The Storybrooke Music Festival has been a staple of Almost-Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine for longer than most people that attend it can remember. The tradition of the gathering, in some cases, has been passed down from generation to generation, where the kids of the rockers and attendees are now the ones rocking and attending, and this year is no different from any other.
From all around the country, bands have flocked after being invited to play – some are bigger names, some smaller, some lost in the between. Some are one-hit-wonders and others have topped the pop charts for months at a time. The thing they all have in common: they’ve gathered here because their fans nominated them and the committee voted to invite them.
Over the span of a few acres, there’s a main stage and two smaller ones, with a sprawling campground surrounding the whole thing. And then there’s the vendors and merch stands, the specialty shops that have paid to set up. During the few days that the festival takes place, it’s anybody’s guess who will be there, where the weather will fall, and what will happen.
It’s early summer, but in their particular location, that still means a pop up storm or two. The days are warm, but without the drought of mid-summer, the paths that are marked for walking are quickly turning runny with mud, which normally would be fine. Normally.
“Well, princess maybe if you didn’t want a little mud on the tires, so to speak, you should’ve avoided the music festival ring! If the lowlands here are so offensive to you, perhaps you should get back to your pampered mansion back up on the hill.” Ignore the fact that he can also access the VIP tents as a musician, but it’s the principle of the matter…
None of the parties involved remember how this all started, besides the fact that Killian Jones, one half of the small-time Hook & Crook, fell in front of the golf cart that Emma Swan and Ruby Lucas, two thirds of The Ugly Ducklings, were riding in while one of the web media teams interviewed them. To be more precise, he fell on the hood of the golf cart, after he slipped in a slick spot of mud. The hit to the hood did something, however, and now the two woman are standing outside the cart as the media team struggles to get it working again, while Emma and Killian snipe back and forth at each other.
“It’s not the mud I’m mad about. I would happily get the hell away from you if you hadn’t stalled out our damn ride, though. Why weren’t you paying attention? You could’ve gotten seriously injured, you know.” Her finger is jabbing into his chest, belying the message she was spouting off.
“Careful love, you might make a man think you cared with such impassioned speeches,” Killian tells her, toe to toe, boot to boot, in front of the stalled out cart in question. That his are knock off from a secondhand store and hers are knee high genuine leather matters little to either of them, now. He sways into her space in a tantalizing way, his arrogance getting the better of him in this situation.
In retaliation, Emma straightens to her full height. Despite being shorter than him by almost half a foot, Killian swallows. It’s not her star power. He knows damn well who Emma Swan is. He won’t admit to the tracks he listens to in his downtime, with Emma’s voice conducting his mood like a bloody maestro without even trying.
No, Emma is a powerhouse without having to stand behind her fame.
Keeping up the façade of cocksure, he knows that whatever her next move is will be the finishing blow. She opens her mouth to tear into him, but a high-pitched honking causes them to snap out of it. He actually releases the tiniest of relieved breaths after the interruption, after Emma jolts away from him, thankful that she didn’t have a chance to use that legendary sharp tongue on him. He thinks himself a proud man, but he’s not sure even he could take getting verbally filleted by one of his celebrity crushes.
“What seems to be the problem here?” The woman is one Killian has seen around the festival since the gates opened the day before. She’s older, gray hair loosely pinned in a bun and glasses hanging around her neck from a beaded chain.
“Granny!” Ruby rushes at the older woman with a bright smile. “I was wondering where you were hiding.”
“Goodness, child, there’s been no hiding involved. I’ve just been keeping feuding rock stars in line. Speaking of, this looks like some trouble.”
“It’s nothing, Ms. Lucas,” Emma says, her whole demeanor softening to the obviously familiar newcomer.
“You know to call me Granny, dear! And this doesn’t look like nothing,” she says, motioning between Emma and Killian. “This is a festival to bring all kinds of musicians together. Emma, you know that better than most since this was your first break, right?” Granny takes one of Emma’s hands in her own, smiling fondly at the blonde.
She turns to Killian next, looking him up and down once and giving him an appreciative grin.
“You look like a tall glass of trouble. You boys harassing my girls?”
“Not at all, ma’am. Just a mild stumble that began a misunderstanding,” Killian says, laying the charm thick by grabbing her free hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.
