

Emma tried not to laugh as she answered, "We've just started the game, Liam. I haven't won yet – you just might."

The dark haired boy simply nodded in response.

He and Emma then continued to play.

 

That evening, Emma, Liam, and Anna Elizabeth had just finished a movie.

Emma then commented, "Hey, Anna Elizabeth, I forgot to ask earlier about the car show."

"It was awesome! They had the coolest cars ever," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Emma smiled at her daughter as she observed, "You know, I would like to blame Nathan for your interest in classic cars, but you've always had a thing for them. It must be your mom and dad in you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back as she replied, "Why do you think I wanted to drive my mom's Camaro?"

Emma couldn't help but laugh in response.

Just then, they heard the door open.

Liam instantly ran into his father's arms.

"Daddy, we won our game! Robin was proud of us."

"I am proud of you too, Liam," Killian told him with a smile.

Liam then asked, "Can we play Trouble, Daddy?"

The look on his son's face was tempting Killian to say yes. But the fact was that he could barely keep his eyes open.

Emma read her husband's mind and went to her son's side and explained, "Daddy has had a really long day at work. He is super tired."

Liam responded, "Okay, Mommy," the disappointment clear in his voice.

Killian then ran his fingers through his son's hair and told him, "Hey, Liam, I don't work tomorrow, and we're all going fishing."

"We are?" Liam asked as his eyes lit up.

Killian smiled at him and nodded in response.

Emma then said, "Alright, Liam, I think we should let Daddy go take a shower. But if you want, I'll play Trouble with you."

The dark-haired boy nodded in response before running off to get the game, dragging his sister with him.

As Killian and Emma both rose to their feet, he told her, "Thank you, love."

"Of course, Killian. I know you're exhausted," Emma replied.

"I know. But I still feel bloody terrible that I missed his game," Killian lamented.

"It's okay, Killian. I'm sure that Liam will be alright," Emma reassured him.

Killian sighed before he said, "My father was taken away from me way too soon. He did everything he could so that we would know that he was there for us. But I still wish it would have been more – I don't want my kids to stay that."

Emma then took his face in her hands and told him, "Hey, it's only one game. You have never missed anything that either one of our kids have been in – no matter how much running around it may involve. They always know that you will be there for them. No matter what."

Killian smiled at her before pulling her in for a hug.

As they pulled away, he placed a kiss on her forehead before heading to their bedroom.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

The next afternoon, Killian was carrying a sleeping Liam into the house.

"Well, love, I think our lad enjoyed himself today."

Emma smiled at her husband's comment before she observed, "He was probably also too excited to sleep."

Killian smiled as well before he nodded. He then carried his son to his room.

When he returned, he focused his attention on his teenage daughter.

He smiled as he told her, "I believe I owe you a dance, love."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at him in response.

They then moved into the living room, where they moved the coffee table out of the way while Emma scrolled through the songs on her phone.

She settled with a waltz from Swan Lake and kept it paused while she watched as Killian began to teach.

Killian took one of Anna Elizabeth's hands in his as he instructed, "Alright, love, you place one hand just like this and the other one on my shoulder."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before doing as told.

"Then your partner, in this case, Nathan, will place his free hand on your waist," Killian explained.

As Killian moved to rest his hand on Anna Elizabeth's waist, all she thought about was the reason why he was doing this. She instantly tensed up.

Killian sensed this and told her, "Anna Elizabeth, I know why you're nervous, love. You keep thinking about Nathan. But, love, you'll have a better time if you relax. You also can't dance if you're too stiff."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she took a deep calming breath.

She then looked back up at Killian, who nodded at Emma to start the music.

"Follow my lead, love," Killian told Anna Elizabeth, who nodded in response.

The first few steps went smoothly, save for the fact that Anna Elizabeth kept looking at her feet.

Then, to her dismay, she stepped on Killian's foot.

"Ugh, I'm horrible. I knew I would be," Anna Elizabeth complained as she crossed her arms.

Killian stroked her hair as he told her, "You'll get the hang of it, love. It just takes practice, and I know you're not one to give up."

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she told him, "I know you're right, Dad. Let's try again."

Killian smiled and nodded at her before they resumed their position.

He then told her, "Okay, Anna Elizabeth, this time, I need you to look at me and not your feet."

"I'll try, Dad."

Killian nodded at her before Emma once again started the music.

Though still a little stiff, Anna Elizabeth was much better this go around. It probably had something to do with the fact to do with the fact that Killian was counting out the steps for her.

After a little bit, he stopped and told her, "See, love? I told you that you'd get the hang of it."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes and pointed out, "It's because you were counting, Dad."

"That's how you learn, kid," Emma added.

Killian then told the teenager, "How about this, Anna Elizabeth. We'll do it once more with me counting, and then you'll take over. After that, it's just us dancing. Sound like a plan?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

They then began dancing once again with Killian repeating, "1,2,3...". After a spin around the living room, Anna Elizabeth took over. Killian mouthed the numbers to start with before she did it on her own. And to his surprise, she had actually loosened up.

As they moved to a halt, Killian questioned, "You ready to do this for real?"

Though she answered, "yes," the look on her face said otherwise.

Killian then ran his fingers through her blonde curls and told her, "I know you're nervous about dancing with Nathan. But you shouldn't be – he was one of your best friends before he was boyfriend. Think of it as sharing a dance with your best friend, and it won't make you as nervous. I promise that you'll have a wonderful time, love."

Anna Elizabeth took a moment to digest his words before she smiled and nodded at him, "Thanks, Dad."

Killian returned her smile in response.

He then said, "Come on, love. The lesson isn't over quite yet."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before they were beginning again. And this time, she was wearing a bright smile. He steps, though not quite perfect, were elegant and graceful. She moved seamlessly, and for truly the first time, Killian wasn't seeing an adorable little girl, but his beautiful teenage daughter.

As they came to a stop, Anna Elizabeth's face broke out in a bright smile.

"I did it, Dad! It was so amazing!"

"You were amazing, love. You're a natural, just like your mother," Killian told her before glancing over at Emma.

"Really? I am?" Anna Elizabeth questioned in slight disbelief.

Killian ran his fingers through her hair once more as he told her, "Yes, love. Believe me, you have nothing to worry about."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him before pulling her in for a hug. She then told him, "Thanks, Dad."

Killian kissed the top of her head before he said, "You're welcome, Anna Elizabeth."

As they pulled away, she commented, "Can we run through it again? I want it to be perfect."

Killian smiled at her as she answered, "Sure thing, love."

Once more, they resumed their stance and began dancing.

As they continued moving about the living room, Anna Elizabeth was becoming more graceful.

Though Killian tried to hide his emotions, it was a lost cause. Besides the fact that he always wore his heart on his sleeve, Anna Elizabeth was rather perceptive.

She stilled her movement and asked, "You okay, Dad?"

Killian took a deep breath before he admitted, "It's just that I blinked and you grew up. Here I am teaching you how to waltz for prom. A prom that you're attending with your boyfriend. Not to mention the driving. I really am learning to deal with this, but it's still a little fast for my taste.

And in a week, Nathan will be spinning his princess around the dance floor. I'm telling you that it'll be alright when I don't even know if I will be."

At that point, Anna Elizabeth had become emotional as well. She said nothing as she wrapped her father in a hug.

They stood like that for a while before pulling apart. When they did, Anna Elizabeth told him, "You know I've always been a daddy's girl, and that hasn't changed. High school is tough – I can't get through it without you. I still need you to make everything okay."

She then took a breath and added with a smile, "I'll always be your little girl, Dad."

Killian smiled at her before pulling her in for another hug. He missed his brother every day, but if it meant that he got to raise this amazing girl, he wouldn't have it any other way.

As she squeezed him tighter, he thought of her words. No matter where life took her, she would always need him, and she would always be his little girl.

Chapter Text

"Mom, how long is she going to be?" Anna Elizabeth asked exasperatedly from Belle and August's couch.

"You know how long the line is at the elementary school. It might be a little bit, but she'll get here in plenty of time to do your hair and makeup," Emma assured her.

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath and nodded before she ran her fingers through her hair.

August then handed his niece a cup of tea.

"Here, this should help you relax," he told her with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled gratefully as she took the tea from him.

"Thank you, Uncle August."

"Sure thing, Anna Elizabeth."

Just then, Matthew ran into his room and returned a minute later with a stuffed bear in his hand.

He gave it to Anna Elizabeth and asked, "Better?"

The blonde furrowed her brows and asked, "What?"

"That's his favorite stuffed animal. It makes him feel better if he's sick or has a nightmare or something like that," August explained.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before turning her attention back to Matthew. The two-year-old then asked, "Otay, Anna Beth?"

Anna Elizabeth ruffled his brown locks as she told him, "I'm okay," with a smile.

Matthew smiled back at her before running back to his room.

"That was sweet of him," Emma commented.

"He has Belle's heart," August told her.

"That isn't entirely Belle," Emma reminded him.

August smiled at her before Belle came through the door with Liam and Colette.

"Daddy, Mommy said you're taking us to the park!" Colette exclaimed.

"Yep. Let me just go get your brother," August told her with a bright smile.

"And you're sure you can handle all three of them by yourself?" Belle asked her husband.

"Of course. We'll be fine," August assured her.

Belle nodded at him with a smile.

Liam then asked, "Anna Elizabeth, how come you can't do your makeup?"

"Well, I can. But I want it to be extra special for prom," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Oh," Liam replied in understanding.

August then came back with Matthew, and asked, "You guys ready to go?"

"Yes!" Liam and Colette exclaimed enthusiastically.

Colette then took Liam and Matthew's hand, and the three of them were running out the door.

August shook his head and grinned before following them.

Anna Elizabeth then stated, "Let's get started. My makeup is right..."

She cut herself off and groaned.

"What is it, kid?" Emma asked.

"I left my makeup at our house," Anna Elizabeth answered as exasperated as she did earlier.

"It's alright, Anna Elizabeth. We only live five minutes away - I'll go and get it," Emma told her reassuringly.

"I'll just go - I don't remember where in my room I put it," Anna Elizabeth said calmly.

"Okay, kid," Emma replied.

Anna Elizabeth then grabbed her keys and headed toward her car.

Belle then surmised, "She's rather nervous, isn't she?"

Emma nodded before she told her, "I think that nervous is an understatement. Aside from the fact that she'll be the only sophomore at prom, it's her first real date with Nathan. This isn't news to her, but now that it's here, her nerves have gotten to her."

Belle nodded sympathetically before she observed, "I'm sure that she'll relax and have a good time."

"I think that once she's around some friends, she'll be fine," Emma said.

Belle smiled in response before she asked, "You think that my brother will be?"

"He's dealing with it. I think he sees that she's not a little girl, but he's still a bit overprotective," Emma told her.

"I think I'd be worried about him if he wasn't," Belle began with a grin.

She then continued, "On my first date, Liam told me that Killian kept pacing around our apartment. I think my oldest brother is the only reason that Killian wasn't as overprotective as he could have been."

"You know, I've been thinking about how Liam would react to all of this," Emma observed.

"Well, Liam was protective, but he was always more subtle about it. He also worried, but he didn't show it quite as much. I think that part of it was that he was strong, and he felt the need to be that all of that time. I'm still not sure that Killian and I will ever understand how hard it was for him," Belle told her.

"Elsa was the same way," Emma began before she continued, "You know I think that's why she never really dated in high school. She had such a good, kind heart, and she did know how to have fun, but most people couldn't see past what they called an icy exterior. But she and Liam really did understand each other."

"They truly did. And Anna Elizabeth is so much like Liam that, at times, it's almost like he's still here," Belle bemused, becoming emotional.

Emma simply wrapped her sister-in-law in a comforting hug. No words were necessary.

When they pulled away a few moments later, Anna Elizabeth had returned.

She sensed the change in mood and asked, "Mom, Aunt Belle, everything okay?"

"Of course it is. I was just missing Liam, but I'm fine, now," Belle told her.

"It's because I'm so much like him, isn't it?" Anna Elizabeth surmised.

Belle nodded before she told her niece, "You are almost exactly like him. I don't think I realized how much until I moved here and was around you more often. He and Elsa will always be here through you - I'm so grateful that you begged to stay with Killian that night.

They would be so proud of you, Anna Elizabeth. While you are a lot like your father, you are also this an amazing personality that is uniquely you. And it's pretty special. I'm so glad that August and I decided to call Storybrooke home because it means that I really get to see you grow up and become someone that your parents can smile at."

Anna Elizabeth then pulled Belle in for a hug.

As they pulled away, the blonde said, "Thanks, Aunt Belle."

Belle smiled brightly in response.

As the teenager wiped her eyes, she joked, "It's a good thing we didn't start my makeup yet."

Emma and Belle both chuckled before the blonde said, "And that would be her having picked up Killian's sense of humor."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but giggle at that.

Belle then said, "How about we go work on your prom look now?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she added, "I know I said makeup, but can we start with my hair first? It's going to take longer because it's sooo thick, and these curls are sooo unruly."

Emma and Belle couldn't help but chuckle once more before Emma told her daughter, "Your hair was really beautiful for 8th grade graduation. You pulled it off then."

"And it took, like, forever," the 16-year-old pointed out.

Belle then told her, "I think I can manage, Anna Elizabeth," with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back at her aunt before all three of them made their way to the master bathroom.

 

Three hours later, Anna Elizabeth's hair and makeup were finished.

With some help from hair products, Belle had pulled Anna Elizabeth's curls all to one side and held them with a sparkly clip. She left two curls to frame the sides of Anna Elizabeth's face.

Her makeup was simple but elegant. Belle had applied light blue eyeshadow to match Anna Elizabeth's dress and to bring out her eyes. She also put on the slightest bit of eyeliner and mascara. The rest of her makeup was light, accompanied by light pink lipstick.

Belle hadn't let her niece see what she was doing, so when she turned the teenager around in the swivel chair, her face broke into a wide smile.

"I love it! Thanks Aunt Belle!"

"You're so welcome, Anna Elizabeth," Belle replied with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth then looked at the time on her phone and gasped, "I have to get back home and finish getting ready!"

She then rushed out of the room.

Belle and Emma chuckled before the blonde admitted, "I really do appreciate you doing this. Part of me feels like I should have been the one doing her hair and makeup, but you know it's not really my thing."

"I understand completely, Emma, and I'm pretty sure that Anna Elizabeth does as well. It's really alright," Belle replied.

Emma smiled in response before she said, "Well, I'm going to go help her finish getting ready."

Belle nodded in response, and followed Emma into the living room, where August had come in with Colette and Matthew.

Colette then announced, "Matthew felled down Mommy."

Belle's eyes widened with worry, so August assured her, "It's only a scrape on his elbow. He wasn't seriously hurt."

The brunette breathed a sigh of relief.

She then asked, "What happened?"

"He was trying to keep up with Colette and Liam," August explained.

Colette then added, "Daddy said I got to member that Matthew is little."

"Little," Matthew repeated.

Belle then bent down on her children's level and told them, "Daddy is right. I know you want to play, but you still have to watch out so you won't get hurt," running her fingers through each of their brown locks.

Colette and Matthew both nodded before he asked, "Anna Beth?"

"Anna Elizabeth is at home getting ready for the dance," Emma explained.

"Does she look like a princess?" Colette asked.

Emma smiled at the five-year old as she answered, "She will absolutely look like a princess."

The little girl smiled in response before she and her brother ran off to go play.

Emma then asked, "Did Killian get Liam?"

August nodded in response.

The blonde's phone then beeped in her pocket. She grabbed it to see a text from Anna Elizabeth.

Emma then said, "I have to go you guys. I'll see you both later."

Belle and August told her goodbye before Emma was on her way.

 

When Emma arrived home, she heard Anna Elizabeth's voice, "Is Mom home yet?"

"She just got here, love," Killian answered.

He then kissed his wife's forehead and told her, "Our daughter is in need of your assistance, love."

"I know - she texted me while I was still at Belle's," Emma replied.

Killian nodded before Emma went to Anna Elizabeth's room.

The teenager then stated, "Mom! I can't zip my dress."

"I got it, kid," Emma told her before she went behind her and zipped up the aqua blue dress.

As Emma came to stand in front of her daughter, she offered a bright smile and said, "You look so beautiful, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back as she said, "Thanks, Mom."

Emma then asked, "Wasn't Evie coming by to take some pictures?"

Her question was answered when Killian shouted for both of them.

When Anna Elizabeth arrived in the living room, Evie told her, "You look amazing!" as she hugged her.

When they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth said, "So do you, Evie!"

As Emma reached to grab her phone, Killian moved to stand beside her and muttered, "Aren't their dresses a little, uh, revealing, love?"

Emma rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "Killian, the dresses are practically down to their knees, and they're perfectly covered up."

Killian raised an eyebrow and told her, "Not quite enough."

"Oh, really? Then explain to me how that is worse than her cheerleading uniform," Emma defended.

"I can hear you guys you know," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"Sorry, kid. Let me take the picture," Emma told her.

Evie and Anna Elizabeth posed for the picture with one arm around each other and the other planted on their hips. They smiled brightly as Emma took the photo.

Emma was about to put her phone away when Liam, who had just came from his room, piped up, "I want to take a picture!"

Emma held in a chuckle as she looked toward her daughter and niece. They were also trying not to laugh. They both nodded at Emma before Anna Elizabeth motioned for her brother.

The dark haired boy smiled before running over to Anna Elizabeth and Evie.

Emma tilted her head for a moment before she dragged a chair over and placed it between the girls.

Liam climbed up in the chair and smiled brightly, with Anna Elizabeth and Evie doing the same.

When the picture had been taken, Liam told them, "You look pretty, Anna Elizabeth. You do too, Evie."

"Thank you, Liam. That's very sweet," Evie told him.

Anna Elizabeth ruffled her brother's hair as she told him, "Yeah, thanks, Liam."

He smiled brightly at both of them before he climbed down from the chair and went over to the couch to watch TV.

Emma then asked, "You gonna hang out here until it's time to go, Evie?"

"As much as I would love to see the look on Nathan's face when he sees Anna Elizabeth, Leah, Abigail, and Taylor will be coming over soon," Evie explained.

Emma nodded before she smiled and told her, "Okay, kid. I hope you have fun."

"And be careful, love," Killian added.

"I will, Aunt Emma and Uncle Killian," Evie responded.

The brunette then turned to her cousin and told her, "I'll see you on the dance floor," with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth returned her smile in response.

As Evie was heading out of the door, Liam yelled, "Bye, Evie!"

She waved to him before closing the door behind her.

Killian then asked Anna Elizabeth, "What time is Nathan coming, love?"

"6:45," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"So, we still have over half an hour," Emma surmised.

She then asked, "I know they'll have some food there, but do you want something to eat?"

"Would I turn down food, Mom?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

Emma chuckled before she observed, "I'll take that as a yes." She then went into the kitchen.

Anna Elizabeth then grabbed the chair and moved it back to the table. She then sat down in it, where she was soon joined by Killian.

He took a deep breath before he said, "Anna Elizabeth?"

The blonde looked over at him and asked, "Yeah, Dad?"

"About what I said earlier, love... you really do look beautiful," Killian replied as he moved her hair off her shoulder.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him brightly as she said, "Thanks, Dad."

Killian returned her smile and nodded.

The teenager then questioned, "Dad, can you do me a favor?"

"Sure, love. What is it that you need?"

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she pleaded, "I know that you're pretty chill with me and Nathan now, but sometimes you're still too overprotective. I get why you are, but can you please not embarrass me when he gets here?"

Killian thought for a moment before he answered honestly, "You don't have anything to worry about."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response before Emma placed a grilled ham and cheese in front of her.

 

Five minutes before it was time for Nathan to arrive, Anna Elizabeth rushed out of her bathroom after reapplying her lipstick.

To Emma's relief, the teenager's nerves had been replaced with excitement.

Just then, they all heard a knock at the door.

Emma moved to answer it when Liam asked, "Can I get it?"

The blonde ruffled her son's hair as she told him, "Sure, kid."

The dark-haired boy sprinted over to the door.

As soon as he opened it, he told Nathan, "Anna Elizabeth is really pretty."

Nathan bent down on Liam's level and told him, "I bet she is, because she's pretty anyway."

Liam smiled at him in response before taking the teenage boy's hand and dragging him to where Anna Elizabeth was.

Emma and Killian swore that Nathan's mouth fell open when he saw Anna Elizabeth.

"You look amazing," he told her after a moment.

"Thank you," Anna Elizabeth replied as she twirled one of the curls by her face.

She then told him, "You look great yourself."

Nathan smiled back at her in response.

Emma then said, "Okay, you guys, I want to get some pictures."

"Sure thing, Mom," Anna Elizabeth told her as she moved to stand beside Nathan.

The curly haired blonde tried not tense up as he moved his arm around her waist, as she did the same.

Both of them wore bright smiles as Emma took a picture.

The blonde then said, "Okay, Anna Elizabeth, I want one of you by yourself."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before Nathan moved off to the side.

As soon as Emma had snapped one, Liam asked, "Can I be in this picture, too?"

Emma and Anna Elizabeth grinned as the teenager asked, "Do you mind, Nathan?"

"Not at all," Nathan replied before he smiled at the eight-year-old boy.

The chair was once again put into position. Emma snapped a picture of the three of them before glancing at the time on her phone.

"You guys better get going," Emma told the teenagers.

Both of them nodded before Nathan asked, "Her curfew is at 11, right?"

"Aye, Nathan, it is," Killian answered.

"We promise we won't be late," Anna Elizabeth reassured her parents.

"We know, kid," Emma responded with a smile.

Nathan then added, "We really do have to get going if I'm going to find a place to park."

Anna Elizabeth then hugged both of her parents, with Killian hanging on a little longer.

He told her, "Be safe, love." As they pulled away, he addressed both of them, "I hope you two have a wonderful time tonight."

Both of them smiled before Emma added, "Don't be afraid to get out on the dance floor and have fun."

They nodded before heading toward the door. Nathan stopped and turned to face Emma and Killian, "Thank you both again for letting us happen and for letting me take her to prom. I promise you that she's in good hands."

"That's exactly what worries me," Killian muttered, where only Emma heard him. She squeezed his hand in response.

Emma and Killian then nodded at Nathan before he left with their daughter.

When they were gone, Emma turned to face Killian and ran her fingers through his hair as she told him, "I'm really proud of how you handled that."

Killian offered a small smile as he replied, "Well, love, it wasn't quite as difficult as I thought it would be, and I promised Anna Elizabeth I wouldn't embarrass her."

"I'd say you succeeded," Emma replied with a bright smile.

Liam then piped up, "Are we going to Uncle David and Aunt Mary Margaret's house now?"

"Yep, kid, we are. Go put your shoes on," Emma answered.

When Liam was out of earshot, Killian told her, "You know, love, I still resent the fact that you think I need a distraction from worrying about our daughter. I told you that I don't need one - I'm perfectly alright with Anna Elizabeth and Nathan dating."

"And I told you that I'm not trying to distract you. We're simply hanging out with our family," Emma defended.

"Really, love?" Killian asked with a raised eyebrow.

Emma sighed before she admitted, "Okay, part of it is a distraction. But the other part is just as true. After the week we've both had, we could use some fun, don't you think?"

Killian considered her words before he nodded and said, "Aye, love. You're right."

"Haven't you learned by now that I'm always right?" Emma joked, making Killian roll his eyes.

Liam then came running from his room and announced, "I'm ready!"

"Well, then, lad, let's go," Killian told him with a smile.

When they arrived, Liam instantly ran into his aunt and uncle's arms.

"I'm excited to watch baseball!"

"We are, too," David told his nephew as he ruffled his hair.

"Did Anna Elizabeth and Nathan get off to prom alright?" Mary Margaret then asked.

"Yep. They're probably there by now," Emma answered.

"Well, I think that both our daughters will have a wonderful time," Mary Margaret observed with a bright smile.

"I think they will, too," Emma responded, returning her sister-in-law's smile.

David then announced, "Snacks are ready!" as he brought the bowls into the living room and sat them on the coffee table.

The five of them then settled on the leather sectional.

Killian then asked, "Are Regina and Robin coming?"

"I did invite them, but after Regina's been so stressed with this case, Robin took her out for a romantic night in the city," David explained.

"She definitely deserves it," Emma observed.

Mary Margaret then asked the blonde, "You did get some pictures of the girls, right?"

"Of course I did," Emma replied before taking out her phone and handing it to the brunette.

As soon as Mary Margaret saw the pictures, she beamed.

"Our girls look so beautiful and so happy. And Nathan looks quite handsome."

"Do I look handsome in the pictures, too, Aunt Mary Margaret?" Liam asked.

"Oh, very much so," Mary Margaret replied with a smile.

Liam smiled back at her before he turned his sole focus to the TV.

As the brunette handed Emma back her phone, she asked Killian, "Did you ever get a chance to teach Anna Elizabeth how to waltz?"

"Yes, I did, and she's rather graceful," Killian answered.

"So is Evie. But then again, she's been in ballet since she was 8," David surmised.

"So, she probably already knows how to waltz," Emma surmised.

"Yeah, but I'm not sure she'll need those skills tonight," David replied.

"Unless Jonathan asks her," Mary Margaret added with a grin.

"We don't even know if he likes her back," David pointed out.

"Well, there would be one way to find out - she could ask him," Emma suggested.

Both David and Mary Margaret gave her an odd look while Killian just chuckled beside her.

"Don't look at me like that. We all know that I asked out Killian for our first date," Emma defended.

"Well, Emma, we also know all that bold move was just a way to compensate for how nervous you were," Mary Margaret teased.

"I couldn't help it," Emma tried to defend.

"It's quite alright, love. I tend to have that effect on women," Killian joked with a smirk.

Emma rolled her eyes before she told him, "You know, I'm really hoping that our son doesn't take after you when he starts dating."

Killian laughed before he told her, "You know, Swan, I think you're exaggerating. I really wasn't quite that bad."

Emma smiled as she became serious and said, "I know you weren't."

She then teased, "Besides, even if you don't give me the whole story, I'll just ask Belle."

Everyone laughed at that, except Killian, who rolled his eyes. Liam looked around in confusion for a minute, but then went back to watching the game.

Once everyone had composed themselves, Mary Margaret observed, "Well, for what it's worth, it seems that Anna Elizabeth's boyfriend treats her as well as you treat Emma, Killian. And that's all any parent would want."

Emma and Killian smiled in response before they all began watching the game.

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The food had been served at prom, and everyone was now moving to the dance floor.

Storybrooke's multi-purpose center, which sat on the outskirts of town, had been converted to a place of absolute magic for prom.

The back of the room was decorated to look like an enchanted forest that led into the front of room, which was decorated like a castle. White twinkling lights encompassed the whole space. Glitter was on each of the tables, and two thrones were sitting up front, reserved for the prom king and queen. The famous words, "Once upon a time..." were front and center hanging above the thrones.

Even though Anna Elizabeth and Nathan had been there for almost half an hour, she was still in awe.

"I can't believe how gorgeous this place looks. I feel like I'm in Cinderella or Snow White."

"Well, you are a princess," Nathan responded with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but blush in response.

Just as they had settled on the dance floor, the blonde caught a glimpse of Stephanie. Luckily, she didn't see Anna Elizabeth.

Nathan saw who his girlfriend's eyes were focused on, so he reassured her, "Hey, don't worry about her. We are going to have a great time."

Anna Elizabeth gave him a bright smile in response.

Just then, she heard, "Hey, blondie!"

She instantly knew that it was Sean. He was one of Nathan's best friends, and he was a goofball.

As he came up to them, he told Anna Elizabeth and Nathan, "Look at you two looking all fancy."

"Well, it is prom. It's sort of the idea," Nathan responded.

"It's also an excuse to hang out with the girlfriend you never shut up about. I guess it was wishful thinking that you would stop after you asked her out."

"Anna Elizabeth does the same thing," Evie's voice from behind them said.

"You guys are dorks," Anna Elizabeth said.

"And you're a cheerleader, Nathan is a quarterback, and Evie uh, likes ballet. That really isn't news, Anna Elizabeth," Sean replied, making everyone laugh.

Just then, the music started, and Evie said, "I don't know about you guys, but this ballerina wants to dance with her friends."

As she walked off, Sean tilted his head and observed, "Maybe it's just me, but I feel like she was correcting me."

He then shrugged and headed further out on the dance floor, leaving Anna Elizabeth and Nathan laughing.

Nathan then asked, "Care to dance, Princess?"

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she answered, "I'd love to."

Nathan then grabbed her hand, and they went over to their friends to dance along to "Cupid Shuffle."

Just as the next song was beginning, Anna Elizabeth began sprinting back to their table.

"Where are you going, Anna Elizabeth?" Nathan asked.

"To take my shoes off - I can't dance in them," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Nathan only shook his head and grinned in response.

The tile floor was cold on Anna Elizabeth's bare feet, but she kept on dancing anyway.

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"I still don't know how you know the dance to "Footloose"," Taylor told Anna Elizabeth.

"Because she's so old school, like Aunt Emma and Uncle Killian," Evie answered.

"Hey, that's not necessarily a bad thing," Anna Elizabeth defended.

"You know, Princess, you are sort of old school," Nathan added.

"Coming from the guy who drives a 1966 Mustang," Sean reminded him.

Everyone chuckled in response.

Just then, the DJ announced that it was time for what everyone had been waiting for: the announcement of prom king and queen, followed by the waltz.

Evie then turned her attention to Anna Elizabeth and Nathan and told them, "I voted for you guys."

"Really?" Anna Elizabeth asked in surprise.

"Yep," Evie responded with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth offered a small smile as she pointed out, "Well, thanks, Cuz, but I doubt that anyone knows me. I am younger than everyone else here."

"You've really got to stop worrying about that, Princess. You know that I don't care that you're younger than me," Nathan told her.

"I wasn't worrying about it - I was just stating a fact," Anna Elizabeth reassured him.

Just then, the names were announced, and the couple made their way up front.

"Aww, I kind of wanted you guys to get it," Abigail said.

"You guys are sweet, but I honestly don't care about being prom queen. All I care about is having fun," Anna Elizabeth told them.

"Well, I think we've accomplished that, Anna Elizabeth. I loved seeing you smile and laugh so much," Nathan told her with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile as she rubbed her hands together.

"Well, lovebirds, the night isn't over for you two yet. You have a waltz to share," Evie reminded them with a smile.

Just then, music from Swan Lake filled the room.

Nathan turned to look back at his girlfriend as he asked, "May I have this dance, Princess?"

Anna Elizabeth twirled one of curls before her face broke out into a bright smile, and she answered, "You may."

He then took one of her hands in hers and led her across the floor.

Their hands stayed joined as Nathan rested his free hand on Anna Elizabeth's waist, and she placed hers on his shoulder.

As they started to dance, Anna Elizabeth swore that Nathan could hear her heart, which was thumping wildly in her chest.

The blonde was wondering how she managed to even remember what her dad had taught her.

Nathan could sense that she was nervous and told her, "Hey, it's just me. We've been dancing all night - this isn't any different."

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath as she took in his words.

She then smiled brightly at him and said, "You're right. I want to enjoy this dance with you."

Nathan returned her smile before he said, "Glad to hear it, Princess."

As they continued to move across the floor, he told her, "You're really graceful, Anna Elizabeth."

"Thank you," Anna Elizabeth began before she added, "Pretty good considering that I only learned how to do this last week."

Nathan looked at her curiously as he asked, "I thought your dad had been teaching you."

"Well, he did teach me, but I didn't know about the waltz until you told me the other day at school," Anna Elizabeth admitted.

She then took a deep breath and apologized, "I'm sorry I wasn't straight up with you. I just didn't want to look like a dork in front of you."

"It's alright, Anna Elizabeth," Nathan told her.

He then continued, "You are awesome, Anna Elizabeth. I'm so happy that you're my girlfriend. You never have to worry about looking like a dork around me."

Anna Elizabeth blushed slightly as she smiled at him.

She then told him, "I'm glad that you're my boyfriend, too."

He returned her smile as they continued to dance, with him moving his hand further around her waist.

Their nerves finally faded, and each of them wore the brightest smiles as they waltzed across the floor. It really did feel like a fairytale, and it was something that neither one of them would forget.

 

Nathan pulled into the driveway and shut off his car. He then got out and went around to open Anna Elizabeth's door.

She stepped out on still bare feet, carrying her shoes and cell phone in one hand.

Nathan took the other one, and they walked hand-in-hand toward the door.

They stopped in front of it, and Anna Elizabeth told him, "I had the best time tonight," with a bright smile.

"I had a great time too, Princess," Nathan responded as he returned her smile.

"It was an amazing first date," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"Well, I thought so, too. But I still intend to take you on a real one soon," Nathan told her.

Anna Elizabeth blushed slightly and twirled her hair around her finger as she told him, "I can't wait."

She then said, "Well, it's almost 11. I better get inside."

Nathan nodded before he pulled her in for a hug.

As they pulled away, they stared into each other's eyes for a moment before they slowly started leaning in.

Once again, Anna Elizabeth's heart was beating wildly in her chest. She couldn't believe this was actually happening.

The moment that Nathan's lips were on hers, goosebumps erupted all over her skin. She only thought she had been nervous before. However, they soon faded away as she let herself get caught up in the moment.

The kiss was everything a first kiss should be. It was soft and sweet, and it made both of them feel like they were on cloud 9. Though it only lasted a few moments, it felt as though it would go on for a lifetime. It was the perfect end to a magical evening.

As they pulled away, Nathan stammered out, "So, um, I'll see you, uh, Monday, Anna Elizabeth."

"Uh, you too, Nathan," Anna Elizabeth replied, as she continuously twirled a curl on her finger.

She watched him drive away before stepping inside the house.

As she closed the door behind her, she leaned against it. She felt as though she was walking on air as she replayed the kiss in her mind.

She was pulled from her thoughts when she heard her mother's voice, "Earth to Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth's head popped up as she asked, "Huh? Did you say something?"

"I asked you if you had fun. But you seem rather distracted," Emma replied, with a knowing smile.

Anna Elizabeth blushed deeply before she answered her mother's question, "I had the best time with Nathan and my friends. It was so much fun," with a bright smile.

"Well, love, we're both glad to hear that," Killian told her from his place leaning against the kitchen counter.

He then asked, "How did the waltz go?"

"Amazing. I know this is so cheesy, but I really did feel like a princess," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"It isn't cheesy at all - it's actually really sweet," Emma reassured her.

Anna Elizabeth blushed at Emma's comment as she looked down. She then said with a giddy smile, "Just like when Nathan kissed me," not realizing that her parents heard her.

"He did what?" Killian asked protectively as he crossed his arms.

Emma glared at him and hit his arm as Anna Elizabeth looked up with wide eyes.

"Oh, um, did I say that out loud?"

"Yeah, kid, you did," Emma told her.

"Well, um, he did kiss me," Anna Elizabeth repeated with nervousness in her voice as she ran her fingers through the hair.

"On the mouth?" Killian questioned.

"Where else was he going to kiss her?" Emma pointed out.

Killian looked sideways at her as he said, "He shouldn't be bloody kissing her at all."

"Really, Killian?" Emma scolded.

"It's the truth, Emma."

Anna Elizabeth then said, "Um, okay, I'm going to bed."

The teenager then stalked off to her room.

Emma then sighed and looked at Killian.

"We didn't handle that the best."

"And by we, you mean me. I'm sorry, love. I thought was handling this, but the idea of him kissing her is a whole other level," Killian admitted.

Emma nodded before she pulled him in for a hug.

As they pulled away, Killian said, "I want to talk to her, but I've no idea what to say."

"I think that the truth's a start," Emma told him.

Killian nodded and took a deep breath before heading toward his daughter's room.

He knocked on her door as he asked, "Can I come in, love?"

"Just a second," Anna Elizabeth replied.

A moment later, a pajama clad Anna Elizabeth opened the door.

"Yeah, Dad?"

"I want to talk, love," Killian replied.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she moved to sit on her bed as Killian sat beside her.

Killian took another deep breath before he apologized, "I'm sorry that I overreacted about the kiss."

"Why did you? I mean, I know you're, like, protective, but that was a bit much," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Killian ran his fingers through his hair before he spoke, "I know that you were excited about the kiss, love. I could see how happy it made you. But then I had to behave like a bloody idiot. Believe me, love, that wasn't my intention.

I just feel like that the kiss marks a new level in you and Nathan's relationship. I can already see how much you two care for one another. And I just feel that this is now serious, and it scares me, love."

"Why would you be scared?" Anna Elizabeth asked in confusion.

"The more serious this becomes, the more likely it is that you'll fall in love. Which means a bigger heartbreak if you two break up. That's the last thing I want you to have to deal with. I watched my sister deal with it, and I don't want you to have the pain that she did."

"That might not even happen, Dad. Maybe we'll be like Uncle David and Aunt Mary Margaret," Anna Elizabeth tried to reassure him.

"I appreciate the sentiment, Anna Elizabeth, but it's a bit early to be talking about marriage," Killian told her.

He then tilted his head and raised an eyebrow as he questioned, "Unless...?"

"Dad, no. I mean, one day I want to, and I want what you and Mom have. But there's a lot I want to do first. And with Nathan? I haven't thought about it," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"As it should be," Killian began. He then took a breath and continued, "You, love, are very mature and reflective for your age. Way more so than I was. And while it can be a good thing to put your whole heart into everything you do, it also means you'll have it broken more often. I know that it's important for you to learn life's lessons, but I'd prefer that you just live your days without a care in the world."

"I'm not sure that's realistic, Dad," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"It probably isn't, but you still shouldn't carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and worry about everything, as you so often do. Your father was forced into that, and he had to grow up too fast. He wouldn't want that for you, my love, especially since you have a choice."

Anna Elizabeth took in Killian's words before she simply replied, "I know, Dad."

Killian ran his fingers through her curls as he told her, "I really do want you to have fun and enjoy yourself. All I want is for you to be happy, Anna Elizabeth."

"I am happy, Dad. I have an awesome family, the best friends, and an amazing boyfriend. And I have fun with all of you. You don't have to worry, Dad," Anna Elizabeth assured him.

Killian smiled at her as he said, "How about we make a deal? I won't worry if you won't, love."

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile before she said, "Deal."

She then wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug. Killian hugged her back tightly and kissed her forehead.

As they pulled away, they heard Emma's voice, "So, I take it that you guys are okay?"

"Totally," Anna Elizabeth answered with a smile.

Emma returned her smile in response.

Killian then added, "We've all had a long day. I think we'd better get some sleep."

"I'm not sure that Anna Elizabeth will get any, thinking about that kiss," Emma teased.

"Mooom," the teenager groaned as she blushed deeply.

Emma and Killian couldn't help but chuckle before they told their daughter goodnight.

"Night, Mom and Dad," Anna Elizabeth replied before her parents left the room.

When Killian and Emma climbed into bed, she propped up on her elbow and looked down at her husband.

"Well, we got through prom with her first boyfriend."

Killian offered a small smile as he said, "I think a more accurate description is that you helped me get through it, Swan."

Emma used her other hand to run her fingers through his hair as she told him, "You're her father, Killian. You may have overreacted a few times, but it's perfectly normal. I wouldn't have expected any different from you."

"Really, love?"

"Of course, Killian," Emma began. She then took a deep breath and continued, "Sometimes I wish you were a lot less overprotective for Anna Elizabeth's sake, but at the end of the day, I know it's because you love her and don't want her to get hurt.

You have always been an amazing father to her, even when you weren't sure that you could do it. She is so lucky to have you, and she knows that.

And when she goes on more dates with Nathan, when she's named cheer captain, when she's picking out colleges, when she crashes her mom's Camaro, when she's nursing a broken heart, when she's graduating as valedictorian, and whatever the next few years may bring, you will be your slightly overprotective self and help her get through it.

We will help her get through it together. I knew that this day would come when I said "I do." I do understand how you feel because, at times, it seems like just yesterday that she was that little girl who ran to our room during a thunderstorm.

But now, she's this amazing young woman, and this was another step toward total independence. I know that's scary, but it's nothing we can't handle. And it's nothing she can't handle because we raised her well, Killian."

Killian reached up to caress her cheek as he said, "You know, Swan, I'm still wondering how I got so lucky to have you as my wife."

Emma smiled at him as she told him, "Oh, believe me, I'm the lucky one."

He then sat up and pulled her in for a lingering kiss. When they pulled away, they rested their foreheads against each other's as they caught their breath.

Killian then told her, "I love you, Emma."

Emma smiled at him as she told him, "I love you, too, Killian."

He returned her smile as he ran his fingers through her long blonde locks.

He then kissed her forehead before he told her, "Good night, my love."

"Good night, Killian."

They then settled into bed for a good night's sleep, both dreaming about the future of both of their amazing kids.

And across the house, their 16-year-old was dreaming of her brown-eyed boy, and the night that she'd always remember.

Chapter Text

Emma knocked on the door of Elsa and Liam's house.

He answered it and smiled as he said, "Hello, Emma. How are you, love?"

Emma returned his smile as she answered, "I'm great. How are you?"

"I'm wonderful," Liam responded.

He then ushered her inside as he asked, "What brings you by?"

Emma held up a cupcake tin and answered, "I'm returning this to Elsa."

Just then, said blonde came from her daughter's nursery, with Anna Elizabeth toddling along in front of her.

When the little girl saw Emma, she began running to her, which resulted in her falling on her butt.

Liam bent down and to help her up and to make sure that she was okay before she went over to Emma, hugging her leg.

Emma bent down and hugged her back.

As they pulled away, she tickled Anna Elizabeth's stomach, making her giggle.

Emma then asked, "Are you ready for your party?"

Anna Elizabeth recognized the word "party" and clapped her hands.

Liam then said, "We have a play date to get to with Evie," as he stood up, followed by Emma, who placed the cupcake tin on the counter.

He scooped up his little girl and kissed Elsa on the cheek before they were out the door. Anna Elizabeth was moving her fingers up and down in goodbye.

Elsa then observed, "You know, I'm surprised that she let Liam hold her. Since she's learning to walk, she insists on going everywhere by herself. She's so stubborn, just like her father."

"Hmm, I don't know. It sounds like to me that she's independent, like her mother," Emma pointed out with a grin.

Elsa couldn't help but grin in response.

Emma then noticed all of the baking supplies on the counter and asked, "You baking something?"

Elsa nodded before she elaborated, "Yeah, I'm making Anna Elizabeth's cake for tomorrow."

"I feel like that this is a pointless question, but do you have any ideas for it?" Emma asked.

Elsa smiled as she responded, "The cake will be chocolate, with chocolate frosting, of course. I'm going to pipe "Happy 1st Birthday, Anna Elizabeth" with bright green piping gel. It'll be finished off with Peter Pan figurines."

"It sounds like it'll be adorable. I can't wait to see it," Emma responded.

Elsa then began preparing all the ingredients for mixing when there was a knock at the door.

"Would you mind getting that, Emma?"

Emma nodded before she answered the door.

"Well, hello, love," Killian told her with a smile.

"Hey, Killian," Emma replied as she returned his smile before ushering him in.

"Killian, shouldn't you be at home? You're still recovering from surgery," Elsa scolded.

"I'm fine, love. You and my brother worry too much," Killian responded.

"Someone has to worry about you," Elsa began.

She then continued, "You know, the offer still stands of you staying her for a bit."

"Yes, I can bunk with Anna Elizabeth. I wonder if there's room for both of us in her crib," Killian told her.

Elsa rolled her eyes and crossed her arms while Emma bit her lip to keep from laughing.

Emma then said, "It's nice to see that your accident and surgery didn't affect your sense of humor."

"Ah, so you do find it charming. I knew I'd win you over, love," Killian replied with a lopsided grin.

This time, Emma rolled her eyes at him. However, she couldn't help but grin.

Elsa then asked, "So, what brings you here, Killian?"

"A man can't just visit his lovely sister-in-law?" Killian told her, feigning having his feelings hurt.

He then told her, "One reason is to return Anna Elizabeth's Snow White doll. She left it when I watched her yesterday."

"Oh, thank you! I figured that's what happened when Liam couldn't find it last night. Luckily, we managed to distract her attention with another doll," Elsa explained.

"I'm sure that the lass will be happy to have it back," Killian stated.

Elsa then asked, "What was the other reason you came?"

"Ah, yes. I was wondering if Liam had borrowed by Bon Jovi CD. I can't seem to find it," Killian answered.

"Oh, I have it," Emma piped up.

Killian turned and looked at her curiously as he pointed out, "I gave it to you months ago – I thought you had returned it."

"I just found it about a week ago in my car. I forgot that I even had it. It wasn't high on my priority list since you were, you know, unconscious," Emma told him.

"Hmm. I'm not sure I buy it, love. I think you stole my CD. That's very bad form, Swan," Killian playfully accused her.

Emma decided to tease him back as she stepped closer to him and replied, "Oh, yeah? What are you gonna do about it, Captain?"

Killian moved her hair behind her shoulder as she said, "Make you walk the plank, Swan."

Emma narrowed her eyes at him before she playfully shoved his hand away, giggling as he feigned being seriously hurt.

Elsa then told him, "I know you think that I'm hovering, Killian, but I only want you to take care of yourself. I really think you should go home and rest."

Killian looked over at Elsa as he told her, "I know that you do, love. I may complain about you and my brother, but I really do appreciate you two, love."

He then pulled her in for a hug.

As they pulled away, he told her goodbye before hugging Emma and doing the same. He was then out of the door.

As Emma looked back at Elsa, she noticed her friend wearing a giddy smile.

Emma then asked, "Okay, Elsa, what's up?"

"Oh, nothing," Elsa replied before she went back to making the cake.

"Come on. You can tell me," Emma goaded.

"Are you sure about that?" Elsa told her, her expression turned serious.

Emma frowned in response before she asked, "What do you mean?"

Elsa considered her words before she responded, "Do you remember the first time you saw Liam and I together?"

Emma, who was hopelessly confused, went along with Elsa as she answered her friend, "Yeah. I had never seen you so flirty and giggly around a guy before. And you tried to deny it - you said he was just like everyone else. He didn't understand you. But the truth was that he was the only guy who had ever truly understood you, and it scared you."

"Yep. And you were right. Once I was able to let go of my insecurities and my controlling nature, I was able to fall in love. And here we are, married with a beautiful little girl," Elsa replied with a smile.

Emma returned her smile as she told her, "I am so happy that you were able to find your happy ending after everything you went through after you lost your parents."

She then took a breath and continued, "But I'm not sure what this has to do with what you were going to tell me."

"Believe me, I know it's not the same thing, but you became so closed off to love after Neal. I totally understand that. I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day when you were flirty and giggly with a guy," Elsa responded, with that same giddy smile forming on that last sentence.

Emma's face turned into one of total confusion as she asked, "Elsa, what are you even talking about? I don't flirt with anyone."

"Okay, so what would you call that little conversation with Killian? Or should I say Captain?" Elsa pointed out.

"Seriously, Elsa? It's Killian - we do that all the time," Emma crossed her arms as she told her friend.

Elsa furrowed her brows and scrunched up her nose in thought. She then observed, "So you admit that you flirt with him. I knew that you liked him."

"Okay, we do not flirt. We tease each other because that's what's friends do," Emma began.

She then continued, "And you actually think that I like Killian? As more than friends? That's ridiculous."

"It's not that ridiculous," Elsa stated.

"Oh, I want to hear this," Emma challenged.

Elsa planted her hands on her hips as she pointed out, "You two know each other's morning routines, work schedules, and whatever else is going on in your life. You two spend a lot of your free time together. Alone. You have the same taste in music. You know each other's favorite foods, and least favorite movies. Not to mention you two know practically everything else about each other. He calls you by your last name - it's you guys' thing.

You two had this immediate connection that I've never seen you have with anyone else. He puts up with your stubbornness, and your walls that you put up. He understands you Emma. And I know how important that is in a relationship to you."

Emma took several long moments to take in Elsa's words.

She then took a deep breath and spoke, "All that you've said is true about me and Killian. I won't deny it. We did hit it off instantly, and we do, you know, care about each other. But it isn't romantic in any sense, and it never will be. We are just good friends.

Elsa nodded. She then considered her words before she asked, "So you wouldn't be willing to try?"

Emma offered a small smile as she told her, "Look, I know that you want me to find happiness in a relationship. It would be nice to have that one day, but I've had my heart broken. Even though I've forgiven Neal, I don't know if I'd be willing to risk my heart again. Don't get me wrong, Killian is an amazing guy. I know he'll make someone so incredibly happy one day. But it won't be me. Like I said, he and are just friends. That's all we'll ever be," Emma told her, matter of factory.

Elsa nodded in understanding. She knew that Emma's mind was made up, and she wouldn't change it.

She then apologized, "I'm so sorry, Emma. I didn't mean to push."

Emma waved off her apology as she said, "It isn't your fault. I asked."

She then pulled in Elsa for a hug.

As they pulled away, she smiled and told her, "I'll let you get back to making Anna Elizabeth's cake. I've got to go anyway - I have laundry piling up."

Elsa returned Emma's smile as she said, "I'll see you tomorrow, then."

"See you tomorrow," Emma responded before heading out the door and back to her apartment.

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"Swan, must you quote the whole movie?" Killian complained from his couch.

"Hey, it was my turn to pick, and you know that The Princess Bride is my favorite movie. And that I quote it when I watch it – you'll just have to deal with it," Emma pointed out.

"Well, love, next time, we're watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean, and I'm doing the same thing to you," Killian retorted.

"Whatever you say, love," Emma mocked, trying and failing to imitate his accent.

"If you're going to mock my accent, Swan, you need to actually be able to sound British," Killian teased.

Emma rolled her eyes at him in response.

As they turned their attention back to the movie, a funny scene came on, and Killian and Emma started laughing.

However, their laughter was soon drowned out by Killian clutching his side and groaning in pain.

"Hey, Killian, are you alright?" Emma asked.

"Aye, love. I cracked some of my ribs in the accident. Even though Whale mended them in surgery, it hurts when I laugh or if I do too much," Killian explained.

"That's why Liam and Elsa are worried about you, and why Belle keeps calling you," Emma pointed out.

"I've been in worse scraps than this, and I survived. I assure you that I'm fine. You all can stop worrying," Killian assured her.

"Did I say I was worried?" Emma defended.

Killian raised an eyebrow at her as he told her, "Perhaps not as much as my family, but I can tell you are, love."

"Can you now?" Emma asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

"I'm quite perceptive, love. And you're something of an open book," Killian refuted.

Emma narrowed her eyes at him before she turned her attention back to the movie.

From the corner of her eye, she then saw Killian turn his mug up, drinking the last of his tea.

She then asked, "Do you want me to make you some more tea?"

"You don't have to, love," Killian assured her.

"We can pause the movie, and I can do it. It really isn't a big deal," Emma replied.

"You sure you even know how, Swan? I know you're not a fan of it," Killian told her.

"That doesn't mean I can make it – I've lost count of the times I've seen Liam do it. And your sister when she comes to visit," Emma replied.

Killian smiled at her as he said, "Alright, love. You've convinced me."

"You know, Killian, Elsa always talks about how stubborn Liam is, but you can be every bit as stubborn," Emma pointed out before she grabbed his mug and made her way to the kitchen, while Killian paused the movie.

A few minutes later, Emma returned to the couch and handed Killian his tea. He sat up as he took a sip; he looked contemplative before he told her, "It's rather good, love."

"I told you," Emma refuted.

Killian rolled his eyes before he told her, "You know, Swan, you are quite the stubborn one yourself."

Emma rolled her eyes before she quipped, "Can we please get back to the movie already?"

Killian saluted her as he said, "Aye, aye, Captain."

He then became serious as he told her, "Thank you, love, for making the tea for me."

Emma smiled at him as she responded, "You're welcome, Killian."

He then took another sip of his tea before he settled back in against the couch. He propped his feet on the coffee table and rested his arm on the cushion behind Emma. She sat sideways with her knees up and leaned against the back of the couch. When they were both comfortable, he pressed play.

As they continued to watch movie, Emma unknowingly moved closer to Killian's side. It wasn't until he got up to use the restroom that she realized how close they had been sitting. It wasn't as if this was unusual, but it made her think of her conversation with Elsa. She started to wonder if there was actually any truth in it. She pondered the thought for a moment as Killian sat back down on the couch.

He could sense that she was deep in thought, and asked, "Everything alright, love?"

Emma smiled at him as she answered, "Of course. I'm fine."

Killian returned her smile before turning his attention back to the movie.

Emma then knew that Elsa's idea was, in fact, ridiculous. Emma wouldn't want anything other than movie night with a good friend. There was so much pressure in dating, and there was always the possibility of heartbreak. But with Killian, there were neither of those things. In her mind, it was perfect. She didn't have feelings for him, and she never would; she knew he felt the same. They were becoming best friends, and she wouldn't want it any other way.

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Four years later

Emma woke up to the sun gleaming through the window of her fiancé's, no, her husband's room

She turned over in his arms to find him watching her.

Emma smiled as she told him, "Good morning."

"Good morning, love," he replied, returning her smile and running his fingers through her hair.

"How'd you sleep?" Emma asked with a sly smile.

He returned her smile before he replied, "Well, love, that was the best sleep I've had in quite a long while."

Emma couldn't help but blush slightly before she asked, "Hey, what time is it? Our flight leaves at noon."

"A little after nine," he replied.

The blonde nodded before she asked, "Do you want me to fix us breakfast?"

"Shouldn't I be the one making you breakfast, Swan?" he questioned back.

Emma rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "You and I both know that you're a terrible cook."

He couldn't help but chuckle because he knew that she was right.

He then suggested, "Well, perhaps I can just assist you, then."

"Sounds like a plan," Emma told him.

She then commented, "Where do you keep your frying pan? I always forget because your kitchen is organized differently than mine."

He then reminded her, "Swan, it's our kitchen now. This is your house now, too, love."

Emma offered a small smile as she said, "I know – it just takes some getting used to."

He smiled back at her before he kissed her forehead. He knew she wasn't just talking about the house.

He then told her, "Well, love, we'll get through it together. That's what we meant when we said 'I do.' "

Emma smiled at him brightly before she pulled him in for a tender kiss.

As they pulled away, she told him, "I couldn't be any happier that you are my husband, Killian."

"And you being my wife, Emma, makes me the happiest man in the world."

They kissed once more before Killian got out of bed. He slipped on his boxers before heading into the kitchen.

Emma laid in bed for a few minutes as she thought about what her life would be like now.

Marriage wasn't really something that she ever thought would happen for her after Neal. Even if it did, Killian Jones was the last person she would have expected that she would fall in love with, much less marry. She thought that Elsa had been absolutely crazy when she first brought up the idea all those years ago.

Emma had never been happier to be proven wrong.

Chapter Text

Don't worry, guys, this isn't goodbye :)

As all of you know, I do love to write, and I always have. Writing fanfiction is a way to use my talent for it, and I love it so much.

I adore the story I created in Where We Belong and Together, and I love writing about this family and their relationships. These one-shots are a way for me to continue writing without having to come up with a whole new storyline (which is difficult).

That being said, I have exhausted my ideas for one-shots. So, I'm turning it over to you guys. I feel like I have covered just about every idea you can, and that's why I want to hear your requests. If there's anything specific you'd like to see, comment on this chapter or send me a message, and I will make it happen. The more specific you can be, the better.

School starts back next week, so I will only be able to write and update on the weekends. I'm already working on one that's different from these one-shots, and you all will see it soon.

I look forward to hearing y'all's ideas!

P.S. Just so you guys know, I only write stuff that is rated PG :)

Chapter Text

"Mommy!" Anna Elizabeth loudly whispered from the living room.

It took a moment for Emma to register that Anna Elizabeth was talking to her. The blonde was still getting used to being called that.

Emma then walked into the living room to see her sleeping one-year old sprawled out on Anna Elizabeth's back, clutching some blonde curls in his hand.

"Kid, what were you two doing?" Emma asked, trying not to giggle.

"Liam wanted to play horse," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"He did, did he?" Emma asked, with a knowing look toward the little girl.

Anna Elizabeth scrunched her nose in thought before she answered, "He told me he did."

Emma only shook her head in response before she picked up her son and carried him to his nursery.

When she returned, Anna Elizabeth was pulling out a piece of paper.

"Can you help me with this, Mommy? It's for my class."

As Emma took the paper, she groaned internally when she read the words "family tree" across the top.

Anna Elizabeth's third grade class was doing a unit about families, and the students were to complete a family tree project at home to turn in to the teacher. The projects would be displayed in the hallway outside of the classroom.

Before Emma could answer her daughter, who was staring at her with big blue eyes, Killian came through the door.

Anna Elizabeth ran up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist in a hug.

As they pulled away, the small blonde exclaimed, "You can help, too, Daddy!"

"Help with what?" Killian confusedly questioned.

"My family tree project," Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Killian cut his eyes toward his wife as he responded with pretend enthusiasm, "This should be fun."

"My thoughts exactly," Emma responded.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "Can we start now?"

Killian ruffled her curls as he replied, "Let's eat dinner first, love."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before sprinting over to the kitchen.

As Killian helped Emma by moving the plates and silverware to the table, he asked, "Where's Liam?"

"I just put him down for a nap," Emma answered.

"Ah. The lad will probably be up in an hour looking for something to eat," Killian observed.

She nodded in response just as they joined their daughter at the round, wooden table.

 

Emma had just placed Liam in his playpen after feeding him. She then joined Killian and Anna Elizabeth on the floor, where they were trying to figure out how to do the project.

"But Daddy, I want everybody want everybody in the project," Anna Elizabeth complained.

"Love, I know that you do. But it may be rather difficult," Killian gently explained.

"Why? They're my family," Anna Elizabeth simply replied.

Killian ran his fingers through his hair as Emma took his other hand and squeezed it.

She then took a breath and told her daughter, "You see, kid, our family is special. Killian and I are taking care of you now instead of Liam and Elsa. Which means that you have two families. I also have two families because I was adopted. Do you understand why it may be hard to include everybody?"

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows in thought for a moment.

With childlike innocence, she then responded, "I don't want nobody to be left out."

Killian and Emma smiled at their sweet little girl.

Emma then ruffled her blonde curls as she told her, "Well then, I better make copies of some more pictures then."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response.

 

Over an hour later, the family tree was nearly complete.

The first attempt at following the typical outline of a family tree had been entirely too complicated and required a new poster board. Luckily, when it had been listed under the school supply list, Emma bought extra.

This time, Emma and Killian helped glue the second set of copied pictures, and Anna Elizabeth wrote her own explanation as to who they were.

All that they lacked were Elsa's family and Emma's birth family.

Emma glued the picture of Elsa's parents next to the picture of Brennan and Elizabeth.

Anna Elizabeth stared at the picture for a few moments before she observed, "Aunt Anna looks like her daddy."

"She does, doesn't she," Emma agreed.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "What are their names?"

"Gerda and Agnarr," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brow as she remarked, "Those are funny names."

Emma and Killian couldn't help but chuckle before he explained, "Well, love, they're Danish names. That means from the country of Denmark. It's on the other side of the ocean. That's where your mother and Aunt Anna's parents are originally from. I believe that Gerda moved here when she two, and Agnarr was six."

Anna Elizabeth took in Killian's words before she asked, "Is that why Aunt Anna wanted to live in Denmark?"

"Yeah, kid, it is," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response before she asked the spelling of Gerda and Agnarr.

Killian then found the picture of Anna, Kristoff, Joan, and Charlie. Once it was glued, and Anna Elizabeth had written beside it, Liam grunted from his playpen.

Killian got up and went over to the playpen. He scooped his son up and observed, "Someone needs a diaper change." He then began walking to the nursery.

Emma had already glued the picture of Sharon and Dylan, as well as of Nick and Sage, to the board.

When Anna Elizabeth turned her attention back to the poster board and began to write, she paused.

"What is it, Anna Elizabeth?" Emma questioned.

"I don't know what to write," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"What do you mean, kid?" Emma asked, slightly confused.

" 'Cause Sharon is your mommy, but you don't call her that, and she's married to Dylan. But he isn't your daddy. Grandpa Nick is," Anna Elizabeth answered, growing more confused as she spoke.

Emma stroked Anna Elizabeth's curls as she began to explain, "You see, kid, sometimes people who are married decide that they don't want to be married anymore. There's lots of reasons why that happens. So, they get a divorce. That's what happened with Sharon and Dad. And then Sharon found out that I was in her tummy, but she didn't want to be a mommy. That's why she gave me away. She wanted me to have another mommy and daddy."

After a moment, Anna Elizabeth pointed out, "But you found her, and she's your mommy, now."

Emma sighed as she thought over what to say. This was quite complicated. After a few moments, she sighed once again and told her little girl, "You are right, Anna Elizabeth. Sharon is my mommy, but I don't call her that. The reason is that while I care about her, I don't really see her as my mommy. I still see Grandma Ruth as my mommy. Does that make sense?"

Anna Elizabeth was quiet for several moments. Emma then knew where these questions were really coming from when Anna Elizabeth asked, "Do you think that my mommy and daddy are still okay with me calling you and Uncle Killian just "Mommy and Daddy"?"

Before Emma could answer, Killian came back in with Liam. He saw the saddened expression on Anna Elizabeth's face.

He placed Liam in his playpen before he asked, "Everything alright?"

Anna Elizabeth had momentarily turned her attention to the picture to the picture of Liam and Elsa, so Emma caught her husband up to speed.

The little girl then looked back up at Emma and Killian with a question in her blue eyes.

Emma then began to explain, "Listen, Anna Elizabeth, just because I don't call Sharon "Mom", doesn't mean I don't love her like she's my mommy. It is okay that I don't call her that."

She then took a breath and continued, "Just like it is still okay that you call Killian and I "Daddy and Mommy" all of the time. It is okay that you want to call us that – Liam and Elsa are happy that you see us as your parents. So that you know that you still have parents who love you and take care of you. There is nothing wrong with that."

Anna Elizabeth thought for a moment before she asked, "Are you sure?"

Killian then wrapped her in a hug as he answered, "Of course, love. All they want is for you to be happy. You can trust me on that," as he stroked her curls.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth pulled Emma into the hug too as she told them, "I love that you're my mommy and daddy."

Killian and Emma planted a kiss on either side of her head as they simultaneously answered, "So are we."

They then heard Liam make a whining noise from his playpen.

Emma turned to see her son standing in his playpen with outstretched arms.

She and Killian both chuckled before Emma got up and scooped up Liam.

She then asked him, "Do you want a hug, too, kid?"

Liam then pointed to Killian and Anna Elizabeth.

As Emma sat back down on the floor, Liam got up from her lap and toddled over to his father and sister, trying to wrap his small arms around both of them.

As they pulled away, Liam noticed the poster board full of pictures.

He saw the one of Emma and Killian and pointed. He then said, "Ma-ma? Da-da?"

"That's right, lad," Killian praised him, as Emma smiled brightly.

Anna Elizabeth then pulled the toddler in her lap and pointed to the picture of herself.

"That's me!" she exclaimed.

Liam looked at the picture before he looked up at his sister and said, "Bef."

Anna Elizabeth gasped as she realized what he meant, "He knows my name!"

Both Emma and Killian smiled brightly as he observed, "So, he does."

The little boy then reached for the locket around Emma's neck. She pulled him into her arms and held him before she told Anna Elizabeth, "Okay, kid, once Daddy glues the picture of Noah and Courtney, and you write beside it, we'll be all finished."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before turning her attention back to the board, where Killian had already glued the picture.

Anna Elizabeth then wrote, "This is my Uncle Noah and Aunt Courtney. Uncle Noah is Mommy's adopted brother. Grandpa Nick is his daddy."

She then exclaimed, "I'm done!"

"Alright, love, you can go put it in your room," Killian told her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she stood up and sprinted off to her room, poster in hand.

Killian then stood up, followed by Emma.

"You know, love, I could have held Liam while you got up," he suggested.

"I managed, didn't I?" Emma refuted.

Killian rolled his eyes as he pointed out, "You know, love, you can be entirely too stubborn for your own good."

Emma then replied, "Yeah, well, you'll get over it," with a teasing smile.

She then placed Liam back in his playpen when she heard the dryer ding.

Killian only shook his head in response.

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That night, Emma was walking out of Liam's nursery. Tonight was one of those nights when her baby had trouble falling asleep.

The blonde then went to go check on Anna Elizabeth. Emma instantly could tell that the little girl was wide awake.

Emma went to kneel down beside her little girl's head as she asked, "Hey, kid, can't sleep?"

Anna Elizabeth shook her head in response.

"Why?" Emma asked.

The small blonde then questioned, "Will you ever call Sharon "Mommy"?"

Emma offered a small smile as she answered, "I'm sure that one day I will. I'm really happy that I found Sharon, and she's happy about it, too. We are family, and we love each other very much."

"Really?" Anna Elizabeth questioned with wide eyes.

"Yep," Emma answered with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back in response before she told her, "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, too, Anna Elizabeth," Emma responded before she kissed her daughter's forehead.

The little girl then rolled over on her side. Within a couple minutes, she was sound asleep.

 

When Emma returned to she and Killian's room, she crawled under the covers and sighed.

"You alright, Swan?" Killian asked as he rolled on his side to face her.

"Our family is complicated," Emma answered.

Killian couldn't help but chuckle in response before he observed, "I take it that Anna Elizabeth had more questions about Sharon."

"Yeah," Emma simply replied.

Killian gently kissed her forehead before he told her, "Anna Elizabeth doesn't see that our family is complicated – she just sees the people that love her. I think maybe that is the best way to see it, love."

Emma took a moment to think on his words. She turned over to look at him. She looked into those mesmerizing blue eyes before she reached over to caress his cheek and told him, "You always know what I need to hear."

Killian smiled genuinely at her as he replied, "Well, Swan, I'm married to my best friend."

Emma smiled back at him as she told him, "So am I, Killian."

He then leaned in and captured her lips in a sweet kiss.

When they pulled away, Emma rested her head on his chest.

He planted a kiss in her hair before he told her, "Good night, my love."

"Good night, Killian," Emma responded.

A few minutes later, she felt her husband's breathing even out, and she knew that he was fast asleep.

Emma couldn't help but think of Liam and Elsa. Both of them had been just as protective over their daughter as they were over their younger siblings.

She knew that they were smiling down because they were all okay: Killian, Belle, and Anna. Each of them were leading happy, successful lives with the one they loved beside them.

And for Liam and Elsa's little girl, she was happy as any child should be. She was calling someone else "Mommy and Daddy". Someone else was making her feel loved and cared for. Emma knew that they were still okay with that.

Everything was still okay.

Chapter Text

Anna Elizabeth was sitting in her last period chemistry class.

She was doodling song lyrics in her notebook when she heard, "Hey, blondie, this seat taken?"

The blonde looked up to see a girl with shoulder length dark brown hair and eyes standing before her. She wore worn, light faded jeans with rips in both of the knees with a tight-fitting t-shirt, along with black Converse sneakers.

"No, it isn't," Anna Elizabeth answered.

The girl nodded before she sat down in the desk beside Anna Elizabeth's.

The dark-haired girl then noticed Anna Elizabeth's shirt and commented, "Bon Jovi – you have good taste in music."

"What? Oh, yeah," Anna Elizabeth began. She then continued, "I normally just sleep in it, but I overslept this morning. It was my dad's shirt. I think that Livin' On a Prayer was, like, his favorite song ever. It's one of mine, too."

The girl noticed Anna Elizabeth's use of "was" but didn't press her.

Instead, she commented, "Well, your taste in music is cooler than anyone else I've met. You got a name?"

The blonde nodded before she spoke, "Yeah, it's Anna Elizabeth."

"Cool, I'm Gia," the girl responded.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she told her, "It's nice to meet you."

Gia returned her smile as she replied, "You, too."

Anna Elizabeth then surmised, "I don't think I've seen you around before. Are you new?"

Gia nodded before she elaborated, "Yeah. We just moved here from Mist Haven."

"Oh, yeah. I know where that is – I like to go shopping at the mall there," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Gia nodded in response before the teacher began the class. Halfway through, she discreetly placed a note on Anna Elizabeth's desk.

The blonde simply looked at for a few moments. They were both supposed to be paying attention to the lesson; she thought about just handing the note back to Gia.

However, Gia seemed like someone that Anna Elizabeth would get along really well with, and someone which whom she could become great friends. Besides, the blonde already knew the information pretty well, so she quietly opened the notebook paper.

She read Who even cares about the Periodic Table?

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile before she wrote back I will admit that science isn't my favorite subject.

Gia read the note and quickly replied It's almost as bad as math.

Anna Elizabeth grinned at the comment as the two girls continued to pass notes for the remainder of the class period.

As soon as the bell rang, Anna Elizabeth and Gia took off for the parking lot.

As they were walking, Gia told the blonde, "You're pretty cool. You wanna hang out today? Maybe you could show me around Storybrooke."

"I'd love to, but I can't. I watch my little brother after school," Anna Elizabeth explained.

Gia nodded before she suggested, "Maybe some other time, then."

"Totally," Anna Elizabeth agreed with a smile as they arrived at her Camaro.

"Sweet. I'll see you tomorrow," Gia told her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before the dark-haired girl walked off.

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"Hey, kid, can't whoever you're texting wait until we're through with dinner?" Emma told her daughter.

"Oh, sorry, Mom," Anna Elizabeth apologized before she put her cell phone in her pocket.

"It's alright. Just don't do it again, okay?" Emma replied.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

Killian then asked, "What's this lass's name, love? The one who is a new student?"

"Gia. Her family moved here from Mist Haven – that's who I was texting, actually," Anna Elizabeth explained, looking down on that last part.

"You two seem to have hit it off," Killian surmised.

"Yeah we did," Anna Elizabeth told him with a smile.

"Is your new friend nice, Anna Elizabeth?" Liam then asked.

"She sure is – I really like her," Anna Elizabeth answered her brother, as she ruffled his hair.

She then added, "Maybe you can meet her sometime."

Liam smiled brightly in response.

A few minutes later, everyone was finished eating and brought their dishes to the sink.

It was Anna Elizabeth's turn to wash dishes, and as soon as she began, her cell phone rang.

She turned to her parents and asked, "Can I answer that?"

After you finish the dishes, love," Killian answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before turning her attention back to the sink.

As soon as the last plate was in the cabinet, she immediately grabbed her cell phone and called Gia back while she ran into her room.

Liam then sighed and looked down.

"What's wrong, Liam?" Emma asked.

"I thought we was all supposed to play the Game of Life."

Killian bent down on his son's level and explained, "I'm sure she'll play with us when she gets off the phone."

Liam nodded in response before Killian suggested, "Why don't you go get the game, and I'll help you set it up."

The dark-haired boy nodded before he ran off to his parents' room.

As Killian stood back up, he turned to see Emma wearing a concerned expression.

"You alright, Swan?"

"Yeah. It just isn't like Anna Elizabeth to be on her phone all during dinner – she knows better," Emma lamented.

"She's just excited about her new friend, love. I think you're reading too much into this," Killian assured her.

Emma nodded in response before she closed the distance between them for a kiss.

Just as Killian tilted his head to deepen it, they heard, "Eww!"

Emma and Killian pulled away and chuckled at their eight-year-old. They then moved to the table to set up the game.

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The next afternoon, during chemistry class, Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened at her 68 quiz grade.

Gia looked over at her friend's paper and observed, "Nice job – you did better than I did."

Anna Elizabeth only nodded as the bell rang.

As the blonde was leaving, the teacher, Mr. Jeremy stopped her.

"Anna Elizabeth, I want to talk about your quiz grade."

"I know. I didn't know a lot of the questions," Anna Elizabeth admitted.

"Would it have anything to do with the fact that you and Miss Townsend were passing notes yesterday?" Mr. Jeremy pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened again as she began rubbing her hands together.

She then asked, "You knew about that?"

"Indeed I did. I expect it not to happen again. You barely passed the quiz. I expect a better grade from you on the test next Tuesday," Mr. Jeremy told her.

"Yes sir," Anna Elizabeth responded before she left the classroom.

