Actions

Work Header

Nuuk

Chapter Text

 


 

 

The horrible comical tragedy that was Emma’s life couldn’t have been anymore perfect than if William Shakespeare himself had risen from the grave and penned a new play based on her. The day was off to enough of a rough start without having a drunken idiot chastising her. The stench of rum seeping through every pore of his body was enough to blind her to anything other than his ill temper.

 

“Seriously, dude, what is your problem?” Emma felt her own temper rising.

 

“What is my problem?” He had the audacity to laugh at that point. “My problem is you, the whole bloody lot of you!”

 

Emma furrowed her brows and looked at him in exasperation. What sin could she have possibly committed that had this complete stranger so hyper-focused on berating her? None. She reminded herself that he was simply pissed, as the Brits would say. She shook her head, determined to ignore him. The flight from London to New York wasn’t exceptionally long, and given the heavy lidded way he was watching her from his first class seat next to hers, she knew it would only be a matter of minutes before he was passed out cold next to her.

 

“Typical.”

 

With that, Emma Nolan was beyond the point of annoyed, venturing into being officially infuriated.

 

“Look, I don’t know what I’ve done to you, or who this ‘whole bloody lot’ is that you speak of, but I’ll be damned if you expect me to just sit here while you unload your rum laden wrath my way.”

 

He laughed again, this time it was slow, in a deep tone that might have done things to her in a completely different situation.

 

“Love, you’re all the same. You have the world at your feet, but somehow it’s not enough for you,” he started, while pointing to the phone still still resting in her hands. “You use your feminine wiles to mold us into love sick puppies, and then once you’ve thoroughly ruined us, you move on to the next shiny bauble you see.”

 

Emma looked at her phone, trying to process his words. Her text to Neal had been none of his business. He didn’t know her. Who the hell was he to judge her? Steadying her resolve to ignore him once more, she turned back to her laptop, shifting her body so that it was facing the window. He didn’t say anything more but she could swear she felt his eyes boring into the back of her head.

 

It took about ten minutes before she heard his breathing steady. When she turned her neck to glance at him, he was fast asleep.

 


 

 

Emma didn’t spend much time traveling internationally. Truth be told, she didn’t really spend much time doing anything other than work. It had taken months of begging from her old friend before she finally relented and agreed to attend her wedding. Even Emma couldn’t deny that this was too important for her to miss. Maura, Emma’s college roommate, had explained to Emma that she wanted more than anything for Emma to be a bridesmaid, but that due to scheduling conflicts, Emma was unable to attend as anything more that a well-wishing guest. Maura had made sure that Emma was at least able to sit in the second row behind all of the bride’s family though. As Emma had watched, she had felt a pang in her chest. Maura and Frederick had looked at each other with so much love and admiration in their eyes, something Emma had never experienced for herself. She had been far too busy in her youth either partying or planning for her future, diving head first into work, to allow herself to consider a relationship, bouncing from one end of the spectrum to the other, and now it was too late.

 

She was exhausted, after all of the festivities brought on by the wedding. Maura had married the Duke of Norfolk and so, naturally, the wedding had been a nearly week-long event consisting of a hen party, bridal party, formal dinners, political receptions, and finally the wedding ceremony.

 

The week had taken it’s toll on her mentally and physically, and if it weren’t for the horrible knot in her stomach, she would have been fast asleep as soon as she boarded her flight at Heathrow. Instead, she was dreading what was waiting for her upon landing. Her phone had been buzzing all morning with the ‘happy’ news.

 

Rather than sitting idly in her first class window seat, worrying about her fate, she decided to focus on the one thing that was in her ability to control; her late-father’s company.

 

Nolan Industries had originally started out as a small family owned medical equipment sales company. David and Mary Margaret had married straight out of grad school and neither had had much money to their name. David had always dreamed of something larger, but between starting the business and paying off student loan debts for him and his wife, he hadn’t been in a place financially to take his company any further. Using a small inheritance from Mary Margaret’s late father, they slowly built up their modest business. In the beginning, they sold MRI machines to hospitals. It had been a safe investment for a newly developing corporation. It wasn’t until Emma was born with a congenital heart defect that David finally took a leap. In the small warehouse he used to store his sales equipment, he created a sterile space for him to work in. Using his degree in bio-engineering, and some borrowed equipment from one of his old college professor’s lab, David was able to create a synthetic heart valve that wouldn’t degrade in the human body over time.

 

From there, the company took off like a rocket. Investors were falling head over heels to get in at the ground floor of Nolan Industries. They understood what the implications for David’s heart valve were. Transplants took too long, and often people ran out of time waiting. David knew what he had too. Emma’s heart valve was just the beginning. Eventually, Nolan Industries had become the leading innovator of biomedical equipment. They developed new bio-compatible surgical implants, robotic prosthetics, and hospital equipment.

 

When Emma was young, David told her stories about how he met her mother, spinning them into fairy tales. He regaled her with tales of how he was just a simple peasant boy who had fallen in love with a princess thanks to his fairy godfather. Together, they had built a kingdom and then had had a princess of their own, but she was born cursed by an evil queen. Together the king and queen had been able to reverse the curse, and they had lived happily ever after.

 

In reality, David had met Mary Margaret at a party. Emma’s mother had been the president of her sorority, and David had avoided her at all costs, assuming that she was a stuck up rich girl. His roommate, Kristoff had pestered him, and finally resorted to trickery to introduce him to Mary Margaret. It wasn’t love at first sight, but Kristoff wouldn’t give up on them, and eventually they realized that there was a fine line between love and hate. There was no evil queen in real life, at least not back then. David had been truthful about how they had built their kingdom and had had a princess they adored more than anything. It had been a perfect fairytale while it lasted, but all stories come to an end, and if life had taught Emma anything, it was that there was no such thing as happily ever after.

 

Now here she was, essentially an orphan, with the exception of her evil stepmother. David had forgotten to mention that part in his stories. After David had passed away, Emma had thrown herself into her work. She had been valedictorian of her graduating class, insisting to her father that she earn her position at the family company. She didn’t want a free handout. She started out in an entry-level position, wanting to learn all of the aspects of the business from the ground up. Three years later, David made her the Chief Operating Officer of the company, a position just below his CEO spot. She loved the work they were doing, and felt like they were really making a difference in the world.

 

This last week away had really thrown a wrench in her schedule. Emma used what little free time she had trying to catch up on emails and business proposals, but it was difficult to run a company from a few thousand miles away. As much as she dreaded going home and dealing with her stepmother, Regina (the wicked witch of east coast, at least in Emma’s mind), and Neal, she was more than ready to get back to work. After David’s passing, Emma made it her top priority to oversee the charitable business department. Her mother had always told her that she was extremely lucky to grow up with everything she could ever want, but that many people weren’t as fortunate. It was actually Mary Margaret that had insisted to the board that there needed to be a budget set aside annually for charity donations and pro-bono work. When her mother had passed, David had taken the reins, but now, with him gone as well, Emma was the only one still in support of the company's charitable works.

 

Emma opened her laptop, trying in vain to connect to her office server. Unfortunately for Emma, the plane was docked just far enough away from the international airport to limit her wifi, and her cell reception wasn’t any better due to the snow and clouds. Unable to access any of her emails, and unable to contact, Ruby, her assistant, Emma gave up. She stashed away her computer and replaced it with her copy of a collection of love letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. She was about two thirds of the way through it when her phone buzzed again. Apparently the spotty signal had strengthened just long enough for a few text messages to come through. She grabbed it from her purse under her seat, missing the fact that the aisle seat next to hers was no longer empty. The first text that came through was from her stepmother. Included in the text was a picture of an intricate diamond ring sitting inside a light blue jewelry box. While the ring was pretty, it was too over the top and frilly for Emma’s taste. The message under the photograph read;.

 

All set for Christmas dinner, and Emma, you will say yes!

 

Emma felt the bile rise in her stomach. She swallowed hard, trying to will herself to calm down. She blinked back the tears that were forming in her eyes, reminding herself that she had made a deal with the devil and payment had come due. She could do this; she had to. She composed herself long enough to read the next message, this time from Neal.

 

You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known – and even that is an understatement.  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

A few seconds later another message from Neal arrived.

 

I can’t wait to see you again babe. Sorry I’ve been so busy. Call me before you leave London in a couple of days.

 

Emma steeled herself and brought her hands to her chest, gripping her phone with all of her might. She closed her eyes and took in a few deep breaths trying to relax her body. How could he be so kind to her when he barely knew her, and how could she promise the rest of her life to him. She felt like she was going to explode, and a part of her hoped that she would. That she could fade from existence, along with all of her responsibilities.

 

Neal wasn’t an awful man, and perhaps in time she could grow to care for him in the way he so obviously cared for her. What they had though, would never be that great love written about by poets and novelist. They would never experience the devotion of F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing love letters to Zelda, making every man in the world pale by comparison. Emma thought it ironic that Neal had gifted her a copy of Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda before she had left the country. Emma had invited him to come with her, hoping that some time together away from their meddling parents could perhaps aid in bridging the emotional gap between them. Neal had of course turned her down, citing issues with his father’s political campaign that needed to be dealt with. As Emma flipped through the book while waiting in the security line at JFK, she felt defeated. She envied the way Fitzgerald had worshiped his wife. Hell, she couldn’t even get her boyfriend to go on a one-week trip with her.

 

Not that their relationship was exactly traditional though. Their respective families had arranged the entire thing and, with more pressure being placed upon them, Emma had felt suffocated. They were opposite in every way from the couple she had so quickly come to admire. There was no physical intimacy between them, a fact that Emma found herself grateful for, but they had hardly anything in common, nothing to build a foundation on. Yet, according to her stepmother, they were soon going to be bonded to each other for eternity.

 

Just as she was beginning to feel her thoughts pushing her towards a full blown panic attack, she heard a snarling noise coming from the spot next to hers. She looked over at the man occupying the seat. The rum wafting from his pores was enough to make her dislike him, but it was the words spilling out of his mouth, filled with vile disdain, that sent her over the edge.

 

“So what, just because you’re beautiful, you get to treat him like dirt?”

 

“Seriously, dude, what is your problem?” Emma felt her own temper rising.

 

“What is my problem?” He had the audacity to laugh at that point. “My problem is you, the whole bloody lot of you!”

 


 

 

Three months of sobriety out the window. Three of the hardest bloody months of his life were for naught. Killian Jones threw back his fourth shot of rum as the last call for final boarding of Flight 321 London to New York was called. His life was in shambles, a wreck of his own making, and now he was headed into the belly of the beast.

 

The trip had been fairly uneventful, the best type of visit home. He had managed to evade the paparazzi the entire time, even on the way from his hotel to the airport. It wasn’t until he had checked in for his flight that everything had gone to hell. His phone had been ringing off the hook all morning, flashing with the name William Smee, his manager. Killian had chosen to ignore it, figuring that whatever Smee deemed to be an emergency could wait until he was back in New York. Eventually Smee gave up on trying to call Killian, and instead sent one text with a picture attachment.

 

I’m so sorry to tell you this way, but you’re screening my calls and I thought you should know. I just got a heads up from Sidney at EF Weekly that they will be running this photograph with their cover story tomorrow.

 

Killian was intrigued as he opened the attachment, waiting for the file to load. His breath caught. A raven-haired woman was straddling a man in the back seat of a car. The man’s button-up shirt was resting wide open, the woman’s hands laid upon his chest as his mouth sucked at her neck. Her shirt had been pushed back exposing a black-laced bra. The photograph was grainy, obviously taken from a great distance, but it was still easy to make out the two figures in the vehicle. While the man’s face was burrowed into her neck, Killian recognized the car as belonging to Walsh Oz, a well respected director engaged to one of New York’s most up and coming models, Zelena something. The worst of the picture though, was that Killian remembered purchasing that bra for his girlfriend two months prior, only to be informed that it wasn’t her style. And yet there she was, wearing it in the back seat of another man’s car, wrapped in his arms. Milah.

 

In his rage, he did the one thing he knew how to do best; drown his sorrows. It didn’t take long to reach a lounge bar that served alcohol. That was the best thing Heathrow had going for it. Pints, ales, and other libations at every turn to mollify the weary travelers. He sat at a stool, not caring who might have seen him. He drank, once, twice, three times, all doubles. He heard his flight called twice over the intercom but was too numb to move. Luckily the fourth tumbler finally gave him enough courage to lift himself from the seat and make his way to his gate. He was slightly worried that in his intoxicated state, they wouldn’t let him board his flight, but as he had gulped everything down so quickly, the rum was only just now starting to affect him. By some miracle, he managed to stay sober just long enough to drag himself up the walkway and into his seat.

 

The flight was fairly packed and he could only pray that he would be lucky enough to find himself seated alone or, at the very least, next to a person that knew to keep to himself. What he hadn’t expected to find, though, was the gorgeous creature sitting by the window. He briefly wondered if she was an angel before reminding himself that she would probably seem far less attractive to him in a sober state. He sat as quietly as he could as she ruffled around in a bag under her seat. He heard her give a small gasp and immediately tensed, expecting it to be because she realized who was sitting next to her. He had found that women often turned into putty around him, be it his devilishly good looks, or his rocketed fame. When he looked over, however, her focus was entirely on her phone. Taking up most of the screen was a diamond monstrosity, cluing him in to the fact that she was likely taken. His mood immediately soured again. Her phone buzzed once more, this time with a cheesy quote. Killian laughed in spite of himself, not able to hide his disdain for young naïve love. The next message that came in must have been from her soon-to-be-fiancé, telling her how much he missed her and asking for her to call before she left in a few days.

 

Killian could feel the anger simmering just below the surface. Not only had this woman lied to this poor man about when she was leaving the country, but she looked horrified by the mere thought of him. The simmer turned into a full boil as he pictured Milah reacting the same way whenever he sent her text messages. He groaned to himself. The woman sitting next to him was no angel, but a demon in disguise. The devil in physical form.

 

“So what, just because you’re beautiful, you get to treat him like dirt?” he spat

 

“Seriously, dude, what is your problem?” The girl retorted with a wild glimmer in her jade eyes.

 

“What is my problem?” She had the audacity to play the victim, the thought of it made him laugh like a madman. “My problem is you, the whole bloody lot of you!”

 

He watched as she turned away from him, as if he were somehow the villain in this interaction.

 

“Typical.”

 

The look she gave him in return was satisfying. He was under her skin.

 

“Look, I don’t know what I’ve done to you, or who this whole bloody lot is that you speak of, but I’ll be damned if you expect me to just sit here while you unload your rum-laden wrath my way.”

 

He laughed again, feeling more in control of the situation.

 

“Love, you’re all the same. You have the world at your feet, but somehow it’s not enough for you. You use your feminine wiles to mold us into love sick puppies, and then once you’ve thoroughly ruined us, you move on to the next shiny bauble you see.”

 

With that, she turned her entire body away from him. It was obvious that she planned on avoiding him the entire flight, or at least as much as she could. Even in first class, personal space was limited. Feeling as though he had won this battle, he sat back in his chair, finally allowing the rum he consumed to lull him into a deep slumber.

 

He woke with a start. The plane shook and he was certain that they must have landed, but when he opened his eyes, it was dark. He looked around, confused as to what was happening. Many of the passengers seemed to be waking up as well, all in the same confused state. He looked over to his right to find a mass of blonde hair hair tucked into the window of the plane. Events from earlier that day began floating around in his head. Milah had cheated on him, again. He was on his was home and would soon have to face everyone.

 

And then there was the still, beautiful woman sitting next to him. The poor woman had been taken completely by surprise by his one-sided argument with her and he felt his heart twist with guilt at the thought. He had been an epic arse to her, and while she perhaps deserved a tongue thrashing, he was hardly the one that should have given it to her.

 

He sat his seat back up and rubbed a hand over his face to make sure he hadn’t drooled in his sleep. Once he felt presentable, he leaned over into her space. Wanting to apologize but unsure of how to broach the topic, he settled on the first thing that came to mind.

 

“If it’s not too much of a bother, lass, may I ask where we are?”

 

She turned back to him and sized him up with her eyes. “So you’re a gentleman now, are you?”

 

There was contempt in her voice, well deserved if his partial memories were any indication.

 

“I apologize for my earlier behavior. I received some bad news just before boarding the plane and subsequently, made a poor choice in the amount of alcohol I consumed. I assure you, our initial meeting aside, I’m always a gentleman, love.”

 

She eyed him again, softening only slightly. He watched as she decided whether or not he was worth engaging again. He gave her an encouraging smile and a small wink, something that had always served him well with the ladies before. She only rolled her eyes at him.

 

“We’re almost halfway through the flight.” She pointed to the screen in front of her.

 

The flight tracker was turned on in place of any movies. The small plane icon was indeed about halfway along the arch that connected the departure and arrival cities. Killian looked at his watched, still confused. The flight was scheduled to arrive in New York at six in the evening. Even in the middle of winter there should have been lingering light out at this point in their journey.