“Mhmm, well, mild misunderstandings are solved easily enough,” she says. “I have just the thing.”
There’s something in the tone of Ruby’s voice that catches his attention, and he turns to see the slightly horrified look on her face. With speed he would’ve never credited the older woman to possess, he certainly doesn’t have time to stop her before he feels the cool metal snap around his left wrist. He looks down in confusion at the chain, following the line of it to where it’s connected to the other cuff, which is now locked in place around Emma’s right wrist. When Granny managed to pass his hand over to Emma’s instead of her own is beyond him, but the older woman is moving swiftly away from them, a grin on her face.
“What – “
“Granny, you can’t!”
“Let’s see how that works for you two! Now get along and maybe I’ll take them off!”
Faster than anyone can react, Granny is back on the cart that brought her to them and she’s speeding away. Ruby runs after her, followed by Robin, who’ve both figured out that their bandmates have just been handcuffed together.
Killian and Emma, however, are still rooted in place, disbelief painted on both their faces. They make eye contact, the reality of their predicament slamming into them at the same time before they look at their rapidly disappearing freedom.
“ Wait! ” they call out at the same time, taking off sprinting as a unit.
How Granny manages to disappear into the crowd so quickly is beyond all of them. Of course, she does have the advantage of being on wheels where the rest of them are all on foot. It feels like they’ve been running and searching for miles, all while the crowd ebbs and flows around them.
The only thing they can really do is head back to the VIP tents with a quick flash of their badges. There’s beer waiting from them, handed over from multiple angles, and Emma and Killian both take one in their free hands and greedily gulp from the clear plastic.
“Any luck contacting Granny?” Emma asks when she’s halfway through the beer. She looks down at her boots and sniffs once in annoyance. They’re not covered, by any means, but he’s guessing she had no intentions of getting them dirty at all. His have about the same amount on them, but he’s eternally grateful that he didn’t fall in front of the cart, because he cannot imagine trying to clean up while Emma is with him. Or change , for that matter.
“None. She must not have her phone on and none of the techs will let me contact her on the walkie.”
“I’m going to kill her. You know that, right?”
“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that,” Ruby mutters, sipping from her cup.
As they all settle in, assessing what to do next, Killian sits back and observes the people around him. The other women, he knows, are Mary Margaret and Ruby, and there’s another one off to the side on her cellphone, the stern set of her face speaking of management.
“Regina,” Emma says, catching where his line of sight is trained. “She’s our manager. She’s trying to track down bolt cutters or something. Ruby texted her on our way back up here.”
“Ah, well. Hopefully she’ll succeed. I cannot imagine having to be stuck this way for much longer.”
“You and me both, pal.”
“Killian,” he says, holding out his right hand. “Killian Jones.”
She stares at his outstretched hand for a moment, an unreadable expression on her face, before she finally relaxes and lifts her right hand as much as she can, given their situation. “Emma Swan.”
“I’m sorry for the spat earlier,” he tells her, honesty at the forefront. He genuinely can’t remember who started hurling insults first but it was bad form, all around.
Emma fidgets a little, her eyes looking anywhere but at him. “Same. It’s uh, been a long day already and the weather isn’t helping.” He knows that all too well. The temperamental showers passing through have been hell since he and Robin left New York.
Whatever Killian goes to say next is cut off when his phone vibrates in his pocket. He releases her hand to dig it out and opens the message from their friend-but-also-manager, David, who they may or may not have forgotten about in the interim.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Killian says, scrambling to chug the rest of his beer and motion to Robin. “We play in half an hour. We’ve got to get over to our stage. Now .” He’s not sure how he let the time slip away from him so fast; he’s been looking forward to nothing but this set for ages.
“What? Hey , you’re attached to someone, you know. Go easy on the tugging.”
He looks down at where he’s clearly moved without thought again, noticing at the same time that there are dual red marks on their wrists from where the metal has dug into their skin. “Please, Swan, don’t make me beg. We barely lucked into this slot, and if we don’t play then we won’t get invited back.”
Emma stares at him for the length of ten heartbeats, and then she sighs. “Fine. Let’s get going. This should be interesting.”