Gia was leaning up against the wall when the blonde came out in the hall.

"What happened?"

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she told her, "He knew that we had been passing notes, and he expected a better grade on my quiz."

Gia shrugged before she pointed out, "You passed, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but I could have done better," Anna Elizabeth told her, disappointment clear in her voice.

"Hey, chill. You did fine. You're too uptight, Anna Elizabeth," Gia replied.

Of course she would hit on one of the things that Anna Elizabeth was the most self-conscious about.

The blonde then sighed before she said, "I've got to go pick up Liam."

"Your little brother, right?" Gia questioned.

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

Gia then told her, "Tomorrow's Saturday. You free to hang out?"

"Uh, I'll have to ask my mom and dad if it's okay," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"Your dad?" Gia questioned.

"Um, yeah," Anna Elizabeth slowly responded.

"It's just that, well, yesterday, you said the shirt was your dad's. I thought that he, you know…" Gia cautiously began.

"Oh! You see, technically, my mom and dad are my aunt and uncle. My parents were killed in a car accident when I was four, and Uncle Killian became my guardian. Like a year after that, he married Emma, and she became my aunt. I eventually started calling them Mom and Dad," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Oh. I'm sorry about your parents," Gia sincerely told her.

"Thank you – it's alright," Anna Elizabeth replied.

She then told her, "I'll talk to my parents and text you tonight after dinner."

"You really have to ask permission?" Gia asked, surprised.

"Uh, yeah. I'm guessing that you don't," Anna Elizabeth observed.

"My un…um, dad doesn't really care," Gia responded.

"Oh," Anna Elizabeth simply replied.

Gia nodded before both girls headed toward the parking lot.

 

That afternoon, after Emma got home from work, she called for her teenage daughter.

"What's up, Mom?"

"I ran into Mr. Jeremy at the gas station," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes immediately went to the floor.

As she looked back up, she pointed out, "At least I passed the quiz."

"That isn't the point, Anna Elizabeth. What concerns me that you and Gia were passing notes in class instead of paying attention," Emma told her.

"I know, Mom. I'm sorry," Anna Elizabeth said.

"Your education is important, kid. You should try your best in each class, even if you don't like it," Emma reminded her.

"I know," Anna Elizabeth repeated, with a sense of remorse.

Emma nodded before she gently told her daughter, "Just don't let it happen again."

"I won't," Anna Elizabeth assured her.

Emma nodded once again before she moved to start dinner.

The teenager then began to walk back toward Liam's room when she stopped.

She turned back around and asked, "Can Gia and I go to the talent show at the school tomorrow?"

Emma paused at her daughter's question. She thought over her words before she spoke, "I'm not sure that's the best idea, Anna Elizabeth."

"Why not?" Anna Elizabeth question, with a look of confusion.

"I'm just not sure that Gia is the type of person that you need to be hanging out with," Emma responded.

Anna Elizabeth crossed her arms as she pointed out, "That isn't fair, Mom. You don't even know her."

"I know she's the type of girl who passes notes in class instead of paying attention. Mr. Jeremy also told me that she doesn't care about any of her classes, and has gotten in trouble in other ways in them. She sounds like a troublemaker," Emma refuted.

"You and Dad are the ones who taught me not to judge someone without knowing the whole story," Anna Elizabeth defended.

Emma ran a hand through her blonde locks before she sighed. She then told her, "You have a point. Your dad and I will meet her before you two go to the talent show."

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response before returning to play with her brother.

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The next day, there was a knock at the door, and Anna Elizabeth quickly answered it.

"Hey, Gia!"

"Hey, Anna Elizabeth," the dark-haired girl as she was ushered in the house.

Liam then ran up to her and announced, "I'm Liam! Anna Elizabeth's brother."

"Your sister has told me about you," Gia responded.

"She told me that you were nice. You seem like it," Liam told her.

"Well, I'm glad that you think so," Gia responded, making both Emma and Killian raise a brow.

Liam smiled at her before he observed, "Gia, I can see your belly button."

"It's cool to wear shirts like this," Gia simply told him.

The dark-haired boy then turned his attention to his sister and asked, "Anna Elizabeth, if it's cool, why don't you show your belly button?"

Killian then intervened, "Lad, why don't you go play on the swing set, and Mommy and I will be there shortly."

Liam nodded before he said goodbye to Anna Elizabeth and Gia. He then sprinted to the backyard.

"He's just chalk full of comments, isn't he?" Gia surmised.

"He is only eight. Children tend to tell you exactly what they think and point things out," Emma explained.

Gia only shrugged her shoulders and continued smacking on her gum in response.

Anna Elizabeth then pointed out, "The talent show starts really soon, Mom and Dad."

Neither Killian or Emma thought that this was a good idea, but they had already told their teenager that she could go. They also felt that they should at least give Gia the benefit of the doubt.

Killian then asked, "Gia, what time do your parents want you to be home?"

"Whenever I get there," Gia responded matter of factory.

Emma then took a deep breath before she stated, "That may be, but we expect you, Anna Elizabeth, to be home before dinner."

"Okay, Mom," Anna Elizabeth responded. She and Gia then turned and headed out the door.

Emma then turned to her husband and said, "I have a bad feeling about Gia in my gut, Killian."

"We have to trust Anna Elizabeth, love," Killian tried to reassure her, but it sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than her.

"Anna Elizabeth has such a big heart. She always has. It really is a wonderful thing, but this time, it's clouding her judgment," Emma lamented.

"I wish I could tell you that it's going to be easy for her to come to her senses, but we both know that it isn't," Killian told her.

"I know. I can see that she believes that Gia is a good friend and person. She thinks that we're misjudging Gia, and Anna Elizabeth is convinced that she's right. It won't be easy to get her to see otherwise," Emma pointed out.

"As much as it pains me to say this, love, she's going to have to figure it out on her own. There's also a chance that we're misjudging Gia, love. But if we're not, perhaps Anna Elizabeth will be a good influence on her," Killian told her.

"I'm not holding my breath," Emma replied.

Killian then pulled her in for a hug and planted a kiss on her forehead.

As they pulled away, he told her, "Come on, love, let's go play with Liam."

Emma nodded before they walked hand-in-hand toward the backyard.

 

When Anna Elizabeth and Gia got in the Camaro, the dark-haired girl surmised, "Now I know why you're so uptight."

"Come on, my parents aren't that bad," Anna Elizabeth defended.

"The curfew, seriously?" Gia pointed out.

"They're just trying to protect me," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"Is that why they obviously don't trust you to be around me?" Gia questioned.

Anna Elizabeth opened her mouth to refute, but she promptly closed it. She really couldn't argue with Gia.

She sighed before she said, "Let's just go to the talent show."

The blonde then backed out of the garage and pulled onto the street. She then began heading toward the school.

 

Halfway through the show, Gia nudged Anna Elizabeth.

The blonde turned toward friend, and Gia asked, "Who are those cute guys?" as she motioned toward the top row of the bleachers.

"Oh, that's Abigail's older brother, and his friends, I guess. She's a senior," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"So, he's, like, in college?" Gia asked.

"Uh, yeah," Anna Elizabeth replied.

The blonde then knew where her friend's head was at. "Are you going to go talk to them?" she asked.

"Obviously," Gia replied.

"I doubt that they'll talk to you. You're still in high school," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"They don't have to know that," Gia told her.

"You're going to lie to them?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

"It's not really lying per say. I'll just be having a conversation with them. Last time I checked, telling someone your age isn't a requirement," Gia told her.

She then got up and made her way up the bleachers, leaving Anna Elizabeth to ponder her words.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she noticed that someone had sat down beside her. The blonde turned to be face to face with Nathan.

Anna Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him in a hug.

She then apologized, "I know I haven't talked to you much in the last few days."

"It's cool, Princess. It isn't a big deal," Nathan reassured her.

"You sure?"

Nathan nodded in response.

He then told her, "So, I see that you're here with your new friend." He tried to hide the disdain in his voice, but it still came through.

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows as she asked, "Do you have a problem with Gia?"

"Why would you think that?" Nathan questioned innocently.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "I'm not stupid, Nathan."

Nathan took a deep breath before he admitted, "Fine. You have to hear what people say about her, Anna Elizabeth."

"Since when do you listen to rumors? She's only been at school for, like, two days," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"And she already has a reputation, Anna Elizabeth. And not a good one," Nathan refuted.

Anna Elizabeth scoffed before she told him, "You don't know her."

"And you do after two days?" Nathan told her.

"We were practically best friends after knowing each other less than a week. You were already calling me "Princess"," Anna Elizabeth argued.

Nathan sighed before he told her, "Come on, Anna Elizabeth. You know I'm right."

"You think you're right," Anna Elizabeth replied with crossed arms.

"I'm just looking out for you – I don't want you to get mixed up with her," Nathan resigned.

Anna Elizabeth was still frustrated and refuted, "I can take care of myself. Loosen up, will you?"

Nathan frustratedly huffed, "Suit yourself, then." He then got up and stalked off.

At that point, Anna Elizabeth no longer cared about the talent show. So, she got up and made her way to the car.

By the time she got outside, tears were pouring from her blue eyes. She got in her car and leaned her head against the steering wheel.

That had been her and Nathan's first fight, and now she didn't know where they stood. Her parents were questioning her judgment, and everyone was convinced that Gia was a bad influence.

The only thing that Anna Elizabeth knew for sure was that she and Gia were already good friends. She wasn't going to lose that friendship based on other people's opinions.

Anna Elizabeth knew that she was right, and she didn't care whether or not everyone came to see her side. Her own point of view was all that mattered.

 

 

A/N: Hi, everyone! This is part one of this story. As per usual, I have a lot of ideas for this one, and one part just won't do. Unfortunately, y'all will have to wait until this weekend to see what happens next. Until next time :)

Chapter Text

"Anna Elizabeth, I just checked your grades online on Active Parent. You mind telling me why all of them have dropped the last month?" Emma scolded her daughter one evening.

"So, what? You're making a big deal because my grades aren't perfect?" Anna Elizabeth retorted.

"Kid, you know that isn't what this is about," Emma began more softly.

"Then what's it about?" the teenage girl asked.

"I know that you're not giving your best effort. You're doing what you can to scrape by – that isn't like you," Emma told her.

"It isn't a big deal, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied.

Emma sighed before she began, "Help me understand, kid. Ever since you became friends with Gia…"

Anna Elizabeth cut her off. "Why do you always blame Gia?" she practically yelled.

"Because it's true, Anna Elizabeth. You're not using your better judgment when it comes to her. She's a bad influence on you – your grades are just the beginning," Emma yelled back.

"You don't know what you're talking about," Anna Elizabeth shouted before stalking to her room.

Killian had just come back from the garage and heard the tail end of the conversation. He put his hands on his wife's shoulders and began to massage.

"You're so tense, love," he observed.

"Can you blame me?" Emma exasperatedly pointed out.

"Oh, believe me, Swan, if you were to massage my shoulders, they'd be just as tense," Killian told her.

Emma then turned to face him as she said, "I just wish we could make her see."

"I do as well, love," Killian agreed.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Killian answered it and was met with Liam running into his arms.

"Daddy! I had so much fun with Colette and Matthew!"

"I'm glad that you had a good time, lad," Killian told him as he ruffled his hair.

The dark-haired boy smiled brightly before he turned to hug Belle goodbye.

"I had the best time, Aunt Belle!"

"I'm glad that you did, Liam," Belle told her nephew. He smiled brightly up at her before he made his way into the living room to watch TV.

The brunette then observed to her brother and sister-in-law, "You both seem stressed."

"You'd be stressed too if you were dealing with an ornery teenager," Emma told her.

"Ah. Is this about Gia?" Belle asked.

"Aye. Anna Elizabeth is too stubborn to see that the lass isn't a good influence," Killian answered.

"I'm sure she'll come around," Belle reassured them.

"I hope so," Emma lamented.

Belle then said her goodbyes before she went on her way.

Just then, Anna Elizabeth came out of her room and into the kitchen, keys in hand.

"Where are you going, Anna Elizabeth?" Killian asked.

"To hang out with, uh, Nathan," Anna Elizabeth responded.

"So, you two are talking again?" Emma asked.

"Totally," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"That's rather interesting. I just saw Nathan drive by when I was working on Emma's car. He always waves, but he didn't so much as look this way," Killian told her.

"Did I say Nathan? I meant Evie," Anna Elizabeth covered.

"They aren't back from touring colleges," Emma pointed out with crossed arms.

Anna Elizabeth stiffened for a moment before she opened her mouth to begin again but was stopped by Killian.

"How about the truth this time, love?"

The teenager huffed as she stated, "Fine. I'm going to hang out with Gia."

"Actually, you're not. You're staying right here," Emma told her daughter.

"What? That's totally unfair!" Anna Elizabeth refuted.

"Actually, love, it's quite fair considering your behavior lately," Killian defended with crossed arms.

"Ughh!" Anna Elizabeth loudly grumbled before stalking off to her room.

Both Emma and Killian ran a hand through their hair and sighed.

They then saw Liam's head pop up over the couch as he asked, "Is Anna Elizabeth in trouble?"

Emma considered what she should say before she simply answered, "Yes, she is, Liam."

Luckily, the dark-haired boy didn't ask any more questions and turned his attention back to the TV.

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The next afternoon, Gia stopped Anna Elizabeth right before they came to chemistry class.

"I can't believe your parents wouldn't let you hang out with me last night," the dark-haired girl complained.

"I know. It's so unfair," Anna Elizabeth agreed.

Gia then got an idea: "You know, we could hang out, now."

"We have class," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"And we have a substitute today – she's not going to know that anything is amiss," Gia told her.

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows and scrunched her nose in thought for a moment. She then agreed, "We'll probably just be doing worksheets anyway."

Gia nodded before she told her friend, "You know my car is messed up, so…"

Anna Elizabeth cut her off and asked, "We're going somewhere?"

"Well, duh. That's the point of skipping school, Anna Elizabeth," Gia pointed out.

"And just where do you suggest we go? My mom and my uncle are both the sheriff. They're probably on patrol. They'll recognize my car," Anna Elizabeth reminded her.

Gia bit her lip in concentration as she thought. She then suggested, "We'll just have to be extra sneaky then."

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath and sighed before she nodded in agreement. They made their way to the office, where Gia forged two notes ahead of time so they could sign out. Soon enough, they were on their way.

They arrived at Gia's house via backstreets. The brunette unlocked the door and went into the kitchen. She grabbed two sodas from the refrigerator.

As they made their way into the living room, Anna Elizabeth asked, "What time will your dad get home from work?"

"Most of the time it's after I'm asleep. He works a lot of overtime," Gia answered.

"Oh," Anna Elizabeth simply replied. She knew it was best to leave it at that.

They plopped down the sofa, and Gia turned on the TV,

"Sweet, they're doing a Friends marathon."

"What's Friends?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

Gia turned toward her friend with wide eyes and questioned, "Seriously? Do you live under a rock – you've never even heard of it?" Gia asked.

Anna Elizabeth shrugged as she defended, "That's sort of what you get when your brother is in elementary school."

"Well, it's hilarious. You'll totally love it," Gia told her as she turned up the volume.

 

Three hours later, Anna Elizabeth came through the front door.

Just as she shut it behind her, she heard someone clear their throat. When she turned around, her eyes widened when she saw her parents. They did not look happy.

"Why are guys home from work early?" the teenager asked.

"I think a better question is why you weren't here," Emma pointed out.

"And don't you dare try to lie to us," Killian sternly added.

Anna Elizabeth ran a hand through her hair as she admitted, "Fine. Gia and I skipped chemistry and hung out at her house."

"Let me take a guess on whose idea that was," Emma scoffed.

"You guys wouldn't let me see her last night, and we wanted to hang out," Anna Elizabeth argued.

"And while you two were hanging out, it never crossed your mind that you were forgetting something?"

"What are you…" Anna Elizabeth trailed off as the answer came to her.

"I forgot Liam," the teenager said quietly.

"I was in the middle of reading someone their rights when I get a phone call from the school. They wanted to know why Liam hadn't been picked up. Do you have any idea what that made me look like? And even worse is how your little brother feels – he thinks you don't care about him because you left him. It is your responsibility, Anna Elizabeth," Emma scolded.

"Look, I'm sorry," Anna Elizabeth apologized.

"You're only sorry because you got caught. This is only the latest in a string of irresponsible behavior, Anna Elizabeth," Killian told her.

"It was an accident!" Anna Elizabeth defended.

"You mean like neglecting your schoolwork, lying repeatedly, and undermining our authority every chance you get? Is that an accident too?" Emma rhetorically asked.

"Whatever," Anna Elizabeth muttered.

Both Emma and Killian took a deep breath before they said something that they would regret.

Emma then began, "We've tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. We were hoping you would come to your senses. But that obviously isn't enough."

"What are you saying?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"You're grounded for a month," Emma stated.

"Seriously? You can't do this!" Anna Elizabeth argued.

"We can and we will. The only place you'll be going is to and from school. And since we can no longer trust you to be responsible, you'll be going to Belle and August's house after school," Emma continued.

"A babysitter? I'm almost 17 – I don't need a babysitter."

"You should have thought about that before. Even when you are watching him, I come home to find you in your room on your phone, leaving Liam to fend for himself," Emma told her.

"He's done fine so far," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"Bloody hell, Anna Elizabeth. He's a child – he could easily get into anything. You know this," Killian pointed out.

"Well, I guess it doesn't matter since he's not my responsibility anymore. The only thing I'll be doing is driving us to Aunt Belle and Uncle August's," Anna Elizabeth said, the disdain clear in her voice.

"Actually, you'll be riding the bus there," Killian told her.

"What? You're taking my car away?"

"And your cell phone. There will also be no TV, music, books, or entertainment of any kind. The only thing you'll be doing is schoolwork. Maybe the free time will bring up your grades," Killian told his daughter.

"I can't believe you guys! This is so unfair!" Anna Elizabeth yelled.

"It's your own doing, Anna Elizabeth. Today was the tip of the iceberg," Emma reminded her.

The teenager was about to stalk off to her room when Killian stopped her, "Hand over your keys and your phone."

Anna Elizabeth crossed her arms and huffed. At Killian's stern look, she complied.

"Thank you. Now, go sit at the table and do your homework," he told her.

The teenager huffed again as she made her way to the table. She just sat there with her arms crossed until Killian scolded, "Do your homework. Now."

After a few minutes, Anna Elizabeth finally got her books out.

Killian and Emma then both let out a long breath. As their eyes met, they both knew that they were thinking the same thing: this was going to be a long month.

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Just as predicted, the month passed by slowly, especially for Anna Elizabeth.

However, her punishment had the desired effect. Since she wasn't allowed to be around Gia, even going as far as separating them in class, the blonde was able to really consider her behavior.

She realized that the lying, disobeying her parents, and neglecting her responsibilities had been wrong.

However, Anna Elizabeth was still at a crossroads.

While she now saw that perhaps Gia wasn't the best influence, Anna Elizabeth still cared about her. She didn't want to lose the brunette's friendship. She didn't know what to do.

The blonde then decided to do what she should have done a long time ago – talk to her parents.

After dinner, Liam went to go play fetch with Penny. Once the dishes were done, Anna Elizabeth asked Emma and Killian, "Can I talk to you guys?"

Emma and Killian exchanged a look before she replied, "Sure, kid."

They all sat down at the table, and Anna Elizabeth began, "I'm really sorry for everything. I know I shouldn't have let my grades drop, ignored my responsibilities, or disobeyed you guys. I know it was wrong."

Emma and Killian knew their daughter was sincere, so he told her, "We appreciate that Anna Elizabeth. We're glad you learned your lesson."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she surmised, "I guess I just wanted to chill and not have any worries like Gia."

"Look, kid, we do know you have pressure on you, but some of it is unnecessary. We want you to do your best, but not to the point where it's too overwhelming. You put too much stress on yourself - you always have," Emma told her.

"We want you to enjoy yourself, love. Your mother and I were both your age once - we know what it feels like to want to just hang out and have fun with your friends. We want that for you. But it has to be in a way that doesn't involve breaking rules or being irresponsible," Killian added.

Anna Elizabeth took a few minutes to take in her parents' words before she took a deep breath and spoke, "I understand you guys. I won't do it again."

Killian and Emma nodded before he spoke, "We're holding you to that, Anna Elizabeth."

"I know," Anna Elizabeth simply responded.

Emma then spoke, "You're still grounded until Friday. We're glad that the punishment served its purpose, but you understand that your dad and I made a decision on how long it should last. We're going to stick by it."

"I understand, Mom," Anna Elizabeth told her.

"But on Friday afternoon, you and your brother will ride the bus here. You've shown that we can trust you again. You'll get your phone and keys back when your mother gets home from work," Killian explained.

"Thank you, Dad!" Anna Elizabeth squealed with a wide grin.

"Of course, love," Killian replied.

"Well, everything is almost settled. We still have Gia to talk about - we know that her friendship is important to you," Emma began.

"It really is - I'm just not sure what to do about it," Anna Elizabeth admitted.

"Well, Anna Elizabeth, I think the best thing is to talk to her and make her see your point of view. I'm sure she'll understand," Killian suggested.

"You really think so?" the teenager asked.

"If she cares about you as much as you do her, I know that she will," Emma assured her daughter.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at her parents because she got up and pulled them in for a hug.

When they pulled away, she said, "I've got a chemistry test to study for."

She then made her way to her room.

Killian then took Emma's hand in his and kissed her knuckles.

"I think we have our Anna Elizabeth back, love."

Emma smiled at him as she nodded. She then surmised, "I really think that she'll take our advice."

"Aye, love. Perhaps it was a good thing for her," Killian added.

"Yeah, it was," Emma told him.

He then closed the distance between them for a sweet kiss.

As they pulled away, Liam came sprinting back into the house.

He ran up to Killian and rested his arms on his father's knees. He then asked, "Daddy, will you and Mommy play baseball with me?"

Killian smiled down at his son as he replied, "We'd love to, lad."

As Emma reached to ruffle his hair, he asked her, "Can Anna Elizabeth play?"

The blonde sighed before she gently answered, "She's still in trouble, Liam."

"Oh," the dark-haired boy disappointedly said, as he looked down.

When he looked back up, he questioned, "Is she sorry that she wasn't nice?"

"Aye, lad. She is sorry, but your mother and I agreed that she would be grounded until Friday. When you tell someone that you're going to do something, you keep that promise, even if it's hard. Do you understand?" Killian explained.

Liam looked back and forth between his parents with a curious expression.

He then said, "I understand." The boy then proceeded to take both of his parents' hands to drag them outside.

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That Friday, just after Anna Elizabeth and Liam got home from school, she was bandaging up his skinned knee. He had tripped walking up the concrete driveway leading up to the door.

When she was finished, she lifted him from the counter and placed him down.

She then told him, "Alright, Liam, let's go start our homework."

He nodded before he went to go sit at the table, with Anna Elizabeth.

As soon as she sat down, there was a knock at the door.

The blonde frowned for a moment before she got up and answered it.

She didn't even have time to react before Gia said, "I know you're still grounded, and I don't want you to..."

The brunette was cut off when she turned to the bush beside the door and threw up.

Anna Elizabeth automatically placed her hand on her friend's forehead and gasped, "Gia, you're burning up!"

"Coming here was my first thought," Gia admitted.

"What about your dad?" Anna Elizabeth asked confused.

"He doesn't want to be bothered at work," Gia told her before throwing up again.

Anna Elizabeth felt a moment of pity before she quickly rushed her sick friend inside.

"Um, it might be best if you go to the bathroom," the blonde observed.

Gia nodded before Anna Elizabeth pointed it out to her. A moment later, the brunette rushed in there.

Liam had been watching the exchange with widened blue eyes.

He quickly went to her sister's side and asked, "Is Gia sick?"

"Yes, Liam, she is."

He then innocently questioned, "Is her mommy and daddy going to take her to the doctor?"

Anna Elizabeth considered her words for a moment before she answered, "No. We are."

Before Liam could ask anything else, Gia came trudging into the kitchen.

Liam went up to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He then said, "You'll feel better, Gia. We're going to the doctor."

Gia returned the little boy's hug before she pulled away. She gave her blonde friend a strange look as she questioned, "We are?"

"You're sick. You need to go," Anna Elizabeth firmly told her.

She then asked, "Did you drive here?"

"Somehow, I managed," Gia replied.

"Let's go, then," Anna Elizabeth stated. She then headed toward the door.

As soon as they reached the car, Anna Elizabeth opened the passenger side and told her brother to get in while Gia laid down in the backseat.

"The front seat, Anna Elizabeth?" Liam questioned, as he looked back and forth between the open door and his sister.

"Gia is really sick. Please just get in, Liam," Anna Elizabeth told him.

He finally nodded and got in.

When Anna Elizabeth, Gia, and Liam walked into the waiting room, the blonde yelled for Dr. Whale.

He soon appeared and approached them. He told Anna Elizabeth, "There's no need to shout."

He then asked, "Is one of you sick?"

His question was answered when Gia hurled into a nearby trash can.

"Can you just tell me why I keep puking?" Gia asked.

Instead of replying to her question, he asked, "How old are you?"

"17. Why?"

"Just as I thought. You're still a minor. I'd like to help, but I legally can't treat you without your guardian's permission," Dr. Whale explained.

"Good luck with that," Gia scoffed.

While Anna Elizabeth knew that he was right, she was about to argue with him when they all heard, "Gia?!"

"Uncle Mark? What you doing here?" the dark-haired questioned, the surprise obvious in her voice.

"A neighbor called me. Said she saw you throwing up before you drove off," he answered.

"Yeah, well, that's true," Gia responded.

"Are they going to take care of you? I have to get back to work," Mark pointed out.

"I'll answer that. Mark, is it?" Whale began.

"Yeah?" Mark said.

"In order to check out your niece, I need you to fill out some paperwork. She's never been here before, and she's a minor," Dr. Whale explained.

"How long will that take?" Mark questioned agitatedly.

Before Whale could answer, a nurse was calling for him.

He then told Gia and Mark, "I'll leave you to sort this out."

The dark haired teenager then told him, "Look, I know my own medical information. I can fill it out - just sign your name. We've done it before."

Mark nodded before he went to grab the papers. He did what he needed to before he was on his way.

Gia quickly filled in the rest of the information and handed to the nurse.

When Gia sat back down, Anna Elizabeth carefully observed, "So, um, you live with your uncle?"

The dark-haired girl sighed before she admitted, "Yeah."

She then apologized, "My parents are dead. I'm sorry I lied about it. But I didn't want you feeling sorry for me - or anyone really."

"I get it," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Gia nodded before her name was called.

She offered her friend a small smile before walking toward the nurse.

Liam then asked, "Is Dr. Whale going to give Gia some medicine?"

"He probably will, Liam," Anna Elizabeth told him.

The little boy nodded in response.

 

20 minutes had passed, and Liam was getting angsty. As Anna Elizabeth walked with him over to the children's section, a thought crossed her mind and her eyes widened. Her parents.

She left Liam with a book. Aurora was there for Grace's checkup, so Anna Elizabeth asked her to keep an eye on him. The blonde then went over to the receptionists' desk.

The brunette, Susan, told her, "I'm sorry about your friend, Anna Elizabeth. She seems so sick - it was so sweet of you to bring her here."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she asked, "Can you put me in touch with the sheriff station? I need to let my mom know what's going on."

"Of course," Susan replied. She then quickly dialed the number and handed over the phone.

"Hello? Sheriff Emma Jones speaking."

As soon as Anna Elizabeth heard her mom's voice, she went into apologetic mode.

"Mom, it's Anna Elizabeth. I'm at the hospital. Liam and I both fine. But she's sick and she threw up and Liam had to sit in the front and there's no emergency lights and her dad is her uncle and he's awful and Liam is angsty but I have to be here and I should have called and I'm sorry," the blonde said all in one breath, her eyes welling up.

"Slow down, Anna Elizabeth. You're barely making any sense. Who is sick?" Emma told her daughter.

"Gia," Anna Elizabeth replied once she took a deep breath.

"Okay, I'm going to call your dad and we're coming out there. You can explain everything then," Emma began.

She took a breath and continued, "And relax. You're not in trouble."

"Alright, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied before hanging up the phone.

About 10 minutes later, Emma and Killian arrived in the waiting room.

Liam was still reading and didn't notice when Anna Elizabeth went over to them.

She wrapped them both in a hug. Grace was being called back, and Aurora waved over Killian. He kissed his daughter's forehead before going over to his son.

As Emma and Anna Elizabeth pulled away, they sat down in a couple of chairs.

Emma stroked Anna Elizabeth's curls as she gently told her, "Okay, kid, I need you to explain what happened and why you're here."

Anna Elizabeth nodded and took a deep breath before she began, "Liam and I had just got home from school. We were just about to start our homework when there was a knock at the door. It was Gia. She was really sick - throwing up and stuff. She said that she didn't want me to get in any more trouble, but her first thought was to come to me. Now I know why - her uncle is straight up mean."

Emma then asked, "Yeah, you said something about her dad actually being her uncle?"

"Her parents are dead. That's all she told me though. She knows she shouldn't have lied, but she didn't want anyone's pity," Anna Elizabeth explained.

Emma took in her daughter's words before she asked, "So, how did you find this out?"

"Gia's uncle came by here. Their neighbor saw that she was sick and called him. He did come here, but he was more concerned about missing work than his niece. He simply signed his name so Dr. Whale could treat Gia before he left. He never even asked how she was," Anna Elizabeth told her mother, and Emma could hear the concern in her voice.

"I do know the feeling of being unloved, but now she has you... and us," Emma replied.

Anna Elizabeth smiled in response as Gia came out of the waiting room.

Anna Elizabeth immediately sprinted over to her friend and asked, "What do you have?"

"The flu. It totally sucks," Gia told her.

"Oh, that is bad. But you'll be over it soon," Anna Elizabeth assured her.

Gia nodded before she told her, "Thanks for driving me here."

"Don't mention it. That's what friends are for," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Gia smiled before she heard, "Miss Townsend? I have the school excuse you'll need for next week."

The brunette then went over to the nurse while Anna Elizabeth went back over to Emma, who had been joined by Killian and Liam.

"So, what does Gia have, love?" Killian asked.

"The flu," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"Poor kid," Emma lamented. She then surmised, "It's a good thing that we all had our flu shot."

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

Liam then told his mother and sister, "You have to come see what Daddy and I made with Legos!" before dragging them over to the children's section.

Killian glanced over to where Gia was sitting by herself. He made his way over to her and sat down in the seat next to her. The dark-haired girl instantly scoffed, "I know you don't like me, so you can just leave."

"Despite what you think, love, it isn't my wish for you to be sick. I wanted to see that you were okay," Killian replied.

Gia heard the sincerity in his voice and turned to look at him. With a hint of surprise in her voice, she replied, "Oh, um, thank you, Mr. Jones."

"You can just call me Killian," he replied.

Gia nodded in response.

Killian then asked, "Are your parents coming to get you, Gia?"

"No. My…uh…dad is working and doesn't like to be bothered. I'll just walk home," she answered.

Killian looked at the teenage girl curiously for a moment. He may not have Emma's uncanny ability to tell when someone was lying, but he was still pretty good at it.

He then saw her gaze drift over to Emma, Anna Elizabeth, and Liam. They were all laughing, and Emma was ruffling the boy's hair.

Killian then recognized that longing look in Gia's eyes. The same one he saw so many times in the mirror looking back at him when he was a teenager.

He considered his words carefully before he asked, "How long has it been since your parents died, love?"

Gia turned to look him in shock. He expected some sarcastic remark or avoidance of his question, but instead she vulnerably asked, "How…how do you know that?"

"Because I was few years younger than you when my parents were killed. They had to take the bus to work that morning, and the driver of an 18-wheeler lost control and slammed into the side of the bus. There were no survivors – my parents were killed instantly," Killian explained, somehow managing to keep control of his emotions.

Gia's eyes welled up as she responded, "Mine were killed in a motorcycle crash. Some idiot who decided to drive while she was drunk ran a red light. She hit my parents while they were coming across. They were both rushed to the hospital where they tried to do surgery but it was too late. That was two years ago."

"I'm truly sorry, love. I truly do understand what you're going through – for the first couple years, I gave my brother hell. I still don't know how he put up with me," Killian admitted.

"Your brother took care of you?" Gia asked.

"Aye. Myself and our younger sister, Belle. Liam was as stubborn as they come – I suppose that's why he did such a good job with us," Killian told her, a slight smile on his face.

Gia thought about her words before she surmised, "You two must have been close. You named your kid after him."

Killian couldn't help but chuckle at her words before he became reflective and continued, "We were close. He was the best brother I could have hoped for. I miss him so much, but I have Anna Elizabeth. It's uncanny how much she takes after him."

Gia then observed, "So he's her real dad." She then quickly added, "No offense."

"It's alright, love. Emma and I know we'll never really take the place of Liam and Elsa. But we love her like she is ours, and she is loved and taken care of – that's truly all that matters."

"That must be nice. My uncle is a workaholic who is also a bachelor. He's the only relative I have, so he was put in charge of me. He didn't want to be, but he also didn't want me in foster care," Gia admitted.

"This probably won't mean much, but I am sorry, love. I can imagine that would be difficult. Have you tried talking to him?" Killian told her.

"No. It's not like he'd listen anyway," Gia told him. Killian could tell that despite how much she had opened up to him, she still wanted to seem strong.

Killian then took a deep breath before he genuinely said, "Well, love, I think you should at least try to make him listen. Although your attitude seems carefree and nonchalant, I know that there's more to the story. Holding everything in will only hurt you in the end."

Gia thought over his words before she sighed and told him, "I guess it's not a terrible idea. I could give it a shot."

"Glad to hear it, Gia," Killian began. He then took a deep breath and told her, "And if you need anything, Emma and I will be here for you."

"Really? I thought you guys didn't want me around Anna Elizabeth and thought I was bad influence and all that stuff. You've made it pretty clear that you don't like me," Gia pointed out.

Killian took a breath as he admitted, "I can speak for both Emma and I when I say that we truly are sorry. But I think it may help if you knew where we were coming from."

At Gia's nod, he continued, "Emma and I both know that Anna Elizabeth puts a lot of stress on herself. The pressures of school, cheerleading, and her other responsibilities had gotten to her, and she needed to take a break. That's why it was so easy for her to just let everything go, especially since you seemed to not have any cares in the world. Anna Elizabeth wanted that.

We're not opposed to her having fun, but there still needs to be boundaries so it won't get out of control again. We make rules to teach her right from wrong and to teach her discipline. When we punished her, it was to show her that actions have consequences. I think she now understands that we only wanted what was best for her.

We really do believe that you can help Anna Elizabeth when she becomes overwhelmed, but it has to be in the right way. The way that doesn't involve neglecting school, lying, and forgoing her responsibilities. Surely, you two can come up with a compromise."

Gia smiled as she responded, "I can totally work with that."

Killian smiled back at her in response.

Emma, Anna Elizabeth, and Liam then came over to them. Emma then suggested, "We're going to grab some pizza for dinner. You're welcome to join us. I know food is probably the last thing you want, but I think I have some saltine crackers and ginger ale."

"I'd love to come," Gia responded, her smile growing. The five of them then made their way to the vehicles.

When they arrived at the house and sat down, they all began laughing and talking. For the first time since her parents died, Gia knew what it meant to be a part of a family.

As Killian and Emma truly got to know the dark-haired teenage, they both thought that maybe, just maybe, all she needed was someone who really cared.

Chapter Text

Anna Elizabeth was sitting in the pick-up line at the elementary school. She put her car in drive as soon as Liam hopped in the back seat.

She had to wait a moment for the car in front of her to move. Her little brother took the opportunity to lean on the console and shove a piece of paper at Anna Elizabeth.

"Look, Anna Elizabeth!"

The car in front of her then began moving, and the blonde suggested, "Why don't you just tell me about it? I have to drive. I also need you to sit back and buckle up."

Liam nodded before doing as his sister asked. He then exclaimed, "My school is having a dance!"

"A dance? Why?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"It's a dance where the boys can bring their mommies," Liam told her.

"So, a mother-son dance," Anna Elizabeth clarified.

Liam nodded, making his black hair fall over his eyes.

He then told her, "I get to go to a dance like you did!"

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she responded, "Well, I know you and Mom will have so much fun."

Liam smiled brightly in response.

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When Emma arrived home from work, Liam immediately ran over to her and exclaimed, "Mommy! We're going a dance!"

"What, kid?" Emma asked slightly confused.

Liam then handed her the paper.

Emma read it over and observed, "The school is having a mother-son dance for Mother's Day."

Liam then told her, "We got to dress up."

"Sounds like this dance will be special," Emma told him with a smile. She then ruffled his hair.

She then addressed both of her kids, "You guys want to help me with dinner?"

"What are we having?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Pork chops with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese," Emma answered.

"I love mac and cheese!" Liam exclaimed.

Emma and Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle at him.

 

When Killian arrived home half-an-hour later, he commented, "It smells amazing, love," as he went over and kissed his wife's cheek.

"Me and Anna Elizabeth helped, Daddy," Liam announced.

"Well, you both did wonderful," Killian replied before he ruffled his son's hair and kissed the side of his daughter's head.

He then grabbed his plate from the counter, where he noticed the paper about the dance.

"What's this about a mother-son dance and mother-daughter picnic?"

"They're having a picnic?" Liam questioned.

"It's on the paper, kid – you didn't see it?" Emma asked.

"I'm not a girl, Mommy," the dark-haired boy pointed out.

Emma and Killian only shook their heads she explained, "They're doing it for Mother's Day."

"Ah. That's a lovely idea," Killian surmised with a smile as they all sat down at the table.

"Me and Mommy is gonna have the best time," Liam said.

"That we will," Emma agreed with a smile.

Killian then asked, "How long is the dance, Swan?"

"A couple of hours," Emma answered.

He nodded before turning his attention to Anna Elizabeth.

"Well, love, I suppose we'll have to find a good movie to watch," he told her with a smile.

After a moment, he added, "Unless you have plans with Nathan or your friends," as he scratched behind his ear.

"Well, I did actually want to talk to you guys about going on a group date," Anna Elizabeth told him and Emma.

Killian couldn't hide his look of disappointment as he asked, "Oh, uh, when, love?"

"Friday night," Anna Elizabeth told him with a grin.

Killian raised an eyebrow at her as he observed, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?"

"Maybe," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Killian only shook his head as Emma quipped, "She gets it from you, you know."

"That I do," Killian agreed as he reached over to stroke his daughter's blonde curls.

He then asked, "Who's going on this date with you and Nathan?"

"Well, Luke asked out Jane, and she's super nervous. So, Alexandra and I suggested a group date to take the pressure off."

"That was sweet of you guys," Emma commented.

Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded in response while Killian asked, "Alexandra has a boyfriend?"

The teenager rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "Dad, where have you been? Kyle asked her out a month ago. They're already been on their first date."

"Apologies, love. I normally stay up to date with who's dating who at Storybrooke High," Killian replied sarcastically with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth once again rolled her eyes in response while Emma giggled.

Emma then looked to her son, who kept moving the hair out of his face while trying to eat.

She then asked her husband, "Hey, Killian, aren't you going to get a haircut on Saturday?"

"Aye, love. Why?" he answered.

"I think you need to take Liam with you," Emma told him.

"I don't need a haircut, Mommy," Liam protested.

"Kid, your hair keeps falling in your face," Emma pointed out.

"No, it doesn't."

Emma sighed while Killian teasingly whispered, "he gets it from you, darling."

She lightly elbowed him in response before she told their son, "I know you want to look your best from the dance, so you need to go with Daddy when he gets his hair cut."

"I wish Ms. Claire didn't move away. I don't like Mr. George," Liam admitted.

Emma looked toward Killian and furrowed her brows.

"He's a great barber, but he isn't exactly friendly. He also isn't too fond of children," Killian explained.

Emma nodded in understanding before she told her little boy, "You don't have to go to Mr. George anymore. We'll find someone else."

"Okay, Mommy."

"Rebecca has always cut Nathan and Jesse's hair. We could ask her," Anna Elizabeth suggested.

"I like her. She's really nice," Liam commented.

"I'll call her tomorrow," Emma said. Everyone nodded in agreement before they went back to eating.

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"Alright, Liam, we're all finished," Rebecca announced as she removed the white towels from around his neck.

The dark-haired boy looked at his haircut in the mirror before he turns around to face her.

"I like it! Thank you, Rebecca!"

"You're welcome, Liam," the brunette woman replied with a smile.

As Liam got out of the chair, Emma told Rebecca, "I really do appreciate you cutting his hair."

"Don't mention it," Rebecca replied, smiling at the blonde as well.

Emma returned it before she told her, "Well, we have to go get ready. I'll see you later."

"See you later, Emma," Rebecca replied as she began washing the scissors and comb.

Emma then went to follow Liam, who was, not surprisingly, already out of the door.

When they arrived home, Emma commented, "Alright, Liam, let's go pick out your clothes."

"I can do it, Mommy," he pointed out, and before Emma could protest, he was running off to his room.

Emma ran her fingers through her blonde hair as she observed, "He is definitely my child."

Killian and Anna Elizabeth then came through the door.

"You two get the Camaro fixed?" Emma asked.

"Aye, love. It was only a minor issue," Killian replied with a smile.

He then added, "I also had a great helper," as he smiled at Anna Elizabeth.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she said, "I'm gonna go get the grease off my hands." She then made her way to the bathroom.

Killian then asked Emma, "Where's our lad?"

"Getting ready for the dance - which I need to do, too. Would you mind checking on him?" Emma answered.

"He will most likely remind me that he can dress himself," Killian pointed out with a chuckle.

Emma couldn't help but grin as she simply replied, "I know."

Killian grinned in response before he kissed her cheek. He then headed to his son's room.

20 minutes later, Emma emerged from she and Killian's bedroom.

Her hair was up in a high ponytail, and she was wearing light makeup. Her light pink dress went down to her knees, and she donned a pair of matching flats.

Liam immediately ran over to her and told her, "You look so pretty, Mommy!"

"Thank you, Liam. You look quite handsome yourself," Emma replied with a smile.

She then eyed his tie, and bent down on his level so she could fix it.

"Liam, you should have gotten Daddy to help you with your tie."

The dark-haired boy furrowed his brows as he told her, "Daddy did put on my tie."

As Emma stood back up, she looked at her husband with raised eyebrows.

"I haven't worn a tie since Belle's wedding, Swan. And even then, August had to help me," Killian defended.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle while Emma shook her head.

Liam then announced, "We got to go, Mommy!"

"Alright, kid," Emma agreed with a smile.

They then said their goodbyes to Killian and Anna Elizabeth and headed out the door.

 

As soon as Emma and Liam stepped foot in the auditorium of the elementary school, the dark haired boy pulled his mom out on the floor.

"It's time to dance, Mommy!"

"We're a little early, kid. They haven't even started the music yet. Let's go sit on the bleachers until they do," Emma told him.

Liam sighed before he nodded in agreement.

As soon as they sat down, the little boy looked up at Emma and asked, "Mommy, when was the last time you danced?"

Emma ran her fingers through his hair as she responded, "The last time I went on a date with Daddy."

Liam nodded before he asked, "Is he a good dancer?"

"He is a very good dancer," Emma answered.

Innocent worry filled Liam's blue eyes as he asked, "Am I gonna be as good as him?"

Emma kissed his forehead before she told him, "I'm sure you will be," with a smile.

Liam smiled brightly back at her in response.

A moment later, a teacher was announcing the beginning of the dance. The boys and their mothers then began moving onto the gym floor.

Once Liam and Emma had found a spot, he grabbed one of her hands and put his other one on her side.

"Is this right, Mommy?" as he looked up at her.

Emma smiled down at him as she answered, "It's perfect," as she placed her free hand on his shoulder.

As they began to dance, Emma soon realized her son wasn't the most graceful. Practicing beforehand would have been smart, but they just didn't have the time.

However, Emma didn't care that Liam was stepping all over her feet. She actually thought it was kind of adorable - all she cared about was spending quality time with her son.

Unfortunately, Liam didn't see it that way.

Halfway through the song, Emma heard his disappointed sigh.

She stopped their movement and got down on her knees. She ran her fingers through his hair and asked, "Hey, what's wrong, Liam?"

"I can't dance, Mommy," Liam replied as he looked down.

"Hey, it's okay, kid," Emma reassured him.

"I have to be good," Liam pointed out as he looked back up at Emma.

The blonde then sat down with her legs out to the side and pulled her son into her lap. She then asked, "Liam, why were you so excited to come to this dance?"

" 'Cause I wanted to go to a dance like Anna Elizabeth, and I wanted to have fun with you, Mommy," Liam answered.

"And I wanted to have fun with you, kid. That's all that matters. You don't have to be the best to have fun."

"Really?" Liam asked with wide blue eyes.

"Of course!" Emma assured him with a smile.

When both of them had gotten off the floor, Liam wrapped his arms around Emma's waist in a hug, one that she gladly returned.

As they pulled away, the blonde had an idea.

"Hey, Liam, why don't you stand on my feet while we dance?" she suggested.

The dark-haired boy furrowed his brows as he asked, "I'm not too big?"

Emma smiled down at him as she answered, "I don't think so, kid."

He nodded before looking down and carefully placing his feet on his mother's. He then looked back up and questioned, "Like this, Mommy?"

"Just like that," Emma answered.

The next song was beginning, and Emma and Liam began moving to the music:

Come stop your crying
It will be alright
Just take my hand
And hold it tight

I will protect you
From all around you
I will be here
Don't you cry

For one so small,
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you,
Keep you safe and warm

This bond between us
Can't be broken
I will be here
Don't you cry

'Cause you'll be in my heart
Yes, you'll be in my heart
From this day on
Now and forever more
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You'll be here in my heart
Always.

Liam perked up as he looked up at Emma and exclaimed, "This is the song from Tarzan!"

"That it is," Emma agreed with a smile.

The dark-haired boy looked thoughtful for a minute before he observed, "This is the song they played when Tarzan was little."

"Yeah. It was the song for Tarzan and Kala because she was his mommy," Emma elaborated.

"She was a really good mommy," Liam observed.

"Yeah, she was," Emma agreed with a smile.

Liam once again looked thoughtful before he told her, "You make really good cookies and you read stories to me and you yell for me at my baseball games. You love me so much and you love Anna Elizabeth even though Aunt Elsa is her mommy. You're the best mommy. I love you so much."

Emma couldn't help the tears that welled up as she replied, "I love you, too, Liam."

He smiled brightly at her as he said, "I'm having fun dancing with you."

Emma returned his smile as she said, "I am so happy that you are. I'm having fun, too."

The smile didn't leave either of their faces as they continued to sway to the music.

 

After the last song had played, the same teacher, Mrs. Karen, announced that there were snacks and drinks provided for everyone.

Most of the boys, including Liam, heard "snacks" and instantly tried to drag their mothers to the table, but were held back until Karen had finished speaking.

When Emma and Liam had sat down, both with an assortment of finger sandwiches, cocktail sausages, chips & dip, and fruit, the blonde noticed she had forgotten to get herself some punch.

She then told her son, "I'll be right back. I have to get some punch."

As Emma moved to get up, Liam's voice stopped her, "I'll get it, Mommy."

"You sure, kid?"

Liam nodded in response before he got up and went over to the punch bowl.

In his absence, Karen approached Emma and sat down in the vacant chair.

Emma smiled at the dark-haired woman and greeted, "Hey, Karen."

"Hi, Emma," Karen began. She then observed, "I couldn't help but notice that during the first song, Liam seemed upset. Is everything alright?"

"Oh, of course! He was just worried because he isn't exactly graceful," Emma explained.

Karen nodded before she smiled and said, "I'm glad that he's okay. He really is a wonderful little boy."

Emma returned her smile as she agreed, "Thank you. He really is - he makes Killian and I so proud."

Karen then told her, "You know that I was hired after Christmas as Mary Margaret's assistant when Liam was in her class. Even though he struggled in math, he worked so hard and refused to give up. He's also so incredibly sweet."

"I appreciate that. It really does warm my heart to hear those things from you - don't get me wrong, I trust Mary Margaret, but Liam is her nephew," Emma admitted.

Karen nodded before Liam came back over with Emma's punch.

As Karen vacated Liam's chair, he exclaimed, "Hey, Mrs. Karen!"

"Hey, Liam! Did you have fun tonight?"

"I did!" Liam answered excitedly.

Karen smiled brightly at him as she replied, "Well, I'm glad."

The little boy then asked, "Is Mr. Deniz a good husband?"

"Liam!" Emma scolded.

Karen just chuckled before she told Emma, "Believe me, he is far from the first student who asked me that."

The dark-haired woman then turned her attention back to Liam as she responded, "He makes me very happy."

Liam smiled brightly in response before Karen left to go fix herself something to eat.

Emma then turned to Liam and said, "Kid, I know Mrs. Karen didn't mind, but it isn't polite to ask your teachers questions like that. It really isn't something that you need to know - it isn't exactly your business. Do you understand?"

Liam looked down for a moment before he looked back up and apologized, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

"It's okay, kid. Just remember for next time."

"I will, Mommy," Liam told her before he went back to eating.

Emma ruffled his hair before taking a bite of the ham and cheese sandwich.

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When Emma and Liam got home, she looked in the rear view mirror to see that her son had fallen fast asleep.

The blonde sent Killian a quick text to go ahead and open the door before she got out of the car.

She then unbuckled her seatbelt and opened her door. She then went around to the back door on the passenger side and carefully unbuckled her son. She then gently lifted him in her arms.

Emma walked to open front door and stepped inside to be greeted by Killian giving her a kiss on the cheek.

He then turned his attention to the sleeping boy in her arms and observed, "I'm going to assume this means he's tired from having a splendid time."

Emma smiled as she responded, "We both had a wonderful time."

Killian returned her smile as he told her, "I'm glad, love."

He then observed, "Would you like me to carry him, Swan? I know he's heavy - I think he's getting too big to carry."

"Don't remind me. He's growing up so fast," Emma bemused.

"Aye, love. It just seems like yesterday that the only words he could say were "ma-ma", "da-da", "Bef", and "ba-ba"," Killian agreed.

He then added, "And don't get me started on Anna Elizabeth. Our movie ended half-an-hour ago, and she's been on the phone with her boyfriend ever since."

Emma sighed and nodded before she adjusted Liam in her arms and told her husband, "Let me go take him to bed."

Killian nodded before Emma began walking toward their son's room.

As she arrived, she pulled back the covers. She gently laid him on the bed before taking off his shoes.

Once he was all snug under his blanket, she softly kissed his forehead. She then said, "I love you, Liam."

As she stood up straight and began walking toward the door, she heard, "Mommy?"

Emma immediately went to his side and observed, "Hey, kid. I thought you were asleep."

"Is it tomorrow, yet?" Liam asked.

"No. We just got home from the dance," Emma answered.

"Oh," Liam simply replied.

The dark-haired boy then looked thoughtful for a moment. He then wrapped Emma in a hug.

As they pulled away, he told her, "I know it isn't tomorrow, but Happy Mother's Day," with a bright smile.

Emma returned his smile as she replied, "Thank you very much, Liam."

"You're welcome, Mommy," he began. He then furrowed his brows for a minute before he asked, "Should I wait to give you my present?"

Emma smiled as she answered, "I think you should. That way, everyone's can be together."

"Okay," Liam answered. He then yawned and curled up back underneath the covers.

He tried to say "good night", but fell asleep before he could.

Emma smiled at her eight-year-old before she planted another soft kiss on his forehead.

She then made her way to her room, where Killian was leaned against the headboard reading a book.

Due to her own sleepiness, the blonde decided to take a shower in the morning.

When she had changed into her pajamas, she went over to the closet to hang her dress up. As she opened the door, her eyes immediately went to shoebox sitting on one of the shelves.

She smiled as she remembered the morning Anna Elizabeth, somehow managing to carry a one-year-old Liam and the shoe box, came into the bedroom.

It was Mother's Day, and Anna Elizabeth had decorated the shoebox. Inside of it was a card she had made Emma, as well a piece of construction paper she had glued pictures all over. The stubborn little girl had insisted that it be a surprise, so she didn't tell Killian. She also insisted that Liam had helped her. While Emma wasn't sure of the validity of that, she could surely tell that the picture of Rapunzel with nothing but scribbles on it came from the little boy.

That morning was the beginning of many more memorable Mother's Days, and she knew that tomorrow would be just as special. The night she had spent dancing she with her son was only the beginning.

 

 

 

A/N: Obviously, the song is "You'll be in My Heart" by Phil Collins from Tarzan. I looked up mother-son songs, and when I saw this one, I knew that it was perfect. I don't know why I couldn't think of it myself, lol.

The next two one-shots will be in Captain Swan One-Shots.

Chapter Text

Hey, y'all! First of all, I wanted to tell you that the next two one shots will be in here. Some lovely fluff, feels, and a bit of angst is in store for Killian, Emma, Anna Elizabeth, and Liam :).

The next thing is that I want y'all's opinion and suggestions.

After I finish the two one shots I have planned, I have an idea for another one. The idea comes from the song "Ready, Set, Don't Go" by Billy Ray Cyrus featuring his daughter Miley Cyrus. The basis of the song is a father having trouble letting go of his daughter as she is now moving on to live her own life, and I started to think of Killian and Anna Elizabeth. We all know how much of a daddy's girl she is, and we know how much Killian doesn't like the idea of her growing up.

For the fic, it will take place a few years in the future following "A Bad Influence" For the plot, I was thinking that Anna Elizabeth has just finished college and is getting married.

What I need you guys' help with is the following:
1. First of all, do you guys like this idea and would you read it?
1. I DESPISE coming up with names for people, and I have ran out of OUAT/Disney characters. So if you have a name in mind for Anna Elizabeth's fiancé, please tell me (So,no, she doesn't marry her high school sweetheart)
2. What I haven't decided on is the timeline, so to speak. Since the song is conversational in a way, this fic will center on Killian and Anna Elizabeth's relationship.
Here is what I haven't decided:
-Whether or not to include her graduation.
-Whether her engagement will happen before or after graduation.
-Whether or not I'll include the wedding
-I want Killian and Anna Elizabeth to have a heart to heart, but I don't know when that should happen. Perhaps it'll become clear after the three previous bullets are decided.


I really need some suggestions, and I would be grateful for your thoughts. I will take them all into consideration, and choose what I like best. It will be a few weeks (or even longer) before I even get to writing this fic, so it may be a little while before you see it. But I really want this to happen. Thank you guys!

Chapter Text

Anna Elizabeth put her car in drive just as Liam began to hop in the backseat when she picked him up from school.

Unfortunately, the juniors had gotten back their history projects, and Anna Elizabeth's scale model of The Lusitania, along with her cheerleading equipment, took up the whole backseat.

"Anna Elizabeth, where I am supposed to sit?" the dark-haired boy asked.

"Oh, uh, just come around to the front seat, Liam," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Liam tilted his head as he looked at her oddly for a moment. He then nodded and complied.

Anna Elizabeth glanced to make sure that he was wearing his seatbelt before she prepared to drive away.

Once she pulled out of the school zone, she was driving on the road behind the grocery store. She had stopped at a four-way stop sign, where she looked around to see if anyone was coming.

Just as she was pulling out, a truck came barreling through the intersection. Anna Elizabeth didn't have time to put on her breaks, and her eyes widened when she realized they were going to hit the side of the truck head-on.

The last thing that Anna Elizabeth remembered was protectively putting her arm in front of Liam before her world went black.

As predicted, the black Camaro slammed into the passenger side of the silver F-150. Anna Elizabeth's head hit the dash, while Liam hit his sister's arm, only to be bounced back against the door, where his head forcefully hit the passenger side window. Both of them were knocked unconscious.

The unharmed driver of the truck got out to assess the damage and the person who hit him, his only comment being about the "damn kids who smashed my brand new pick-up truck."

Fortunately, the kind-hearted manager had saw the whole incident and instantly called the Sheriff's department.

When they arrived on the scene, David knew that he would have to take control of this case. As soon as the woman uttered the words "black Camaro", a bad feeling settled in Emma's stomach. David had tried to talk her down and tried to reassure her. Unfortunately, when they had come to intersection, David knew his efforts were futile when he recognized his niece's blonde curls.

Emma had been trying so hard to be strong and professional, but she completely broke when she went over to the car and saw her kids' unmoving forms.

She couldn't help the falling tears and practically fell into her brother's arms. A moment later, he pulled back and told her, "Hey, they're going to be fine. I promise – just let me do my job."

Emma nodded as David began assessing the scene, asking questions, and taking notes. As he had gathered all of the information that he could, the ambulance had pulled up.

Fortunately, the damage to the car doors were not extensive, so the jaws of life were not needed to remove Anna Elizabeth and Liam from the vehicle.

The paramedics put them on stretchers and placed them in the ambulance, with Emma going in behind them. She refused to leave her kids' side.

Just as the ambulance was pulling away, Killian drove up. As he approached David, the dark-haired man questioned, "What the bloody hell happened?"

"I told you on the phone– Anna Elizabeth and Liam were in a car accident. They're on the way to the hospital now – Emma rode in the ambulance with them," David calmly told his brother-in-law.

"How did this even happen? Are they okay?" Killian asked frantically.

David sighed before he answered, "Look, Killian, it's best if you get to the hospital. It'll all be explained later."

"Don't you bloody know what happened – you're the damn sheriff," Killian angrily seethed.

David ignored Killian's words and stood his ground, "I know you, Killian. You want the person who caused this to pay, and I get that. I will make sure that justice is done, and please don't do anything stupid. I don't want to arrest you for assault. Just go."

He then added, "I'll call Belle and have her meet you there," knowing that, besides Emma, Killian's sister was the best at talking him down.

Killian took several deep breaths before he nodded. He then turned to walk back to his truck.

 

When Killian arrived at the hospital, he saw (and heard) Emma demand one of the nurses, "Why the hell hasn't he woken up yet?"

"Mrs. Jones, Dr. Whale is doing everything he can for Liam, as well as for Anna Elizabeth," the nurse responded.

"Well, tell him to try harder! My son is still unconscious!" Emma yelled.

The nurse nodded before going on her way.

Killian then stepped up beside her and asked, "Emma, love, what happened?"

Emma took a deep breath before she explained, "Anna Elizabeth and Liam were in a wreck. A truck came speeding across the intersection and she hit them head on. Both of them were knocked unconscious. Anna Elizabeth is fine, but Liam hasn't woken up yet."

Before Killian could reply, Dr. Whale approached them. He immediately told them, "Emma already knows some of this, but I'm going to reiterate. Anna Elizabeth is awake and stable. Other than a few scratches, she should recover just fine."

"And Liam?" Killian interrupted.

"I fear he may have a concussion, caused by blunt force trauma to the head. I believe it's why he hasn't woken up yet. We're running tests now to confirm," Dr. Whale explained.

Both Emma and Killian absorbed his words before Killian observed, "I don't understand how he could have hit his head so hard if he was wearing his seatbelt in the backseat."

Dr. Whale looked at Killian oddly before he told him, "Liam was riding in the front seat. Anna Elizabeth confirmed it."

The doctor was then called away by a nurse, leaving a bewildered Killian in his wake.

He turned to Emma and her, "Liam is still a bit too small to be riding in the front. Anna Elizabeth knows this – why would she let him?"

"Apparently, there was too much stuff in the backseat – at least that's what Whale said. I haven't talked to Anna Elizabeth. There's another thing I'm pissed about – they won't let me see her," Emma answered.

"She should have known better," Killian seethed.

"Don't you dare blame our daughter for this –the driver of that truck should have been watching where he was going," Emma sternly told him.

"Oh, believe me, love, I want to break his bloody neck. It's only because your brother threatened to arrest me that I haven't confronted the bastard," Killian began.

He took a deep breath and continued, "I already lost my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law. I was forced into raising my niece..."

Emma cut him off, "You were forced? Forced? How the hell can you even say that, Killian?"

Killian's blue eyes turned cold and were full of anger as he seethed, "I refuse to lose my son, Emma. None of this would have happened if Anna Elizabeth ensured that Liam was in the damn backseat where he belonged!"

"He is our son, Killian! I'm just as scared as you are – I'm terrified of losing him, too!" Emma yelled.

"Then you should have made sure that Anna Elizabeth knew not to let him ride in the front seat!"

"So, it's my fault, now? Damn it, Killian. She is your brother's child – she is your niece, not mine!"

"Oh, so after 13 bloody years, she's suddenly my problem when she crashes her bloody car!?"

At that point, everyone in the waiting room had their eyes fixated on Killian and Emma. They surely would have kept arguing had David not arrived at the hospital, with Belle right behind him.

"Hey, you two! Both of your kids need you right now. Arguing isn't going to help anything, so stop it!" David scolded.

Emma let out a sigh before walking a few feet away to clear her head. Killian ran his fingers through his hair before he noticed his sister, who then pulled him in for a comforting hug.

Dr. Whale, accompanied by a nurse, then made their way over to David, Emma, Belle, and Killian. He announced that Anna Elizabeth could now have visitors.

"Can we all go in?" Belle asked.

"I think it would be better if you all went one at the time," the nurse explained. Everyone nodded in response.

When Whale and the nurse were gone, Emma announced, "I think that David needs to go first. The only way we'll get any peace is if we know what the hell happened with this wreck, and he needs to question her."

"Love, are you sure that police interrogation is what she needs right now?" Killian questioned.

"For what it's worth, Killian, I do know that this wreck wasn't Anna Elizabeth's fault. I would still be doing my job as sheriff, but I would make sure she felt comfortable," David assured him.

At Killian's nod, David turned and made his way to Anna Elizabeth's hospital room. When he returned only a couple of minutes later, warning bells sounded in Emma, Killian, and Belle's heads. David went to go speak with Dr. Whale before returning to his family.

"She isn't in her room," David told them calmly, though on the inside, he was a nervous wreck. He felt like he needed to be that pillar of strength for all of them.

"What do you mean she isn't in her room? Where the bloody hell is she?" Killian asked.

"I don't know where she is. But I did notice that a window was open – she probably ran away," David surmised.

"Why would she run away?" Belle asked.

At that moment, Emma buried her face in her hands. As she raised her head back up, she observed, "She must have heard us arguing, Killian."

Killian dropped his head before Whale walked over, having heard what Emma said, and remarked, "Considering the entire hospital heard you going at it, I wouldn't be surprised if Anna Elizabeth heard it."

"Are you going to insult us or actually try to help?" Killian asked.

"I have other patients – including your son – to attend to. Since David is the sheriff, he can handle it," Whale responded matter-of-factly.

Before he turned to walk away, he added sympathetically, "For what it's worth, I do hope you find her."

David took a deep breath and announced, "Okay, I say we split up – two people to a group. I have walkie talkies in the car. I say we call Regina, Robin, and August. Mary Margaret is already on her way here. The more people we have out looking, the better our chances are of finding her."

He then turned his attention to Emma and Killian, "One of you needs to stay here for Liam. I don't care which one of you it is, but you damn well better not start arguing again. Figure it out, and then meet Belle and I outside."

David then headed out of the hospital. Belle offered her brother and sister-in-law sympathetic looks before following David out of the door.

Both Emma and Killian exhaled deeply before she told him, "Okay, Killian, let's put all of that crap from earlier aside for the moment. All that matters now is finding Anna Elizabeth. I know I haven't exactly been calm, cool, and collected today, but I'm still way more level-headed than you are. I need to be the one that's out there searching."

Killian nodded in agreement before he spoke, "Just find her, Swan. Please find her."

Emma nodded as well before she rushed out of the door.

Ten minutes later, everyone was leaving the hospital in pairs to locate Anna Elizabeth. Evie was watching Colette and Matthew, so that August could help Mary Margaret search. Belle had decided it was best if she stayed with her brother, while Regina was with Robin, and Emma was with David.

As David and Emma took off in the sheriff's car, Emma was fighting the guilt that she felt. God, if there was an award for the absolute worst way to handle a situation, she and Killian would have gotten first prize. Hearing the people who had raised you since you five years old – the people who you looked at as your parents – basically call you nothing more than a problem and a burden? For them to basically say they didn't want you? Emma would have run away too.

As Emma ran her fingers through her hair, David seemed to have read her mind: "This is a terrible situation, and in those situations, emotions run high and people are looking for someone to blame. They often say and do things that they don't mean, and they regret it later. That's all that happened with you and Killian – it happens to a lot of people. Don't beat yourself up. We will find her, and all of you will be okay."

Emma shot her brother a grateful smile before she questioned, "Where do you think she could have gone?"

"Well, Emma, I'd figure if anyone could understand what she was feeling, it would be you. If you had heard Mom and I arguing, where would you have gone?"

Emma thought long and hard about her brother's words. Then, like a bolt of lightning, the answer hit her, "Go to Liam and Elsa's house."

David nodded before he headed in that direction.

 

Five minutes later, David pulled into the driveway of Liam and Elsa's brick home. Since Storybrooke never had anyone new move to town, the house had been abandoned for the last 13 years. For the first few years after Liam and Elsa's death, Killian had endeavored to keep the house up. After Liam, was born, however, Killian never seemed to have to the time. The mayor didn't deem it as an important enough project, so the house was now an overgrown jungle.

Emma bolted out of the car and into the house, with David following close behind. She first ran into what was Anna Elizabeth's old room and frowned when she didn't see the teenage girl.

"Try her parents' room," David suggested from behind her.

Emma didn't even bother to offer any indication of a response before she headed to the other side of the house.

When Emma entered Liam and Elsa's bedroom, her heart broke at the sight. Anna Elizabeth was curled up in a fetal position on the bed, clutching the picture of Liam and Elsa that she kept taped on the dashboard of the Camaro.

Quietly, Emma moved closer to the bed before she called out, "Anna Elizabeth?"

The teenager shot up on the bed, and gave Emma a glare that would kill her if looks could kill. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks were stained with tears and mascara.

"What the bloody hell do you want, Emma?" she yelled, her voice cracked from all the crying she had been doing.

Even though Emma didn't think it was possible, her heart broke even more when Anna Elizabeth called her by her given name.

"Look, kid, I know you heard Killian and I arguing. You have to know that we didn't mean…" Emma began.

Anna Elizabeth cut her off, "You didn't mean it? You didn't mean it? Then why did you say it! This isn't the first time I've done something stupid, but Killian has never said that he was forced into raising me. And you have never referred to me as his niece. Both of you said I was a problem! Clearly, neither one of you care about me – all you care about is your son, Liam. Just leave me alone!"

By this point, Emma had started crying, too. Anna Elizabeth was still reeling from her first break-up, and now Emma and Killian had just broken the 17-year-old's heart even more.

Emma tried to find the strength to steady her voice before she spoke, "Anna Elizabeth, you have to know that Killian and I didn't mean anything that we said. Both of you were hurt, and Liam was still unconscious. We were upset and angry, and we needed someone to blame – unfortunately, that happened to be you. I am so, so sorry, Anna Elizabeth – I do love you like you're my daughter, and nothing will ever change that. You have to believe that."

"No! You're not my mom! And Killian isn't my dad! You're not my real parents! Why should I believe anything you say?" Anna Elizabeth refuted.

Emma considered her words before joining her daughter on the bed. Emma reached for Anna Elizabeth's hand, but the teenager jerked it away before moving further away from Emma.

Emma then took a deep breath before she spoke, "I spent the first 14 years of my life in foster care. At 13 years old, Killian lost both of his parents. We both know what's it like to yearn for a mother's soothing words in your ear or a father's strong arms wrapped around you, and to not be able to have it. That is last thing we ever wanted for you. All we have wanted is for you to feel love and cared for, even if you didn't' see us as your parents. You have to know how much we love you.

I know that Killian and I both said hurtful words, and despite the saying, words can break you. I wish I could take them back, but I can't. People say stupid things when they're upset – I know it doesn't make it hurt any less, but it does mean that what Killian and I said isn't true.

You are not a problem. You are so much more than just Killian's niece, and he wanted to raise you. You are our daughter, and we won't hesitate to tell anyone who thinks otherwise. I just want you to see that, and I'm so, so sorry that we made you feel otherwise.

Now, you have to come back to the hospital, but you don't have to talk to Killian and I. We just want you to be safe and to know that you're alright – at least, physically."

Anna Elizabeth took a moment to consider her words before she nodded. The quizzical expression on Emma's face told the teenager that the blonde wasn't sure to what Anna Elizabeth was agreeing.

So, Anna Elizabeth spoke, "Let's get back to the hospital. I need to know that my bro… Liam is okay."

Emma nodded before Anna Elizabeth got up from the bed and made her way to the front door, with Emma and David following behind her.

The tension between Emma and Anna Elizabeth could have been cut with a knife. When they arrived back at the hospital, Anna Elizabeth half-heartedly accepted everyone's hug before going back to her hospital room.

Once Whale checked her over and assured her that she would recover, she asked about Liam. Thankfully, he had woken up while everyone was searching for her. The test confirmed Dr. Whale's diagnoses, but Liam's body would heal itself.

Once the doctor had left, Anna Elizabeth was alone with her thoughts. She was still mad, but Emma's words kept playing through her head. Not for the first time in her life, she wondered what Elsa and Liam would think about the situation.

She was pulled from her thoughts when there was a knock at her door.

"Who is it?" Anna Elizabeth asked, though it came out a lot harsher than she intended.

As the door was opened, she heard, "Chill, Anna Elizabeth. I'm not one of your many family members that you're mad at right now."

"I'm not mad at everyone, Gia. I'm just mad at Emma and Killian," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Gia then came into the room and shut the door behind her. She plopped down in the chair beside the bed and asked, "So, you wanna tell me what your parents did to make you call them by their first names?"

Anna Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at her friend as she asked, "Since when do you want to talk about feelings?"

Gia looked down for a minute. She took several deep breaths before she admitted, "Uncle Mark and I have been in family therapy for the last three months."

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened slightly as she asked, "Really?"

Gia nodded before she spoke, "I didn't tell you because I was embarrassed. I thought that therapy was for people who are nut jobs, but it's actually been helping. Uncle Mark is actually trying to care about me. He's actually home when I'm awake, now."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her friend as she sincerely told her, "I'm so happy for you, Gia. That's totally awesome."

Gia smiled back before she observed, "Thanks, Anna Elizabeth. I'm happy, too."

The blonde then sighed as she observed, "I guess you want to know why I'm mad at Emma and Killian."

"Well," Gia began slowly, "I sort of already know. Dr. Hopper had to talk with a patient here today, so Uncle Mark and I came here for therapy. I'm pretty sure all of Storybrooke heard your parents screaming at each other."

Anna Elizabeth took in Gia's words before she surmised, "Then you already know why I'm mad. I know that Emma explained and apologized, but it doesn't change how their words made me feel."

Gia nodded in understanding before she said, "Look, I'm not a freaking therapist. After losing my parents and then being treated like crap for two years, I barely know what a loving family is supposed to look like anymore. But you have it – you don't even know how lucky you are."

Anna Elizabeth tried to take Gia's words to heart, but she was still hurt.

She then scoffed, "Lucky? Please – Emma only wanted me to come back to the hospital and to make herself feel better."

"Come on, Anna Elizabeth – you know that's a load of crap," Gia pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth simply crossed her arms in response.

Gia then groaned, "Ugh! Why are you so stubborn!"

The brunette then took a deep breath and stated, "Listen, Anna Elizabeth. You know I'm not one to beat around the bush to try to spare someone's feelings, even yours. You did screw up by letting Liam ride in the front seat. And then you ran away and scared the crap out of your parents and everyone else. But you know what? None of that freaking mattered when they realized you were gone. David took charge, and everyone was on a mission to find you. That was all that mattered.

And you know what else? When I first moved here, I will admit that I got you into so much trouble. You, well, we, put your parents through so much crap that they didn't deserve. But at least they cared enough to help you see you were wrong. They never stopped loving you, and they forgave you. Uncle Mark and I have to go to therapy to even try to have a relationship like that. I wish he saw me the way that Emma and Killian see you. It doesn't matter that you're only Killian's niece. It doesn't matter that you're not even really related to Emma. They are your parents, and Liam is your brother. I know what they said sucks, but in my book, actions speak louder than words. If you can't see that they love you, you're an idiot, and you're the one who needs to be in therapy."