 

“There was some sort of technical issue before we ever took off. We sat on the runway for five hours so we won’t be getting in until almost midnight now.” She shrugged like it was normal. “You’ve been asleep for quite some time.”

 


 

 

Emma could feel his confusion. He had passed out within minutes of boarding the plane, and by all normal reasoning, they should have already landed. They took off much later than expected and, within the first hour of the flight, had hit turbulence. She gazed out the window, watching as streaks of electricity flickered on and off in the distance. As they continued on there was an announcement to the passengers that they were heading into a storm and that the turbulence would likely get worse until they cleared the path of the storm. The last jolt to the plane had been the biggest one yet, enough to awaken the kraken next to her.

 

She cringed internally as she heard him stirring, but to her surprise, he was much gentler this time around. Admittedly, she had caught herself admiring him more than once while he slept. A few strands of hair had fallen across his closed lids and she had had to stop herself from leaning over and brushing her fingers across his forehead. He was stunning in this form. Her eyes raked over him, taking in the sharp line of his jaw, the way his adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed in his sleep, and the tight fit of his clothes. Even before, Emma had almost let herself get lost in his ocean blue eyes, and if it hadn’t been for the rum scent and yelling coming from his mouth, she probably would have gripped his jacket collar and smashed her lips into him right then and there.

 

He had been an ass though, and there was no denying it. Even as he apologized and gave her an excuse of receiving bad news, she couldn’t just let his earlier actions go. She wouldn’t forgive him, but she could be civil. After she had explained about the delays, he had rubbed his hand over his face, cursing under his breath slightly as his fingers pinched the bridge of his nose.

 

“I thought we were landing.” It was almost a sigh.

 

“Sorry, but no such luck.” Just then, turbulence sent a shockwave through the plane again.

 

Emma heard gasps coming from further back in the plane. She didn’t fly often, but she was sure that this amount of shaking in the air wasn’t right.

 

The man next to her must have sensed her apprehension. “Don’t worry. I’ve been through much worse. If it were really that dangerous, the pilots would divert the flight path to avoid the storm.” Emma felt herself relax at his calm demeanor.

 

“So you fly a lot then?”

 

He smirked. “I guess you could say that.”

 

Assuming the conversation was over, Emma turned back to the window to continue watching the lightning storm that seemed to engulf the plane.

 

“I really am sorry about earlier, by the way. I’m not usually an abrasive drunk, or at least I’m not anymore. I apologize for any displeasure I may have cause you, although I’d be more than happy to remedy that.” He winked at her and licked his bottom lip. Emma felt a warmth stirring inside her but pushed it down.

 

“Why do you do that?”

 

The man tilted his head in questioning.

 

“Why do you feel like you need to follow every genuine gesture of kindness with innuendo?”

 

“Ah, well, love, what if I told you that your beauty vexed me so that I’ve simply lost my mind.”

 

Emma felt her eyes fall to his lips involuntarily as he let his lower lip graze his teeth. The warm sensation was back, and it was everything Emma could do to stomp it down. Gorgeousness aside, this man had little else to offer her. She rolled her eyes at him, trying to hide the attraction she felt.

 

His look faltered and he turned back to face the seat in front of him. He was silent for a few minutes, before finally speaking up.

 

“Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism. My ego took a rather large blow recently, and I’m not quite sure how to behave around you, because you are, you know... Gorgeous.” His cheeks reddened as he said it and he started scratching at a spot behind his right ear.

 

She couldn’t help but feel a soft spot developing for him after that.

 

“So, if I may,” she said trying to mend fences, “what was the horrible news you got before?”

 

He stiffened, and Emma was sure she had hit a sore spot. She had honestly assumed his luggage had been lost, or perhaps there was a mixup with his room accommodations in New York, something silly that he was over dramatizing. Judging by the tension in his face though, it was in fact awful news.

 

“I’m sorry, you don’t have to say. I was just trying to make small talk to distract myself from the fact that we’re thousand of feet in the air in a metal tube, bouncing around in an electrical storm.”

 

He smiled just a little.

 

“It’s okay, lass. It’s a sensitive subject.” There was a sharp inhale. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you my story if you explain to me why your fiance seems to think you’re still in London.”


“It’s - it’s not like that. And I’m not telling my deepest darkest secrets to a complete stranger.”

 


 

 

The plane jostled around again and he watched as her hands quickly grabbed onto the armrests of her chair. He could see her lean muscles flexing with each small vibration of the plane. He could she was nervous when he woke up, but now she looked down right terrified.

 

“But who better to tell your secrets to?” He hoped conversation would help distract her. “I don’t know who you are, and you seem to not know me. It’s not as if we run in the same circles, so why not spill to someone who you’ll never see again?”

 

He watched her face contort in contemplation.

 

“We wouldn’t even need to give each other our real names. Killian Rogers. Pleased to meet you.”

 

He held his right hand out to her, waiting for her reaction. Her brows furrowed slightly before she took his hand in hers.

 

“Rogers? Like Mr. Rogers?

 

“More like the Jolly Roger.”

 

She nodded and the edges of her mouth turned up slightly.

 

“Emma Swan.”

 

She smiled at him for the first time.

 

“So, Swan, where should we begin?”

 

He hoped she would take it for the invitation it was. He was letting her decide how the conversation would go.

 

“Fine, I’ll start, but all you’ll get from me is the highly redacted version.” He nodded for her to continue. “Yes, I lied to him about when I was leaving, but in my defense I lied to everyone, not just him.” She grimaced, clearly realizing how it must have sounded now that she had said it outloud. “I just needed a few days to myself.”

 

“You mean to prepare your finger for that garish rock he plans to stick you with?” he interrupted.

 

She chuckled a little at that, obviously as disgusted by the ring as Killian was. “It’s really not what you think. It’s-” she paused trying to find the right words. “It’s an arranged marriage. We’ve only been dating for a few months and I hardly know him.” The smile on her face was now forced.

 

“And I take it there’s a complicated reason that you can’t just walk away?”

 

“Something like that. I was given a choice, and it seemed the lesser of two evils. He’s not a bad person, I don’t think. And he seems to care for me for some reason. Does that make me a horrible person?”

 

There was something in her eyes that broke his heart. Her expression was a mirror image of the one he wore every time he looked at himself; the expression of a lost child.

 

“No, love. I can’t imagine how much strength it must take for you to force yourself into going through with this.”

 

She nodded and he wasn’t sure if his answer had been the one she wanted to hear or not.

 

“So what about you? Why did you zero in on me as soon as you sat down?” she asked.

 

“Ah, right into it then. Very well. My romantic life isn’t much better off than yours. My girlfriend, if you could even call her that anymore, was caught in a very compromising position recently, and a picture of it was sent to me just before I boarded. It’s not the first time, so I shouldn’t really be surprised I guess.”

 

He wasn’t sure how she would receive his news. She had every right to be pissed at him for hitting on her when he still officially had a girlfriend, but it was pity he found staring back at him.

 


 

 

“And you still love her?” Emma’s voice cracked as the words came out. She wasn’t sure why, but the idea of it was like a punch to the gut. She couldn’t explain it in any rational way, but in the last few minutes her opinion of him had completely flipped. The more they talked, the more she felt drawn to him, and the idea of him being in love with a girl who would do this to him not once, but twice sickened her. She was envious of this girl who had had so much and had chosen to throw it all away.

 

She watched as he was the one to take a pause this time. “It’s complicated at best. When I first met her, I was completely alone. Someone very dear to me had recently passed away, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Milah was like a breath of fresh air and she brought me back to life. I was so amazed that she chose me. But you know the old saying, ‘time wounds all heals.’ We weren’t good for each other; we brought out each others’ worst features. I think I was just holding on to the feeling we used to have. When she cheated the first time, I was devastated. But she was everything to me so I gave her another chance, and another and another. Now, it’s just a relationship of convenience, but it still stings a man’s ego to know that she’s so blatant with her affections of other men when we share an apartment still.”

 

He took in another deep breath, seemingly exhausted from the confession. Emma grabbed his hand without thinking.

 

“I’m sorry, Killian. I don’t know you, but I know that you deserve better than that.” He nodded but Emma could tell he was only placating her.

 

“I’m not so certain of that, love. I haven’t always been the most decent of human beings. I think this may just be my penance.”

 

She squeezed his hand, causing him to look back up at her.

 

“No, listen to me. No one deserves the be hurt like that. And you need to stop beating yourself up over it. Your whole life, people are going to try to knock you down, to tell you who you should be and how you should feel, but you have to push back and say this is who I am, and I deserve to be happy.”

 

“I wish I had your strength, Emma.”

 

There was a loud crackle and the entire cabin was bathed in a bright light. The plane felt like it was taking a nose dive when the oxygen masks fell from above them. Emma saw the panic in Killian’s eyes. He helped her get her oxygen mask on before putting on his own. The plane shook more and Emma could feel every fiber of her being vibrating with fear. Killian’s arms came around her and pulled her into him. She went willingly. Screams filled the cabin of the plane while Emma let Killian hold her. Among all of the thoughts rushing through her head, there was one that stuck out from the others. If this was really going to be the end, at least she wouldn’t be alone.

Chapter Text


 

 

Killian wasn’t generally the type of man to panic. He’d experienced a number of tragedies in his life and liked to believe that it had made him strong, tougher. But when the plane had begun to plummet and the oxygen masks fell, he knew they were in serious trouble. Screams from other passengers filled the cabin. As he held Emma, he looked across the aisle to see a man praying.

 

Emma’s grip on him tightened and he could feel her trembling. He closed his eyes, trying to focus on anything else, but when he heard someone yell out to brace for impact, his eye’s automatically shifted to the window.

 

After what felt like an eternity, the plane seemed to even out and the lights came back on. It was at that moment that the pilot came over the intercom.

 

“Sorry about that folks. We’ve lost one of the engines and we’re still too far out from New York to hobble in. Instead we’re going to have to make a detour to get it looked at before we can continue on. Please remain calm and stay seated in case there’s more turbulence.”

 

The cabin was still filled with panicked conversation and crying children. It wasn’t until they had landed that everyone finally allowed themselves to calm down. Emma hadn’t even realized that Killian’s arms were still wrapped around her, and that hers were around him too.

 


 

 

Once the plane had begun taxiing on the runway, the flight attendants appeared again. One of them made their way to the front of the plane to make an announcement while the others walked around to check on each of the passengers.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen. We would like to apologize for the inconvenience. Please stay seated while we determine how severe the situation is and the next course of action.” The attendant set the announcer phone back in place and started assisting the first class passengers.

 

Emma was the one to break their embrace and Killian immediately missed the warmth of her body pressed into his. She pulled her oxygen mask off and he followed suit. The silence between them seem to stretch on for an eternity. He was afraid that he had crossed a line. He had  seen the panic in her eyes so he had grabbed onto her without thinking, hoping to give her some comfort. He hadn’t meant to hold her for so long, but after the plane had steadied, and the danger was over, he couldn’t find it in himself to release her. She smelled like heaven and fit to his body so perfectly, as if it was God himself who had molded her to him. When he had realized that her arms had come around his waist as well, he had let himself relax into her, letting his cheek fall against the top of her head.

 

With Emma leaning back against the window, he finally had a better view of her face. Her eyes were red and blotchy as she patted the back of her hands against them. She sniffled a few times before looking back up at him.

 

“Don’t look at me,” she tried to play it off with a laugh. “I’m a mess right now.”

 

“Swan, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. It was a frightening experience for me as well. And I promise, you still look beautiful, love.” He felt the heat in his ears as he said the last bit.

 

Watching her smile was enough to make him forget about every other horrible thing that had happened that day. He smiled back at her and reached out to grab her hand, giving it a light reassuring squeeze just as she had done for him. He was surprised when she squeezed back and didn’t let go.

 

“Distract me.”

 

“What?” She had caught him off guard.

 

“The seatbelt light is still on and I need a distraction from how badly I need to use the restroom right now.” Her legs started bouncing up and down.

 

“Love, surely they’ll allow you to get up for nature’s call.” He gave her a small wink.

 

“I think the woman in 2B might disagree with you.” Emma nodded in the direction of the seat a few rows ahead as one of the flight attendants chastised the woman for attempting to stand. Killian could hear the two women arguing about pregnancy bladder, but the attendant was steadfast in her resolve, stating aviation guidelines prevented any passengers from moving around the cabin while the plane was on the runway.

 

“Well it seems you have me there, Swan. What would you like to talk about?”

 

Emma bounced around in her seat a bit more. “Anything really.”

 

Killian smiled to himself. She was adorable.

 

“Well, lets see. Do you live in New York or is it just a connecting layover for you?”

 

It was lame but the only think Killian could think of in the moment that was nonsexual.

 

“It’s home. I work at a technology company based out in the city.”

 

“So were you in London for work then?” This was possibly the worst conversation he had ever attempted to strike up, but thankfully she was going with it.

 

“No, I was there for a friend’s wedding, actually. I generally try to stay as close to the city as possible in case of a work emergency.”

 

“Going for a big promotion then?” he asked.

 

“Killian,” she groaned out. “This isn’t working.”

 

He could see the distress etched all over her face and made a decision that he knew she wouldn’t like. He pressed the call button for the attendant. As the attendant made her way towards them, he saw a spark of recognition in her face, and hoped that she wouldn’t give away his identity to Emma.

 

He spoke before she had the chance to address him. “Hey there, lass. Would it be at all possible for her to use the restroom?” Both Killian and the flight attendant looked over to Emma who was almost pulsating out of her seat.

 

“I’m so sorry, sir, but it isn’t allowed.”

 

He dropped his face so that he could look at her through his lashes, a signature look that he had developed over the past few years.

 

“Are you certain there’s nothing you can do? My sister is quite uncomfortable, and I would be forever in your debt if you’d let her up,” he leaned closed to the attendant so that their faces almost met, “just this once.” He deepened his voice and let his accent thicken. “I would owe you a personal favor.” He bit his bottom lip and watched as the attendant’s eyes blew wide, letting the blue color retract into thin rings.

 

She giggled. “Well,” she started as she looked around. “Maybe just this once.”

 

Emma shot up ready to climb over Killian’s lap.

 

“Wait, Emma, what do you say?”

 

She shot him a look of pure contempt but managed to croak out a “Thank you, mate ,” in possibly the worst attempt at copying his accent he had ever heard. The attendant gave him a look of confusion and it took everything he had not to laugh as Emma ran away.

 

“I’m sorry, her ears popped during the flight and she still can’t hear very well.” It was a poor excuse, but it seemed to placate the attendant.

 

“Please let me know if there’s anything else I can assist you with, Mr. Jones.” Her eyes made their way down to just below were Killian’s seatbelt was resting and lingered there.

 

“I’ll be sure to do that, lass.”

 

She walked away, completely flustered, to deal with the woman in 2B, who was now completely irate that she couldn’t use the restroom too.

 

“Sorry my husband isn’t a hot movie star! Maybe if he were, you’d treat me like a human being!” she spat. Luckily she had calmed down before Emma returned.

 


 

 

Emma couldn’t even bother to put down her usual layer of toilet paper on the seat. Between the constant jostling of the plane in the storm, and the nearly hour-long wait on the tarmac, she had given up her rule about not using restrooms on any mode of transportation. Desperate times , she told herself. Feeling relieved, in more ways than one, Emma took in her appearance in the dirty warped mirror.  She looked tired, with circles starting to form under her eyes, and her cheeks were just a bit paler than usual. Considering the late hour she looked better than expected, but still, she found herself wishing that she had brought her purse filled with blush and lip-gloss with her into the restroom.

In part, it was because she had been raised to always dress to impress. She could almost hear her mother’s voice in her head; Sweetheart, I believe in forgiveness and second chances, but I also believe that you should strive to never need to ask for either of them. Then there was the small part of her that thought about the man sitting in 7C,with his jet-black hair, ocean blue eyes, and strong jawline. Sure, he was a stranger and nothing was going to happen, but Emma still wanted to hold on to the spark of hope that in some alternate universe, the gorgeous man sitting next to her might want her. She wasn’t the kind of person who fell into bed with a man she had just met, but there was something about him that called to her, and in another life she would have thrown caution to the wind.

 

But this wasn’t another life. Emma snapped herself out of it, shaking her head in an attempt to purge those thought. She was about to become betrothed, and he was grieving, leaving her with nothing more than a silly crush. Still, she couldn’t help but pinch her cheeks and press her lips together trying to add some color to her face.

When Emma returned, she found Killian sitting in her window seat, staring out at the night sky. She sat down and leaned over to pick up her book, trying to avoid talking to him, to avoid flirting with him. She felt him tense as she leaned across him, but ignored it and opened her book to the last page she had read. She caught him watching her out of the corner of her eye with a slight scowl on his face.

“What?” she finally asked with an eye roll.

Killian grinned. “Nothing, love.” He turned back to the window.