The trek from the musicians’ tent to the stage where Hook & Crook are supposed to play is not an easy one. For both being musically inclined, and thus, coordinated enough to play instruments, they’re both incredibly clumsy when attached to another person. The number of times they yank each other in separate directions is somewhere in the twenties by the time they reach their destination (and right on time, thankfully). Killian is convinced that they will kill each other if the cuffs aren’t removed in a timely fashion.
To say the crowd is a bit surprised at the appearance of one Emma Swan on stage is a bit of an understatement, as they first gasp in surprise, then cheer wildly when she raises her right hand (along with his left) in greeting to wave at them all.
“We seem to be the victims of a cruel and unusual social experiment,” Killian tells the audience when they get settled. His voice booms out among the audience thanks to the amplifiers, even if they aren’t as big as the ones Emma will be plugged into tomorrow on the main stage. He’s damn proud of their attendance, so now it’s important to make the performance match.
It takes Killian all of two seconds to realize the biggest oversight yet, just as soon as he goes to pick up his guitar. He realizes it’s a problem, of course, because Emma’s hand goes with his.
“Shit,” she whispers, at the same time much less pleasant words are coming from his mouth.
“What do we do?” Try as he might, there’s panic licking up his spine and bloody hell would it be so much easier if he played the keyboard or something.
“I have an idea,” she tells him, picking his darling guitar up by the neck and turning to face him for a minute. After making sure the shoulder strap is in place and his hands are where they’re supposed to be, Emma supports her hand on his forearm and otherwise turns so she’s partially behind him. It’s awkward, feeling someone standing close, and her hand will no doubt get tired, but holding it the way she is means he still has complete freedom to move his hand to play. He strums a few chords just to make sure it’ll work and gives her a look and a thumbs up.
He does his best to forget about the woman literally attached to him, which is a little hard at first. But then the music kind of takes over, as it always has with him, and he’s lost in the set list he and Robin have played for years; this is what he works for year round – this opportunity to play for this crowd, some of whom have followed their little duo for years.
To his surprise, Emma doesn’t get tired of where her hand rests, even tapping along to the beat with her thumb. After three songs, she presses her back against his and starts swaying back and forth behind him, compelling him to move as well. It becomes difficult to remain solely focused on the song he’s playing when he can feel her shimmying against him.
“It seems as though our unexpected guest likes my music,” Killian says into the microphone, turning his head just enough to smile at her as she looks over his shoulder. The crowd cheers again, and they launch into their next song, one the audience clearly knows well enough that he feels pride welling in his chest when they sing along. He knows their time is running out, but he lets the buzz of performing wash over him, enjoying the way Emma is still moving to the beat at his back.
Their last song is a crowd favorite, so while he gives the audience a moment to sing the lyrics back to him – the ones he spent hours getting just right – he takes the time to appreciate just where he is, almost forgetting about the handcuff on his wrist, and the argument from earlier. With the final notes, the crowd starts cheering and whistling, and he smiles as he leans towards the mic to thank them again for their time.
The coordinator to the side of the stage waves to get his attention, and Killian glances over expecting to see the gesture for wrapping up. Instead, he grins wide when he sees the girl asking him to stretch their set by just one more song. They’re out of songs that are ready for performance, so he’ll have to think up something quick.
“We have time for one more song, and I think we should let this one choose the tune,” Killian says, using the chain that connects them to pull Emma back around to stand next to him. She groans and rolls her eyes, but glances back at Robin. With a thumbs-up from him, she looks to Killian and raises her eyebrows.
There’s a heavy pause, one in which she’s clearly thinking of the right song that they’ll both know.
“Hold your hand up,” Emma tells him, and without further preamble, she stomps her foot twice on the stage, followed by a high five for the clap that should follow. She repeats the motion a couple times to the audience, getting them to join in with a little help from Robin, before she reaches for the mic. She keeps up the double foot stomps but lets the crowd do the claps.
He idolizes Freddie Mercury, and appreciates the way Adam Lambert sings the lyrics of the famous Queen song, but he finds he’s instantly attracted to the way Emma’s voice sounds singing the opening lines of “We Will Rock You.”
Without discussing it beforehand, they perfectly switch off between stanzas, singing the chorus together. Killian is no Brian May, but he manages a guitar solo that makes the crowd go wild as Emma stamps her foot through the end of it. The applause is a level of deafening that Killian has never heard before, having drawn even more of a crowd than they normally would’ve with those passing by who heard the song. And while they take their bows at the end and exit the stage, he knows it won’t be soon that his adrenaline wears down.