Gia took a deep breath as she finished, and Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile. For the blonde, Gia's bluntness was one of her most endearing qualities.

Anna Elizabeth then began to ponder the meaning of her friend's words. She knew that Gia was right. If the truth were told, Anna Elizabeth had already forgiven them before Gia even came in, but she was too stubborn to see it. (She supposed she had her father, Liam, to thank for that).

Anna Elizabeth let out a sigh as she brought her attention back to her friend.

"You're right, Gia. I wanted to forgive them, but I guess I needed a push in the right direction."

"You guess?" Gia questioned with crossed arms.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she questioned, "You're never going to let me live this down, are you?"

"Nope," Gia responded with a mischievous grin.

Anna Elizabeth returned the grin and shook her head.

She then took another deep breath and asked, "Will you go get my parents?"

Gia smiled at Anna Elizabeth's use of "parents" before she nodded. She got up from the chair and turned to head out the door, but then stopped. The brunette then walked back over to Anna Elizabeth and wrapped her in a hug.

"I'm glad you're alright," Gia told her before she left the hospital room.

Just as Gia had approached Emma and Killian, Mark came over to her.

"There you are. I've been looking for you."

"Oh, um, I'm sorry that I didn't tell you, but I was visiting Anna Elizabeth," Gia replied.

"Is she alright?" Mark asked with almost genuine concern.

"Yeah, she's totally fine," Gia told him before turning to Emma and Killian, "And she wants to see you guys."

"Really?" both Emma and Killian asked with a bit of surprise.

Gia nodded in response before she and her uncle left the hospital.

Emma and Killian exchanged a look with their family and each other before walking to their daughter's room.

To their shock, Anna Elizabeth got up and wrapped both of them in a hug. As they pulled away, she began apologizing, "Guys, I'm sorry for everything – Liam, running away, and for what I said to you, Mom. Can you guys forgive me?"

Emma and Killian smiled at their daughter, who had such a sweet spirit.

Killian then spoke up, "Love, there is nothing for us to forgive. The wreck was an accident, and you were driving responsibly. It wasn't your fault. Perhaps Liam shouldn't have riding in the front, but you protected him by putting your arm in front of him. According to Whale, you saved his life."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as Emma added, "And believe me, kid, we do not blame you for running away or for what you said about us not being your parents. Killian and I brought that on ourselves. No matter how upset and angry we were, we should have never said those things about you. Just like you said – it's not like this is the first time you've made a mistake. We all make mistakes, and your dad and I made a big one."

Killian then said, "And so, Anna Elizabeth, your mother and I should be asking for your forgiveness. While it was true that I was bloody terrified at the thought of being a father all those years ago, I wanted to raise you. You had me wrapped around your finger, and I was ecstatic to be your father, even though I knew I would never replace Liam. Believe me, love, if he's looking down right now, he's probably saying what a bloody idiot I am for making you feel like you're not loved. Because I love you so, so much."

"That goes for me too, kid. I was terrified of being your mother when I married Killian. But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. You are this amazing, smart, passionate, and mature young lady, and I am so proud to call you my daughter. I love you so much, Anna Elizabeth," Emma finished.

At that point, all three of them were struggling to hold back the tears. Anna Elizabeth wiped her eyes before she said, "I love you guys, too." She then wrapped Emma and Killian in another hug.

As they pulled away, Killian kissed her forehead before the teenager told them, "And of course forgive you guys. You're my parents."

Emma and Killian smiled brightly at her words before Dr. Whale came in, accompanied by David.

Dr. Whale spoke, "Anna Elizabeth is free to go home today, but Liam needs to stay here a few more days to allow his body to heal properly. I've taken the liberty of having one of nurses move him to larger room with a bigger bed so one of you can stay with him."

"Thank you, Dr. Whale," Emma responded while Killian nodded.

Dr. Whale nodded at them as well before going to take care of Anna Elizabeth's release papers.

Emma then looked at her brother and observed, "I'm assuming you're here to question Anna Elizabeth."

"I hate to break up all of the good news, but yes, I do need Anna Elizabeth's statement about what happened," David responded.

"Well, by all means, mate, do your job," Killian genuinely told his brother-in-law. He kissed Anna Elizabeth's head once more before taking Emma's hand in his and heading out the door.

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"Love, do you want to ride with me back to the hospital?" Killian asked as he came out of he and Emma's room holding an overnight bag for his wife, along with the one he had for Liam.

"I think I'll just stay here. I've had enough hospitals and Dr. Whale for a while," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Killian couldn't help but chuckle before he told her, "Alright, Anna Elizabeth. I'll be back in a bit."

Anna Elizabeth nodded as she watched him head for the front door. As a thought crossed her mind, she called out, "Wait, Dad!"

Killian looked strangely as he watched her sprint off to Liam's room.

She returned a moment later and handed him her worn copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

"You know that if Liam doesn't find out what happens next to Captain Nemo in the Nautilus, he'll drive Mom insane."

Killian once again chuckled as he replied, "Too true, love. He gets it from Aunt Belle."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "Says the guy who read the 1200+ pages of War and Peace in three days."

Killian then joked, "Your father and mother are probably both shaking their heads because you can be just as sarcastic as I am."

Anna Elizabeth giggled at that before Killian kissed her forehead and headed out the door.

When he was gone, Anna Elizabeth plopped down on the couch and pulled out the picture of Liam and Elsa from her pocket.

She ran her fingers over their faces as she began to speak, "Being in the house today brought back memories of when we all lived there – although they're fuzzy at best. What I do remember the most is making chocolate chip cookies. I would always get flour everywhere, but you would never yell at me, Mom. You'd just shake your head and look at Dad like it was his fault. I guess it kind of was because I'm so much like him. That's what Dad tells me all of the time now."

She stopped and turned her attention to the family portrait on the wall of her, Liam, Emma, and Killian.

She then continued, "I hope you guys aren't too mad at Mom and Dad. I'm not anymore. They really are great parents – I'm so lucky to have them. If you guys can't be here, I'm glad to have them. I think I'm luckier than most kids – I have two sets of parents. I have the ones who brought me into this world and then I have the ones who raised me.

I don't think I've told you guys this, but I'm so glad you picked Uncle Killian to be my guardian. I couldn't imagine having anyone else as my dad. I know you guys didn't pick Emma, but I know that you would have. They both talk about you guys a lot so I won't forget. I miss you guys sometimes, but having them makes it easier. You guys don't have to worry about me. Your little girl is loved, and she has two great parents to take care of her."

She wiped the tears that had formed in those blue eyes before making her way to her room. She placed the picture of Liam and Elsa next to the framed one she had of Emma and Killian on her dresser. She couldn't help but smile as she looked at both of them for a few minutes.

She then heard the door open and Killian call out, "I've ordered a pizza, love. I thought we could watch a movie, but I'm choosing this time."

Anna Elizabeth giggled before she began heading for her door. She stole one last look at the pictures of her parents – Liam & Elsa and Killian & Emma. A wide smile broke across her face as she thought, "I have the best parents that a girl could hope for."

 

 

 

 

 

 

I purposely made this one take place after "A Bad Influence" because even though I created the storyline of Gia's actions to be based from the fact that she really has no one to care about her. That was a big point for me in this story. But y'all, it seriously broke my heart and made me sad (I know this makes me sound crazy), so I fixed it. As you read, Gia and Mark do not have perhaps a great relationship, but they are working on it, and he is at least trying. And that made me happy (once again, I know I'm crazy).

And yes, I did borrow from The Blind Side in case y'all picked up on that. I did not mean to, but as I was brainstorming from the wreck, all I thought about was the one from the movie, where Michael put his arm in front of SJ so he wouldn't get hit by the airbag. And so, I put it in here because Anna Elizabeth is just as protective over Liam.

Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed this one-shot!

Chapter Text

Hey y'all! I was going to wait to post this until after I finish the current one-shot I'm working on - after that one, I will be starting "Ready, Set, Don't Go" (aka where Anna Elizabeth gets married). But I went ahead and decided post this :)

I wanted y'all to know that I have decided that this will be a multi-shot (I'm sure none of y'all are surprised). As of now, I have 4 parts planned, and along with your suggestions, I had some ideas that I think you all will enjoy. I also wanted to tell y'all that I do have a name for Anna Elizabeth's fiancé, which is Calin James. I cannot take credit for his name :)

REQUEST: Since I have decided to include the wedding as a chapter, I really need suggestions for songs for Anna Elizabeth and Calin's first dance as husband and wife.
For one thing, I can't decide if it should be more modern (early 2000s to today) or something from the 80s. What it CANNOT be is "Everything I do I do it for you" or "Have I Told You Lately". So, please, offer suggestions!

REQUEST TWO: I would also need y'all's thoughts on whether or not Anna
Elizabeth's close friends (aka Gia, Jane, and Alexandra) or family (Jamie and Roland) should be married/kids. Evie has already been completely decided :) If your answer is yes, please suggest names (y'all know I hate coming  up with them)

And if you guys have any more suggestions or something you'd like to see, please let me know! But it has to be BEFORE I start writing - which will be the weekend after next (hopefully)

Thank you guys so much for the ideas so far, and I hope you guys will enjoy the final product. Until then! :) :)

Chapter Text

"Are you sure you'll be alright by yourself?" Emma asked as she grabbed her wallet, keys, and cell phone.

Killian mocked offense as he put his hand over his heart and said, "You wound me, Swan."

Emma rolled her eyes before she told him, "I'm serious, Killian."

"As am I, Swan. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of our seven-year-old and her bout with the stomach virus," Killian responded.

Emma sighed before she told him, "I know you are. I just worry about her, especially since she's even more stubborn she's sick. She hates it."

"Most children – and even some adults – don't handle being sick very well," Killian began, throwing a knowing look at his wife, to which she rolled her eyes again.

He then grinned at her as he continued, "You've spent the last three days with her because I was in the middle of working on a house. I couldn't take off until we were further along in the project. I know you won't admit it, but you deserve a break, love."

Emma smiled at him gratefully before she simply responded, "I know."

Emma's phone then rang, and she was greeted by an over-excited Mary Margaret.

"Are you ready, Emma? We have to get to the mall. I'm so glad that you decided to come with me!"

After all this time, Emma should be used to her sister-in-law's enthusiasm, but it still caught her off guard at times.

Emma then replied, "Yeah, I'm ready. I'm on my way out."

"Great! See you in a bit," Mary Margaret responded before she hung up the phone.

Just as Emma put the phone into her pocket, she and Killian both saw Anna Elizabeth making her way into the living room.

Killian bent down on her level and told her, "Love, you're supposed to be in bed," as he moved her curls off her forehead.

"I want to play outside, Uncle Killian," Anna Elizabeth complained.

"I know you do. But you're sick, Anna Elizabeth. That means staying inside and in bed, love. It's so you'll feel better," Killian answered.

Anna Elizabeth adorably huffed, but Emma and Killian couldn't help but feel sorry for their little girl.

She then asked him, "Can you and Aunt Emma have a tea party with me?"

Emma then bent down on her niece's level and explained, "I'd love to, kid. But I'm going shopping with Aunt Mary Margaret today."

Disappointment filled Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes, but Killian quickly added, "But I think that a tea party would be a marvelous idea, love."

The little girl's eyes lit up before she ran back into her room.

Killian and Emma both stood up straight before Killian said, "I think that's my cue, love."

"Yeah, if I don't leave soon, Mary Margaret will be calling again," Emma replied with a chuckle.

Killian smiled at her before giving her a sweet kiss, one that she happily returned. They exchanged goodbyes before Killian headed to Anna Elizabeth's room, and Emma headed for the front door.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Emma and Mary Margaret were on their way to the mall.

When Mary Margaret turned on the radio, Emma furrowed her brows.

"What are we listening to, Mary Margaret?" the blonde asked her sister-in-law.

The brunette noticed Emma's tone and responded, "You know, Emma, there are other genres besides the 80s."

Emma couldn't help but roll her eyes as she defended, "I didn't say anything."

She then pointed out, "You didn't answer my question."

"It's Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake," Mary Margaret answered.

"That's the one where she turns into a swan," Emma observed.

Mary Margaret nodded before she said wistfully, "It's a beautiful story."

"Yes, because death is the love story that everyone dreams of," Emma stated sarcastically.

It was Mary Margaret this time who rolled her eyes. She then told her, "You know, Emma, I really don't understand your aversion to love stories."

"Because they're always so sappy and unrealistic," Emma complained.

Mary Margaret only grinned in response. Emma noticed and asked, "What?"

"Come on, Emma. The story of falling in love with your best friend is so romantic, and it isn't just a story for you and Killian."

Emma sat there quietly because she couldn't protest. She then couldn't help but smile when she thought about when she admitted to Killian that she loved him and the amazing kiss that followed.

The blonde then heard Mary Margaret clear her throat next to her. As Emma turned to face her sister-in-law, Mary Margaret was looking at her with a knowing smile.

Emma couldn't help but smile back at her in response as she slightly blushed.

The blonde then asked, "Remind me what we're shopping for again?"

"Regina's birthday present, and a baby gift for Aurora," Mary Margaret answered.

"Shopping for Regina should be an adventure," Emma surmised.

Mary Margaret couldn't help but chuckle as she replied, "I don't think it'll be that bad, Emma."

"We'll see," Emma said, as Mary Margaret shook her head in response.

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Emma and Mary Margaret had left Kay's Jeweler's, each with a small shopping bag in their hand. One year for Regina's birthday, Emma and Mary Margaret had each pitched in to buy Regina a charm bracelet. Each year since then, they had each purchased her a new charm for that bracelet, and this year was no different.

In honor of Regina deciding to take on more pro bono work in helping children be placed in good foster homes, Emma had purchased a charm with a little boy and girl on it. Since this year made 25 years that Mary Margaret and Regina had known each other, Mary Margaret had gotten Regina a friendship charm. Though it had taken them over an hour to decide on what charms to buy, they knew that Regina would love them.

Mary Margaret and Emma then began making their way to the Children's Place. As soon as they walked in, the pixie-haired brunette gravitated toward the baby girl clothes.

She picked up a pink and white dress and reminisced, "Oh, I remember fawning over all of the baby clothes when I was pregnant with Jamie and Evie."

Emma smiled as she added, "Yeah, I remember how you would text me all of these pictures of everything you saw that you had bought. I wondered where David was going to put it all."

Mary Margaret couldn't help but smile at her sister-in-law's comment. She then placed the dress back on the rack and said, "I'm going to look around some more. I want to get something that will be perfect for little Grace."

Emma nodded before she asked, "Didn't you say you wanted to get diapers and wipes, too?"

"Oh, yes. Would you mind grabbing them for me?" Mary Margaret replied.

"Of course," Emma answered before walking to the back of the store. She grabbed what Mary Margaret wanted and then headed back to her sister-in-law.

As she was walking through the boys' section, a onesie caught her eye. She couldn't help but stop and pick it up.

It was a white onesie with gray writing. It had "Little Captain" written on it with an anchor in between the two words. She couldn't help the smile that began to form on her lips.

As her mind began to wander, she heard, "Earth to Emma."

Emma jumped at Mary Margaret's voice. As the blonde turned to face her sister-in-law, she saw the brunette wearing a knowing grin.

"What?" Emma asked.

"Oh, nothing," Mary Margaret replied, but Emma somehow knew that she hadn't heard the last of it.

Mary Margaret then held up two dresses to Emma and asked, "Which one?"

The blonde tilted her head for a moment as she roamed her eyes back and forth. She then replied, "I like the one with the ruffles."

Mary Margaret smiled as she responded, "I liked that one, too." Emma nodded satisfactorily before her sister-in-law turned to walk toward the counter.

As Emma began to follow her, the blonde realized that she was still holding the onesie in her hand. She couldn't help but look at it wistfully before she placed it back on the rack. She then headed to follow Mary Margaret.

Once the pixie-haired brunette had paid, she and Emma headed toward the food court to grab lunch.

As soon as the women sat down with their food, the blonde heard, "Emma, is that you?" As Emma turned around, she smiled when she realized the voice belonged to her high school friend, Mandy.

Mandy had moved to Storybrooke during Emma's junior year of high school after being reunited with her birth parents. Her bubbly personality couldn't help but be liked, and she soon became pretty good friends with Emma, Elsa, and Ruby.

Emma's smile grew as she told Mandy, "It's so good to see you!"

"You too, Emma!" Mandy began. She then continued, "I would hug you, but, as you can see, my hands are quite full," referring to the baby in her arms and the diaper bag over her shoulder.

"Oh, it's fine," Emma assured her. She then remembered the brunette sitting across from her, and said, "Mandy, I'd like you to meet my sister-in-law, Mary Margaret."

Mandy smiled widely as she addressed her, "It's great to meet you, Mary Margaret!"

Mary Margaret returned her smile as she responded, "It's nice meeting you as well, Mandy."

Just then, the baby in Mandy's arms began to fuss. She then said, "Oh, it looks like my little Max is hungry. I think it's time for your bottle."

Mandy then glanced at Emma, and it was if the blonde read her mind, "Go ahead and sit Mandy. I can't imagine that it's easy making a bottle standing up and with one hand."

"You are so right, Emma," Mandy responded as she sat down. As she began to reach into the diaper bag, Max only became more fussy. Mandy tried to comfort him, but it was to little avail because she was trying to fix his bottle.

"If you want, Mandy, I can hold him," Emma suggested.

"That would be a big help. Thanks, Emma!" Mandy responded jubilantly.

Emma simply nodded with a smile before Mandy passed the brown-haired boy to her. As Mandy prepared his bottle, Emma talked softly to him as she lightly bounced him.

"Hey, little guy. There's no need to cry – your mom almost has your bottle ready for you." As Emma continued to talk to him, he calmed down and looked at her with big brown eyes.

Mandy then announced, "Okay, Max, you ready to eat?"

As Emma placed the baby back in his mother's arms, Mandy observed, "You're a natural with him, Emma. Do you have kids?"

"I have one daughter, Anna Elizabeth. She's seven and is currently at home with my husband, Killian – she's recovering from the stomach virus."

"Poor little thing. I'm sure she hates being sick," Mandy began.

She then furrowed her brows as she observed, "Anna Elizabeth... why does that name sound familiar."

Emma took a breath before she told her, "Well, I'm sure you heard that Elsa had gotten married and had a little girl."

Mandy nodded before the realization struck her, "That's right. Her little girl was Anna Elizabeth."

A puzzled expression then took over the brunette's face. She then asked, "But wasn't Elsa's brother-in-law named as Anna Elizabeth's guardian?"

"Well, yes. But Killian moved to Storybrooke to help his brother with his business shortly after Elsa found out that she was pregnant. Killian and I became best friends, and we eventually realized it was more. We've been married for almost two years," Emma explained.

"Eventually being the key word here," Mary Margaret added.

Emma rolled her eyes as Mandy chuckled.

Mandy then smiled at her friend as she began, "Well, I'm glad that we both found someone special to spend our lives with."

Emma smiled brightly at her in response before Mandy continued, "And I can tell by the way you referred to Anna Elizabeth as your daughter that you love her like she is yours. I'm sure your husband feels the same way. I know that Elsa is happy about that."

"I think she would be, too," Emma agreed.

Mandy then turned her attention back to Max and realized that he was through with his bottle.

She placed the bottle on the table before grabbing the burp cloth from the diaper bag. Once Max was burped, Mandy adjusted him in her arms. Her cell phone then rang.

Just as she answered it, Max kept trying to grab it. Emma couldn't help but smile at the sight.

Mandy was clearly struggling talking to whom Emma assumed was her husband with the 8-month-old grabbing at her ear.

Emma decided to help out her old friend. She gave the baby boy her keys with which to play, and Mandy offered her a grateful smile and mouthed "thank you". Emma nodded in response before continuing to play with Max.

A couple of minutes later, Mandy hung up the phone. She then told them, "That was my husband, Zachary. He's waiting on me, so I'll have to be going."

Emma nodded before she replied, "It was great seeing you, Mandy."

"You too, Emma. And it was nice meeting you, Mary Margaret," Mandy told them. She then managed to get Emma's keys from Max and handed them to her.

The three women then exchanged goodbyes before Mandy stood up and went on her way.

When she was gone, Emma turned to Mary Margaret and observed, "Max is such a cute little guy."

Mary Margaret simply hummed in response before giving Emma that same knowing look that she had earlier.

"Why do you keep looking at me like that?" Emma asked her sister-in-law.

"You just seem a bit preoccupied with babies today," Mary Margaret replied, hoping that Emma would take the hint.

Emma ran her fingers through her hair - something she did when she was nervous or worried - and replied, "I know what you're implying, and I'm not sure I want to talk about it."

Mary Margaret decided not to push her sister-in-law and simply nodded in understanding.

Emma was internally grateful when Mary Margaret began discussing the plans for Regina's party - even though she had insisted that she didn't want one.

The women continued to talk until they were finished with their lunch. They then headed out of the mall to make their way back to Storybrooke.

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When Emma walked through the door as she returned home, she called out, "Killian! Anna Elizabeth! I'm home!"

She frowned for a moment when she didn't hear an answer. She then started looking around for them.

When she found them, her heart swelled from happiness.

Both Killian and Anna Elizabeth were sound asleep on her bed. Anna Elizabeth was curled into his chest, and he had both of his arms wrapped around her. A book was opened and laying on Killian's stomach. Emma knew that the bed was much too small for her husband, and she knew he couldn't be comfortable, but she also knew that he was content to have his daughter in his arms.

Her mind then began to wander, much like it had when she was holding the onesie. She already knew that Killian was an amazing father, and he would be great with a child of his own.

She paused as she began to consider it seriously. Today wasn't exactly the first time she had thought about having a baby. She loved being a mother, and there's nothing she would want more than to add to their family with a beautiful child of their own.

But then, those little seeds of doubt began creeping into her mind. What if Killian didn't want any more kids? What if she had problems getting pregnant? Emma sighed just as she noticed Killian had begun to stir. She would worry about this tomorrow.

Killian slowly opened those blue eyes and saw his wife standing at the door. He smiled at her before placing the book on the bedside table. He then carefully moved Anna Elizabeth off him.

She groaned for a moment before she rolled over to go back to sleep. Killian softly kissed her forehead before going to greet his wife.

He kissed her on her cheek before he asked, "How was shopping with Mary Margaret, love?"

"I had a great time with her. I really enjoyed it. I even ran into an old friend from high school," Emma answered with a smile.

Killian returned her smile as he replied, "Well, I'm glad, Swan," as he moved a piece of blonde hair over her shoulder.

Emma then asked, "And how was your day?"

"Interesting," Killian began. At Emma's raised eyebrow, he continued, "After our tea party, Anna Elizabeth began playing with her dolls on her bed while I went to go get her medicine. Just as I was returning to her room, I heard her crying. When I arrived, I saw that she had thrown up all over her bed, and it had gotten on her clothes."

"And she was crying because she couldn't make it to the bathroom," Emma surmised.

"Aye, and because she had made a mess. It took some persuasion to convince her that it wasn't her fault. She then wanted to take a bubble bath. While she was in the tub, I washed her clothes and her comforter.

After she got out of the tub, we both ate lunch from Granny's, and she then insisted on helping to put the clothes in the dryer. After they were done, she wanted to read a story. I suppose that we both fell asleep," Killian finished.

Emma took in his words before she nodded. Despite her earlier thought, she asked, "So, um, how do you feel about all of that?"

Killian thought it was a strange question, but he answered, "Truthfully, love, I'm bloody exhausted. It's times like these that remind me how much work it is being a parent."

In her mind, Emma knew that Killian didn't mean anything by his words, but her heart sank in her chest.

"Yeah, I guess it can be," Emma replied.

Killian raised a brow at her as he studied her for a few minutes. He then asked, "Are you alright, Emma?"

Emma plastered on a smile as she replied, "Of course, Killian. I'm fine."

Before he had the chance to read her, she quickly changed the subject, "How about we relax with a movie? I'll fix us some popcorn."

Killian wanted to press her but decided to leave it alone. He smiled at her as he replied, "That sounds lovely, Swan." Emma nodded at him before she headed into the kitchen.

 

That night, Emma placed her toothbrush back into the cup before grabbing her bottled water on the bathroom counter.

She opened the cabinet and grabbed the small box of birth control. As she pulled the plastic pill holder from the box, her eyes slightly widened at what she saw.

"Damn it!" she cursed out loud.

She heard Killian's quick footsteps behind her. He was immediately by her side as he worriedly asked, "Emma, what's wrong?"

"Oh, um, I'm out of birth control," Emma said sheepishly, feeling bad that she made him worry.

Killian breathed a sigh of relief as he began, "Is that all, love?"

He then continued, "I'm sure you can go get it refilled. And until you do, we'll just be careful."

Emma's heart sank once again at his words. She simply threw the box away - more forcefully than she intended - and made her way into the bedroom.

She climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin, facing her nightstand. She was going to just go to sleep when she felt an arm wrap around her waist.

She then heard Killian's voice in her ear, "Emma, love, please tell me what's wrong."

Emma knew that was no point in trying to avoid the subject. Killian could read her like an open book.

Instead of telling him directly, she rolled over to face him and asked, "Do you remember Elsa and Liam telling us about the first time that Anna Elizabeth was sick?"

Killian assumed that he knew what she talking about, so he smiled as she answered, "Aye, love. She was six months old, and the little lass had some sort of cold. No matter what they did, she wouldn't go to sleep. She just kept crying.

Elsa finally suggested that they brought her to their room. Liam agreed. When they had made their way to bed, Liam placed her on his chest. Elsa sang softly to their baby, and she eventually fell asleep."

Emma smiled as she softly ran her hand up and down his arm. She then took a deep breath before she asked, "How would you feel about, you know…" trailing off.

"What, love?" Killian asked, as he looked at his wife with a curious expression.

"Trying for a baby?" she finished.

"Really, love?" Killian gently asked.

Emma nodded before she elaborated, "When we were engaged, we talked about that maybe one day we would. I think that one day has come."

Killian considered her words before he spoke, "May I ask what brought this on?"

"I've thought about it a few times, but going shopping with Mary Margaret today made me think about it seriously. Besides picking out Regina's birthday present, you know that I was helping pick out something for a baby shower for Aurora. I happened upon one outfit that read 'Little Captain' and had an anchor on it. I couldn't but wonder what if?

And then that friend I told you about had her baby with her, and I held him and played with him some. Despite Mary Margaret's implications, I didn't want to talk about it. But it's all I thought about on the way home. I just want that to be us, Killian," Emma admitted.

In response, Killian leaned in and kissed Emma softly. As they pulled away, they rested their forehead against each other's.

Killian then told her, "Well, love, I suppose there's no need to refill your birth control," with a grin.

"Really?" Emma asked with a wide smile.

Killian then reached up to caress her cheek as he answered, "I know that you love being a mother as much as I love being father. The fact that I get to do with you makes me the happiest man alive, Emma. We're already a family with Anna Elizabeth, and I think it would be wonderful to add a little lad or lass to that. I would love nothing more than to have a baby with you, love."

Emma smiled brightly at him as she responded, "I love Anna Elizabeth, and she is every bit yours and mine. But I can't wait to have one of our own – a little piece of you and me."

Killian kissed her once again in response.

As they pulled away, that same doubt from earlier then began creeping into her mind, and she couldn't help but ask, "Are you sure that really you want this, Killian? I don't want you feel pressured because of me."

Killian moved his hand from her cheek to grasp her hand as he genuinely told her, "Emma, there is nothing I want more. I really do want to expand our family."

Emma smiled at him once more as she nodded in response. Killian then asked, "Why were you so unsure, love?"

Emma sighed as she admitted, "It's just that earlier, you talked about how exhausted you were from taking care of Anna Elizabeth. Maybe I wasn't thinking clearly, but I took that to mean that you didn't want any more kids to deal with. And then when I told you that I was out of birth control, you seemed adamant about being careful."

Killian squeezed her hand as he pointed out, "It can be exhausting being a parent, but it's the best job in the world. I wouldn't trade it for anything. And since you seemed so upset about being out of birth control, I didn't think you would appreciate us being together until you were sure you couldn't get pregnant."

"I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have reacted like that – I guess I was kind of upset with you. But I now know I had no reason to be because you didn't know anything was wrong. And I blew you off earlier when you tried to talk to me. I'm really sorry, Killian," Emma apologized.

"There's nothing to forgive, love – I understand perfectly," Killian assured her. Emma nodded and smiled at him in response.

Just then, they saw their door open and Anna Elizabeth make her way inside their room. She complained, "I threw up again." She then added, "But I got to the bathroom this time, Uncle Killian."

"It's alright, love. You'll be all better in a couple more days," Killian assured her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she asked, "Can I sleep with you and Aunt Emma?"

Killian exchanged a look with his wife before Emma responded, "Absolutely, kid. Come here."

Anna Elizabeth offered a small smile before she closed the door. She then began making her way to Killian and Emma's bed. She climbed on it and crawled to settle in between Emma and Killian. Before they could even tell her good night, she was sound asleep.

As Emma and Killian both watched her sleep, with him stroking the little girl's hair, they both thought about there were few things as perfect as the moment before them. And both of them were dreaming of how it could be a little more perfect.

Two weeks later, on Emma and Killian's second anniversary, their dream started to become reality. Nine months later, a dark-haired, blue-eyed baby boy came into the world. He weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. and was 19 and a half inches long.

Liam David Jones was every bit the dream come true that his parents had wanted.

 

 

 

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this one! I just thought it would be a cute little fic.

I wanted to let you guys know that I will be starting on "Ready, Set, Don't Go" (aka the fic where Anna Elizabeth gets married) THIS weekend. I really need all of you guys' suggestions BEFORE I start writing. So, please, if you have any, send them to me. There are more specifics in the chapter before this one. Thanks, y'all!

Chapter Text

Anna Elizabeth came walking from her room into the living room of she and Evie's shared apartment.

The blonde stumbled but caught herself before she face-planted into the couch.

When she steadied herself, she complained, "Whose bloody idea was it that all of the women had to wear bloody high heels?"

Evie chuckled from her place sitting at the kitchen counter before she replied, "You know, Anna Elizabeth, when you're angry or frustrated, you start sounding like Uncle Killian."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile as she agreed, "I know. Mom tells me the same thing."

She then looked at the time on her phone and gasped, "We have to go. I cannot be late for my own graduation!"

"Chill, Anna Elizabeth. The university is only half-an-hour away. You'll be there in plenty of time," Evie pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she said, "I know. I guess I'm just anxious." She then added with a smile, "And excited."

Evie returned her smile as she told her, "Who wouldn't be excited? You're graduating with honors from your dream college, and you already have your dream job lined up in the fall. You are going to be an amazing elementary school teacher."

"Thanks, Evie," Anna Elizabeth began. She then grinned and continued, "Liam insists that he should get a lot of the credit for me being a great teacher because he was my guinea pig when he was little."

Evie rolled her eyes in response before she said, "That sounds like Liam alright."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle before she told her cousin, "I know I'll be early, but I want to go ahead and get there. Is Leo ready?"

Evie nodded before she walked around to her son's playpen, followed by Anna Elizabeth. Evie couldn't help but shake her head as she took in his sleeping form.

"I swear this kid can sleep through anything."

"So can you," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Evie grinned before he expression turned serious, and she lamented, "Leo is so precious. He's the best thing that ever happened to me. It still hurts that he's going to grow up without his father."

Anna Elizabeth took Evie by the shoulders and told her, "Hey – that is not your fault. Chase chose to leave when you found out that you were pregnant. It's his loss that he won't see his son grow up. He left you the apartment and signed the divorce papers. That's all you need from that no-good jerk. He isn't worth your thoughts."

"He still doesn't pay child support," Evie muttered.

Anna Elizabeth heard her and assured her, "You make plenty of money as an RN. It's more than enough to support you and Leo."

Evie smiled at the blonde as she told her, "I don't know what I would have done without you these past two years. Next to my parents, you're the one who was there for me the most when my world came crashing down. You even moved in with me so I wouldn't have to be alone. Not to mention the great help you've been with Leo. So, thank you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at Evie before she pulled her in for a hug. As they pulled away a moment later, Anna Elizabeth sincerely told her, "That's what sisters are for."

Evie smiled brightly in response.

Anna Elizabeth then added playfully, "Besides, you're the one who insisted on staying in your apartment and not moving back in with Uncle David and Aunt Mary Margaret. And then my parents insisted on me having a roommate as opposed to me living by myself."

Evie grinned as she replied, "So, it was really a win-win for them, huh?"

Anna Elizabeth returned her cousin's grin as she said, "It sure seems like it."

Both girls then began laughing, though they were careful not to take Leo. However, the two-year-old woke on his own a moment later.

As soon as he opened those green eyes, he called, "Mommy?"

Evie scooped up the little boy in her arms and asked him, "Did you have a good nap, Leo?"

He nodded happily in response.

Evie smiled brightly at her son, whom she was eternally grateful was the spitting image of her.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile at the little family before she announced, "Okay, we really do need to get to the school."

Evie just shook her head as Leo asked, "School?"

His mother then explained, "Today is a special day for Aunt Anna Elizabeth. We're going to celebrate her doing such a good job in school."

Leo seemed to grasp his mother's meaning as he clapped and then reached out his arms out to Anna Elizabeth for a hug.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at the little boy before she returned his hug.

The three of them then made their way to Evie's vehicle. As she was strapping Leo in his car seat, she asked her cousin, "You're riding with me, right?"

"Yeah," Anna Elizabeth began. She then huffed and continued, "I was supposed to ride with Calin, but he said something about working this morning, which I don't even understand. He works for my dad, and he took today off."

"Well, maybe Calin is trying to make a good impression on Uncle Killian," Evie suggested, when she and Anna Elizabeth had both settled into the car.

Anna Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at the brunette as she pointed out, "Evie, Calin and I have been together for over two years. He's been working for Dad for a year – there's no reason for Calin to impress him."

"It was just a suggestion," Evie shrugged before she pulled out of her parking space.

Anna Elizabeth stared at Evie for a few moments before she observed, "You know something, don't you. About why Calin is working all these extra hours lately."

"No. Why would you think I know something?" Evie asked with fake innocence.

"I knew it! What did he tell you!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Evie rolled her eyes as she pointed out, "Look, I may not be the best at not telling you I have a secret, but I'm not my mother. I am capable of actually keeping one."

Anna Elizabeth huffed as she responded, "I know. I just wish I knew something. I'm totally clueless."

"Good. That's how Calin wanted it," Evie smugly told her.

"You're incorrigible," Anna Elizabeth told her as she crossed her arms.

"Perhaps, but you still love me," Evie began with a grin. She then became serious as she continued, "Trust me, you'll thank me for it later," with a genuine smile.

Anna Elizabeth returned Evie's smile in response. Though the blonde was still clueless, much to her annoyance, she trusted Evie, and she trusted Calin. She knew it would all work out. That thought made her smile once more.

Her smile only grew as she began to think about her impending graduation. This day would surely be one to remember.

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"Congratulations, graduates!" the president of the university shouted, and everyone threw up their caps.

Once Anna Elizabeth had retrieved her cap, she immediately saw her good friend Emily making her way over to her.

The strawberry blonde wrapped Anna Elizabeth in a tight hug, which the blonde happily returned.

As they pulled away, Emily told her, "I can't believe we've graduated! It seems like just yesterday that we were moving in as freshmen."

"I think it took you over a week to get used to the different time zone," Anna Elizabeth reminisced with a chuckle.

Emily chuckled as well before she replied, "Well, I suppose that's what I get for choosing to go to school in the States."

Anna Elizabeth smiled before she turned serious and asked, "When do you head back to Australia?"

"The beginning of next week," Emily answered.

Anna Elizabeth's expression turned sad as the two girls were wrapped in another embrace.

"I'll miss you," the curly blonde told her friend.

"I'll miss you, too," Emily replied.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth noticed the tears beginning to well up in Emily's hazel eyes.

"Don't cry, Ems, you'll make me cry," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Emily wiped her eyes using the sleeve of her graduation gown before she said, "I'm sorry. You're just one of my best friends now, and I'll miss your incessant singing."

Anna Elizabeth grinned as she replied, "And I'll miss seeing you with paint in your hair."

Emily returned her friend's grin just as a professor came up to both of them.

"Congratulations, Anna Elizabeth and Emily."

"Thank you, Dr. Smith," both girls spoke simultaneously.

"I had the pleasure of teaching both of you, and I know that both of you will do great things in your career," Dr. Smith told them.

Both girls smiled proudly in response just as Dr. Smith was called away.

Just then, Colette and Matthew ran up to Anna Elizabeth. "Congratulations, Anna Elizabeth!" the eleven and eight-year-old exclaimed.

"Thanks you guys," Anna Elizabeth replied as she bent down to hug both of them.

As she stood up, a puzzled expression took over her features when she didn't see her aunt and uncle.

She turned her attention back to her young cousins and asked, "Where's Aunt Belle and Uncle August?"

"But I'm 11," Colette pointed out.

"Colette," Anna Elizabeth stated using her teacher voice.

"Daddy is over there," Matthew supplied as he pointed.

Anna Elizabeth looked to where he had gestured and locked eyes with August, who nodded at her.

Anna Elizabeth nodded back before turning her attention to Colette and Matthew.

"Why don't you guys go back to him. I'll be over there in a minute," Anna Elizabeth told them.

The two kids nodded in response before running back to August.

When Anna Elizabeth turned back to Emily, her eyes were widened.

"What is it, Emily?"

"You didn't tell me that August Booth is your uncle!" Emily exclaimed.

Anna Elizabeth was taken aback before she replied, "I talk about my family all of time. I've mentioned Uncle August."

"You never said he was that August," Emily pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but giggle, to which Emily asked, "What's so funny?"

"I'm sorry. I haven't met anyone who's such a big fan of him. I know he's, like, famous, but he married my aunt when I was 8. He's always been so down-to-earth, so he's just Uncle August," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Perhaps. But he's still famous - I've read all of his books," Emily pointed out.

"You know, I could introduce you?" Anna Elizabeth suggested.

Emily's eyes widened for a moment before she told her friend, "I would prefer not to make a fool of myself."

Anna Elizabeth smiled and shook her head in response.

Emily then heard her parents calling her name. She and Anna Elizabeth embraced one more time before pulling away.

"When you're not busy with children or hanging out with your family or Calin, you better call me," Emily told her with a smile.

"And when you're not busy becoming a famous artist, you better Skype me," Anna Elizabeth added as she returned her smile.

The girls exchanged one final goodbye before heading their separate ways.

Anna Elizabeth soon located her family, and was met with a plethora of proud smiles.

"Ah, there's our college graduate," Killian announced.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response before she asked, "Can we go and eat now?"

Everyone chuckled in response before Emma observed, "You may be an adult, but you still eat like a teenager, Anna Elizabeth."

"I think I still eat more than she does," Liam added.

"Oh, trust me, I know. The last time we all watched the Mets game, you ate six pieces of pizza by yourself," David teased. Liam simply shrugged his shoulders in response.

Mary Margaret, who was holding her grandson in her arms, stated, "And on that note, I think we could use something delicious."

"I think I just may have to hold you to that, Mary Margaret," a voice came from somewhere behind them.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened as she recognized the voice of her grandfather. Her smile widened when she turned around and saw Nick, Sharon, and Dylan.

"Guys! I didn't even know you were going to come!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed as she wrapped the three of them in a hug.

"I wasn't about to miss my only granddaughter's college graduation. I am so proud of you – I know you will do great things as a teacher," Sharon told her.

"I am just as proud of you, Anna Elizabeth. I couldn't be happier for you," Dylan added. Nick repeated his sentiments before kissing his granddaughter on the head.

Anna Elizabeth absolutely beamed in response before she looked around at all of her family and said, "Well, guys, I think it's time to officially celebrate."

Everyone nodded in agreement. Just as they all began to walk away, Anna Elizabeth balanced herself by holding onto one of Calin's shoulders and took her black heels off.

Once she was standing barefoot, she breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Finally."

Calin only smiled and shook his head, while Evie, Emma, and Killian chuckled. Emma then added, "You know, kid, I don't think they'll let you in the restaurant like that."

"Don't worry, Emma. I ran by the apartment and grabbed some other shoes for her," Calin assured her.

"Did you get some that actually matches her dress?" Evie asked.

"Um, well, they're black…ish. I think," Calin responded, and Evie rolled her eyes.

"Come on, Evie, you know I don't care about that stuff too much. I never have," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"Oh, really, love? Then why did it take you almost three hours to get ready for your first date with Calin?" Killian teased.

Anna Elizabeth blushed and groaned, "Really, Dad?" while Calin chuckled at her side, which earned him a smack in the shoulder.

"Alright, guys, come on, let's get going before the restaurant gets full," Emma told them.

They all nodded in response before heading to their vehicles. When Calin and Anna Elizabeth arrived at his car, he opened the door for her. Being the romantic that she was, she had always found the gesture to be sweet.

By the time Calin came around to the driver's side, Anna Elizabeth had slipped into her dark navy flats.

She then teased her boyfriend, "It seems you can't tell black from navy blue," followed by a chuckle.

Calin just rolled his eyes in response. He then told her, "You're something else, you know that?"

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she responded, "Yeah, I know. But you wouldn't have me any other way."

Calin returned her smile as he genuinely told her, "You know I wouldn't."

He then leaned over and kissed her sweetly, cupping her cheek as he did. As they pulled away, he smiled and said, "I'm really proud of you, Anna Elizabeth. All of those early mornings and late nights paid off."

She returned his smile as she replied, "Thank you, Calin. I'm proud of myself, and I can't wait to see what the future holds."

Calin offered a knowing grin that Anna Elizabeth couldn't quite decipher as he told her, "I think it's gonna be amazing."

He then put his Corvette in drive and began making his way to the restaurant.

 

When they arrived at the restaurant, and both of them had gotten out of the car, they walked hand-in-hand toward her waiting family.

Once they had all gotten a table and their drinks, David asked, "So, Anna Elizabeth, how does it feel to be a college graduate?" with a wide smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as she responded, "It's amazing."

"Well, love, we're all very proud of you," Killian told her as he moved her hair behind her shoulder.

Mary Margaret then said, "I say a toast is in order. To Anna Elizabeth."

Though everyone considered it cheesy, it was truly a reason to celebrate. So, everyone raised their glasses and clinked them together.

Shortly after, the food had arrived. Liam immediately dug in, taking a huge bite of his burger, making everyone shake their heads and laugh.

Just then Evie's phone rang. "Oh, I've got to take this," she said as she looked at the caller ID from where she had placed her phone on the table.

She cast a glance at her son, whom was in his booster seat, eating a cut-up hot dog.

"Take your call, sweetie. We'll take care of him," Mary Margaret assured her daughter.

Evie nodded before answering the call and walking to a secluded corner.

Leo watched his mother's retreating form and questioned, "Mommy gone?"

"She'll be right back," David assured his grandson as he ruffled his brown locks.

"Otay," Leo answered before taking a sip from his sippy cup.

Mary Margaret looked at him longingly as she observed, "Evie's so protective over him."

"You'd be protective too if you were a single mom," Regina quipped.

David clenched his fist as he pointed out, "That bastard is lucky that me or Jamie didn't find him."

"Ooh! Uncle David said a bad word!" Matthew piped up.

"Matthew," Belle stated.

Mary Margaret then addressed the eight-year-old and said, "Yes, he did." She then shot a raised eyebrow at her husband, who simply shrugged.

When Evie returned, Sharon gratefully changed the subject, "So, Anna Elizabeth, what grade will you be teaching?"

"Well, one of the second grade teachers is retiring, so I'll be taking her place," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"Well, I'm sure that they'll love you," August told his niece, with a smile.

"They already do," Emma added with a proud smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response.

Robin then added, "Roland and Rilynn wanted to come to the ceremony, but they were called into emergency surgery this morning."

"That's okay. I completely understand - as is the life of surgical techs," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Robin nodded at her in response.

"How long have they've been married now?" Nick asked, addressing Robin and Regina.

"A year and a half," Robin answered.

"And according to Roland, he's never been so happy," Regina added.

Mary Margaret shot a warning glare her way, which Regina gave a quizzical expression.

Evie noticed and told her mother, "Mom, I'm not a kid anymore - you don't have to try to avoid the subject of happy marriages. You don't have to protect me. It is hard at times, but I'm really alright."

She then cast a look at Anna Elizabeth before she continued, "I can't focus on the pain. I have to let it go. And honestly? How can I stay mad at someone who gave me the best thing that ever happened to me?"

Evie then turned to her son and planted a kiss on his head. As she looked back up, she said, "Okay, guys, that's enough about me. We are here to celebrate Anna Elizabeth."

The blonde in question then spoke, "I'm just glad to have all of you here with me. I couldn't ask for anything better."

Everyone smiled in response before they all went back to eating.

Liam then added, "Does this mean I can have chocolate pie?"

Everyone chuckled at him once again before Emma reached over to ruffle his hair.

Liam, however, pulled away and pointed out, "Mom, I'm 14."

Emma couldn't help but roll her eyes before she told him, "So you like to remind me."

"Sounds like someone else we know," Killian teased as he shot a look over at his daughter, who rolled her eyes.

As Killian resumed eating, Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but look around the table and smile at the sight. All of her family had gathered to celebrate her. She had always been one to try to appreciate them, but that didn't make the moments she had with them any less special.

And as she thought about all of the kids she would get to teach come the fall, her smile grew. She would spend every day doing something that she loved. She couldn't fathom how things could get any better.

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"Why can't my math teacher explain it like that?" Liam questioned as he finally understood the concept.

"Well, at least now you know how to do it, little bro," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"Younger," Liam corrected, and Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but grin, along with Killian.

"Yeah, thanks for coming over, Anna Elizabeth. Math was never my strong suit," Emma told her.

"No problem. It's what I do," Anna Elizabeth replied with a smile.

She then said goodbye to her parents and her brother before she began heading toward the door, but Liam stopped her.

He wrapped her in a quick hug before pulling away.

He smiled as he told her, "You're gonna be an awesome teacher, Anna Elizabeth. I'm pretty sure you're the only reason I'm passing Algebra."

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile as she told him, "I wouldn't go quite that far, but thank you, Liam."

Liam nodded in response before he headed off to his room to play the latest Mario game.

As Anna Elizabeth went to open the door and walk out, she nearly ran into Calin.

"Calin, what are you doing here?"

Clearly nervous, he stammered, "Uh, well, I'm here for, um..." He finally managed to gather his thoughts and answered, "I came to talk to your dad about those extra hours I've been working."

"Ah," Anna Elizabeth began. She then planted her hands on her hips and told him, "I will figure out why you were doing that, you know."

"I have no doubt," Calin answered.

Anna Elizabeth grinned before she gave him a quick goodbye kiss and headed on to her car.

As Emma ushered Calin in the house, Killian commented, "So, I'm going to assume that what you said about getting Anna Elizabeth a present for graduation wasn't exactly the truth?" with a raised eyebrow.

Calin bit his lip - something he did when he was nervous - as he responded, "Technically, it could be viewed as a graduation present, but that isn't really what it is. I hope you can overlook this because it wasn't my intention to not be straightforward, but I couldn't exactly tell you, although I did tell Evie..."

"Breathe, Calin," Emma told him, trying to stifle a giggle.

Calin took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts before he started again, "The truth is that I really wanted this to be a complete surprise for Anna Elizabeth. I also didn't feel right coming to you without this."

Killian and Emma both looked at Calin curiously as he reached into his back pocket. Both of their eyes widened when he pulled out a small black jewelry box.

As he opened it to reveal a diamond ring, he began, "Both of know that I am head over heels in love with your daughter. I'm pretty sure I was a goner the first time I saw her smile. She is so beautiful, and that beauty is on the inside, too. She's smart, which will make her an amazing teacher, she's funny - even if half of it is sarcasm, she has such a big heart, she's so stubborn until it's adorable, and she knows how to take care of herself. I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with her, and I will do everything in my power to protect her. I want to ask your blessing for Anna Elizabeth's hand in marriage."

Calin took a deep breath as he finished, trying to calm the butterflies in his stomach.

Emma wore a bright smile as she looked back and forth between Calin and the ring. As she glanced over at Killian, she saw that his arms were crossed. His stance read power but his eyes told a different story. She had seen that look many times before - when Anna Elizabeth got her first boyfriend, when she had her first kiss, when she graduated high school, and when she moved into her apartment, to name a few.

He was afraid of losing his little girl.

Emma was about to ask Calin if she and Killian could be excused when he spoke to Calin, "Promise me one thing."

"Anything," Calin sincerely answered.

"Don't you dare break her heart," Killian told him, his voice laced with emotion.

"Believe me, that is one thing I could never do," Calin answered honestly.

Killian nodded before he continued, "If you do, you better pray I don't find you."

"Killian, don't scare him," Emma scolded.

"No, it's fine, Emma. I understand," Calin told them.

"Good," Killian simply responded.

"So, does that mean..." Calin began but trailed off.

Killian took a deep breath and exchanged a look with Emma, who smiled and nodded. He then told Calin, "I know how much you love Anna Elizabeth, and I know her heart is safe with you. So, you have our blessing."

Calin's face broke into the brightest smile as he told them, "Thank you so much."

Emma pulled him in for a hug as she said, "Of course, Calin."

As they pulled away away, she continued, "I know you'll make each other so happy."

Calin nodded at his future in-laws before he began heading toward the door, tripping over a chair as he did so. Emma once again had to stifle a laugh as she watched Calin resume walking straight and head out the door.

Once he was gone, Emma turned to her husband and told him, "I think you handled that fairly well - minus the part where you practically threatened his life," with a small chuckle.

Killian, however, sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

Emma moved to stand in front of him and caressed his cheek.

"Hey, Killian, it's gonna be okay. We both know that Calin loves her and will take care of her," she assured him.

"That isn't what worries me, love," Killian began. He took a breath and continued, "She's growing up, Emma. She's not our little girl anymore."

Emma offered a small smile as she told him, "She hasn't been little for quite some time. She's been in college for four years, and she moved out two years ago."

"I know, love. But it feels real now. She'll have a job to support herself - she won't need our help. She'll be getting married, love - she'll be leaving us for him, Emma," Killian replied, trying desperately to keep his emotions in check.

Emma simply threw her arms around his neck in a hug. He buried his face in her hair.

When they pulled away, she reassured him, "I know how it's always been hard for you to let her go. But you have to - for her sake. Even though she is entering into full independence, we're not going to lose her. You know that she's always been so close to her family, and it's not like she's moving away. It will okay, Killian."

Killian nodded before he spoke, "I know, love. This isn't the first time I've dealt with her growing up, but it's different and more difficult this time. But you know I'll try, Emma."

"I know you will," Emma responded as she ran her fingers through his black hair.

He then smiled and asked, "You think that Calin will delay proposing for a while?"

Emma shook her head and grinned as she pointed out, "I don't think there's much chance of that. He's clearly wanted to do this for months."

"It was worth a shot, love," Killian replied.

Emma's grin grew as she said, "Come on, let's go see if you can actually manage to beat Liam at Mario Kart."

Killian raised an eyebrow as he told her, "You do realize I'm still letting him win?"

"Whatever helps you sleep at night," Emma teased.

Killian shook his head before he followed his wife to their son's room.

 

 

 

I hope you guys enjoyed it . While you will have a wait several days, Part Two: The Proposal is coming up next.

Chapter Text

Blue eyes cuttin' through the summer day

Every ray of light seems to come from her face

From the tip of her toes to the top of her curls

She's a hundred percent American girl

She's my sweet sun angel

-Sweet Sun Angel, Clay Walker

A few days after he had talked to Emma and Killian, Calin was beginning to plan out how to propose to Anna Elizabeth. He decided to go to the person whom he had told about the ring – Evie.

He knew that Anna Elizabeth was working a shift at the daycare center and had found out that Evie had stayed home from the hospital because Leo had a cold.

So, on his lunch break, he drove over to the apartment. He knocked on the door a couple of times and was greeted by a tired looking Evie.

He quickly apologized, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I should have realized you wouldn't be up for visitors. I can just come back…"

Evie cut him off, "Calin, it's fine. I think I know why you're here, and I could use the distraction. I love my son, but he isn't the best patient. It took me half-an-hour to get him down for a nap."

Calin nodded before he spoke, "Thanks, Evie. I thought you would be the best person to help," as Evie ushered him inside.

Evie nodded as well before she observed, "Well, I can tell by the smile on your face that you got Aunt Emma and Uncle Killian's blessing?"

Calin smiled as he responded, "Yeah, I did. Now, all that's left is to actually propose. The problem is that I'm not sure if she'll like what I'm planning, and even if she does, I'll be a babbling idiot trying to ask her."

Evie couldn't help but grin at him before she told him, "We both know that she's going to say yes, so there's no need for you to be nervous about that part…"

"You really think she'll say yes?" Calin asked nervously.

Evie sighed as she began, "That's just your nerves talking – you know that she will." She then took a breath and continued, "But in case you need reminding, here you go: I have known Anna

Elizabeth my entire life. Literally. We're practically sisters – we've been there for each other for everything. I'm one of the people who knows her the best, and I know that she is head over heels, hopelessly, and completely in love with you, Calin James. But more than that, I know that she wants a future with you.

She has always wanted and dreamed of having a love like her parents – both her birth parents, and Aunt Emma and Uncle Killian. She has always dreamed of the perfect little house with the perfect guy and little Anna Elizabeths running around. But then she realized that perfect doesn't quite exist, and it took her a little while to be okay with that. She knew she had to learn to stand on her own, and that she needed to get her education. She was perfectly content and happy, but then I saw a different kind of happiness when she met you, and you two began dating. And now, it's the happiness that equals forever," she finished with a bright smile.

Calin returned her smile as he sincerely told her, "Thank you, Evie. I needed to hear that."

"No problem," Evie began. She then questioned, "So, about Anna Elizabeth not liking what you have planned?"

Calin sighed as he answered, "It's just that…well… Anna Elizabeth is perfect to me. I know she has her faults – we all do – but they're part of the reason I fell in love with her. I just want the proposal to be as special as she is."

"You worry entirely too much – no wonder you and Anna Elizabeth love each other. You two can over-stress together," Evie teased. Calin rolled his eyes before she continued, "And I know that she will adore whatever you have planned. It's like I told you – she's crazy about you."

Calin nodded before he pulled a piece of folded paper out of his pocket and handed it to the brunette, "Can you at least tell me what you think?"

"Of course I will," Evie told him before she unfolded the paper. She read the few lines that was on it and smiled.

She then assured him, "This is perfect. She'll love it."

Calin returned her smile as he replied, "I knew that she would, but I wanted another opinion. Preferably a female one."

Evie chuckled at that before she surmised, "So, I take it that you tried asking Ethan?"

Calin shook his head as he responded, "Try being the key word. I love my brother, but romance isn't in his vocabulary."

Evie chuckled once again before she asked, "So, based on the lack thereof in your plans, I'm guessing that you're not going to plan out what to say to her?"

"Well, I did think about it. It'd probably be less likely I'd make an idiot of myself that way. But then I realized – like with every other genuine heartfelt thing I've told to Anna Elizabeth – that I would go completely blank as soon as I look into her eyes," Calin admitted rather sheepishly.

"Well, I think it's sweet that she still makes you nervous," Evie told him.

"I'm not sure sweet is the right word," Calin responded.

Evie only grinned at him before she told him, "Regardless, your proposal will be special, and Anna Elizabeth will say yes."

"Thank you, Evie," Calin began. At Evie's nod and "you're welcome", he continued, "Well, I should head to Granny's to grab a bite to eat, so I can head back to work."

"Alright, Calin, I'll see you later," Evie bid him goodbye. Calin did the same before he headed for the door.

However, he was stopped when he heard Evie's cry of "Oh, shoot!" He turned around and asked, "Everything okay, Evie?"

"Yeah, I'm just out of apple juice. The only way I can get Leo to take his medicine is with the juice, and it'll be time for another dose when he wakes up from his nap," Evie explained with a groan.

"No worries. I'll stay here with him while you run to the store," Calin offered.

"Would you? That would be great," Evie told him before she sighed in relief, mostly because she knew that she could trust Calin with her little boy.

"Absolutely," Calin assured her.

Evie nodded before grabbing her keys and phone. She then headed for the door. As she was walking out, she called, "I'll grab you something from Granny's." Before Calin had time to protest, she had shut the door behind her.

As soon as Evie had left, Calin moved to sit on the couch. Before he could, however, he heard, "Mommy!"

Calin rushed to the nursery to find Leo standing in his crib.

Leo looked up and furrowed his little bows as he asked, "Uncle Cawin?"

Calin walked over to the little boy and told him, "Mommy went to town. She'll be back soon."

Leo nodded before he stated, "Juice."

"That's what Mommy went to go get. You think you can wait?" Calin replied.

"Wait, Uncle Cawin," Leo responded, and Calin smiled at him.

Leo then asked, "Play cars?"

"Sure, Leo," Calin responded before he lifted the little boy from his crib.

As Calin placed Leo down, the brown-haired boy toddled over to his toy-box and pulled out his fire truck and police car.

He set the fire truck down on the floor before he handed the police car to Calin and asked, "Play wit me?"

Calin ruffled the boy's hair as he told him that he would. The boy smiled brightly as Calin moved to sit on the floor.

As he played with the little boy, he became reflective. He couldn't fathom how anyone could hurt the woman whom they loved the way that Chase had hurt Evie. True, Calin may not have known Evie when all that happened, but he could still see how hard it was for her.

 

Calin grew up as an only child. While he had really great friends, he never really felt like he knew what it was like to have a sibling. When he lost his parents during his first year of college, he felt completely alone.

That is, until he met Anna Elizabeth. Shortly after, she introduced him to her family, and they began dating soon after. Now, two years later, he felt like he had the brothers and sisters he had always wanted in Anna Elizabeth's brother and her cousins.

However, six months ago, Calin had discovered that he did, in fact, have a sibling. A half-brother named Ethan, who was the product of his mother's first marriage. He knew about the marriage, but she had failed to mention the fact that she had another child.

The amount of emotions that Calin felt - most of which were anger and hurt - were overwhelming. His saving grace had been a letter that he found after going through his mother's possessions.

He also owed a lot of credit to Anna Elizabeth. He wouldn't have gotten through it without her. She had saw him at his most vulnerable and at his worst, yet she stayed by his side. She even traveled with him to Rhode Island to meet Ethan (which took a hell of a lot on Calin's part to convince Killian that nothing would happen).

When they had gotten back, and Calin's life had returned to normal, he then realized that he had found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. That's when he started looking at rings. When he had found one that he knew that Anna Elizabeth would adore, he brought Evie to the jewelry store and showed her. The next week, he began working those extra hours so that he could afford to buy it.

 

He was pulled from his thoughts when Leo rammed the fire truck into the police car, subsequently hitting Calin's leg with the white and black toy due to his lack of attention.

"Uh-oh," Leo stated. He then brought those green eyes up to Calin's brown ones and apologized, "I sorry, Uncle Cawin."

"It's okay, Leo. I wasn't doing a very good job of playing," Calin assured him.

Leo nodded just before he and Calin both heard, "It looks like my favorite boy is up from his nap."

Leo turned toward the door and his eyes brightened. He got up and ran over to his mother, where he wrapped his arms around her legs.

He then looked up and asked, "Juice, Mommy?"

"Yes, Leo, Mommy got your juice. Now, come on, so you can take your medicine," Evie told him.

"Yuck," Leo responded.

Evie had to refrain from sighing as she told him, "It'll help you feel better so you can go outside and play."

"Side?" Leo repeated.

Evie nodded before she said, "If you are really good, and you take your medicine for two more days, Mommy will take you to the park."

"Park!" Leo repeated excitedly. He then asked, "Aunt Anna Bef and Uncle Cawin come?"

Evie glanced at Calin, who then told the little boy, "We'd love to come."

"Yay!" Leo cheered. He then ran to the kitchen, where he knew the medicine was.

Evie and Calin both chuckled before she turned to face him. She then told him, "Thanks for watching Leo."

"Any time. I love that little guy," Calin replied with a smile.

Evie returned it before she told him, "Your food is on the table."

Calin nodded before he headed toward the kitchen, with Evie following him. She scooped up her son before he got into something he shouldn't before they both bid Calin goodbye.

He told them goodbye as well. As he headed for the door, Evie's voice stopped him. When he turned around to face her, she told him, "I mean what I said earlier, Calin. There's no doubt that Anna Elizabeth will say yes to you. And then you'll practically be a member of our family."

Calin smiled as he told her, "I already am." He then headed out the door and back to his job.

 

That afternoon after work, Calin pulled in front of Killian and Emma's house. He found out that Anna Elizabeth was using their backyard to wash her car.

He took a deep breath before walking around to the back of the house. As he came closer, he could have sworn that he heard singing.

As he reached the backyard, he grinned where he realized from where the singing was coming.

Anna Elizabeth had her radio cranked up and was belting out some Bon Jovi: "Whoa, whoa, we're halfway there! Whoa, whoa, living on a prayer! Take my hand, and we'll make it, I swear..."

Calin's grin grew into a smile as he continued to watch her sing, especially when she added air guitar. She didn't know he was watching, but it wouldn't have mattered if she did.

For all the ways that Anna Elizabeth was wise beyond her years and how mature she was, she would never hesitate to be an 80s rock star given the chance. And Calin loved that about her.

He was pulled from his thoughts when he saw Anna Elizabeth slip on the soapy and wet ground.

His eyes widened as he ran over to her. He didn't realize how slick the ground was until he went tumbling toward the ground as well. He landed on top of Anna Elizabeth.

After a moment, he pulled back to look at her face and worriedly asked, "Are you alright, Anna Elizabeth?"

"I'd be a lot better if you weren't crushing my lungs," Anna Elizabeth quipped.

It was then that Calin realized that he was, in fact, probably crushing his girlfriend with his weight. He quickly rolled off her and sat up. He then proceeded to help her get to a sitting position.

He moved the damp curls from her face and asked once more, "Okay, now, are you alright?"

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him as she answered, "Yes, Calin, I'm fine. It wasn't that hard of a fall."

Calin returned her smile as he replied, "As long as you're sure."

"Of course I'm sure," she assured him as she ran her fingers through his brown hair.

She then carefully moved to stand up, and Calin moved to follow her.

She then took the sponge out of bucket, and he asked, "What are you doing?"

"Well, the plan was to finish washing my car," Anna Elizabeth answered. She then teased, "Are you gonna stand there and look good or are you gonna help me?"

Calin grinned and shook his head before he grabbed a sponge.

Half-an-hour later, Anna Elizabeth and Calin were drinking lemonade as they leaned against the side of the house.

Anna Elizabeth then told him, "Thanks for helping me finish washing the Mustang."

"Sure thing, Anna Elizabeth," Calin replied with a smile.

She smiled back at him before she observed, "Since I know you didn't come here for that reason, why did you come here?"

"I can't just come and see you?" Calin defended.

Anna Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him in response.

Calin chuckled before he set down his lemonade, and Anna Elizabeth followed his gesture.

He then wrapped his arms around her waist, settling his hands on the small of her back. Anna Elizabeth lazily draped her arms around his neck before she eyed him curiously.

He took a deep breath before he told her, "Well, I came to ask you out."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she responded, "Well, I suppose I could run home and get changed..."

Calin cut her off, "I mean a really nice date, Anna Elizabeth."

"Oh," Anna Elizabeth replied in understanding. She then asked, "What are we celebrating?"

Calin froze for a moment before he quickly recovered, "Your graduation. I know that we celebrated with your family, but I thought we'd celebrate with just the two of us."

Anna Elizabeth knew that there was more to it than that, but she was looking forward to a date with her boyfriend.

She smiled brightly at him as she told him, "That sounds wonderful."

Calin returned her smile as he replied, "Great. How about Friday night at 6?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she told him, "I'll see you then."

Calin nodded as well before he sweetly kissed her. They exchanged goodbyes before he went on his way.

As he got into his car, he pulled the engagement ring out of his glove box. He smiled as he looked at it. He then spoke, "I can't wait to put this on her finger."

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Calin finished buttoning his gray dress shirt before he looked in the mirror of his bathroom.

He even surprised himself because he wasn't nearly as nervous as he thought he would be. Then again, he hadn't seen Anna Elizabeth.

He smiled as he thought about that after tonight, he would be engaged to the love of his life.

Calin then moved toward his bedroom. He grabbed the ring box from his dresser and slipped it in his pocket. He took a deep breath before he grabbed his keys and headed out the door.

When he arrived at Anna Elizabeth and Evie's apartment, he knocked on the door a couple of times. A moment later, the door opened, and Calin forgot how to breath.

Anna Elizabeth had on a knee-length red dress. The lacy dress had sleeves short enough to just show off her shoulders, and she had worn a pair of gray flats with it. Her blonde curls were pulled all to one side with Elsa's diamond clip.

Calin couldn't help but stare at her, and he did so until her voice pulled him from her thoughts, "Are you just going to stare at me?" with a small chuckle.

"Oh, uh, sorry," Calin began. He then cleared his throat and continued, "You look absolutely gorgeous, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him and responded, "You're quite handsome yourself."

He smiled back at her. He then asked, "Are you ready?" as he reached out his hand toward hers.

She entwined their fingers before she locked eyes with his and answered, "You bet." They then walked hand-in-hand toward his car.

As Calin opened the car door, Anna Elizabeth asked, "So, where are we going?"

Calin grinned as he replied, "It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you."

Anna Elizabeth only grinned in response before her boyfriend shut her door and went around to the driver's side.

Calin drove down to a secluded part of the beach, where he had a fold-out table and chairs set up. Tiki torches surrounded the table.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes lit up as she took in the scene before her. She turned to Calin with a bright smile and asked, "You did all of this?"

Calin returned her smile as he responded, "I wanted it to be special."

Anna Elizabeth's smile widened as she told him, "Well, I say that you succeeded."

Calin grinned at her as he replied, "You haven't seen the best part."

Anna Elizabeth eyed him curiously as he pulled the car to a stop. He then put it in park before going around and opening her door.

As soon as she was out of the car, the sound of "We Built This City" was blaring through the wireless speakers hooked up to Calin's iPod.

"I know it's not the most romantic song, but…" Calin was cut off by Anna Elizabeth's lips on his. He wrapped his arms around her waist as he deepened the kiss.

When they pulled away a moment later, Anna Elizabeth gasped, "You remembered."

Calin smiled as he replied, "Of course I did."

"I sing all of the time. How in the world do you know the song I was singing when we first met?" Anna Elizabeth asked him with surprise in her voice.

Calin's smile grew as he teased, "Well, it's not every day you meet a girl belting out an 80s song."

He then moved a curl behind her ear and continued sincerely, "I knew I had to get to know the girl with the beautiful blue eyes and blonde curls who had a love of singing."

Anna Elizabeth blushed under his praise before Calin pulled her in for a soft kiss. They pulled away a minute later and rested their foreheads against each other's, just enjoying the moment.

Calin then pulled away and took his girlfriend by the hand. They walked toward the table, where he pulled out the chair for Anna Elizabeth.

He then sat down across from her and pulled out the plates from a picnic basket, as well as a plastic bowl of spaghetti.

Anna Elizabeth eyed it curiously before she asked, "Granny's has spaghetti?"

"I made it, Anna Elizabeth," Calin told her.

The look of surprise on Anna Elizabeth's face was comical as she asked, "You can cook?"

Calin chuckled as he told her, "You don't have to be so shocked."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle as well before she pointed out, "I've known you for over two years, and you never told me that you could cook."

She then added, "That, and my experience with guys cooking is my dad throwing a pizza in the oven."

Calin grinned at her comments before he became reflective and bemused, "After my parents died, I had to learn how to take care of myself. That included cooking."

Anna Elizabeth reached across the table to squeeze one of his hands. She then told him, "You're no longer without a family, Calin. I'm your family, and I'll never leave your side."

Calin smiled genuinely at her before he brought her hand to his mouth and planted a soft kiss on it.

"If only you knew" he thought. Once he released her hand, they began eating.

As Anna Elizabeth started eating, she paused after she swallowed the first bite. She tilted her head and smiled as she looked at him.

"What?" he asked.

"You fixed spaghetti on purpose, didn't you?"

"Now, why would I do that?" Calin questioned, feigning ignorance.

"Well, it played a part in our first kiss," Anna Elizabeth answered. She then began laughing and added, "That probably sounds so weird to people who don't know the story."

"I'm sure that it does," Calin agreed before he laughed as well.

He then told her, "For the record, that shirt still smells like you no matter how many times I've washed it."

Anna Elizabeth grinned at him as she told him, "Well, I will be forever grateful that you lent me your favorite plaid shirt so I wouldn't have to go to two classes with a big spaghetti sauce stain front and center."

"Even though you were afraid that I would stain my shirt?" Calin reminded her.

"It's not like you can blame me. You were wearing a plain white t-shirt under your other one," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"And then you were freaking out when you returned the shirt because you accidently popped a button," Calin replied.

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she told him, "I freak out about everything. I can't help it."

She then grinned and continued, "Although, you were the one freaking out when you turned my grateful cheek kiss into a real kiss. You started babbling about being too forward and how you thought I would be upset because the school wasn't romantic enough. All while you kept biting your lip."

"And then you shut me up by kissing me," Calin began teasingly. He then smiled genuinely at her and continued, "I still get goosebumps when I think about how amazing that kiss was."

Anna Elizabeth blushed once again as she began twirling her hair as she looked down. She slowly brought her eyes back up to his and then asked him a bit self-consciously, "Do you think that it's a bit immature of me to still feel fireworks every time we kiss?"

Calin didn't even hesitate to respond, "Well, if it does, then we're both a hopeless case. Because every time I look into your eyes, I forget how to breathe."

Anna Elizabeth brightly smiled at him as he told him, "Well, I suppose that makes us both fools in love. That's what makes us perfect for each other."

"Yeah, it does," Calin agreed as he returned her smile.

 

An hour later, Anna Elizabeth and Calin were watching the sunset as they sat on the hood of his car. She had her legs folded to the side and had her head on his shoulder. Calin had one arm wrapped around her with his hand resting on her hip. The other was resting flat beside him on the hood. They were sitting in comfortable silence, save for her soft humming.

As a ballad finally came on, Anna Elizabeth looked up at Calin and told him, "Dance with me."

Calin lightly chuckled before he placed a kiss on her forehead, He then told her, "You know I have two left feet."

"That doesn't matter to me, Calin. I just want to dance with you," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Calin stared at her for a moment before he nodded. He got off the hood before he helped Anna Elizabeth down.

He then suggested, "How about we just sway to the music? I'm less likely to step on your feet that way."

Anna Elizabeth shook her head at him but agreed nonetheless.

She then wrapped her arms around his neck as he wrapped his around her waist. They then began swaying along to Journey's "Faithfully".

They got lost in each other's eyes and wrapped in what was truly a magical moment. Both of them leaned in and shared a tender kiss.

When they pulled away, both wearing a smile, Anna Elizabeth rested her head against Calin's chest. He knew that she could feel his heart racing.

They stayed like that until the music suddenly stopped. Calin sighed as he pulled back from Anna Elizabeth. He then lamented, "The stupid thing must have died. So much for the music unless I go plug in my…"

Anna Elizabeth cut him off, "It's perfectly alright, Calin. It gives me a chance to tell you something anyway."

"And what would that be?" Calin asked curiously.

"That I am so in love with you," Anna Elizabeth began. She then smiled and continued, "You are an amazing guy. You're sweet and sincere, thoughtful & funny. More importantly, you put up with my quirks, and you help me believe in myself. I couldn't ask for a better boyfriend. Tonight was just another way for you to show how much you love me," with tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

Calin wiped her eyes as he told her, "I'm in love with you, too, Anna Elizabeth. That's why I wanted this date to be perfect."