She rolled her eyes again and returned her gaze to the words in front of her, only to be interrupted by the pilot over the intercom.

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman. We apologize again for the wait. We’ve gotten word from the maintenance team here and it looks like we’re going to need a new part for the engine. Unfortunately they don’t have the part on hand here and, with the storm, it may take a day or two to get another one delivered. We’ll continue to update you as we learn more.”

Emma heard groans from the other passengers, but there was a light chuckle coming from the seat next to her. She turned to him, squinting her eyes at him, trying to see the humor in the situation.

Sensing her confusion, he answered her unasked question.

 

“I know; it shouldn’t be funny. It’s just, you reach a point where everything seems to be going so wrong that it becomes comical.”

Emma could see his point. Between the lack of connection to her work, the flight troubles, and Regina forcing her into an uncomfortable family dinner where she’d have to accept her engagement offer, everything seemed to be going wrong for her as well. She didn’t find it funny though. If anything, she was slightly grateful; it was her own personal reprieve, and she’d take it for as long as she could get it. She didn’t want to admit that to him though, so she played along, laughing.

“I can see your point.”

He was still grinning when he pulled out his cell phone and starting tapping at his screen. Emma followed suit, pulling out her own phone, with less success.

“Wait. How do you have service here?”

He held his phone up and wiggled it. “The perks of my job, I guess. I have to be reachable at all times so my ma-” he said pausing slightly. “-my friend had something done to it. If it makes you feel any better, it’s working incredibly slowly.”

Emma groaned, dropping her phone into her lap and almost throwing herself against the headrest. She wanted to ask him what he was doing, but knew it was poor manners to pry. The silence was starting to eat away at her as he ignored her to continue tapping away at his phone.

He laughed again.

“Love, you are allowed to begin a conversation you know.”

“What?”

Killian chuckled some more. “You’re a bit of an open book, you see. I can tell by the look on your face that you’re dying to ask me something, Swan, so what is it?”

Emma was taken aback. Even after a few months of dating, or whatever it was she and Neal were doing, he still couldn’t guess what thoughts were running through her head. He couldn’t even remember her order at her favorite coffee shop. Again, the what-ifs floated through her head, wondering what it would be like to be with someone who understood her.

 


 

 

Killian watched as her lips turned downward. She had been stealing glances at him and he could almost feel the vibrations of her frustration and anticipation coming through the air, hitting him in shockwaves. He had only meant to tease her, to help her relax, but apparently he had hit a nerve.

 

“Emm-”

 

“Why-”

 

They both tried breaking the tension at the same time. He motioned for her to continue.

 

“If you don’t mind me asking, why were you in England?”

 

He felt himself go rigid. It wasn’t something that he talked about with strangers, with anyone really. He wasn’t even sure if Milah had noticed that his annual trips home were always on the same dates. If she had, she had never mentioned it, never even asked if she could go with him. That should have been another clue that what he had with Milah wasn’t really love, but he had been blinded in the beginning, and then had chosen to look away in the end.

 

“Every year I go back to visit my brother.” It wasn’t a lie, only a half truth, but he hoped it would suffice.

 

The look she gave him told him that perhaps he was an open book as well. She didn’t pry, and she didn’t give him her pity this time. Instead she gave him a weak smile and grabbed his left hand, giving it a slight squeeze.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I please have your attention. We are going to begin disembarking the plane shortly. If you could please grab all of your belongings, a shuttle will take you all to the main terminal where you’ll be able to collect your checked bags. We are currently working on securing room accommodations but this was a full flight. As we have approximately five hundred passengers on board, and there are just a little over two hundred rentals currently available in the city and surrounding areas, please be advised that passengers will be required to double up in rooms. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your cooperation.”

 

Killian could hear everyone on the plane start talking at once, except for Emma. She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes, surrendering to the inevitability. But then she laughed, a small chuckle at first, almost inaudible at first, but it grew, and the sound of it filled Killian with warmth. He laughed along, not really sure what she was laughing at, but her laughter was like honey, and it was contagious.

 

“I finally hit that point.”

 

He frowned not catching her meaning.

 

“You know, where it all goes so wrong that you can’t do anything but laugh? I hit it.”

 

This time he laughed along genuinely.

 

The shuttle bus eventually arrived and Killian put on a pair of fake glasses and a loose beanie. He insisted on carrying Emma’s bag for her, citing that he was a gentleman. She had blushed, and he too felt the warmth traveling up his face. It was snowing when they exited the plane and he nearly slipped on the second to last step, but regained his footing before completely humiliating himself. Once he had regained his composure Emma laughed again, grabbing onto his arm in the process.

 

As they made it back to the terminal, everyone was shuffled into the baggage claim area. It was late and very few lights were on in the small airport. The luggage carousel screamed to life and slowly, one by one, bags began to make their way back to their owners. Killian was keeping an eye out, looking for his black leather suitcase, when a flash of blonde moved to block his view.

 

He stood back, watching as Emma struggled with an overstuffed large red bag. The gentleman in him knew he should intervene and help her, but watching her follow the bag in a circle stirred up something in him. She was adorable, and he felt warmth spreading through his chest again. After Emma had made a full circle, Killian snorted and stepped forward. As he gripped the bag, it became immediately clear why she had struggled. He heaved the bag off of the conveyor belt.

 

“Swan, what in the bloody hell is in there?”

 

“Stuff.” She shrugged and rolled her bag away from the crowd of people still attempting to procure their bags as well.

 

Killian followed her and they managed to find two empty seats together. After all of the bags had been claimed, the large group was greeted by an official from the airport.

 

“Good evening, everyone. Welcome to Nuuk, Greenland. I know you’re all very tired so we’ll work as fast as we can. We need each of you to pair up with at least one other person for room assignments. Your flight attendants will be coming around to ask you who you’re with and will give you your room information at that time. Please be patient. We’ll work as quickly as we can.”

 

Killian watched Emma, who looked nervous. She was looking around the room, taking in the other passengers, trying to size up who she might find tolerable. If her face was anything to go by, her options weren’t thrilling.

 

“So how ‘bout it, Swan. Find anyone worthy yet?”

 

He look around the room as well. Some of the passengers were clearly a family, husbands and wives with their children. Other were traveling in pairs. It left only a handful of single passengers to choose from, and none of them were particularly appealing to him either.

 

“Um, I- Uh-” she stammered out.

 

He laughed again. It was something he hadn’t done in a long time, not really, but around Emma he found himself doing it constantly.

 

“Oh alright, I’ll put you out of your misery, love. You can stay with me.”

 

Her head snapped to him and her emerald eyes blew wide open.

 

“I- No. I mean- That’s-”

 

“Relax, Swan. I’m not proposing.” He winked knowing he had hit on her current aversion to engagements. “If you see someone more suitable, by all means.” His arm gestured out towards the waiting area.

 

She looked around the room one more time and sighed in defeat.

 


 

 

Emma was scared of the thought of spending the night in the same room as him, but it was really no different than staying with one of the other complete strangers, or at least it shouldn’t have felt different. It didn’t help that many of them looked like they hadn’t showered in weeks, and it certainly didn’t help that the longer she was around him, the more difficult it became to deny how attracted to him she was. She gave in, a small part of her eager to be near him longer, a part she would have to keep buried.

 

“Yes, please.”

 

Eventually an attendant made her way to them. Emma recognized her as the attendant that had let her up to use the restroom on the plane.

 

“And you, sir,” she said as she fluttered her eyes. “Are you still in need of a room companion? I’d be more than happy to offer you space in my hotel room. It’s nicer than any of the other passenger rooms.”

 

Emma watched as the woman’s hand found it’s way to Killian’s chest, and a flicker of anger made it’s way through her body as she watched Killian place his own hand around hers. The way he smiled at her, like he could devour her, made Emma feel as if she had been hit in the gut. It wasn’t a feeling she was used to, having wanted for very little in her life, but she had felt it on two occasions before. Both were in regards to her friends talking about how they were going home to spend the holidays with their parents, something Emma would never be able to do again. No, she hadn’t experienced it often, but she could easily give it a name. Jealousy.

 

Emma looked down to the floor, ready to walk away and beg someone else to take her in for the night. She didn’t enjoy feeling this way, almost territorial over something that wasn’t even hers, and she liked the idea of Killian and this woman sharing a room even less, but she had her pride to think about. Just as she was about to get up, she saw Killian pull the attendants hand away from his chest.

 

“That’s a very tempting offer, lass, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. What kind of man would I be if I left my sister in the lurch?” His low baritone was enough to make anyone melt, but then he licked his lips slowly.

 

“Killian, it’s fine, really.” She didn’t even try to mask her American accent that time.

 

She felt defeated.

 

“Swan, I’m not leaving you to fend for yourself.” His eyes seemed to lose their mirth.

 

Emma tried to shrink in on herself. She felt like such a fool. It was obvious that he wanted to spend the night with the airline attendant, and was only staying with her out of pity. She waited, hoping that the ground below her would open up and swallow her whole, but it didn’t. She stood up straight and took two steps backward.

 

“Really, it’s okay, Killian. I’ll be fine. I’m used to being alone.” She hadn’t meant to say the last part out loud.

 

She gripped the handle of her large red bag, cursing the weight of it as she tipped it over enough for it to roll. Emma didn’t wait to see the pity that would surely be etched into his face, instead turning to walk away as fast as possible. She made it about thirty feet away before she felt a hand grip around her bicep. The hand tugged on her, spinning her around in the process.

 

“Emma, where are you going?”

 

She felt small again. “I’m just going to find someone else to stay with. It’s only for a night or two. I’ll be fine, really. Go, have fun.”

 

An expression of hurt flashed across his face. “Swan, I don’t want to have fun with her. I was just being nice because she let you use the loo on the plane, and in case we have her again on the flight home.”

 

She didn’t say anything.

 

“Besides, I’ve already added your name onto the booking so you’re stuck with me.”

 

Confusion took over her brain. “What?”

 

He grabbed his phone from his pocket with his free hand while his other continued to hold her in place. He wiggled it again, letting the screen come to life.

 

“That’s what I was doing before. When they said it would take a few days to fix the plane I realized that we’d have to sleep here, so I snagged a house on airbnb before the airline could rent out all of the free rooms.”

 

“What? Why?” She was beginning to feel like a broken record.

 

“Well, to be honest, I didn’t fancy being cramped up in an overcrowded hotel with people stomping around all night making noise.”

 

“No, why did you put my name on the booking?”

 

“Swan, I didn’t mean to be presumptuous, and if you’d rather stay with someone else I understand and I’ll respect your wishes, but I enjoy your company, when you’re not yelling at me that is.” His eyebrows danced in a teasing manner as he added the last bit. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to to sit down and talk to someone about everything and nothing, with someone that I can be myself around.”

 

She felt her chest fill with a strange warming sensation, replacing the feeling of jealousy and rejection she had just felt.

 

As soon as the words slipped from his mouth, as if on cue, three young women walked up to him.


“Oh my God. You’re him. You’re Killian Jones!”

Chapter Text


 

 

He winced at hearing his full name being spoken. Throughout his time milling around Heathrow, sitting on the plane, and collecting his luggage he had managed to go undetected, but thanks to his small scene with Emma, people had started to look up and notice him. His glasses were usually enough to give people pause on if he was indeed the Killian Jones, but very seldom did it fool teenage girls.

 

The girls squealed in delight and begged him for pictures and autographs. He did his best to be outwardly kind, but on the inside, he was cursing his misfortune. He expected that by the next morning the story of Milah’s affair would have broken, and instead of making it back to his loft to hide away until everything died down, he was now going to be tagged in photos on social media, alerting the paparazzi to his location. While they couldn’t possibly get to him in Greenland, he knew that as soon as he landed at JFK, he’d be mobbed by everyone trying to get their money shot of the jilted ex-lover.

 

After appeasing the three young girls, he grabbed Emma’s hand and ducked into an empty corner of the waiting lounge, dragging her with him. He was hesitant to make eye contact, afraid of what he might see hiding behind her beautiful green eyes. He wasn’t sure what scared him the most; that she be intimidated by his fame, that she might finally recognize him, or even that she might run now that the mystery behind their fragile friendship had been destroyed. But when he finally summoned the courage to face her, all he found was curiosity.

 

“I have to admit, ‘Killian Jones’ has a much nicer ring to it than ‘Killian Rogers’.” All of the disappointment from earlier was gone, and she was back to the woman he had spent the last few hours getting to know. “So, just who are you?”

 

He considered lying. It would be easy after all, lying was what he did for a living. It would also save him from the worry of her retreating behind her walls and running away. Emma was obviously well guarded, and if there was only one thing he was positive of, it was that she wouldn’t want to be dragged into the circus that his life was about to become. But for whatever reason, he found that he couldn’t lie to her.

 

Lifting his pointer finger to scratch at the spot behind his right ear, he nervously shuffled from foot to foot, trying to decided how to phrase it. He could see her watching him, trying to read his thoughts from his expression, so he went with the most direct approach possible.

 

“I’m an actor.”

 

“Hmm.” It was all she said.

 

They stood together in silence, huddled up in the corner, each leaning against the wall as they waited for the airport staff to give them further instructions on where to go. He could feel the tension building up, but he wasn’t sure if it was building between them, or simply inside of him.

 

“Do you really not know who I am, or are you just being polite?” He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know the answer, but he needed some sort of reassurance that she wasn’t just playing coy, feigning innocence to get him to lower his own guard.

 

“Honestly,” she said quietly, “no, I didn’t. I mean I don’t. All of my focus goes into my job. I don’t even own a television, and I think the last movie I watched was probably about five years ago.”

 

She shrugged and continued. “Honestly, and please don’t take offense, but I’ve never put much stock in celebrity.”

 

He wasn’t sure how to take it as anything other than offense, but from what little he had learned of her, she wasn’t the type to purposely insult people. He must have mulled her words over for too long.

 

“I’m sorry, that came out more blunt and rude than I meant for it to. I just mean that society celebrates all of the wrong people. As a child I was taught to idolize innovators and great thinkers, people who did volunteer work for the sake of helping their fellow man. We should care about people who try to make the world a better place.” Her pace had picked up as she talked and she finally stopped herself with a groan. “I’m sorry, it’s still coming out wrong!”

 

Emma let her face drop into her hands as she tried to shield herself from embarrassment.

 

“It’s okay, I understand what you meant, and you’re right. I get paid to entertain people for a few hours, but I don’t actually contribute anything of value.”

 

“No. Killian, that’s not what I meant-”

 

“Shh.” He grabbed both her hands and pulled them down, forcing her to look up at him. “I know that’s not what you meant, but it’s true. The stuff that I film can be a bit silly at times, and I’ve really done nothing to deserve any of the recognition that I get. Swan, it’s fine. I’m not upset.”

 

She managed to give him a forced half smile, but he could see that she was still berating herself internally, so he changed gears, trying to salvage the evening.

 

“But it does occur to me that you now know my real name and I still have no idea who you are. That hardly seems fair.”

 

“I don’t believe those were the rules.” This time her smile was genuine, and the laugh she gave was contagious.

 

“Fair enough then, love. I’ll just go make sure they know we already have a room then.”

 


 

 

As she watched him walk off to find a flight attendant, she felt the itch to reach for her phone and look him up, but as she had quickly discovered, she still didn’t have any signal. It wouldn’t have mattered how famous he was, or how much money he had though. She just wanted to know what type of person he was.

 

She hadn’t lied when she told him the last movie she’d seen was over five years ago, but she didn’t explain that it had been before her father had died. Her parents had both emphasized that the actors in the films were just normal people and that she shouldn’t get hung up on hollywood celebrities, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have a soft spot for films from time to time.  After her mother had passed away, Emma and her dad had gone regularly with each other to dinner and a movie on their weekly father daughter dates. Her dad had had an affinity for cheesy romance movies, while Emma prefered comedies.

 

Killian looked young though, not younger than her, but young enough that she doubted he had been in anything she’d seen. After her father had passed, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to go anymore. It hurt too much, and in the back of her mind it felt like a betrayal to go on with life as usual, doing things without him. Instead, she had locked herself away. Ruby had become less of a friend and more of a work acquaintance. She had stopped returning phone calls from her other college friends and eventually they had stopped trying. She had dove head first into work, her last connection to her parents, fighting tooth and nail to preserve their memory.

 

She could see it in Killian’s eyes that he was disappointed that he had to expose himself to her, but she wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t want his apparent fame to have an affect on her, or because he had a secret to hide.  

 

She watched as more people seemed to recognize him. Other passengers seem to pull out of their groggy hazes and he posed with them for pictures. His smile was forced, and she could tell he was uneasy with the attention he was getting. It made her even more grateful for her parents. After her father had created the valve that saved her life, it would have been easy for them to thrust her into the spotlight, to use her as a brand for their company to garner more attention, but they hadn’t. They’d protected her, telling the media and interviewers that a ‘friend’ had been struggling and they’d seen a need to help. No one knew who she was or how much money she was worth. She had anonymity, the luxury of being herself.