Just as they’re giving a final wave, he spots Granny on the outskirts, looking something like proud. Instead of pulling away and letting the chain drag Emma along, he grabs her hand, yelling out to Robin that he’ll meet him later if this works, and they take off running. At the stage entrance, he holds still long enough for David to unstrap his guitar. He gives one quick “Thanks, mate!” before they’re off again, running and hoping.
By the time they reach where the older woman just was, the spot is vacated, and the audience is trying to clamor around them for autographs and pictures.
“Which way did she go?” Emma’s yelling to be heard over everyone else, both of them on their tiptoes to try to see if they can spot her.
“I couldn’t tell,” Killian says, his defeated tone obvious as he turns back to her. “Should we?” The circle around them is closing fast, and they either need to break out while they still can or resign themselves to signing and smiling for a bit while the stage changes set ups.
As if noticing the people around them for the first time, Emma’s face goes from fallen to smiling. She looks at him, shrugging a little and reaching for the nearest autograph book and pen that someone’s holding out. His hand jerks along with hers, and they look at each other and sigh.
The rain that falls just a few minutes later is a blessing, because they can finally slip away as everyone else scatters at the same time. With no sense of direction, they start running, and Killian is thankful for the open yurt he sees just ahead, especially when thunder rumbles ominously much closer than he expected. He pulls Emma in just as the rainfall turns to a total deluge, and lightning flashes brightly.
By now, they’re likely postponing shows and getting festival goers to safety, so there’s no chance they’ll be moving before the storm passes, and no chance they’ll find Granny in the meantime. Other than to check the weather outside, the occupants of the yurt barely pay attention to them as newcomers. There are blankets covering the whole floor, in a circle around a young woman with an acoustic guitar, and as someone stands to close the doors on the weather outside, Killian leads Emma further in along the curved wall. They find an empty spot to settle down, both shivering from the moisture that’s soaked through their clothes.
A young woman with a mane of fiery red hair hands Killian a blanket. Her eyebrows go up and she stifles laughter when she sees the handcuffs. He’s not one to blush, and yet he feels his cheeks heating in response to whatever this woman is imagining. He opens his mouth to explain, to defend his honor, whatever – but the quiet applause for the woman playing in the center of the room cuts him off, and the woman with the blankets wanders away.
Emma smiles at him gratefully as he hands her one end of the soft fleece. Working together, they manage to get it around their shoulders, huddling close to get the most out of the material.
In between songs, he finds time to ask. “How are you holding up, Swan?”
“I’ve been better, Jones. I’ve been better. Hey um, thanks for including me in your set. That was a lot of fun.”
“Aye. I’d wager the crowd loved it just as much,” he notes. He wants to say more, to tell her how much he’s enjoyed this little adventure they’re on together. He wants to tell her how much he loves her music, and that he’s been a fan for ages. That he never meant to let their meeting escalate the way it did. She’s looking at him, her eyes darting between his, as if she’s reading his mind and can hear the words he can’t seem to speak. The set in the yurt continues, so he resigns himself to a tight-lipped smile and a nod, which she accepts with a small bob of her head. He unconsciously presses a little closer to her, not realizing how she returns the movement.
It’s several songs later that they notice the sounds from outside the yurt have quieted down, and they fold the blanket and leave it where they were sitting. Emma makes sure to snag one of the cards and demo discs that are sitting out on a small table near the entrance, something Killian failed to notice on his way in. Then again, he was mostly concerned with finding dry and safe and warm at that moment.
The long trek back to the musicians’ tent is spent in amiable silence. Neither are thirsting for conversation, but it’s not the same hostile silence they had at the beginning of this day. Someone slams into Killian, though, and the quick jolt to their wrists is enough for Killian to grab her hand again, leading her over to a merch stand somewhere halfway between where they were and where they’re going. He chooses two wrist bands at random, handing over the money and turning back to Emma before she can even question what he’s doing.
“Here, should make things a little better.” He holds one out for Emma, waiting until she’s wiggled hers on with a relieved hum before he does the same. The cold metal is no longer digging into his skin, which is the most important factor. “Shall we?”