"Oh, it is perfect. This date has been absolutely wonderful – from the music to the food to the reminiscing to breathtaking scene around us. I couldn't ask for it to be better," Anna Elizabeth sincerely replied.

Calin bit his lip before he told her, "Well, actually, I believe that it can be," as he stuck his hand into his pocket.

"Calin, I don't know what else…" Anna Elizabeth cut herself off as she saw Calin pull a small black box from his pocket. Her eyes widened and she covered her mouth with her hands when he dropped to one knee.

He opened the box to reveal the ring. He took a deep breath to calm his escalating nerves before he began to speak, "You are, without a doubt, the most amazing woman I have ever met. I believe it would take all night for me to tell you all the reasons I fell in love with you and why I find myself even more in love with you today. What it boils down to is that there are a million little things that you say and do that make you perfect for me. Whether it's how you can't make it through the day without belting out a song, the way you twirl your hair and rub your hands together when you're nervous, how amazing you are with kids, or the way you have me wishing you would see how beautiful you are – inside and out. If you'll let me, I will spend the rest of my life showing you the reasons why I'm hopelessly in love with you. So, Anna Elizabeth Jones, will you marry me?"

For a moment, all she could do was stare at him. She was absolutely speechless as tears of joy streamed down her face. She then took a deep breath and began nodding fiercely. She finally uncovered her mouth and got out, "Yes, Calin, I will marry you!"

The smile he wore was blinding as he got off the ground. Anna Elizabeth held out her shaking left hand, and he slipped the ring onto her finger.

Calin then pulled her closer to him for a kiss that left them both breathless.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth wiped her eyes before she told him, "I'm not sure I could be any happier or more excited if I tried."

Calin grinned as he told her, "Just wait until we say 'I do'."

She returned his grin as she responded, "You know, I really like the sound of Mrs. Anna Elizabeth James."

"That makes two of us," Calin replied before he planted a kiss on her forehead. He then asked sheepishly, "So, uh, do you like the ring?"

Anna Elizabeth moved her left hand from around his neck to admire her ring. The silver band had a heart-shaped diamond with a sapphire on either side. The rest of the band was accented with smaller diamonds.

"Oh, Calin, it's absolutely beautiful. I love it – it's perfect."

"Just like you," Calin stated as he rested his forehead against hers.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she replied, "You're perfect for me, too."

She then pulled back to look into those beautiful brown eyes and told him, "I can't wait to spend the rest of my life as your wife."

"And I can't wait to be your husband," Calin replied, as he moved his hand to cup her cheek.

He then slowly leaned in and captured her lips in a kiss. A kiss that held all of the love that he had for her, and she happily returned it. The kiss was truly magical.

As they pulled away, they turned to gaze at the sinking sun, with their arms wrapped around each other. Tomorrow was not only the start of a new day, but it was the start of their lives together.

Chapter Text

"The ring is beautiful, Anna Elizabeth," Emma told her daughter.

When Emma looked back up, she added, "But not nearly as beautiful as the smile on your face."

Anna Elizabeth's smile grew as she exclaimed, "I know. I still can't believe I'm engaged!"

Emma matched her daughter's smile as she replied, "I am so happy for you and for Calin. This is truly something to celebrate."

"What are we celebrating?" Liam asked as he came through the door after baseball practice.

"Calin asked me to marry him," Anna Elizabeth told him, trying not to squeal in front of the 14-year-old boy.

Liam nodded before he spoke, "Calin is cool. I'll like having him for a brother."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she replied, "Well, I'm glad that you think so, little bro."

Liam glared at her in a way that looked like his mother as he corrected, "Younger."

Anna Elizabeth only chuckled in response before she became serious and told him, "I know. But for the record, you're a pretty cool little brother."

Liam couldn't help grin at her as he replied, "Well, as far as having a big sister goes, you're cool, too." He then pulled her in for a quick congratulatory hug before he went to his room.

When he was gone, Anna Elizabeth asked, "Where's Dad?"

"Oh, he said something about changing my oil after Liam's practice," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she turned around and headed for the garage.

When she walked in the garage, she smiled when she heard her father singing. She listened for a moment before she called out for him, "Dad?"

Killian lifted his head from under the hood and looked in his daughter's direction. He smiled as he greeted her, "Hello, love. It's good to see you."

"You too, Dad," Anna Elizabeth replied as she returned his smile.

Killian tilted his head as he looked at her before he observed, "Something on your mind?"

Anna Elizabeth's smile grew as she walked closer to him. She then showed him her left hand. "I'm getting married, Dad!" she practically squealed.

Even though he knew that this would happen, Killian's eyes widened slightly as he digested his daughter's news. It was real now.

Even if he wasn't quite ready to accept it, he truly was happy for her. So, he plastered on a smile that he prayed his daughter wouldn't see through as he truthfully told her, "I'm happy for you, Anna Elizabeth. Calin is one lucky lad."

"I think that I'm the lucky one," Anna Elizabeth began. Killian offered a small smile before she continued, "Thanks, Dad."

Killian nodded before he pulled his daughter in for a hug. He held on tightly until Anna Elizabeth told him, "Dad, you're squeezing me."

As Killian let go, he apologized, "Sorry, love. I'm just…uh…so happy for you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as she thanked him once again. She then told him, "I can't think of a time when I've been so happy."

Killian moved her hair behind her shoulder as he told her, "You deserve it, love." He then took a deep breath and continued, "I know that Calin will give you everything, Anna Elizabeth. It's why I gave him my blessing."

Tears began to form in Anna Elizabeth's eyes as she wrapped her father in another hug. As they pulled away, she told him, "You have no idea how much that means to me, Dad."

Killian smiled at her. He then wiped her eyes as he told her, "I think I might, love." Anna Elizabeth smiled back at him in response.

Just then, Emma came into the garage and announced, "Our baseball player says he's starving, so I'm gonna fix lunch." Killian nodded, and both he and Anna Elizabeth chuckled lightly. Emma then asked her daughter, "You want to stay, Anna Elizabeth?"

"I'd love to, Mom, but Calin and I are grabbing something from Granny's to go. We're then heading back to his place to start wedding planning," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Already? He only proposed last night." Killian pointed out, with crossed arms.

"Dad, please don't," Anna Elizabeth stated.

"Don't what?" Killian asked.

"Be all overprotective about this wedding," Anna Elizabeth began pleadingly. She then took a breath and continued, "Besides, you and Mom told me the next day that you guys were getting married. You explained that Emma would be my aunt for real now."

"You were barely five years old – how can you possibly remember all of that?" Killian asked her, a bit exasperatedly.

"I have a very strong memory – it's very helpful in the field of teaching," Anna Elizabeth answered, with a satisfied grin.

Killian rolled his eyes as Emma interjected, "She is right, Killian. We did start planning right away, and planned our wedding in three months."

She then added, "I'm not sure you could win an argument with her, anyway. She argues the same way that Liam always did, and he was right most of the time. Even if he could be annoyingly self-righteous at times," cutting a look toward her daughter.

It was Anna Elizabeth this time who rolled her eyes before she told her parents, "Alright, you guys, I'll see you both later. I have a date with my boyfr…fiancé," finishing with a wide smile. She hugged both of her parents before she heading out of the garage and to her car.

When Killian and Emma were back inside, she planted her hands on her hips and told him, "Killian, I really do have to agree with Anna Elizabeth. She needs you to support her with this wedding – not fight her on everything she and Calin want. Can you please do that?"

Killian sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as answered, "I won't make any promises, Emma. But I can promise you that I will try, love."

Emma nodded satisfactorily before she responded, "Good." She then kissed him softly before she went into the kitchen to start lunch.

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"Okay, first things first, we should set a date," Anna Elizabeth told her fiancé as she pulled out a notebook.

Calin grinned as he motioned to it and teased, "Someone wants to be organized."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "I have to be organized for everything to go perfectly."

Calin took her free hand in one of his and told her, "Hey, we're each marrying the love of our life – nothing could be more perfect than that."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him before she brought her lips to his for a sweet kiss. As she pulled away, she told him, "I still can't believe we're getting married. It's so surreal."

Calin returned her smile as he told her, "I know. I'm still pinching myself that you said yes."

"Like I would say no? Come on, Calin. You know better than that," Anna Elizabeth responded.

"Well, I mean, it's not that exactly. It's just that I wanted everything to be perfect and romantic because that's what you deserve," Calin admitted.

Anna Elizabeth lifted her hand from his to caress his cheek. She then assured him, "It was perfect. It was romantic. I couldn't have asked for a better proposal, and I know that our wedding will be every bit as magical."

Calin smiled at her before he kissed her sweetly. As they pulled apart and rested their foreheads against each other's, he told her, "And that is one of the many reasons why I love you."

Anna Elizabeth pulled back to look in his eyes before she smiled and told him, "I love you, too." After a quick kiss to his cheek, she continued, "Okay, we really do need to think about a date. You would think that I since I barely slept from excitement last night, I would have thought of something for our wedding, but I just kept replaying the proposal over and over again."

"I kept thinking about it, too, but I was able to think of a possible date," Calin began, as he bit his lip.

"You did?" Anna Elizabeth gasped in excitement.

"Well, I mean it's just a suggestion. And you might not like the idea, and you may think that's it's too soon…" Calin started rambling, and Anna Elizabeth cut him off by putting her hand over his mouth.

"Calin, you know that I love you – even the part of you that tends to second-guess himself and who becomes a nervous basket case. Which I know probably sounds a little hypercritical coming from me. Anyways, you know that you can tell me anything – don't worry about it."

Calin nodded, and Anna Elizabeth removed her hand from his mouth. He took a deep breath and told her, "Well, I was thinking that this fall will be a new start for you. You graduated college, and now you're going to start a new career. It'll be a big change, and you know I'll be there to support you. But I was thinking… maybe…perhaps, I could support you as your husband. I thought that your new start could also be the start of our lives together as husband and wife."

Anna Elizabeth's expression was unreadable for a moment. Calin knew that she was just thinking, but it still made him nervous. A moment later, her face broke into a wide smile. She then wrapped him in a fierce hug, nearly pushing him backwards on the couch.

As they pulled away, she gasped, "Oh, Calin – I love that idea. It's so incredibly sweet! It is the absolute best way to start our new lives."

Calin smiled brightly at her in response. He then told her, "I know it isn't much time to plan a wedding, but I can't wait for you to be my wife, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as well as she replied, "And I can't wait to be married to you, Calin James." She then continued, "And if my parents, not to mention Aunt Regina and Uncle Robin, can plan a wedding in a few months, then so can we."

Calin grinned as he said, "I was kind of hoping you would say that."

Anna Elizabeth returned his grin in response before she turned to grab the notebook that had fallen on the floor.

She stuck the pen behind her ear as she flipped to the calendar in the back. She scrunched up her nose and furrowed her brows as she turned to August and September. She studied it for a moment before she spoke, "Let's see. School starts in the second week of September. If the wedding is in the second week of August, that'll give us a month to, you know, adjust to being married and living together." She then looked up at him.

Calin took the pen, which had gotten tangled in Anna Elizabeth's hair, and twirled it in his fingers as he pointed out, "You know, I think you may have missed something in your calculations."

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows again as she asked, "What?"

"I wanted us to have a week-long honeymoon," Calin began. He then bit his lip and continued, "If that's okay with you."

The blonde couldn't help but shake her head at him before she told him, "I would love to spend a week somewhere with just the two of us. Where were you thinking?"

"Uh, well, I hadn't quite gotten that far yet," Calin admitted, and Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle.

When she had sobered, he continued, "I also wanted us to pick the place together."

She genuinely smiled at him before she teased, "Well, before we pick where to spend our honeymoon, we should pick a place to get married during the first week of August."

Calin smiled back at her before he told her, "Well, maybe, we could…" but he was cut off by Anna Elizabeth's squeal.

"The beach!"

"The beach?" Calin repeated.

Anna Elizabeth nodded furiously before she continued, "Yes. At the spot where you proposed. It's special for both of us."

Calin smiled as he added, "The weather will also be beautiful in August. A perfect way to celebrate us getting married while we're surrounded by our family and friends."

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile before she observed, "Speaking of family and friends, I think we should talk about who will be the bridesmaids and groomsmen."

"Hmm, let me think. For you, it'll be Evie, Alexandra, Jane, and Gia," Calin responded with a grin.

"Obviously," Anna Elizabeth responded. She then continued, "I think I want Evie to be my maid of honor. We've always been like sisters."

Calin nodded and offered his fiancée a smile before she asked him, "Are you going to ask your brother to be your best man?"

Calin furrowed his brows before he questioned, "Ethan?"

Anna Elizabeth had to refrain from rolling her eyes as she pointed out, "He's the only brother you have, Calin."

He took a deep breath before he told her, "I know. Even though he's only my half-brother, and we've only known each other for a few months, he is my family. I'd like to have him standing next to me, but I'm not sure it'd be his thing."

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows and scrunched up her nose as she asked, "What do you mean?"

"Come on, Anna Elizabeth. You've met him – he's still a total goofball who is barely capable of a serious conservation."

Anna Elizabeth giggled before she pointed out, "He isn't quite that bad, Calin. I think you're exaggerating a bit."

"Maybe. But I'm still not sure he's the best option for my best man," Calin responded.

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she agreed, "I guess I can see your point." She then assured him, "You don't have to decide now."

Calin smiled at her before he kissed her forehead. He then told her, "Thank you, Anna Elizabeth."

The blonde returned her fiancé's smile as she told him, "Of course, Calin." She then leaned in, and he met her halfway for a tender kiss.

As they pulled back, Anna Elizabeth heard her phone beep from a text message. She picked up and grinned when she read it. She then turned her attention to Calin and asked, "You up for a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon with my parents and Liam?"

Calin grinned at her as he responded, "If I had to guess, I'd say that was probably your brother's idea."

Anna Elizabeth giggled in response as she nodded in agreement. She then asked, "So, what do you say?"

"I think it'd be great," Calin began. He then ran one of his hands up and down her arm as he told her, "It'd also be a good opportunity to tell your parents that our wedding will be in August."

Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded once again before she sent her mother a response.

 

Twenty minutes later, Anna Elizabeth and Calin were walking through the front door of Emma and Killian's house.

"Hey, Mom and Dad," Anna Elizabeth greeted with a smile.

"Hey, kid," Emma greeted with a smile.

"Where's Liam?" Anna Elizabeth then asked.

"In his room trying to locate the movies," Killian answered with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth shook her head and grinned in response.

Emma then addressed her daughter and future son-in-law, "How did the wedding planning go?"

"Well, we have a date," Anna Elizabeth answered with a bright smile.

Emma smiled brightly and discreetly elbowed Killian to do the same as she asked, "When?"

"The first week of August," Calin answered as he squeezed Anna Elizabeth's hand.

"I think you two can plan a lovely wedding in a year," Killian observed.

Calin bit his lip and looked at Anna Elizabeth, who then squeezed his hand in reassurance.

She then addressed her father, "Dad, he didn't mean next August." Killian's brows furrowed before Anna Elizabeth told both of her parents, "We're getting married this August."

Emma immediately wrapped Anna Elizabeth in a hug before doing the same to Calin. As she pulled away, she told them, "This is great news. I'm so happy for both of you."

Anna Elizabeth and Calin smiled brightly at her, but Killian's reaction wasn't quite so pleasant.

"Three bloody months? You're getting married in three bloody months?"

"Killian, it's not a big deal," Emma told him.

Killian ignored his wife and continued, "That's far too soon for you two to get married."

"You and Mom did the same thing," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Killian paused at her words for a moment before he refuted, "That's rather different."

"How the bloody hell is it different?" Anna Elizabeth asked, trying desperately to keep her temper at bay.

"Your mother and I had known each other longer..." Killian began but he was cut off by his daughter.

"And let me guess, you guys were older and more mature?"

"That isn't where I was going," Killian tried to defend, but he knew that his efforts were futile.

"Dad, I thought you were okay with us getting married," Anna Elizabeth told him, and Killian's heart broke at the emotion in her voice.

Before he could attempt to reply, Anna Elizabeth was walking away in order to clear her head.

Killian sighed and ran his fingers through his hair before he did the same.

Emma groaned as she ran her hand over her face and through her blonde locks. She then looked over at Calin, who was simply staring at the floor. He was biting his lip so hard that she was afraid he would draw blood.

Emma then walked over to him and called his name, making him look up at her. She then apologized, "I'm sorry that Killian overreacted and that you had to see it."

"It's alright, Emma. I really wasn't expecting it, since he gave us his blessing, but I guess maybe it is too soon. It was my suggestion, and I suppose I should have considered that," Calin responded in a dejected and disappointed tone.

"Oh, Calin, this has absolutely nothing to do with you. I think it's wonderful that you can't wait to marry Anna Elizabeth," Emma assured him.

"I don't think Killian would agree with you," Calin told her.

Emma sighed once again before she explained, "Listen, Calin. I can promise you that Killian doesn't have a problem with you, and that he does care about you. It's just hard for him to accept that Anna Elizabeth is an adult. He still sees her as that little girl who wanted to be a Disney princess and who was scared of thunderstorms. He doesn't want to let her go. This might be hard for you to get now, but one day you'll understand."

Calin took a few minutes to take in Emma's words before he told her, "I've always known that Anna Elizabeth was a daddy's girl, and I can see how it would be hard on Killian."

Emma smiled gratefully at him before she hugged him. As they pulled away, she told him, "I'm glad that you can see it. I can promise you that he will come around - it just may take a little while."

Calin nodded in understanding before he told her, "I think I'll go check on Anna Elizabeth."

Emma nodded before she replied, "And I'll go check on Liam before I go talk to Killian."

Calin then headed toward the direction of the backyard, but he was stopped by Emma's voice.

"I know that you and Anna Elizabeth talked through this wedding date, and that it makes both of you happy. Don't you dare change it on Killian's account."

Calin grinned and nodded in response before he continued toward the backyard, while Emma headed to her son's room.

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"Hey, Dad," Anna Elizabeth greeted as she came to sit beside Killian on the tailgate of his truck.

"Hello, love," Killian responded before he kissed her temple.

He then scratched his ear as he continued, "I'm sorry that I overreacted, Anna Elizabeth. It wasn't one of my best moments."

"It's okay, Dad. I've seen you overreact plenty of times, especially if it concerns me and a guy," Anna Elizabeth assured him.

Killian grinned slightly as he told her, "I suppose that I do, but you have to admit that I wasn't out of line with that whole Ricky fiasco."

Anna Elizabeth chuckled lightly before she admitted, "He was a jerk."

She then became serious and continued, "Dad, if you think Calin will break my heart, you don't have to worry."

"I know I needn't worry about that, and that's what makes this so hard," Killian told her.

"Why?" Anna Elizabeth asked curiously.

"It means that you're really ready to spend your life with someone, and you'll be leaving, love," Killian answered.

"Dad, I moved out of the house two years ago, and it's not like Calin and I are leaving Storybrooke. We both love it here," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Killian offered a small smile as he responded, "I know, Anna Elizabeth. But it's different, love. You may not live here, but you share an apartment with Evie. When you're married, you'll…uh… you know, live, with, um, Calin. It's just another step toward independence that I'm not sure I'm ready for."

"But I'm ready to take this step, and that means that you and Mom did your job," Anna Elizabeth pointed out to him.

"Aye, love, I think maybe that we did too good of a job," Killian replied.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but shake her head and roll her eyes in response. She then asked him, "Are you worried that we can't pull off this wedding in three months?"

"Are you?" Killian honestly asked her.

She didn't skip a beat as she responded, "Nope." She then took a breath and continued, "I know it isn't a lot of time, but you and Mom did it. And we actually thought about why we wanted it this soon."

"You did?" Killian asked with a raised eyebrow.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she elaborated, "My new job starts in the fall, and it's going to be a big change for me. Calin wanted to support me as my husband. We'll have a month after we get back from our honeymoon to adjust to… life."

"Nice save," Kilian commented. He then took a moment to consider his daughter's words before he simply observed, "He put you first."

"He always does – and always has. I have to remind him that his happiness is just as important as mine," Anna Elizabeth told her father.

Killian couldn't help but smile at his daughter's words before he surmised, "That sounds familiar."

"You and Mom," Anna Elizabeth observed.

Killian nodded before he added, "And Liam and Elsa. Your father was always so concerned about Belle and I, and then your mother when they began dating, that his own happiness often wasn't deemed as important. That is, until Elsa made him see differently. Which wasn't easy because your father was so stubborn."

"That sounds familiar," Anna Elizabeth repeated her father's words with a grin. Killian couldn't help but grin back at her in response.

He then took a deep breath and spoke, "This may feel redundant, love, but I have to know. I know that two years feels like a long time to be with someone, but are you absolutely positive that this – marrying Calin – is what you want?"

Anna Elizabeth considered her words before she responded, "Calin is my best friend. He knows that I sing entirely too much, that I stress to the point of making myself sick at times, and that I never think I'm good enough. But he still loves me, and he makes me believe in myself – you know what a feat that is.

Yes, it's true that he can be a basket case at times, he can be a bit of a slob, and he remembers everything – which is sweet at times, but annoying at others. But I'm still absolutely crazy about him. I want to spend the rest of my life with him, and I can't picture my life any other way. I want a future with him – a house with a big backyard and kids running around, but most of all, just a life with him. An amazing life that we build together. Don't you want that for me?"

"Maybe not the little ones running around," Killian responded.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but roll her eyes before she stated, "Dad."

Killian grinned at her as he told her, "I'm joking, love." He then became serious and continued, "Of course I want you to have all of that, love. I'd have to be a bloody idiot not to see that Calin is the man who can do that for you. And it truly does make me happy to know that you found someone who is deserving of you. But it still doesn't make it any easier for me. You're still my little girl, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth threw her arms around his neck in response. Killian hugged her back tightly, and they stayed like that for several minutes.

When they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth told him, "I'll always be your Anna Elizabeth, Dad. But I'm not little anymore. I live on my own, I've graduated college, and I'm getting married. And it all makes me so incredibly happy, and Calin is a big part of that happiness. This is what I've always dreamed about - don't you think I need to give those dreams a shot?"

Killian stared at his daughter for a long moment. She really could argue like her father. He knew that she was right, and that Emma had been right earlier when she told him something similar. He knew what he had to do, even though it would take every bit of strength he had to do so.

He took a deep breath before he told Anna Elizabeth, "I want you to be happy, love. No matter how much I want to, I won't stand in the way of you and your dreams."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at him as she replied, "Thank you, Dad." She then wrapped her arms around him for another hug.

As they were locked in their embrace, she continued, "I know how hard this is for you, Dad, but you have to learn to let me go."

"I know I have to, love," Killian responded, but in his heart, he was saying, "Please, don't go."

Chapter Text

A month after Emma and Killian had found out that Anna Elizabeth and Calin were getting married, all of the young couple's plans were falling into place. They had told the rest of their family and friends and were met with genuine happiness and excitement. Evie, Jane, Alexandra, and Gia were all ecstatic to be bridesmaids – although the latter loathed the idea of wearing a dress.

Though Calin still hadn't picked a best man, Ethan had told his brother that he wanted to stand next to him, but being "best man" wasn't exactly his forte. It also wasn't exactly practical because Ethan lived two states away. The same could be said of Alex, who had been Calin's best friend since childhood. Though the two had struggled to keep in touch after going separate ways following high school, they were still great friends. Alex was pumped to be in Calin's wedding, and he was looking forward to meeting the woman who had stolen his best friend's heart.

The chairs had been rented for the beach, as well as tables and a tent, for the reception at Emma and Killian's. The catering would be done by Ruby and Granny, the invitations had been sent out, and a photographer had been hired. The flowers, cake, decorations, and suits for the wedding party still had to be arranged, as well as Anna Elizabeth's dress.

Anna Elizabeth and Evie were currently on their way to Mary Margaret and David's to drop off Leo, so that they could head to the mall. They were meeting Gia, Jane, and Alexandra there to pick up the altered bridesmaid dresses, and Anna Elizabeth would try on wedding dresses.

When Anna Elizabeth and Evie arrived at the house, Leo exclaimed, "MM and Pa!"

Both Anna Elizabeth and Evie chuckled at the little boy before Evie told him, "You're going to stay with Grandma and Grandpa while I go shopping with Aunt Anna Elizabeth."

"Shop?" Leo asked.

"Well, Leo, Uncle Calin and I are going to have a big party because we're getting married," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Party!" Leo shouted.

"That's right. Now, let's go see Grandma and Grandpa so that I can go," Evie told her son.

Leo nodded before Evie got out of the car. When she had unbuckled her little boy, he waved goodbye to Anna Elizabeth. Evie then carried him inside.

When the brunette walked inside, she was greeted by her father. "Hey, sweetie," David told her as he kissed her head.

"Hey, Dad," Evie greeted with a smile before Leo began squirming to get into his grandfather's arms.

David smiled at the little boy as he took him from Evie. David then asked him, "Hey, little guy. You ready to learn to play baseball?"

"Ball?" Leo asked.

"Dad, he's only two. He can barely feed himself without spilling it. How do you expect him to hold up a bat?" Evie pointed out.

"He'll be fine. I started teaching your brother before you born, and he loved it. It also gives me an excuse to spend time with my grandson," David told her.

Evie only shook her head and grinned as her father and her son headed toward the backyard. She then turned her attention to her mother, who was making coffee.

Mary Margaret had a worried expression on her face as she asked, "Are you sure that you're up for this, honey? Won't it be hard to see Anna Elizabeth trying on all those wedding dresses?"

Evie offered her mother a smile as she reassured her, "Mom, I think I've lost track of how many times we've had this conversation. I want nothing more than to be Anna Elizabeth's maid of honor – you know that we're practically sisters. I live with her, Mom. Bridal magazines are scattered all over the place, and I'm perfectly fine with it. Just because my marriage didn't work out doesn't mean that I can't wish happiness for Anna Elizabeth and Calin. You have nothing to worry about."

Mary Margaret smiled as well before she pulled Evie in for a hug. As they pulled away, Mary Margaret replied, "I'm your mother – I can't help but worry. You understand that, Evie. I just want you to be happy."

"I know, Mom. And I am happy. Happier than I ever thought I would be again," Evie began. At Mary Margaret's nod, the brunette continued, "Thanks again for watching Leo. I should get going – Anna Elizabeth is waiting on me."

Mary Margaret nodded before she responded, "Of course, sweetheart. You know your father and I love having Leo around." She then exchanged goodbyes with her daughter before Evie headed out the door.

When Evie had settled in the car, Anna Elizabeth put it in drive and headed toward the town line.

Evie then asked her cousin, "So, were you able to find any dress styles that you liked in all of those magazines?"

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she answered, "I mean, there are so many beautiful dresses, but I haven't found my dress, you know?"

Evie nodded in understanding before she replied, "Yeah, I do. But I'm sure once you see yourself in some dresses, you'll find the perfect one," with a bright smile.

Anna Elizabeth glanced over at her and returned her smile before bringing her eyes back to the road.

Just then, her cell phone rang. She asked Evie, "Will you answer that?"

"Sure," Evie responded as she picked it up. As she looked at the caller ID, she continued, "It's Jamie. Wanna it put on speaker?"

"Yeah," the blonde answered. Evie then pressed the speaker button and answered, "Hey, big bro."

"Evie? Why do you have Anna Elizabeth's phone?" Jamie asked confusedly.

"Because we're on our way to the mall, and she's driving," Evie answered.

"Ah, this must have something to do with the wedding," Jamie surmised. He then asked, "So, how's the planning going, Cuz?"

"It's going great," Anna Elizabeth answered enthusiastically. She then asked, "Did you get your invitation?"

"Yeah, I did," Jamie began. He then took a deep breath and asked, "That's actually why I called – is it cool if I bring someone?"

Both Anna Elizabeth and Evie's faces broke out in wide smiles. Both were trying to play it cool, but Evie failed miserably as she excitedly exclaimed, "Who is she!?"

"Chill, sis," Jamie told his sister. He then explained, "Her name is Megan. She's a surgeon here in D.C."

"How did you two meet?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Well, when your job involves getting shot at, you're likely to have a bullet removed at some point," Jamie answered.

"You know, I really appreciate being reminded how dangerous your job is, Jamie. I have enough on my plate without worrying about my brother 24/7," Evie told him.

Both Anna Elizabeth and Evie heard him sigh as he explained, "We've been through this, Evie. I'm an FBI agent – you know what my job entails. But I assure you that I'm safe. You do have enough on your plate between your job and Leo – I don't want you worrying about me."

"I can't help but worry," Evie replied.

Jamie then pointed out, "Dad and Aunt Emma are both cops. I don't hear you freaking out over them."

Though he couldn't see her, Evie rolled her eyes before she responded, "We live in Storybrooke, Jamie. Nothing ever happens here. You live in a big city, and not just any city – the nation's capital."

Jamie sighed once again, and Anna Elizabeth intervened, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, Evie, his girlfriend is a doctor – I'm sure she makes sure that he takes care of himself."

"Oh, believe me, she does. More than I would like," Jamie confirmed. He then added, "She's actually really great and amazing. She has this tough as nails, apathetic exterior, but she has a heart of gold on the inside. She would do anything for anyone. I'm really lucky to have her."

"This sounds really serious, Jamie," Evie commented.

"Well, maybe not Anna Elizabeth and Calin serious, but I'm definitely falling for her," Jamie admitted.

"And you're just now telling us about her?!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

"I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure how I felt about her, and that she felt the same about me. I also didn't want Mom to well, you know, be Mom," Jamie explained.

Evie chuckled at the last part because she knew how true that statement was. She then surmised, "So, I'm guessing that you haven't told her?"

"No, I haven't. I'm meeting her parents next week; we've decided to all have dinner. I'm hoping that Mom and Dad can come down next weekend – I'd rather do this in person, and it doesn't feel right making her wait until the wedding," Jamie replied.

"I'm sure they'd be thrilled to meet her. You might want to give her a head's up about Mom's enthusiasm though. It can be overwhelming," Evie told him before she chuckled.

Jamie chuckled as well before he responded, "Dually noted."

He then said, "I have to get back to work. But good luck with the rest of the planning, Anna Elizabeth. I'm really happy for you."

"Thanks, Jamie," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"Talk to you both later," Jamie told them. The girls bid him goodbye as well before Evie hung up the phone.

As Evie put the phone back in the cup holder, she observed, "I'm really happy for Jamie. Megan sounds wonderful."

"She really does. I can't wait to meet her," Anna Elizabeth agreed. She then took a breath and continued, "You know, I bet Jamie would be just as happy for you. Maybe even more so."

Evie sighed as she exasperatedly explained, "We've been over this, Anna Elizabeth. Even if I have moved on from Chase, dating is more complicated now than it was before. It's not just me and my happiness we're talking about – it's my son. It's hard enough trying to find someone that I'm happy with – much less someone who will also make Leo happy. You know I can't be with anyone who isn't ready to be a father to him, and that is asking a lot. Most guys aren't ready for that, and I really can't blame them."

Anna Elizabeth considered Evie's words. The blonde then spoke, "I'm sorry, Evie. I really didn't mean to push. I just want you to be as happy as I am with Calin."

Evie smiled as she responded, "I know that you do, and I love you for it. And maybe one day, I will find someone, but for now, I am happy. I have amazing friends and family, and I'm a mom to the best little boy. I promise you that's all I need."

Anna Elizabeth returned her smile in response.

Evie then spoke once more, "Today is about you, Anna Elizabeth. We are going to find you the perfect dress. You will be absolutely beautiful on your wedding day."

"I know. I can't wait to start looking at dresses," Anna Elizabeth replied as her smile grew wider.

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"Sorry I'm late, kid. Baseball registration took a lot longer than I thought," Emma apologized as she plopped down on the couch beside Anna Elizabeth.

"It's cool, Mom," Anna Elizabeth assured her mother. She then asked, "Did you get a chance to drop off Liam?"

"There wasn't even a question on whether I would drop him off. He's 14 – this is the last place he'd want to be. He's hanging out with your father and Calin," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she told her mother, "Well, no worries. I haven't tried on any dresses yet. The girls are trying on their bridesmaid dresses to make sure the alterations work."

Emma nodded just as the fitting room doors began opening. Evie, Jane, Alexandra, and Gia stepped out on the long platform.

Anna Elizabeth had long grown out of pink being her favorite color, and the color she had chosen for the wedding was blue – much to the pleasure of Gia. The dresses that the girls had picked were simple yet elegant.

The blue dress, which was closer to aquamarine in color, was knee length. The sleeves just covered the shoulders, and the neckline was V-neck.

"You all look beautiful," Anna Elizabeth commented with a bright smile.

"I second that," Emma added as she smiled as well.

"Well, they're all a perfect fit," Jane said, as she moved a piece of ginger hair behind her shoulder.

"Great," Anna Elizabeth replied. She then stated, "All that's left is for you guys to find a necklace and some shoes."

"Please tell me you aren't making us wear heels," Gia pleaded.

Everyone chuckled before Anna Elizabeth assured her friend, "I'm not even wearing heels, so I'm not going to subject you guys to that."

"Yeah, the last thing we need is for you to face-plant while you're walking down the aisle," Alexandra teased.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes while everyone else chuckled.

Jane then spoke, "Well, now that we've found our lovely dresses, it's time for the bride to find hers."

Anna Elizabeth nodded as she smiled. She then gave Emma a knowing look, and the two of them went off to look at the wedding dresses while the girls went back inside their fitting room.

 

Half-an-hour later, Anna Elizabeth was stepping on the platform in the first dress.

The princess style gown was strapless. The bodice was covered in an intricate lace pattern, and the skirt was layers of ruffles.

"Oh, you look absolutely stunning, Anna Elizabeth," Gia told her.

"Just beautiful," Alexandra added.

"You guys really think so?" Anna Elizabeth asked unsurely as she looked down smoothed the skirt.

When the blonde looked back up, Evie observed, "I know that look, Anna Elizabeth."

"So do I," Emma added. She then asked, "The dress is beautiful on you, but you don't like it, do you?"

"I mean, well, it's too poofy," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"Isn't the idea of a princess style dress," Jane pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth sighed as she said, "Yeah, it is. I guess I just don't like it as much as I thought I would."

"It's perfectly alright, Anna Elizabeth. Just try another one," Evie assured her.

"Maybe one that's less poofy," Emma added with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she went back in the dressing room.

A few minutes later, the bride-to-be stepped out in another dress. The mermaid style dress had a halter top. The skirt fanned out at the knees and was made out of chiffon, while the rest of the dress was silk.

"This one is way too fitted," Anna Elizabeth announced as she planted her hands on her hips.

"It is fitted, but I think you're exaggerating, Anna Elizabeth," Evie told her.

"She's right. You look amazing!" Jane added.

Anna Elizabeth ran her fingers through her hair as she said, "I just don't know about this one, guys."

"Don't stress, Anna Elizabeth. This is only the second dress you've tried. There are plenty of dresses in here, and I know there's one that will be perfect for you," Alexandra reassured her.

"She's right, Anna Elizabeth. Your wedding will be one of the happiest days of your life – you should feel every bit as beautiful as you are," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as she told Emma, "Thanks, Mom." She then addressed everyone else, "And thank you guys. I'm so glad that I get to share this with you."

"And we're glad that we get share it with you," Gia told her with a bright smile, one that everyone else offered the bride-to-be as well.

Anna Elizabeth returned their smiles before stepping back in the fitting room.

 

Twelve dresses later, Anna Elizabeth wasn't any closer to finding a dress. Something was wrong with every one that she tried. This one was too sparkly, that one wasn't sparkly enough. One was too long, and the other one was too short. And so on and so on.

She had just went back inside the dressing room, and Alexandra observed, "Maybe dress number 15 will be the one."

"I think she's just nervous about marrying Calin, and she's stressing herself out," Jane suggested.

"I'm sure that she'll find one that she absolutely adores," Evie added excitedly.

"I appreciate you girls' support, but I think there's a lot more to this," Emma told them.

The girls furrowed their brows in confusion for a moment. Gia then bemused, "Her mom."

Emma simply nodded in response. She then took breath and spoke, "I need to talk to Anna Elizabeth. Why don't you girls go on ahead."

"Maybe we could find what we're going to wear with the dresses?" Alexandra suggested.

Evie, Gia, and Jane nodded, but none of them, including Alexandra, made a move to go.

When Emma stood up, she assured all of them, "I know you all are worried about her, but I promise she'll be fine.

All of them then nodded before they began walking to another part of the store.

Emma then walked over to Anna Elizabeth's dressing room. She knocked on the door as she told her daughter, "Hey, kid, I think we need to talk. Can I come in?"

Anna Elizabeth opened up the door in a robe provided by the bridal shop. "I tried on all of the dresses I have in here," she said exasperatedly.

Emma took a deep breath before she carefully spoke, "You and I both know that this has nothing to do with dresses, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth ran her fingers through her blonde locks as she looked down. When she looked up, she sighed and admitted, "I know."

"You wanna talk about it?" Emma asked.

Anna Elizabeth slowly nodded as she moved to sit on one of the chairs in the large dressing room. As Emma sat down in the chair next to her, Anna Elizabeth spoke, "It's my mom."

"I kind of figured," Emma replied as she ran her fingers through her daughter's blonde curls.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she elaborated, "I've been thinking a lot about her today, and this one thing keeps coming to mind."

"What is that, kid?" Emma asked curiously.

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she answered, "It was this one time when it was just me and Mom at home. I think that Dad was working or something. So, me and mom were having a tea party in my room. We had to stop though because she had to fold clothes. And I, of course, had to help," pausing to chuckle lightly.

"Of course," Emma added as she chuckled as well.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at Emma before she began again, "We had finished folding the clothes and had brought them to her and Dad's room. Mom asked me to put some of the clothes in the closet, and that's when I saw it. She had her wedding dress in a plastic bag as it hung in the closet. I then excitedly exclaimed that mommy had a princess dress. Mom laughed before she explained that it was a wedding dress.

We then both moved to sit on the bed, and she told me all about when she married Dad. She also showed me the wedding album, and I still said she was a princess and that daddy was her prince. She just smiled and agreed with me. I then asked her if I would ever get to be a princess, and she told me that one day I'd find my prince, too. When I asked if I could wear her dress, she said that she would love nothing more than to see me in it, and see me marry someone who loves me as much as Dad loves her."

At this point, tears had begun to flow from Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes, and Emma wrapped her in a hug. They stayed embraced for a few minutes before pulling back.

Emma then told Anna Elizabeth, "I do understand, kid. I would have given anything for Ruth to be able to see me marry Killian," as she was trying to hold back tears herself.

"I just didn't think it would be this hard. But none of those dresses felt right because she isn't here to see me in them or see me marry the man I love," Anna Elizabeth replied.

"I know," Emma simply said before wrapping her daughter in another hug. As they pulled back, she had an idea.

"Hey, kid. I know we can't bring Elsa back, and that it hurts. But I think I have a way that you can feel like she's there with you."

"How?" Anna Elizabeth asked as she wiped her eyes.

"You can wear her wedding dress, just like she told you that you could," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened as she asked, "What? How do you have it? I thought that Aunt Anna had it?"

"She did. But as soon as she heard that you were getting married, she sent me the dress. But with everything going on in the last month, I didn't even consider that you would want to wear it," Emma explained.

"I'd love to wear it!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Emma smiled at her as she told her, "I thought you might." She then suggested, "How about you get dressed, and we'll head home."

Anna Elizabeth nodded excitedly before she responded, "Looks like I'll find my dress today after all."

Emma nodded at her daughter before pulling her in for another hug. She then got up and left the dressing room.

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"Are you ready, Anna Elizabeth?" Emma called from the bed in she and Killian's room.

"Yeah, I'm coming out," Anna Elizabeth called back. A moment later, she stepped out of the bathroom.

The strapless dress had a sweetheart neckline. The skirt of the dress flowed out slightly from the waist, where a beautiful diamond pattern set.

As Anna Elizabeth walked in front of the mirror, she covered her mouth with both of her hands. She couldn't help the single tear that flowed down her cheek as Emma walked up behind her.

"That's the reaction a bride should have when she tries on her wedding dress."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her mom in the mirror before she turned around to give her a hug. As they pulled away, she told her, "This dress is beautiful, Mom. I absolutely love it."

Emma moved a curl behind Anna Elizabeth's ear as she replied, "I knew that you would. I am so happy that you found your dress, and I'm even happier that it's Elsa's dress."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she spoke, "You think that she'd be happy for me?"

"She'd be ecstatic. Next to Liam and Anna, you were her whole world, and she would have loved sharing this with you. And she would have adored Calin," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth hugged Emma once more before turning back to her reflection in the mirror. She then observed, "I think the only thing missing is the veil."

"Oh, of course!" Emma said. She then began moving to the bag that Elsa's dress had been in when Anna Elizabeth's voice stopped her.

"Wait, Mom."

Emma turned back to her daughter with a confused expression. "What is it, kid?"

"Well, on the way home, I did a lot of thinking," Anna Elizabeth began.

"About what?"

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she continued, "That it's just as important for me to wear something of yours as well."

"Oh, kid, you don't have to do that. You're not going to hurt my feelings by wearing your mom's dress and veil," Emma responded.

"That wasn't what I meant, Mom," Anna Elizabeth stated. She then sat down on the bed, and Emma, who was wearing a flummoxed expression, sat down beside her daughter.

Anna Elizabeth took Emma's hands in hers before she said, "Elsa will always be my mother, and she will always be in my heart. She's the one who brought me into this world, and she was the best mom I could have asked for during those four years, even if I can't remember a lot of it.

But you are the one who has been there for me all of these years. You took care of me when I sick, and I know I wasn't always the best patient. You helped me with all of my school projects, you were there at every football game, you got me through my first break-up, and you always manage to talk Dad down when he's being entirely too overprotective. You have always been there for me, no matter what. You are the one who has raised me.

It doesn't matter that I didn't start calling you "Mom" until, like, four years after you and Dad got married, or that you're actually my aunt. You are every bit my mother as Elsa is, and I wouldn't want to marry the man of my dreams without wearing something that belonged to you."

It was Emma this time who wasn't able to hold back the tears. She wrapped Anna Elizabeth in a hug and ran her fingers through her blonde curls.

As they pulled away, Emma said, "You have no idea how much this means to me, Anna Elizabeth. I knew I would never really be able to replace Elsa, but one of the happiest days of my life is when you asked if you could call me just 'Mommy.' I have loved being your mother, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world."

"And I have loved having you as my mother," Anna Elizabeth began. She then took a breath and continued, "I know it couldn't have been easy for you, becoming an instant mom when you married Dad. I see how hard it is for Evie – even if she was ready to open her heart again, she would be asking them to love Leo, too. And that is asking so, so much of someone – I can only imagine how you felt, Mom. The guy you loved was a father, and that meant you had to be a mother."

"You are right, it is asking a lot of someone. When most people think of falling in love and starting their life with someone, that doesn't include being a parent right away. It's difficult, and it was difficult at times for me, too, at times. But there's one thing that you're wrong about," Emma replied.

"What is that?" Anna Elizabeth asked, a bit confusedly.

"I never felt like I had to be a mother. I would be lying if I told you I wasn't terrified at the thought of raising you. But as much as I was terrified, I was also overjoyed. You were an amazing little girl, and I adored spending time with you. I already knew what I was getting into because I helped Killian with you as it was. Believe me, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. There's nothing I wanted more than to be your mother," Emma honestly answered.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before pulling Emma in for another hug. "I love you, Mom." "I love you too, Anna Elizabeth."

When they pulled away, and both of them wiped their eyes, Emma spoke, "I need to get out my wedding dress."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before Emma went over to the closet. She stood on her tiptoes and grabbed the large white box that was toward the back on the top shelf. When she walked back over the bed and had sat the box down, she opened the lid. She carefully took out the veil and showed it to the bride-to-be.

"So, what do you think, kid?"

"I think it's perfect," Anna Elizabeth replied with a bright smile.

Emma returned her daughter's smile before she moved to put the veil on her. It was trimmed with beautiful lace. Emma clipped it in Anna Elizabeth's curls while Anna Elizabeth adjusted her hair.

When Emma was finished, she stepped back as Anna Elizabeth stood up from the bed. Emma wore a bright smile as she looked at her daughter.

"You are an absolutely beautiful bride, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as well before she moved in front of the mirror.

This time, the tears flowed freely from her blue eyes. She quickly wiped them as she said, "I can't believe that I'll be married in two months, and that I found someone as amazing as Calin to spend my life with."

"Well, kid, I always knew that you would. And I think that I knew that Calin was the one before either of you did," Emma replied.

"How could you possibly know that, Mom?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Because Calin looks at you the same way that Killian still looks at me. Just like you hung the moon and the stars," Emma told her.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as her face turned slightly red. She then spoke, "I can't wait to be his wife."

Emma returned her daughter's smile before she spoke, "It will be one of the best days of your life, and I'm so glad that I get to share it with you. My beautiful, strong, independent daughter."

"And I'm glad that I get to share it with my amazing mother," Anna Elizabeth told her. She then looked down at her dress and continued, "Both of them."

Chapter Text

"Are you sure you don't mind watching Liam? I know that it's short notice," Emma asked her daughter over the phone.

"Mom, he's 14 – he doesn't exactly need to be watched," Anna Elizabeth reminded her mother.

Emma chuckled lightly before she replied, "I guess you have a point. I know he can take care of himself, but his cooking skills aren't the best. He has more hope than Killian, but your brother gets distracted easily."

Anna Elizabeth laughed at that before she agreed, "He always did." She then asked, "When will you and Dad drop him off?"

"Let's see…" Emma began before she trailed off. A moment later, she continued, "A little less than half-an-hour."

"Great, Mom. I'll see you in a bit," Anna Elizabeth responded.

"See you then, kid," Emma told her daughter before they both hung up the phone.

When Anna Elizabeth had put her cell phone in her pocket, she got up from the couch and headed into the kitchen.

"Hmm, what can we eat for dinner?" she wondered aloud as she began rummaging through cabinets and the pantry. As she did, she happened upon a bag of chocolate chips, and an idea struck her.

She smiled as she spoke, "Liam's favorite – chocolate chip pancakes."

She then began gathering all of the ingredients for pancakes and set them on the kitchen counter, as well as the cooking utensils. By the time she had did all of that, she had received a text from Emma that they had arrived at the apartment complex.

Anna Elizabeth grabbed her keys before she went downstairs. She met her parents and Liam in the parking lot. The teenager was getting out of the truck as Killian teased, "Don't give your sister any trouble, lad," with a grin.

Liam rolled his eyes before he complained, "Seriously, Dad?" Both Killian and Emma chuckled before she added, "Thanks again, Anna Elizabeth. You two have fun hanging out."

Both Liam and Anna Elizabeth nodded before the dark-haired teenager looked at his sister and asked, "What are we going to eat?"

Anna Elizabeth chuckled as she began, "You and your teenage appetite." She then sobered and continued, "I was thinking that we could make your favorite."

Liam narrowed his eyes at her for a moment as he pointed out, "I love all food, Anna Elizabeth. You'll have to be more specific."

Everyone chuckled before Anna Elizabeth and Liam bid their parents goodbye. The two of them then headed into the complex and up the stairs.

When they stepped foot in the apartment, Liam's blue-green eyes lit up at the stuff on the counter.

"Chocolate-chip pancakes? Awesome!"

Anna Elizabeth giggled before she told him, "I thought that you might like that."

Liam immediately went over the counter and grabbed a bowl. Anna Elizabeth quickly followed him and told him, "Patience, Liam. You don't even know how to exactly make them."

"I would have figured it out," Liam argued.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she started helping him. Despite his original protest, Liam was actually enjoying cooking with his sister.

She then asked him, "Do you remember when we made Mom and Dad breakfast for their anniversary?"

Liam smiled as he responded, "Yeah, I do." He then furrowed his brows and continued, "You wouldn't let me do anything except beat the eggs and pour the juice."

"You were, like six. I didn't want you to burn yourself," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Liam looked thoughtful for a moment before he reminded her, "I was eight, you dork."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes and shook her head at him. She then told him, "Ah, of course." When she tried to ruffle his black hair, he pulled away and groaned, making her giggle.

She then teased him, "At least your attention span is a bit longer now than it was back then."

Liam only rolled his eyes in response. He then defended, "My attention span was just fine."

"If that was the case, I wouldn't have had to tell you three times to pour the orange juice," Anna Elizabeth refuted.

"That's only because I was hungry, and I wanted to help cook," Liam told her. Soon after, both of them burst out laughing.

Once they had stopped, Liam became serious and told her, "We've had fun, and you've always been there for me. You're a cool sister – even if you're actually my cousin."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him as she replied, "Well, I will always be there for you. Having you for a little – I mean, younger,brother has been great." She then hugged him from the side.

When they pulled apart, Liam continued stirring the pancake batter. Within a few minutes, it was ready to go on the griddle. Anna Elizabeth turned on the stovetop, and Liam then poured the batter.

A few minutes later, six pancakes were sitting on two plates – three for each of them. Liam set them on the table while Anna Elizabeth grabbed the orange juice and a couple of glasses.

As soon as they had started eating, Liam's cell phone beeped in his pocket.

"Ooh, is that your girlfriend?" Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but playfully tease her younger brother.

She expected him to roll his eyes or offer a sarcastic comment, but she was surprised when he looked down at his plate to try to cover the fact that he was blushing. He also started scratching behind his ear.

Her eyes widened, and the widest grin enveloped her face as it clicked. She then told him, "By your reaction, I'm guessing that you do like someone."

Liam suddenly looked up and blurted, "She isn't my girlfriend!"

"Who isn't your girlfriend?" Anna Elizabeth asked with a knowing smile.

"Oh, uh…um… no one," Liam stammered before he stuffed the pancakes in his mouth in hopes that it would prevent him from having to answer any questions.

Anna Elizabeth tilted her head to the side and studied her brother for a moment. She decided to just let him be… for now. So, she took a breath and told him, "You don't have to tell me right now if you don't want to, Liam."

Liam swallowed and took a sip of orange juice before he offered the blonde a grateful smile in response.

 

When Anna Elizabeth and Liam had cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes, they retreated to the living room.

Anna Elizabeth looked at the time before she told her brother, "We have at least two and a half hours before Mom and Dad get back. Wanna watch a movie?"

Liam nodded before he questioned, "Do you guys, like, have any of the superhero movies?"

"You do realize that's a rather broad category," Anna Elizabeth began. She then continued, "I think that Evie has a few because Leo likes superheroes, but she brought them with her to D.C."

"Oh, okay," Liam said, as he slumped his shoulders in disappointment.

Anna Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him as she pointed out, "Unless I've missed something in the last few weeks, you were never the biggest fan of superheroes. Pirates were always more your speed."

"Well, Grace loves them, so I thought I'd give them a shot," Liam replied. When he realized what he had admitted, his face turned bright red.

Anna Elizabeth had to bite her lip to keep from laughing before she told him, "Looks like you've inherited Dad's subtlety."

Liam looked thoughtful for a few minutes before he sighed and told her, "It doesn't even matter if I like her anyway."

"Of course it matters – why would you say that?" Anna Elizabeth asked him.

"She's a year older than me. And because of Mom and Dad's stupid rule, I can't date until I'm sixteen. By that time, Grace will probably already be dating someone her own age," Liam answered. He then crossed his arms and sank back into the couch.

Anna Elizabeth took a few moments to consider her words. She then took a deep breath and told him, "That isn't necessarily going to happen, Liam. She may just have a crush on you, too."

"Well…" Liam began but trailed off. Anna Elizabeth's eyes widened once more, and she playfully punched his arm.

"Hey! What was that for?" he protested.

"For not telling me any of this until now!" Anna Elizabeth told him.

"It just happened yesterday," Liam defended. His sister looked at him expectantly, so he sighed and continued, "I sort of blurted it out when we playing basketball at the park yesterday. I didn't mean to, but it kind of came out."

Anna Elizabeth smiled and shook her head as she told him, "You really are like Dad." Her brother still had a worried expression, so she observed, "I take it that she told you that she liked you, too. But the problem is that you guys are still too young to actually date."

"Well, yeah," Liam replied. He then told her, "And because her parents have that same stupid rule. But even when she's old enough, I still won't be. What are we supposed to do?"

"Well, I think you guys will just have to hang out as friends until you're 16. And if she still likes you, you can ask her out," Anna Elizabeth offered.

"But waiting is so stupid. It makes me look like a dork," Liam complained.

"I actually think it's kind of sweet of you," Anna Elizabeth tried to assure him.

Liam rolled his eyes as before he pointed out, "Of course you'd think that – you're a girl. It isn't sweet, it's lame."

Anna Elizabeth once again had to bite her lip to keep from laughing before she once again tried to assure him, "Hey, listen. Waiting is so totally worth it – trust me. And if you like Grace as much as you say you do, you'll still like her two years from now. And she'll be worth it."

Liam took a few minutes to take in his sister's words before he finally agreed, "I guess you're right." A moment later, he groaned and asked her, "You aren't going to turn this into some kind of gross birds and the bees talk, are you?"

This time, Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh. She then reassured him, "There is absolutely no danger in that. That is Dad's job."

Liam breathed a sigh of relief before he changed the subject, "Can we watch the live-action Peter Pan? It's actually pretty cool."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she questioned, "And which Peter Pan would that be? You do realize there's more than one live-action version."

Liam furrowed his brows as he thought for a moment. He then answered, "The one with Tiger Lily."

"Liam, she's in, like, all of them," Anna Elizabeth pointed out with a roll of her eyes.

The dark-haired teenager groaned again as he thought for a moment. He then replied, "You know what I mean. The one where she's cool. She is like awesome with a sword, and she yells at Captain Hook the whole time."

"Ah, that one," Anna Elizabeth replied with a grin, to which Liam rolled his eyes this time. She then got up to retrieve the movie and adjust the TV.

Just as Liam was skipping over the previews, there was a knock at the door. "Hmm. I wonder who that is," Anna Elizabeth wondered aloud. Liam simply shrugged his shoulders and never took his eyes from the TV.

Anna Elizabeth then got up and answered the door. She was surprised to see her fiancé standing behind it.

"Calin? What are you doing here?"

"I thought I would surprise you," Calin answered before he planted a sweet kiss on her lips, one that she gladly returned.

As they pulled back, Anna Elizabeth smiled at him. He then glanced at the living room, where he saw the previews being skipped through.

"Is someone here?" Calin asked confusedly.

"Just Liam. Mom and Dad had to run some errands in Mist Haven, and he didn't want to go. So, they left him with me. We were just about to watch the newest Peter Pan movie," Anna Elizabeth explained.

"Oh, okay. Well, we could always hang out another time," Calin suggested.

"That's ridiculous, Calin. Liam doesn't even care – just come watch the movie with us," Anna Elizabeth told him.

Calin nodded at her before she ushered him into the apartment.

Just as they began walking toward the living room, they distinctly saw and heard a door slam. Anna Elizabeth and Calin furrowed their brows before the blonde went to go check on her brother.

When she arrived in Evie's room, Liam was sitting on the bed. He was facing the wall and his arms were crossed.

"Liam, what's the matter?" Anna Elizabeth worriedly asked.

"Nothing," Liam spat angrily.

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she went to go sit down beside him. He immediately scooted away from her.

"Come on, Liam. You know you can tell me," she coaxed.

"I said that nothing was wrong! Just go be with your fiancé!" Liam yelled at her. He then shifted on the bed where his back was toward her.

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she got up and left the room. When she walked back into the living room, Calin asked, "Is he okay?"

"He will be," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"Are you sure? He sounded really upset," Calin pointed out.

"Trust me. He just needs time for that temper of his to cool off, and he needs time to think. He'll come around, and he'll be ready to talk," Anna Elizabeth assured him.

Calin tilted his head at her for a moment and looked at her curiously. He then observed, "You're really good with him, you know."

Anna Elizabeth shrugged off his comment when she replied, "He's my brother."

Just then, her cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID before she answered, "Hello, Mrs. Green."

The blonde listened for a couple minutes before she lightly chuckled and spoke, "I completely forgot that you borrowed it. I'll be right down."

When she hung up the phone, Calin asked, "Who was that?"

"One of my neighbors. She borrowed my cookie pan a couple weeks ago," Anna Elizabeth explained.

Calin nodded before she quickly kissed his cheek. She then grabbed her keys and headed out the door.

Calin then moved toward the kitchen to fix himself something to drink. He opened the refrigerator and found a pitcher of lemonade.

He poured himself a glass and sat down at the kitchen table. He occupied himself by listening to music on his phone.

Though his fiancée was in charge of the music for the wedding, she had wanted him to choose the song for their first dance as husband and wife. He had found what he thought was the perfect song, but he had yet to let Anna Elizabeth listen to it.

Just as the second verse rolled around, he saw Evie's bedroom door open. Liam slowly made his way into the kitchen.

Liam plopped down in the chair beside Calin. He crossed his arms on the table and laid his head on them. He then looked up at his future brother-in-law and asked, "Where's Anna Elizabeth?"

"She had to go and get something from a neighbor," Calin answered.

Liam nodded before he started drawing circles on the table with his fingers.

Calin watched the dark-haired teenager for a few moments before he took a breath and suggested, "I know I'm not your sister, but I'm still a pretty good listener if you want to talk about it."

Liam considered Calin's words before he slowly sat up straight.

He then took a deep breath before he spoke, "Just promise you won't think of me as a dork."

"I promise," Calin assured him.

Liam nodded before he began, "Well, it's just that I could have went with my parents, but I asked if I could stay with Anna Elizabeth."

Calin nodded before he keenly observed, "You wanted to hang out with your sister."

"Yeah," Liam admitted. He then elaborated, "It was cool. We were having fun. But then you showed up."

His eyes widened, and he quickly added, "No offense."

Calin couldn't help but smile at him as he told him, "None taken."

He then considered his words and continued, "Liam, I'm sure that if Anna Elizabeth had known that it was important to you to hang out, she would have told me. And I would have understood."

"I know," Liam simply responded.

Calin studied the teenager for a few moments before he told him, "I think the question here is why it was so important to you."

"Uh, no reason," Liam responded, as he scratched behind his ear.

"I've known you long enough to know that isn't the whole story. And that you're nervous," Calin responded.

Liam sighed before he admitted, "It's just that you and Anna Elizabeth are getting married. Things are gonna be different. And she isn't going to want me around," as he looked down at the table.

Calin felt sympathy for Liam. He considered his words carefully before he gently grabbed Liam's shoulder to make him look up at him.

He then spoke, "Listen, Liam. You're old enough to understand that Anna Elizabeth and I will want alone time. But that doesn't mean she won't make time for you. She goes to all of your baseball games, she helps you with your homework, and she does like hanging out with you. She is so proud of you, and she loves being your sister; things will change, but those two things won't. I can promise you that."

"Really?" Liam asked.

"Of course," Calin reassured him.

Liam smiled brightly before he told him, "Thanks, Calin." Calin nodded and Liam continued, "I'd like to hang out with you some too. I'm glad that you'll be my brother."

Calin smiled widely as he replied, "I'm pretty happy about it, too, Liam."

Liam's smile grew as he got up and pulled Calin in for a quick man-hug.

As they pulled away, Liam observed, "I'm gonna have to tell all of this to Anna Elizabeth, won't I?"

"Yeah, I think so," Calin responded with a grin.

"That won't be necessary," Anna Elizabeth told them as she came through the front door.

"You were eavesdropping?" Liam asked.

"Maybe a little," Anna Elizabeth began, as she gestured with her fingers. She then continued, "I opened the door, and I heard you guys talking. I didn't want to interrupt."

"So, how much did you hear?" Liam asked.

"Enough to know why you were upset," Anna Elizabeth told him.

She then went over to him and hugged him. As they pulled away, she took him by the shoulders and told him, "What Calin told you couldn't be more true. I will always have time for you."

Liam smiled brightly at her in response.

Calin had watched the scene with a smile, and an idea struck him.

He then told both of them, "You know, I think I've thought of something that both of you will love."

"And what would that be?" Anna Elizabeth asked curiously as she tilted her head.

"Well, I still haven't picked a best man," Calin began.

"You know I don't want to push, but you need to get on that, Calin," Anna Elizabeth told him, as she planted her hands on her hips.

Calin grinned at her as he told her, "I just decided."

He then turned his attention to Liam and asked him, "What do you say, Liam? Wanna be my best man?"

"Really?" Liam asked excitedly. He then scratched behind his ear and continued, "I mean, that would be cool."

"Great," Calin responded with a bright smile.

Anna Elizabeth then tightly hugged both of them.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth's phone beeped in her pocket. She quickly read the text message before turning her attention to her brother.

"Looks like Mom and Dad's errands didn't take quite as long as they thought."

"Okay," Liam responded. He bid Calin goodbye before he and Anna Elizabeth headed downstairs.

 

When Anna Elizabeth arrived back at her apartment, she saw her fiancé leaning against the kitchen counter.

She smiled brightly as she walked over to him. Before Calin had time to say anything, Anna Elizabeth grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him in for a passionate kiss.

As they pulled away, Calin caught his breath before he questioned, "Not that I'm complaining, but what was that for?"

"For being absolutely amazing with my brother. You did a great job at reassuring him, and he's so excited to be your best man," Anna Elizabeth responded with a bright smile.

Calin returned her smile as he told her, "It was nothing. You know that Liam is like a little brother to me, too," as he ran his fingers through her hair.

Anna Elizabeth smiled once more before she kissed him again, this time sweetly and tenderly.

As they pulled away, she grinned and surmised, "You know, it'd be a shame to let the movie go to waste."

Calin grinned as well as he told her, "Well, then, let's go and watch it."

They then made their way over to the couch and sat down. Anna Elizabeth curled into Calin's side, and he wrapped an arm around her waist.

He used his free hand to grab the remote. Before he could press play, Anna Elizabeth complained, "It's cold in here."

She then began moving herself from his grasp when he stopped her, "I'll get you a blanket."

Before she could be her stubborn self and protest, he got up and went to her room.

When he returned, he resumed his position on the couch. Anna Elizabeth snuggled back up against him before she covered herself with the blanket.

She then looked up and met his eyes before she told him, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," he replied. He then grinned and teased, "No comment about your independence?"

She rolled her eyes before she told him, "Just play the movie, Calin."

Calin chuckled before he did as she asked. As they watched the opening credits, he commented, "I've noticed that you've got a lot of boxes in your room."

"Well, Calin, people tend to pack when they'll be moving in a couple of months," Anna Elizabeth quipped.

Calin rolled his eyes before he told her, "Obviously. What I meant is that you still have a while before you need to pack."

"That's easy for you to say. You're not going anywhere," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Calin kissed her forehead before he told her, "Don't stress about packing or moving. It'll all be okay."

Anna Elizabeth nodded in response. She turned her attention back to the movie, but Calin could tell she was distracted.

So, he paused the movie before he adjusted his position in order to look at her.

He ran his fingers through her blonde curls as he asked, "What's wrong, Anna Elizabeth?"

She sighed before she told him, "I'm just worried about all my stuff actually fitting in your apartment. I never noticed it until I thought about us living there together. I'm not sure there's enough room for both of us."

Calin caressed her cheek as he tried to assure her, "Come on, now, we can make it work."

"Calin, your closet is not even half the size of mine, and you don't even own a chest of drawers. Not to mention you only have a twin-sized bed. Don't get me started on the rest of the apartment," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Calin had to keep from laughing before he told her, "I knew that I would be the only one living there, so I will admit that it's small."

Anna Elizabeth sighed, and he continued, "But I do think that you're exaggerating a bit. I still think we'll be able to live in the apartment."

"Comfortably?" she questioned.

"Yes," he answered before he planted another kiss on her forehead.

"If you say so," she replied. Calin knew she wasn't completely convinced, but she sounded more sure than she did earlier.

He then told her, "I think it's time for us to make a trip to Neverland."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she told him, "You're such a dork."

"Perhaps. But you agreed to marry me," he responded.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh at that, and Calin was soon laughing with her. Once they had stopped, they settled comfortably on the couch, and Calin pressed play.

 

That night, Calin had crawled into bed after taking a shower. As much as he wanted to go right to sleep, he knew it wouldn't happen.

Despite his assurances to Anna Elizabeth, he could see her point about the apartment. It was too small for two people. He had just enough room for his stuff - there's no way all of hers would fit too. It also didn't help that he wasn't the best at keeping everything neat and tidy.

He groaned as he rolled over on his back. Learning to live together would be challenging enough as it was without the feeling of being cramped. And what about when they had kids one day?

Calin exhaled deeply as he ran one of his hands over his face. It wasn't as if he planned on renting an apartment forever. He, and more importantly Anna Elizabeth, deserved a place that was their own. He wanted to give her everything, but he wasn't sure how he would pull this off.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

"Mate, I apologize for getting you up so early on Sunday, but I knew I would need a bit of help with this project," Killian told Calin.

"It's no problem - I really don't mind," Calin replied. He then chuckled slightly and continued, "I can't imagine that waking up Leroy on his day off would be a good idea."

Killian chuckled as well before he agreed, "Trust me, it isn't. I've made that mistake before. If you think that he's grumpy on a regular day, you wouldn't want to see him when he hasn't gotten enough sleep."

Calin chuckled once again before he and Killian settled in comfortable silence. The young man couldn't help but grin when his future father-in-law started singing along to the 80's station. That's exactly where Anna Elizabeth got it from.

A few minutes later, Killian pulled up at a house. He parked his truck before he and Calin both got out.

As they walked toward the door, Calin asked, "This is your brother's house, right?"

"Aye, that it is," Killian answered as he unlocked the door.

As they walked inside, Calin's eyes widened slightly at the various building supplies spread over the hardwood floor.

"It was never my intention to use this house for simply storage but when the warehouse is full, that's really the only option," Killian bemused.

"Well, it wasn't exactly our fault that one of the hardware stores went out of business and decided to give us the remainder of what they didn't sell," Calin pointed out.

"Aye. I suppose you're right," Killian admitted. He then took a breath and continued, "Let's get to work."

Calin nodded before he picked up a box of door handles and a box of nails before he headed toward the door.

 

A couple of hours later, Killian and Calin had loaded all of the supplies into the bed and the backseat of Killian's truck. Next stop was the warehouse, but both of them were in agreement that they needed a break.

Calin sat down at the square dining room table while Killian went to grab a couple of bottled waters.

As Calin sat there, he couldn't help but let his eyes roam the house. Truthfully, he had been doing so for the past two hours, and he was surprised that he managed to not be badly distracted from his task.

Despite the years of abandonment, the furniture, appliances, and the house itself was in good shape. Although, Calin suspected that was less to do with the house itself and more with Killian.

The house was beautiful. Moreover, it was spacious. Though Calin felt as though he was being entirely too presumptuous, he couldn't help but see himself and Anna Elizabeth in this house.

There was the kitchen, where they would cook and share meals. The living room, where they would watch their favorite movies and TV shows. The backyard, where they would sit on the porch and watch the sunset. The bedroom, where they would... Calin shook his head from his thoughts at that one. That was something he did not need to think about right now.

Just then, Killian came back through the door and walked over to the table. He sat down across from Calin before handing him the bottle of water.

Both of them took a healthy gulp before setting it down on the table.

Killian then told his future son-in-law, "Thanks again for helping me, mate. I appreciate it."

"No problem. I mean, that's what family is for," Calin responded, with a smile.

Killian genuinely smiled back at him before he said, "Speaking of family, I think it's great how you chose Liam to be your best man."

"Honestly? I think that's the easiest decision I've made when it comes to planning this wedding," Calin responded.

Killian grinned as he said, "It means a lot to the lad. I know he may act like he doesn't care because, well, he's 14, but he and Anna Elizabeth have always been close. And it means the world to him that he will be part of her wedding."

Calin smiled as he replied, "Yeah, I knew it would. He's my family as well. I also know how much it means to Anna Elizabeth - all I want is for her to be happy."

His daughter's words were playing in Killian's head as he studied Calin. He really did always put her first.

Killian offered a small smile as he told Calin, "You know, mate, you are entitled to think about your own happiness."

"Now you sound like Anna Elizabeth," Calin responded.

"Well, she's right. She's actually right a lot of the time, as you probably already know," Killian told him with a grin. Calin returned his grin in response.

Killian took a sip of his water before he became serious and said, "Look, I know that I'm protective of Anna Elizabeth, but I know you understand why. I will always protect her, but I know she's in good hands with you. For what's it worth, I'm happy that my little girl found someone who wants to give her everything."

Calin was surprised to say the least, and he didn't do the best job of hiding it. After a moment, he finally managed to reply, "Thank you, Killian. You have no idea how much that means to me."

"I think I might, Calin," Killian began. He then continued, "Just don't make me regret it."

Calin grinned as he responded, "You don't have to worry about that."

"Good," Killian stated.

He then looked around the house and bemused, "You know, sometimes, it doesn't feel like it's been over 20 years since I lived here."

"You lived here?" Calin asked confusedly.

"Aye. When I first moved to town. Liam let me stay with him until I was able to support myself," Killian explained.

Calin nodded, and Killian admitted, "You know, it's odd. I wasn't exactly fond of pretty much living off my brother. Don't get me wrong, I was more than grateful to him, but I felt like I was dependent on him and this house. Yet, I'm the one who owns it."

Calin took in his words before he empathized, "I know what you mean. The car I drive is my dad's. I simply got it after he and my mom were killed in the plane crash."

There was silent understanding between the two men. Killian reached over and squeezed Calin's shoulder before they both drank some more water.

Killian and Calin then stood up. Killian then joked, "Although, Liam probably thinks I'm a bloody idiot for just letting the house sit here. He probably thinks I should just sell it. He was a practical git."

Calin couldn't help but chuckle at Killian's words. Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind. He bit his lip before he observed, "If you were to sell, hypothetically, most of the work seems cosmetic."

Killian raised an eyebrow at him as he replied, "Aye. It wouldn't take long to fix it up."

"About how long?" Calin asked nervously.

"Not even a month," Killian answered matter-of-factly.

"That's, uh, really good, um, news," Calin replied, as he bit his lip again.

Killian raised an eyebrow again as he asked, "Why are you so interested in the house?"

"Um, I'm not really. I was just asking to make conversation," Calin covered.

"Calin," Killian stated as he crossed his arms.

Calin took a deep breath before he admitted, "Well, it's just that last night, Anna Elizabeth brought up the fact that my apartment is too small for both of us. I tried to tell her not to worry about it and that we would make it work. But then, when I was trying to go to sleep last night, I started thinking that she was right. We wouldn't be comfortable. I mean, the only way we'd be able to even sleep is if she slept on top..."

Calin trailed off as Killian put a hand up to stop him. "That is my daughter you're talking about. I think it'd be best for you if you didn't finish that sentence."

Calin's eyes widened slightly, and he couldn't help but blush. Even though he did mean it innocently.

He took a deep breath before he continued, "Uh, um, well, the point is that we wouldn't be comfortable. Moreover, my apartment isn't exactly practical for two people."

"So, you want to live here. And I'm assuming that you just came up with this idea," Killian surmised.

"Yes to both," Calin answered. Another idea came to mind about convincing Killian, so he started rambling, "I think I want to surprise Anna Elizabeth on our wedding... day. You could help me fix it up. I have enough in savings to live off of, so you wouldn't have to pay me until the house is finished. Just put my paycheck toward the house. If it isn't enough, I'll work extra hours after we get back from Greece. I think it'd mean a lot to Anna Elizabeth because it's her parents' house. Well, her... uh... biological parents..."

"Are you going to stop talking so I can answer you?" Killian interrupted.

"Oh, uh, yeah," Calin said.

Killian offered a small smile as he told him, "I think it's wonderful that you want to do this for Anna Elizabeth. She does deserve a real home. I'd be more than happy to help you fix up this house for both of you."

Calin smiled brightly as he responded, "Thank you so much!" Killian returned his smile as he told him, "You're welcome, Calin."

Calin then began, "So, the payments..." but Killian cut him off.