 

On the rare occasion that someone did pick up on her name, it was only as the heir to her parent’s fortune. Men only ever seemed interested in her for sex or money; nothing of substance, never even attempting to get to know her.

 

That was when it clicked. Killian hadn’t wanted her to know who he was. He had said as much on the plane. At the time, she’d just thought he had suggested it for her benefit, but now she understood it was for him as well. She was probably the only person in the airport that didn’t know who he was, the only person he could just be himself with.

 

In that case, that’s what they would be, two strangers passing in the night, as agreed. The only exception would be that they’d now be passing each other over the course of a couple of days, but they could do this, she could give him that much. She could allow herself that much.

 

When he returned, she summoned the courage to tell him what she wanted.

 

“So I’ve been thinking...”

 

“Love, I found that when a woman says that, I’m rarely in for a good time.” He was cheeky, she’d give him that too.

 

“Very funny. I was just thinking about what you said on the plane, about the whole stranger thing. We can still do it. For the next few days I’ll be Emma Swan, and you’ll be Killian Rogers. I don’t have an unwanted engagement to go home to, and you don’t have an adulterous ex to get back to.”

 

“So for the duration of our stay here, we’re just going to live in the here and now then?” He eyed her cautiously.

 

“Precisely. And the moment we land back at JFK, it’s back to real life.”

 

He waggled his eyebrows and stepped closer to her, licking his lips in the process. He was only inches away now and she could feel the puff of his breath on her face.

 

“So then tell me Swan, what exactly did you have in mind, love?”

 

“Not that. I just meant we could be ourselves; no judgement and no repercussions.”

 

Taking a step back he responded, “that would be brilliant.”

 

Just then the airport official returned to announce that two shuttles had arrived to begin transporting passengers. Given the sheer volume of people sitting in the waiting area, Emma knew that even with two shuttles, it would still take multiple trips. Once again though, Killian’s fame, or maybe just unfailable flirting, had paid off. He had somehow ensured not only that they would have a spot on the first shuttle to depart, but also that they would be the first stop, even though everyone else on the bus was going to the same location across town.

 

Emma felt slightly guilty until she saw the house that they had pulled up to. Even covered in snow it was gorgeous, and definitely secluded. From their vantage point at the top of the mountain, Emma was almost certain that she could see water, but she wasn’t sure if it was the ocean or a lake. As the shuttle departed, Killian fumbled around the mailbox before finally finding the spare key the owner of the house had left. The front door stuck a little and Killian had to throw his shoulder into it to get the door to open.

 

Once inside, Emma was mesmerized. It was a quaint cozy cottage with white washed walls and dark wood flooring. The kitchen looked like it had recently been remodeled, having just the right mixture of rustic charm and modern functionality. There was a large fireplace in the living room, but Emma knew immediately that both of them were too tired to try to light it tonight. The entire first floor of the house was open concept, leaving only the second floor to be investigated.

 


 

 

Killian helped Emma carry her bag upstairs knowing that she would struggle with it. Once on the top landing he set both of their bags in the corner and he and Emma looked at the two remaining rooms. Both featured stellar views of a nearby lake according to the photographs on the letting website, and Killian could almost make out a strip of northern lights starting to peek through the night sky. Only one of the rooms had an ensuite, and Emma insisted that he take it, even though he argued vehemently against it. Finally it came to pass that neither of them would be using the room as they were both too stubborn to accept the extra perk.

 

Killian insisted that he was a gentleman, and as such, he would sleep downstairs on the couch, teasing that the room would go to waste if she didn’t use it. Still she refused, grabbing her suitcase and rolling it into the spare room, wishing him a good night just before she shut the door. Killian grabbed a pillow off the bed and found a spare blanket in the closet, making good on his word to sleep in the couch.

 

After an hour of tossing and turning however, he gave up, defeated by its short length. No matter how he tried to fold himself up, a part of him was constantly hanging off. With a sigh, he grabbed the pillow and trudged back upstairs to climb into the unoccupied bed. Chivalry be damned. Between the extended travel, and his pure exhaustion, it didn’t take long for sleep to consume him and for dreams to invade his mind. At one point, he almost felt as if the bed were moving, but he shrugged it off. He fell right back into his deep sleep, completely unaware of the blonde that was now laying next to him.

 

He woke late the next morning to only a small sliver of sunlight finding it’s way through the adjacent window. Having spent so much time in LA, he had almost forgotten what winters were like up north, with very limited daylight. Trying to gather his bearings, he guessed it was probably late morning by now.

 

Then he felt the bed shift, and realized that one side of his body was much warmer than the other. He turned his head and cracked his eyes back open. On his shoulder laid a head obscured by a mountain of blonde hair.

 

Trying to remember the events of the previous night, he lifted the edge of the blanket to assess his clothing situation. He was still wearing his boxers, so clearly nothing like that had happened. Thinking harder, everything began falling into place, everything except for how he ended up in bed with Emma Swan. She hadn’t been there when he’d first climbed under the sheets, he was nearly positive of it, but couldn’t remember her coming to him either.

 

She sighed in her sleep and burrowed herself further into his side, completed unaware of his presence there. Perhaps he should have stopped her and woken her up, but he was enjoying it too much, the feeling of a warm body pressed up against his own. He let himself have a few minutes to relish in her warmth. It wasn’t as if he and Milah hadn’t shared a bed in the past few months- they did live together, after all- but they had lost their closeness. The two of them lived nearly separate lives, only coming together long enough to indulge in carnal pleasures when the need arose, rolling to opposites sides of the king sized mattress once they had finished.

 

He had forgotten the intimacy that came with having someone wrapped up in his arms; he simply wasn’t ready to let it go. He stayed as still as possible, trying not to jostle her awake. Their bodies remained cocooned together for twenty more minutes before he noticed her beginning to stir. It was a slow process. She had begun to snuggle into him further when he suddenly felt her entire body go tense and he looked over to find wide emerald eyes staring at him in shock.

 

He watched as she squeezed her eyes shut, clearly assuming that his presence had just been a figment of her dream addled mind, but when she cracked her left eye open to find him still there, she scowled. Even when she was angry, she was still a splendor to behold.

 

“What the hell are you doing in my bed?” Her voice came out squeakier than she had intended, he was sure of it.

 

He chuckled, his eyebrows wiggling at her.

 

“The question, darling, isn’t what am I doing in your bed. It’s more like, what are you doing in mine?”

 

Her brows furrowed and she finally broke eye contact long enough to look around the room. He could pinpoint the exact moment when she realized where she was, but it wasn’t enough to deter her.

 

“You offered this room to me last night, so technically , this is my room.”

 

He felt his chest rumble that time as he laughed. She was a spitfire, full of fight. It drew him closer to her, and the spark inside of her.

 

“My sincerest apologies, milady. The couch was made for a pygmy so I came up here. But I can assure you that I was very much alone in this room when I slipped into this bed, which makes you the interloper.”

 

She huffed in response.

 

“Well we seem to be at an impasse then, because I’m quite sure that you weren’t already in the bed when I got here.”

 

Sensing her discomfort, he knew he should have backed down, but he pushed her further, hoping to see that spark turn into a flicker of a flame.

 

“Come now, love. There’s no reason to stand on pretense. If you wanted to get close to me, you could have just said so.”

 

And just like that, the friendly banter was over. Her eyes changed to a darker shade of jade as she put her hands out to shove him away, knocking him out of the bed. A part of him wanted to be annoyed, but a small voice in his head reminded him that this was his fault. He had pushed her, which was bad form. She wasn’t Milah. He didn’t need to goad her into an argument to force her to talk to him.

 

 

 

“I’m sorry. That was out of line.” He couldn’t see her reaction from his spot on the floor, but he heard her sigh.

 

“The window is broken.”

 

His guilt was quickly replaced with confusion as he tried to process her comment. Of all of the things she could have said, could have yelled at him, this was unexpected. He sat up, looking out to the wall of windows that lead to a balcony. He inspected each one but saw no chips or cracks. Settling his gaze back on her, he watched as she rolled her eyes.

 

“Not in here. The other room.”

 

Emma sat up a little, making sure to tug up the sheets and covers with her. When he had woken, he had only thought to check himself. He knew that Emma was wearing a top of some sort, although now that he could see her fully, there didn’t appear to be all that much fabric to it, her shoulders nearly bare.  He couldn’t stop his thoughts from flickering to images of just how far down the top might go, and what she may or may not have been wearing under it. He had felt her legs against his while they had snuggled, but it was only just now occurring to him how warm and silky her legs had been tangled inside his own.

 

“What do you mean broken?” He wasn’t sure how long the owner of these house had been away and wondered if some foolish children had played an ill-conceived game of rock throwing.

 

“Was I not clear enough? It’s broken . It doesn’t work .”

 

Killian stood from his place on the floor, grabbed his discarded shirt from the night before and headed towards the room across the hall. The door to Emma’s original room was closed, and when he swung it open he was met with a bracing gust of wind. The room was like an ice locker. His eyes quickly found the window in question,the fluttering curtains a dead giveaway.

 

The window was cracked open about a quarter of the way, letting in the winter chill. He marched over to it, his shirt snagging on his arms in his haste to pull it over his head to shield him from the cold - not that the thin material provided any actual comfort. He quickly found himself wishing he had grabbed a pair of pants instead, wanting to protect something else more.

 

To his dismay, the top window pane was stuck in place, despite all efforts to push it down.

 

“I told you. Broken.”

 

Her voice startled him. He hadn’t heard her enter the room, much less to move close enough to him that he could feel her breath on the back of his neck.

 


 

 

She hadn't meant to frighten him, at least not initially, but when she saw him standing in front of the stuck window, she couldn't help herself.

 

She had been shocked to find herself wrapped in his arms, though after waking up enough to think about it, she had to admit she wasn't completely opposed to the idea. She honestly couldn't even remember the last time she had shared a bed with someone. It had definitely been before her father died.

 

It didn't help that he was sinfully attractive. Before she had even opened her eyes, she’d felt the muscles in his arm flexing as he held her to him. When she had finally been able to meet his gaze, she’d found herself being drawn in by his hypnotically blue eyes. Then he had spoken the illusion had shattered, and she had shoved him out of the bed.

 

She had seen the way his eyes had flickered over her fully covered body, and although she had tugged up the covers to block his view, she’d felt an instinctive surge of female pride at the idea that she still had the ability to revert a grown man into a horny teenager at the mere sight of her bare shoulders. So many of the men she encountered now were either business men trying to broker deals with her company, or employees. All of them seemed to find her intimidating given her status though, and while a few had the guts to ask her out, she was never sure if their advances were part of a bigger, more strategic business maneuver. The hunger in his eyes told her that he was different though. He wanted her; not her money, not her power, just her.

 

When he’d stormed off into the other room to check the window, she had just enough time to reflect. She hadn’t exactly been polite, and despite his behavior, her parents had raised her to be better, to be kinder. Thinking back, she had been extremely tired when she had shuffled out of the other room into this one. She had been so tired, that it hadn’t occurred to her that when she had initially gone to bed, the door to the master bedroom had been left open, and yet she remembered having had to give it a light shove to crack it open enough to slip through into the room later in the night. The sheets had been warm, too. At the time, she had just assumed that it’d been because she had come from a freezing cold room, but perhaps they’d been warm because he had already been in them.

 

Crap.

 

She was the interloper, and needed to apologize. She started to throw the covers aside so she could follow him, but caught sight of her bare legs. She wasn’t used to sleeping with people, and certainly hadn’t expected to wake up next to a man that Ruby would describe as sex-on-legs. And while she had managed to catch an eyeful of all of his gloriousness, or at least a lot of it, she wasn’t ready to reciprocate. Instead, she wrenched the sheets free from the bed and wrapped them around her, smirking to herself as she let one side fall off of her shoulder. Well, maybe a little tease wouldn’t be so bad.

 

The room was even colder than she remembered it, but the sight of all the muscles flexing in his arms and back, even through his thin t-shirt, warmed her core. She should have knocked or cleared her throat, but she didn’t. Instead, she walked quietly to stand behind him, grateful that the carpet under her feet granted her the element of surprise.

 

“I told you. Broken.”

 

She had leaned forward into him, almost whispering the words into his ear. It was a miracle that she managed to avoid getting hit when he jumped.

 

Swan.”

 

The blue in his eyes nearly vanished as he caught sight of her, the light irises replaced with black from his wide blown pupils. She watched as his eyes briefly fell, before snapping back up to meet her own. The intensity of his gaze almost distracted her from the breeze against her chest. Looking down she realised that he sheet had fallen dangerously low when she had moved away from him.

 

The feeling of her own heart racing in her chest was indication enough that her plan to get even after all his innuendos was backfiring horribly. There was a part of her, the practical respectable side, that told her she needed to cover back up. It told her that they were both in relationships, and even if one was doomed and the other was a farce, standing there in a silk chemise and matching underwear was inappropriate. A stupid, childish game that wouldn’t lead anywhere pleasant. Then there was the other side, the one that had her almost paralysed under his gaze. It was the side that wanted to grab at his shirt and yank him to her mouth. The side of her that felt a throbbing sensation building between her legs, and wondered how long it would take them to generate enough heat to warm the room back up.

 

He seemed to consider it as well, if the throbbing vein in his jaw or the hitch in his breathing were any indication. She let her own eyes fall for a moment, just long enough to see that the cold was having very little effect on him, before snapping her eyes back up to his. That’s when she realized he was waiting for her to decide how to proceed, just as he had waited on her lead the day before to see if she wanted to stay with him.

 

She took a step towards him, not making an effort to readjust the sheet around her, and he responded with a half step closer of his own, slowly bridging the gap between him. She felt whatever small amount of willpower she had left draining from her body.

 

Then a phone rang from across the hall and both of them seemed to immediately come back to their senses, taking a much larger step back from each other. Killian was practically hanging out of the open window and Emma had made it halfway to the door, tugging the sheets back around her like a burrito. She quickly grabbed her suitcase and ran into the only bathroom on the top floor, the one connected to the master bedroom.

 

It took her a moment to collect herself. Her breathing had sped up and was nearly competing with her racing heart. From the other side of the door, she heard the phone stop ringing, only to start again a few minutes later.

 

Feel slightly more in control of herself now, Emma unzipped her suitcase and rummaged around, trying to find an outfit that screamed she wasn’t a harlot. Emma spent every moment of her life being in control, and having almost given into her lust was completely out of character for her. From the moment she had met Killian Jones, her entire world had felt like it had shifted off it’s axis and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

 

She managed to find and change into the most conservative outfit she had brought, covering about ninety percent of her body in denim and tweed. She gave herself a quick check in the mirror. Having not worn any makeup to bed, her face didn’t look too bad. Her hair was another story though, a structural marvel. Unfortunately she hadn’t thought to grab her shower kit or hairbrush in her haste to escape. Instead, she opted for running her fingers through the long locks a few times, managing to tame the worst of it. She grabbed a hair band from the bottom of her bag and threw it up into a messy bun.

 

She was just about to open the door when she heard Killian’s voice pierce the silence.

 

“There’s nothing to discuss. The photograph said it all, Milah.”

 

There was a pause.

 

Pressing her ear against the door to eavesdrop wasn’t something she was proud of but, then again, that seemed to be recurring theme of the morning for her. She heard a low sigh.

 

“Fine. I’ll see you when I get home in a few days.”

 

The room was silent again and Emma felt something in her gut twist.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Milah had been the last person he’d wanted to talk to that day - or ever really.  Emma had run away so quickly that he had ignored the phone the first time, wanting to go after her to make sure she was okay. But before he could knock on the door, his cell had rung again, and when he went to check it, all of the blood drained from his face and he felt weak. Seeing her name and a picture of the two of them from a happier time flash across his phone screen had immediately sobered him from the haze left by his near kiss with Emma.

 

Time seemed to stand still as he hesitated, caught in a storm of emotions, until the phone went silent again. The image of Milah straddling Walsh was still burned into his brain, and he felt rage bubbling over inside of him. They were done this time; he wouldn’t go back to her, not again.

 

The first time Milah had cheated he had been devastated and his entire world had crumbled around him. Even though she had been in the wrong and it had felt as if she had reached into his chest and ripped out his heart, he had begged for her to give him another chance. She had twisted everything around, turned everything back on him until she had convinced him that it was his fault. And he’d been too lovesick to stop her.

 

The second time she had cheated, it had felt like she had crushed his heart with her bare hands. She’d tried to blame him again, but he’d fought back harder, finally allowing himself to be angry, and when she’d realized he wasn’t going to grovel at her feet, she was the one that had asked for another chance.

 

The third time though, that’s what had truly broken them. Milah hadn’t even tried to hide it.