They weave their way back to the musicians’ tent, stepping as carefully as they can through the mud that’s starting to form faster with the sudden rainfall. He’s used to festivals being a little rougher than indoor shows, so he does his best to keep his eyes on the ground and guide them through the worst of it.
When they get back to their destination, Ruby is engaged in conversation with another woman, and Killian immediately notices a disturbing pattern of managers looking very smitten with band members, or vice versa. Robin might have actual hearts in his eyes as he listens to something Regina is saying. Meanwhile, David and Mary Margaret look like they’re about five minutes from planning their wedding.
Killian looks at Emma, who looks back at him with a similar expression. She shakes her head, working her way over to where they’re all sitting and throwing her hands up in victory as their friends all turn and cheer for them.
“Where the bloody hell have you been, mate?” Robin claps him on the shoulder, and Killian would buy his concern if it weren’t for the fact that he’s sure Robin forgot he existed for a bit, there.
“We tried to track down Granny,” Emma explains. “But we were too late. Then got mobbed by fans. Then got stuck in a storm. Then ended up in a tent listening to an acoustic show.”
“Sounds like you two have had quite the adventure,” Ruby comments, her grin directed at Emma and looking something along the lines of predatory, if he had to put a name to it.
Emma hums in response, eyes narrowing as she looks at her friend. Whatever conversation they have between themselves during that moment, it’s something Killian isn’t meant to understand. Instead, he focuses on checking his social media accounts with the phone that David has returned over to him. He’d plum forgotten that he’d given it to Dave before they started their set.
He’s surprised when the biggest trending picture from the festival is one from Ruby’s account. There he is on stage, glancing over his shoulder at Emma behind him, she who has her eyes closed and is clearly mid-dance move against his back. It’s taken from the backstage area, and he didn’t even realize Ruby bothered to follow them, but he’s going to have to thank her for it later, and get the original sent his way so he can frame it and hang it up. It’s not every day you get to play a show handcuffed to someone you view as an idol. But there was the living proof of that.
“I can’t just sit here,” Ruby announces not more than ten seconds after his thoughts. “Let’s go explore!”
As far as ideas go, Ruby could have better ones sometimes. For one, she could be tracking down her heinous grandmother (who she would never claim is actually heinous in any other circumstance – the woman practically helped raise her, after all) to get a certain key to a certain set of handcuffs. She could be walking back to Storybrooke’s town limits to find her own spare key, for all Emma cares. But no, instead, her friend and bandmate is talking about how she’s apparently bored .
“Uh, Red? I’m kind of… stuck to someone.”
“So what? We bring him along. And any of the others that want to join?” She looks around at their strange group as she says it.
“Wait, wait. That’s it? You don’t have any other back up plans? A hairpin? A lock pick set? A good set of bolt cutters?” The whole group turns to look at Emma’s outburst, but no one says a word.
“I mean, you can try. But I swear those things are made of magic. They’re the only pair I was never able to bust out of without the key.”
The fact that Ruby’s been stuck in these cuffs, or that she’d been stuck in other pairs of cuffs, is no surprise to her, but it doesn’t facilitate a reaction with anyone in the circle either. Where did she find these people?
“So, we going?”
Mary Margaret visibly brightens as Ruby draws attention to her plan. “You’ll come, too?” she asks David. Ugh, even Mary Margaret has forsaken her. She knows David by reputation only; she’s met him a couple times and even likes him, but she knows that as soon as the manager turns a hopeful look towards Killian, they’re all apparently going gallivanting around the music festival.
“I guess that can be arranged. Now that Hook & Crook are done for the day, there’s really not much else for me to do,” David finally says after a wordless conversation with Killian.
“I’ll sit this one out,” Regina says, clearly taking on the air of Important Manager of an Important Musical Act.
“Count me out,” Robin says following her declaration. “I’ve had quite enough excitement for a bit.”
“Suit yourself,” Ruby says, clearly dismissing him and turning back to the rest of the crew. “Come on. There’s a Ferris wheel with my name on it.” Without further prompting, she grabs Emma’s hand and starts dragging her away. Killian isn’t quick enough to move, so his shoulder gets jolted again before Emma grabs his hand and pulls him along. She makes sure to murmur an apology to him as they exit the tent, and his quiet reply starts her heart beating like it was when they were on stage together.