"That won't be necessary."

Calin furrowed his brows in confusion as he asked, "What do you mean?"

"Consider it a wedding present," Killian answered with a small smile.

It took a moment for it to register for Calin. His eyes widened as it hit him, and he protested, "Killian, you can't just give us this house. It's too much. I have to pay something."

"My daughter's happiness will be payment enough," Killian told him sincerely.

Calin smiled genuinely at him as he responded, "That won't be a problem." He then told his future father-in-law, "Thank you, Killian. For everything."

Killian smiled and nodded at him in response. Calin then stated, "I guess we'd better get those supplies to the warehouse.

"The younger man then began walking toward the front door, but Killian's voice stopped him. "Wait, Calin."

Calin turned to face him, and Killian took a deep breath. He then spoke, "The day that every father simultaneously dreads and looks forward to is the day that his little girl tells him that she's getting married. You can't possibly imagine how hard this has been for me. But it makes it a bit easier knowing that you are the one that Anna Elizabeth is marrying. The best man that I could possibly want for a son-in-law."

Killian then pulled Calin in for a hug. As they pulled away, Killian grinned and told him, "We do have to get back to work," as he slapped Calin on the shoulder.

Calin smiled brightly at Killian in response as he nodded. The two of them then headed toward the truck.

As they drove away, Calin couldn't help but look through the back window at the house. He couldn't wait for the day when he brought Anna Elizabeth home.

Chapter Text

Calin was awoken by a pillow being thrown at his head. “What in the hell?” he cursed under his breath.

“Hey, little brother,” a familiar voice greeted. Though Calin couldn’t see him, he knew that his brother was smirking.

Calin rolled over on his back and replied sleepily, “Hey, Ethan.”

Ethan then gestured to the pillow he had thrown and teased, “I didn’t know blue and orange flowers were your thing.”

Calin sat up before he rolled his eyes. He then explained, “It’s Anna Elizabeth’s.”

Ethan grinned as he began, “I kind of figured.” He then observed, “But if you guys aren’t going to live here, why is her stuff here?”

“Because she’s here quite a bit. I’m pretty sure she would notice the lack of boxes in the apartment,” Calin pointed out.

Ethan nodded before he asked, “So, how far along are you and her dad on the house?”

“We finished it yesterday,” Calin answered.

“So, you’re still going to surprise her?” Ethan questioned.

“That’s the plan,” Calin told him.

Ethan then tilted his head and gave Calin a questioning look, so Calin asked, “What?”

“It just seems like a lot of effort. You don’t even know if she’ll like the house,” Ethan responded.

“I know she’ll be ecstatic,” Calin replied.

“It still seems like a lot of work,” Ethan pointed out.

Calin rolled his eyes again before he got out of bed. He then told his brother, “It’s more than worth it when you’re doing it for the woman you love.”

“Which I couldn’t possibly understand because I’ve never been in love,” Ethan remarked sarcastically.

Calin sighed before he apologized, “You know I didn’t mean anything by that, Ethan.”

Ethan sighed as well before he sincerely replied, “I know.”

Both of them then heard a knock at the door. “Will you answer that while I get dressed?” Calin asked his older brother.

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Ethan mocked saluted before turning and leaving the room. Calin rolled his eyes before shutting the door.

Ethan went to go open the door to find Alex and his three-year-old daughter, Kimberly, standing behind it.

“Uncle Ethan!” Kimberly shouted. She then reached out her arms toward him.

“What is she doing?” Ethan asked Alex.

Alex had to refrain from rolling his eyes as he answered, “She’s excited to see you – she wants a hug.”

“Oh,” Ethan responded. He then awkwardly hugged the little girl.

“Real hug, Uncle Ethan,” Kimberly told him, as she planted her small fists on her hips. Alex had to bite his lip keep from laughing.

Ethan furrowed his brows and looked at Alex, who replied, “Don’t look at me. She gets it from her m-o-t-h-e-r.”

“You know, one day, you’re going to have to tell her that she l-e-f-t,” Ethan pointed out.

Alex didn’t have a chance to answer because Calin emerged from his room. Kimberly forgot all about Ethan.

“Uncle Calin!” the raven-haired little girl shouted as she ran to him.

Calin smiled and scooped her up in her arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he wrapped his arms around her small frame.

When they pulled apart, Kimberly immediately asked, “Where is Anna Elizabef?”

“She’s at her house,” Calin explained.

“Can I see her?” the little girl immediately asked with big brown eyes.

Calin smiled at her as he answered, “You’re going to stay with her while me, Uncle Ethan, Liam, and Daddy goes to get our suits.”

“Suits?” Kimberly asked.

“For my wedding,” Calin told her.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. Calin then let her down, and she ran back to her father.

“So, after we drop off the kid, we’re heading to the mall, right?” Ethan asked.

“After we drop Kimberly off, we’re picking up Liam,” Calin answered.

“Can’t he, like, drive?” Ethan asked.

“Ethan, he’s 14,” Calin pointed out.

Ethan shrugged and said, “I was driving when I was 14.”

“That only makes me feel bad for your dad and stepmom,” Alex teased.

Calin then grabbed his keys and phone before he told them, “Come on, guys, let’s go.”

 

When Alex knocked on Anna Elizabeth and Evie’s apartment, the latter opened the door in her scrubs.

“Oh, hi, you must be Evie – the maid of honor?” Alex observed.

Evie smiled at him as she answered, “That’s me. And you must be Alex. Calin has told me a lot about you – it’s nice to finally meet you.”

She then turned her attention to the little girl holding her father’s hand and told her, “And you must be Kimberly.”

Kimberly nodded excitedly before she asked, “You live here?”

“I do. Anna Elizabeth is my cousin – and one of my best friends,” Evie answered.

The little girl nodded before she asked, “Since Anna Elizabef will be aunt, will you be?”

Evie looked as though she had to think about it before she answered, “I’d love to be.”

“Yay!” Kimberly cheered. She then wrapped her arms around Evie’s legs in a hug. Evie smiled as she returned the little girl’s hug.

As they pulled away, Kimberly asked, “What kind of outfit is that?”

Alex then intervened, “I think that’s enough questions, sweetie. I’m sure that Evie has to get to work.”

“Your daddy is right. Why don’t you go see Anna Elizabeth – she’s setting up the Little Mermaid,” Evie added.

Kimberly’s eyes lit up. She quickly bid goodbye to Alex before rushing past Evie and into the living room.

Both Evie and Alex chuckled before she observed, “She is such a sweet and precious little girl.”

Alex smiled as he responded, “She my whole world.” He then became serious and bemused, “But I’m afraid of how she’ll act when she learns that her mother abandoned her.”

He then ran his fingers through his hair and apologized, “I am so sorry. I am dumping all of my problems on you, and we just met.”

“No, it’s truly alright. I understand all too well,” Evie began. At Alex’s confused expression, she continued, “My ex-husband left me a week after I found out that I was pregnant. I came home from work one day, and all of his stuff was gone. That’s the last I ever heard from him, except for sending him the divorce papers.”

“I am so sorry he did that to you,” Alex told her sincerely. He then told her, “While it’s true that Kimberly was a bit unexpected, Laura did at least try to be a mother. I knew she wasn’t happy, though. I shouldn’t have been shocked when she told me that she wanted to leave, but it still hurt like hell that she wanted to go. But the hurt I had was more for our daughter than for myself.”

“Because in the long run, it is them who will be hurt the most,” Evie conceded. Alex nodded at her, and she then asked, “How old was Kimberly?”

“Three months old,” Alex answered. He then admitted, “Some days are harder than others, but I’ve managed to move past the hurt.”

“That’s the only way we can do what is best for our kids,” Evie told him. She then took a breath and continued, “I really do have to get to the hospital. It was really nice meeting you, Alex.”

“And you, Evie,” Alex told her. He then apologized, “I know it’s probably still hard for you to talk about your ex, and I really didn’t mean to bring up any past hurt.”

“It really wasn’t a problem,” Evie reassured him. She then told him, “Though I wish the circumstances were better, it’s nice having someone to talk to who actually understands what I went through.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Alex agreed with a smile. Evie smiled back at him before she began heading toward her car.

She stopped to turn around and tell him, “I’ll tell the guys to give you a couple more minutes to run through everything with Anna Elizabeth.”

Alex offered her a grateful smile before he headed in the house, but not before stealing one last look at the brunette.

When Alex arrived inside, Anna Elizabeth was fixing herself and Kimberly something to drink. “That isn’t milk, is it?” Alex asked worriedly.

Anna Elizabeth turned around and showed him the jug of apple juice. She then smiled and assured him, “I remembered that she’s lactose intolerant.”

Alex smiled as well before he reminded her, “She’s also allergic to…” “Peanuts,” Anna Elizabeth finished with a smile.

“I’m sorry – I know it’s only been a few weeks since we were here last, and that you’re more than capable of watching her, but I still worry about her,” Alex explained.

“It’s alright – I understand completely. Aside from the fact that she’s your little girl, you’re raising her by yourself. You have every right to be protective,” Anna Elizabeth told him with an understanding and reassuring smile.

“Well, thank you for watching her,” Alex began. He then told her, “I’ll see you later, Anna Elizabeth.” Anna Elizabeth bid him goodbye as well before he headed out of the door.

When Alex climbed back in Calin’s corvette, Ethan asked, “So, who was that cute brunette?”

“It was Evie – Anna Elizabeth’s cousin,” Alex answered.

“So, you admit that you think she’s cute,” Ethan surmised.

Alex paused at his friend’s words for a moment before he nervously admitted, “Uh, well, I suppose that she is really pretty –especially her smile.”

“Dude, you don’t have to be nervous about it. It’s okay if you’re attracted to her,” Calin told him.

“It isn’t just her looks. I can tell that she’s really sweet, and that she’s an amazing mother,” Alex added.

“You can tell all that just from meeting her one time?” Ethan asked.

“When your priority is your child, you tend to notice more than just a woman’s looks,” Alex pointed out.

Ethan replied, “I guess.” He then asked, “You gonna go for it?”

“You know it isn’t that simple, Ethan. I don’t live here, and I can’t just leave the high school. More importantly, I can’t let Kimberly grow attached to someone…” Alex began, but he was cut off.

“Okay, dude, I get it,” Ethan responded albeit a bit annoyed.

“Cut him some slack, Ethan. He does make some valid points,” Calin defended.

Ethan sighed as he thought over their words. He then resigned, “I can see you guys’ points. I know that my dad thought he was doing what was best, but sometimes I still wished he wouldn’t have let me meet his girlfriends unless he knew there was a possibility that she could be my mom. I always ended up really liking them, and then one day, he’d tell me I wouldn’t see them again.”

“So, there is some actual compassion and understanding in that heart of yours,” Calin sincerely told his older brother.

“Yeah, well, don’t get used to it. I have a reputation to uphold,” Ethan replied with a lopsided grin.

Both Calin and Alex shook their heads and rolled their eyes in response just as Calin pulled up at Emma and Killian’s.

Calin blew his horn, and a couple of minutes later Liam was walking down the walkway. Emma was watching from the door.

Liam hopped in the backseat. Emma smiled and waved at all of the guys before Calin pulled back onto the street and drove toward the town line.

Liam narrowed his eyes as he began listening to the music that Calin had playing. He then complained, “Do we have to listen to this 80’s stuff? It’s all my parents and Anna Elizabeth listen to.”

Calin chuckled before he changed the station to a modern rock station. “Is that better?” he asked the teenager.

“Totally,” Liam responded.

“You know, I’m surprised that you’re into this. I figured that One Direction would be more your speed,” Ethan joked.

Liam rolled his eyes as he rhetorically questioned, “Do I look like a girl to you?”

“I think that’s debatable considering that your sister is better at basketball than you are,” Ethan responded.

“That’s only because she’s taller than I am,” Liam defended.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Ethan told him with a smirk.

“Alright, Ethan, cut him some slack,” Calin intervened as he held back laughter.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on my side? I am your brother,” Ethan pointed out, mocking offense.

“Perhaps. But technically, Liam is my brother, too. And in two days, it’ll be official,” Calin told him.

Ethan crossed his arms and feigned annoyance while Calin, Liam, and Alex burst out laughing.

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 “How long do I have to wear this thing?” Liam complained as he tugged at the collar of the white button-down shirt.

Calin chuckled before he replied, “Only for a few hours.”

“You know, I have to agree with the kid. Suits aren’t exactly my thing,” Ethan added.

“I’m sure that both of you can suck it up for a few hours for Calin and Anna Elizabeth’s sake,” Alex told them.

He then said, “Speaking of Anna Elizabeth, I need to call her to check on Kimberly.”

“Dude, you called her on the way here, and she said that she had just laid Kimberly down for a nap. She’s probably still sleep,” Ethan told him.

Alex took a deep breath before he agreed, “I guess you’re right.”

“Anna Elizabeth used to always babysit me, and she was always cool,” Liam added with a shrug. At Alex’s smile and nod, the teenager announced, “I’m changing now.”

“Are you sure that the suit fits, Liam?” Calin asked,

Liam rolled his eyes as he pointed out, “I’m not a little kid, Calin. I think I can tell if this suit fits or not.”

Calin couldn’t help but grin as he replied, “I’m well aware that you’re a teenager, Liam. I just wanted to make sure that the alterations work.”

“Yeah, okay,” Liam simply responded before he headed back into his fitting room, and the rest of the guys soon went back into theirs.

When they were all dressed, and the suits were in hand, the owner of shop came up to Calin and asked, “Do the suits work?”

“Yeah, they do. Thanks,” Calin responded.

“You’re welcome,” the man began. He then smiled and added, “Congratulations on the wedding.”

Calin smiled in response before he asked, “Everything was paid for the last time we were here, right?”

“Yes, it was,” the man responded.

Calin thanked him once again before he, Alex, Ethan, and Liam headed out of the shop. As soon as they had stepped foot in the mall, Liam asked, “Where’s the food court?”

The rest of the guys laughed as Alex questioned, “Is there any time you’re not hungry, Liam?”

“No,” Liam responded with a shrug. The guys laughed once again before the four of them headed toward the food court.

 

When they all had sat down with their burgers, Ethan asked Calin, “So, how do you plan on moving those boxes out of your apartment?”

“Killian and Liam are going to help me move them the day after tomorrow,” Calin explained.

“And you’re sure that Evie won’t let the cat out of the bag?” Ethan questioned.

“She managed to keep the proposal a secret for me for those couple months I was working extra to pay for the ring, so I know I can trust her with this,” Calin assured him.

“Yeah, just don’t tell Aunt Mary Margaret,” Liam added before taking another huge bite of his burger.

“Why is that?” Alex asked curiously.

“Because she couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it,” Calin explained before he chuckled.

Everyone laughed as his words before Ethan asked, “So, are they going to help you move it before or after the concert?”

Alex punched Ethan in the arm, to which he complained, “Ow! Dude, what was that for!”

“So, a concert, huh? And what is this concert for?” Calin asked with a grin.

Alex glared at Ethan, who was still rubbing his bicep, before he answered, “Well, we know how much you and Anna Elizabeth love 80’s music…”

“Much to the annoyance of the rest of us,” Ethan added.

Alex rolled his eyes before he continued, “They’re having an 80’s music festival up here the day after tomorrow. It won’t be the original artists, but they have some pretty legit cover bands playing. We knew you guys would love it. It’s our version of a bachelor/bachelorette party.”

“That sounds awesome!” Calin told him. He then asked, “How exactly did you guys set this up?”

“You can thank your awesome older brother for that,” Ethan bragged before Alex intervened, “You should actually thank Alexandra and Jane. You know that they both live up here, and they’re the ones who saw the flyer in their favorite coffee shop several weeks ago.”

“They then contacted me, and we agreed to make a surprise for you and your bride-to-be. We also thought it’d be cool for all of us to hang out,” Ethan said.

“Although, I suppose keeping the surprise element is kind of pointless now,” Alex added, with another glare in the direction of Ethan, who simply shrugged it off.

Calin chuckled before he observed, “So, I’m guessing that Evie was in charge of keeping it from Anna Elizabeth.”

“You would guess right. I guess we’ll just have to tell her that she can tell Anna Elizabeth,” Ethan replied. He then looked over in Alex’s direction.

“Why are you looking at me?” Alex asked.

“Because you have a thing for Evie, dude,” Ethan pointed out.

Alex rolled his eyes before he told him, “I just met her today, and I do not have a thing for her. We’ve been over this.”

“Keep telling yourself that, buddy,” Ethan teased, before turning his attention to the teenager, “Although, Liam here won’t be present for this concert. I seem to remember a resounding ‘no’ from your parents.”

Liam rolled his eyes as well before he corrected, “I’m going to a baseball game with my dad and uncles, you dork. It’s the last game of the World Series, and it’s between the Red Sox and the Mets. It’s a huge game.”

“I think I can let it slide, Liam,” Calin assured him with a smile. Liam smiled back in response before he took a sip of his soda.

Calin then addressed his half-brother and best friend, “Thank you guys for helping set up this concert. I think we’ll all have an awesome time.”

Ethan and Alex smiled back at him before everyone resumed eating.

 

Once they had all finished their burgers, and they had thrown away their food wrappers, they began making their way back toward the entrance of the mall.

As they passed a children’s clothing store, Alex stopped and announced, “I need to get some sandals for Kimberly to wear to the wedding.”

“Some what?” Ethan asked.

“Shoes,” Alex explained.

Calin then told him, “We’ll wait right over here,” as he motioned to several benches grouped together.

Alex nodded before he went inside the store, and Calin, Ethan, and Liam made their way over to the benches.

Before they could even sit down, Liam heard someone calling his name. He looked over to see Grace waving at him.

He smiled and waved back before he told Calin, “I’m gonna go talk to Grace.”

“That’s fine. Just don’t take too long,” Calin replied. Liam nodded in response.

Before the teenager could leave, Ethan teased, “You gonna introduce us to your ‘friend’?”

Liam rolled his eyes before he pointed out, “She is just my friend. And to answer your question, no, I’m not.”

“Why? Do you think that we’ll embarrass you?” Ethan asked.

You would,” Liam replied before walking over to Grace.

Calin couldn’t help but chuckle before he observed, “You know, Ethan, he has a point. We’ve only known each other for six months, yet you’ve made up for all those years you couldn’t be the embarrassing older brother.”

Ethan grinned as he responded, “Well, that is my job.” Calin grinned back before he shook his head in response.

Just then, he glanced over at Liam and Grace, and he saw the teenaged boy engaged in what appeared to be a confrontation with another teenage boy.

“Damn it,” Calin cursed. “What’s wrong, bro?” Ethan asked, and Calin motioned toward Liam.

“That doesn’t look good,” Ethan observed. Before Calin could walk over there, the situation seemed to be resolved when the other guy walked away, and Calin could see Grace holding Liam back.

A couple of minutes later, Liam bid goodbye to Grace, and he walked back over to Calin and Ethan.

“You seemed to be having a heated discussion with that guy,” Calin observed.

“Oh, you, uh, saw that?” Liam asked as he scratched behind his ear.

“Yeah, we saw that. You wanna tell me what it was about?” Calin asked.

Liam sighed before he answered, “He’s just some guy at school that always gives me a hard time because he was able to make the high school baseball team last year, and I didn’t.”

Calin studied Liam for a moment before he observed, “That isn’t the only thing, is it.”

“No,” Liam began. He then took a deep breath and scratched behind his ear before he admitted, “He also has a crush on Grace, and he always tries to make me look bad in front of her.”

“Ah, I see,” Calin replied in understanding. He then surmised, “And this time, you had enough of it.”

“It’s not like I punched him,” Liam told him. He then muttered, “Even though I wanted to.”

Calin, however, heard him, and stated, “Liam.”

Liam rolled his eyes before he pointed out, “You’re not my dad.”

Calin sighed before he told him, “I know I’m not. I’m just trying to help.”

“I know. Mom is always telling me I need to watch my temper,” Liam resigned after a moment.

“Well, speaking as someone who got into my fair share of fights, it isn’t worth walking around with a black eye,” Ethan added.

“For once, my brother makes a good point,” Calin told the teenager.

Liam nodded before he told them, “Dad tells me the same thing – considering he’s the one I got the temper from.”

“Well, then, little bro, you better not do anything to Anna Elizabeth,” Ethan told him, and Liam couldn’t help but chuckle.

Calin only buried his face in his hands and shook his head just before Alex walked back over to them. He slipped his phone back into his jeans pocket and asked, “You guys ready to go?”

The three guys nodded before Calin observed, “I’m guessing that Kimberly is alright,” with a knowing smile.

Alex smiled back as he answered, “She’s great. She asked if it was okay if Anna Elizabeth can already be her aunt.”

“She might as well. The wedding’s only two days away,” Ethan pointed out with a shrug. He then asked his brother, “You nervous?”

“No. Why would I be nervous?” Calin responded.

“Yeah. Just wait until you see her walking down the aisle, and then you have to recite your vows without making a bumbling idiot of yourself,” Alex teased.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Calin sarcastically told him. He then added, “While my vows are certainly more important than my proposal, I managed to get through it without looking like an idiot.”

“Well, maybe there’s hope for you yet,” Ethan joked. Calin rolled his eyes while Alex and Liam laughed. The four of them then continued their way to the mall entrance.

As they were walking, Calin couldn’t help but smile and shake his head at how Ethan kept teasing Liam about Grace, which also lead to him teasing Alex about Evie. Both of them vehemently argued that they were just friends, but Ethan saw right through both of them. However, Alex soon decided to give Ethan a taste of his own medicine about his lack of a girlfriend. Though Ethan didn’t seem to think so, Alex, as well as Calin and Liam, thought it was hilarious.

One thing was for sure – all of them, include Calin himself, were a little rough around the edges, and they all had their faults. But Calin wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world. For a long time after his parents died, Calin never believed he would fill that void of family. But now, he had more family than he thought was possible, and that included three of the best brothers that a guy could ask for.

Chapter Text

"Will the guys be here shortly?" Anna Elizabeth asked as she put her cereal bowl in the sink.

"Yeah," Evie answered. She then added, "Alex is coming earlier so that we can drop off Leo and Kimberly at the daycare center."

"That must have taken some convincing," Anna Elizabeth surmised.

"It did," Evie admitted. As she took Leo from his high chair, she continued, "But I'm just as protective over my little man."

Leo then giggled as Evie tickled him on his stomach.

A knock was then heard at the door. Evie answered it and greeted, "Hey, Alex. Hey Kimberly," with a smile.

"Hey, Aunt Evie!" Kimberly exclaimed.

Both Alex and Evie chuckled before the brunette turned her attention to her little boy, who was curiously looking at Alex and Kimberly.

Evie then explained, "Leo, this is… Uncle Alex. He's Uncle Calin's best friend."

Leo nodded before he exclaimed, "Hey, Uncle Alex!"

Alex smiled as he responded, "Hey, Leo." He then ruffled the boy's hair.

Kimberly then announced, "I Kimberly!"

Leo then repeated, "Kimery?"

Evie and Alex both had to stifle a chuckle, and Alex was both relieved and surprised that his daughter didn't correct Leo.

Evie then asked, "Shall we get to the daycare?"

"Daycare?" Kimberly asked.

"Yes, sweetie. You're going to stay at the daycare while Daddy hangs out with your aunts and uncles," Alex explained.

Kimberly nodded before she asked, "Gonna play with Leo?"

Alex smiled as he answered, "You'll get to play with Leo."

"Yay!" both Kimberly and Leo cheered while their parents chuckled.

Kimberly then took off for Alex's truck, and Leo began struggling to get out of his mother's arms.

Alex chuckled as he observed, "I think it's safe to say they're excited."

"I think you're right," Evie agreed. She then told him, "I think we should get going."

Alex nodded, and he and Evie then headed toward their vehicles.

 

As soon as they stepped foot in the daycare center, Leo excitedly shouted, "Ms. Ashey!" Ashley grinned as she replied, "Hey, Leo."

The little boy then looked up at his mother and asked, "Play, Mommy?"

"Yes, sweetheart, you can go play," Evie told him before she let him down.

Before he ran off, he went over to Alex. He looked up and asked, "Kimery play?"

Kimberly then added, "Can I, Daddy?"

"Is it okay if she plays?" Alex asked Ashley.

"Of course," Ashley assured him with a smile.

Both kids cheered before they ran off to the playroom.

Alex watched his daughter with a slightly apprehensive expression. He then felt Evie squeeze his arm in reassurance.

Evie then turned her attention to Ashley and said, "Let me introduce you to my friend Alex. He and Calin have known each other since they were kids."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Alex," Ashley told him as she stuck out her hand. As Alex shook it, he said, "It's nice to meet you, too."

As they let go, Ashley continued, "I can promise you that your little girl is in good hands here. You have nothing to worry about."

"Am I that obvious?" Alex asked.

"Afraid so," Ashley told him with a grin. She then became serious and continued, "I just need you to fill out these papers regarding Kimberly. It covers any medical information that we need to be aware of."

Alex nodded before he took the papers from her. He quickly filled them out and handed them back to Ashley.

Ashley read over it before she asked him, "Does Kimberly like to drink soy milk?"

"Yeah. She loves it with her cereal, and she can't eat cookies without it," Alex answered with a slight chuckle.

Ashley smiled at his words before she explained, "There are a couple more kids that stay here who are also lactose intolerant, and they both like the vanilla-flavored soymilk – they drink it during snack time. Will Kimberly drink it?"

"That's actually the only kind she will drink," Alex told her.

Ashley nodded before she told them, "If that's all, I should go help with the kids." Evie and Alex both nodded before they watched her go.

Evie then turned to Alex and asked, "You ready to go?"

Alex took a deep breath before he answered, "Yeah."

When they reached the parking lot, Evie assured him, "Ashley's been doing this a long time. Kimberly will be fine."

"So you've said," Alex told her with a grin. Evie grinned back at him before he became serious and continued, "Thank you for all you've done to help me with being okay with leaving Kimberly here."

"Of course. I understand that it's not easy to leave your child, but Kimberly is in good hands." Evie replied.

"I know she is," Alex responded.

"Well, that's what friends are for," Evie told him with a genuine smile. Alex returned her smile in response.

They lingered for a few minutes longer than necessary when Evie then looked down and pushed a piece of brown hair behind her ear.

She then told him, "Uh, we should go. I'm sure that Ethan and Calin have arrived at the apartment by now."

"Yeah, I think you're probably right," Alex agreed before he cleared his throat.

Both of them then got in their vehicles and headed back to Evie and Anna Elizabeth's apartment.

 

When Evie and Alex walked through the door, they immediately heard Ethan's voice, "Can you two explain to them that they have to wear the t-shirts?"

"Dude, come on – bride and groom t-shirts?" Calin stated.

"It's cheesy, even for me," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

"It is cheesy, but you have to admit that it's pretty cute," Evie told them.

Both Calin and Anna Elizabeth rolled their eyes before he said, "I'm not sure that cute is the right word."

"It's only for a few hours. I think you guys can indulge your wedding party," Alex told them.

"And it'll be fun," Evie added with a grin.

"Fine," both Calin and Anna Elizabeth finally resigned.

"About time," Ethan stated as he threw the shirts to them.

Anna Elizabeth then went into her room, and Calin went into Evie's so that they could change.

When they stepped out, Anna Elizabeth admitted, "I guess the shirts are kind of cute."

"See? Was that so hard to admit?" Ethan teased.

"Yes," Anna Elizabeth told him, and Calin chuckled.

Calin then told his brother, "I told you that she was stubborn." This resulted in a slap on the arm from his fiancée.

Alex, Evie, and Ethan all had to hold back laughter before Evie said, "Alright guys, we have a music festival to get to."

Everyone else nodded before they headed out the door and to their vehicles.

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By the time they arrived at the festival, it was nearly lunch.

Anna Elizabeth looked around before she announced, "I see food vendors over there," as she pointed.

Calin chuckled before he pointed out, "I think we should wait on Alexandra, Jane, and Gia."

"There's no need to wait – we're already here," they all heard from behind them. They turned around, and Evie and Anna Elizabeth immediately wrapped Alexandra and Jane in a hug.

As they pulled back, Anna Elizabeth told them, "It's great to see you guys." "You too, Anna Elizabeth," Alexandra replied.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she asked, "Where's Gia?"

"She had to take a call from work. There were a few things she had to take care of regarding the latest adoption case she's been working on," Jane explained.

Anna Elizabeth nodded as Evie surmised, "I wasn't sure Gia would ever find what she wanted to do, but I think that working with the foster care system and overseeing adoptions is just the ticket."

"I agree – I think it's perfect for her. And she loves it," Jane agreed. She then reached to grab something out of her purse when she realized that she didn't have it.

"Oh, dear – I'm afraid I left my purse in the boot. I'll be right back," she told them before heading back to the parking area.

"She left her purse in the what?" Alexandra asked confusedly.

"The trunk," Anna Elizabeth clarified. She then explained, "The English refer to the trunk of the car as the boot."

Alexandra nodded, but she couldn't help but roll her eyes. She then pointed out, "She's lived over here for, like, fifteen years – you'd think she'd use our expressions."

"Dad and Aunt Belle have lived over here since they were kids, and they still use English expressions at times. I'm not sure there's much hope for Jane," Anna Elizabeth replied with a slight chuckle.

"Especially considering that you're not even English, and you use their expressions," Calin teased her.

"Like when?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"When you're mad," Calin and Evie answered at the same time, making everyone chuckle. Evie then added, "You know it's true. 'Bloody' becomes your favorite adjective."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle as she admitted, "Well, what can I say? I am my father's daughter," making everyone laugh once more. She then became reflective and added, "Both of them."

Jane and Gia then returned, and a puzzled Ethan asked, "What do you mean 'both of them'?"

Anna Elizabeth and Calin looked at him with wide eyes as Anna Elizabeth asked, "Are you serious, Ethan?"

"Yes, I'm serious," Ethan answered with utmost sincerity.

"Dude, I'm pretty positive we went over this when we first met," Calin pointed out.

"This is just a guess, but I was probably more focused on the fact that I was meeting my half-brother than the blonde girl he brought with him," Ethan told him seriously. He then thought a moment and teased, "Although, I was trying to figure out how you dragged her across two states to meet me when she was just your girlfriend."

"I'm not sure she was ever 'just my girlfriend'," Calin began as he reached over to take Anna Elizabeth's hand in his. He then added jokingly, "But for the record, it was all Anna Elizabeth's idea to come with me."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "You never said anything otherwise, Calin."

"Because I had learned better than to try to argue with you," Calin told her with a grin. Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes again while Calin kissed her temple.

"I think that's something we all have learned better than to do," Gia teased as she offered a lopsided grin. Her words made everyone chuckled.

The bride-to-be then told them, "Okay, you guys, you all are supposed to be celebrating Calin and I get married. That's the whole point of this – not talk about my arguing."

"You know, she is right. We are all celebrating the love of our two best friends," Alexandra said with a bright smile.

"God, now you sound like Ms. Sappy Love Story over there," Gia complained as she motioned to Anna Elizabeth with her hand. However, her smile then turned genuine as she continued, "But for what it's worth, I am glad you found a guy to make you so happy."

The happy couple smiled brightly at her words as Calin squeezed her hand lovingly and kissed her cheek.

"And on that note, I think we should grab some food before we go check out these bands," Alex announced.

Everyone else nodded in response before they all headed toward the food vendors.

As soon as they had sat down at a large picnic table, Ethan spoke from across Anna Elizabeth to get her attention, "Hey, little sis."

Anna Elizabeth looked up to face him before she asked, "Yeah, big bro?" with a grin.

He grinned before he observed, "You know, you never did explain what you meant earlier – when you talking about both of your fathers."

"Oh, I guess I didn't," Anna Elizabeth realized. She then thought over her words before she spoke, "Well, my parents aren't my parents."

"So, you were adopted?" Ethan surmised. "Not exactly," Anna Elizabeth told him. At his confused expression, she decided to continue.

She took a deep breath as she began again, "You see, when I was four years old, my parents were killed in a car accident. Uncle Killian was my dad's brother and became my guardian upon their death. Aunt Emma was his best friend, and they soon realized they were in love. I was five when they got married. Two years after that is when she found out she was pregnant – I started calling them Mom and Dad all the time about a year or so after that."

Ethan took a moment to consider her words before he sincerely told her, "I'm sorry about your parents."

"It's really okay – it was a long time ago," Anna Elizabeth assured him. She then admitted, "I do miss them sometimes, but I know they'll always be with me."

Calin kissed her forehead while everyone else offered a small smile at her words. Alexandra then observed, "Well, I think that Elsa would be so happy about this wedding, especially since Anna Elizabeth is wearing her dress."

"Alexandra!" Jane scolded. The blonde looked taken aback as she asked, "What?" "Don't you know it's bad luck?" Jane responded.

"Seriously? No one is superstitious," Gia pointed out with a roll of her eyes.

Calin stifled a chuckle before he added, "Even if we were, it's bad luck to see the bride in her dress before the wedding. And I haven't, so we're all good."

"Oh. I suppose that I must have gotten wrong," Jane admitted.

"Obviously, Ginger," Ethan told her.

"My name is Jane, you twit," she pointed out. Though they tried to hold it in, everyone else soon burst out in laughter. Jane and Ethan even joined in.

Once they had sobered, they all went back to eating. Anna Elizabeth took a bite of her corndog before she observed, "Well, guys, the food is good here."

"You think all food is good, Anna Elizabeth," Evie pointed out with a roll of her eyes. The blonde simply shrugged her shoulders in response.

"Speaking of food, are you guys gonna feed us at your wedding tomorrow?" Ethan asked.

"No, Ethan. We're gonna starve our wedding guests," Calin answered sarcastically.

"There's no need for sarcasm," Ethan replied.

"I learned from the best," Calin told him with a grin, and Ethan rolled his eyes in response, making everyone chuckle.

Alexandra then observed, "So, I take it that Ruby and Granny are catering?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she teased, "Why? Are you too good for a small town diner now?"

Alexandra only grinned and shook her head before she replied, "Well, there are a lot of amazing restaurants in this city, but none of them make grilled cheese and onion rings quite as good as Granny does."

"I think I would have to second that," Jane added with a smile.

"Both of you sound like my mom. I swear she could eat grilled cheese every day," Anna Elizabeth said as she chuckled.

"She pretty much does," Calin said, as he chuckled as well.

Evie then added, "Yeah. When Aunt Emma babysat for me one day a few weeks back, she ordered a grilled cheese to go, and Leo wanted to try a bite of it. Now, he always asks for it."

This made everyone chuckle before Gia asked Alex, "What about your kid? Does she like grilled cheeses?"

"Well, she does love them, but she has to have them made with dairy-free cheese because she's lactose intolerant," Alex explained.

"Poor little lass. I'm sure that she isn't fond of that," Jane bemused.

"Well, considering that I found out when she was a baby, she really doesn't remember not being lactose intolerant, which is a good thing. I just have to keep a keen eye on what she eats when we go out," Alex explained.

Gia and Jane nodded while Ethan surmised, "That sounds like a lot of work, dude."

"You think everything that involves more than mixing drinks is a lot of work," Alex replied.

"Hey – bartending may not be the most glamorous job, and it doesn't require a college education like the rest of you guys' jobs, but it pays the bills. That's good enough for me," Ethan defended.

"Well, as long as your happy, bro, I think that's all that matters," Calin surmised with a shrug before taking a bite of his burger.

"Just like you are working with your soon-to-be father-in-law," Ethan responded.

Calin narrowed his eyes before he told him, "I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or serious."

"Welcome to my world," Alexandra chimed in.

Ethan rolled his eyes at her comment before he sincerely spoke, "I'm actually being serious, Calin. I think it's awesome that you were able to find some great people who could be your family after you lost your parents and that I could be part of it."

Calin smiled genuinely at his brother as he slapped him on the back. He then spoke, "Thanks, Ethan."

Ethan smiled back as well before he spoke, "Alright, that's about all the sappiness I can take."

Everyone rolled their eyes before Evie pointed out, "And just how do you plan on getting through the wedding tomorrow?"

"Because Calin is my brother – that's how," Ethan responded matter-of-factly.

Anna Elizabeth shook her head before she spoke, "Don't let his tone fool you – he really does have a big heart. After finding that letter from his father about his mother, Ethan was the one who reached out to Calin."

"Well, it's not every day you discover that you have a little brother out there," Ethan tried to play off.

"Whatever you say, Ethan," Anna Elizabeth told him with a grin that let him know she didn't believe him for one second. Ethan pretended not to see it and simply went back to eating.

Everyone else shook their heads in response before they resumed eating as well. Alex, however, inconspicuously whispered something in Evie's ear that made her giggle, though she was careful to keep it discreet.

Although, it wasn't quite discreet enough for Gia not to notice the whole exchange. The brunette then subtly leaned over and whispered to Anna Elizabeth, "Is it just me or does Evie have the hots for single daddy over there?"

Anna Elizabeth had to make quite the effort not to laugh at Gia's wording before she responded, "I think she might, but she doesn't want to admit it."

"I'm assuming that's because of her jerkface baby daddy," Gia surmised.

"You'd be right," Anna Elizabeth admitted. She then added, "Alex went through similar hurt with his ex-wife. So, it's safe to say that both of them are rightly cautious."

Gia nodded before she observed, "So, they're once bitten, twice shy?"

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she asked, "Did you really just turn this into an 80s song reference?"

Gia grinned before she told her blonde friend, "It must be all the time I've spent with you," with a grin. Anna Elizabeth only shook her head before she went back to eating.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

When they all had finished eating, they began walking toward the concert area. Once they had settled in a spot, the concert was beginning.

"Are you guys ready for some music?" the lead singer of the first band shouted. A wave of "yeah!" and "woo!" erupted from the crowd.

The lead singer then announced, "Awesome! I thought we'd start off with some Starship."

The rest of the band then cranked up the drums and electric guitar, and the sound of "We Built This City" filled the outdoor concert space.

"Of course they would play this song," Jane observed with a chuckle.

"We swear we had no idea," Gia added, as she chuckled as well.

Calin and Anna Elizabeth both laughed before he surmised, "Maybe it is only a coincidence, but you have to admit that's it's pretty perfect," as he squeezed Anna Elizabeth's hand.

"I think that it's absolutely perfect," Anna Elizabeth added before she kissed her fiancé's cheek.

Alexandra couldn't help but gush at the couple as she suggested, "I say this calls for the story."

"What story?" Ethan asked with a dumbfounded tone.

Alexandra rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "The story of how they met."

"And this is relevant because?" Ethan questioned.

"You mean aside from the fact that they're getting married tomorrow?" Jane rhetorically asked.

Calin couldn't help but chuckle before he defended his brother, "Lay off guys. We all know that Ethan isn't the most romantic of people."

"While that's true, that wasn't my reasoning this time," Ethan began. At everyone's confused faces, he continued, "I just don't see why you guys are bringing up during this song. I don't get it."

There were eye rolls, chuckles, and the shaking of heads among the group. Alex then observed, "He obviously doesn't know how you guys met."

"Obviously," Gia pointed out as she rolled her eyes once more.

Anna Elizabeth then addressed her soon-to-be brother-in-law, "You see, Ethan, I was singing this song when Calin and I first met."

"Ah, I see," Ethan teased. He then teased, "And you swept my little brother off his feet."

The others laughed while Calin admitted, "That's pretty much what happened."

"Care to elaborate?" Ethan asked.

"Well, we were both walking to the library on campus. I kept hearing singing from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw this beautiful girl with blonde curls. I quickly looked forward before she could catch me looking at her."

But he was interrupted by Alex's joke, "Or before you ran into something and looked like an idiot in front of Anna Elizabeth."

Everyone unsuccessfully tried to stifle their chuckles while Calin rolled his eyes.

He then continued, "I kept listening to her sing, and despite my best efforts, I found myself continuing to look over my shoulder. She did catch me looking at her, and stopped singing. She then smiled at me, and I knew I was a goner."

"Especially when he slowed his pace to try to talk me," Anna Elizabeth added with a giggle.

When she had stopped giggling, she continued, "He was so nervous. He kept biting his lip and fumbling his words. I thought it was really cute."

Calin then picked it up, "But I managed to overcome my nerves, and we agreed that both of us were born in the wrong decade with our love of 80's music and classic cars," with a smile.

"And a few months later, he gathered up the courage to ask me out. And as they say, the rest is history," Anna Elizabeth finished, as she mirrored Calin's smile.

Everyone returned the couples' smiles as Ethan observed, "So, this whole festival is just a big wave of sentimentality for you guys, isn't it?"

"Pretty much," Anna Elizabeth and Calin spoke at the same time. Both of them then laughed.

When they had sobered, Ethan commented, "While I'm sure that we all enjoyed story time, I would appreciate listening to the music without any interruptions."

"Dude, I thought you didn't like 80's music?" Alex pointed out.

"I do prefer music from this decade, but 80's music is cool in moderation," Ethan clarified.

There were giggles and eye rolls among the group. Anna Elizabeth then spoke, "Well, guys, I do have to agree on some level. I say it's time to rock out," with a bright smile.

Everyone nodded in agreement before they turned their attention to the stage where the band was playing the first few chords of "Jessie's Girl".

 

The crowd was clapping and cheering as the band finished up their set with "Eye of the Tiger."

The lead singer then thanked the crowd. He then introduced the next act – a Bon Jovi cover band. There were more cheers from the enthusiastic crowd before the band began packing up. Everyone then dispersed for the brief intermission between bands.

Gia then addressed Anna Elizabeth, "I bet you're pretty excited, huh, blondie?" with a knowing grin.

The bride-to-be returned her friend's grin as she replied, "You know how much I love Bon Jovi."

"I think that we all know that," Jane teased before she chuckled. The rest of the group laughed as well.

Gia then asked, "You still have that Bon Jovi shirt, Anna Elizabeth?"

The blonde nodded before she elaborated, "Yeah. My mom and dad were huge fans." She then joked, "I'm almost positive they played it for me in the womb."

Everyone laughed once again before Evie added, "And if you think about how much Uncle Killian sings, it's no wonder that you sing as much as you do, Cuz. I feel like I'm at a concert all the time.

"Geez, little bro, I hope can deal with that," Ethan quipped.

Both Calin and Anna Elizabeth rolled their eyes before the groom-to-be pointed out, "Dude, considering that she was singing the moment I met her – and practically every moment since then – I don't think that'll change once we live together. Besides, I happen to love hearing her sing."

"If you say so," Ethan commented. Everyone else rolled their eyes at his words.

Jane then asked, "Speaking of living together, do you have everything moved, Anna Elizabeth?"

"I kept one bag of essentials, and then there's everything that's on my bed. But besides that, all my stuff has been moved to Calin's apartment," Anna Elizabeth answered.

"Good luck moving all of that tonight," Ethan muttered.

Unfortunately, Anna Elizabeth heard him and asked, "Why would my stuff need to be moved tonight?"

Luckily, Calin quickly recovered, "What my brother means is that I'm just moving your boxes around so there will be room to walk. I doubt that falling on my face would make for a romantic wedding night."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but smile as she agreed, "I suppose it wouldn't."

She then noticed that the crowd was filling back in and the band was warming up. She then announced, "Guys, they're about to start playing."

Everyone else nodded and turned their attention to the stage.

Evie then whispered to Alex, "He cannot keep a secret! He almost gave away the house surprise!"

Alex chuckled lightly before he agreed, "Yeah, I know. If there's one thing I've learned in the short time I've known him, it's to not tell him anything that's meant to be secret."

Evie giggled before she added, "I'd have to agree with you."

Just as they were turning their attention back to the concert, Ethan teased, "Are you two gonna flirt or watch the show?"

"We weren't flirting!" Alex and Evie both defended. Their words, however, proved to be meaningless when their faces turned a slight red.

"Yeah, right," Ethan commented as he rolled his eyes. He then turned his attention back to the concert.

Evie and Alex couldn't quite look at each other and simply began singing along to "Wanted Dead or Alive".

Calin then lightly hit his brother's arm to get his attention. Ethan then asked, "What?"

"Lay off Alex and Evie, dude," Calin told him.

Ethan rolled his eyes before he replied, "It's not hurting them."

"You just want to be annoying," Calin quipped.

Ethan sighed before he spoke, "Would you believe me if I said I just wanted them to be happy?"

Calin narrowed his eyes as he studied his brother for a moment. He then spoke, "You're actually being sincere," with a bit of surprise.

"You know, I am capable of that on occasion," Ethan told his brother.

"And it always throws me off guard, especially since it's been twice in one day," Calin admitted.

"Good. I'd hate to be predictable," Ethan began with a smirk. Calin shook his head before Ethan became serious and admitted, "Look, dude, when I contacted you, I wasn't sure what to expect. But then you showed up on my doorstep a few weeks later, and I got to know you, I couldn't have asked for a better brother."

Calin smiled genuinely at Ethan, and he returned it. They pulled each other in for a quick hug before pulling away.

Ethan then continued, "And I also lucked out in another way, too."

"What do you mean?" Calin asked confusedly.

Ethan then motioned to Anna Elizabeth, who was currently singing at the top of her lungs, before he stated, "I also got a pretty amazing sister. And tomorrow, you guys will make it official, and I couldn't be happier to be part of it."

Calin smiled once again before he suggested, "You know, dude, maybe you should let people see that heart of yours more often."

Ethan shrugged before he teased, "But then there'd be no one to embarrass you in front of your kids one day."

Calin shook his head and grinned as he replied, "You ridiculous, you know."

"That I do," Ethan responded with a grin before he turned his attention back to the concert. Calin shook his head before he did the same.

 

The crowd sang along to Def Leppard, Poison, Chicago, REO Speedwagon, Whitesnake, and everyone in between for the next few hours. The closer was a Bryan Adams cover band, and they had just finished "Summer of '69".

The lead singer then announced, "Alright, ladies and gents, to close out the festival, we thought we'd play something for all of the couples out there. I hope you guys enjoy this – here's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You".

Calin then turned to Anna Elizabeth and asked, "Care to dance?

She smiled brightly as she answered, "I'd love to."

Calin returned her smile before he wrapped his arms around her waist. He pulled Anna Elizabeth close to him, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Her blue eyes wandered, and she observed, "It seems that our friends have gone M.I.A.," with a chuckle.

Calin chuckled as well before he pointed out, "Can you blame them?"

"I guess not," she agreed. She then rested her head on his shoulder and wistfully stated, "This was the song that my parents danced to for their first dance at their wedding."

Calin smiled at her memory before he surmised, "And let me guess – you were off to the side singing along."

Anna Elizabeth giggled before she told him, "You know it." She then became reflective and continued, "I thought that my mom looked like a princess, and I couldn't wait for the day I got to marry my prince."

She then lifted her head from his shoulder to look into his brown eyes and told him, "And tomorrow, I'll marry someone better than a prince."

"Who would that be?" Calin asked with a grin.

"My best friend," Anna Elizabeth told him with a bright smile.

Calin smiled back at her before pulling her in for a sweet and tender kiss. As they pulled away, he told her, "I can't wait to be your husband, Anna Elizabeth."

"And I can't wait to be your wife, Calin," Anna Elizabeth replied.

She then moved one of her hands from around his neck to cup his cheek and said, "And tomorrow, we'll dance to our song."

Calin smiled at her as he responded, "I knew the song was perfect for us because you are perfect to me."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at his words before she kissed him softly. When they pulled away, she took his face in her hands and told him, "I love you so much, Calin."

"And I love you just as much, Anna Elizabeth," he replied.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him once more before she laid her head on his chest. They slowly swayed along to the music.

 

Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for

I can't help it, there's nothing I want more

You know it's true

Everything I do

I do it for you

 

There's no love

Like your love

And no other

Could give me more love

There's nowhere

Unless you're there

All the time

All the way, yeah

 

Look into your heart, baby

 

Oh, you can't tell me it's not worth tryin' for

I can't help it, there's nothing I want more

Yeah, I would fight for you

I lie for you

Walk the line for you, yeah, I'd die for you

 

You know it's true

Everything I do,

I do it for you.

 

They danced along as the band played through the long version of the song. When it was finished, the band thanked everyone for coming to the festival. The crowd then began to disperse.

Anna Elizabeth and Calin found their friends at the picnic tables. When he saw them, Ethan announced, "Ah, there's the happy couple." They smiled at his words.

Jane then asked, "Did you two enjoy the concert?" with a bright smile.

"Oh, it was an amazing concert. I'm so glad you all thought of this," Anna Elizabeth replied with a smile.

"Yeah, guys. It was totally awesome," Calin agreed.

"Even though someone ruined the surprise," Gia stated with a glare toward Ethan. He rolled his eyes while everyone else chuckled.

"Even though my brother cannot keep a secret, I couldn't have picked a better way to spend time with my best friends," Calin sincerely told them.

"And we couldn't have planned anything better to celebrate you and Anna Elizabeth getting married. We all are so happy for you guys," Alexandra said.

"You two really are made for each other. He really does do everything for you, Cuz," Evie added with a grin.

There were no words spoken as Anna Elizabeth pulled everyone in for a hug, followed by Calin.

When they pulled away a moment later, Gia noticed the tears welling up in Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes.

"You're already crying, blondie? How do you expect to make it through the wedding tomorrow?" the brunette pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth wiped her eyes before she joked, "I know. I'm considering telling Aunt Belle to not even bother with mascara," with a slight chuckle.

Jane then responded, "I know you're joking, but I think that's a wise idea." Anna Elizabeth simply nodded in response.

Alex then added, "At the risk of more tears, we have a surprise for you guys."

Anna Elizabeth and Calin both furrowed their brows as they simultaneously asked, "What?"

Alex smiled as he moved his hand from behind his back to reveal a scrapbook. Anna Elizabeth gasped and covered her mouth with her hands as Alex handed the scrapbook to Calin.

"Guys, what is this?" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed when she uncovered her mouth.

"It's a scrapbook that we made for you guys. It's pictures of all of us," Evie explained.

"We started it shortly after you guys told us you guys were getting married," Gia added.

"Think of it as a wedding present," Alexandra chimed in with a bright smile.

"You guys really are the best friends that someone would want. Thank you guys so much for the scrapbook," Anna Elizabeth excitedly told them.

"This really is awesome, you guys. So, thank you," Calin echoed his fiancée's words.

"No problem. And there's blank pages in the back if you want to add more pictures," Alex replied.

Both Calin and Anna Elizabeth smiled in response. He then asked his brother, "How did you manage to keep this a secret?"

"Well, I had nothing to do with assembling to the scrapbook. So, after I sent my pictures with a few ideas for the scrapbook, I completely forgot about it until Alex went to go get it while you guys were dancing," Ethan admitted, with a shrug.

Everyone shook their heads and laughed at him while Ethan just shrugged once more.

The middle-aged concert promoter then came over to them and asked, "Hey, what did you all think of the show?"

"Honestly, it was pretty awesome," Ethan responded, and the rest of the group nodded their agreement.

The man smiled in response before he spoke, "Great. I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. Feel free to grab some food or a t-shirt. We're gonna be packing up in a couple hours. Let me know if you kids need anything."

Anna Elizabeth then piped up, "Actually, would you mind taking a picture of all of us?"

The man smiled as he answered, "I wouldn't mind at all." Anna Elizabeth smiled back as she handed him her phone.

Everyone then moved to get into position for the picture. Anna Elizabeth and Calin got in the middle while their friends surrounded them. They all smiled widely, and a moment later, the man snapped a couple pictures.

Anna Elizabeth then went over to the promoter and got her phone back. She thanked him for the picture, and he nodded in response.

He then told her, "Congrats on the wedding."

The blonde was confused for a moment until she remembered her t-shirt.

"Thank you," she replied with a giddy smile. He nodded before he went on his way.

When she returned to the group, Ethan was in the middle of an eye-roll worthy joke. When he had finished it, Anna Elizabeth giggled despite herself before she shook her head.

The eight of them then began making their way to their vehicles. Anna Elizabeth and Calin fell a bit behind the others as they walked hand-in-hand toward his car.

The bride-to-be couldn't help but play over today in her mind. She really felt like the luckiest girl in the world. She had the absolute best friends that anyone could ask for. All of them felt like her family. And come tomorrow, they, along with the rest of her loved ones, would be there to watch her marry the love of her life. Just like today, she knew that her and Calin's wedding would be a day to cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A/N: I really wanted another song for Anna Elizabeth and Calin to dance, but I couldn't find one that I was familiar with (and I happen to love Bryan Adams). Anyways, I hope you guys didn't mind. I hope you guys are all excited for the next chapter, which is the wedding! I have some really sweet and feelsy scenes planned that I know you guys will love. Until then, my lovelies!

Chapter Text

Anna Elizabeth slowly opened her blue eyes to find Leo standing beside her bed. When the little boy saw that she was awake, he exclaimed, "Hey, Aunt Anna Bef!"

Anna Elizabeth slowly and sleepily sat up. She then replied, "Hey, Leo," as she ruffled his brown locks.

Evie then stepped through Anna Elizabeth's door and scolded, "Leo, I told you not to bother your aunt."

Leo looked down disappointedly before he said, "I sorry, Mommy."

Evie nodded before she bent down on his level and told him, "It's okay, Leo. But next time, listen, okay?"

Leo nodded in response. He then asked, "Go play, Mommy?"

"You can go play," Evie began, but she was cut off by Leo starting to run out of the room. Evie gently grabbed his arm and continued, "I think there's something you need to say to Aunt Anna Elizabeth."

Leo then ran back over to the blonde and apologized, "Sorry woke up." He then wrapped his arms around her waist in a hug.

Anna Elizabeth hugged him back and kissed the top of his head. When they pulled away, she told him, "It's alright, Leo."

The two-year-old nodded and smiled before he ran off to play.

As Anna Elizabeth stood up from her bed, Evie offered another apology, "I really am sorry that he woke you."

The blonde waved off her cousin's words before she assured her, "Don't worry about it. It's not like I've slept much anyway – I'm too excited," finishing with a bright smile.

Evie returned Anna Elizabeth's smile in response. The brunette then sincerely said, "You deserve all the happiness today."

Anna Elizabeth offered another smile in response. Both of them then made their way into the living room, where Leo was on the floor playing with his cars.

Anna Elizabeth then furrowed her eyebrows and asked, "Why does it smell like Lysol and air freshener in here?"

"Oh, I just thought I'd give the apartment a cleaning," Evie answered.

"Cleaning, huh?" Anna Elizabeth responded with a smirk.

"Uh, yeah," Evie confusedly told the blonde.

"Well, it's just that when you're really nervous about something, you turn into Cleanzilla," Anna Elizabeth explained.

Evie couldn't help but roll her eyes at her cousin's joke. She then was quiet and contemplative for a moment before she responded, "What would I have to be nervous about?" as she pushed a piece of hair behind her ear.

"Oh, I don't know. A certain single dad, maybe?" Anna Elizabeth responded with a grin.

Evie tried in vain to hide her blush before she defended, "Alex and I are just friends."

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she told her, "This is me you're talking to."

"It's nothing," Evie responded, but she sounded as though she was trying to convince herself more than Anna Elizabeth.

Anna Elizabeth thought over her words before she keenly observed, "You're scared."

"You'd be scared too if your husband left you right after you told him that you were pregnant," Evie responded. Though she desperately tried to hide it, Anna Elizabeth heard the nonchalance in her voice.

The blonde then took a deep breath before she stated, "I think you're scared because you know that Alex could never hurt you like that. You know that he would never break your heart."

"And I've come to this realization in the two days that I've known him," Evie responded sarcastically.

Anna Elizabeth planted her hands on her hips before she told the brunette, "You're so stubborn."

"Yeah, well, it runs in the family," Evie replied. After a moment, both girls couldn't help but laugh.

When they had stopped, Anna Elizabeth began seriously, "Listen, Evie. You had this immediate connection with Alex. One that goes beyond your kids and divorces…"

Evie then interrupted and calmly spoke, "And that's what makes this – if there is anything – complicated. We have our kids to think about – it isn't just about us. Not to mention the fact that he lives in Connecticut."

Anna Elizabeth considered both Evie's and her own words, "You're right – it is complicated. No relationship is easy. But I'm not saying that you should jump into one. I'm not saying that you need to have your feelings figured out. And I'm not saying that you should ignore your reservations. But what I am saying is to follow your heart wherever it may lead."

Evie took in Anna Elizabeth's words and thought over them carefully. After a few minutes of silence, Evie took a deep breath and hugged Anna Elizabeth. When they pulled away, the brunette honestly spoke, "Thank you. I'll think about it."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she responded, "That is just the answer I was looking for." Evie smiled back in response.

They then saw Leo running over to them. He then asked, "Play, Mommy and Aunt Anna Bef?"

Evie and Anna Elizabeth exchanged a smile before the brunette answered, "We'd love to."

"Yay!" Leo cheered before he ran back and plopped down on the floor.

When Evie and Anna Elizabeth sat down, Anna Elizabeth said, "Oh! I wanted to remind you that my mom and Aunt Belle are coming over at ten."

Evie chuckled before she replied, "We still have a couple of hours to go. It's only a quarter until eight."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but chuckle lightly in response. She and Evie then began playing with Leo.

A few minutes later, the brown-haired boy walked over to the small table beside the couch.

He grabbed his sippy cup and took a sip of his juice. When he set it back down, he noticed the picture on the table.

He looked at it for a few minutes before he asked, "Mommy and Aunt Anna Bef?"

Evie grinned as she responded, "Yes, sweetie, that's us. That's when we went to a dance a long time ago."

Leo nodded before he asked, "Fun?"

"We had so much fun," Anna Elizabeth told him. She then tickled his stomach, making him giggle.

Leo then questioned, "More pictures?"

Evie smiled before she answered, "Yes, we have more pictures."

Leo clapped before he plopped down in Anna Elizabeth's lap.

When Evie returned with a photo album, the blonde questioned, "There aren't any pictures of C-h-a-s-e, are there?" with a hint of concern.

"No. Those have been put away," Evie answered her cousin.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before Evie moved to sit beside her and Leo. She then opened the album.

When they came to the first pictures, Leo furrowed his little brows and asked, "MM, Pa, and baby?"

"Yes, sweetie. That's me when I was a baby," Evie explained.

"Baby, Mommy?" Leo asked, still confused.

"Mommy was a baby at one time. That's how everyone comes here," Evie told him.

Leo seemed to understand as he nodded. He then looked up at Anna Elizabeth and asked, "Baby, Aunt Anna Bef?"

Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded at the little boy. She then turned a few pages and found a picture of Mary Margaret holding Evie and Elsa holding Anna Elizabeth, though it was clear that the little blonde was squirming.

Leo smiled and giggled at the picture. He then tilted his head as he noticed Elsa. He pointed at her before he then looked up at Anna Elizabeth and asked, "Who?"

The blonde considered her words carefully before she answered, "That is Aunt Elsa. She was married to my daddy's brother."

Leo nodded in understanding before they all continued looking at the pictures. The curious little boy asked lots of questions about the various photos.

They then came to the pictures of when Evie brought Leo home from the hospital.

Leo tilted his head and looked at one of the pictures. He then looked up at his mother and questioned, "Me?"

"That's right, sweetheart. That's you," Evie answered with a giggle. She then tickled his stomach.

Leo laughed before he pushed Evie's hand away. The little boy looked at the book for a couple more minutes before he got bored. He got up from Anna Elizabeth's lap and starting playing with his toys.

Anna Elizabeth and Evie continued looking at the photos. There were quite a few of them together.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she looked at the pictures. Her attention was drawn away when she heard Evie sniffle. When the blonde turned to face her cousin, the brunette was wiping her eyes.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Anna Elizabeth asked worriedly before she pulled Evie in for a hug.

As they pulled away, Evie wiped her eyes before she answered, "I'm okay. It's just that I realized that this is your last morning here."

Anna Elizabeth offered a sympathetic smile before she told her, "I'll miss you, too, Evie."

Evie then apologized, "I'm so sorry – today is supposed to be happy."

"Hey, don't worry about it. We're practically sisters, and I have loved being roommates these past two years," Anna Elizabeth assured her.

"Even though you spent several months being awoken by a crying baby?" Evie asked.

"Well, it was good practice," Anna Elizabeth joked. Evie shook her head before Anna Elizabeth became reflective and continued, "I really have loved living here with you and Leo. I love you both so much, and I'll miss you both so, so much."

"So, you never felt like it was burden? It was asking a lot with Leo," Evie pointed out.

"Of course not. I wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else," Anna Elizabeth told Evie as she squeezed her arm.

Evie smiled at the blonde before she pulled her in for another hug.

When they pulled away, Evie spoke, "You better come visit me."

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she responded, "You know I will." Evie smiled back in response.

Anna Elizabeth then questioned, "Do we still have cereal?"

Evie chuckled before she observed, "I'm surprised you haven't asked before now."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she went into the kitchen, and Evie put away the photo album.

As soon as Anna Elizabeth sat down with her Fruit Loops, she heard her cell phone beeping from her room.

Anna Elizabeth made a move to get up, but Evie called out, "I'll get it!"

When the brunette returned and handed Anna Elizabeth her phone, the blonde said, "Thank you."

Evie smiled and nodded in response before she returned to the living room.

When Anna Elizabeth read the text message, she couldn't help but laugh.

"What's so funny?" Evie asked as she came into the kitchen, with Leo walking along behind her, empty sippy cup in hand.

"Aunt Belle texted me saying that Colette and Matthew are wide awake and want to get ready for the wedding," Anna Elizabeth answered.

Evie chuckled as well before she observed, "I guess they're pretty excited."

"Yeah, I'd say so," Anna Elizabeth agreed. She then added, "We were the same way when we were kids."

"Were?" Evie teased with a grin. Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes in response before she went back to eating.

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"Hey, Anna Elizabeth!" Colette excitedly greeted as the bride-to-be opened the door.

"Hey, Colette," Anna Elizabeth responded with a bright smile.

Colette smiled back before she asked her mom, "Is it cool if I change into my dress?"

"It's still a little early. Myself, Aunt Emma, and Evie aren't changing until later," Belle explained.

"Please, Mom?" Colette pleaded.

Belle thought for a few minutes before she smiled and answered, "Alright. You can go ahead and get ready," as she stroked her daughter's long brown locks.

"Yes!" Colette exclaimed before she rushed to the bathroom, nearly knocking Emma over in the process.

"Sorry, Aunt Emma!" the pre-teen called out before shutting the door.

Anna Elizabeth chuckled before she ushered her aunt into the apartment. The brunette was shaking her head.

When Emma joined them, she chuckled before she observed, "Someone's excited." Both Anna Elizabeth and Belle nodded in agreement before they laughed.

Anna Elizabeth then observed, "I would have thought that eleven would be a bit too old to be a flower girl, but Colette is so excited about it."

"Well, you know how much she adores and looks up to you," Belle reminded with a smile. She then grinned and added, "And, according to Colette, since you were the flower girl in mine and her father's wedding, she had to be the flower girl in yours."

Emma and Anna Elizabeth both grinned before the former added, "It's hard to argue with that logic?"

She then asked, "Where's Evie and Leo?"

Anna Elizabeth answered, "She thought it'd be easier getting ready without an easily bored two-year-old running around, so she's dropping him off at Uncle David and Aunt Mary Margaret's."

"Ah, I see. I remember it was hard enough getting ready with an excitable five-year-old running around," Emma responded with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes while Belle laughed.

Colette then emerged from the bathroom in her aquamarine-blue dress. She walked over to her mother, aunt, and cousin before she asked, "How do I look, guys?"

They all smiled before Belle told her daughter, "You look absolutely beautiful," as she took Colette's hands in hers.

Colette returned her mother's smile as she replied, "Thanks, Mom."

Belle then let go of her daughter's hands and turned her attention to her niece.

The brunette smiled as she told Anna Elizabeth, "I think it's time to get this lovely bride ready for her wedding."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly in response.

A few minutes later, the bride-to-be had changed into a robe. She was sitting on her bed while Belle was sitting in a chair in front of her starting on the blonde's makeup.

Evie then came into the room and plopped down on the bed. Anna Elizabeth then asked, "Did it really take that long to drop off Leo?"

"Well, you guys know that the daycare center isn't open on the weekends, and Alex needed someone to watch Kimberly while he and the guys got ready," Evie explained.

"And you convinced him to let your parents watch her," Anna Elizabeth observed with surprise in her tone.

"Yeah – what's your point?" Evie questioned.

"I'm just saying that it seems like Alex will listen to anything you tell him," Anna Elizabeth told the brunette with a grin.

Evie pushed a piece of hair behind her ear before she defended, "He just trusts me when it comes to his child. It's called empathy."

"Sure," Anna Elizabeth teased before she chuckled while Evie blushed. Colette then couldn't help but chuckle while Emma and Belle shook their heads.

Emma then defended her niece, "Alright, you guys, I think that Evie deserves a break. I know from experience."

"If you're talking about you and Dad, that's a terrible example," Anna Elizabeth pointed out with a grin.

Emma furrowed her brows before she admitted, "I guess you have a point, kid." She then thought about her words and spoke, "But, seriously, I doubt that Evie wants any of us to play matchmaker."

Evie offered a satisfied nod in response. She then added, "I'm pretty sure Mom will be enough of a matchmaker for all of you. She's just preoccupied with Jamie and Megan right now."

Everyone laughed because they knew just how true that was.

Colette then piped up, "Is this Alex guy cute?"

"He's twice as old as you are," Belle pointed out with a grin.

"So are the guys in One Direction, and they're all really, really cute," Colette told her.

Emma giggled before she asked, "Does August know that his little girl has discovered boys?" with a teasing grin.

"I'm eleven," Colette defended with crossed arms. She then added, "And, no, Dad doesn't know because he'd just be all overprotective."

Belle then agreed, "He is overprotective, but he isn't as bad as Killian."

"I don't think anyone is as bad as Killian," Emma agreed with a chuckle. She then added, "Except maybe David."

"Oh, I completely second that," Evie commented, making everyone laugh.

"You should have seen him when I was dating Graham in high school. Sometimes, I swear he felt like my father instead of my older brother," Emma told them.

She then added, "It probably would have been worse if I had lived here when I was with Neal."

"So, I guess that Dad was lucky that he and Uncle David were friends," Anna Elizabeth surmised.

Emma nodded before she admitted, "David is pretty level-headed, though. He isn't quick to lose his temper."

"Unlike Dad," Anna Elizabeth added.

"Oh, he's always been like that. I'm not sure he'll ever change," Belle replied.

"What was my dad like?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"A lot like you," Belle answered with a smile. Anna Elizabeth returned it before the brunette continued, "Liam was also level-headed, and he was often the voice of reason – especially for Killian. He was always able to remain calm, cool, and collected, and he always a rock that we knew we could lean on."

"He sounds like he was a great brother," Evie surmised.

Belle nodded, and Anna Elizabeth added, "And from what I can remember, he was a great father."

"He was, and he was absolutely crazy about you," Emma told her daughter with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she felt tears well up in her eyes. She quickly wiped them before she joked, "It's a good thing you haven't started on my eyes yet."

Belle smiled as she assured her, "Don't worry – we have waterproof mascara." Anna Elizabeth smiled back at her aunt in response.

The bride-to-be then changed the subject, "Speaking of my parents, how is that you and Dad never met at their wedding?" addressing Emma.

Emma grinned as she responded, "We thought about that, too. We were both part of the wedding party, but we were in Storybrooke at different times."

"Because neither one of you lived here," Evie added.

Emma nodded before she continued, "And then at the wedding, our attention was focused on the bride and groom. We – being Neal and I – couldn't stay long at the reception because he didn't want to leave the coffee shop for that long."

"I still think it's weird that you two didn't meet," Evie commented.

"Well, I suppose they were meant to meet when they did," Belle offered with a smile.

Emma fought the urge to roll her eyes while Anna Elizabeth quipped, "Don't bother, Aunt Belle. We all know Mom isn't a romantic despite all the times she's been a bridesmaid, and Dad being…well, Dad."

Emma did roll her eyes before she pointed out, "I'm not opposed to romance, but I'll leave being a hopeless romantic to Mary Margaret and Anna Elizabeth."

"What can I say? It's all those Disney and fairytale movies I watched as a kid," Anna Elizabeth said.

"You just watched Ever After last night," Evie pointed out with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth grinned back before she defended, "I never said I stopped watching them," making everyone giggle.

Belle then added, "Well, I believe that today marks the beginning of your happy ending, Anna Elizabeth. And I couldn't be happier for you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back as she replied, "And I couldn't be happier to be marrying the love of my life."

"And you are the love of Calin's life, and I don't have any doubt that he will constantly show you how much you mean to him," Emma added with a bright smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back brightly in response. Belle then added, "Alright, Anna Elizabeth, you'll have to keep the smiles to a minimum because I'm going to apply your lipstick," with a grin.

The blonde nodded before she surmised, "And then you'll do my eyes. After that, it's my hair."

Belle simply nodded in response. She then pulled out the light pink lipstick and applied it to Anna Elizabeth's lips. After that, the brunette gave the bride-to-be a soft smokey eye to bring out the blue of her eyes. A bit of eyeliner and mascara was the finishing touch.

Belle then told her niece, "Alright, I'm finished. Do you want to see?"

"Of course!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed. Belle smiled before she offered the blonde a hand mirror.

Anna Elizabeth's expression turned into a bright smile as she took in her makeup. She then turned her attention to Belle and told her, "Thank you, Aunt Belle. I love it."

"You are most welcome," Belle replied with an equally bright smile. She then added, "And now it's time to fix your hair."

"Yeah," Anna Elizabeth responded a bit dejectedly.

"Hey, kid, what's wrong?" Emma asked a bit confusedly.

The bride-to-be sighed before she answered, "Well, my wedding hairstyle isn't that different from my regular hairstyle."

"But isn't that what you wanted? Something simple and elegant?" Evie observed.

"Well, yeah. But today, I'm supposed to be the most beautiful that Calin has ever seen me," Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Emma then adjusted her position to sit beside her daughter. She thought about her words before she spoke, "Listen to me, Anna Elizabeth – this is only the wedding jitters talking. You know that Calin thinks you are absolutely beautiful – you already take his breath away. And nothing – and I mean nothing – will change his mind."

Anna Elizabeth then wrapped her mother in a crushing hug. As they pulled away, the bride-to-be spoke, "Thank you, Mom. I'm so glad that you're here with me – I don't know what I'd do without you."

Emma smiled as she responded, "I'm always here for you." Anna Elizabeth smiled back in response.

She then looked around the room and noticed that Evie, Belle, and Colette had vacated the room.

She and Emma smiled before the latter called out, "You guys can come back in."

When the three of them filed back in, Evie asked, "Everything alright?"

Anna Elizabeth smiled widely as she answered, "It's perfect." She then turned to Belle and told her, "Let's do something with these curls."

Belle smiled brightly before she nodded. Anna Elizabeth then moved the chair out from the bed and sat in it. Belle, with hair supplies in hand, then went to work.

 

Twenty minutes later, Anna Elizabeth's hair was ready. With the help of hair gel and mousse, Belle had the bride-to-be's curls laying smoothly down her back. Part of it had been pulled to the side with Elsa's diamond clip.

Belle then stepped back, and Anna Elizabeth turned to grab the hand mirror.

When she saw her hair, Anna Elizabeth gasped, "Oh, it's beautiful! Exactly what I wanted," with a bright smile.

"I'm so glad that you love it," Belle replied as she returned her niece's smile.

Emma then stroked her daughter's blonde curls as she told her, "Let's get you into your mother's dress."

Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded in response.

While Emma got the dress and veil out of the bag, Belle and Colette put away the makeup and hair supplies.

They then all heard a knock at the door. Evie announced, "That'll be the girls. I'll be right back." Everyone nodded before Evie left the room.

Belle then asked, "Anna Elizabeth, where is that bag that had your extra clothes and other items?"

"It's on the kitchen table," she answered as she helped her mom with the dress. Belle nodded before she and Colette left the room.

Anna Elizabeth then slipped out of her robe and put on the dress. She moved her hair out of the way before Emma zipped it.