 

The phone started ringing again and Killian ripped it away from the charger. He swiped the screen to answer it and was met with sniffling on the other end. He had seen her on the big screen, worked with her. He knew she was a fantastic actress, but now he wondered how much of it had transitioned into their personal lives. What was real and what was just for show?

 

He didn’t speak.

 

“Killian?” Her voice broke through just long enough to say his name before sobs filled his ears. “Are you there? Please let me explain, it’s not how it looked.”

 

God she was good.

 

“There’s nothing to discuss. The photograph said it all, Milah.”

 

“Please, sweetheart. I didn’t- It’s not how- how it seems. I swear.” Her voice cracked. “I can explain. Please!”

 

Her distraught reaction had confused him. She had never acted so upset before, and he wondered what had made this time any different. It wouldn’t change the outcome- they were finished, his mind wondering to Emma. She was a testament to how different everything was now. Before, he had only ever had eyes for Milah, and even after her adultery, he couldn’t envision himself being with anyone else.  After she cheated the third time though, he couldn’t see a future with anyone, Milah included. He’d thought from then on that he’d spend the rest of his life going through the motions. From the moment he laid eyes on Emma though- or, at least, from the first sober moment - he’d been drawn to her. It was different from the attraction he had once felt for Milah. Milah had been an enigma, and he’d let himself get caught up in trying to solve her. Emma was different. She was a kindred spirit, seeming to understand him without needing words. He needed to get back to her. That said, he knew he wouldn’t be able to leave things as they were with Milah. He’d need to bite that bullet eventually.

 

“Fine. I’ll see you when I get home in a few days.”

 

He tossed the phone on the bed, his mood different as night and day from how he’d been just ten minutes ago. As much as he wanted to check on Emma, he knew he needed to calm himself down before he approached her. She didn’t necessarily startle easily, but she was guarded, and he needed to be cautious around her. Feeling his stomach rumble, he decided to rummage around the kitchen in hopes that he could find something to make for breakfast. Emma would probably be hungry as well, and breakfast felt like a good peace offering.

 


 

 

She didn’t know why she was so upset. Well, she did, but she didn’t understand it. She knew that she had no claim on him - she was practically married to someone else - but the idea of him going back to Milah made her sick. Somehow, in less than a day she had grown fond of him, and a she felt a tug of jealousy at the thought of them together. She needed to get out of the house and away from him to clear her mind.

 

Cracking the door open slightly, she found the room empty. She walked back to the smaller room across the hallway as quietly as possible, changing her clothes, and grabbing her wallet and a pair of flat shoes. She tiptoed down the hallway, keeping an eye out for any movement or passing shadows. She was two steps away from the bottom, two steps away from freedom when the step she was on let out a loud creaking noise.

 

“Swan?”

 

She heard his voice from the back side of the house, trying to remember the layout from the evening before. She was fairly certain he was in the kitchen, and she hoped that she could make it out the front door before he could catch her. She was wrong though.

 

“Swan? Where are you going?”

 

She winced. So much for her great escape.

 

“I hadn’t planned on getting detoured so I didn’t pack any contact solution. I was just going to run out and get some.” It was a lame excuse but she hoped he wouldn’t ask questions.

 

“I see.” He looked down to the floor and nodded his head. “May I ask how you planned on getting to the store, or how you even planned on navigating to a store?”

 

“I noticed a snowmobile outside when we arrived last night.”

 

“Ah, and as for the navigating?”

 

He had her there. Her phone still didn’t have any signal, and the house they were in didn’t seem to have wifi.

 

“Killian, it’s not exactly a big city. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a grocery store.”

 

“Then by all means, be my guest.” He held his arm out towards the door, and she didn’t hesitate.

 

The clothes she’d packed had been warm enough for a London winter, but they couldn’t contend with the cut-you-to-the-bone wind of Greenland. Her shoes weren’t designed for the deep snow she was trudging through either. Snow dipped into the space around her feet, and she momentarily worried that they were going to go numb and fall off before she even made it over to the snowmobile.

 

When she had finished dragging her feet through the embankment, she gathered what little strength she had left and mounted the snowmobile. She hadn’t expected it to be so complicated, and it took her a few minutes to locate the ignition, only to find that she needed a key. Looking up to the sky, she huffed. Maybe she could just find a place to hide for a little while.

 

“Looking for this?”

 

She looked back to find a fully dress Killian swinging a keychain from one of his fingers. Of course.

 

“So you knew about the key and still let me come out here?”

 

“Aye. But I was also giving you a moment alone while giving myself time to get ready.”

 

“Get ready for what? You’re not coming with me.”

 

“Swan.” She frowned to herself. The use of her fake last name was growing on her, and she wasn’t thrilled with herself for it. “Look, there’s no food in the house, and unless you want me to starve, I figured we could head into town together to grab a bite to eat.”

 

She didn’t say anything, hoping he would back off on his own.

 

“Plus,” he added, “my phone has enough signal to get us the where we want to go.”

 

Damn.

 

The idea of getting lost in the snow was highly unappealing, so she relented, moving off the snowmobile to grab the keys from his hand. He pulled them back before she could touch them.

 

“Love, have you ever driven one of these before?”

 

Emma thought back. The last time she’d been on one had been for her seventeenth birthday. Her parents had taken her to Aspen. She had been bitter at the time; all of her friends had gone somewhere exotic like Switzerland or Austria, while she was stuck at a white collar ski resort. With age came wisdom though, and she now understood why they had chosen not to spoil her, but at the time she had been miserable.

 

In a pathetic attempt of rebellion, she had latched on to the first boy she had met there just to upset her parents. He hadn’t been the smartest of boys, he hadn’t even been that attractive, but he had seemed dangerous. Thinking back on it, Emma was forced to stifle her laughter. She had been so naive at the time to think that a boy with a snowmobile seemed dangerous. The second day at the resort, Emma had snuck away with him. They spent the day riding through the nearby woods. He’d even taught her how to steer and shift gears.

 

The lesson had ended promptly when he’d made the mistake of assuming that Emma owed him for the lesson. She’d kneed him in the crotch and taken off on the guys snowmobile, getting a crash course in what it was really like to drive on the snow. When she had gotten back to the resort and explained what had happened, David had been furious. He had been ready to go out and hunt for the boy, but Mary Margaret had taken Emma’s face in her hands and told her how proud she was of her for standing up for herself. Mary Margaret had been able to calm down David, and the next day he had rented snowmobiles for all three of them and they’d spent the last few days of their vacation exploring the woods.

 

That had been over a decade ago though, and Emma didn’t have her mother and father there for support anymore. Images of her mother flickered through her memories. Her mother had always been proud of her, had always believed in her. She just needed to believe in herself.

 

“Have you ?”

 

Emma knew the answer before she even asked. Killian was LA through and through. Emma would have been shocked if he even knew how to start it up.

 

“Touche.”

 

The grin he gave her was a mixture of the lothario she had witnessed before, working his magic on the flight attendant, and something of admiration. It left her feeling slightly unsettled. No one had ever had so much of an effect on her with so little effort. Before she could dwell on it too much though, Killian had made his way across the yard and was straddling the snowmobile, making sure to leave enough room in the front for her to crawl on.

 


 

 

He was playing with fire. She was upset and had made it quite clear that she wanted to be alone, and the gentleman inside of him should have left her be. He should have given her the space she needed, but he was a selfish man too, and there was a voice in his head screaming at him to go after her, telling him that if he let her go, she’d be lost to him behind a mile high wall.

 

The moment he put his arms around her, he felt her tense. He loosened his grip as much as possible, but there wasn’t anything else to hold onto, and given the jerky motions of the vehicle, falling off was a real danger. The ride smoothed out, and Killian found himself having to lean forward, almost touching his mouth to her ear in order to call out directions into town. He felt her shiver every time his lips nearly grazed her, every time his hands tightened around her waist as he leaned forward, and wondered if it was having the same effect on her that it was on him.

 

It took about forty-five minutes to reach the edge of the town. Nuuk wasn’t a large city, but the streets were built like a maze. He knew that, selfish or not, he had made the right decision in coming with Emma. Without the GPS on his phone, there was no way she would have made it anywhere in town, much less back to the house they were letting.

 

When they pulled up to a small cafe, Killian took a deep breath, trying to memorize the way Emma felt in his arms, before finally releasing his grasp on her. She bolted up before the engine on the snowmobile had finished cutting off, ripping the key out of the ignition as she went. The only victory he got was that she hadn’t immediately run in another direction.

 

Emma let Killian lead the way into the cafe, where he held the door open for her. She gave him a half smile as she slipped through the doorway. Once inside, they were quickly seated in a booth near the front. Killian looked around, taking in the people around them. He wasn’t sure if the people there would even recognize him. It wasn’t the type of place he came for press junkets, and as silly as it sounded, he didn’t know if they even watched American movies there. He couldn’t spot any of the Americans from their flight; perhaps they were all trapped in their hotels with no transportation.

 

Emma looked as if she had come to the same conclusion. As the approached their table, Killian made sure to pull out Emma’s chair for her. She didn’t say anything though, instead shifting her focus to her menu. She was squinting hard at the page, and he wondered if it was because her contacts were dry, or if she even had them in. He was about to call her out for driving while her vision was impaired when his eyes caught the back of her menu and he understood.

 

He picked up his own and furrowed his brow in much the same way. It was in another language, with only a few words here and there that he could understand. When the waitress came around, Killian asked her if they had an English version of the menu, but between his accent and her broken English the conversation quickly broke down. Eventually Killian pointed at a coffee mug on another table and the waitress smiled, finally understanding him.

 

When Killian looked back over, he saw Emma’s face lit up in amusement. It immediately relaxed him and he sat back in his chair. Her happiness seemed short lived though, as she seemed to remember something and the corners of her face fell again.

 

“Emma, about earlier-”

 

“We don’t have to talk about it.”

 

“Please, love. I’m not sure how long we’ll be stuck here and I’d really like for us not to be awkward around each other. If I’ve done anything to make you cross with me, I’m sorry.”

 

Emma looked down at the table cloth, wrapping her arms around herself in an effort to become smaller.

 

“There’s nothing to apologize for, really.”

 

“Are you certain?” He felt his insides twisting, knowing that she was lying.

 

She took a moment, looking out the window instead of at him. He had almost given up on getting an answer when she finally spoke up.

 

“Are you going back to her?”

 

He was completely confused, trying to remember any women that Emma may have seen him with. Did she think he had plans to meet up with the flight attendant later?

 

“What was that?”

 

“Milah. I didn’t mean to, but I heard you talking to her earlier, and it just seemed like-” Her voice died off before she finished.

 

Replaying the conversation over in his head, he couldn’t figure out how she had come to that conclusion. He had been very specific that he wanted nothing more to do with her. He hadn’t even spoken to Milah for that long, trying to get her off the phone as soon as possible. Was that really why she was upset with him?

 

“Emma, if I haven’t made it clear, I have no desire to rekindle anything with her.”

 

He wanted to elaborate, but the waitress came back with their coffees, interrupting what he wanted to say. When it was time to order, both Killian and Emma were forced to point to a random item on the menu, hoping for the best. He had picked what he assumed was a crepe suzette based on the three words he managed to understand in the description. Whatever Emma had picked was a complete mystery to them both.

 

After the waitress left, Killian clasped his hand over one of Emma’s before she could pull it back off the table. Her eyes snapped up to meet his as he took a deep breath and began to explain.

 

“My relationship with Milah has always been rocky at best, and very complicated. When I moved to the states, I had no one. I basically moved across the world with one bag and the clothes on my back.”

 

He wavered for a moment, deciding on how much to divulge on that particular topic. His family was not something he enjoyed reflecting on. It was hard enough to talk about his mother and father, but speaking of Liam still often brought him to tears, and he wasn’t ready to cry in front of Emma.

 

“I struggled at first. I supplemented my income bartending while I went on audition after audition without so much as a callback. I was just about to give up when I met her. I had run some lines, not noticing that she was in the back of the room watching me. I was so stunned to get a callback the next day, and then by some miracle I actually got the part and it launched my career. I didn’t even realize that she was connected to the movie until the first day of filming. She was beautiful, and from the moment I saw her, I was helpless. Later I found out that Milah had taken a liking to me and had fought for me to get the part.”

 


 

 

Emma tensed again, not sure where the story was going. Two minutes earlier he had told her that he wanted nothing more to do with Milah, and now he was telling the story of how they had met, painting Milah as an unapproachable goddess. She tried to pull her hands back from the table, wanting to focus on anything that wasn’t Milah, but Killian only clasped her tighter.

 

Killian went on to describe the first year of their relationship. They had been crazy about each other, unable to keep their hands off of each other. She had been everything he’d thought he’d ever wanted, so much so that he had planned on proposing to her. But then the story shifted.

 

He had come home early from filming, hoping to surprise her for her birthday. Everyone on set had helped him rush through his scenes so he could run by the jewelry store to pick up the ring he had designed for her. He had planned everything out, right down to the very last detail.

 

He backtracked in the story, explaining that the first time she had talked to him was at the craft services table. Knowing that his celebrity crush was in the movie with him had turned him into a bumbling fool. He’d been looking over the spread, trying to find something that was remotely healthy when she had walked up and reached across him to grab a cupcake. She’d been so full of life, even as she’d playfully made fun of him for blushing. He’d been hooked on her from the moment she’d swiped her finger through the vanilla frosting on her cupcake and wiped it on his nose.

 

In preparation for her birthday, he had tracked down the same baker and purchased a single cupcake - the same one - placing the ring on top. When he’d stepped into their bedroom though, he’d been the one to get a surprise. The nameless man had immediately moved to snatch the blankets up around where his naked hips were joined with the woman underneath him, but it was the look of guilt and surprise on his girlfriend’s face that held his attention as he let the cupcake box fall to the floor, both he and the cupcake destroyed in a second.

 

The revelation made her feel ill. She couldn’t imagine the kind of person who would do that. Emma had always longed to have someone love her the way Killian had so obviously loved Milah, and knowing that Milah had had that, and had thrown it away angered her. Hearing Killian explain how he had pleaded with her to try to make the relationship work nearly killed her. Killian told her he still had the ring, tucked away in his sock drawer after that night, hoping that in time they could rebuild what they’d had and he would get a second chance to propose.

 

It never happened though; the adultery hadn’t been a one time thing. The second time, Killian had tried to hold on to the anger but Milah had convinced him that it was his fault, and that he had been too emotionally distant. He’d gone back to her a broken man, but the third time, it shattered him.

 

She hadn’t even attempted to hide it that time, leaving evidence behind all over the house.

The used condom in the bathroom, in their bathroom. Having just returned home from a three week press junket, Killian had known that it didn’t belong to him. He had wanted to walk away right then and there, but his manager had stopped him, arguing that it would be a press disaster. Perhaps he hadn’t been around enough. He’d kept the ring locked away in his sock drawer hoping that in time, he’d be ready to try again.The irony was that staying with her had made everything worse. He’d drank himself into oblivion, causing plenty of scenes in public, and getting kicked out of bars on more than one occasion.

 

His career had spiraled, and the offers had dwindled, until he was having to take on roles for B-rated teen slasher movies. Killian had become a shell of his former self and it broke Emma’s heart hearing him recount it, with self loathing lacing every word. His eyes, normally so blue, had filled with sadness and regret, drowning out their brilliance.

 

She wanted to do something to make him feel better. If she were being honest, what she really wanted to do was walk around the table, plant herself in his lap, and fuse her mouth to his. Thinking better of her surroundings, she settled for pulling her hands out from under his and instead lacing her fingers through his.

 

They were interrupted once again by the server with the world’s worst timing. Any annoyance Emma had initially felt at the interruption was immediately overshadowed by horror as her plate was placed in front of her. She looked across the table to find a colorful pastry resting in front of Killian before once again returning her gaze to the monstrosity before her. The smell alone was enough to knock her out for a week, but the look of it was worse. It was meat. She was sure of that, but beyond that little bit of knowledge, she had no idea what it could be.

 

It looked like a mixture between jerky, tree bark, and charcoal. Emma was about to push it away in disgust when a man approached their table.

 

“Good morning. I wanted to see how you like your food.”

 

His English sounded a bit strained, but Emma was just grateful to be able to finally communicate with someone.

 

“Oh, it’s quite lovely, mate.” Killian flashed Emma a cheeky smile as he shoved a bite of his pastry into his mouth.

 

“And you?”

 

He stared at Emma, nodding at her encouragingly for her to try a bite of her own meal. Reluctantly, she thrust her fork into the blackened strip and dragged her knife over it multiple times before she was able to cut through it. She gave it one last look before closing her eyes and biting down on it.

 

She nearly broke her tooth. It was hard as a rock on the outside and somehow chewy on the inside. Looking up, the chef was still watching her, nodding along and waiting for words of praise. Emma smiled and let out a fake moan, hoping it would satisfy him. After what felt like an eternity, she finally managed to chew it enough to swallow.

 

“Yes, it’s very good.”