That’s quite enough of those emotions, though. She’s been back and forth on the emotional spectrum since this morning, and really, some cliché pitter patter of her heart is just one step too far. So she had fun with him performing. So he’s easy on the eyes. So what? So are plenty of other men, and she’s certainly not about to one-night-stand a guy she’s literally stuck to. That just feels like asking for the key to be lost or the handcuffs to be rotted shut and then they’re just living out their days: the losers who got stuck handcuffed together and had sex once. Nope. No thanks.
Okay, so that’s a little hyperbolic, even for her. But she’s noticing that she’s getting used to the feeling of his hand in hers, and the sound of his voice as he quietly asks about the newest joiner of their group.
At the head of the pack, Ruby walks side by side with Mulan, who Emma points out to Killian as Ruby’s girlfriend. She does casual security for them as they walk through festivals such as this, so it’s Mulan who clears the path for them to walk through, herding them easily enough through the crowds and making sure they have enough space at all times. It’s clear Killian is out of his comfort zone – while he seemed to have a great amount of his own followers at their show and afterwards, and even as they sift through the crowd, he doesn’t look like he’s used to this large mass of people clambering to get selfies or autographs. Mostly, he just keeps hold of her hand and does his best to keep up.
That’s not to say they don’t stop for some of the fans. There are quite a few times where the three women just can’t ignore the people around them, and Mulan sighs in mock frustration (a smile on her face the whole time) as they linger with fans for a couple minutes at a time, trying to cover as many people as possible. They have a reputation (Emma especially) for trying to get to everyone, and so Mulan is hard on her to move along after an allotted amount of time.
What does come as a surprise is the amount of people who ask for pictures of Emma and Killian together, their handcuffed wrists held up like some kind of publicity stunt or punishment depending on what people ask. He tries to keep up with it all, and Emma gives him a quick smile before they keep moving again towards Ruby’s ride of choice.
“How’re you holding up?” she asks as they get escorted to the front of the line. There are some tiny perks to their ‘fame’ if she says so herself.
“Better than expected. That is, it’s not every day you wind up handcuffed to some beautiful celebrity and find out how the other half lives.”
She scoffs, rolling her eyes as the carriage comes to a stop in front of where they’re standing. All six of them load in, and Emma tries to keep her wayward emotions in check as she ends up pressed tight against Killian’s side.
The whole grounds of the festival stretch before them, with the stages visible out one side and what feels like miles of camp grounds all around them. There are other rides, ones she doesn’t think they’ll be able to handle with two people trapped together, but she smiles as she watches them cycle through, the thrilled screams of passengers filtering all the way up to them at the top.
As the wind whips around them, Emma glances at her companions in turn. Understandably, Ruby and Mulan are huddled together, with Ruby’s arm wrapped around Mulan’s shoulders and their cheeks pressed together as they look out at their surroundings. David and Mary Margaret are holding hands, a new development judging by the nervous smiles on their faces, and they’re glancing between each other and the view. Killian, however, is looking at her. As soon as she looks back at him, he darts his eyes to the side to look out at the landscape, but there’s a hint of smile on his lips while his hair dances in the breeze. She is very aware of how tightly she’s gripping his hand, unnecessary while they’re not in motion but habit now, nonetheless.
When the ride is over, they slowly disembark to a bunch of fans waiting. The crowds at the festival aren’t quite mob mentality, so it’s something they can handle and enjoy – these small groups that just want a small introduction and a moment to say their thanks. While she may have a few more fans trying to capture her attention, Killian still has a few things to sign and fans to greet while Emma is preoccupied with her own. She smiles when she catches sight of him talking with a smitten teenage girl, enjoying the way he’s so genuine with the people around them.
To be honest, after hearing him play, she wants to look him up online, find his albums, find out who he is without… you know… talking to him. Because that’s how she is. If she asks him questions, she’ll have to answer some of the ones he has for her, and that’s not how she does things. What’s weirder is that this whole scenario should be in the realm of “SOS immediately” in trying to get him unstuck from her, but Emma can’t help but slowly adjust to it all. Is this an ideal way to meet a man? Hell no. Is she going to make the most of it? It certainly seems that way.