When she had finished, Emma commented, "That was a lot simpler than my dress was. I think it took Mary Margaret like 20 minutes to lace up mine," with a slight chuckle.

Anna Elizabeth lightly chuckled as well before she surmised, "I guess my mom like things simple."

"Yeah – simple and elegant," Emma told her daughter with a bright smile. Anna Elizabeth smiled back in response just as everyone filed back in the room.

"Oh, you look absolutely lovely," Jane commented.

"Totally. Calin won't be able to take his eyes off of you," Gia agreed.

"Thanks, you guys," Anna Elizabeth replied with a smile.

Colette then asked, "Can I put your veil on, Anna Elizabeth?"

"Of course," Anna Elizabeth answered.

The bride-to-be then sat down in the chair as Emma handed Colette the veil. The eleven-year-old carefully placed it in Anna Elizabeth's hair.

As Colette stepped back, she beamed as she spoke, "You are so beautiful. I hope I'm as pretty as you when I get married."

"I'm sure you will be," Anna Elizabeth told her cousin with a smile as she stroked the pre-teen girl's hair.

Belle then chimed in, "Which will be a long time from now." Colette rolled her eyes before she continued, "I seemed to have left my dress at the house, so we'll have to be going."

Colette then quickly hugged Anna Elizabeth and bid goodbye to everyone else. She then headed out the door.

Belle said goodbye to everyone else before she stopped at Anna Elizabeth. The brunette tightly hugged her niece, and Anna Elizabeth hugged back just as tightly.

When they pulled back, Belle smiled and spoke, "You really are so beautiful, Anna Elizabeth. I know that Liam and Elsa are looking down, and they are so incredibly happy for you. As am I – you are an amazing young woman, and I'm so glad that I got to be part of your special day."

"Thank you, Aunt Belle. I'm glad I got to share it with you, too," Anna Elizabeth replied with a smile.

Belle smiled back before she left the room and headed out of the apartment.

 

About thirty minutes later, all of the bridesmaids were ready, as well as the mother of the bride.

When Anna Elizabeth saw them, she exclaimed, "You guys are all so beautiful!"

"Not nearly as beautiful as the bride," Alexandra replied with a smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before Jane announced, "Now I think it's time for the tradition."

"What tradition?" Anna Elizabeth asked confusedly.

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," Evie answered.

"Guys, you didn't have to," Anna Elizabeth told them.

"We wanted to, blondie," Gia responded with a grin. Anna Elizabeth grinned back in response.

Alexandra then stated, "You've already got the old and borrowed covered, so we have the new and the blue."

Jane then handed Anna Elizabeth a sterling silver necklace with a music note on it. The note had little diamonds covering it.

"Since music brought you and Calin together, we thought the necklace would be perfect for you to wear on your wedding day," Jane told her.

Anna Elizabeth offered a genuine smile before she placed the necklace around her neck. She clasped it before adjusting it. She looked down at it and smiled once again.

When she lifted her head, Evie spoke, "And now for the something blue."

"And don't you dare offer some sarcastic remark about your eyes or your bouquet," Gia added.

Anna Elizabeth only giggled in response. Evie only shook her head before she handed her friend a dried blue daisy.

"I hope you don't mind that I took this," Evie began with a chuckle. She then sobered and continued, "Calin got you a bouquet of blue daisies for you guys' first date. You saved this flower and put it in a frame with a picture of you and Calin."

Anna Elizabeth looked down at the flower before she looked back up. She then smiled and told the girls, "Thank you guys so much for the necklace and for the flower. They're both perfect, and I love the gesture." She then pulled all of them in for a group hug.

As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth blinked back tears before she said, "Alright, we have a wedding to get to."

"Without your shoes?" Jane asked.

"Or bouquet?" Alexandra added.

Emma then intervened, "You girls go on ahead. I'll help Anna Elizabeth finish getting ready." The four of them nodded before they headed to their vehicles.

As Anna Elizabeth slipped on her white flats, Emma asked, "You okay, kid?"

"Does feeling like you have a hoard of butterflies in your stomach count as okay?" Anna Elizabeth stated.

Emma couldn't help but grin as she told her daughter, "It's perfectly natural to be nervous."

"It's just that the three months have passed by slowly, and I can't believe it's finally here. And that it all came together," Anna Elizabeth spoke.

Emma smiled as she stroked Anna Elizabeth's hair. She then told her, "You and Calin are crazy about each other. You make each other so happy, and today is only the beginning of the amazing life that you and Calin will have together."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she pulled Emma in for a tight hug. As they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth spoke, "Thank you, Mom. For everything."

Emma smiled as well as she replied, "You are so welcome, Anna Elizabeth."

She then handed her daughter her bouquet of white lilies and blue orchids.

"Alright, kid, let's get to your wedding," Emma then spoke.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before began heading out the door. She then paused and looked at the daisy in her hand. She smiled as she nestled the flower in between two of the white lilies that were in the center of the bouquet.

The blushing bride then smiled and told her mom, "Let's go," with a bright smile.

Chapter Text

"Alright, bro, you're ready to go," Calin spoke as he finished fixing Ethan's tie.

"Thanks, man," Ethan replied, and Calin nodded.

When Alex had finished helping Liam with his tie, the teenage boy complained, "Do I really have to wear this flower?" as he motioned to the white lily pinned to his chest.

Alex, Ethan, and Calin all chuckled before the groom-to-be replied, "Well, aside from the fact that it's tradition, it is for your sister – I think you can manage." Liam nodded in response.

Ethan then spoke, "You know, I have to say that we all look good. And you know that women go crazy for a sharp-dressed man," as he motioned to their gray suits.

Alex and Calin shook their heads while Liam laughed.

"I didn't know you liked ZZ Top," Alex observed.

"Who?" Ethan asked confusedly, and the guys just shook their heads.

Calin then looked at his watch and said, "Alright, guys, we have to get to the beach."

"Dude, calm down. We won't be late," Alex told him.

"He hasn't been calm all morning," Ethan pointed out.

"I'm getting married – I think I'm entitled to be nervous," Calin responded. He then took a deep breath before he asked Liam, "Do you have the rings?"

"Yep," Liam responded with a smile as he patted his jacket pocket.

Calin smiled back before he looked at his watch again. Ethan then spoke, "Let's get going before the groom forgets his vows."

Calin rolled his eyes and replied, "That isn't funny."

"It actually is," his brother told him before he laughed.

Alex then intervened, "Alright, guys, we really should get going." The other three nodded before they headed out of the apartment.

When they all had sat in the car, Alex asked Calin, "You take care of everything with the landlord?"

"Yes, Dad," Calin responded sarcastically. Alex rolled his eyes before Calin continued, "My lease was up anyway, so it wasn't too difficult. I explained the situation, and he told me to just leave the key on the counter."

Alex nodded in response, as Calin drove out of the apartment complex.

Ethan then asked, "So, when will you surprise the very soon-to-be Mrs. James?"

"After the reception," Calin simply answered.

"You think she'll be surprised?" Ethan then asked.

"Considering that she thinks we're coming to the apartment, then, yeah, she'll be surprised," Calin answered with a smile.

"Well, I can see how much it means to you to make her happy, and that she wants the same for you. I know you two will be happy for many years to come," Alex sincerely told him.

Calin offered a genuine smile as he replied, "Thanks, Alex."

"I'm happy for you and Anna Elizabeth, too, dude," Ethan added. Calin smiled and nodded at his brother.

Ethan then joked, "Your best man is a little busy texting Grace."

Liam's head popped up, and he defended, "She isn't my girlfriend!"

"I didn't say that she was," Ethan pointed out.

The teenage boy only blushed slightly and scratched behind his ear in response, as they arrived at the beach.

The bridesmaids, as well as Anna Elizabeth and Emma had just arrived as well, and Jane rushed over to the guys.

She quickly covered Calin's eyes with her hands and exclaimed, "You can't see her yet!"

"Relax, Jane. I'm not going to see her until she walks down the aisle," Calin pointed out.

"You're absolutely certain?" Jane questioned.

"You're a stickler for tradition, aren't you, Ginger?" Ethan told her.

"My name is… oh, never mind. Just don't look at her, Calin," Jane responded before she uncovered Calin's eyes.

"Aye, aye, Captain!" Ethan mock saluted.

Jane rolled her eyes before Calin told her, "I promise I won't see her." Jane nodded satisfactorily before she walked away.

The guys couldn't help but shake their heads before Calin announced, "It's that time, guys. I'm gonna head up front."

The three of them then nodded before Alex told him, "And while you're waiting, I'd take a few deep breaths."

"Or a lot. We don't need you looking like an idiot," Ethan added.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Calin sarcastically remarked.

Liam then piped up, "Dude, it's Anna Elizabeth. You two always say those lovey-dovey things to each other."

"The kid has a point. I know it's your wedding vows, but you're telling her why you love her and want to spend the rest of your life with her – as I'm sure you have before," Alex told him.

Calin took a deep breath before he thanked them, "That's actually really helpful. Thanks, guys."

Alex and Liam both smiled and nodded. Ethan then glanced over at the bridesmaids, who were currently hiding Anna Elizabeth.

He then joked, "Alright, bro, you better get on up there before Jane comes back over here."

Calin grinned before he nodded. He then made his way up the aisle and stood next to the minister, with his back toward the rows of occupied white chairs.

Calin took another breath, and he then heard the minister, Reverend Joseph Smith, tell him, "If it helps, I'm sure that Anna Elizabeth is every bit as nervous as you are."

Calin then looked over at Reverend Smith and spoke, "I'm not sure that's possible, considering that I'm the nervous wreck in this relationship."

The older man couldn't help but chuckle before he assured the young man, "I have had the pleasure of marrying many couples over the years, including Anna Elizabeth's biological parents, as well as Emma and Killian. I know the nerves are overwhelming now, but once she is standing next to you, and you look into each other's eyes, the nerves will fade away."

Calin smiled at the minister's words before he spoke, "Thank you – I really needed to hear that."

"Of course," Reverend Smith replied before he clapped Calin on his shoulder. The Reverend then brought his attention to the waiting crowd.

Emma was sitting in the front and exchanged a nod with her husband. She then turned to the minister and did the same.

Reverend Smith nodded before he leaned over and whispered to Calin, "It's time." Calin nodded before "Marry Me" by Train filled his ears.

The wedding procession then began their way down the aisle. Colette and Matthew walked down, with her tossing blue orchid petals onto the sand and him proudly carrying the pillow with the rings. Next, Liam and Evie slowly and elegantly came forth. Emma couldn't help but lightly laugh at her son when she noticed that he was trying to make himself appear taller. The teenage boy secured the rings from Matthew before taking his place by Calin. Next were Alex and Jane, followed by Ethan and Gia, and finally, Alexandra.

When Leo and Kimberly, who had been brought by David and Mary Margaret, saw their parents, they both waved excitedly. Alex and Evie couldn't help but laugh as they waved back.

And at last, it was time for the bride. The music changed to the traditional "Here Comes the Bride," and Calin turned around.

Anna Elizabeth was with Killian, and they were standing behind a screen that had been set up to block the bride from Calin's view.

When Killian heard the music change, he spoke, "That's our cue, love."

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she nodded.

Killian offered a small smile as he offered his arm to her. She smiled back at him as she took his arm. They then stepped out from behind the screen and onto the end of the aisle.

The wedding guests stood, and the groom finally laid eyes on his bride.

Calin swore that his heart skipped a beat, and he really did forget how to breathe. Anna Elizabeth was already beautiful, but today, she was drop-dead gorgeous. When her eyes locked with his, she smiled at him, and he knew that smile was one of the reasons he fell for her in the first place.

As she continued making her way toward him, her blue eyes lit up with happiness, he felt his own well up with tears. He couldn't believe that in a short while, the love of his life would be his wife, and he couldn't be happier.

Anna Elizabeth and Killian then arrived at the front. He slipped her arm from his, and Killian then placed a kiss on his daughter's forehead. He then whispered, "I love you so much, my darling."

Killian was then prepared to place Anna Elizabeth's hand in Calin's, but she then turned fully toward her father and wrapped him in a crushing hug.

She then told him, "I love you, too, Dad."

As they pulled away, Killian smiled at her before he kissed her forehead once more.

He then placed his daughter's hand in Calin's and nodded at the young man. Calin nodded back, and Killian then went and joined Emma.

Anna Elizabeth handed her bouquet to Evie before placing her attention on Calin. The young couple smiled at each other before they turned to face Reverend Smith.

The minister smiled at Anna Elizabeth and Calin before he looked at the crowd and began, "We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Anna Elizabeth Jones and Calin James in marriage. They are sharing this day with their family, friends, and loved ones with the understanding that marriage is a contract not to be entered into lightly. The couple has written their own vows to show their commitment to each other."

The Reverend then turned his attention back to the happy couple and instructed, "You may join hands and begin."

Calin and Anna Elizabeth nodded before they faced each other. They joined both of their hands together before they exchanged a smile.

Anna Elizabeth then took a deep breath before she spoke, "I once believed that love had to be perfect, and that I had to be perfect in order to find it. It took having my heart broken and a lot of growth for me to realize that love isn't perfect, but love is beautiful. And the little things that make it so special. I never expected that I would meet the guy that I was meant to be with on the way to write a paper. But I did, and I have loved every moment that we have spent together, whether it's a romantic date or you helping wash my car. I love you with all of my heart, and I can't wait to start our lives together, experiencing all of the moments that life casts our way."

As she finished, the tears had begun to flow. Calin reached up and wiped them away, and he had to stop himself from kissing her right there.

He then bit his lip and took a deep breath before he spoke, "Anna Elizabeth, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. From the moment I saw you, your blonde curls, blue eyes, and smile captivated me. But your beauty is so much more than simply that. You have such a kind and compassionate heart, you have a sarcastic sense of humor that I absolutely adore, and you have this stubborn and independent spirit that frustrates and amazes me at the same time. You aren't perfect, but you are perfect to me, and there is no one I'd rather spend my life with than you. Both of us already know that life can be unfair, and it can be heartbreaking. You were there for me during one of the most difficult times of my life, and you never even hesitated. That's when I knew I wanted to make you my wife. I love you so much, Anna Elizabeth, and I will spend the rest of my life showing you how much you mean to me."

By the time Calin had finished, both he and Anna Elizabeth were wiping their eyes, along with several guests and members of the wedding party.

Reverend Smith then spoke, "After such beautiful words from the bride and groom, there is little to add. May I have the rings, please?"

Liam then fished the rings from his pocket and handed them to the minister. The older man then handed the silver bands to the bride and groom.

He then smiled and spoke, "Do you, Calin, take Anna Elizabeth to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love, cherish, and honor her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?"

Calin smiled brightly at Anna Elizabeth as he answered, "I do." He then slipped the wedding band on her finger.

Reverend Smith then turned his attention to the bride and spoke, "And do you, Anna Elizabeth, take Calin to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love, cherish, and honor him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and be faithful only to him, for as long as you both shall live?"

Anna Elizabeth beamed at Calin as she replied, "I do." She then placed the silver band on his left ring finger.

Reverend Smith then proudly announced, "Then it is with great pleasure that I pronounce you husband and wife. Calin, you may kiss your bride."

Anna Elizabeth and Calin exchanged another smile before he let go of her hands and wrapped his arms around her waist. He pulled her close to him and planted a sweet kiss on her lips. Anna Elizabeth happily returned it as she wrapped both arms around his neck.

When they pulled apart, the cheers of all their loved ones were barely heard. They rested their foreheads against each other's and just relished in the moment.

They were brought back to reality by the voice of the minister, "I now give you Mr. and Mrs. Calin James!"

The couple smiled brightly as they made their way down the aisle hand-in-hand. This was only the beginning of one of the happiest days of their lives.

Chapter Text

About forty-five minutes later, everyone had gathered at Emma and Killian's for the reception. The wedding party, as well as the bride and groom, arrived later due to them taking the pictures on the beach.

The large backyard had been converted into a beautiful space. White tablecloths covered the round tables, and a white lily and blue orchid bouquet sat in the center. Strings of white lights had been set up and surrounded the perimeter of the yard. Killian had built a large wooden platform to act as a dance floor.

Congratulations had been offered from all of the guests. Calin and Anna Elizabeth were about to go fix themselves something to eat when she heard a familiar Australian accent behind her.

"Congratulations, Mrs. Anna Elizabeth James."

Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes widened as she turned around to face Emily.

"Oh my goodness! You're here!" the bride exclaimed as she pulled her friend in for a crushing hug.

As they pulled away, Emily replied, "Of course I'm here! Did you really think I'd miss your wedding to Calin?"

"I mean, I know we sent you an invitation, but I didn't think you'd actually fly from Australia," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Emily shook her head before she spoke, "You know I wouldn't miss this for anything in the world," as she took Anna Elizabeth's hands in hers.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she pulled Emily in for another hug.

When they had pulled away, the strawberry blonde hugged Calin as well. When they had pulled apart, Emily teased, "So, you actually got up the courage to propose?"

Calin rolled his eyes while Anna Elizabeth laughed. Emily laughed as well before she seriously stated, "I truly am so, so happy for you two. I wish you two many years of wedded bliss," with a bright, genuine smile.

Anna Elizabeth and Calin returned her smile before the bride replied, "That means so much to us."

"It really does. So, thank you," Calin added.

Emily nodded before she walked over to get something to eat from the buffet-style table.

Calin then turned his attention to his bride and asked, "You hungry?"

Anna Elizabeth planted her hands on her hips as she asked, "Do you really even have to ask?"

Calin chuckled as he answered, "I guess not." He then kissed the side of her head before they walked over to the buffet table hand-in-hand.

As soon as they reached the table, Kimberly ran up to them, with Alex following close behind.

The little girl wrapped her arms around both of them in a hug. As they pulled away, she exclaimed, "Congatlation!"

Anna Elizabeth and Calin both smiled at Kimberly before the groom told her, "Thank you, sweetheart."

Kimberly smiled as well before she turned her attention to Alex and stated, "Daddy, I want ice cream."

Alex grinned as he responded, "Not until you eat some food."

Kimberly didn't look too happy about that but she answered nonetheless, "Okay, Daddy." Alex stroked her black locks in response.

Calin then asked, "How can she eat ice cream?"

"Well, I had a talk with Ruby. I asked if she wouldn't mind buying and making foods that Kimberly could eat," Alex explained. He then sighed and added, "I felt like it was extra work for Ruby and Granny…"

Anna Elizabeth cut him off, "Don't you dare apologize for taking care of your daughter, Alex. And I can assure you that Ruby and Granny didn't mind."

Alex smiled at her as he replied, "Thanks, Anna Elizabeth." Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded in response.

Kimberly then announced, "Daddy, I'm hungry!"

Alex grinned as he told her, "Alright, sweetie. Let's go find Ruby."

The little girl nodded before she grabbed her father's hand and dragged him over to the red-streaked brunette.

Calin and Anna Elizabeth grinned and shook their heads. He then surmised, "So, that's what we have to look forward to one day," with a chuckle.

Anna Elizabeth chuckled before she agreed, "Yeah, it is. But I think we can handle it when the time comes."

Calin kissed her cheek in response. He and Anna Elizabeth then fixed their plates before sitting at a table with Emma, Killian, and Emily.

Anna Elizabeth took a sip of lemonade before she asked, "Where's Liam?"

Emma grinned as she answered, "Your brother is sitting with Grace and her parents."

"Ah, the girl that he doesn't have a crush on," Calin teased.

Emma giggled while Killian pointed out, "The lad is only 14."

"Dad, save Liam from all of the overprotectiveness that I had to deal with," Anna Elizabeth told him.

"I only did that because I love you, Anna Elizabeth," Killian pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth's expression softened as she sighed and admitted, "I know, Dad." She then leaned over and kissed his cheek.

Emma smiled at the sight. She then told her daughter and son-in-law, "You two will understand when you have kids one day."

"It bloody well better not be soon," Killian muttered. Emma heard him and kicked him under the table.

Emily then chimed in, "Oh, I so look forward to being an aunt." She then sheepishly spoke, "If that's alright with you two."

"Of course it is," Anna Elizabeth told her friend with a bright smile. She then took a deep breath and continued, "But I think you might be waiting a while. Calin and I aren't in any hurry to have kids."

"While your dad and I loved raising you, kid, you and Calin should enjoy being newlyweds for a while," Emma told them.

Anna Elizabeth and Calin smiled and nodded in response before they all resumed eating.

Something then caught bride's eye, and she asked, "Mom, why is there a screen and projector set up over there?"

"Ask your dad," Emma replied before she cut her eyes over to her husband.

"It's a surprise for you, love," Killian answered his daughter with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth narrowed her eyes as she asked, "What kind of surprise?"

"I promise that you'll love it, Anna Elizabeth," Killian assured her before he leaned over to kiss her cheek.

Anna Elizabeth smiled before she nodded satisfactorily in response.

Emma then asked, "So, Emily, how's the job search going?"

The strawberry blonde smiled brightly as she answered, "Absolutely marvelous. I have a job that begins next week at a children's book publishing company."

"Oh, that's great! I'm so happy for you, Em!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Emily nodded enthusiastically before Killian asked, "What about your paintings, love?"

"Oh, I'm still painting. In my spare time, I'll be entering into local art shows and so on," Emily answered.

Killian smiled at her as he told her, "That's wonderful, Emily. I'm sure that your parents are so proud of you."

Emily returned his smile as she replied, "They are ecstatic." She then turned her attention to Anna Elizabeth and Calin and continued, "And they send their congratulations to you two," with a smile.

Calin returned it as he responded, "Thank them for us." Emily nodded in response.

Anna Elizabeth then realized that she was out of lemonade. She made a move to get up when Calin told her, "I'll get it," before he took her glass and stood up.

"That isn't necess…" Anna Elizabeth began to protest, but Calin was already making his way over to the buffet table.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes while Emma, Killian, and Emily laughed.

Emma then spoke, "You might as well give up. I've been married to your dad for 17 years, and he still feels the need to dote on me."

Killian couldn't help but roll his eyes before he added, "While I respect your mother's independence, I still like to dote on her every once in a while because I love her." He then kissed her temple.

Anna Elizabeth grinned and shook her head while Emily simply smiled. The strawberry blonde then observed, "Well, I see why Anna Elizabeth is such a hopeless romantic."

All of them couldn't help but laugh they knew how true that it was.

Over at the buffet table, Calin had just refilled his wife's drink when he saw Rilynn.

The blonde-streaked brunette was walking over to the table when she tripped. Thankfully, she was able to catch herself, but Calin noticed that she grabbed her stomach.

He went over to her and asked, "Hey, are you alright?"

Rilynn jumped in surprise before she answered, "Of course. I'm fine."

"Are you sure? I saw you grab onto your stomach," Calin pointed out.

Rilynn stared at him for a moment before she stated, "If I tell you, you can't tell anyone."

Calin furrowed his brows as he told her, "Alright."

She then took a deep breath and said, "I'm pregnant." She couldn't help the wide smile that enveloped her features.

Calin smiled as well as he told her, "Congratulations, Rilynn. I'm so happy for you and Roland."

"Thank you, Calin," Rilynn responded.

He then asked, "Why the secrecy, though?"

"Well, we wanted to tell his parents in person, but we haven't said anything yet," Rilynn explained.

"Why not?" Calin questioned confusedly.

Rilynn grinned as she responded, "We didn't want to overshadow you and Anna Elizabeth."

Calin simply smiled in response. He then told her, "Speaking of Anna Elizabeth, I should get back to her. But congratulations again."

Rilynn smiled and nodded at him in response. Calin then went back to the table. Luckily, they had all been too caught up in conversation to notice that he had lingered.

He placed her glass in front of her, and Anna Elizabeth replied, "Thank you, Calin." He nodded at her in response.

The five of them then continued eating in comfortable silence.

 

Pretty soon, all of the wedding guests had their fill of Ruby and Granny's delicious catering.

Anna Elizabeth and Calin were still talking to Emma, Killian, and Emily. The bride then noticed Evie waving over her and Calin.

Calin excused them before he and his bride made his way over to the maid of honor, who was with Jamie and Megan.

Jamie was currently finishing with wiping the chocolate ice cream from his nephew's face.

When he had finished, Leo told his uncle, "Tank you." "Sure thing, buddy," Jamie responded with a smile.

Leo smiled back before he began reaching for his mother.

When Evie had taken Leo in his arms, Jamie addressed the bride and groom, "I hate that we can't stay longer, but we need a day of rest before work on Monday."

"We hate to see you guys go, but we completely understand," Calin told them.

Jamie and Megan nodded before she spoke, "The wedding really was so beautiful. I can see how much you guys love each other, and I'm so glad you let me come."

"Oh, of course! I was so excited when Jamie told us about you, and I couldn't wait to meet you," Anna Elizabeth told her.

Megan pushed her platinum blonde hair off her shoulders before she smiled and replied, "And I'm so happy to meet all of you. Jamie talks about his family all of the time – it's nice to put faces to names."

Calin and Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded in response.

Jamie then spoke, "Well, we really should get going." He then hugged Anna Elizabeth and shook Calin's hand before he offered them another congratulations.

Jamie then turned his attention to his sister, who had just returned from fixing Leo something to drink.

He hugged her before saying goodbye. Evie nodded before she told him, "You be careful out there."

Jamie couldn't resist rolling his eyes before he replied, "You sound like Mom."

Evie sighed before she said, "I know, but I can't help it."

"I know, sis," Jamie simply responded.

Megan then chimed in, "Don't worry – I'll look out for him," with a smile.

Evie smiled and nodded in response. Megan wasn't much of a hugger, so she simply bid everyone goodbye before she and Jamie left.

The wedding DJ then announced, "Alright, everyone, it's time for some music. If the bride and groom would please make their way onto the dance floor for the first dance."

Anna Elizabeth and Calin exchanged a bright smile before they walked hand-in-hand onto the large wooden platform.

Calin slipped one arm around Anna Elizabeth's waist and held her hand with the other. Anna Elizabeth rested her free hand on his shoulder.

As Calin pulled his bride close to him, he whispered in her ear, "Let's see if those dance lessons paid off."

Anna Elizabeth giggled before she teased, "Considering that you couldn't dance at all, I think that you managing to not step on my toes would be a major improvement."

Calin only shook his head and rolled his eyes in response. A moment later, the music began to play:

 

You might not think you're a supermodel

But you look like one to me

I'd rather have your picture on my phone

Than on the cover of a magazine

It's hard to think that a girl like you

Could have any insecurities

It's funny how all the things you would change

Are all the things that are cute to me

 

And I know you don't believe me

And you think that I'm a fool

But I don't care

 

Maybe

You'll never see in you what I see

The little things that make me go crazy

I'm not crazy

You're perfectly perfect to me

 

You brush it off every time I tell you

Your smile lights up the room

And I'm guessing that you don't even notice

The whole world notices you

You think you're clumsy

I think you're cool
You say you're typical

I say you rule

Sometimes I wonder if you'll ever believe

That I wrote this song for you

 

By this time, other couples were slowly making their way onto the dance floor, but Calin and Anna Elizabeth never even noticed.

To Anna Elizabeth's surprise, Calin unlooped his arm from around her. He then took the hand that was still holding hers and spun her around.

When he spun her back into him and was holding her in his arms, Anna Elizabeth spoke, "You've become quite the dancer, Calin."

Calin smiled as he replied, "Anything for you," as he ran his fingers through her hair.

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she told him, "I really do love this song."

"Well, I picked it because it reminds me so much of you," Calin told her.

The bride smiled sheepishly as she asked, "So, you really think I look like a supermodel?"

Calin offered a genuine smile as he answered, "You're even more beautiful." He then paused and added, "And your smile lights up a room."

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile as she told him, "And you make me believe that every word is true. You always make me believe in myself."

Calin wiped the tears that had begun to form in her blue eyes. He then responded, "That's because you are perfect in every way to me, Anna Elizabeth."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she pulled him in for a sweet kiss. Calin tilted his head slightly to deepen the kiss. They lingered a moment before they began pulling away.

When they had pulled apart, they rested their foreheads against each other's. The song had ended, but Anna Elizabeth and Calin were too caught up in the moment to notice. Their attention was pulled away when they heard clapping.

The bride and groom then turned their attention to their guests – both on the dance floor and at the tables – to be met with bright smiles.

Once the crowd had settled, the DJ started the next song, which was "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain.

Evie had danced the first song with David and was going to check on Leo. She found the two-year-old asking Mary Margaret, "Kimery play with me and Mattew?"

"Well, sweetie, I think you'd have to ask Kimberly's daddy," Mary Margaret answered her grandson.

"Otay, MM," Leo answered. He then noticed his mother and asked, "Uncle Alex?"

"Did I hear my name?" Alex spoke with a grin as he walked up behind Evie, Mary Margaret, and Leo. Kimberly was skipping along behind him.

Leo ran up to him and asked, "Kimery play with me and Mattew?"

Alex looked a bit skeptical, so Evie assured him, "Aunt Belle is going to keep an eye on them."

Alex nodded at her before he told the kids, "You go have fun."

Leo and Kimberly didn't even respond before they ran over to Belle and Matthew.

Alex and Evie chuckled before David chimed in, "If you kids will excuse us, I believe I'll dance with my beautiful wife."

Mary Margaret smiled at her husband before they moved onto the dance floor.

Alex then questioned, "Belle really doesn't mind watching the kids?" "Of course she doesn't," Evie assured him with a smile.

He then looked around and asked, "Where's your brother and his girlfriend?"

"Oh, they had to head back to D.C." Evie explained.

Alex nodded before he commented, "You and Jamie seem close. And he adores Leo."

Evie nodded before she commented, "We didn't always get along as well as we do now, but he is a great brother, and I'm so happy to have him."

Alex nodded as well before he spoke, "That must be nice," a bit dejectedly.

Evie noticed his tone and observed, "You have a brother and sister, though."

"Yeah, I do. But I was a surprise for my parents because I came along 16 years later," Alex explained.

Evie's green eyes widened slightly before she spoke, "I can see why it'd be hard for you."

Alex then spoke, "It can be, but I still love them."

Evie smiled as she responded, "Well, they are your family." Alex smiled back at her in response.

The chorus of the song them came on, and Evie exclaimed, "Oh, I love this part!" She then proceeded to sing along, "I'll be your cryin' shoulder. I'll be love suicide. I'll be better when I'm older. I'll be the greatest fan of your life."

Alex couldn't help but chuckle before he told her, "I didn't picture you as much of a singer."

Evie chuckled as well before she replied, "Well, I'm not – that's more of Anna Elizabeth's territory. But I've always loved this song."

Alex nodded before he agreed, "It is a great song." There was a moment of silence before he sheepishly asked, "Would you like to dance?"

Evie felt her heartbeat quicken in her chest – something she hadn't felt in a long time. A million thoughts were running through her mind, but she chose to follow the advice of one elated bride.

Evie smiled at Alex as she responded, "I'd love to." Alex smiled at her in response. He then nervously grabbed her hand and led her out onto the floor.

Both of them were a bundle of nerves as they got into position. His hands were resting on either side of her waist, and hers were resting on his shoulders.

Alex then broke the tension with a joke, "I'm warning you now – I haven't done this since before Kimberly was born."

Evie chuckled before she told him, "Well, I have, but I'm not sure it counts because they're all related to me."

Alex chuckled at her words before he told her, "Well, maybe we should fix that." Evie nodded, and they then both started dancing.

A minute in, Alex commented, "You know, Evie, I have to say that you have enough gracefulness for both of us."

Evie grinned as she replied, "That's what ten years of ballet will do for you."

Alex then told her, "You know, I can see you as a ballerina."

Evie rolled her eyes before she told him, "Don't tease me."

"I was actually being serious. You really are graceful, and you're a great dancer," Alex sincerely told her.

Evie smiled genuinely at him as she replied, "Thank you, Alex." He returned her smile in response.

As they continued dancing, they were unaware that they were gradually moving closer toward each other. Throughout the rest of the song, they laughed and talked as though they were old friends.

Soon enough, the song was over. It was then that Evie and Alex realized their close proximity. Both of them blushed deeply before they slowly backed away. They then walked over to one of the tables and sat down.

After a moment of silence, Alex took a deep breath and spoke, "So, should we, uh, talk about, um, us?"

"There is no us, Alex. We met two days ago," Evie defended, feeling those doubts and fears creeping in her mind.

"I completely understand that, and it wasn't exactly what I meant. There is something between us, Evie," Alex told her.

Evie took a deep breath and gathered her courage before she admitted, "I know that there is. But I don't know what it is exactly," with an exasperated sigh.

Alex cautiously took her hand in his before he told her, "I'm really not sure about it either, but…," pausing to take a deep breath. He then continued, "All I know is that I haven't lost this much sleep since Kimberly was a baby."

Evie's eyes widened slightly at his admission, but she couldn't refute because she felt the same way.

She then spoke, "You understand why this is hard for me – you're in the same situation that I'm in. I can't risk my heart again until I'm sure…"

"That it won't be broken. And until we're sure our kids won't get hurt in the process," Alex empathetically finished her thought.

Evie nodded before she asked, "So, what should we do?"

Alex held up the index finger on his free hand as he told her, "One day at a time. We should take this one day at time."

Evie smiled at him in response. She then agreed, "One day at a time," as she squeezed his hand. Alex returned her smile before they let go of each other's hands.

They then went to go join Belle in watching the kids.

Chapter Text

The bride and groom, as well as many of the guests, spent the next two hours gliding around the dance floor. A variety of love songs were played, from Journey to Christina Perri and everything in between. It was truly beautiful and a true testament to Anna Elizabeth and Calin's love.

The DJ then announced, "For the final song, the bride would like to share a special dance with her father."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she pulled herself from her husband's grasp. They exchanged a smile before Calin kissed her cheek.

When she made her way over to Killian, she was met with a slightly surprised expression. He then spoke, "Love, you didn't have to do this."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "Dad, don't be ridiculous – of course I did." She then added, "And I wanted to do it," with a bright smile.

Killian returned her smile as he spoke, "Well, love, I would be honored to share a dance with you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled and nodded at him in response. He then took her hand in his and led her out onto the floor.

The moment that they were in position, the DJ began playing "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You".

As they began dancing, Killian told her, "I have to say that you picked a lovely song, Anna Elizabeth."

The bride smiled widely as she commented, "I think of you every time I hear it."

Her words warmed Killian's heart, and he reached up to stroke her blonde curls in response. He then spoke, "Would it have anything to do with the fact that you wanted me to sing this to you every time there was a storm?" with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth grinned back before she chuckled lightly. She then spoke, "I was so scared of bad weather, but you always made me feel better."

Killian smiled as he sincerely told her, "Well, love, you know that all I wanted was for you to be safe, loved, and cared for."

Anna Elizabeth offered a genuine smile as well as she told him, "I never felt anything less." She couldn't help the lone tear that rolled down her cheek.

Killian wiped it away before he planted a kiss on her forehead. He then spoke, "Few words have every meant more, my darling."

Anna Elizabeth smiled once more before she stopped dancing for a moment to wrap her father in a hug. Killian hugged her back as he ran his hand through her hair.

When they pulled away, they resumed dancing, and Anna Elizabeth laid her head on her father's chest.

Killian smiled at the gesture before he began to sing along, "There's a love less defined. And it's yours and it's mine, like the sun. And at the end of the day, we should give thanks and pray. To the one, to the one.

Have I told you lately that I love you? Have I told you there's no one else above you? Fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness. Ease my troubles, that's what you do."

They then continued swaying through the rest of the song. When it was over, Anna Elizabeth wrapped Killian in another hug and told him, "I love you, Dad."

"And I love you, Anna Elizabeth," Killian spoke. A moment later, they pulled away and exchanged bright smiles.

An idea then struck the father of the bride. He then told his daughter, "I think it's time for your surprise, love."

Anna Elizabeth tilted her head and looked at him with narrowed eyes for a moment. She then smiled and nodded in response.

Killian then walked over to the screen and projector. He pulled out a flash drive from his pocket and put it into a USB port on the projector.

Meanwhile, all of the guests were all looking at the scene with curiosity, and Emma asked her daughter, "What is he doing?"

"Setting up my surprise, apparently," Anna Elizabeth answered.

A moment later, a PowerPoint presentation popped up on the screen. The title read, "My Greatest Treasure," and it had a picture of Killian awkwardly holding Anna Elizabeth when she was a baby.

By this time, everyone's attention was on the screen, and the lovely bride covered her mouth in surprise and was already holding back tears.

Killian then spoke, "As many, well, all, of you know, I didn't really handle the news of the engagement and wedding the best. I just hated the idea of my little girl growing up, and there was nothing I could do to slow down time." He then focused his attention on Anna Elizabeth and continued, "But I couldn't be happier, love, that you found someone to spend your life with that makes you as happy as Calin does. You held a special place in my heart from the moment you were born, and you became even more special after you were mine. And I hope this presentation shows just how proud I am to have you as my daughter and how much I love you, my darling Anna Elizabeth."

A moment later, the presentation started to play, and "Ready, Set, Don't Go" filled the backyard:

 

She's gotta do what she's gotta do

And I've gotta like it or not

She's got dreams too big for this town

And she needs to give 'em a shot

Whatever they are

 

Looks like I'm all ready to leave

Nothing left to pack

 

There ain't no room for me in that car

Even if she asked me to tag along

 

God I gotta be strong

 

I'm at the startin' line of the rest of my life

As ready as I've ever been

Got the hunger and the stars in my eyes

The prize is mine to win

 

She's waitin' on my blessings before she hits that

open road

 

Baby get ready

 

Oh I'm ready

 

Get set

Don't go

 

As the song played, various pictures from different times in Anna Elizabeth's life filled the screen, and Killian was beside her in each one.

The first several pictures were from when Anna Elizabeth was a baby, as well as a toddler. Most of them were of Killian playing with his niece and at her birthday parties. A few of them were candid shots of him trying to feed her and help her walk. No doubt Liam or Elsa found it funny because Killian looked like he wasn't sure what to do – the wedding guests couldn't help but chuckle as well.

The rest of the pictures revolved around important moments in Anna Elizabeth's life – graduations, birthdays, and cheerleading competitions to name a few. Killian couldn't look prouder if he had tried, and Anna Elizabeth's smile couldn't be brighter.

The most meaningful photos, however, were those where they weren't aware that they were being photographed. There were a couple of them fishing, working on Anna Elizabeth's car, and playing board games. There were pictures of them laughing at what the other had said, and of them wrapping each other in a hug.

All of the photographs were truly special. It was as if each moment had been captured with Killian and Anna Elizabeth, and they had been put together in a beautiful presentation. Though all of the guests were already aware, the pictures showed that Anna Elizabeth truly was a daddy's girl, and she meant the world to Killian.

The final slide featured two photos. One was taken when Anna Elizabeth was around four years old. She was sitting in Killian's lap as he was reading her a storybook of Disney's Peter Pan. The other photo was at an engagement party that had been thrown by Emma and Killian. Anna Elizabeth was standing next to her father with an arm wrapped around him. While one hand was stuck in Killian's pocket, his other one was wrapped around Anna Elizabeth, and he looked as though he didn't want to let go. The slide featured this quote: "A daughter may outgrow your lap, but she'll never outgrow your heart."

A moment later, the screen turned black. Before Killian had a chance to attempt to shut everything off, Anna Elizabeth ran over to him and threw her arms around him in a crushing hug. He hugged her back just as tightly and ran his fingers through her blonde curls. They stood like for a long moment before Killian pulled back and asked her, "So, I take it that you liked it, love?"

Anna Elizabeth shook her head at him. She then grinned and spoke, "I didn't like it – I absolutely loved it, Dad."

Killian smiled at her as he questioned, "Truly, love?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded furiously before she elaborated, "Oh, Dad, it was beautiful. The song, the pictures, and the quote were all perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything better."

Killian's smile grew as he responded, "Well, love, I wanted to do something special for you on your wedding day, and I thought that this would be a wonderful way to show how much it means having you as my daughter."

Anna Elizabeth wiped away the tears that were flowing before she answered, "Well, you didn't need a presentation to show that, but it makes me so happy that you made this for me to show on my wedding day. I can't tell you how much it means to me."

"I think I can guess, love," Killian began as he wiped a few of her tears away. He then took a breath and continued, "As I mentioned earlier, love, I know I didn't handle the news of this engagement and wedding the best. And along with doing something special for you, I thought this could be a way for making up for my overreacting a number of times."

Anna Elizabeth shook her head once more before she assured him, "You have nothing to make up to me, Dad."

Killian smiled at her once more before he kissed her forehead. He then wrapped her in another hug, and as she always did, Anna Elizabeth loved the feeling of being in her father's arms.

 

Half-an-hour later, all of the guests had gone home. More smiles and congratulations had been offered to the bride and groom before everyone had left. Emma, Killian, and Liam were now clearing the backyard. Anna Elizabeth and Calin were helping, but Emma stopped them.

"Kid, you two don't have to help put all of this stuff away," she told them.

Anna Elizabeth pointed out, "Mom, this was our reception. You and Dad offered for us to have it here – it's only right for us to help."

Emma sighed before she told her daughter, "It's hard to argue with that, and I appreciate you guys wanting to help, but it isn't necessary. You are our only daughter, and you'll only get married once. It meant the world for us to have you and Calin's reception here, kid."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her mother before she pulled her in for a hug. Emma then told her, "You go enjoy your wedding night," as she hugged Calin as well.

As they pulled back, both Calin and Anna Elizabeth's faces turned red, despite them having talked about it before. Anna Elizabeth then began nervously twirling her hair, and Calin was biting his lip.

They then took a deep breath and bid goodbye to her parents and brother before they walked hand-in-hand toward Calin's car.

He opened the door for his wife, and she carefully slid into the seat. Calin shut the door before going around to the driver's side. He started the Corvette before he pulled onto the street.

A moment later, Anna Elizabeth furrowed her eyebrows and scrunched her nose. She then observed, "Calin, this isn't the way to your apartment."

"So, it isn't," Calin responded with a grin.

"What are you up to? Where are we going?" Anna Elizabeth questioned.

"If I told you, it wouldn't be surprise," Calin stated. The blonde tilted her head at him, and he continued, "Speaking of which, I need you to close your eyes."

She narrowed her eyes at him as she asked yet another question, "What kind of surprise is this?"

Calin took a deep breath before he asked, "You trust me, don't you?" Anna Elizabeth reached over to squeeze his arm before she responded, "Of course I trust you."

"Then trust me when I tell you that you will absolutely love it," Calin sincerely told her, as he briefly turned to look at her. She smiled and nodded at him in response. She then closed her eyes as he turned his attention back to the road.

Calin continued driving until he reached Liam and Elsa's house. He parked his car in front of the garage before turning his attention to his wife. Anna Elizabeth then asked, "Can I open my eyes now?"

He grinned as he answered, "Not yet." He then got out of the car and went around to open her door. He helped her out and told her, "Don't you dare peek."

Anna Elizabeth shook her head before she agreed. Calin then placed one arm around her waist and held her hand with the other before he slowly led her to the front door of the house.

He then let go of her hand to take the key from his pocket. He unlocked the door before he told her, "Keep your eyes closed while I pick you up."

"Pick me up to do what?" Anna Elizabeth questioned. "To carry you over the threshold," Calin responded with a grin, though she couldn't see him.

Anna Elizabeth grinned back before she nodded her head at him. Calin then tightened his grip around her waist and placed his free arm under her legs.

He then lifted her up and carried her into the house. He walked into the living room and carefully set her down. He moved behind her before he whispered in her ear, "You can open your eyes now."

Anna Elizabeth slowly opened her blue eyes. As she surveyed the room, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

She turned to face her husband and asked, "Calin, why are we at my parents' house?"

"Well…," Calin began as he ran his fingers through her blonde curls. He then took a breath and told her, "Because it's our house now."

Tears began welling up in Anna Elizabeth's eyes, and she covered her mouth with her hands. A moment later, she uncovered it and asked, "What? How?"

Calin smiled as he explained, "You see, you know that your dad used this house to store the extra supplies that were given by that hardware store. I came with him to move those supplies into the warehouse. I thought about what you said about my apartment being too small for us, and I realized you were right. You deserved a place that was your own, and I knew this house would be perfect."

At that point, Anna Elizabeth was crying. She threw her arms around his neck and held him tightly. As they pulled away, she told him, "Thank you, Calin." "Your dad is the one who gave us this house," he pointed out.

Anna Elizabeth shook her head at him before she told him, "You were the one who wanted to give me a house, Calin. You know how much my parents meant to me – how much they still mean to me – and you knew that I would love for us to live in their house."

Calin ran his fingers through her hair once more as he smiled and responded, "You know that I all I want is to make you happy, Anna Elizabeth."

The blonde nodded her head before she told him, "This surprise makes me happier than I can even put into words. This is the most amazing thing that any guy has ever done for me."

"Well, they obviously didn't know what they had in you," Calin spoke. He then continued, "But I can't say that I'm upset that they didn't – it means that I'm the one who gets to spend the rest of my life with you."

Anna Elizabeth smiled widely as she responded, "And we'll build our lives together in our house."

Calin returned her smile before he cupped her cheek. He then leaned in and kissed her sweetly, a kiss that she happily returned.

As they pulled away, they rested their foreheads against each other's for a long moment. When they pulled back, Anna Elizabeth wiped her eyes as she spoke, "I've lost count of how many times I've cried today." She then grinned and added, "But at least they're all happy tears."

"And they're all part of the wonderful memories that we made on our wedding day," Calin added as he helped wipe her eyes.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she surveyed the house once more. Memories flooded her mind, and it brought a smile to her face. She spoke her first word here, walked her first steps here, and grew her first tooth here, along with quite a few other firsts. One day, she would experience all of that with a child of her own. When she came here to talk to her parents about how Calin had proposed, she had no idea this would be their house. Liam and Elsa may not have been able to grow old together here, but she knew it brought a smile to their face knowing that their daughter would grow old here with the love of her life.

As she turned back to face her husband, he worriedly asked, "You alright, Anna Elizabeth?"

She nodded at him before she elaborated, "Of course. I know there's a lot I don't remember about my parents, but the memories I do have of them are some the best memories that I have."

Calin smiled at her as he ran his hands up and down her arms before settling them around her waist. He then spoke, "And now this house will be filled with love and laughter again, and we'll make new memories."

Anna Elizabeth returned his smile before she reached in his pocket to grab his phone. He looked at her curiously as she scrolled through the music.

He smiled as she stopped on their wedding song: "Perfectly Perfect." She set his phone down on the coffee table before she spoke, "Let's make a memory right now," with a bright smile.

He nodded before she moved to wrap her arms around his neck. She laid her head on his shoulder, and they began slowly swaying the song.

Calin then whispered in her ear, "Welcome home, Anna Elizabeth."

 

 

 

 

 

I looked up ideas for father-daughter songs, and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" was on the list. Aside from the fact that Killian did sing this song to Anna Elizabeth when she was a little girl, I decided to go with this song because it was played during the father-daughter dance in the movie What a Girl Wants. For those of you who have seen the movie, you know just how important that scene and the dance was within in the movie, and I thought it was equally as important in my story .

I also wanted to let you guys know that will be one more chapter to this wedding story, and it will include that very feelsy heart-to-heart conversation between Killian and Anna Elizabeth.

Chapter Text

Calin woke up to Anna Elizabeth sleeping on his chest. Her blonde curls were in disarray, and she was snoring softly.

She looked like an angel when she slept, and the description was an accurate one for every moment of every day. Calin couldn’t help but play over last night in his mind. He smiled as he thought about how even though he didn’t think it was possible, she was even more beautiful and perfect to him now.

He then thought about their wedding. It truly was one of the happiest days of his life. Part of him still couldn’t believe that he was married the love of his life and that his sarcastically funny, kindhearted, stubbornly independent, slightly insecure, and beautiful Anna Elizabeth was his wife. And they were to spend the rest of their lives together.

Calin then started running his fingers over Anna Elizabeth’s back. She stirred slightly, and he was afraid he had awoken her. However, she simply rolled back on her side and fell back asleep, taking the sheet and comforter with her.

He watched her sleep a few moments more before he quietly and carefully got out of bed. He found his boxers on the floor. He slipped them on before going over to his black suitcase, which was sitting by the closet. He dug out a white t-shirt and threw it on.

Calin smiled as he made his way toward the kitchen, where he planned to surprise Anna Elizabeth by making her breakfast and bringing it to her in bed.

Unbeknownst to him, Calin had woken up his wife. She had watched him get dressed and curiously wondered what he was up to. However, she was too tired to dwell on it, so she curled back underneath the covers.

To Anna Elizabeth’s surprise, she fell into a deep sleep and slept for half-an-hour. She was awoken by her husband calling her name. She was careful to keep the sheet and comforter around her as she sleepily sat up.

Her eyes widened slightly as she saw Calin coming toward her with two breakfast trays in his hands.

He read her mind and set the trays down for a moment to pick up his dress shirt off the floor and toss it to her. Once she had it on, he handed the tray to her.

Her blue eyes roamed over her breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, and oatmeal. A tall glass of orange juice sat next to one of the plates.

“Oh, Calin, this looks and smells amazing! I can’t believe you did all of this!” Anna Elizabeth exclaimed.

Calin shook his head before he responded, “Haven’t you learned by now that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you?” He then sat down beside her on the bed, his tray in hand.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at her husband as she told him, “Thank you,” as she ran her fingers through his brown locks.

Calin smiled back at her as he replied, “You’re welcome.” He and his wife then dug into their food.

 

When they finished eating, Calin took the plates into the kitchen and washed them.

As soon as he walked back into the bedroom, Anna Elizabeth told him, “You know I could have helped with the dishes.”

Calin rolled his eyes before he simply responded, “I’m well aware.” It was Anna Elizabeth this time who rolled her eyes.

When he had settled into bed, she snuggled up next to him. She wrapped both arms around his torso, and he wrapped his around her waist.

The blonde then spoke, “So, I wanted to ask you something,” as she looked up at her husband.

“What’s that?” Calin asked curiously.

Anna Elizabeth answered with a question, “How did you manage to move all our stuff in here and buy groceries?”

Calin couldn’t help but chuckle lightly before he replied, “Well, your dad and brother helped with the move shortly after we got back from the concert. After that, I went to the supermarket and bought breakfast foods.”

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she asked another question, “Who all knew about the house?”

“Pretty much everyone but you,” Calin answered with a grin.

Anna Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him for a moment. She then spoke, “You know, I have to say that you’re pretty great at surprises,” with a grin.

Calin ran his fingers through her hair as he sincerely told her, “That’ll come in handy in the future.”

She smiled at him before she kissed his cheek in response. After a few moments of comfortable silence, Anna Elizabeth looked back up at him and shyly told him, “You were amazing last night.”

Calin bit his lip and blushed before he told her, “You were amazing yourself,” as he took one of her hands in his.

Anna Elizabeth blushed as well before she added, “Thank you for being so incredibly patient with me.”

Calin smiled and kissed her temple before he told her, “You were just as patient with me.”

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she kissed his cheek once again. She then told him, “That’s what marriage is about – being there for each other no matter what.”

Calin smiled at her once more as he added, “And helping each other through new challenges.”

Anna Elizabeth smiled back at him before she kissed him sweetly. As they pulled away, she told him, “Whatever we face – good and bad – we’ll face it together.”

“There’s no one I’d rather face it with than you – my amazing wife,” Calin told her. He then let go of her hand to cup her cheek.

Anna Elizabeth ran her fingers through his hair again as she replied, “And there’s no one I’d rather go through this life with than you – my wonderful husband.”

Calin smiled at her before he kissed her forehead. Anna Elizabeth smiled back at him before she settled back in against his chest. They sat in comfortable silence once more and enjoyed the feeling of being in each other’s arms. It was a moment that they would look back on in years to come and cherish.

 CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

 That afternoon, Killian was fishing as he sat on the end of the wooden pier. He was deep in thought as he played the PowerPoint over and over again in his head.

He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard his daughter’s voice behind him, “Mind if I join you?”

Killian turned around to face her before he smiled and replied, “Of course, love.”

Anna Elizabeth smiled back before she took a seat next to her father. She then cast her line into the water.

Killian then asked, “How did you know I was here?”

“Mom,” Anna Elizabeth simply answered with a grin.

Killian smiled back before he asked, “How was your nig…” trailing off as the implication hit him. He ran his fingers through his black hair and muttered, “bloody hell.” He then looked over at his daughter and saw that she was blushing. He had pretend that he didn’t recognize the smile on her face.

He then cleared his throat and tried once more, “That is, love, how was your morning?”

“Nice save, Dad,” Anna Elizabeth spoke with a slight chuckle. She then sobered and continued, “It was really wonderful – Calin made me breakfast.”

Killian smiled as he responded, “That’s really great, love.” He then joked, “Your mother wasn’t quite that lucky.”

Anna Elizabeth only giggled in response. When she had stopped, she sincerely told him, “I wanted to thank you for the house. I know it was Calin’s idea, but it still means a lot that you let us have it.”

Killian kissed her temple before he told her, “I could see how much it meant to Calin, and I also knew how much it would mean to you, love. It was truly an easy decision.”

Anna Elizabeth smiled at him before she kissed his cheek in response.

A moment later, the blonde saw her bobber go beneath the water. She smiled as she slowly started reeling in her line. A couple of minutes later, she was taking a fish off the hook.

Killian then told her, “It’s hardly fair that I helped teach you how to fish, and you caught a fish after being here less than ten minutes when I’ve been here over an hour,” feigning annoyance.

Anna Elizabeth only laughed before she released the fish and watched it disappear beneath the waves.

She then joked, “I guess you and my dad taught me a little too well,” with a smirk. Killian only rolled his eyes in response.

Anna Elizabeth’s expression then became serious and her tone sobered as she asked, “Do you remember the first night I stayed with you? After the accident, I mean.”

Killian thought for a moment before he answered, “Aye, love. It was the same night, and I dropped you off at David and Mary Margaret’s before I rushed to the hospital.”

He then took a deep breath and continued, “I remember getting the news like it was yesterday. I was shocked, horrified, and heartbroken. I was too in shock to even react, really. But I knew I had to bring you home. When I arrived back at your uncle and aunt’s, they told me they had heard the news from Emma because she was on duty. They offered to keep you, but I wanted to take you with me. I suppose it was rather selfish.”

“You weren’t selfish, Dad. You wanted to take care of me,” Anna Elizabeth pointed out.

Killian offered a small smiled before he ran his fingers through her hair.

He then spoke, “I brought you back to my house, and naturally, you were asking a million questions about your parents were, but I used your four-year-old attention span to my advantage. It worked for a while – until after I tucked you into bed. You were finally asleep, and I was alone with my thoughts. The news had sunk in, and I couldn’t help the tears that were pouring. You came into my room and wanted to know why I was crying.”

“And you told me the truth,” Anna Elizabeth added.

“You remember? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” Killian spoke.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she elaborated, “I had run over to you when I asked why you were crying. You wiped your eyes before you picked me up and pulled me into your lap. You were quiet for a few minutes, and I know now that you thinking about what to say. You then stroked my hair and explained that I would live with you from now on. When I asked why, you gently told me that Mommy and Daddy were in Heaven because they had passed away in a car accident.”

Killian then chimed in, “Though I don’t think you fully understood, you were so dreadfully upset, as any child would be. You were so sad that you wouldn’t see them again, and you buried your head in my chest. It absolutely broke my heart to see you cry.”

The blonde then finished, “But you made it better. You got me to look up at you, and you then told me that my parents would never truly be gone because they would always be in my heart,” as she wiped her eyes.

Killian wiped his own before he placed his fishing pole to the side. Anna Elizabeth did the same before they wrapped each other in a crushing hug. He ran his fingers through her hair, and she squeezed him tighter. They stayed embraced for a long moment before they finally pulled away.

Killian then spoke, “To this day, that is still the bloody hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do. Perhaps I should have waited to tell you, but I thought I was doing what was best for you, my love.”

“It was what was best for me, Dad. It was better that I knew, even though it was difficult, not to mention heartbreaking,” Anna Elizabeth assured him.

Killian smiled softly at his daughter before he told her, “It means a lot to hear you say that, Anna Elizabeth.”

She nodded, and he then asked, “May I ask what brought this up, love?”

“Well, it’s just that I was thinking earlier. Though I obviously didn’t know it back then, you telling me about my parents let me know I wouldn’t be alone because you would always be there for me. And you have been – no matter what and no matter how hard it may have been,” Anna Elizabeth told him.

“I was terrified of raising you, but I had to make sure that you knew you were loved. Even though your parents were gone, I wanted you to know that you had me, love,” Killian responded.

“And I have, Dad. I knew I could always count on you,” Anna Elizabeth spoke with a genuine smile. Her expression then changed to a smirk, and she continued, “Even though I’m often too stubborn to admit it right away, and you want to threaten the life of any guy that breaks my heart.”

“Any man that believes he can date two lasses at one time doesn’t deserve her time, let alone her heart. Especially when one of those hearts belongs to my daughter,” Killian stated.

Anna Elizabeth placed a calming hand on his arm before she told him, “Well, you won’t have to worry about that with Calin,” with a bright smile.

Killian smiled back as he told her, “I know, love. You found someone who is truly deserving of your love. And I couldn’t be happier that you found him.”

“It means so much to hear you say that, Dad. Calin makes me so, so happy, and I’m so glad that you can see it,” Anna Elizabeth replied.

“I saw it the first time I saw the two of you together, love. And yesterday only proved that he wants to make you happy forever,” Killian admitted. He then took a deep breath and continued, “Seeing you in your mother’s dress, pledging your love and commitment to Calin, and watching him become your husband made me realize something.”

“What was that?” Anna Elizabeth asked curiously.

“That you are no longer an adorable little girl, but a beautiful woman,” Killian answered as he reached over to stroke her blonde curls.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her father before she pulled him in for another hug. They held each other tightly before letting go. The blonde then spoke, “Watching the PowerPoint made me come to a realization of my own.”

Killian tilted his head at her as he questioned, “What would that be, love?”

“Even though I have always furiously protested against it, part of me will always be your little girl,” Anna Elizabeth honestly told him.

Killian’s expression changed to one of surprise, wonderment, and awe as he asked, “Do you truly mean it, Anna Elizabeth?”

She nodded before she answered, “Whenever I was scared or nervous about something or whenever I had a problem, I needed you to make me feel better. I still need you. I know that Calin is my husband now, but I will always need you, Dad,” with tears forming in her eyes.

Killian broke into a wide smile as he told her, “Oh, my love, you have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that. I’ve been so afraid of you growing up and getting married because I was afraid of losing you.”

“Oh, Dad, I may be grown up and married, but you will never lose me,” Anna Elizabeth assured him.

Killian then pulled his daughter in for another crushing hug, one that Anna Elizabeth happily returned. They stayed like that for a long moment before they pulled apart.

Killian then spoke, “Shall we fish some more, love?” Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly as she responded, “I think we shall.”

They then picked up their poles, and the blonde rebaited her hook. Both of them then cast their lines out and cast their gazes on the water.

The blonde then joked, “Maybe you’ll actually manage to catch a fish this time,” as she chuckled.

Killian rolled his eyes before he told her, “You know, Anna Elizabeth, you really can be entirely too much like me.”

Anna Elizabeth grinned as she reminded him, “Well, I did learn it from you.”

Killian couldn’t help but grin and shake his head because he knew that she was right. Anna Elizabeth giggled before she focused her attention back to the water.

He then watched her for a few moments. Her blue eyes were lit up with happiness, and a breeze was softly blowing her blonde curls. He began to think of their earlier conversation. On the night of the crash, and the months that followed, Killian had been positive that he would never be a good enough father to Anna Elizabeth. But, as she often did, she reminded that he was that he was the best father that she could have wanted. The thought brought a smile to his face, and he knew the same was true for his brother and sister-in-law.

As he turned his attention back to the water, his smile grew as he thought, “That’s my girl.”

Chapter Text

Hi, my lovely readers! I once again want to thank all of you for your support on my stories. I love to write anyway, but y’all’s support truly makes it worthwhile. So, thank you!

 

And now, I come to you for more requests. I’ve once again run out of ideas, but I don’t want to stop writing. And since I’m on summer vacation, I have PLENTY of free time. So, here we go. Your requests can be:

 

  • Anything from the timeline that expands from Where We Belong to Together, including the one-shots. You guys know how much I adore this family :). I’ll even write from before Where We Belong, like I did in “Proven Wrong” (aka where Elsa believes that Emma really likes Killian, and Emma denies it. But as we all know, Emma was proven wrong :) ), where Liam and Elsa are still alive.

 

  • Okay, so I never believed I was capable of writing a Modern AU one-shot. I didn’t think I could fit a whole story so to speak in so few words. But then I wrote “The Wrong Impression”, and I saw that I could do it. So, if there’s anything you’d like in the Modern AU world, I’ll be happy to write it. P.S. I’m totally on board with tropes and cheesiness :)

 

 

  • In the Modern AUs, Killian may not exactly be the “I’m God’s Gift to Women”/Casanova type, who is super flirty and all that, like he was when he and Emma first met. Just like in “My Happy Ending, Part 2” when I struggling to NOT write Killian and Belle like brother and sister, I will probably struggle to write Killian as anything but how he is in Where We Belong and Together. He will have a sense of humor and be slightly sarcastic, but he might be super genuine, caring, and considerate because that’s how was in Where We Belong due to setting and plot I chose. You guys know I will try my best, but I’m just giving y’all a heads up.

 

  • I feel like you guys all know this, but please just keep in mind that I only write PG rated stories :)

 

  • I wanted to tell y’all that I do already have three ideas in mind:

 

(1) Several weeks ago, someone had requested another installment to “My Happy Ending,” and the idea was too adorable to turn down. But this will be the LAST installment to that story.

 

(2) It’s where Liam and Elsa are still alive. I felt like some brother-sister fluff/feels were in order from Belle and her oldest brother, so I’m going to make it happen.

 

(3) A Modern AU that takes place in Boston. Emma is a detective, and Killian owns a coffee shop that Emma stops by quite often. They don’t really like each other or get along that well, but they agree to call a truce when Emma’s best friend, Belle, discovers that Killian is her half-brother.

 

 

Well, guys, I think that covers it. I look forward to y’all’s ideas! :)

Chapter Text

Liam walked through the door after a long and tiring day. Elsa turned to face him and sheepishly spoke, "I hope you don't mind Granny's take out," as she nervously fingered her braid.

Liam closed the distance between them and ran his hands up and down his wife's arms.

"Of course I don't mind, love," he assured her. He then kissed her forehead before he surmised, "I take it the bakery was rather busy today."

"That's an understatement. It was – how would you put it? Ah – a bloody nightmare," Elsa responded.

Liam offered her a sympathetic smile before he told her, "Well, now, we can both relax with a quiet dinner."

Elsa smiled and nodded. Both of them then heard their 11-month-old calling for her mother.

"It sounds like Anna Elizabeth is up from her nap. I'll go and get her," the blonde spoke. She then started to go toward the nursery.

However, she was stopped by husband's arm on hers.

"Allow me, love," Liam told her before he kissed her cheek. Elsa smiled at him before she watched him head for the nursery. She then began laying out their food from the diner.

When Liam walked into his little girl's room, her blue eyes lit up.

"Da-da!" Anna Elizabeth exclaimed before she reached out her arms toward him.

Liam smiled at her before he scooped her up in his arms. She instantly wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug.

When they pulled back, Anna Elizabeth asked, "Ma-ma?"

"Your mommy is fixing our food. Are you ready to eat?" Liam explained.

She recognized "eat" and clapped her hands. Liam smiled at her before they headed toward the kitchen.

As soon as they arrived, Liam placed Anna Elizabeth in her highchair. Elsa placed the food in front of her daughter before she ruffled her curls, resulting in a giggle from the baby girl.

Both Liam and Elsa smiled at Anna Elizabeth before they took their seats.

The curly-haired man then proceeded to try to feed his daughter. He picked up the spoon and scooped up some mashed potatoes.

When he tried to feed it to her, however, she grunted and wouldn't open her mouth.

"Love, you must eat," Liam pointed out. Anna Elizabeth responded by grabbing for the spoon in his hand.

He only shook his head before he resigned. He watched as Anna Elizabeth fed herself the potatoes, though most of it ended up on her face.

Liam sighed as he ran his fingers through his daughter's blonde curls. He then spoke, "You're a stubborn one, aren't you, lass?"

"Like father, like daughter," Elsa quipped with a grin. Liam only rolled his eyes while his wife giggled.

 

A little over an hour later, Liam and Elsa were watching cartoons with Anna Elizabeth when there was a knock at the door.

"Ah, that will be Belle. We thought we'd ride together over to the hospital," Liam explained.

Elsa nodded before her husband asked, "Are you sure that you're okay with me staying at the hospital tonight?" as he stood up from the couch.

"Of course I am. Killian had surgery today, and I know you're worried about him," Elsa assured him. She then grabbed his hand and reassuringly squeezed it before she continued, "If the situation were reversed, and Anna was recovering from surgery, you'd be the one staying home with our daughter."

Liam smiled at her before he leaned down and kissed her sweetly. He kissed Anna Elizabeth's forehead before he bid both of them goodbye. He then went to go open the door.

He found his sister on the other side wearing a warm smile. "Hey, Liam," she greeted before she wrapped him in a hug.

When they pulled away, Liam asked, "You ready to go, love?" Belle nodded in response. They then made their way to his car.

When they were on the street, Liam asked, "Did you have something to eat?"

Belle couldn't resist rolling her eyes as she responded, "Yes, Liam. I stopped by Granny's as soon as I got into town."

He nodded before he glanced over at his sister. He studied her for a moment before he turned his eyes back to the road.

He then worriedly asked her, "Are you alright, love? You've hardly spoken since we got in the car."

Belle sighed before she admitted, "It's Robert."

"What happened?" Liam questioned. "What always happens – more underhanded and deceitful business practices and him lying to me about it," she dejectedly answered.

"I'm truly sorry that he hurt you, love," Liam sincerely told her.

"Thank you, Liam," Belle sincerely told him. Her brother nodded before she continued, "And thank you for not overreacting like Killian does. I know you dislike Robert just as much – you're just not quite as vocal about it as our brother is."

Liam couldn't help but chuckle before he told her, "Well, love, we both have the same purpose – protecting you."

"I am capable of taking care of myself, you know," Belle reminded her oldest brother with a grin.

Liam only shook his head and grinned back as they arrived at the hospital.

When they had walked inside, they were greeted by Dr. Whale. "Killian is still sleeping from the surgery, but he should wake up soon. You two are welcome to go into his room," he explained.

"Thank you, Dr. Whale," Liam responded. The doctor nodded before he went on his way.

Belle then spoke, "Should we go on in?" "Aye, love," Liam told his sister.

As they stepped into the room, Liam couldn't help but think that the circumstances were certainly improved from a couple of days ago. Killian was no longer unconscious, his scars were healing, and he was recovering from life-saving surgery. Liam couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief.

He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard Belle yawn. The brunette then spoke, "I think I may take a nap before Killian wakes up."

"I think that would be wise considering that you drove seven hours today," Liam told her.

Belle simply nodded in agreement before she walked over the couch that was next to the wall. Liam then sat down in a chair by Killian's bed.

Within a couple of minutes, Belle had drifted off. Liam couldn't help but watch her sleep. She was so peaceful, yet she was also restless. Not unlike how she slept the first few months after their parents had died.

Belle, like her parents and oldest brother, wanted to be strong. However, she had cried herself to sleep many a night. Killian, on the other hand, had been in a state of brooding and being mad at the world.

To this day, Liam still wondered how he – a lad of only 16 – didn't manage to make a bloody mess of all of their lives. In truth, it was nothing short of a miracle.

Killian then shifted in his sleep, and Liam recognized a bump on his younger brother's nose that he knew wasn't from the crash. Liam remembered it like it was yesterday.

 

His brother had been 16, and his sister had just started high school. The three of them had just moved to New York City, and Killian and Belle had started a new school a couple of months before.

Belle had been having problems with a bully but had neglected to tell her brothers. She didn't want Liam to worry more than he already did, and she didn't want Killian to get in trouble because she knew that he would confront the bully.

Unfortunately, Belle's plan went awry when Killian saw his little sister being harshly teased. Despite the fact that said bully was the captain of the football team and had at least six inches on Killian, the protective teenager still felt the need to punch the bully. However, Killian was the one who wound up with a broken nose.

The result of this altercation was a three-day suspension and a lecture from Liam. While the eldest Jones couldn't fault Killian for defending Belle, he shouldn't have lost his temper.

The experience taught Belle that she shouldn't hide her problems from her brothers. They were her only family, and they wanted her to know she could always count on them. Of course they would worry, but that was the job of older brothers.

 

Despite the years that had passed, Liam still found himself wanting to protect her, even though he now had a child of his own. Perhaps Belle was too old for that, but it still made him hurt to see her hurt, especially since she had been with Robert Gold.

Liam couldn't help but smile slightly as he thought about how it was his lot in life to worry over his younger siblings.

He then saw Belle stirring in her sleep and watched her sleepily sit up.

She then asked, "Is Killian awake yet?" "Not yet, love," Liam answered with a far-off look in his blue eyes.

Belle noticed and asked, "Are you alright, Liam?"

"Oh, of course. I was just thinking about work, Belle," Liam responded.

The brunette tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him as she told him, "You're doing it again."

"Whatever do you mean?" Liam asked curiously.

"Feeling like you need to be strong for everyone else," Belle responded matter-of-factly.

Liam grinned slightly as he told her, "You always were a perceptive lass."

Belle grinned back before she became serious and keenly observed, "You're worried about Killian."

"Of course I worry about him," Liam admitted. He then took a breath and continued, "I told Killian to be careful on that blasted motorcycle."

Belle nodded sympathetically before she told him, "He was being careful. There's nothing you could have told him that would have changed anything."

"It's my job to protect both of you," Liam told her, his voice thick with emotion.

The brunette got up from her place on the couch. She then walked over to her brother and wrapped him in hug.

When they had pulled away, Belle pulled an extra chair beside Liam's.

She took a deep breath and spoke, "While I would never expect or ask you to stop worrying about Killian and I, we weren't those kids who just lost their parents. You don't have to be strong for us anymore, Liam."

He sighed before he responded, "I know, love. But I still feel like I need to be – I just want both of you to be happy."

Belle considered her words before she said, "Romantic relationships aside, we are incredibly happy. We're surrounded by people we love. We are a family, and a lot of that is thanks to you."

"I don't know about that," Liam replied, as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"That is utterly ridiculous. You stepped up and took care of us as well as any parent would have, even though you didn't ask for it. You did your job – you raised us. Now it's time to let us be the strong ones," Belle pointed out.

"Easier said than done," Liam began. He then took a breath and continued, "I know I tend to worry too much, but it's only because I want what is best for you two."

Belle smiled as she told him, "I know. And that is something I hope never changes."

Liam smiled back as he told her, "You can trust me, love – it won't." He then pulled her in for another hug.

When they had pulled away, the brunette spoke, "You know, I've been thinking. Despite all the horrid things you and Killian did to me as children…"

Her brother then interrupted, "Most of that was his doing," faking innocence.

Belle only shook her head and rolled her eyes before she continued, "As I was saying, despite all of that, I knew I could count on both of you to be there for me. And I have to say that your advice, Liam, has always stayed with me. I always think of it whenever I'm having a problem."

"Truly, Belle?" Liam asked with genuine surprise in his voice.

"Of course! I truly don't know what I would do without you – even if you're not there physically," Belle honestly told him.

"Well, I promise that I will always be there for you," Liam responded. Belle smiled brightly at him in response.

Both of them then heard a groan of "bloody hell." They turned to see Killian trying to sit up as he held his side.

"Easy there, brother. You just had surgery," Liam cautioned.

"I realize that, but this infernal hospital bed is bloody uncomfortable," Killian stated, as he readjusted his position.

"Well, don't worry, you'll be going home in a few more days," Belle assured him.

Killian's brows furrowed at his sister's voice. He acknowledged her presence as he turned to face her and asked, "Belle? You're here?"