 

Killian let out a small chuckle and Emma kicked his shin under the table, shutting him up.

 

“It’s our specialty. Seal jerky. Enjoy.”

 

The man walked away just as awkwardly as he had arrived. Emma waited until he was safely out of sight before she began gagging slightly. Looking for something to cover the burnt flavor in her mouth, she grabbed her only option and chugged. Luckily, the coffee had cooled enough that it didn’t burn her already abused tongue, but it didn’t help either. Killian pushed his own coffee cup towards her and she took it gratefully, chugging it as well. Her whole body shook, mortified by the fact that she had just consumed seal. Everytime she closed her eyes she saw a tiny baby pup looking up at her, eyes wide and innocent.

 

“Emma, love. Are you alright?

 

She wasn’t. She wanted to vomit, but her parents had always taught her to be courteous when someone provided her with something, even if it meant eating mystery meat that turned out to be a playful arctic creature.

 

“Switch with me.”

 

Killian’s eyes widened in horror, but there was a small smirk forming on his beautiful face that betrayed him.

 

“What? Why?” The way his face scrunched up at the offending thought made Emma laugh. She could see the actor in him coming out.

 

“Because you have a what looks like heaven on earth and I have seal meat .”

 

He chuckled.

 

“Ah, but Swan, you just gave it such amazing reviews!”

 

“And you said that you were always a gentleman.”

 

Emma put on her best version of puppy eyes forcing Killian to relent, not that he seemed to put up much of a fight. He grabbed her plate and gently slid it to the other end of the table before moving his own plate between them. Emma was about to dig in, feeling famished, but stopped just short. She wasn’t exactly keen on reusing her puppy chow fork. She scanned their table and the ones nearby but there was no extra silverware anywhere.

 

“Give it here, Swan.”

 

Emma looked up to see Killian offering her his fork. She felt silly, but she was grateful and took it gladly, exchanging hers for his.

 

“Thank you.”

 

He gave her a cheeky grin before consuming the bite that had been waiting on her fork.

 

“It wasn’t completely selfless, you know.” He arched a brow at her and continued while looking at the fork. “Now it’s like we’ve kissed.”

 

He winked.

 

“What can I say, I see a fair maiden in distress and I come running,” his eyes nearly turning feral as he continued, “but I suppose some gratitude might be in order.” He wagged his eyebrows as he cheekily tapped the prongs of the fork to his lips.

 

Emma felt the blush rising in her cheeks, heat started to course through her as she recalled their close proximity earlier that morning.

 

“Please,” she started as her mouth curved upward on it’s own accord. “That fork right there is the closest you’re going to get to my mouth.”

 

She let her borrowed fork tear through the pastry, and upon tasting it let out a genuine moan, forgetting where she was or who she was with.

 

“That is so delicious.”

 

Her comment was met with silence. When she looked up at him, she found him staring at her, clenching his jaw. His eyes had darkened, and it sent a pulse of heat through her core. Without thinking, she licked her lips to collect any remaining powdered sugar, and she caught his eyes flickering down quickly.

 

“What’s wrong, Rogers? Can’t handle it?”

 

He swallowed loudly. His response was barely a whisper. “Perhaps not.”

 

They finished off the rest of the meal quickly but quietly. An imaginary line had been drawn and neither of them seemed sure whether or not they were really prepared to cross it. When the bill came, Emma tried to pay, reasoning that he shouldn’t be paying for a meal she hadn’t even eaten, much less his meal she had eaten half of, but he insisted.

 

As they exited the small cafe, Killian took his phone back out of his pocket and tapped something on the screen. Emma looked at him in confusion.

 

“Trying to find a chemists so we can get you your contact solution.”

 

“Oh, uh, ya.”

 

Emma had completely forgotten about her farce plan to get some space from him earlier. In fact, she had been enjoying her time with him so much that she hadn’t even thought about trying to get away.

 

“Lead the way.”

 

“Perhaps we should also see someone about that broken window.”

 

Emma tensed. The imaginary line; he had chosen his side, and she found herself surprisingly disappointed. She nodded in agreement, trying to force a small smile on her face. She let him take the lead, falling a step or two behind him.

 

 

Chapter Text


 

 

Emma terrified him. He barely knew her and yet she had managed to completely captivate him, and if was possible, his feelings for her were even more intense than what he had felt the first time he had met Milah.

 

Something about Emma had turned everything upside down for him. He had long ago promised himself that he wouldn’t allow his labido to control his life, that he wouldn’t allow a temptress into his heart only to destroy him the way Milah had. He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t that same young, lovesick fool mesmerized by the idea of of a beautiful woman anymore, and that a pretty face shouldn’t tempt him so easily. His mind betrayed him, however, as Emma’s face fluttered through his thoughts and his heart immediately began to race. He tried to rationalize to himself that Emma was completely different though. She wasn’t playing games with him, or trying to convince him that he was lucky that she had picked him. He wasn’t even sure that, given the chance, she would even pick him.

 

“Perhaps we should also see someone about that broken window.”

 

It was safer this way, because he was fairly certain that if he had to share a bed with her again he would try something stupid and Emma would hate him for it. It was only when he turned back and saw the disappointment on her face that he felt hope again. He pushed it down though, not trusting his instincts. In the past, they’d been wrong more than they’d been right.

 

They had walked about a block before she said anything, and even then her voice was so soft he almost missed it.

 

“I could sleep on the couch.”

 

He stopped mid-step and swivelled around so fast that they slammed into each other as she kept walking. The impact knocked them both backwards, increasing the space between them.

 

“Why would you possibly want to do that?”

 

Did she really think he would ever allow her to sleep on that small uncomfortable couch when there were two perfectly good beds upstairs?

 

“I just- Let’s say that by some miracle we find someone who could repair it. Would you even know how to ask him?”

 

It was true, their first interaction with the locals had been hindered by a language barrier, but most of the European countries taught English as a second language in school. There had to be a fair amount of people in town that they could talk to, or at the very least that could translate for them. The problem though - one Emma had touched on - was that he wouldn’t even know who to look for. The buildings weren’t exactly labeled for him to read.

 

“Like I said, I can sleep on the couch. It’s fine. I’m smaller than you.”

 

Killian sighed, letting his hand run through his hair in an effort to combat his frustration.

 

“I’d never ask you to do that.”

 

“You’re not. I’m offering.

 

He tried to read her but she was looking down, refusing to meet his gaze.

 

“Swan.” He exhaled. “I have no plans of sleeping in that bed knowing that it means you’ll be sleeping on that infernal couch. It’s hard as a rock.”

 

She was making it very difficult for him to be the gentleman he’d assured her he was.

 

“Well you don’t seem to have any plans of sleeping in it with me either.”

 

As soon as the words were out of her mouth she turned bright red. The words had been mumbled, - grumbled even - as if she hadn’t meant to say them out loud or for him to hear.

 

He took a step towards her, cocking his head to the side in contemplation.

 

“Emma?”

 

She finally looked up, and the look in her eyes made him melt. She was so uncertain of herself, and it killed him. She was a bloody marvel and didn’t realize it.

 

“I-” She stopped herself, obviously uncertain of what she wanted to say next. “I just feel like we’re both adults and we should be able to handle it for a night or two.”

 

And that was the reminder he needed. Hope was a four letter word and he’d be wise to remember it.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

He tried to keep his tone even enough not to betray the war inside of him. There was still the smallest part of him that thought she might reconsider, that she would understand what he really meant was ‘ are you sure you don’t want more ? ’ Hope was a dangerous thing, but his heart didn’t appear to want to give up that easily.

 

“Yes, we can build a pillow wall between us if that would help protect your virtue.”

 

Hope was evil.

 

“If you’re certain. Now let’s see about that chemist, shall we? It’s freezing out here and I’d really like to get back into the heat before I lose a hand to frostbite.”

 

The chemist was only one more block down, and they managed to grab a few snacks as well to tide them over until dinner time. The ride back to the house was much smoother than the ride into town. When they pulled up to the house, Emma was off the vehicle and inside before he was halfway across the yard.

 

He wanted to follow her, but this time he decided to give her space. Something in her own thoughts had spooked her and, whatever it was, he was sure pushing would be the wrong move. Instead, he went to the side of the house where the owner’s welcome note had said some logs had been cut and stacked. He grabbed a few and brought them into the house, carefully placing them inside the fireplace. It took him a few minutes to get them lit, but before too long he had a roaring fire warming up the living room. He sat down on the couch to watch it, feeling more alone than he had in years.

 


 

 

She was hiding. She knew it was a juvenile thing to do, but she wasn’t ready to face him yet. The words had flown out of her mouth before she’d realized what was happening, and she had humiliated herself. For just a few seconds, she’d been sure that he had been moving in to kiss her, but he hadn’t. Then she’d been sure that he would at least flirt with her a little, but again, he hadn’t. It had been her first attempt at making a move on someone since college, even if it had been unintentional, and he had completely rejected her without so much as a single word. She’d tried to recover, telling him that she’d just meant that they were mature enough to handle it for a night or two, but the damage had been done.

 

She tried one more time to find a wifi connection or signal for her phone so that she could work, but neither happened. Instead she grabbed the book Neal had given her before she’d left. It was a little sappy for Emma’s taste, but it was all she had.

 

It wasn’t until the smell of something burning caught her attention that Emma finally made her way downstairs, still clutching the book in her hands. She was greeted by a thin cloud of smoke and Killian waving a towel around in the air, trying to help it dissipate. He hadn’t noticed her yet; she still had time to run back upstairs.

 

“Bloody hell.”

 

He was completely flustered, and Emma couldn’t help finding it endearing.

 

“You need to open a window.”

 

Killian froze, clearly mortified at having been caught making an idiot of himself.

 

“The smoke won’t clear out if it has nowhere to go.”

 

Killian remained frozen to his spot, clenching his eyes shut as if he was waiting for the earth to open up beneath him and swallow him whole. She chuckled to herself and bounded down the stairs towards the front door, leaving it propped open. Next she went into the kitchen and pushed up a window on the opposite side of the front door to create a cross flow. The room was already cooling down and she silently prayed to herself that this window wouldn’t become stuck as well.

 

Killian still hadn’t said anything but he had moved to sit on the couch, letting his right hand cover his face. Emma waited as long as she could stand it, but the room was quickly turning into an ice block. She closed the front door first, then moved back into the kitchen. Her earlier fear turned out to be justified; the window was stuck, and no matter how hard she struggled, it wouldn’t budge.

 

It took a full three minutes of grunting and putting all of her weight on it before it moved. All of her effort only helped the window slide down by one inch before it became hopelessly stuck again. She rested her head against the glass pane in defeat while the breeze swept across her stomach. She jumped when two strong arms reached around, her closing the window with ease. His chest brushed against her back and it took everything she had not to lean back into him.

 

She didn’t even mind when he lingered there, keeping both of his hands resting on the lip of the window next to hers, pinning her in place. His body moved in closer to hers- or had she stepped back into him? Her breath caught waiting for him to say something, to do anything. When he bent his head forward, he took a deep breathe, burying his face in her hair. His nose brushed gently across her neck and she had to stifle the groan threatening to escape. Then he stepped back and it was all over, leaving her completely bewildered.

 

She stood there, not sure what to do with herself. Finally, as she came back to her senses, Emma walked over to the fireplace to open the flue and picked up the book she had discarded and walked over to the couch, curling herself up in the corner. Part of her had expected Killian to follow her, but out of the corner of her eye she watched as he bounded up the staircase two steps at a time. Her second rejection in as many hours.

 

In an attempt to temper the sexual frustration that was building inside of her, and the embarrassment of thinking he might have actually felt something for her, Emma returned her focus to her book. It only added to her frustration as she read letter after letter of two people professing their undying love for each other, something she had never experienced herself.

 

“It really is awful isn’t it?”

 

Emma snapped her head up. She had been so focus on wallowing that she’d completely missed hearing his footsteps coming back down the stairs. He nodded towards her book as he moved towards her. Before she could respond he was sitting in the opposite corner of the couch with his own book and an oversized blanket. He fluffed it in the air a few times until it was unfolded enough to lay over both of them.

 

She gave him another one of her signature forced smiles.

 

“It’s not bad, it’s just-” She took a moment to think over her words. “It’s just intense. They felt so strongly about each other.”

 

This time it was his smile that was forced.

 

“Did he give it to you?”

 

Emma could tell that he was attempting to keep his voice calm and casual, but there was an edge of contempt that betrayed him.

 

“Yes, just before I left. Why?”

 

His laugh was deep and almost dangerous.

 

‘It’s nothing, love. Forget I asked.”

 

Emma furrowed her brows at him. There was something he was holding back, she could feel it.

 

“You know, I’ve picked up a few things over the years in the corporate world. First and foremost is the ability to read people, and you, Killian, clearly have something else on your mind.”

 

She was so drawn in by the way his eyes were morphing into a piercing shade of blue, that she missed how her body had moved in closer to his, or the way her hand was now resting on his leg.

 

“It’s nothing, really.”

 

She leveled him with the same glare she gave to difficult board members, and she could see his resolve melting away.

 

“It’s just a very pretentious thing to do. That’s all.”

 

“How so?”

 

“You really aren’t going to let this drop, are you?”

 

Emma squeezed his leg without registering what she was doing.

 

“That book, it’s a collection of letters written between Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, correct?”

 

Emma nodded and he continued.

 

“And in the letters, their romance is painted as a majestic love story for all of the ages. A man and woman who refused to let distance and time tame their wild desire for each other. And that’s what people choose to believe, quoting snippets to their own lovers hoping to woo them. The truth of the matter though, is that they were horrible to each other.”

 

Emma watched the lines of his face, searching for any form of deception but she found none.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“They married young. She wasn’t in love with him, but she did love the idea of him. Of someone sweeping in and taking her somewhere else, of living a life bigger than her own. He started drinking; they both did. They grew to hate each other in time, and he’s been accused of plagiarizing her own writings for his books. When she tried to leave him for another man, he locked her away in a room until her lover eventually got tired of waiting and left without her.”

 

Emma couldn’t help but notice the similarities to his own story. Adultery, alcohol, hate.

 

“He cheated on her with a prostitute to get even, and she eventually went mad. He dropped her off in an institution and moved across the country, where he took up with another woman. For three years, she remained in that institution, never once being visited by him, until the place caught on fire, taking her with it.”

 

She soaked in the story, trying to make a connection between the two people in the letters, and the two spouses that Killian had just described. They were completely at odds with each other.

 

“So why do people still romanticize them, knowing the pain they caused each other?”

 

“Because, people have a tendency to only remember the good, suppressing bad memories to the dark corners of their minds. Who wants to think of two toxic ex-lovers when they’re reading their work?”

 

Emma sat silently, thinking of Killian and Milah and how their love had become twisted and gnarled over the years. It was clear why Killian disliked Fitzgerald.

 

She still hadn’t noticed how close she had moved to him, or that her hand was still resting on his thigh, until she felt his warm hand wrap around hers, not moving it from it’s spot.

 

She looked up at him and noticed his eyes had turned as dark as they had at breakfast.

 

His thumb began slowly tracing circles over her wrist.

 

“There are two tragedies in life.”

 

“Hmm?” It was hard to concentrate on his words when his fingers were brushing back and forth across the back of her hand.

 

“You should try reading George Bernard Shaw. He and his wife were quite happy, by all accounts.”

 

Her breathing hitched when she saw his face. The way he was looking at her with such affection in his eyes made her stomach flutter. She wanted to lean in - she was going to - but the sudden ringing of his cell phone stopped any chance of that happening.

 

Killian hopped out of the chair, scrambling to get to the phone before it cut off.

 

“Sorry, It’s my agent. I have to take this.”

 

He was gone before she could say anything. Emma flopped back against the couch. He vexed her. She had been so sure that she’d seen something in his face, something that had said he wanted more. But each time she’d managed to finally prepare herself to take a leap of faith, he’d pulled away and she’d been left feeling more foolish than the last time.

 

God, she was an idiot. He had just had his heart broken, and even if he said it was over long before, there was no way his girlfriend’s latest infidelity hadn’t left him unscathed. Getting intimate with someone new was probably the last thing on his mind. Add in the fact that she was with someone only made the situation worse, no matter her lack of feelings for Neal. She refused to turn Killian into the thing he hated; an adulterer. She was clearly just making him uncomfortable and she needed to stop hoping for anything more.

 

He had been upstairs for well over an hour, and the book Neal had given her had lost most of its appeal. The fire was starting to die out and a chill was settling over the room again. She waited a little longer to see if he’d return, but after another twenty minutes had passed, Emma became restless. She wanted to go grab some more logs from outside, but her boots were upstairs in the room he was currently occupying. She looked around for the thermostat, but couldn’t find it. Begrudgingly, she shuffled up the stairs. They were staying in the same house, after all. She’d have to face him at some point.