As Mulan starts to move them along the path again, Emma’s stomach makes a loud growl, and it’s the first time she realizes how hungry she is. “Where the hell can we find some food?” she wonders, grabbing Killian’s hand and pulling him away from the departing fans. “You okay?”
She’s very aware, all of a sudden, that they are alone again somehow. He hasn’t said anything for a minute or two and the silence is suddenly unusual coming from him. But then he shakes his head and smiles at her, blaming his momentary lapse on his own lack of food.
“Pretty sure there’s loads of places we can find something to eat, love. Let’s sail away,” he responds, swinging their hands as they go along.
There was something there she just missed, and she can feel it. There’s something he’s not saying, a lie by some kind of omission, covered up by hunger, but when her stomach rumbles away again, she forces down that part of her that can sniff out a lie like a drug-seeking dog and focuses instead on food options.
They wander from stand to stand, weighing their options and discussing pros and cons of the various food choices. As they go along, she relaxes again and finds that she’s enjoying herself way too much. It’s not often that Emma finds herself calm in the company of a relative stranger. No – usually, when it’s outside of her fans, her skin crawls at the very prospect of spending any time with someone she doesn’t know.
Add in the fact that she is handcuffed (she feels as if she cannot emphasize this enough) to said stranger… well, let’s just say that Killian Jones is lucky there wasn’t anything pointy or stabby in near reach when Granny first locked the cuffs around their wrists.
Every moment since then has been a learning experience. It took more self-control than she thought it would to be teeth-grittingly polite after their initial predicament became clear to them. But man, as soon as that bravado, tough guy act faded away, Killian has been nothing but sweet and accommodating.
“Swan, onion rings,” he says, suddenly dispelling her thoughts again as he says the most magical words someone could ever say to her. “And frozen hot chocolates.”
“I don’t know about the frozen thing. I’m already starting to get chilly again,” she says. And it’s true. She’d left her jacket in the VIP tent when they went out for their interview, but the day had been sunny and glorious to start out. Now, with the sun setting and another round of clouds moving in, she shivers. It turns out leggings and a fitted t-shirt don’t do much, especially after a good soaking from the earlier rain.
Killian halts her progress towards the food stand for a quick detour to a small merch tent nearby. The young man running it looks like he has about a thousand safety pins attached to his outfit, and a surly look on his face. But when Killian waves a twenty, the kid’s whole demeanor changes. “This for the largest size of the goth Tinkerbell jumpers, and another if you give me all the extra safety pins you can find, along with a pair of scissors.”
Emma raises an eyebrow at his request, but Felix, as he introduces himself, grabs the items Killian has requested in record time and piled them on the sticker-covered table in front of the stand. When Killian goes to cut the side of the hoodie, Emma’s stomach reminds her that she’s starving and she throws in her own money. “I’ll give you an extra twenty if you cut that and wait for us to get back.”
Suddenly, Felix goes bashful. “I’ll do it for free if you sign an autograph for my cousin. She’s the model for the logo there, and she’s one of your biggest fans.”
“Deal. Just let me grab my food and we’ll be right back,” Emma says, smiling in victory as she pulls Killian over to the food stand he’d already spotted. They come back to Felix’s tent after Emma is already halfway through her onion rings, with a grilled cheese and two waters in the bag Killian is holding. After Emma holds up her end of the bargain, making sure to also promise a selfie with the cousin in question if she’s around the following day, Felix even helps them with the makeshift outerwear, diligently pinning the top seam he cut after realizing it would be easier for her to step into it instead of pull it over.
Encased in the soft, fleecy material, and having been fed, Emma is far more comfortable than she has been since she woke up this morning. Of course, that brings a whole new predicament. How the hell are they going to sleep? Because surely, they’ll have to do that at some point. She planned on sleeping on the tour bus which is fine in a pinch, but it’s a tight fit for her . How will Killian fit in there, too, unless he’s on top of her?
Suddenly, her mouth is dry at the thought, but she’s saved from her earlier thoughts of attraction by Killian’s gasp.
“Is that Granny up there?” All she can do is keep up as he moves them in a direction, and Emma realizes as she hears a loud chiming in the distance that it’s after midnight already. A whole day gone, but was it ever truly wasted connected to Killian Jones?