"I drove down today," Belle explained, and Killian responded, "You really didn't have to, love."

"You were in a motorcycle crash, Killian. You had to have surgery – you really think I'd be anywhere else?" she pointed out.

Killian smiled at her as he told her, "I suppose not, love."

He then asked, "What does your boyfriend think about your trip?" disdain clear in his voice.

Belle shared a quick, knowing look with Liam before she answered, "He's fine with it. He understands that my family is important to me."

Killian raised an eyebrow as he asked, "The crocodile really bloody said that?"

Belle didn't answer his question as she confusedly asked, "Crocodile?"

"Aye, love. He sounds like the type who would take someone's hand," Killian stated.

Both Liam and Belle rolled their eyes before the brunette told him, "You are incorrigible."

"That I am, sis. But you still drove seven hours just to see me," Killian pointed out with a smirk.

Belle couldn't help but lightly chuckle because she couldn't argue with him.

Just then, Dr. Whale, accompanied by a nurse, came into the room. "It's good to see you awake, Killian. How are you feeling?" the doctor spoke.

"I'm bloody sore. That's how I'm feeling," Killian told him.

Whale struggled to not roll his eyes at Killian's tone before he responded, "That is to be expected after major surgery. But you should feel better in a couple of days."

Killian nodded before Whale continued, "Nurse Katie and I need to change your IV, as well as perform a routine post-surgery check-up."

"So, we need to leave," Belle observed, and Whale nodded in response. The brunette and Liam then stepped out of the room.

They sat in a pair of chairs in the room, and Belle's phone rang. She grabbed it from her pocket and looked at the caller ID. She excused herself before she walked off and answered the phone.

When Belle had finished her call, she came and sat back down beside Liam, sighing as she did so.

"Everything alright, Belle?" Liam asked a bit worriedly.

"I was supposed to have the next couple of days off to spend here, but there's a release party the day after tomorrow for the book that I helped edit. My boss expects me to attend," she annoyingly answered.

"Now who's worrying too much over our brother?" Liam couldn't help but tease.

"Well, I must have picked it up from you," Belle teased back. Her brother only shook his head in response.

 

They sat in waiting room for a little over twenty minutes. Liam had Belle laughing at how much Anna Elizabeth really was like him. They then saw Dr. Whale and Nurse Katie make their way out of Killian's room.

The blonde nurse informed the siblings that their brother's recovery was going perfectly well and that they could go back in his room. She also told them that she would bring a cot.

Both Liam and Belle nodded and offered their thanks.

Just as they began walking back to the room, Liam heard his younger sister breathe a deep sigh of relief. He turned to her, and they wordlessly embraced each other.

As they pulled away, Liam assured her, "He will be just fine." Belle nodded, and he continued, "And your love life will sort itself out."

A smile broke out across her face, and she told him, "You always know what to say."

"Well, I have had a lot of practice," Liam told her as he matched her smile.

Belle's expression became serious as she told him, "Your advice and support has meant the absolute world to me all of these years. Even if we haven't lived in the same place for over three years."

Liam then genuinely told her, "It's like I told you earlier, love, I promise that I will always be here for you."

Belle smiled brightly before she hugged him once more. As they pulled away, she spoke, "Let's go see our brother." He nodded in response before they walked into Killian's hospital room.

 

As the years passed, Liam did, in fact, keep his promise.

Chapter Text

Sixty seconds now feels more like thirty
Tick-tock, won't stop, around it goes
Sand through the glass sure falls in a hurry
And all you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in
Keep trying to make the good times last as long as you can
But you can't, man
It just goes too fast

~Fast, Luke Bryan~

 

Emma and Killian were walking away from her yellow bug and making their way toward the high school baseball field.

The blonde noticed that her husband kept looking behind him with his eyes roaming the parking lot.

She then asked, "Killian, what are you doing?"

"Love, we both know that there wasn't any real reason that Liam had to be here half-an-hour early," he stated matter-of-factly without looking at her.

Emma shook her head before she pointed out, "I say wanting to hang out with Grace before the game is a good reason."

Killian turned toward her with narrowed eyes and told her, "And by hanging out, you mean asking her on a date."

"Well, he is 16, and you know he has liked her for a while, and she likes him back. Them dating is pretty much the next step."

"That doesn't mean I have to like it."

Emma sighed in response, and Killian asked, "What is it, love?"

She ran her fingers through her hair before she responded, "It's just that, well, I thought we established that you were too overprotective over Anna Elizabeth up until she was married. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to protect our kids, but you can be over-zealous. I was hoping to avoid that with Liam."

Killian sighed as well as he thought over her words. He then admitted, "I know, love. I'm trying, but I believe the only way I can be protective is to be overprotective."

Emma offered her husband a small smile as she reached over to squeeze his hand. She then told him, "We'll figure it just like we do everything else."

"Together," he supplied as he returned her smile. She then reached up to kiss his cheek as they continued making their way toward the field.

When they had arrived at the bleachers, they were greeted by Leo shouting, "Uncle Killian! Aunt Emma!"

Both of them smiled at the four-year-old before Killian ruffled the boy's brown locks. Emma then asked the little boy, "Are you excited to watch Uncle Liam?"

"I love baseball! Grandpa says I can play too when I'm big!" Leo exclaimed.

"Did he now?" Emma responded, with a teasing smile toward her brother. David simply shrugged before he responded, "What can I say? Playing baseball is a family tradition," resulting in laughs and head shakes from his family.

Leo then chimed in, "What's a tadition?"

"Well, sweetie, you know how we all eat at Aunt Regina and Uncle Robin's for Thanksgiving?" Mary Margaret asked her grandson.

He nodded, and she continued, "That is a tradition. It's something that families always do together, and it's very special. Baseball is a tradition because a lot of people in our family played it."

The little boy nodded in understanding. He then stated, "I'm hungry and thirsty."

"I'll take you to the concession stand," David told him. He then began to get up when Anna Elizabeth spoke, "Let me take him. I'm thirsty myself."

David nodded before he handed her a few dollars. She then got up and Leo asked, "Can you give me a piggy back ride, Aunt Anna Lizabeth?"

She smiled at the little boy as she answered, "I'd love to." As she began to lift him up, Calin began to protest, "I'm not sure…"

He was cut off by a glare from his wife. He bit his lip and quickly recovered, "Uh, that is, I'm not sure you remembered to bring your wallet. You were so determined to finish grading those tests before we came here."

Anna Elizabeth offered him a grateful smile before she teased, "I remembered. I'm not completely scatter-brained, you know."

Calin only shook his head before he watched her make her way to the concession stand. That glare was noticed by his mother-in-law, but she chose to let it go for now.

Just then, Emma happened to see her son talking to Grace by the fence. The 16-year-old was scratching his ear, and the blonde couldn't help but grin at the nervous gesture inherited from Killian.

Emma then turned her attention back to her family, and she began laughing at something her brother was saying.

However, everyone's eyes soon turned toward the baseball field when they heard a loud and resounding, "Jones! Get over here!"

Liam's face instantly turned red. He scratched behind his ear once more before bidding a quick goodbye to Grace. He then ran over to the dugout.

Though everyone felt bad for the teenage boy's ego, they couldn't help but chuckle lightly. David then teased, "Like father, like son."

Killian immediately defended, "I don't know what you're talking about, mate." His words held no meaning, however, when he started to scratch behind his ear.

Emma then playfully spoke, "He's got a point there. I've always been a distraction for you."

"Oh, that door swings both ways, Emma," Mary Margaret added with a grin.

The blonde ran her fingers through her hair before she pointed out, "You know, I would have thought that the teasing would have stopped after 18 years of marriage."

"Don't count on it. One of the jobs of family is to make fun of each other," David told his sister with a grin. She only shook her head in response while everyone else chuckled.

Mary Margaret then added, "David and I have been married for quite a few years longer than you two have, yet Regina still brings up how we are 'annoyingly cutesy'. Emphasis on annoying."

"That's because Her Majesty feels the need to always be right," Killian stated.

Emma smacked his arm before she asked, "Where are Regina and Robin anyway?"

"They went to the city to visit Roland, Rilynn, and little Luke," Mary Margaret explained.

The blonde smiled at her sister-in-law as she asked, "How old is he now?" "He just turned a year old," the pixie-haired brunette answered as she beamed.

Emma smiled once more as she noticed that her daughter and Leo were returning, with a blushing Grace with them.

When the teenage girl sat down, she was nervously twirling her hair between her fingers. Emma then assured her, "Don't worry about it, kid. Everyone gets embarrassed at one point or another. My second date was a double date with David and Mary Margaret, and you should have seen him."

Grace couldn't help but chuckle before she spoke, "Thank you, Emma." The blonde smiled and nodded before the brunette commented, "I'm really glad that you guys are cool with Liam and I dating."

"Of course we are, kid. He talked about you a lot anyway, and he's done it even more in the last two months he's been 16," Emma assured her. She then grinned and added, "I'm sure that Aurora and Phillip can relate."

Grace blushed once more before she agreed, "Yeah, they can." She then added, "I still can't believe Liam talked to them before asking me out."

Emma smiled as she spoke, "Well, the idea of respect was taught to him, but that was all his idea because of how much – and how long – he has liked you."

The 17-year-old girl offered a shy smile as she admitted, "Well, he wasn't the only one." She then turned her attention to the baseball field, where the game was starting.

Emma then glanced over at her husband, who was wearing a longing expression. She pulled him from his thoughts when she whispered, "It'll be alright, Killian."

He simply nodded in response before Emma looped her arm through his and entwined their fingers. Both of them then turned their attention to the field to proudly watch their son.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

When the game had ended, Liam walked over to his family carrying his baseball bat, glove, and helmet, and he was sporting a red clay stained uniform.

David then told him, "That was a pretty impressive slide into home to win the game," with a smile.

The dark-haired teenager returned the smile as he responded, "Thanks, Uncle David." The man nodded in response.

He then felt that Leo was trying to climb down off his shoulders. He only shook his head before placing his grandson on the ground.

The four-year-old instantly ran over to Liam and asked, "Can I put on your helmet?"

"I'm not sure it'll fit," he replied as he bent down on the little boy's level. Leo simply shrugged in response as though it didn't matter.

Liam couldn't help but smile before he placed the helmet over Leo's head. The teenager then spoke, "Now you look like a real baseball player," before he stood back up.

Leo beamed as he turned to face the rest of the family. Mary Margaret then told her grandson, "You are so handsome! I think we have to get a picture for Mommy."

The little boy nodded excitedly before Mary Margaret reached to grab her phone. Leo then turned and looked up at Liam and asked, "Will you be in the picture with me?"

Liam smiled as he bent down once and answered, "Sure thing, buddy." Leo returned his uncle's smile before he grabbed the baseball glove.

The brown-haired boy then faced his grandmother, while Liam adjusted his bat and did the same. Both of them smiled brightly before Mary Margaret snapped the picture.

Liam then stood back up, and Leo handed the baseball gear back to him. The little boy then ran back over to his grandparents.

Mary Margaret then lamented, "I so wish that Evie wouldn't have had to work today, and that August and Belle didn't have that literary conference four hours away. They would have loved being with all of us and watching the game."

"Yeah, they would have," Emma wistfully agreed. She then took a breath and stated matter-of-factly, "But, Evie is one of the best nurses that they have, and there was an emergency. And those conferences are part of August and Belle's job so that they can become a better editor and writer."

The pixie-haired brunette nodded with a sigh, and David ran a soothing hand up and down her back. He then told her, "Emma is right. We all have obligations, and sometimes, we can't get out of them."

"But we've still all managed to come together quite a few times as a family," Killian added with a smile.

His smile was returned by all before Anna Elizabeth teased her younger brother, "And now, aside from that winning run, we get to talk about Liam's first date and girlfriend," though her teasing was overshadowed by the nostalgic tone of her voice.

The teenage boy blushed and scratched behind his ear before he elbowed his sister in the arm. He then complained, "She'll be over here any second – don't embarrass me!"

"I would never do that, Liam," Anna Elizabeth answered honestly, and he smiled back in response.

Just then, Grace came back from talking to some friends and asked Liam, "You ready to go to the park?"

"Totally," he answered as he smiled at her. The two of them then goodbye before they began making their way toward their vehicles.

"Just make sure that you're home before dinner, kid," Emma told her son. "I will be, Mom," he responded.

As he and Grace began walking away, he was stopped by a surprising, yet not unwelcome hug from his sister.

Liam furrowed his brows but hugged her back nonetheless.

When they pulled apart, she told him, "Have fun, little bro." He rolled his eyes and muttered, "Younger."

They then bid goodbye once more before he and Grace headed toward the parking lot. The rest of the family followed suit.

Emma then turned toward her husband and asked, "Ready to go?" "Aye, love," he answered before he grabbed her hand and entwined their fingers.

As they were walking toward the bug, Killian was wearing a contemplative expression.

He then commented, "Swan, I noticed that Anna Elizabeth was acting a bit odd."

"Odd how?" Emma asked.

"She just seemed rather emotional. More so than usual," he answered.

"I think that you're looking too much into things, Killian. She seemed perfectly normal to me," the blonde defended.

"So, the way that Calin was being a bit overly protective is perfectly normal, too, Swan?" he retorted.

"If something was wrong, which I'm sure that there isn't, she would tell us. You're overreacting," Emma stated.

"You and I both know that Anna Elizabeth is a lot like Liam and Elsa in that she doesn't want anyone to worry about her. She likely won't tell us unless we ask her about it," Killian defended.

Emma ran her fingers through her hair and sighed. She was silent for a few moments before she took a deep breath and told him, "I promise you that she's fine. It's just, well, you know that I'm not one to be overly emotional. But there was one time that I was. Do you remember?"

"Aye, love. When you were pregnant," Killian simply responded. A moment later, his eyes widened, and he asked in a surprised tone, "Anna Elizabeth is pregnant!?"

Emma rolled her eyes before she pointed out, "They are married, Killian. It was bound to happen sooner or later."

He took a deep breath before he looked over at his daughter's retreating form. He then spoke, "Perhaps I should go check on her."

His wife sighed as she told him, "You're doing it."

"Doing what, Swan?" he asked confusedly.

"Hovering," Emma replied.

"That's ridiculous. I do not hover," Killian defended.

"Are you kidding me?" Emma disbelieving stated with crossed arms. At her husband's raised eyebrow, she continued, "You always hover."

Killian crossed his arms as he pointed out, "I do have a right. She is my daughter."

"Who may not even be pregnant. Even if she is, she might not know it," Emma told him.

"Shouldn't that be something that she does know?" he asked as he tilted his head.

"Killian, we were trying for a baby, and it didn't even register with me until I was at the doctor's office."

He sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair. He then told her, "Fine, love. I see your point."

Emma nodded her head satisfactorily before she told him, "You know, you can be just as stubborn as I am when it comes to our kids."

"Well, Swan, it must be all the time I've spent with you," he teased with a grin. He then kissed the side of her head.

Emma only grinned and shook her head before she entwined their fingers, and they continued making their way toward the bug.

 

That night, Killian and Liam had just finished putting away the dishes. When they walked into the living room, Emma thanked them.

"It's the least we could do after you prepared such a delicious meal," Killian told her when he had joined her on the couch. He then kissed her cheek.

Emma smiled at him before Liam added, "You are a good cook, Mom. You could be on one of those food competition things."

The blonde couldn't help but grin as she pointed out, "Thank you, Liam. But I'm not sure I'm quite that good."

The dark-haired teenager simply shrugged before the three of them heard a knock at the door.

"That's Anna Elizabeth. She's gonna fix the button on my dress shirt," Liam announced.

His parents nodded before he headed toward the door.

"My shirt's in my room. I'll go grab it," he told his sister as soon as he opened the door.

She smiled and nodded before she stepped inside the house.

When she walked into the living room, Killian was standing up. He told her, "I'm going to fix some hot tea. Fancy a cup, love?"

"No thanks, Dad," Anna Elizabeth answered.

He raised an eyebrow as he observed, "Are you alright? You never turn down tea."

She twirled a curl around her finger as she assured him, "I'm fine. I just don't want any."

Killian nodded satisfactorily before he headed toward the kitchen. A moment later, he stated, "Ah, of course - caffeine isn't good for the baby."

Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes widened, and she saw her mother bury her face in her hands. The curly blonde then whisper yelled, "Both of you know?"

Killian then defended, "It isn't your mother's fault, love. I noticed that you were rather over emotional at the game, and I was worried about you. Emma tried to reassure me, but as usual, I was just a tad overprotective."

"A tad?" his wife pointed out. He just rolled his eyes in response.

Emma then asked, "How long have you known?"

"A few weeks," Anna Elizabeth answered. She then took a deep breath and continued, "But the only people who know besides me and Calin are Dr. Whale and Evie. And the only reason she knows is because she was my nurse that day."

Killian confusedly asked, "Why the secrecy, Anna Elizabeth? Don't you and Calin want children?"

"Of course we do! We're absolutely thrilled about it!" she clarified. She then spoke, "You guys know that all Liam has talked about since his birthday is asking out Grace. I refuse to take away from or overshadow his first date."

Both Emma and Killian smiled at their daughter before he told her, "You are an amazing sister." Emma then added, "And you'll be an amazing mother."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at their words before she spoke, "Thank you guys."

They nodded before the three of them noticed Liam coming out of his room. They quickly schooled their faces before he arrived in the living room.

When the teenage boy handed the navy blue shirt to his sister, he apologized, "Sorry it took so long. It was shoved in the back of the closet."

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded before Emma spoke, "That explains why it has so many wrinkles."

Liam couldn't help but roll his eyes while Killian grinned from the kitchen.

Anna Elizabeth then said, "I can iron it. I have to do the same thing with Calin's dress shirts - he just throws them anywhere. I swear he is worse than a child."

Her parents and brother couldn't help but chuckle before Emma observed, "Well, I'd say that the honeymoon phase is officially over," with a grin.

Though Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes, her face couldn't help but form a grin as well.

When Killian, with a mug in his hand, returned to the living room, Liam excitedly asked, "Is that hot chocolate?"

"Afraid not, lad. It's hot tea," Killian told his son and then watched as his teenager's face contorted in disgust as he commented, "Yuck."

The dark-haired man rolled his eyes before he stated, "It seems that you've gotten more of your mother's American genes."

"Coming from the guy who spent most of his life in America," Emma quipped.

Anna Elizabeth and Liam couldn't help but laugh out loud, and they were soon joined by their parents.

When they had all sobered, Anna Elizabeth spoke, "I should be getting home, you guys."

Liam then chimed in, "And you're sure you'll have my shirt finished by Friday?" She smiled as she answered, "You bet."

He returned her smile and nodded in response. The four of them then bid their goodbyes before Anna Elizabeth made her way out of the house.

The dark-haired teenager then suggested, "You guys wanna help me on Mario? I'm stuck on this one stupid level."

Killian and Emma couldn't help but grin. He then answered his son, "Sounds like fun, lad."

Liam nodded satisfactorily before Emma added, "While you guys do that, I'm gonna hop in the shower.

She then rose from the couch and headed toward she and Killian's bedroom.

A few minutes later, the game was set up, and Killian was about to start playing. However, he soon heard his son's frustrated grunt.

He turned to Liam and asked, "Everything alright, lad?"

"I'm fine, Dad," Liam answered, a bit annoyed.

Killian sighed before he sympathetically spoke, "You know you can tell me anything."

The teenage boy was silent for a few moments as he looked at his phone. He then took a deep breath and admitted, "It's Grace. Things were so awkward when we were hanging out at the park, and when we're trying to text each other. It's like we don't know how to talk to each other because I asked her out. It's so lame."

"It's not lame, lad. It's perfectly understandable. But you don't have to lose your friendship with Grace," Killian tried to reassure.

"Dad, she's, like, my girlfriend now. We can't be just friends," Liam pointed out.

"I know, but she doesn't necessarily have to stop being your best friend," Killian rationed.

"She can't be both," the teenager argued.

Killian had to refrain from shaking his head. Liam was so stubborn, just like his mother.

The dark-haired man then took a deep breath and tried again, "Tell me, lad, have you heard about your mother and I's first date?"

"No," he simply answered, with curiosity in those blue-green eyes.

"Well, it started out as a bloody awkward mess," Killian began. His son raised an eyebrow and asked, "Really?"

"Indeed it was," Killian answered. He then elaborated, "When I picked her up, we only greeted each other before we resorted to looking at our shoes. After a few moments, I spoke about the restaurant, and those were the only words spoken between her apartment and our destination. After we had been seated and had ordered, we commenced horrid small talk about the weather and the monotonous details of our jobs. The tension between us could have been cut with a knife. In truth, it was rather disastrous."

"How did you guys fix it?" the teenage boy asked.

"Well, things began shifting when I began reaching for the breadsticks in the middle of the table. I bumped your mother's water, and it spilled all over her dress," Killian stated. He couldn't help but find his son's widened eyes to be quite funny.

The dark-haired man then continued, "I was totally humiliated, but, to my surprise, Emma was laughing. I asked, 'What's so bloody funny about ruining the perfect date?' I then added that it had already been ruined by the fact that we couldn't bloody talk to each other. Your mother replied with, 'That's the problem. We're trying too hard to make this perfect.' "

Liam's brows furrowed as he spoke, "Dad, that doesn't even make sense. Girls like for stuff to be "romantic" and "perfect,"" with clear confusion at what both those ideas actually meant.

Killian grinned before he finished, "Perhaps, but real love doesn't require all of that. I'm not saying you shouldn't make an effort, but it's often the simple things that mean the most. Emma and I were so caught up in trying to live up to some romantic ideal that we had forgotten the reasons we fell in love in the first place. Do you understand, lad?"

The dark-haired teenager took a few moments to think before he answered, "Yeah, I got it. I should think about something that Grace and I both like and figure out how to make a date out of it. That way, we can still talk like friends, but we can be on a date, too."

"That's it, Liam. You always were a clever lad," Killian proudly told him. He then continued, "You get that from me," with a grin.

Liam rolled his eyes before he said, "You're such a dork."

"So your sister used to tell me," Killian replied, still wearing that grin.

His son rolled his eyes before he pointed out, "You gonna help me beat this level or not?"

Killian only shook his head before he dramatically answered, "Yes, lad. I shall defeat that wretched Bowser and rescue the fair Princess Peach."

Liam only rolled his eyes once more before he began watching his dad play the game.

Once Killian had defeated the level, he handed the controller back to Liam. As Killian watched his son become engrossed with Mario, he was reminded of when Liam was a child.

He sighed as he thought about it didn't seem like Liam should be old enough to receive dating advice, but here they were. In a week's time, Liam would be going on his very first date, and Killian still didn't know how to feel about it.

Seeing Anna Elizabeth off to prom with her first boyfriend was one of the hardest things that Killian has ever had to do. With her hair all pushed to one side and that blue dress, she looked so much like Elsa that it was almost too much.

And then there was Liam. The son who reminded Killian so much of himself. In more ways than Killian wanted to admit. His saving grace in all of this was that Emma was by his side.

Chapter Text

"Remind me again why we agreed to let Liam and Grace be alone for two bloody hours after school?" Killian complained to his wife over the phone.

"Because, you know that math is not our son's best subject. Anna Elizabeth has a doctor's appointment, and Grace offered to help since she loves math," Emma explained, trying to not sound exasperated.

Killian took a deep, calming breath before he reasoned, "I know I'm overreacting, especially since they'll be alone for a few hours come Friday."

"Well, look at you loosening that overprotective grip on Liam," Emma teased. She then stated seriously, "Come on, Killian. Liam may not be exactly subtle about his feelings, but he is a great kid. And so is Grace. We don't have anything to worry about."

"I know, Swan," he simply replied. There was silence for a moment before his wife once again reassured him, "Hey, we did a good job with him. Everything will be okay."

Though Emma couldn't see him, he smiled at her words. She really did have a way of making the situation better.

He then told her, "Aye, love. I'll see you at home, Swan. I love you." "I love you too, Killian. See you later," she replied before she hung up the phone.

Killian slipped his phone back into his pocket before returning to the task at hand – hanging a chandelier.

Calin was going to hold the ladder for him, but when Killian turned to find his son-in-law, he found him taking off his tool belt.

Killian's brows furrowed for a moment before he remembered where the young man was headed. When Killian saw that Calin's hands were shaking as he dug his keys out of his pocket, he walked over to him.

"You know, mate, I don't think you'll help Anna Elizabeth by being a nervous wreck at the appointment."

Calin took a deep breath before he admitted, "I know, but I can't help it. She's having her first ultrasound today to determine the due date."

Killian offered a small smile as he supplied, "And the idea of seeing your child for the first time is rather surreal."

Calin simply nodded in response. He then bit his lip and sheepishly asked, "You really don't mind me taking off work at times to go with Anna Elizabeth, do you?"

"Of course not. I did the exact same thing with Emma," Killian reassured him. He then joked, "Although, my wife was rather adamant about scheduling her appointments on the weekends so that neither one of us would miss work."

Calin couldn't help but chuckle and shake his head because that sounded very familiar. He then spoke, "I think that Anna Elizabeth would have, but she was so excited about it, which probably isn't surprising."

The dark-haired man grinned as he stated wistfully, "It isn't. It's nice to know that her enthusiasm hasn't faded with age."

His son-in-law offered a sympathetic smile before he added, "Well, considering that Anna is her aunt and her namesake, I don't think we have to worry about that." His tone was playful, but he couldn't be more sincere.

Killian smiled as well before he spoke, "Speaking of family, I understand why you two didn't want to share the news with any of us, but have you told Ethan or Alex?"

"Well, I'm fairly certain that Alex suspects something because of Evie, but she isn't going to say anything. And aside from the fact that Ethan cannot keep a secret, he's a little preoccupied with his girlfriend," Calin explained, putting air quotes around that last word.

His father-in-law raised an eyebrow as he questioned, "Do you not believe that your brother truly cares about her?"

"He's Ethan," the brown-haired man stated with a shrug of his shoulders.

"I do know him, and he does live up to the reputation," Killian agreed. He then considered his words and added, "Though believing you can't find love again and never having it before aren't quite the same thing, all it took was meeting the right person and everything changed."

"You really think this woman can do that for Ethan?" Calin questioned, one part curious and one part disbelieving.

"I believe that your brother is the only one who can answer that," Killian replied. His son-in-law took a deep breath before he began to leave. He was stopped, however, by Killian.

"Allow me to offer you a piece of advice. Much like your brother in Providence, Rhode Island, I had settled down and made Storybrooke my home. I had my family and my friends, and in my mind, that was enough. Love was the last thing on my mind, and I truthfully believed it wasn't really for me. If someone had told me I would have ended up here – as a devoted husband and father – I would have believed them to be completely daft. I don't know much about this lass of Ethan's affection, but he may just surprise you when it comes to her."

Calin took a few moments to digest his father-in-law's words before he spoke, "Thanks, Killian." The dark-haired man nodded before Calin continued, "I better get going so I won't be late. Anna Elizabeth won't be too happy if I am."

Killian couldn't help but shake his head because he knew the truth in that statement. As Calin made his way out the door, Killian turned his attention back toward the ladder and the chandelier.

He knew it wouldn't be effective to take Leroy or Will away from their tasks, so he was searching for a plan B. Just as he had thought of it, his cell phone rang.

When he had taken it from his pocket, he became slightly worried when he saw his son on the caller ID.

He quickly answered it and worriedly asked, "Liam, is everything alright?"

"I'm fine, Dad. It's just that, well, can you bring your keys to the house? I'm locked out," the teenager explained.

"There's a spare key under the mat," Killian told him.

"Well, uh, actually, the spare key is in the house, and I'm pretty positive they're with my keys," Liam sheepishly admitted, and Killian could just see his son scratching behind his ear.

The dark-haired man shook his head before he told him, "Lad, I've lost count of how many times I've told you to put the house key on the keychain with your truck keys."

Liam sighed before he pleaded, "Can you, like, lecture me later? Grace had to go straight home after school to grab her math book and find her old notes, and I'd rather already be in the house when she got here."

"Ah, so you don't want to be embarrassed in front of her, eh, Liam?" Killian couldn't resist teasing his son.

"Daaad! Can you just please come now?" Liam complained.

"I'm on my way," Killian assured his son before he hung up the phone. He saw Leroy and Will eyeing him and gave a pointed look to both of them before he left.

 

When he arrived at the house, he found Liam sitting with his back to the door. He was using one hand to run his fingers through his black locks while he used his other one to scratch behind his ear.

He looked up when he heard his father's footsteps. The teenager instantly stood up and exclaimed, "Come on, Dad! You know that virtually everything in this town is only a five-minute drive."

Killian held in a chuckle before he finished making his way to the door, where he quickly unlocked the door.

Liam rushed inside before he told his father, "Thanks, Dad. You can go now."

"Not so fast," Killian stated, and his son turned to look at him with a perplexed expression. He then asked, "What is it, Dad?"

"I'm not leaving until I see you place the house key on your key ring. You know I don't mind helping you out, but I may not always be available to do so," Killian explained.

"But Dad, Grace will be here any minute!" Liam complained.

"Now," the dark-haired man firmly stated. The teenager thought about rolling his eyes but thought better of it before he trudged to his room.

He came back into the living room with his house key and the spare key in hand. He pulled his truck keys from his pocket and promptly placed one of the two keys on it.

Killian grinned before he spoke, "And I'll take this," as he grabbed the spare key from his son's hand. He then teased, "You would have avoided so much difficulty if you had only did that in the first place," as he motioned to the keys in the teenager's hand.

Liam sighed before he finally resigned, "Look, I know. I just, well, get distracted easily," as he scratched behind his ear.

"A distraction by the name of Grace," the dark-haired man supplied with a grin.

Liam only huffed and crossed his arms while Killian held in a chuckle at how much he looked like Emma when he did that.

He then noticed a map sticking out of his son's backpack and commented, "I didn't think you had history this semester."

"What?" Liam asked as he furrowed his brows. After a moment, the realization hit him, and he stated, "Oh, I was marking the cities where they have museums of famous author's houses."

"Any particular reason why you're doing that?" Killian asked with a perplexed expression and tone.

"I thought it'd be a cool trip for me after I graduate high school. I know it's still a couple years away, but it can't hurt to start looking," Liam answered matter-of-factly.

For a moment, Killian forgot how to breathe. His son was making plans – bloody plans that involved extensive traveling for God knows how long. If this how his older brother felt when he broke the news about he and Milah's future on the open road, he didn't know why in the bloody hell Liam let him leave.

He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard his 16-year-old exclaim, "Dad, you have to go! Grace is on her way!"

Killian simply nodded before he did as his son asked. When he had reached his truck and climbed inside, he laid his head against the steering wheel. He stayed like that for a moment before he looked up and saw the docks.

He knew his concentration was shot, so he called Leroy to give him and Will the rest of the day off. He then drove in the direction of the water.

Killian parked his truck before he got out and began making his way down the docks. When he arrived at the boat, he climbed on before he found a spot to lay down.

He didn't feel the time passing as he stared at the blue, cloudless sky. All he could think about was his son. It was hard enough that he was dating, but now he wanted to leave. He didn't know what to bloody do.

He soon heard footsteps, but he didn't look up to see to whom they belonged. He then saw his wife lay down beside him. She propped herself on his chest so that she could see him.

She then asked, "Are you alright, Killian?"

"No, I'm not," he answered honestly. He then sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

Emma then sat up and took Killian's hand in hers, pulling him with her. "I know that Liam dating has been hard for you, but, for the most part, you've been dealing with it. I feel like there is more to this than simply that," she spoke.

He offered a small smile as he told her, "You always did know me best, love." He then took a deep breath and asked her, "Do you know about Liam's map?"

"I know that he has one, but I wasn't sure what it was really for," Emma answered.

"He wants to go on a trip after he graduates. He wants to visit all of the museums of author's houses," Killian stated, and he couldn't hide the waver in his voice.

Emma nodded. She took a few moments to consider his words before she perceived, "And you're worried that he won't come home. That'll he'll make a life of traveling like you did."

"Can you blame me? In case you haven't noticed the last 16 years, Liam is an awful, bloody lot like me. He has a short fuse made worse by his temper, subtly is not his strong suit, and he rarely takes the time to think through his actions."

"That may be, but he also loves his family. Do you really think he'll be so quick to just up and leave?"

"That didn't stop me," Killian stated. He then took a deep breath and elaborated, "When I was his age, I was working in order to buy a motorcycle because I wanted to travel. Two years later, I left my family to traipse around the whole bloody country."

"Milah was your family, too," Emma reminded him. She then took a deep breath and pointed out, "Look, Killian, we don't even know if this trip is a sure thing. He could very easily change his mind in the next two years."

"He seems pretty bloody determined to me," Killian said. He then told his wife, "And if he doesn't change his mind? This is the only future plans we've heard him talk about, Emma. No college, no career – we're going to lose him."

"Most kids don't have their futures planned out before they enter high school like Anna Elizabeth did. Even if – if – he does leave, we're not going to lose him. Liam and Belle didn't lose you, and you came home."

"How in the bloody hell are you okay with this?" Killian practically shouted.

Emma took a deep breath before she answered, "The same reason that your brother was okay with it." At her husband's furrowed brows, she continued, "He knew how much you wanted to travel, and he also saw how much you loved Milah. He didn't want to take that away from you. He wanted you to experience life. I know he was scared to death the same way I am, but he knew you deserved to live your dream."

Killian took several long moments to think over words. He then took a deep breath and joked, "If Liam would have told me all of this, we would have saved a lot of trouble."

Emma only grinned and shook her head before she told him, "We both know you wouldn't have listened. You would have followed your heart."

Killian grinned as well before he became serious and asked, "Love, if you're as scared as I am, why haven't you said anything?"

Emma ran her fingers through her blonde hair before she admitted, "I thought that I needed to be strong for you." She then looked down at her lap.

Killian then adjusted his position to where he was sitting directly in front of her. He then placed his thumb under her chin and tilted up her head.

He then told her, "You don't have to do that anymore, least of all with me. I'm so sorry I made you feel that way, Swan."

"It's not entirely your fault, Killian. You know I have always felt like I needed to be strong, no matter how I actually felt. I still feel that way at times, despite how open I've become and despite the fact that I no longer have all those walls," Emma admitted.

Killian ran his fingers through her hair before he softly kissed her forehead. He then told her, "I know you do. It's one of the many things I love about you."

She smiled softly before she sweetly kissed him. When they had pulled away, she reached beside her and grabbed a scrapbook.

When she had handed it to her husband, he offered a small smile as he stated, "Liam's baby book."

"Yeah. I've spent the last several days looking through it. Sometimes, I can't believe our baby is old enough to drive and date," Emma told him with a wistful tone.

Killian reached over to squeeze her hand before he reminisced, "You know, love, I seem to remember that you weren't too enthused when Liam's voice began growing deeper, and you realized that he was taller than you."

"That's because I didn't like it, and part of me didn't want to accept it. But I learned to be okay with it because I know that growing up is just part of life. We just have to learn to roll with it," Emma told him.

He squeezed her hand once more before he added, "And because we raised our son well." "Yeah, we did," she agreed with a smile.

Killian smiled back before he began looking through the baby book. As he flipped through the pages of Liam's first steps, his first words, and the first time he successfully fed himself, Emma saw that wistful, longing look on his face.

After a moment, she thought carefully before she questioned, "Can I ask you something, Killian?"

He turned to look at her as he answered, "Aye, love," with a curious tone in his voice.

Emma took a deep breath before she spoke, "Knowing everything that you know now, and now that you know how hard it is seeing your kids grow up and leave, would you still have bought that motorcycle? Would you still have left with Milah and made those plans for a future on the open road?"

"That isn't an easy question to answer, love," Killian commented. He then sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as he thought over her words and his answer. After a few minutes of silence, he spoke, "As much as I would love to answer 'no' and say I would have made a different choice, it wouldn't be the truth."

"What is the truth?"

"That I loved my life making stops and visiting all the different cities, and I loved the experiences those places gave me. I loved the feeling the freedom that it gave me. And I loved sharing it all with the woman I loved. I don't regret a moment of it. I know how hard it was for Liam, and for Belle, to watch me leave, but I would still do it all over again. It made me who I am, and it shaped the person I became. But most of all, it led me to you, my love. It led me to our two amazing children, and a grandchild in about eight more months. It led me to this wonderful life that we have built surrounded by our family. How could I even think about altering a decision that led me here?"

Emma reached up to caress his cheek as she told him, "Despite all the pain and loneliness I experienced in foster care, and all the heartache that Neal brought me, I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world. Like you said, it brought us together, and it gave me a family. Whatever road our son takes, he will end up exactly where he is supposed to be, even if it takes a little while for him to get there, and he will say exactly what we are saying now.

When I was searching for my parents, and I was feeling anxiety about whether or not Dad would actually want me after our visit with Aunt Victoria, you assured me that everything would work out. You told me that the struggles we faced in our childhoods made us stronger and more resilient, and you were right. That's why I know that no matter where the coming years take Liam, he will always come home. Home isn't a place – it's the people who love you and who are always there for you. And that's why we will never lose our son."

At this point, both of them were on the verge of tears, and for a moment, Killian could only stare at his wife. Despite knowing her for nearly 25 years and being married to her for 18 of them, she never failed to still amaze him. She truly was a bloody marvel, and he truly wouldn't change one moment in his life if it meant he didn't get to be with her.

He then began leaning in, and she met him halfway for a loving and tender kiss. They both still felt those same fireworks that they felt the first time that their lips met. He tilted his head to deepen the kiss, and she began running her fingers through his hair. A couple of minutes later, they pulled away with their foreheads touching, both wearing a smile.

"I love you so much, Emma," Killian spoke as he lifted his head to look into her eyes. Her smile only grew as she responded, "And I love you just as much, Killian."

Killian then reached up and ran his fingers through her hair before resting his forehead back against hers. They stayed like that until they heard their son's voice: "Mom! Dad!"

Both of them then rose to their feet, with the blue scrapbook still in Killian's hand. When they had climbed out of the boat and were standing on the dock, Liam ran up to them and spoke, "There you guys are! I'm hungry."

Killian and Emma couldn't help but chuckle before the blonde told her son, "You know we wouldn't let you starve, Liam."

The teenager only shrugged his shoulders before he replied, "I was beginning to wonder," with the smug grin that he inherited from his father.

Emma rolled her eyes while Killian chuckled at her side, earning him a smack in the shoulder. Liam was trying his best not to laugh.

The three of them then began making their way down the docks. A moment later, a breeze was blowing, and Emma caught a whiff of something.

She grinned as she playfully asked her son, "Hey, Liam, is there any particular reason that your shirt smells like perfume?"

Liam scratched behind his ear before he answered, "Well, I mean, Grace likes to wear a lot of it, and I guess it rubbed off when we hugged." He then shrugged his shoulders in an attempt to appear nonchalant.

Emma, and even Killian, grinned. The dark-haired man then observed, "So, I take it that you and Grace were able to figure out how to make things less awkward between the two of you."

Liam smiled as he replied, "Totally. Your advice was awesome, Dad." Killian smiled back in response.

"Well, kid, I'm glad you two were able to figure it out," Emma addressed her son. She then asked him, "Have you figured out where you're taking Grace for you guys' date?"

The black-haired teenager nodded before he elaborated, "In Mist Haven, they converted the old baseball stadium into a park and museum thing. It's really awesome. We're gonna grab something to go from one of the restaurants and then go hang out there."

"I think you two will have a great time. You really did take your dad's advice – both of you love baseball, and you made a date out of it. It's really sweet of you," Emma bragged on her son. He looked down as he blushed, and he also began scratching behind his ear.

When they arrived at the end of the docks, Killian commented, "Looks like I'll be driving the three of us home."

His wife and son gave him the exact same annoyed look, and he couldn't help but think, "Like mother, like son."

He grinned at them before they all climbed in Killian's truck. Once they all had their seatbelts on, Killian turned on the radio.

Liam instantly groaned when he heard "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" coming through the speakers. He then complained, "I know this is you guys' wedding song, but it's, like, old."

Both Emma and Killian rolled their eyes before the dark-haired man told his son, "Need I remind you that our wedding led to your very existence."

The 16-year-old rolled his eyes that time as he pointed out, "Only because you've told me a thousand times."

"And yet, it still hasn't gotten through that thick head of yours," Emma teased him.

Killian then chimed in, "Well, love, that's because he's stubborn like his mother." She narrowed her eyes at him before she smacked him in the arm.

"That isn't setting a good example for our son who is just now entering the dating world," he feigned scolding his wife.

"You guys are such dorks," Liam spoke just as they pulled into the driveway, where Emma and Killian recognized Calin's car.

Their daughter and son-in-law were both leaned against the Corvette. She was holding her brother's shirt while he was holding a large casserole dish.

When the three of them had gotten out of the truck, Killian asked, "What brings you two by?"

"I came to return Liam's shirt for his date," Anna Elizabeth immediately answered. Calin rolled his eyes before he added, "And because someone made entirely too much lasagna."

He received a glare from his wife, while Emma, Killian, and Liam tried their hardest not to burst into laughter.

Emma then spoke, "Well, I'm sure that it's delicious, so let's go eat." The rest of the family nodded before she unlocked the door, and they followed her into the house.

Killian put away the scrapbook before he helped Emma grab the dishes from the cabinet. Calin was setting the dish on the table.

Anna Elizabeth handed Liam his shirt before she told him, "It took me an hour to iron that. You better be glad that you're my brother and that I love you."

Liam refrained from rolling his eyes before he sincerely told her, "Thank you, Anna Elizabeth. For the ironing and for sewing the button back on."

"Sure thing, little bro," she responded. He did roll his eyes that time before he headed into his room to hang up the shirt.

Anna Elizabeth then asked Emma, "Hey, Mom, do you have like a sweatshirt or something that I can put on? I'm freezing."

"I think one of my jackets is the car. I'll run and grab it," Calin told her. Killian then added, "And I believe there's an extra blanket in our room somewhere, love." Both men then rushed off in a different direction.

The expectant mom shook her head as she asked, "Is this what I can look forward to for the next several months?"

Emma couldn't help but chuckle before she spoke, "Oh, you can count on it, kid. Just be thankful you don't work with either one of them."

Anna Elizabeth laughed before she conceded, "Oh, I believe you. I've already seen how protective Uncle David is over Evie, and he's amped it up since she and Alex have decided to actually date."

Emma chuckled and shook her head at her brother. She and Anna Elizabeth then finished setting the table just as Liam came back into the kitchen.

"This smells so good. You're like the best cook ever. Well, after Mom," the teenager told his sister.

Anna Elizabeth smiled as she told him, "Well, thank you, Liam. That is very high praise." He smiled back at her in response.

While Emma went to go find an extra chair for the normally four-person table, Calin and Killian came back it. Both of them instantly began wrapping her in the fabric.

"Guys, I'm cold, but it isn't exactly Antarctica in here. Can you two tone it down?" Anna Elizabeth told her overly protective father and husband.

Both of them stepped back while a confused Liam asked her, "Are you sick? Is that why they're freaking out?"

The three of them momentarily panicked before Anna Elizabeth covered, "It's just a cold. I'm sure I'll be over it soon."

"If soon means nine months, then sure," Calin muttered. Fortunately, his wife didn't hear him.

Emma then returned, and Killian helped her rearrange the chairs at the table. He then commented, "You know, love, we may just need a bigger table."

"We've made it work the last four years – I'm sure it'll last for quite a few more," Anna Elizabeth added with a grin.

"It may work for now, but it won't when your little lad or lass gets a bit older," Killian matter-of-factly stated.

"Dad!" Anna Elizabeth complained, while Calin and Emma shook their heads. Killian instantly realized his mistake and ran his fingers through his hair.

Liam, with furrowed brows, then asked his sister, "Why didn't you tell me you guys were having a baby?" with confusion in his tone.

Anna Elizabeth took a deep breath before she answered, "I know how important Grace and this date are to you. I didn't want to take away from that."

Liam thought about her words before he assured, "It's not, Anna Elizabeth. I think it's cool you guys are having a baby."

"You do?" she asked.

"Yeah. It'll be cool to be an uncle, even though Leo calls me that," Liam stated. He then furrowed his brows as a thought crossed his mind, and he added, "Although, I guess I wouldn't technically be this baby's uncle."

"Well, lad, I think perhaps we should just ignore the technicalities because there are quite a few of them in our family tree. All that matters is that we are family, and we now get to celebrate Anna Elizabeth and Calin's first child along with your first date and girlfriend," Killian spoke.

Everyone smiled, and Emma grabbed her husband's hands and lovingly squeezed it. The five of them then sat down at the table.

After everyone had scooped their lasagna, Anna Elizabeth asked her brother, "So, are you looking forward to your date?"

"Totally. Grace is awesome," Liam answered with a bright smile.

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her brother as she told him, "Well, I know that you two will have such a great time."

Liam smiled back in response before his sister continued, "As long as someone doesn't embarrass you," with a pointed look toward her father.

"Who, me?" Killian questioned, feigning innocence. His wife, daughter, and son all rolled their eyes while his son-in-law simply grinned.

Anna Elizabeth then pointed out, "Dad, you know you completely freaked out over my first kiss. It was terrible."

Killian ran his fingers through his hair before he admitted, "I know that I did, love." He then took a deep breath and vowed, "Should Liam come home from his date and tells us that he kissed Grace, I won't overreact at all."

"'At all' is a quite a promise, Killian," Emma pointed out.

The dark-haired man considered his wife's words before he corrected, "Okay, I won't overreact that much."

Everyone else offered a satisfied smile, except Liam, who was abnormally quiet.

Emma then asked her son, "Everything alright, kid?"

"Yeah, Mom," Liam replied a little too quickly. He was fighting the urge to scratch behind his ear as he nervously tapped his fork against his plate.

Calin couldn't help but grin as he perceived, "You've already kissed her, haven't you?" with a teasing smile toward his brother-in-law.

The black-haired teenager's eyes widened as he then did reach up to scratch behind his ear. He then slowly replied, "Um, well, maybe…sort of…yeah."

His sister, brother-in-law, and mother grinned widely while his father was taking a series of deep breaths.

Killian then asked his son, "Were you going to say anything, lad?"

"Of course I was. I was going to wait until much, much later," Liam began. He then cast an annoyed look toward his sister and continued, "Until you starting talking about you and Nathan," with crossed arms.

"Hey! I was only trying to help. How I was supposed to know that you already had your first kiss?" Anna Elizabeth remorsefully defended.

The teenager then took a deep, calming breath and told her, "Sorry. It's just, like, you know, embarrassing," as he scratched behind his ear once more.

"It's nothing to being embarrassed over, kid. I'm sure it was very sweet," Emma assured her son with a smile.

Liam's only response was looking down at his plate so that his family couldn't see the blush rising to his cheeks.

Anna Elizabeth then changed the subject to save her younger brother, "So, Liam, do you think you guys will make to the championship this year?"

The 16-year-old offered his sister a grateful smile before he enthusiastically launched into every detail of high school baseball.

Killian listened for a moment before he leaned over to Emma and discreetly whispered, "It seems like they were doing more than just studying."

"Killian, I'm not sure we have any room to talk. Any time we start on a home project, we always get distracted. And we've been married for almost 20 years," she pointed out.

He couldn't help but grin because he knew that his wife was right. He then observed, "It seems that Liam truly is the product of our love, Swan."

"Yeah, he is," Emma agreed. She then fondly spoke, "But that isn't a bad thing, you know," with a smile.

Killian nodded. He was contemplative for a moment for he told her, "After we found out we were having a boy, I was a bit worried that he would probably have my temper. Do you remember what you told me, love?"

The blonde furrowed her brows for as she thought over it. A few moments later, she answered, "Yeah. When you lose your temper, it's mostly because you're protecting your family."

"Liam is the same way. He wouldn't dare let any harm come to those he loves if he can help it," Killian stated. He then took a deep breath and continued, "And that is how I know our son will be okay. He truly understands where his priorities should lie and what is most important in life. We don't have to worry about him, love."

Emma offered her husband a proud smile before she leaned in to kiss him sweetly. He kissed her back and ran his fingers through her hair. They pulled away a few moments later and rested their foreheads against each other.

They stayed like that until they heard Anna Elizabeth's voice, "Mom, Dad, your food's getting cold," as she was trying not to giggle.

Both Emma and Killian blushed slightly before they went back to eating. Liam then teased, "And you guys wonder why I couldn't concentrate on studying," with a smug grin.

His parents rolled their eyes before Calin teased, "He really is you guys' child," with a grin.

"Careful, mate. You won't think it's so funny in a few more years when your little lad or lass insists on doing everything by themselves, no matter how unreasonable it may be," Killian told him, with a pointed look toward his daughter.

Anna Elizabeth immediately defended, "It's not my fault that I took after my mom," with crossed arms.

Emma, Killian, and Liam chuckled while Calin kissed his wife's forehead. He then told her, "Even our child is incredibly stubborn and independent, he or she will be absolutely perfect."

Anna Elizabeth smiled at her husband before they shared a tender kiss. When they pulled away, she announced, "Alright, that's enough distractions. I'm starving – I am eating for two now."

"I'm not sure you can blame your very active appetite on our unborn child," Calin told her.

"He's right, love. Your mother tried to use the same excuse, but it wasn't entirely accurate," Killian added.

Emma couldn't help but grin before she spoke, "I think that's why he eats so much now," as she reached over to ruffle her son's hair.

When she pulled her hand back, Liam groaned before he ran his fingers back through his dark locks.

Calin then addressed his brother-in-law, "Speaking of eating, where will you and Grace grab dinner at?"

"Wherever she wants to go," the teenager answered simply.

Killian smiled at his son as he told him, "Ah, keeping the lady happy and putting her first. You will never go wrong with that kind of attitude."

Liam offered his father a bright smile in response. He then turned his attention back to the food in front of him, as did the rest of the family.

It didn't take long for a new conversation to be struck up, and there were equal parts laughter and eating going on, and Killian was simply watching all of them, his children in particular.

They had both grown up so fast – too fast if you asked him. He would give anything to go back and relive some of those moments, like the one where Anna Elizabeth read to Liam the first night he was brought home from the hospital. Unfortunately, he knew that it didn't work like that, but oh, he wished that it did.

However, he wouldn't trade any of the moments that he had shared with his children, even the ones that invoked angry words and tears. They all led him right here, and for that, he will be forever grateful. He couldn't help but smile at the thought that there would be so many moments to look forward to in the future, even if that mere thought did scare him a little.

Time did move so bloody fast, but it only made the time spent with his family that much more special.

Chapter Text

Elsa had just settled on the couch with Anna Elizabeth in her arms. The six-week-old had fallen asleep in her mother's arms, and Elsa just wanted to rock her.

Just then, she heard a knock at the door. She slowly and quietly got up and made her way to the door.

She opened and was greeted with a smiling Emma. The blonde quickly apologized, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't know she was sleeping."

"You're fine, Emma. Don't worry about it," Elsa assured her friend with a smile. Emma smiled back before she was ushered inside the house.

When they had settled on the couch, Emma handed her a friend a pink bag. She then told the new mom, "I know I've hardly been by here to see Anna Elizabeth, and I hope this makes up for it."

Elsa shook her head before she pointed out, "You're the sheriff, Emma. That's pretty much the most important job in town – I completely understand."

Emma offered a grateful smile before she spoke, "Even so, I saw this at the store, and I thought it would so adorable on Anna Elizabeth."

Elsa smiled before she carefully adjusted her baby girl in her arms. With her free hand, she reached into the bag and pulled out two onesies.

One of the onesies was white, and it had pink and black writing that read "Daddy's Little Girl". Silver, glittery hearts surrounded the words, and a white and black polka-dot bow was on one of the shoulders. The other onesie was black, and it had silver glitter and hot pink writing on it that read "Mommy's Little Princess". A silver glitter crown was above the words, and a hot pink bow was on one of the shoulders.

Elsa's smile grew bright as she spoke, "Oh, Emma, they are absolutely precious. I love them. Thank you so much."

"You are so welcome," she responded with a bright smile. She then asked, "Do you want me to put them in the nursery?"

The new mom nodded in response before she handed her friend the bag. Emma then got up and headed from the living room.

When she came back from the nursery, she asked, "Who gave Anna Elizabeth the Disney princess mobile?"

"It was a gift from Anna. Even though she's already bought so much, she insisted that her favorite niece have something that isn't just about practicality," Elsa fondly spoke with a wide smile.

Emma couldn't help but smile at her friend's words. However, the new mom's smile soon faltered, and Emma surmised, "You miss her, don't you?"

"Every time she leaves to go back to Denmark," Elsa admitted. She then took a deep breath and continued, "You think it'd be easier since she's lived there for years."

"But she's still your easily excitable and impulsive younger sister that you love dearly," Emma supplied.

"And whom I still feel like I need to take care of, despite the fact that she's married with a child," Elsa added.

"I'm sure you'll always feel that way. I know that Anna was already a senior in high school when you guys' parents passed, but you still took care of her. You guys were already incredibly close, and you became even closer. There is nothing wrong with you still wanting to make sure that she's okay," Emma assured her friend.

Elsa smiled as she spoke, "Thank you, Emma. I needed to hear that – sometimes I feel that I worry too much." She then added, "And so does Liam," with a light chuckle.

Emma chuckled lightly as well before she spoke, "Well, you know, I think it's the job of older brothers to be overprotective."

"I think that David just wants to make sure you're alright after everything that happened with Neal," the braided blonde perceptively responded.

"I'm fine. I've completely forgiven him, and I'm over him," Emma tried to defend, only to receive a knowing look from Elsa in response.

Emma then sighed and resigned, "Okay, fine. I'm on my way to complete forgiveness and being over him. I just haven't quite got there yet."

"A broken heart does take time to heal, and you will get there," Elsa assured her with a comforting tone. Emma offered a grateful smile before she reached over to squeeze her friend's hand.

Elsa smiled back before she teased, "I may not know the exact time frame, but it will probably take longer than four and a half months," with a grin.

Her blonde friend rolled her eyes before she conceded, "I know you're right. Patience just isn't my strongest suit."

"I know," Elsa simply responded, still wearing that grin.

Emma eyed her friend for a moment before she spoke, "Can we just change the subject?" The new mom nodded, but before either one of the women could speak, Anna Elizabeth was waking up.

Elsa smiled as she softly talked to her daughter, "Hello, my precious girl. Mommy has some news for you – Emma came to see you."

The blonde in question smiled before she moved from the loveseat to the couch. She took Anna Elizabeth's small hand in hers as she told the baby girl, "Hey, Anna Elizabeth. I'm so glad to see you."

Elsa smiled at the sight before she asked, "Do you want to hold her?" Emma looked up at her friend and smiled as she answered, "I'd love to."

Elsa then gently passed the baby to her friend. Anna Elizabeth squirmed a bit, but then settled in Emma's arms.

The new mom noticed that the blonde was a natural, and she commented, "You're so good with her."

Emma didn't look up from the baby as she simply nodded her response. She watched the little girl for a few moments before she looked up and observed, "Speaking of being good with her, Killian told me that you and Liam asked him to be Anna Elizabeth's godfather."

"I feel like there's a question of why in there," Elsa stated.

"Oh, don't get me wrong – Killian is great with kids. He is a little unsure of himself, and he doesn't always know quite what to do with them, but he is a natural. He'll figure it out," Emma immediately clarified.

Elsa was a little surprised that her friend knew all of this about Killian after only knowing him a few months. However, she chose not to dwell on it.

She then simply stated, "Liam and I did a lot of talking, and we knew that he was the best choice. He will do an amazing job of raising her should anything happen to us."

"Which it won't," Emma added, with a pointed look toward her friend. Elsa shook her head before she spoke, "It doesn't hurt to have a plan just in case."

Emma took a deep breath before she resigned, "I guess not." She then looked back down at the baby girl in her arms. A moment later, she heard her friend's voice, "Since you're here, would you mind watching and holding her a bit so I can do some laundry?"

"Of course not. I don't mind at all," Emma assured Elsa when she had looked back up. The new mom offered a grateful smile before she began heading toward the laundry room.

However, she stopped and turned back around. She then added, "If she gets a little fussy, she probably just wants you to sing to her. Sometimes, it's the only way to get her to go to sleep."

Emma nodded in response before she watched Elsa leave the room. When the blonde looked back down at Anna Elizabeth, she started whining a bit – as though she were on cue.

"Shhh, it's okay, Anna Elizabeth," Emma gently told the baby girl. She then remembered Elsa's advice and continued, "You know, when I went to visit Mary Margaret and Evie the other day, they were watching Snow White. I bet you would love that one song as much as Evie does."

Emma then paused a moment as she thought about the lyrics to said song. When she had remembered them, she began to sing, "Someday my prince will come. Someday we'll meet again, and away to his castle we'll go to be happy forever I know. Someday when spring is here, we'll find our love anew, and the birds will sing and wedding bells will ring. Someday when my dreams come true."

Elsa had caught the last part of the song as she strolled into the living room, and she couldn't help but smile at the sound.

Even after Anna Elizabeth had fallen asleep, Emma continued to watch her. The baby girl was so peaceful; there had been quite a few times in the last few months that Emma had longed for that very feeling.

The blonde then heard Elsa break the silence, "You know, sometimes, I envy how well she sleeps. She doesn't have a care in the world."

Emma couldn't help but grin and shake her head. She shouldn't be surprised that Elsa could read her mind – they were best friends.

As Elsa sat down beside Emma, the new mom spoke, "It looks like she fell back asleep. I think I'll take her back to the nursery."

Emma nodded before she carefully passed the baby to her friend.

When Elsa returned a few minutes later, she immediately turned on the baby monitor before sitting back on the couch.

When she had turned her attention back to Emma, the blonde was wearing a smile that Elsa couldn't quite read.

"What is it?" Elsa asked curiously.

"Well, I was thinking about when we were in high school. You were adamant that dating wasn't for you, even though you saw how happy your sister was with Kristoff and how happy David and Mary Margaret were. You were absolutely certain that you would never fall in love, but you were still happy and content as you could be."

Elsa smiled fondly as she answered, "And then I met Liam. He was everything I never knew I wanted or I didn't think I could have. We were – are – so similar, and I wouldn't want to live my life without him."

Emma smiled as well as she continued, "And you are an amazing wife and mother. I remember when I came to visit you right after Anna Elizabeth was born. She was still in the nursery, and even though you had just given birth a couple hours before, you were so determined to go and get her. Liam only smiled and shook his head before he managed to convince you to stay."

The new mom couldn't help but chuckle before she became reflective and spoke, "You know, after Anna and I lost our parents, I did feel like I was responsible for her. But more often than not, we were taking care of each other. We were sisters. I thought that – and friendship – was the only thing that was meant for me. All that changed when I realized I was in love with Liam, and I wanted a future with him. Shortly after he proposed, we talked about having children one day. The thought terrified both of us because we had both lost our parents, but we wanted a family. And now we have Anna Elizabeth. You know that this isn't the life I pictured for myself, but now, I can't picture it any other way."

Tears had begun to form in her eyes, and Emma pulled her in for a hug. When they pulled away, Elsa nervously fingered her blonde braid and asked, "Did you mean what you said earlier? That you think I'm an amazing mother?"

Emma smiled as she answered, "Absolutely. I know that Anna Elizabeth doesn't know it yet, but she is so incredibly lucky to have you as her mother. And one day, she will tell you just as much." Elsa smiled back in response.

The new mom then took a deep breath and told her friend, "Well, Jamie and Evie are just as lucky to have you."

"What?" Emma disbelievingly asked, as she leaned back against the couch and crossed her arms.

"Come on, Emma. I know you've only just moved back to town, but that doesn't change how much your niece and nephew adore you. They always ask about you, and they're always so excited to see you."

Emma simply shrugged as she responded, "They're sweet kids, and they're my family."

"That doesn't lessen the fact that you're a wonderful aunt to them," Elsa pointed out. Her blonde friend offered a small smile before the new mom took a deep breath and continued, "And even though we aren't actually related, you are my best friend. And in my mind, that makes us family. Anna and I both felt so incredibly lost after we lost our parents, but we had all of you to help us through. I'm part of this great family, and I'm so glad that my daughter gets to have so many people that loves her."

"That is one thing you'll never have to worry about. I know I can speak for everyone when I say that we will always be here for you," Emma spoke. She then sincerely added, "And you feel like a sister to me, and you can always count on me to be here for you and your daughter."

"Do you promise?" Elsa asked.

"Of course I do," Emma responded.

"I mean it, Emma," Elsa stated. At her friend's perplexed expression, she continued, "You know why Liam and I chose Killian to be Anna Elizabeth's godfather. We trust him implicitly, and we know he will take amazing care of our daughter. But taking care of a child by yourself isn't easy, and I would feel so much better if I knew he had someone to help him. Even if nothing happens to us, I want you to promise that you will always be there for Anna Elizabeth."

Tears had once again formed in Elsa's eyes, and Emma found herself wiping her own green ones. She then took a deep breath before she spoke, "Even though I've really only been around you the last two months of your pregnancy, and Anna Elizabeth is only six weeks old, I love that baby girl so much. As much as my own niece and nephew. No matter where I go or what I do, I promise you that I will always be here for Anna Elizabeth."

Elsa pulled Emma in for a hug, and the braided blonde spoke, "Thank you so much." "You are so welcome."

When the two women pulled away, they heard crying through the baby monitor.

"I think that someone needs a diaper change," Elsa stated. She then began rise when Emma's voice stopped her.

"Let me. I know that you love taking care of your baby, but I know that you're exhausted."

Elsa offered a sympathetic smile before her friend rose. Emma then made her way to the nursery.

Elsa sat contentedly on the couch as she began redoing her braid. She then heard Emma's soothing voice come through the monitor, and a smile erupted on her face.

Elsa, as well as her husband, had been so protective over their siblings, and they still were. Now, they had a beautiful little girl who had become their whole world, and they both wanted to do everything they could to keep her safe and happy. That was one of the main reasons they had chosen Killian to be her godfather - to ensure that Anna Elizabeth would always have someone take care of her if she was subject to the same fate as her parents were.

And now, Killian wouldn't have to face it alone. Elsa did see how much Emma loved Anna Elizabeth, and the new mom couldn't describe the peace that she felt at her friend's assuring words.

No matter what the future brought, Elsa knew that Anna Elizabeth would always have someone to love and take care of her.

She knew that Emma would keep her promise.

Chapter Text

Killian sank down on his couch after a long and tiring day. He had spent the day combing through his brother and sister-in-law's things with Belle and Anna. It was a task that was emotionally daunting for the three of them, but they knew it had to be done. It had been almost a month since the funeral, and they had to start going on with their lives, no matter how difficult it might be.

If it hadn't been for Belle, he would have skipped lunch completely, and he knew that skipping dinner wouldn't be in his best interest.

Just then, he heard a knock at the door, and he furrowed his brows as to who it could be.

He got up and made his way to the door. When he opened it, he couldn't help but offer a small smile at the sight of Emma holding a pizza box in her hand.

"Belle told me how she had to practically beg you to stop and eat earlier, so I thought I'd bring this for the both of us," the blonde told him before she was ushered in the house.

"She sent you to check on me, didn't she?" Killian asked as he took the pizza from Emma.

"She didn't have to. I wanted to come see you, and if it happens to alleviate your sister's worries, then I call that a win-win," Emma responded with a smile.

"Well, I hope that you accomplished that task. I want her to have a good time at the movies with Ruby," Killian stated matter-of-factly.

"Ruby is a great friend to all of us – I don't think you'll have to worry about that," the blonde assured with a bright smile. He smiled back in response.

He then teased her, "So, Swan, I'm assuming that you remembered mushrooms on the pizza?"

Emma rolled her eyes before she responded, "Very funny. You know I hate them, so you'll have to settle for pepperoni."

He couldn't help but smile at her once more, both for the pizza and for her ability to make him feel better.

However, his change in mood was short lived as he turned to head toward the kitchen table. A stack of his brother's books sat in the middle of the round, wooden structure.

The food was momentarily forgotten as Emma took it from his hand and placed it on the counter. She then wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug, and he wrapped his around her waist.

They embraced for several minutes before pulling away. Emma then carefully asked, "Do you wanna talk about it?"

Killian took a series of deep breaths before he admitted, "I know it's been a month since the accident and the funeral, along with the reading of the will, but it all sank in today. The only think sitting in their house is furniture. There's no evidence of the life that they built together – it'll be scattered between here, New York, and bloody Denmark. It doesn't feel right."

He could no longer fight the tears or his urge to slam one of the books on the floor. He then sank down to a sitting position and told Emma, "I didn't want you to see me like this, love."

She sank down beside him before she told him, "Next to Elsa, you were, uh, well, are my best friend. I know you want to be strong for Anna Elizabeth – especially after she saw you break down the night of the wreck. But, she'll be with David and Mary Margaret for a few more hours. It's just us."

Killian offered her a grateful smile before he hugged her once more. When they pulled away, he spoke, "You know, Anna was rather determined for today not to be sad – she knew that isn't what Liam and Elsa would want. She said we should see it as a celebration of their lives, and that we each get to keep a part of them."

He then took another deep breath and quietly added, "And she was right."

Emma heard him and replied, "Then that's what we'll do. When we finish our pizza, I'll help you put this stuff away, and we can relive those moments together."

"Thank you, Emma," Killian sincerely told her. She nodded in response before they both got off the floor.

The blonde then teased, "You can tell me about all of the times Liam had to talk you out of your impulsiveness."

Killian shook his head before he pointed out, "I'm not sure there's quite enough hours in the day for all of those stories, Swan."

Emma only grinned and shook her head in response.

 

Killian stuffed the pizza box in the trash can. When he turned back toward Emma, he found her looking at the stack of the books they had placed in a vacant chair.

"It seems that Liam was quite the fan of Ernest Hemingway. I'm pretty sure these are all of his books," she commented.

"Well, love, like Belle – and myself – Liam was an avid reader. I suppose it stems from the fact that Mother was constantly reading to us as children. I still have some of those books," Killian fondly explained.

Emma smiled as she spoke, "Well, I'm sure she would love that the three of you still love reading and have a collection of books to show for it."

He returned her smile before he began looking through the stack of books as well. However, his hand faltered when he came across a worn blue, green, and white cover.

"I can't believe he kept it all this time."

"What is it?" Emma asked.

The dark-haired man took a deep breath before he answered, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was my favorite book as a child, and I remember my mother reading it to me. I recall one specific time when I had to stay home from school because I had the flu, and I wasn't too fond of the fact that I had to stay in bloody bed. As you can probably imagine, I didn't make things easy for Mum, but she was patient and stubborn. Two good traits for dealing with a rather temperamental lad. Her solution was reading this very book, and her calming voice lulled me to sleep. To this day, whenever I read it, it's in her voice."

Emma smiled at his memory. She reached over to squeeze his hand, and they stood in silence for a few minutes.

She then asked him, "Why did Liam have it?"

"When Milah and I decided to travel together, there was only so much that I could fit into one duffel bag, and a childhood book wasn't high on my priority list," Killian explained. He then took a breath and added, "I'd wager that my brother forgot that he had it as the years passed. I suppose that Belle must have found it and placed it with these other books."

The blonde nodded before she surmised, "The fact that he kept it at all shows how much he knew that book meant to you."

"Aye, love. As practical as he was, family meant everything to him."

"Yeah. He was always worrying over you guys – whether it was you and Belle or Elsa and Anna Elizabeth," Emma conceded.

"I know. He was a great brother – I miss him terribly. He and Elsa – I felt as though I had another sister in her," Killian spoke with a far-off look in her eyes.

"She was a sister to me, too," Emma spoke. She then took a deep breath and continued, "I'm still not sure how to make it without her," as she wiped a tear that had slipped down her cheek.

A moment later, she deflected, "And here I am supposed to be helping you."

"You being here is helping, Swan," Killian assured her, as he brushed a piece of hair off her shoulder.

She offered a grateful smile before she spoke, "How about I get back to helping you put this stuff away? I assume you want these books on your bookshelf."

He nodded, and she grabbed the stack of books – all except a certain Jules Verne novel, which was still in Killian's hand.

Emma then made her way toward his bedroom. A moment later, Killian tore his gaze away from the book and followed his blonde friend.

He kneeled beside her in front of the vacant shelf in the bookcase. Before Emma began placing the books, she asked, "Do you, like, want these in a specific order or anything?"

Killian couldn't help but grin as he responded, "I think you're confusing me with my sister, Swan."

She couldn't help but roll her eyes and shake her head before returning to the task at hand. A couple of minutes later, both of them got off the floor.

Emma then asked, "Okay, so, what can I do next?" She then saw a mischievous glint in her friend's eyes and anticipated his next words.

"What I'm hearing, Swan, is that I'm the boss of you? Is that right, love?"

"Just for today. Don't get used to it," the blonde retorted with crossed arms, resulting in a chuckle from Killian. She swatted his arm before they both made their way back into the living room.

When Emma and Killian had arrived, the blonde sat down in front of one of the boxes and undid the lid.

Killian couldn't help but grin at her eagerness before he sat down by another box.

He then heard Emma's voice, "Alright, this box in full of…baseball stuff." She looked up at him as she finished.

"Aye, love. As you well know, the Jones children are all avid baseball fans," Killian replied with a smile.

The blonde smiled back before she asked, "How did you guys get into it?"

"That would be thanks to our neighbor, who was also a co-worker of my mother's. Though we lived in the small New York town of Athens – though it wasn't quite as small as here – my parents' jobs were in the city," Killian began.

"I take it none of you guys really liked the city," Emma interrupted.

"No, not really. My father tried living in London on account of his position, but it didn't suit someone who grew up in a seaside village. He settled in a town that was close enough to the city, but it was still quiet and peaceful. That's where he met a lovely schoolteacher," he explained with a fond smile.

Emma smiled back before she surmised, "And when all of you moved to the States, it only made sense for you guys to live in a place similar to that." She then grinned and added, "In an apartment with a view of the water."

The dark-haired man grinned before he continued, "As I was saying earlier, our neighbor, who became a family friend, introduced us to baseball. She knew that we were not only in a new city, but also a new country. She – being Mrs. Eva Brown – wanted to make us feel at home."

"I'm sure she missed your parents when they were killed. And then when you, Belle, and Liam moved away," Emma spoke.

"Aye. She was lovely woman," he agreed. The blonde then reached over and squeezed his arm, and he offered a grateful smile in response.

They both then turned their attention back to the task at hand.

As Emma looked through the box, a smile erupted as she pulled out a framed photo of the whole family. She then observed, "I didn't know you had freckles, Killian."

"Only a few when I was a lad. They faded by the time I got in high school," he explained as he looked up.

"Well, I think you were pretty adorable," Emma teased with a giggle. She then nudged his shoulder with hers.

He rolled his eyes before he told her, "I'm fairly certain that I would have protested with that statement."

The blonde rolled her eyes as well before she conceded, "I'm fairly sure you would have." A moment later, both of them began laughing.

Killian then sobered and said, "Despite the fact that we essentially became orphans, Liam ensured that we never felt that way."

"He loved you and Belle so much, and I know he was so proud of you both."

The dark-haired man lightly scoffed at her words before he refuted, "I'm not sure I've done much to be proud of, Swan."

Emma shook her head before she defended, "You took your job with your brother seriously. You learned everything you possibly could and now you're great at it. You are also an amazing brother to Belle and friend to the rest of us. We all know we can always count on you, Killian."

He shot her a grateful smile before he sincerely spoke, "Thank you, Emma. That really means a lot."

"Sure thing," she replied with a bright smile. Their eyes stayed locked for a few moments before they both looked away.

Emma then changed the subject, "So, where does the baseball stuff go?"

"Uh, let's see," Killian began. He looked at the various items before he continued, "The baseball card collection can go in the cabinet underneath the TV, the assorted memorabilia can go in my closet, and the photos can be placed on the various end and coffee tables."

The blonde took a moment to absorb his instructions before she began getting up. Once she was on her feet, she reached to grab the box when she stopped and asked Killian, "Aren't you going to help?"