 

The door to the master room was closed. She went to knock, but before her fist could make contact with the door, she heard the shower turn on. She rapped lightly but there was no answer. Assuming that he was already in the shower, she cracked the door open and slid inside.

 

She had only meant to grab her boots and get out, but the sight infront of her stopped her dead in her tracks. The door to the bathroom was only barely open, but it was enough for her to catch a sliver of his exposed backside as he undressed. She remained motionless, holding her breath and trying not to make a sound as he stepped into the shower. Keeping her distance was going to be harder than she had anticipated.

 

Coming to her senses once more, Emma remembered why she had gone upstairs in the first place. She grabbed her boots and snuck back out of the room, making sure that the door was closed behind her.

 

The cold burst of air that met her skin as she walked outside for more firewood was a welcomed feeling.

 


 

 

He was hiding. It was pathetic, but he needed to regain some control over himself. The first hour had been spent on the phone with Smee, who was anxiously planning damage control over the inevitable press releases. Given their rocky past, Smee was sure that if Killian wasn’t careful, Milah would paint herself to the media as a victim, a woman trapped in a relationship by fear.

 

Smee had told him that it was actually for the best that he had been delayed in the middle of nowhere. It helped him avoid the media long enough for them to formulate a plan and to get ahead of the problem. Milah hadn’t made any public announcements yet, but they knew that she could be spiteful given the chance and, as Hollywood’s darling, it wouldn’t take long before everyone was taking her side.

 

The last twenty minutes though had passed with Killian laying on the bed, trying to push images of Emma from his mind. He could still smell her shampoo. He’d had to physically force himself to take a step away from her before he did something stupid like fusing his mouth to the place where her neck and shoulder met. Even after he’d stepped away, he’d still been able to feel the heat radiating off her body, so he’d bolted up the stairs.

 

That time he hadn’t taken as long to regain his composure. A few deep breathes and unfortunate memories of his friend Robin running around in a speedo after a drunk dare had redirected his bloodflow north again. This time though, he was finding it more difficult to calm himself. She had been so close that he’d been able to pick out flecks of gold hidden in her eyes, and her skin had felt like silk against his. If the phone hadn’t rung when it had, he probably would have pinned her down against the couch.

 

He needed to get a grip. She was days away from being engaged, and while the man may have been a complete fool for not immediately seeing how special she was, he was still a better option for her than a washed up drunk coming out of a bad relationship. She deserved better and he’d be wise to remember it, not that she’d even expressed any interest in him as anything beyond platonic.

 

Unable to control the throbbing sensation that refused to be tamed, he decided his best bet was to take a cold and bracing shower. He left the bathroom door ajar in case his phone rang again and began to strip, first  his shirt, then his pants and boxers. He hadn’t realized how dirty all of the traveling had made him feel until he stepped under the cold water. He leaned forward, placing his hands on the tile in front of him just below the showerhead.

 

He let the water wash over him, hoping that it would take away his dirty thoughts as well. He stayed under the cold spray for as long as he could stand it, until his body was almost numb, before turning the handle back towards the hot water side so that he could wash, lather and rinse his hair.

 

When he stepped out, he wrapped a towel around his waist. Thoughts of Emma were still swirling around his head, but he knew he needed to remain steadfast in his decision. He was determined to stay away from her. He got dressed, picking through his suitcase for some of the warmer clothes he had brought.

 

He looked around for his book in an attempt to stall going downstairs, but then he remembered leaving it on the coffee table when he had fled from Emma. Summoning all of his strength, he forced himself back into the living room, dreading the conversation he was about to have.

 

What he found when he reached the bottom of the stairs nearly took his breath away though. Emma had fallen asleep curled up in the blanket. She looked so content and peaceful, and against his better judgment, he let himself be drawn to her. He lifted her legs just enough to sit on the the corner of the couch and let her legs fall back across his lap. He grabbed his book and began to read, but found his eyes drifting back to Emma’s face everytime he tried to focus on the words in front of him.

 

She was beautiful, but also so much more. She was intelligent, witty, and kind; everything Milah wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t worthy of her, but a small voice in the back of his head told him that he couldn’t let her go. Even if it meant that he’d never be able to forgive himself.

 

Without thinking, one of his hands started rubbing her foot, earning him a contented sigh as she continued to sleep. He smiled to himself, remembering something Liam had once told him;

 

A man unwilling to fight for what he wants, deserves what he gets .”

 

She was worth the fight.

 

He continued to read and rub her feet for nearly an hour before she stirred. He watched her as she stretched and finally opened her eyes. When her eyes found him, she smiled a little before biting her lip, and her cheeks filled with a rose color. Her good mood was short lived though as she noticed her sprawled position in the couch and her smile faltered.

 

“Oh, sorry.”

 

She tried to pull her legs off of him, but he grabbed one of her feet and kept it in place. Her mouth opened and closed twice. It was clear that she wanted to say something, but something stopped her. He considered asking her what she was thinking, but a loud rumbling noise interrupted him.

 

Emma’s eyes widened and he just managed to catch a glimpse of her face turning bright red before she pulled the blanket up over her head. He let out a laugh and was immediately startled by how genuine it was, given how rare joy was for him now. He was usually so tense from being around people he disliked, often resorting to forced laughter to appear at ease when in reality all he wanted to do was run. This was the first time he had relaxed and let his guard down enough to actually feel amusement.

 

He heard the noise again.

 

“Swan, are you going to try and hide under there forever?”

 

“No.” Her voice was higher pitched. “Just until long enough for my stomach to consume me and put me out of my misery.”

 

He laughed again as he tugged on the end of the blanket closest to him.

 

“Come on, love. It’s getting late and we should probably get some food in you before you wither away.”

 

Emma groaned lightly before sitting up. “Fine, but only if the place serves booze.”

 

Killian tried to keep his expression light. He had briefly told her about his drunken escapades during his time with Milah - not in detail, admittedly - but he’d forgotten for a moment that unlike the rest of the world, she didn’t know him or his history. She didn’t know how bad it had gotten; she couldn’t have known that he had recently spent thirty days in a rehabilitation facility either. And no one knew that the real reason he was in England, or that he had come to visit Liam’s grave; the very thought of it made him want drink his rum straight from the bottle.

 

How would Emma act if she knew? He worried that telling her might ruin any chance he had with her. How could he compete with her New York socialite with his background? No, he decided, he needed to keep it to himself.

 

“As you wish.”

 

“Okay, let me go change first?”

 

“Take your time, love. I’m not going anywhere without you.”

 

She smiled back, oblivious to how much meaning those words had for him.

 


 

 

Something was different about him. It wasn’t anything noticeable that she could pick out, but he seemed lighter in a way. When she had woken up and realized that her legs had been resting in his lap, she had instinctively tried to pull them away, hyperaware of the close proximity between her toes and and his groin. Given how uncomfortable he had been with her just standing or sitting near him before, she could only imagine how frustrated he must have been with her for sprawling across him in her sleep.

 

She had tried to pull away, but he hadn’t let her that time. That’s when she’d noticed the way his hand had been caressing the sole of her foot, rubbing his thumb into it. She’d wanted to say something, to apologize for invading his space earlier, but she’d struggled, searching for the right words. Whatever she’d been about to say though died on her lips as her stomach had made a humiliating noise. She hadn’t even waited to see Killian’s reaction before pulling the blanket over her head.

 

If there was one thing she had learned from the finishing school her mother had insisted on,  it was that bodily noises were unbecoming of a lady. Regina would have chastised her for it, citing how poorly it reflected on her and, most importantly, her family name. Killian hadn’t grown up in her world though. He hadn’t been horrified by it, and it had helped her to relax when he’d slightly teased her before suggesting they do something to remedy it.

 

She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something had definitely shifted between them while she had been asleep, and she wanted to see if the invisible line had shifted too. She’d made a quick decision to ask him if she had time to change, already mentally preparing her outfit in her mind. Thanking any type of God she could think of for Ruby’s interference in her packing, she rushed upstairs.

 

Initially she had been angry with her assistant and, if she was being honest, her only real friend. Ruby was always trying to get her to loosen up, but Emma held steadfast in her resolve to avoid situations that could reflect poorly on her. Ruby was stubborn though, and when Emma had first opened her suitcase as she’d arrived at her London hotel, only to find that half of the clothes she had originally packed had been removed to make room for a pair of thigh-high tan suede boots, she’d been livid.

 

Now though, she was thinking of which bottle of wine to put in her thank you basket. She chose to pair the boots with another one of Ruby’s gifts; a black long-sleeved minidress that barely covered anything. Normally she wouldn’t be caught dead in such a revealing outfit, but she was in a foreign country sharing a bed with the most attractive man she had ever laid eyes on. It wasn’t practical, and she certainly wasn’t going to be able to shift the gears on the snowmobile, but that might actually be a good thing, she reasoned. It meant she’d be forced to cuddle up to Killian while teaching him how to drive.

 

It didn’t take long for her to apply her make-up; she only needed a little blush and mascara, with an addition of bright red lipstick. She took one last glance at herself in the mirror before grabbing a wool peacoat from the pile of rumpled clothes now resting on the floor near her suitcase. If this didn’t work, if this didn’t spark something in Killian, nothing would, and she’d finally be ready to admit defeat.

 

Walking down the stairs had taken more effort than she had anticipated. The boots, while stylish, didn’t allow for much movement. Luckily Killian had been out of the room and had missed her hobbling. She waited by the front door for him to reappear, nerves setting in as she started to reconsider her outfit. She looked silly, she was sure of it now. Emma wasn’t the type of girl who dressed provocatively to seduce a man, and she was probably going to look like a idiot in whatever random pub or small town bar they ended up in.

 

She didn’t even notice when Killian returned, not until he gasped. His eyes were nearly black, and there was something almost frightening about the way he was staring at her. Almost.

 

“Shall we?” She tried for nonchalance, but there was no way he’d miss the nervousness in her voice.

 

He didn’t respond. He didn’t move at all.

 

“Killian?”

 

It was too much, she had gone too far and he didn’t want it. He didn’t want her. God, she was such a fool. She turned and started heading back for the stairs, with the intent of changing back into some sweats and hiding out for the rest of the evening. She was on the third step when he finally spoke.

 

“Swan.”

 

His voice was low, almost a growl.

 

She turned back to him, scared of what she would find etched in his face, but when her eyes found his again he had softened.

 

“You look bloody gorgeous.”

 


 

 

Emma's super sexy outfit :)

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

He honestly couldn’t remember ever having had such a visceral reaction before. He knew she was beautiful, but when he caught a glimpse of her, something came alive like a wild beast trying to break free. It took every ounce of self control he had not to throw her up against the door and jump her bones.

 

She was a bloody marvel, a siren, the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. And the way she was dressed . It was highly provocative, showing just enough skin that he was immediately enticed, while covering just enough that his imagination was free to run rampant.

 

She was trying to kill him, he was sure of it.

 

He stood there, watching her, fantasizing about how her skin would feel against his own, the way her mouth would taste if he kissed her, unable to will his body to calm down. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been staring at her, but clearly it was too long. Her face fell and she moved to leave, heading back up the stairs.

 

“Swan.” His voice was nearly feral.

 

She stopped a few steps from the bottom and turned. The disappointment and fear on her face was enough to snap him out of his daze. He had frightened her; one more mistake to add to the never ending mess of his life.

 

Hoping to ease any trepidation between them, he mentally prepared an apology for his behavior. What came out of his mouth was anything but.

 

“You look bloody gorgeous.”

 

Her face flushed and a feeling of pride came over him from knowing that he was capable of eliciting such a response. It was a small victory.

 

Killian had picked out a small place for them to eat. He wasn’t sure what kind of food they served, but it had a decent number of stars on a review website and the accompanying pictures suggested it was somewhere between a pub and club. Given that the dining options were severely limited anyways, Killian decided it was fit enough to try.

 

With the navigation map set, Killian lead Emma out the door. When they were almost to the snowmobile he tried to hand her the keys, but she smiled at him coyly and refused.

 

“Ya, I can’t drive in these boots.”

 

Killian tensed. She was constantly shredding every bit of false cocky bravado he had built over the years. And now, for the first time in as long as he could remember, he was going to have to admit that he couldn’t do something.

 

“I’m sorry, Swan, but I’m not actually sure how to work this thing.”

 

He pointed in the direction of the mobile before feeling that familiar tingling sensation behind his ear. He reached up to scratch at it.

 

Emma’s smile grew bigger, and for a moment he wasn’t sure if it was because she knew it was a blow to his self-esteem, or because she found his confession enduring.

 

“Come here. I’ll show you how. It’s not that hard after you get used to it.”

 

She gestured towards it with her head, signaling for him to move closer.

 

“Hop on.”

 

He did as she commanded, waiting for further instructions. She leaned over to look at something on one of the handle bars, flipping a switch upwards and placing her chest precariously close to his face as she did so. He tried to look away, but his eyes had already caught a glimpse of the way her body curved and he was helpless to stop the whimper that escaped him.

 

If she heard it, she chose not to say anything. Instead, she took a seat behind him. Close. Too close.

“So this is the brake,” she started as her hand lightly gripped his to set it on the right handlebar, “and this is the throttle.” She moved his other hand to the left side. “Now this model has a reverse gear, which means it also has a neutral. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not in reverse when you start it up, but other than that you don’t have to worry about shifting.”

 

Her body was tucked in close to his as she leaned forward to show him how to twist the handle for the brake. Against his will he found himself leaning back into her, noticing how her body wrapped around him perfectly. He sighed, the sound not far off from the previous sound that had escaped him. The spell was only broken when he felt her body tense; he had pushed too far.

 

“Um, you need to turn it on.”

 

He couldn’t have been more thankful that she was sitting behind him this time, unaware of the way she had turned him on.

 

He struggled slightly to get the key into the ignition.

 

It took three attempts at squeezing the throttle before he was able to find just the right pressure to move them forward without jerking them in the process. Emma had given him a few encouraging words each time, but hadn’t said anything else on the ride. He found the town easy enough, having done his best to memorize the route from earlier. He knew that it wasn’t too far from the cafe they had eaten at that morning so he pulled up and parked in front of the deserted breakfast place as it came into view.

 

He stepped off first and held his hand out to Emma in an attempt to show her that, despite his earlier behavior, he was actually capable being the gentleman he had promised he was. She accepted his hand as he guided her off of the snowmobile. A part of him didn’t want to let go; he wanted to thread their fingers together and pull her into his side as they walked. The other part of him, however, was wildly aware of the small tug signalling that she was trying to pull her hand out from his grasp, so he let her.

 

 

 


 

 

 

The walk to wherever Killian had picked out for dinner was awkward, dampened with a cloud of silence. He had been adorable when he’d told her that he didn’t know how to operate the mobile. She had immediately wanted to kiss him but she had refrained, knowing how uncomfortable he had become just moments before in the house.

 

He had told her how nice she looked, but she was sure it was just an attempt at being polite. He hadn’t even tried to flirt with her the way he had with the flight attendant, further reinforcing in her mind how little he thought of her in that way.

 

Then she had gone and made a complete and total fool of herself on the snowmobile. She had sat far too close to him, leaned into him even as she was explaining the controls. Then he’d leaned back to get more comfortable, pushing into her slightly. Her body had begged her to roll her hips into him, and she’d been just about to give into the desire when she’d heard him whimper. She’d found the invisible line again. Panic had overtaken her and her entire body had tensed up. She’d leaned back after that and had held him as loosely as possible, not wanting to make it worse.

 

Now, they were walking to dinner and all she wanted to do was runaway and hide. She had made a complete ass of herself again. She was going to sleep on the couch when they got back, no matter what he said. Given her track record for the day, she was sure that if she had to share a bed with him, she’d pounce on him in his sleep, unable to hold herself back.

 

The place that Killian had picked out seemed to be the most inhabited place in town. It didn’t compare to the bars in New York that were often at capacity well before midnight, but it did have more people in it than she had seen since they’d left the airport.

 

They managed to find a table near the bar. Killian pulled her chair out for her, once again surprising her with his manners. He was the first man to have ever pulled a seat out for her and she wasn’t completely sure how to react. A server brought them over some menus and Emma found herself relieved to find it was in English. The server ran through the list of specials for the night, her accented English clear and bright, before informing them that she would give them a few minutes to settle in. Emma piped up before she could turn away completely, asking for a shot of tequila that she hoped would calm her nerves. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied Killian raising an eyebrow at her, but long gone was the playful mirth from the plane ride. This version of Killian was troubled, and she was fairly certain it was her fault. Somehow their relationship had regressed to the point that he wasn’t even comfortable having a friendly drink with her. Looking around the restaurant, she noticed a few people from their flight and made a mental note to ask any of them if they had a spare bed in their room, or even space for her to curl up on the floor. It couldn’t possible be any less comfortable than going back to the house with him.