"Alas, love, I have my own box to tend to, and you volunteered for this job," Killian replied with a smug grin.

Emma rolled her eyes once more before she told him, "You are incorrigible." "Perhaps, love, but I'm still your best friend," he replied, his grin growing.

She shook her head before she grabbed the cardboard box and walked over to the entertainment system.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

"Uncle Killian!" Anna Elizabeth yelled as she came through the door, with Mary Margaret close behind.

"I'm right here, love," Killian told his niece as he walked into the kitchen.

She ran to him and wrapped him a hug. He smiled as he hugged her back, stroking her blonde curls.

The little girl then looked up at him and exclaimed, "I had the mostest fun with Evie!"

He then bent down on her level and told her, "I'm so happy of that, love." She smiled brightly at him before he continued, "Why don't you go get your things ready for a bath?"

"I taked one at Evie's, house, Uncle Killian," Anna Elizabeth stated.

"You did?" he asked before he looked at Mary Margaret, who nodded her affirmation.

Anna Elizabeth nodded at her uncle as well before she asked, "Can I go play now?"

"Aye, love," Killian responded as he ruffled her hair. Without a second thought, the little girl then ran to her room.

When the dark-haired man had rose back to his feet, he thanked Mary Margaret. She waved her hand in dismissal before she replied, "It was no problem. I know it's been a long and tiring day for you, and I wanted to help. I washed her clothes while she was in the tub so she could have something clean to put on."

Killian smiled gratefully before he reiterated his earlier words, "I really appreciate it, love."

Before Mary Margaret could reply, they both heard Emma's voice, "Killian, where do want this Bon Jovi shirt?"

When the blonde arrived in the kitchen, she apologized, "Oh, guys, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were here, Mary Margaret."

"It's alright, Emma. I could say the same about you," the pixie-haired brunette replied with a mischievous grin that Emma, as well as Killian, noticed, but chose to ignore.

The perky brunette then bid goodbye to her sister-in-law and friend before she headed out the door.

Killian then turned his attention back to Emma and asked, "What were you saying about…" trailing off as he caught sight of the gray t-shirt in her hand.

"I'm guessing there's a reason this t-shirt didn't get placed in the storage locker," the blonde surmised.

"Aye, Swan," he simply responded. He then took a deep breath and elaborated, "It was a concert that the five of us – and by five, I mean my brother and sister plus Elsa and Anna – went to. Liam and Elsa had been planning for just the two of them to go, but as they say, life happened. Belle was reeling from her first broken heart while I was struggling to pass bloody math to even graduate high school. Anna had just met Kristoff, and she was confused about what to do. She fancied him, but she didn't want another disaster like Hans had been. All three of us were rather stressed, but we didn't want to ruin Liam and Elsa's date. But being the protective and worrying older brother and sister that they were, they managed to purchase three extra tickets. We all protested furiously, but as you're well aware, Liam and Elsa both were dreadfully stubborn. And since they had already bought the tickets, we couldn't exactly say no."

Emma couldn't help but smile at the story. After a few moments, she surmised, "Well, I know that all of you had a great time."

"We did. I still can't believe they did that for us," Killian spoke, his voice sounding surreal.

The blonde then replied, "You, Belle, and Anna meant everything to them. You guys were first in their lives. That only changed when Anna Elizabeth was born, but there were still so many times they put you three above themselves."

"They often had to be reminded to consider their own happiness," he agreed.

Emma nodded before she added, "I think that all parents have to be reminded of that at one time or another."

"Aye," Killian simply responded, and Emma heard the fear penetrating his voice.

She then perceived, "You're worried about being a good father to Anna Elizabeth."

He took a deep breath before he admitted, "I'm bloody terrified. You know how long it took me to just feel comfortable watching her for a few hours. But this, raising her? I don't know how I'm going to do it, Emma."

Tears began to well up in his blue eyes, and Emma simply wrapped her arms around him in a hug, one he gratefully returned.

When they pulled away, she assured him, "You're not alone, Killian. Your sister, all of your friends, me – we're a family, and you know we'll be here for you."

He took her words to heart before he smiled gratefully at her. He then spoke, "Thank you, love. I know you're right, and I can't tell you how much it means to me."

She smiled back at him before she spoke, "You know you always have someone to count on." "Especially you, Swan," he added, and she nodded in response.

As a request entered his mind, he began scratching behind his ear. He then asked, "Uh, love, would you consider…" He trailed off and shook his head before he finished, "Never mind," looking down.

"Just ask me, Killian," Emma earnestly stated.

When he looked back up and into her green eyes, he saw the worry and the care in them. She knew she wanted to help, and that she probably would if he only asked.

Killian took a deep breath before he stated, "Feel free to say no, Swan. But, love, you are so amazing with Anna Elizabeth. You adore her, and she clearly feels the same about you. I know you did not sign up for this, and I know I'm asking so much, but would you please help me with her? It would be a great relief to know I could count on you, Emma."

Emma could tell he wanted to hide the pleading in his voice, but it still came through. He was asking a lot, and she understood what she was getting. A conversation from a few years back entered her mind, and her decision was made.

She then took a deep breath as well before she began, "Shortly after Anna Elizabeth was born, I made a promise to Elsa that I would always be there for her daughter, and I intend to keep that promise."

She then reached over to squeeze his hand and continued, "We are best friends, Killian, and you know I would do anything for you. I do love Anna Elizabeth, and I will help you with her."

Killian let out a sigh of relief, and a bright smile erupted on his face. He then pulled her in for a crushing hug as he told her, "Thank you so much, Emma."

When they pulled away, she smiled and sincerely responded, "You are so welcome."

A moment later, her voice turned teasing as she joked, "Although, I'm not sure the future Mrs. Jones will appreciate this arrangement."

Killian rolled his eyes before he began to laugh. When he had sobered, he spoke, "Well, love, unless you know something I don't, there won't be a future Mrs. Jones."

"Well, I can't see the future, but I doubt anyone would put up with all the Pirates of the Caribbean references, the constant Bryan Adams concert, or your impulsiveness," she teased.

"I could say the same about you and your stubbornness, Swan," he pointed out.

Emma couldn't help but giggle before she observed, "Well, I guess we don't have to worry about any interference, then."

"I suppose we don't," Killian simply responded with a grin.

The blonde grinned back before she told him, "I really should be getting home. I'll see you and Anna Elizabeth at the park tomorrow."

He smiled at her words before he spoke, "Indeed you will. See you later, Swan."

"See you later, Killian," she responded. She then turned and made her way out the door.

When she was gone, he leaned against the counter and breathed another sigh of relief. He couldn't explain the peace that he felt. Emma really was a bloody marvel, and he was so grateful to have her as a friend.

A moment later, he heard his niece calling for him, and he began heading toward her room. When he arrived, Anna Elizabeth asked, "Will you read a story to me?"

"Of course I will, love," Killian responded. He then went over to her bed and made himself comfortable while she excitedly grabbed a book.

Once the four-year-old was settled, he began reading. He didn't get very far when he realized she was fast asleep. He placed the book aside before he softly kissed the top of her head; he then began stroking her blonde curls.

His mind then began to wander to her parents. Though Anna Elizabeth was 100% Liam's child, she reminded Killian of Elsa in some ways as well. In truth, being around their little girl every day made him miss them even more, but he wanted to take care of her, even though he was scared to death.

But he wouldn't be raising his niece by himself. Just as Emma hadn't known that she would be keeping that promise to Elsa, she didn't know how much her words had meant to him. While he certainly did not foresee his life turning out this way, he was certain that Emma Swan would always be there for him.

Chapter Text

"Hey, you guys," Emma greeted Anna Elizabeth and Liam as they climbed into the yellow bug at the daycare center.

"Mommy! I builded a Lego pirate ship!" the four-year-old boy exclaimed.

Emma smiled before she commented, "I bet you did an amazing job."

"He showed it to me. It was pretty awesome," Anna Elizabeth conceded.

Liam offered a proud smile to his mom and sister before he turned his attention toward the window.

A few moments later, Emma began slowing down as she came upon a stop sign. Some papers slid off the dash and onto the floor board.

"I got it, Mom," Anna Elizabeth spoke. She then grabbed the papers and started to place them back on the dash.

However, the 12-year-old girl's eyebrows furrowed, and she scrunched up her nose as she looked at the papers in her hand.

"Mom, why do you have adoption papers for me?"

"Well, kid, today is the anniversary of when I adopted you," Emma explained, and she couldn't help the fond smiled that erupted.

A thought then entered her mind, and she added, "I realize I probably should have told you sooner, but at the time, you were only five, and…"

She was cut off by Anna Elizabeth's excited voice, "We should celebrate!"

"Really, kid?" Emma asked, and she couldn't hide the surprise in her tone.

"Totally! It'll be so much fun!" Anna Elizabeth answered. The pre-teen then suggested, "We could grab something to go from Granny's and have a picnic."

Emma smiled brightly at her daughter as she answered, "That sounds great, kid. It's a plan."

Anna Elizabeth smiled back brightly in response as her mom pulled up to their house.

When the three of them had gotten out of the bug, they simultaneously turned their heads at the sound of Killian's truck.

After he had made his way over to his family, he greeted them with a smile and each then received a kiss on the head.

The four of them then began walking toward the door. Emma then commented, "I thought you were going to be home late today."

"Well, love, finishing that house didn't take quite as long as we thought," Killian explained. He then teasingly asked, "Aren't you glad to see me, Swan?"

Emma grinned as she teased, "I don't know. Maybe."

Killian rolled his eyes and shook his head at his wife before he dug into his pocket to grab his keys.

Once they were all in the house, the dark-haired man asked, "Shall I help you with dinner, love?"

"I don't want to have to call the fire department," Emma teased once more, earning another head shake from her husband.

She then told him, "There's been a change of plans actually. Myself and Anna Elizabeth are going to have a picnic on the beach."

Killian furrowed his eyebrows before he realized what day it was. He then spoke, "I believe that's a marvelous idea."

"It wasn't mine," Emma proudly responded before she looked over at her daughter, who was keeping her little brother occupied.

Emma then joined her children in the living room and announced, "Okay, you guys, we're going to order take out from Granny's. Me and Anna Elizabeth will then go have a picnic while Liam will stay here with Daddy."

Liam immediately exclaimed, "Me and Daddy can play pirates!"

Killian only grinned while Emma shook her head. She then told her husband, "He is definitely your son."

"Alas, love, you're the one whose last name was Swan," he pointed out.

The blonde only shook her head before she spoke, "Alright, you guys tell me what you want from Granny's."

"Pizza! With lots of pepronis!" Liam announced.

Killian grinned at his son as he conceded, "I think that'll be quite delicious, Liam."

"Deicious?" the little boy repeated with confusion.

"It means that the pizza will taste very good," the dark-haired man then clarified. "Oh," Liam replied in understanding.

Emma smiled at her boys before she turned her attention to her daughter.

"And you, kid?"

"Chicken tenders, Mom," Anna Elizabeth stated as though it should be obvious.

Emma refrained from rolling her eyes before she grabbed her cell phone from her pocket.

Killian the nudged Anna Elizabeth's shoulder and with fake curiosity, asked, "I wonder what your mother will order?"

With the same tone as her father, the pre-teen replied, "You know, I'm really not sure."

With a roll of her eyes, Emma quipped, "Both of you guys are ridiculous," before putting the phone to her ear.

Both Killian and Anna Elizabeth laughed before the dark-haired man glanced around and asked, "Where's Liam?"

"He's probably putting on his pirate costume," Anna Elizabeth stated with crossed arms and nonchalance in her voice.

Killian then teased, "You know, love, I seem to remember you always wanting to dress up and play pretend. And a few of those times, you were a pirate. That's what you went as for Evie's 6th birthday party."

"I know, Dad," she simply responded, and it was clear that she wanted to change the subject.

He then prodded, "Actually, if my memory serves me, you were a pirate fairy princess, complete with wings, a wand, and a tiara."

"Daaad," the curly blonde complained.

Killian ran his fingers through her hair as he responded, "You know I love you, darling, and with love, sometimes comes embarrassment."

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but a moment later, a fond smile appeared on her face.

Killian then kissed his daughters' forehead before he began heading toward his son's room.

 

A little over half-an-hour later, Emma and Anna Elizabeth were settled on a blanket on a secluded part of the beach.

The pre-teen took a bite of a chicken tender and swallowed before she asked, "Hey, Mom, can I ask you something?"

"Of course. Anything, kid," Emma responded.

Anna Elizabeth then began twirling a blonde curl around her finger. A moment later, she took a deep breath and stated, "First of all, I think it's awesome that you wanted to adopt me. It's really cool of you."

The blonde sensed where her daughter was headed and perceived, "But you're not sure why I did."

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she elaborated, "I became yours the day you married Dad. That's all the matters."

Emma agreed, "You are right. You became my family along with Killian, and you also became family to David, Mary Margaret, Regina, Evie, and Jamie. And that is what matters. That's what important to me. To us." She then took a deep breath and continued, "But, in the eyes of the law, it's a different story."

The 12-year-old furrowed her eyebrows as she asked, "What do you mean?"

The blonde thought for a moment before she explained, "Killian became your legal guardian upon your parents' death. He has all the rights as if you were his biologically. But, just because I married him doesn't automatically give me those rights. That marriage certificate said nothing about you becoming mine, as least not legally. Does that make sense?"

Anna Elizabeth looked thoughtful for a few moments before she surmised, "So, like, you wanted a document that said I was yours?"

Emma smiled as she answered, "Exactly, kid. I wanted to be absolutely positive that you were my little girl." The pre-teen offered a bright smile in response before her mom took a deep breath and admitted, "But it wasn't my idea."

Anna Elizabeth furrowed her brows in confusion and tilted her head as she simply asked, "What?"

"Well, like you said before, you became mine the day I married Killian. That was the only thing that mattered to me – I never even thought about the legalities of it all," Emma clarified. She then continued, "But a conversation with Aunt Mary Margaret and Aunt Regina made me see things differently."

Anna Elizabeth's blue eyes simply held a question, so Emma began again, "You see, the fall following Killian and I's wedding would be when you were to start kindergarten. Which meant registering you for school, and your dad and I decided it would just be easier if I was the one to do it. It was a week before registration, and I was having lunch with your aunts. I was complaining about all of the paperwork I would have to fill out, and Mary Margaret then asked if I had all the correct documentation regarding my guardianship of you. I gave her a puzzled look before I asked what she was talking about, resulting in Regina telling me she couldn't believe I hadn't already taken care of this in a tone that was one part scolding and one part concerning," pausing to chuckle at the memory.

The pre-teen then added, "That sounds like Aunt Regina," with a chuckle of her own.

Emma simply nodded before she finished, "Regina then began to explain the legalities of the situation. As I said earlier, just because I had married Killian didn't mean that I had any rights to you, and not having them could cause problems in the future – like with school registration. Aside from the legal side, Regina knew how important it was that you were my little girl, and I needed to make it official for both our sakes'. I thought over her words for a few minutes before I suggested adopting you, and she agreed that it was a great solution. She then offered to take care of it for me, since family law is her specialty. Since I was married to Killian and was living with both him and you, and I had been part of the day-to-day care of you for six months, the process wouldn't take nearly as long. So, that night, I talked it over with your dad, and the next day, we went to Regina's office to get started. Since it would take at least three months for the adoption to go through, Regina typed and signed a letter saying I was in the process so that I could still register you for school. And five months later, which marks seven years today, Regina delivered the papers to me – you were legally mine."

Anna Elizabeth couldn't fight the bright smile that erupted on her face. She then pulled her mom in for a crushing hug. She then spoke, "I'm so happy you wanted to adopt me."

When they pulled away, Emma was wiping tears from her green eyes as she said, "I said the exact same thing to Mom." The 12-year-old smiled once more.

Bryan Adams' voice then cut through the moment, and Emma reached for her phone. Anna Elizabeth stuffed another piece of a tender into her mouth while Emma greeted her husband.

The blonde listened for a couple minutes before she spoke, "Okay, I'll see you at home later. I love you, Killian." He bid his goodbye as well before Emma hung up the phone.

She slipped it back into her jeans pocket before she picked up her grilled cheese. She then heard her daughter's question, "Hey, Mom, why do like that?"

"Um, the grilled cheese?" Emma asked confusedly.

Anna Elizabeth rolled her eyes before she clarified, "I meant all the 80s songs. It's like all you listen to."

The blonde shrugged as she answered, "Well, that's what was popular when I was kid, and I grew to love all the songs and artists. I saw no reason to listen to anything else, and I guess I still see it that way."

The curly blonde nodded before she commented, "Well, I think you – and Dad – are starting to rub off on me. I kept singing a cross between "Jessie's Girl" and "You Make My Dreams Come True" while I was doing homework the other day."

Emma couldn't help but chuckle before she spoke, "Well, to be fair, I don't think it just started. You have always loved to sing, and it was always Disney when you were little. But I've noticed as you've gotten a bit older, I've been hearing more of the 80s."

"Yeah, well," Anna Elizabeth simply answered, as she nervously ran her fingers through her hair and looked down at the picnic blanket.

The blonde sensed her daughter's hesitation and assured her, "I know that being 12 in junior high is tough on a kid, but if you want to listen to 80s music as opposed to, uh, I don't know, Justin Bieber, or something, then that's okay. You just be you, and it won't make a difference to your real friends."

A few moments later, the pre-teen looked up and offered another bright smile. She then said, "Thanks, Mom." "Of course, kid," Emma replied as she ran her fingers through her daughter's curls.

Anna Elizabeth then asked, "Okay, so, I pretty much know all the singers you like, but who is, like, your favorite band?"

Emma placed a finger on her chin as she thought about her answer. She then replied, "Well, kid, that's a pretty hard question, so I'll just give you one of my favorites: Chicago."

"Who?" Anna Elizabeth, and her mom couldn't help but laugh. Emma then grabbed her phone from her pocket and commented, "It'll be better to just let me play them for you."

The pre-teen nodded, and a few moments later, she heard, "You know our love was meant to be the kind of love that lasts forever. And I want you here with me, from tonight until the end of time. You should know, everywhere I go. Always on my mind, in my heart, in my soul.

Baby, you're the meaning in my life. You're the inspiration…"

By the time the chorus was sang the second time, Anna Elizabeth was singing along. Emma couldn't help but chuckle before she observed, "Kid, you've only heard this song once when you were five. How do already know the words?"

Anna Elizabeth shrugged as she replied, "Well, I've always been a quick learner," with a grin. She then scrunched up her nose and furrowed her brows as the first part of her mom's words registered and she asked, "When did I hear this song?"

"Your dad and I played it at our wedding. As I recall, you decided to join us on the dance floor during this song, so the three of us swayed along. I thought you were adorable."

"Mooom," Anna Elizabeth complained. Emma simply rolled her eyes in response before taking a sip of her drink.

As the next song began, the pre-teen girl furrowed her eyebrows once more as she asked, "What song is this?"

"It's called "We Built This City", and it's by Starship," Emma answered.

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she commented, "It's totally different from the last song," before eating a French fry.

"Well, "You're the Inspiration" is a love song, and this one is pretty far from it," Emma acknowledged before she chuckled.

The pre-teen girl chuckled as well before she admitted, "I guess I didn't think about that." She then added, "It is a cool song, though."

Emma smiled as she spoke, "I have to agree with you – it's always been one of my favorites."

"Mom, I think any song that came out between 1980 and 1989 is your favorite," Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but tease.

The blonde shook her head at her daughter, but a moment later, she couldn't but laugh because the curly blonde was right.

Emma then added, "Well, since quite a few of them are already your favorites, I'm pretty positive that by the end of the day, I'll be saying the same about you."

Anna Elizabeth only grinned and giggled in response.

 

Over half-an-hour had passed, and Emma and Anna Elizabeth were heading back toward the car when the pre-teen spoke, "I had so much fun, Mom."

"I did, too, kid. I'm glad you suggested this picnic," Emma told her daughter.

Anna Elizabeth grinned as she added, "And I now I have more music to sing along to."

"So, now I can expect to have "You're the Inspiration" and "Faithfully" added to the playlist that is Anna Elizabeth?" the blonde teased. The pre-teen couldn't help but roll her eyes in response.

When they arrived at the car, Emma spoke, "Hey, kid, I think I'll just leave this blanket in the car. It might come in handy. Would you mind putting it in the trunk?"

Anna Elizabeth nodded before she took the blue blanket from her mom's hands.

She then walked around to the back and popped open the trunk. When she did, she tilted her head at two large boxes. Her curiosity almost got the better of her, but she decided to just ask her mom about it.

When she got in the car, she questioned, "Hey, Mom, what are those boxes in the trunk?"

"Well, one is a box of my CDs. They got lost in between the move from Boston to here. David found them in the room he and Mary Margaret use as storage. He brought them to work this morning," Emma explained. She then took a deep breath and continued, "And the other one has stuff in it of your dad's that Killian had. Belle was looking for something of her oldest brother's, so I brought his things over to her – I just keep forgetting to take it back in the house."

Anna Elizabeth listened intently as her mother spoke and nodded when Emma had finished. She then asked, "Can we look through them when we get home?"

Emma smiled as she answered, "Sure, kid." The pre-teen smiled back brightly in response.

A few minutes later, they arrived at the house. As soon as Emma shut the engine off, Anna Elizabeth practically leapt from the vehicle.

Emma couldn't help but chuckle and shake her head as she watched her daughter sprint around to the back of the bug. She then got out and joined Anna Elizabeth, who was placing the boxes on top of each other.

"Kid, there's no reason for you to carry both of them. I can take one," Emma told her pre-teen.

The blonde expected her daughter to argue, but she instead grabbed the box on top and headed toward the door.

When they got inside, Anna Elizabeth looked around and noticed the absence of two people. She questioned, "Where's Dad and Liam?"

"Oh!" Emma spoke in realization. She then explained, "That phone call from earlier was from him. He's babysitting for Aunt Belle and Uncle August."

The curly blonde nodded before they both came into the living room and sat on the couch. She then began examining the contents of her box and commented, "Wow, Mom, there are so many CDs in here."

"Yeah, I know – it's only matched by my book collection," Emma conceded with a grin. She then continued, "Whenever I got my monthly allowance, I used some of it to buy a new book or a new CD, and it's also what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas. The majority of this collection, however, was bought by me at the same time. There used to be a video and CD store in town, but they had to go out of business. So, they had a sale to get rid of their inventory, and I made David drive me over there because I didn't have my license yet. I know he thought it was a bit – or a lot – excessive, but he also knew that I was still relishing in the feeling of having something of my own," her voice cracking on the last part.

Though Emma managed to composed herself, Anna Elizabeth was pretty perceptive for a 12-year-old. The curly blonde quickly wrapped her mom in a hug, and the two of them stayed embraced for several long moments.

When they pulled away, Emma ran her fingers through her daughter's hair and told her, "Thanks, kid." "You're welcome, Mom," Anna Elizabeth replied with a bright smile.

The pre-teen then turned her attention back to the cardboard box and pulled out two CDs and a vinyl record. She then asked, "Why do you have three copies of Slippery When Wet?"

"One of them had gotten scratched so badly that I had to get another one," Emma explained. She then recalled, "Although, I'm not sure why I kept the scratched one." She shrugged her shoulders before she continued, "And the vinyl record was a present from David. He knew how much I loved that CD, so he got me the record as a decoration on my wall."

"Cool," Anna Elizabeth responded with a smile. She then turned over the back of the record and began perusing the songs. Without looking up, she asked, "Did my parents like Bon Jovi?"

"Oh, they loved them. That band really was your parents' favorite," Emma answered. A moment later, she giggled and reminisced, "I remember Elsa telling me that even though she did most of the singing to you, there were times when she would hear Liam singing "Livin' on a Prayer" to you. She wasn't sure it was the most soothing or calming song to put you to sleep, but it always seemed to work."

The pre-teen couldn't help the fond smile that formed on her face. She then joked, "So, I guess I've always listened to 80s music – I just didn't know it."

Emma couldn't help but smile as she agreed, "Yeah, kid, I guess you have."

Anna Elizabeth then turned her attention back the box of CDs. She would pick up each album and look at the titles, and Emma did the same. Every couple minutes, the blonde would hear her daughter begin to hum for a few moments before she would stop.

After about 20 minutes, Anna Elizabeth asked, "Hey, Mom, did you mean what you said earlier?" "About what, kid?" Emma questioned back as she looked up with a curious expression.

"Well, you see…" Anna Elizabeth began. Her nervousness was made evident by her rubbing her hands together. She then felt her mother squeeze her arm, and she instantly relaxed. She then took a deep breath and continued, "It's just that I really liked all of the music we listened to today, you know, Chicago, Journey, Bryan Adams, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, and all the other ones I can't remember. And well, I thought it'd be cool to listen to all of them more often – I mean, it's really an amazing decade of music."

Emma listened intently before she perceived, "And you're worried about the fact that it may not be what's really popular." The pre-teen simply nodded, and the blonde continued, "Listen, kid, what is most important is finding friends who like you for you – and if they think less of you because your taste in music is dated, then they weren't your real friends to begin with."

"Do you really think so?" Anna Elizabeth asked.

"Well, if you, Jane, Alexandra, and Evie are anything like me, Mary Margaret, Regina, and Belle, they'll definitely tease you about it, but it won't change the fact that you're all friends," Emma assured her daughter, and the curly blonde offered a bright smile in response.

Anna Elizabeth then pulled her mom in for hug and spoke, "Thank you, Mom for everything." Emma stroked her daughter's curls as she responded, "You're so welcome, kid."

When they pulled away, Anna Elizabeth turned her attention back to the CDs, and Emma asked, "So, kid, you gonna give it a shot?"

The pre-teen looked up with narrowed eyes and asked, "Mom, did you seriously just do that?" Emma's only response was laughter, resulting in an eye roll from her daughter.

The next CD that Anna Elizabeth pulled out had a Christmas ribbon tied around it. Her eyebrows furrowed and she asked, "What's the deal with the ribbon?" as she held up the Best of the 80s CD to her mother.

Emma smiled as she answered, "That CD was a Christmas present from Elsa. It was a special one-time only edition that included copies of the original lyrics signed by the artist. Not only was it an amazingand thoughtfulgift, but much more importantly, it was from my best friend. I kept the ribbon so that I would remember that."

Anna Elizabeth smiled before she looked down at the CD. As she began playing with the ribbon, her smile faded. She then spoke, "I still miss her. And Dad."

"I know you do, Anna Elizabeth," Emma spoke before she pulled her daughter in for a hug. When they pulled away, the pre-teen spoke, "I just wish I had something of my dad's, you know, like Mom's clip. A hat or something." She then looked back down and ran her fingers over the CD.

Emma couldn't help but smile as she spoke, "I have just the thing."

Anna Elizabeth looked up with a curious expression as she watched her mom dig through the other box. A couple of minutes later, Emma pulled out a gray t-shirt.

As she handed it to her daughter, the blonde explained, "This was a concert that your parents, as well as Killian, Belle, Anna, all went to. Your parents had been dating for a year, and it was meant to be date, but their siblings were having quite the teenage stresses, so they made it a family affair."

Anna Elizabeth's expression changed to a smile as she observed, "My parents really loved their sisters and brother, and they always wanted to take care of them, didn't they?"

"Yeah, they did," Emma agreed as she stroked her daughter's curls. She then continued, "It's why Killian is so protective over you. I know it comes across as overprotective, but it's only because he loves you so, so much, and because he loved his brother so much."

Anna Elizabeth offered a bright smile in response. She then held up the shirt and announced, "I think I'll put it on."

Emma smiled as well as she commented, "It probably won't fit, but I think it's a great idea." The 12-year-old nodded before she ran off to her room. Emma grinned at the sight.

She then placed the boxes one on top of the other before she stood up. She then grabbed the boxes and headed toward she and Killian's room.

When she came out, she heard the front door open and the familiar, "Swan!"

Emma smiled before she walked into the kitchen and greeted her son and her husband.

"Mommy, I had so much fun with Colette!" Liam announced.

She bent down on his level and told him, "I'm so glad that you did," as she ruffled his black hair.

The little boy smiled brightly before he asked, "Where's Anna Lizabeth?"

"She's in..." Emma began but was cut off by Anna Elizabeth's shout: "Mom, where are you?"

"In the kitchen," Emma responded, and a moment later the pre-teen appeared before her parents and brother.

Killian immediately noticed his daughter's shirt and asked, "Is that your fa..." trailing off when he felt his wife lightly hit his arm. He took a deep breath and started again, "That was the favorite shirt of Uncle Liam's, and it means a lot to me."

"Do you mind if I keep it?" Anna Elizabeth nervously asked as she twirled a curl around her finger.

"Of course not, love. He would want you to have it," Killian assured his daughter as he ran his fingers through her hair.

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly before she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug, one he happily returned.

When they pulled away, they noticed the absence of their two family members. Killian then spoke, "Well, love, I believe we should locate your mother and brother." Anna Elizabeth nodded in response.

They found Emma and Liam in his room, and the four-year-old was staring at his bookshelf with furrowed brows. His mom was sitting beside him trying to help him pick out a book, but unfortunately for her, Liam was his mother's son.

Both Killian and Anna Elizabeth grinned before the curly blonde suggested, "Hey, Liam, why don't I read you The Tale of Peter Rabbit?"'

The four-year-old's blue-green eyes lit up as he ran over to his sister. He grabbed her hand and dragged her to his bookshelf.

Meanwhile, Emma walked over to her husband, who was wearing a smug grin. He then told her, "It seems you've been passed over for our daughter."

The blonde only smiled and spoke, "Let them be." She then took Killian's hand, and they walked into the living room.

When they sat down on the couch, Emma snuggled against Killian's side and sighed contentedly. He smiled as he asked her, "I take it you and Anna Elizabeth had a lovely afternoon."

"Yeah, we did," Emma conceded. She then looked up and told him, "You know, I was reminded of something today."

"And what's that, love?" Killian asked curiously.

"How much I love our life together," she began. Her husband smiled at her before she continued, "Elsa and I were a lot alike. Being a devoted wife and mother was the last place we saw our futures heading, but all it took was meeting someone who didn't believe that future was for them either. But falling in love made us all realize that is the future we truly always wanted."

Killian's smile grew before he leaned in, and she met him halfway for a tender kiss. When they pulled away, they rested their foreheads against each other's.

A moment later, they pulled back and Killian spoke, "Well, love, there is no one I'd rather spend my life and my future with than you."

Emma smiled brightly at him before she admitted, "You know, for the few months of our marriage, there were so many times I wondered why it took us so long to realize our feelings, and I wished I hadn't run away from them. But adopting Anna Elizabeth made me see differently."

"How so?" Killian interrupted.

"While I miss Liam and Elsa so, so much, I'm so happy that I get to help raise Anna Elizabeth as Mrs. Killian Jones - nothing has made me happier. I'm so glad that I decided to give you and your niece a chance - two of the happiest days of my life is our wedding day and the day those adoption papers came through."

Killian smiled brightly at her before he reached up to wipe the tears that had formed in her green eyes.

He then told her, "I love you so much, Emma." "And I love you, Killian."

They kissed once more before Emma settled back in against Killian's side. She then told him, "Oh, by the way, you can now expect a fully 80s playlist from Anna Elizabeth."

He only chuckled before he observed, "Converted her, did you?"

"Technically, you're the one who started it. You're the one who would quite often sing her to sleep, and I know it was all 80s ballads," Emma pointed out with a grin.

"If you want to get really technical, my brother and sister-in-law were the ones who started it. Elsa would rock the little lass in her arms and sing her to sleep."

Emma smiled fondly at his words before she added, "And Liam thought that "Livin' on a Prayer" was an appropriate lullaby."

Both of them laughed at that before they composed themselves. Killian then seriously stated, "Part of me was always afraid that Anna Elizabeth wouldn't think of her parents that often. Not that she would forget them, but she was so young when they died that I wasn't sure they would be important to her. But they are special to her, and she will make sure that they are a piece of her. Seeing her in her father's shirt proved that - it's as though Liam is still here serenading his little girl with Bon Jovi."

"And he always will be. Both of them will," Emma sincerely added as she reached over to squeeze Killian's hand, as she looked up at him.

He offered a grateful smile before he placed a kiss on her forehead. She then rested her head in the crook of his neck, and they sat in comfortable silence for a little while.

That silence was broken by Anna Elizabeth leaving her brother's room for her room as she loudly sang, "We've got each other, and that's a lot for love. We'll give it a shot..."

As she closed the door behind her, Liam came bounding into the living room with the explanation that Anna Lizabeth was taking a bath. He then climbed in between his parents and excitedly told them all about Peter Rabbit.

As Emma looked between the smiling faces of her husband and son, and then glanced over at the sound of her daughter happily singing, she couldn't help but think that the shot she had taken had been more than worth it.

Chapter Text

"Damn it!" Calin cursed much louder than he intended when the wooden name clamored on the hardwood floor.

He ran his fingers through his brown locks before he heard the sound of his wife's worried voice, "Are you alright, Calin?"

"I'm fine - you can just go back to sleep," he answered.

"You know the probability of that is about one in a million. Once I'm awake, I'm awake," Anna Elizabeth replied, her voice teasing.

Calin's only response was a huff as he ran his fingers through his hair once more.

Anna Elizabeth couldn't help but grin before she walked over to him. When she had wrapped her arms his neck, she told him, "You're so cute when you're flustered."

Calin rolled his eyes before he placed his hands on her very rounded stomach and spoke, "You see how your mommy treats me, Elsa? You'll have to help me when you get here."

It was Anna Elizabeth this time who rolled her eyes before she questioned, "Already trying to turn our daughter against me, huh?"

"Well, if she's as stubborn as you are, I'll need someone on my side," her husband teased before he placed a kiss on her forehead. She rolled her eyes once more.

Calin then began running his hands up and down her arms and told her, "I am sorry I woke you - I do think you need rest."

Anna Elizabeth refrained from rolling her eyes before she pointed out, "I'm pregnant, not an invalid."

"You are nine months pregnant," he refuted.

Anna Elizabeth then took his face in his hands and told him, "I'm fine. We're both fine." She then kissed him sweetly.

When they pulled away, he told her, "Alright, I'm gonna finish hanging her name." He then added, "And you can watch."

The curly blonde looked as though she wanted to argue, but she knew it was a losing battle. So, she simply nodded in response.

Calin then pulled away from his wife and resumed his earlier task. A few minutes later, he walked behind his wife and placed his hands on her stomach. He rested his chin on her shoulder.

Anna Elizabeth then read, "Elsa Charlotte James," as she smiled. She then commented, "They would be so happy for us."

"Yeah, they would be," Calin agreed. He then observed, "I'm really glad we decided to name her after our moms. It's like a part of them is still here."

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded before she turned in his arms and told him, "I know our situations aren't the same..."

He then interrupted, "But you still miss Liam and Elsa, and I miss my mom and dad. But we both know they'll never be gone." He then smiled and added, "And we both have Emma and Killian - and Elsa will have amazing grandparents."

Anna Elizabeth smiled brightly at him before they shared a loving kiss. When they pulled away, the blonde slightly jumped at the sound of a phone alarm.

"Calin, was it really necessary to set an alarm to remember my appointment?"

He simply shrugged in response, earning a head shake from Anna Elizabeth.

Calin then moved his arms from around her and took hold of one of her hands. He then told her, "Let's get you and Elsa to Dr. Whale."

The two of them then began making their way toward the front door.

 

A little while later, Anna Elizabeth and Calin were in the examination room with Dr. Whale. He had finished checking Mom and Elsa, and the couple was expecting a positive report.

However, when the doctor turned back around to face them, his expression was rather serious, which was surprising for the often sarcastic man.

He took a deep breath before he began, "A few weeks ago, I had told you that it appeared that the baby had turned in the womb, but that it wasn't uncommon. In all likelihood, she would turn back around."

"I take it that she didn't?" Calin perceived, somehow managing to keep his voice even.

"Unfortunately not. The only option is a C-section," Whale explained.

Anna Elizabeth could practically feel her heart break, but she remained strong as she asked, "Is it absolutely necessary?"

"Delivering feet first could cause the baby to suffocate, as well as cause problems with the umbilical cord. While a Caesarean section does have risks, it is the safest option for the health of you and your baby," the doctor explained.

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded before she felt Calin entwine their fingers. Whale then spoke, "I'll leave you to digest the news. I'll return in a few minutes to explain the procedure and discuss setting up your appointment." Calin nodded before the doctor left the room.

Calin wordlessly took his wife into his arms and wrapped her in a tight hug. Though it felt much longer, they stayed embraced for a few moments.

They pulled away, and Calin tried to reassure her, "Hey, everything will be fine – Elsa will be perfectly healthy."

"I have to have a C-section, Calin – it's basically major surgery – just to bring our daughter into the world. Everything is not fine," Anna Elizabeth told him, desperately fighting the urge to cry.

Calin took a deep breath before he spoke, "That doesn't mean anything is wrong with you," knowing exactly where his wife's head was at.

"That's exactly what it means! Something is clearly wrong with my body if I can't even give birth naturally!" she argued, tears now forming in her blue eyes.

Calin reached up and wiped her eyes before he pointed out, "If that were entirely true, you would have had problems getting pregnant or carrying to term."

Anna Elizabeth opened her mouth to refute but closed it when she realized she couldn't argue with her husband's logic. She then buried her face in her hands.

She felt Calin's arms wrap around her once more before he told her, "I'm not going tell you that I know exactly how you feel because we both know I don't, and I never can. But I do understand why you think this is somehow your fault, and I will do everything in my power to show you that you're wrong."

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded against his chest before he kissed her head. She then lifted her head and told him, "Thank you," with a smile he didn't quite believe.

He nodded before he assured her, "I'm sure you'll feel better once you know more about the procedure and what to expect."

"I'm sure I will," Anna Elizabeth agreed, although she sounded as though she was trying to convince herself.

Calin kissed her head once more before Dr. Whale reentered the room.

CSCSCSCSCSCSCS

Nearly an hour later, Calin pulled into Belle and August's driveway. He then turned to face his wife and told her, "I'm sure that your aunt and uncle – not to mention Matthew – will understand if we skip this out. I still think you need time to digest everything."

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she replied, "I really do appreciate your concern, but this will be a good distraction. I promise I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Calin asked, somehow managing to mask how worried he was about her. She simply nodded in response before she kissed his temple. Both of them then climbed from the classic Ford truck.

When they walked into the backyard, Killian walked over to them and spoke, "I'm glad you two could make it." He then grinned and added, "Although, I'd imagine that a 12-year-old's birthday party isn't exactly you two's idea of fun.

Calin and Anna Elizabeth both grinned back before the brown-haired man spoke, "It's no problem. We love spending time with our family."

Killian smiled at his son-in-law's words before he asked his daughter, "Ah, love, how did your appointment go? Is little Elsa ready to make her grand debut?"

Anna Elizabeth plastered on a bright smile as she answered, "She is perfect and will be arriving next week." She then changed the subject, "I think I'll go say hello to the birthday boy," before making her way over to Matthew.

Killian watched her with a curious expression before he turned back to his son-in-law and perceived, "Is she alright, mate? I feel as though something is bothering her."

Calin bit his lip before he coolly answered, "She's perfectly fine." He then muttered, "Or at least she will be."

Killian sighed before looking back over at Anna Elizabeth. Without moving his gaze, he told Calin, "I know my daughter, and I think I deserve to know if she – and my grandchild – are alright," not being able to completely hide the pleading in his tone.

As the dark-haired man turned to face Calin, he found the young man biting his lip and looking at the grass beneath his feet. After a moment, he looked up and told his father-in-law, "We were going to tell everybody anyway, but we didn't want to draw attention away from Matthew's party."

Killian frowned at his son-in-law's tone before he spoke, "Now, you've got me worried. What's going on?"

"Well, it's nothing you should be worried over. I mean, not really – I guess. It mainly affects Anna Elizabeth, and it's sort of a big deal, but I know she's in good…"

Calin was cut off by Killian. "You're rambling," the dark-haired man pointed out, a little exasperated.

The young man then took a deep breath and continued, "Elsa breeched, which means that Anna Elizabeth will have to have a C-section. It's scheduled for next week."

Killian took a few moments to digest the news before he surmised, "And she somehow thinks it's her fault."

Calin nodded before he admitted, "I've tried to talk to her, but it'll probably take the whole week – or longer – to convince her because she's so incredibly stubborn."

Killian couldn't help but smile before he teased, "Try living with her for 14 years – then you'll really know stubborn." Calin couldn't help but chuckle before his father-in-law continued seriously, "I know she will eventually come around – it may just take a bit, as you've said. I know this can't be easy for her, so you'll just have to be patient. And from what I've already seen – and what I know – you're rather great at that."

Calin offered a smile at Killian's words, actually feeling a little better. He thanked his father-in-law before going over to Anna Elizabeth while Killian joined his wife and sister.

A few minutes later, the family gathered around Matthew and his cake. Just after singing happy birthday, Calin walked off to answer a call from his brother while Killian approached his daughter.

"If you want, love, you can sit, and I'll fix you something to eat," he offered.

"I can get it, Dad," Anna Elizabeth immediately responded.

"Are you certain?" he asked. "Why wouldn't I be?" she asked with a curious expression. "No reason, Anna Elizabeth," Killian responded before placing a kiss on her forehead.

He then heard "Uncle Killian!" and turned to see that the call had come from Colette. He kissed his daughter's head once more before heading over to his niece.

Anna Elizabeth tilted her head for a moment before she saw Calin walking back toward her. As soon as he was standing next to her, she accused, "You told him, didn't you?" with hands planted on her hips.

She had her answer when her husband began biting his lip. He then took a deep breath and explained, "He knew something was wrong, and he was worried about you."

Anna Elizabeth crossed her arms before Calin placed both hands on her stomach and continued, "I may have never held my daughter in my arms, and I've yet to see what she actually looks like, but I became a father the moment you told me you were pregnant. So, I can relate to what your dad is feeling – he can't help but worry. And as far as I'm concerned, you're my wife, and I'll always worry about you, even if you argue with me about it."

Anna Elizabeth's resolve had weakened, and she smiled at him. She then gave him a short but sweet kiss in response.

She then told him, "Can we just table the whole worrying thing for later? I just want to eat some cake and not deal with the fact that I'll be cut open in a week."

Calin nodded before he assured her, "I know you're worried, but I promise that everything will work itself out."

Anna Elizabeth simply nodded before she asked about her brother-in-law. Her husband smiled as he answered, "Ethan's great, and he's actually pretty stoked about meeting his niece."

The curly blonde offered a small smile at his words before she questioned, "When he is coming to visit?"

"He's actually getting here the day that Elsa will be born. I told him it'll probably be best for him to wait a couple days before coming to the hospital; you'll probably need some rest after the C-section before our family comes," Calin answered.

Anna Elizabeth knew that he was right, and his suggestion was very thoughtful, but that didn't make the situation any less painful for the mom-to-be.

"Yes, I'm sure I will need rest after having surgery and getting stitches just to give birth to our daughter," she spat.

Calin kissed her forehead before he assured her once more, "Dr. Whale has done this plenty of times. He knows what he's doing – I get that you're scared, but…"

Anna Elizabeth cut him off, "It has nothing to do with being scared. I'm angry and upset because I can't even have a natural childbirth. And if that isn't enough, I'll always have a scar to remind me of that fact – and nothing you say is going to change that," her voice laced with frustration.

With that, she turned away from and moved back toward the table to snag a piece of the chocolate, baseball-themed cake.

Calin ran his fingers through his hair as he realized that this was going to be a very long week.

Chapter Text

The situation between Anna Elizabeth and Calin did not improve over the next few days. Though they lived in the same house and slept in the same bed, they might as well have been on different planets.

It became increasingly hard for Anna Elizabeth because she wasn't able to distract herself with work because Whale wanted her to rest as much as possible.

One morning, after Calin had finished eating breakfast, he was gathering his personal tools for work.

He then told Anna Elizabeth, who was watching TV on the couch, a quick, "Bye," before he headed out the door. There was no wait for a response nor a goodbye kiss. The simple gesture – or rather, the lack thereof – spoke volumes about the distance between the couple.

He drove to work in complete silence, but he truthfully didn't notice.

When he arrived at the job site, which was the old Town Hall, his father-in-law was directing the crew he often brought in to assist with bigger projects.

When Killian was finished, Calin walked over and asked, "What's my job for today?"

"You'll be with me today. We're installing flooring in one the offices."

"Alright," Calin simply answered before he began rushing off. Killian then grabbed his arm, and the young man sighed as he turned back around.

"Are you alright, mate?" Killian questioned.

"Why wouldn't I be alright?" Calin countered.

Killian tilted his head as he perceived, "I get the feeling that something's bothering you," with concern in his voice.

Calin took a deep breath before he responded, "I'm fine. I'm just…anxious about the baby. That's all," telling himself it wasn't a complete lie.

There was a moment of silence before Killian sympathized, "I believe that's a feeling all soon-to-be father's share. But I know you'll be fine," before he clapped his hand on Calin's shoulder.

Calin offered a small and genuine smile before he nodded. The two of them then went to work.

 

By the time five o'clock rolled around, Calin was utterly exhausted. As it was, he always put in a hard day's work, but his adrenaline was now kicked into overdrive trying to distract himself from his problems with Anna Elizabeth.

He and Killian were walking to their trucks when the dark-haired man hung up the phone and spoke, "That was Emma. She wanted to know if you and Anna Elizabeth wanted to come over for dinner tonight."

"It isn't too short notice? I'm sure cooking for five people is more taxing than cooking for three," Calin pointed out, though part of him knew the excuse fell short.

Killian grinned as he responded, "Nonsense. We know that Whale wanted Anna Elizabeth to rest, but being cooped up in the house all day is probably worse for her health."

Calin bit his lip as he struggled to refute. When he saw that he couldn't, he realized that perhaps family was the very thing he and his wife needed.

So, he nodded and answered, "Sure. We'll both see you guys in a little while." Killian simply smiled and nodded in response before both men climbed into their vehicles.

Calin started his truck before he pulled out his cell phone and called Anna Elizabeth.

"Hey," she simply answered once she picked up.

"Hey," Calin replied before he told her, "I wanted to tell you that you don't have to worry about starting dinner tonight."

"Why?" Anna Elizabeth asked with cautious curiosity in her voice.

Calin took a breath before he answered, "Your parents invited us over for dinner."

There was silence from her end before she finally spoke, "Are you even sure that's a good idea?"

"Let's just talk about this when I get home," he told her as he ran his free hand through his brown locks.

"Fine," Anna Elizabeth responded.

Calin then told her, "Okay. See you at home." He didn't wait for a response before he hung up the phone.

When he arrived home and walked through the door, Anna Elizabeth was waiting for him.

With her hands planted on her hips, she snapped, "You accepted a dinner invite from my parents? With everything going on between us?"

"What did you expect me to say? 'Killian, we've barely spoken to each other since we found out about the C-section.' Do you really want your parents to know that we're fighting a few days before we become parents?"

"It's better than sitting through dinner and pretending that everything is okay!"

"I thought that being around family would be good for you – for us! That it may help relieve some of the tension."

Anna Elizabeth's arms slid down her sides as she considered his words. She then took a deep breath and told her husband, "I guess you have a point."

Calin nodded before Anna Elizabeth ran her fingers through her curls and continued, "How do suggest that we deal with…us?" as she crossed her arms once again.

The brown-haired man bit his lip before he nervously suggested, "Look, I feel terrible about not being honest with your parents, but we both know it's better than hashing out everything in front them and your brother."

The curly blonde simply nodded before her husband placed her hands on her stomach and continued, "I think we should at least try for her sake."

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she nodded once more. Calin nodded as well before he went to go get cleaned up.

 

When they walked through the door of Emma and Killian's, he greeted them both before he settled on his daughter.

"And how are two of my favorite lasses?" he asked with a grin before kissing her forehead and placing one hand on her rounded stomach.

When he pulled away, Anna Elizabeth responded, "We're both great," as she forged a smile.

Killian nodded before he observed, "Although, I'm sure that Elsa is quite hyper if she's anything like you. I remember your mother telling me she didn't sleep much those nine months."

Everyone, even Anna Elizabeth and Calin, couldn't help but chuckle before Emma added, "Speaking of rest, I think that the mom-to-be should be sitting."

"Mom, I'm fine," Anna Elizabeth protested.

"It wouldn't be such a bad idea for you to listen," Calin told her. Though he was a bit agitated, it didn't make its way into his voice.

She shot a glare his way, but nodded nonetheless. She then walked into the dining room and sat down.

"You guys can go ahead and sit, too. It'll be a few minutes on dinner," Emma explained. Killian and Calin both nodded before she added, "And can one of you get Liam?"

Both men then headed toward the dining room with Killian walking the few extra feet to his son's room.

When Liam walked out, he saw his sister and brother-in-law. He greeted, "Hey guys," before he sat down across from Anna Elizabeth.

"Hey, little bro," the blonde told him with a grin. He rolled his eyes in response, earning a chuckle from Calin and Killian.

Calin then spoke, "Oh, Liam, I wanted to thank you for the collection of children's stories you got for Elsa. It was thoughtful of you."

The teenage boy shrugged before he responded, "I always loved being read to by Mom, Dad, and Anna Elizabeth. I figured that Elsa would like you guys reading to her."

"I'm sure she will," Anna Elizabeth told him with a smile. Liam smiled back at her before she added, "You know, I think that Uncle Liam will have to come and read to her, too."

Liam grinned as he teased, "Is that a sneaky way of asking me to babysit?"

Anna Elizabeth and Calin couldn't help but chuckle while Killian shook his head. The dark-haired man then seriously added, "I'm sure they'd appreciate the help, though. A newborn can take quite the toll."

"I'm sure it can't be worse than it is now," Anna Elizabeth muttered under her breath.

Calin heard her and leveled her with an annoyed look. She responded to his look with a glare of her own.

Liam had gotten a text message from Grace and didn't notice the exchange but Killian's expression changed to one of worry. Though he wanted to ask, he knew it wasn't wise to interfere.

Thankfully, Emma strolled into the dining room with a loaded potato casserole.

Liam put his phone away before he said, "This smells amazing, Mom."

"It really does," Calin agreed. He then told his mother-in-law, "Thanks for having us over."

"No problem," Emma told him with a smile, one that she extended to her daughter. Anna Elizabeth offered a small smile in response.

Killian then asked, "So, Anna Elizabeth, how long will you have to stay in the hospital after Elsa is born?"

"Five days," the soon-to-be mom answered. She then complained, "I just wish the recovery time wasn't so long for a C-section."

Emma then assured, "It's just to ensure that you heal properly," as she squeezed her daughter's hand.

"That's easy for you to say," Anna Elizabeth muttered. She then realized she didn't say it quite as quietly as she had hoped.

She ran her fingers through her hair before she apologized, "I'm sorry, Mom." She then covered, "I'm just a bit anxious about Elsa getting here."

Emma nodded and gave her daughter a sympathetic look before she told her, "I know you're nervous about being a mother, but those nerves will fade when you see your baby girl."

Anna Elizabeth offered a smile that was slightly genuine in response before she scooped out some casserole, followed by the rest of her family.

Calin then asked, "So, Liam, how are you and Grace?" with a teasing grin.

"Dude, that's not the least bit subtle," Liam complained. His brother-in-law only shrugged his shoulders in response.

Anna Elizabeth then added, "You know, I'd like to know about you two, too."

"I swear you guys are just as bad as Mom and Dad. I feel bad for Elsa when she's old enough to date," Liam annoyingly told them.

"I'm not nearly as bad as your dad. If it wasn't for me, he would embarrass you more than he already does," Emma defended.

"Love, you do realize that I'm right here," Killian pointed out. He then corrected her, "And I resent the fact that you think I'm incapable of being reasonable when it comes to our children dating."

"I will agree that you're not incapable," Emma conceded. Anna Elizabeth then added, "You know, you are more mellow with Liam than you were with me."

Killian smiled before he scooted his chair back a bit and bowed dramatically from his seat.

"I thank you for recognizing my hard work," he spoke while still bowed, earning chuckles and eye-rolls from his family.

Liam then changed the subject and asked his sister, "Would you mind looking over an English assignment for me?"

"Sure," Anna Elizabeth answered with a smile. She then observed, "Although, I'm a bit surprised you need my help in English. It's your best subject."

"Well, it's actually a creative writing assignment. I'm not worried about my story, but I suck at poetry. I know those poems are horrible," the teenage boy answered.

Everyone held back a chuckle before Anna Elizabeth assured him, "I'm sure they're not that bad. You're a great writer." She then told him, "You can give them to me before we leave."

Liam nodded before he told her, "Thanks, Anna Elizabeth." "Sure thing," she responded with a smile.

Killian then spoke, "Speaking of writers, August's new book will be hitting stores tomorrow."

"Oh, I know. Ever since Uncle August started talking about his new book on his public page, Emily has not stopped talking about it," Anna Elizabeth told them with a chuckle.

Everyone else chuckled as well before Emma added, "I remember that she was practically star struck when she met him at you and Calin's wedding."

"That she was. It was rather comical," Killian agreed.

"We still tease her about it - much to her annoyance," Calin told them, and the laughter continued.

When they had sobered, Anna Elizabeth continued, "Her accent gets stronger when she's annoyed or angry."

"Hmm…that sounds familiar," Emma teased as she ran her hand up and down her husband's arm. Killian rolled his eyes in response.

Liam, Calin, and Anna Elizabeth laughed once more before Killian asked his daughter, "Didn't she get married a couple months back?"

"Yeah, she did. She wanted me to be in the wedding, but it wouldn't have been the best idea for me to fly," Anna Elizabeth explained, as she placed her free hand on her stomach.

She then took a deep breath and continued, "But, just knowing that she wanted me there meant a lot. That, and she's set on being "Aunt Emily"," with a smile.

Her smile was returned by all before Emma happily observed, "Elsa's gonna have so many aunts and uncles to love her."

Liam then piped up, "Is Ethan gonna bring that rocker chick with him when he comes to see the baby?"

There were chuckles before Killian pointed out, "Lad, the lass isn't in a band, and she does have a name. It's Penelope."

The teenage boy only shrugged in response before he spoke, "I mean, she does have a bright blue streak in her hair, along with a tattoo and a nose piercing. She also really likes black. It all gives off this rocker vibe – the weird kind."

"Liam!" Emma scolded.

"It's alright, Emma. I thought similarly until I actually got to know her," Calin assured his mother-in-law. He then took a breath and elaborated, "She really does have a heart of gold, and she's really funny. She also keeps my brother grounded, which is something he desperately needs."

Liam then began scratching behind his ear as he apologized, "Sorry about what I said." "It's alright," Calin told him with a reassuring smile.

The black-haired teenager nodded before Killian spoke, "Is Penelope coming? I'd rather like to meet this lass."

"No, she's not. She and Ethan are the only two bartenders at the restaurant they work at. So, at least one of them has to be there. Penelope's gonna work their shifts by herself so he can come here," Calin explained.

"Well, I'm glad he does get to come meet his niece," Emma spoke with a smile. Calin smiled back at her before she continued, "I suppose we'll run into him at the hospital the day after Elsa is born."

Liam then added, "I'll probably come another day after school. You probably don't need to be bombarded with the surgery and stitches and everything."

"I think that would probably be best," Anna Elizabeth told him, with a bit of dejection in her tone.

Calin tried to reach for the free hand that was still resting on her stomach, but she pulled away from him.

Both Emma and Killian's expression turned to one of worry before the blonde reassured her daughter, "Hey, I know the thought of having a C-section is pretty scary, but I promise you that you and Elsa will be fine. You have nothing to worry about."

"Except for the fact that I'll have this ugly scar," Anna Elizabeth quipped out loud.

Calin sighed before he told her, "Anna Elizabeth, I've told you that the surgery or the scar isn't going to change how anyone sees you."

"Right. Because you understand what I'm going through so well," Anna Elizabeth sarcastically remarked.

"Well, maybe if you would... you know what? Never mind," Calin told her, clearly exasperated. He then went back to eating, and she did the same.

Emma, Killian, and Liam tried to continue the pleasant dinner conversation, but the thick tension in the air made it difficult. The dinner simply became one of silence.

 

Later that evening, Anna Elizabeth and Calin trudged through their front door, still not speaking to one another.

She finally broke the silence, "That dinner went bloody fantastic. That's exactly why I thought It was a bad idea in the first place."

"I tried to help you, but you wouldn't let me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised – it's nothing new," he spat.

"Of course – blame me why don't you? It's not like I could feel any worse!"

"Well, maybe if you would actually listen to someone instead of being so damn stubborn, you wouldn't have that problem!"

"You knew how stubborn I was when you met me! It's suddenly a problem when I'm about to give birth to our daughter?"

"You don't even care about having her! All you care about is the scar you'll have!"

As soon as Calin uttered those words, he knew he had crossed a line. He didn't have time to even form an apology before a teary-eyed Anna Elizabeth marched in their room and slammed the door.

He then raked his fingers through his hair before letting out a frustrated grunt. There couldn't be a worse time for them to be fighting.

He walked over to the closed door and knocked on it. He then spoke, "I shouldn't have said that Anna Elizabeth – I never meant to imply that you don't want to be a mother. I'm really sorry."

No answer.

He tried again: "Come on, Anna Elizabeth. Let me in."

Still no answer.

He sighed before he called her name once more, only to be met with a voice that was shaky from crying: "Go away! I don't want to see or talk to you!"

Though Calin hesitated for a moment, he eventually turned and headed toward the laundry room to grab some pajamas. He then before trudged toward the guest room – he didn't have the energy to argue any more.

He may have been wrong, but he wasn't the only one who's been wrong lately. Anna Elizabeth wasn't making any of this easier.

After he had changed, he shut off the light and climbed in bed. All he kept thinking is that he didn't know why he even bothered trying to go sleep. It's not like he would get any rest tonight – just like the last few nights.

He knew his sleeping schedule wouldn't exactly improve with a newborn in the house. A startling realization then hit him: if he and Anna Elizabeth couldn't even get along when it came to how their daughter is born, how in the hell are they supposed to take care of her?

Chapter Text

Hello, my lovely readers! I wanted to let you all know that I'm about to publish a new story that is a collaboration between myself and Twilightroxas7 from fanfiction.net. It is not completed and will be posted in parts, and I thought I'd give you all some information about it:

(1) The name of the story is "The Clash"

(2) It is our own twist on season 7, so almost all of the new characters, as well as some of the plot, will be included.

(3) Alena has been included as Emma and Killian's daughter, but this is separate from "My Happy Ending", as well as "A Different Happy Ending"

(4) This is a spoiler if you're not caught up, but it's necessary to understand the plot of this story: There are 2 Hooks – Our Hook and Wish Realm Hook (who was magically un-aged). Wish Realm Hook is the one who is cursed, and he also has a daughter. His daughter is Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and she is in this story.

(5) The posting process will be a bit random. We're writing this story in the midst of my original ideas, and I'll still writing on those as well. So, every update may not be for "The Clash"

The first part has been written; it just requires some revision. It will be posted this weekend. Hope you guys take a look at it!

Chapter Text

The next morning, Calin was awoken by the sun blaring through the window. He grunted before he sleepily sat up. He immediately reached for his phone on the night stand only to realize it wasn't there.

He looked around and realized that his cell phone was still in the pocket of his jeans. He lazily rose from the bed and grabbed his phone.

When he clicked it on, his eyes widened when he saw that it was after 11. He panicked for a moment until he realized it was day off. He then sank back down on the bed and considered going right back to sleep – he supposed that's what happens when you didn't sleep the night before.

His phone then began ringing. He glanced at the caller ID before he answered the phone and greeted, "Hey, Emma."

"Hey, Calin, I hate to bother you on your day off, but I need a favor," she told him.

"It's no problem," Calin honestly told her. He then asked, "What do you need?"

"Some of the shelves came down in mine and Killian's closet. He's gone to the city on errands, and Liam went with him. Can you come fix them?"

Calin replied, "Sure thing. Let me eat lunch first and then I'll be right over."

"Great! And thank you – I'll see you soon," Emma told him.

"Yeah, see you soon." He then hung up the phone before he picked up his clothes off the floor. He headed to the laundry room and haphazardly tossed the clothes in the hamper before he reached in the dryer to grab some clean ones.

He dressed in the laundry room before he headed to the kitchen. Anna Elizabeth was sitting at the counter eating a sandwich.

They didn't speak as he fixed himself a sandwich and some chips and ate as he leaned against the refrigerator.

When he was finished, he told her, "I'm going over to your parents' to fix some shelves. I'll be back later."

"Fine," she simply responded before she turned her attention to her phone as she continued eating.

Calin then turned around and headed out the door.

 

A few minutes later, he parked his truck in Emma and Killian's driveway. He got out and grabbed his toolbox before he walked up to the door and knocked.

Emma opened with a grateful expression. "Thank you again for coming," she spoke with a smile.

"Sure thing," he responded, returning her smile. Emma then ushered her son-in-law in the house, and she led him toward the bedroom.

He noticed all of the clothes, blankets, and other knick-knacks piled on the bed before he asked his mother-in-law, "How did the shelves come down?"

She simply shrugged as she answered, "I'm actually not sure. I just heard a crash, and I rushed in here to see our stuff on the floor and the shelves collapsed. I guess it's just because the same shelves have been in here since Killian bought the house."

Calin nodded before he turned his attention the closet and assessed the damage. He then observed, "I don't think it'll be too difficult to fix."

He then bent down and looked at said shelves before he continued, "The shelves are still in good shape – I think all it'll take is some nails, and I think an electric screwdriver will get the job done better."

"I know you know what you're doing, so I'll just leave you to it. I'll be in the living room if you need me," Emma told him. Calin nodded at her before she left the room.

Calin then walked over to the closet and knelt down to move a few items off the floor.

He set them aside before he came across a decorated shoe box. "Happy Mother's Day!" was written on the lid, and he smiled when he realized it must be from Anna Elizabeth.

He set the box aside and tried to begin working. However, he found himself distracted.

He couldn't help but imagine his little girl in a few more years, making presents for Anna Elizabeth. Elsa's blonde curls would be falling in her face and her blue eyes would be filled with determination as she colored away. Or, perhaps she would take after him and have brown hair and brown eyes. She may even be a combination of both her parents.

Calin then sank against the door frame and sighed. He couldn't help the tear that slipped down his cheek. A few days before Elsa's arrival and her parents were fighting. What should a joyous occasion was fraught with tension.

He wiped the tear from his eye as he let out an annoyed huff. He doesn't know how he and Anna Elizabeth screwed things up so badly, and he had no idea how they're going to fix it.

He then shook his head and stood up straight. He couldn't focus on any of that right now.

He took a deep, calming breath before he grabbed nails and his electric screwdriver before he went to work.

 

A few hours later, Calin found Emma in the kitchen. "All finished. I'll let you put everything back," he told her.

She smiled as she responded, "I know I already said this, but I appreciate you doing this."

"And like I told you – it's no problem," he replied as he returned her smile.

He then began to head toward the door when Emma handed him a glass of fresh lemonade. "I thought you could use this," she told him.

"You do realize I do this kind of thing all day, every day?" Calin pointed out.

Emma rolled her eyes before she told him, "Now you sound like Killian." She then seriously continued, "Just because you're used to it doesn't mean you don't need this lemonade."

Calin couldn't help but smiled as he nodded. He set down his tools before he and Emma headed for the table and sat down.

Emma then began to chuckle before she spoke, "You know, I have to say that Ethan picked an interesting present for Elsa."

Calin chuckled before he agreed, "Yeah, it was."

"I wasn't even aware they made leather jackets that small," Emma spoke.

"Neither was I," Calin conceded before he laughed. He then turned serious and continued, "She won't be able to wear it for a couple years, but he did think to get her something that she can use."

Emma smiled as she told him, "It truly is the thought that counts. I think they're the gifts that mean the most."

Calin nodded before he surmised, "I suppose that's a lesson you've learned quite thoroughly as a parent."

He then took a deep breath and continued, "I saw the shoe box that Anna Elizabeth made for you. How old was she?"

"Nine. It was the first Mother's Day present she got me. And she made it all by herself," Emma told him, a wide smile spreading across her face at the memory.

She then took a deep breath and seriously continued, "Sometimes, it's still hard knowing that Liam and Elsa won't get to be grandparents, but I know there's a reason for everything."

"I feel the same way about my parents. I've wished so many times that they could've met Anna Elizabeth – and our little girl. But as you said – there is a reason for it," Calin conceded.

He then took a deep breath and admitted, "I don't know if I've ever said so, but I really appreciate the way you and Killian have been there for me. You guys actually care – not just because I married your daughter. While I know that my parents will never be replaced, I see why Anna Elizabeth sees you guys as her parents. I feel the same way," biting his lip as he finished.

"I'm happy we can be there for you, Cain. You're a great kid, and I'm glad you're part of our family," Emma sincerely replied.

He smiled back in response before his mother-in-law continued, "And you know if you need anything, you can count on us."

Calin nodded gratefully before he verbally spoke, "Thanks, Emma." A thought then crossed his mind and he began, "Actually…um…maybe…" He then shook his head and concluded, "Never mind."

"Are you sure?" Emma asked with concern. "Yeah, I'm fine," he covered. He then forged a reassuring smile.

The blonde simply smiled and nodded in response. The dining room was then filled with the sound of "Perfectly Perfect."

Emma turned her attention to her own phone as she sipped her lemonade.

Calin took a breath before he answered, "Hey, Anna Elizabeth."

"Hey. What would you like for dinner?" Anna Elizabeth replied, getting straight to the point.

"Whatever you want to cook. It doesn't matter to me," Calin told her.

Anna Elizabeth sighed before she told him, "Fine. How about some pasta with alfredo sauce?"

Calin bit his lip before he pointed out, "Um, you do remember that I'm not a fan of alfredo sauce?"

He could practically see Anna Elizabeth rolling her eyes before she remarked, "Well, excuse me for forgetting. It's not like I'm about to have surgery or anything."

Calin remained calm as he told her, "I wasn't trying to upset you. I just didn't want you to cook something that I wouldn't eat."

After a moment, Anna Elizabeth responded with a sigh, "Fair enough." She then told him, "We don't have any marinara sauce. I'll just run to the store…"

"There's no need. I'll get it on my way back," Calin cut her off.

"And there you go with the hovering. I'm fine," Anna Elizabeth argued.

"You are having a C-section in a few days," Calin reminded her.

"Really? I didn't know that," Anna Elizabeth sarcastically responded.

At this point, Calin's patience was wearing thin. He had to take a deep, calming breath before he replied, "Look, if you want to get the sauce, get it. I don't care, and I don't want to argue."

"At least we agree on that last point," Anna Elizabeth commented. She then took a breath and told him, "I'm going to the store. See you later." Before Calin could respond, she had hung up.

He placed his phone on the table before he ran his hands through his hair. He then buried his face in his hands. He stayed like that for a few moments until he heard Emma clear her throat.

"Feel free to tell me to butt out, but I get the feeling that you and Anna Elizabeth aren't exactly alright. It was pretty evident at dinner last night," she told him with genuine concern and empathy.

Calin sighed as he considered her words. He wasn't at all surprised that she had caught on.

He took a deep breath before he began, "It's just…we're…it's not," before he decided against telling Emma what was wrong.

"We'll work it out," he assured her.

Emma nodded as a way to respect his decision. She then gracefully changed the subject, "So, I somehow managed to make too much lemonade. I was thinking of sending some home with you – if that's okay."

"That's fine," he simply responded.

Emma nodded before she told him, "I think I'll go ahead and fix it. You probably should be getting home."

Calin simply nodded before she got up and headed to the kitchen. His mind then wandered to his irritable Anna Elizabeth. Things were not going well and what he needed more than ever was his mother's advice.

So, he went to the woman who was the closest thing that he had.

She was at the counter with her back turned as he spoke, "Emma, I think I could use some advice about me and Anna Elizabeth." He then bit his lip and added, "That is, if you really want to listen."

She turned to face him before she told him, "No marriage is problem-free. And if I can help, I'd love to – I hate knowing that both of you are so upset and frustrated."

"And the fact that we'll be parents in a few days is icing on the cake," Calin added with a self-deprecating tone.

"Hey, you don't think Killian and I fought while I was pregnant? Bear in mind that I was searching for my birth parents the whole time," Emma pointed out before she sat back down.

Calin felt a little better at her words. Emma could see his relief so she continued, "I can see that Anna Elizabeth is worried about the C-section – especially the scar."

"Yeah, she is. I've tried to help her, but she's so incredibly stubborn."

Emma's brows furrowed, and she crossed her arms as she pointed out, "Calin, Anna Elizabeth has always been stubborn. It's common knowledge to anyone who knows her, and I believe you probably deal with it more than anyone. Yet, you've always been patient. What's changed?"

That small voice in the back of Calin's head began to nag, but he pushed it away and covered, "I don't know." Unfortunately, he couldn't keep from biting his lip.

Emma gave him a knowing look as she perceived, "I think you do." She then took a breath and continued, "I think we've been focusing on Anna Elizabeth's worries. Not that her feelings don't matter, but I want to know how you are."

"I'm fine," Calin told her. He then questioned, "Aren't you more worried about your daughter?"

"Of course I'm worried about her. But I know that she'll get through this – she's a fighter," Emma told him. She then smiled a little and continued, "And as far as I'm concerned, you're one of my kids, too. And just like with Anna Elizabeth, I'm worried, but I know you'll get through this. You're strong."

"Clearly. The fact that I can't deal with our problems on my own shows just how strong I am," Calin retorted.

Emma only shook her head before she told him, "There's nothing wrong with admitting you need help, Calin. Sometimes, it takes someone else's perspective to see things clearly."

He ran his fingers through his hair before he lamented, "All I see is someone who can't help his wife because he can't possibly relate to what she's going through."

Emma furrowed her brows before she asked him, "Is that something that Anna Elizabeth told you?"

"Basically," Calin simply responded. He then admitted, "And she's not entirely wrong about it."

"I will admit that a scar from repairing a ruptured kidney is not the same as a scar incurred during a C-section, but I still think you can empathize with her," Emma reasoned.

"It's not like it matters any way," Calin dejectedly stated.

"Because she won't listen?" Emma questioned – in a tone that indicated that she knew there was more to it.

Calin took a deep breath as that small voice began nagging once more – the same one that had ever since he and Anna Elizabeth started fighting. He thought about pushing it away again, but the fact was that he missed his wife. So, he finally admitted, "Anna Elizabeth is one of the strongest women I know. She was the one who was my strength when I found out about Ethan – I really don't see how I can help her here."

He then leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. His mother-in-law looked at him curiously before she perceived, "That isn't all that's bothering you, is it?"

He then took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. He had forgotten just how perceptive his mother-in-law was.

The young man then continued, "Seeing her so worried about this C-section scar, as well as our child, scares the hell out of me. Because I don't know if I can be strong enough for both of us, and it kills me to think I might let her down," his voice thick with emotion.

Emma simply pulled him in for a hug. They stayed embraced for several long moments before they pulled apart. As Calin wiped his eyes, he spoke, "Clearly, I'm right."

The blonde shook her head before she carefully considered her words. She then spoke, "When Anna Elizabeth first told me that she had fallen in love with you, do you know the first reason she listed why?"

He looked at her with a perplexed expression as he furrowed his brows. He shook his head before he audibly answered, "No."

"That you made her believe in herself, and you continue to do so. As someone who has raised her since she was five, I know how hard that can be."

Calin then realized where his mother-in-law's thoughts were, and he told her, "Telling – and showing – her that she's amazing doesn't take any real strength."

"That's where you're wrong," Emma stated. She then elaborated, "Showing someone your weaknesses and insecurities takes strength. But loving someone who struggles with those insecurities almost constantly? That takes even more strength. It took Anna Elizabeth a long time to believe that she didn't have to perfect in order to find love, and you knew about those imperfections from the start. But you fell in love with her anyway. You have never let her insecurities, vulnerabilities, or weaknesses stop you from giving her everything, and I know that