 

Neither of them said anything as they looked over their menu’s, avoiding eye contact with each other. When the server returned with Emma’s shot, she didn’t hesitate to knock it back as fast as she could and quickly ordered another one before ordering actual food. Killian eyed her wearily while he ordered his own food and a water. It appeared she’d be drinking for two tonight, she thought bitterly.

 

With any luck, she’d only have to endure another hour of misery before she could escape somewhere else, leave him free to do whatever - or whomever - he wanted. That thought made her sick. She was ready to concede that nothing would happen between them, but the idea of him with another woman made her stomach turn. The image of him with the flight attendant flittered across her mind and she had to beat it back.

 

The silence between them grew to an uncomfortable level. She wanted to say something, but she couldn’t think of a single thing that didn’t sound ridiculous. Luckily he saved her by going first.

 

“I wasn’t sure what this place would actually be like. It had nice reviews but the pictures were a little dark and blurry.”

 

She nodded, still trying to will her mouth to move.

 

“I’m just thankful that the menu was in English this time.”

 

She mentally chastised herself for saying something so daft, but at least she had finally said something to him.

 

“I wonder if it’ll be much longer for the plane to get fixed.”

 

Her stomach turned again. He was already itching to get away from her, just too nice to say anything about it.

 

“Hopefully not.” A part of her meant it; if not for him, then for her. She felt like such a fool, sitting across from him in a bar, wearing almost as little fabric as an underwear model, pining away for a man who was sick of being cooped up with her.

 

Her hand tapped on the table as they waited for their meal. She needed more alcohol to steady her, but she didn’t want him to think she was a lush. The silence returned until the server returned with their food.

 

Emma nearly tore into her food as soon as it was placed in front of her. Killian’s pastry had been delicious, but she had still be painfully aware that it was his food and had tried to eat as little of it as possible. She had left still hungry, but had refused to say anything. The hunger had festered all day and she couldn’t hold back any longer.

 

She let herself get lost in the first bite, letting out a loud moan as the flavor took over her mouth. She was almost halfway through her burger, not even caring that is was made from ox rather than a cow, when she saw Killian looking at her with one one brow raised comically high.

 

“Is it really that good or are you just afraid I’m going to ask you to share?”

 

She was grateful for the dim lights as she felt warmth rushing from her neck into her cheeks.

 

“Um, no. Sorry. I’m just really hungry and forgot my manners.”

 

He chuckled at her before taking another bite of his shrimp pasta. If nothing else it lightened the mood just enough for her to relax in her seat.

 

“How is it?” She was grasping for anything to say that couldn’t lead into something more personal.

 

“I can safely say it’s one of the two best meals I’ve had here.”

 

She felt herself smile slightly.

 

“Would you like to try some?” He gestured to his own plate with his fork.

 

“Uh. No, but thanks.”

 

She did want to try it, but not because of how appetizing it looked. She wanted to try it because it would mean eating off his fork, which made her flush as she thought of their conversation in the diner that morning. She couldn’t think like that though; she’d already done enough damage as it was.

 

She let her eyes drift to a television just above a row of bottles at the bar while she avoided looking at Killian. The screen had changed to something entertainment related, showing images of silver haired man cozying up to a woman that was clearly less than half his age. Her distaste must have been written on her face.

 

“I take it you don’t approve?”

 

“I- I just think that the winter spring romance is a bit odd. What could they possibly have in common?”

 

“I think you’ll find that when you’re a celebrity, women will eagerly go out of their way to find things to have in common with you.”

 

And there it was. Another reminder that Killian was famous. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know who he was; plenty of other women did, and any of them would jump at the chance to be with him. Even if he didn’t hate being around her, she still wouldn’t ever stand a chance with him.

 

She was startled out of her moping with the sound of Killian’s fork hitting the table. Her eyes had snapped to him, but his were glued to the screen she had just been watching. A picture of Killian looking lovingly at a blue eyed brunette woman was plastered in the center of the screen with a dark zigzag line separating them. At the top of the screen a ticker tape ran with the headline:

 

Milah Satana caught having an affair with director Walsh Oz. The EF network has reached out to Zelena Green . Miss. Green stated she would make a formal announcement later. A representative for Mr. Jones declined to comment on the situation.

 

Emma vaguely recalled Zelena from one the the New York Fashion Week runways, and she appeared to have been in a romantic relationship with the other party to the affair.

 

More images of Milah and Killian filled the screen, as did a blurred out picture of Milah sitting astride a man in the back of a car. The enlarged photograph was grainy and overexposed, but it was clearly Milah. Emma turned her gaze back to Killian who looked miserable. It seemed he wasn’t as over her as he had previously declared to have been.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

“No.” He didn’t look up as he spat it out.

 

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine-”

 

“Perhaps you didn’t hear me, but I have no intention of discussing it!”

 

His eyes had morphed into something terrifying.

 

She stood from her seat.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ll- I’ll just give you some space.”

 

She nearly bolted to the bar and immediately ordered two shots of tequila, throwing both of them back in quick succession.

 

“Rough day?”

 

Emma looked up to find a man with dark curly hair and blue eyes watching her. His eyes weren’t quite as blue as Killian’s, but the tequila had dulled her brain and he was attractive enough.

 

“You could say that. You don’t seem to have an accent. Should I assume you’re an American?”

 

She hoped that he was from the plane so that she could ask him for a sleeping space, a space that had quickly become more of a dire need over the last twenty minutes.

 

He laughed. “Boston born and raised. I moved here about a year ago though and never looked back.”

 

“You live here?”

 

Emma watched as he turned to the bar signaling the bartender to bring another round of drinks.

 

“Ya. I’m a travel photographer and wanted to immerse myself in the culture to make sure that the portraits I take do the place justice. Jefferson, by the way. And you are?”

 

He held his hand out to her and after a moment of contemplation she took it.

 

“Emma.”

 

“Do you have a last name Emma?”

 

She briefly considered giving him the same fake name she’d used with Killian, but Killian's voice rang through her head. She had come to cherish the way he said Swan and even though she’d likely never hear him say it again, she couldn’t sully the memory with someone else’s voice.

 

“Just Emma.”

 

“Well ‘just Emma’. What brings you to our sleepy little town?”

 

Emma explained the mechanical failure with the plane and the detour that lead them to Nuuk. She left out the parts involving Killian. The drinks were kept flowing as they talked, the liquor settling numbly in her stomach. Emma chanced a glance or two at Killian, but his eyes were always on anything but her, so she continued drowning her sorrows.

 

A warm and fuzzy feeling had begun to infiltrate her body as Jefferson asked her about her dinner companion. Her inhibitions had been lowered just enough to tell him that Killian was in the middle of a lovers spat with his girlfriend, while making sure to emphasize that she and Killian had no romantic entanglements.

 

As the night progressed, their surroundings morphed into something resembling a club. The lights were dimmed even further, loud music began blaring through the speakers, and the staff had begun moving tables out of the way to make room for a dance floor.

 

“Care to dance?”

 

Emma was blissfully buzzed, almost all thoughts of Killian pushed aside for the time being. She accepted Jefferson’s outstretched hand, deciding that the best way to get over Killian was to distract herself with someone else. Killian may have been a celebrity, but thanks to some liquid courage,Emma was ready to prove she could get someone too.

 

She let him lead her to the dance floor. As they danced, her heart quickened and it didn’t take long before Emma’s buzz turned to full on drunkenness. She felt the last of her will power slipping away as Jefferson spun her around and whispered in her ear, asking if she wanted to go back to his apartment. The only thing she knew for sure in that moment was that she needed to forget about Killian Jones.

 

 


 

 

 

Killian watched as she twirled around the dance floor before letting the sod wrap his arms around her again. He watched as the man’s hand slipped lower down Emma’s back until it came to rest on her bum. He watched as the man leaned lower and whispered something in Emma’s ear that made the sides of her mouth tick up.

 

He should have stopped her from even going up to the bar, but he had been afraid of snapping at her again. How could he have been such a fool to let his temper get the best of him earlier? He had let his public humiliation drive her into the man’s arms.

 

He was out of his seat in a flash, however, as he watched the man grab Emma’s hand and attempt to lead her out of the front door. She was stumbling and it should have been obvious to anyone there that Emma was completely pissed and in no state to accept a man’s offer for companionship. Killian knew that he had pushed her away with his horrid behavior - if she had ever even wanted him in the first place - and he was coming to accept it, even if it meant her choosing someone else. But he’d be damned if he let a man take advantage of her in that state.

 

He rushed to the door, blocking the man’s path.

 

“I’m sorry mate, but I can’t let you leave with her.”

 

“Excuse me? Who the fuck do you think you are?”

 

The man tried to push past him while keeping a firm grip in Emma’s arm. Too firm, if Emma’s wince was any indication.

 

“Who I am doesn’t matter. The lady has obviously had too much to drink and isn’t leaving with you.”

 

“Oh, sod off, you wanker.”

 

“I’ll give you one last chance. Let the lady go and find yourself someone sober enough to accept your advances.”

 

“She seems quite eager to me. Perhaps she’s not the lady you thought she was.”

 

Killian’s fist was in motion before his brain could catch up with what was happening. The man grunted as Killian’s balled up hand collided with his jaw and he fell backwards onto the floor. The man was clearly caught off guard by the sudden attack but he quickly regained his footing and charged at Killian. Both men stumbled backwards. Killian was only vaguely aware of the way the crowd had retreated away from them, except for Emma.

 

“Stop it! Stop!”

 

Emma moved to pull the other man off of him, but the guy shoved her to the ground. He wasn’t sure what happened after that, after the resulted fury invaded every cell of his being. The next thing he knew, he was straddling the man as blood seeped into the sticky bar carpet, and what looked like it might be a tooth was laying next to his unconscious body. He was seething with rage.

 

“I think you should leave.”

 

Killian looked over to find one of the bartenders standing nearby with his hands up in front of him in a placating manner. He was still trying to calm himself down. His hand stung and his head was a cloud of confusion.

 

“Look, we don’t want any more trouble. He’s always been a piece of shit and whatever he did, I’m sure he deserved it. No one here will say anything but I think it’s best you leave before he wakes up or the authorities get here.”

 

Killian took a steadying breath. He wondered how many times the man below him had taken home a woman too drunk to say no. Killian stood up and tried to grab Emma’s hand but the look she gave him made his blood run cold. She hated him.

 

Emma rushed out of the bar into the snowy streets. He wanted to give her space, he should have, but selfishness took over. He needed to see her, to plead with her to forgive him.

 

“Swan. Swan!” He called out to her but she kept walking. He ran to her, grabbing her wrist as he caught up.

 

“Emma, please. Just listen to me. I-”

 

She turned on him as tears flooded down her face.

 

“Why?” Her voice was broken.

 

“Emma, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just- he was an arse and-”

 

“And what? What , Killian?”

 

He opened his mouth twice, snapping it shut both times. He wanted to tell her, but he was terrified.

 

“Why do you care? You obviously don’t want me, so why do you care?”

 

He felt like he had been hit by a truck.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

He hoped he understood her meaning, that perhaps she was upset because she did care, but he needed her to say the words out loud.

 

“It doesn’t matter!”

 

“Like hell it doesn’t.”

 

“Killian, please let it go.”

 

They stood in the snow, staring each other down. He wouldn’t back down though, not this time. He tenderly placed the palm of his hand on the side of her face, letting his thumb stroke back and forth over the apple of her cheek.

 

“Emma.” It was a whispered plea.

 

Her heard her sniffle and she tried to look away, but he slid his hand just under her chin and tilted her head so that she was facing him again.

 

“I- I’m sorry,” she started, still avoiding his gaze, “I- I know that you don’t see me way I see you, and I thought it would just be easier if I stayed somewhere else tonight. I thought you’d be happy not to be stuck in the house with me because I’m such an idiot . I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Just-”

 

He didn’t wait for her to finish before surging forward to fuse his lips to hers. It started off slow and gentle; he wanted to give her room to back away if she wanted to. But she didn’t. She deepened it, letting her tongue brush across his lower lip. They melted into each other, not stopping until they heard a siren sound in the background.

 

“We should get back to the house.”

 

He didn’t want to stop, to break contact with her, but he knew that if he was still there when the authorities arrived, he’d likely spend the rest of his time there in a jail cell. Emma nodded and they both walked back to the snowmobile. The ride back was fast. He was probably using an inappropriate speed, but he was ready to get back to the house and continue what they had started, spurred on by the way Emma was clinging to him on the back of the mobile.

 

He didn’t even wait until the door was open before attacking her mouth again. She felt perfect in his arms, as if she had been created just to be held by him. He managed to get the door unlocked and opened and they made their way into the living room. Killian was torn between laying her down on the nearby couch, or the much more comfortable - but further away - bed upstairs.

 

The decision was easily made for him though when he saw her sway and stumble slightly. It was enough to remind him of how much she’d had to drink at the bar, and that he would be no better than the prick from earlier if he let this continue any further.

 

“Emma.”

 

She didn’t stop and instead pressed her lips to his neck, letting her tongue drag down the length of it as she maneuvered closer towards his collar bone. He groaned as her warm breath ignited a flame in his belly.

 

“Emma.”

 

Her hands came up and began toying with the buttons of his shirt, undoing them one by one. She kissed his chest lower and lower with each newly freed inch of skin. This had to stop before he lost control.

 

He grabbed her hands pulling them up into the space right above his heart.

 

“Swan. I want to, Gods above I want you more than I can say.”

 

“Then have me,” she interrupted as she brushed her thigh against his crotch.

 

He tensed at the feeling and the pleasurable sensation it brought.

 

“Please, love. I’m trying to be a gentleman here.”

 

“And what if I don’t want a gentleman? What if I want something more dangerous? A pirate ready to plunder for his treasure.”

 

God she was making it difficult for him to remain in control of his body.

 

“I’ll make you a deal. If tomorrow, after you’ve slept off the liquor rushing through your blood, you still feel the same way, I will pillage and plunder every inch of your body.” His voice was low and sultry, and he was sure he felt her quiver in his arms.

 

“Promise?”

 

“A pirate always keeps his word, love.”

 

She kissed him again, slower this time. He had to fight back the desire to press forward. Instead he lifted her in his arms and carried her up the stairs to the bed, their bed. He set her down, grateful that neither of them had remade the bed from that morning. He unzipped her boots and peeled them from her skin, revealing her long slender legs one by one, his body finding the notion of undressing her immensely erotic. The sheet was still missing from when she’d pulled it away to use as a makeshift robe earlier that morning, but he was able to pull the comforter up around her shoulders.

 

He turned to leave the room.

 

“Where are you going?” Her voice was thick with the sleep that was already taking over her body.

 

“I’m just going to check the door and turn off the lights. I’ll be right back.” He heard her make a noise and then shift, turning onto her side.

 

He really just needed a few minutes to himself. His crotch was throbbing still and he didn’t want to do anything stupid. He paced the living room a few times until he felt that he was relaxed enough to join her again.

 

When he made his way into the bedroom she was already fast asleep. He kissed her forehead before climbing into the other side of the bed, taking her in his arms as he did so. He only hoped that she still felt the same way in the morning.

 

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

There was an intense throbbing pain emanating from Emma’s head. That was the only thing she was sure of as she slowly slid back into consciousness. Even with her eyes closed she could feel the world around her spinning, her head dizzy and her tongue dry. She needed to get up and take some advil, but instead, she chose to remain still, her eyes closed, hoping that whatever was slowly killing her would just finished the job already.

 

Tequila.

 

As she ran her tongue across her teeth, she tasted the faintest hint of tequila, and what might have been rum. Mixing drinks would certainly explain the pounding headache that was currently threatening to split her skull open. The previous evening slowly began to flicker through her mind. It was only a few random snapshots jumbled out of order, not enough to tell her a full story, but there had been a lot of alcohol. That much was clear from the churning sensation in her stomach.

 

Recovering from a night out at her age felt nothing like it had when she was in college. She just needed to stay still long enough to fall back asleep. Perhaps if she focused on her breathing rather than the swirling vortex of nausea trying to take over her body, she’d be able to wait it out.

 

Six seconds in, and six seconds out. It something a therapist had once taught her as a relaxation technique. Not long after her father had passed, Emma had begun suffering from nearly debilitating daily panic attacks. Between the takeover of her company, and the stress of losing everything in her life at once, her anxiety level had begun taking over every aspect of her life and she’d needed help. Ruby had managed to get her an appointment with one of New York’s leading therapists and, with his help, Emma had learned how to function again. He had helped her work through her emotions - through the anger, fear, and betrayal she had felt - and he had given her exercises to use between sessions. Even though she had stopped seeing Dr. Hopper, she continued using the methods he’d shown her. Six seconds in, and six seconds out.

 

It had almost worked. Her eyelids had become substantially heavier and all of the sounds around her had started to fade away. All of the sounds excepted for one - a contented sigh. It wasn’t until the mattress began to shift underneath her that she realized that the sigh had come from the body laying next to hers.

 

That fact immediately set her body on high alert, and she was finally able to open her eyes. The room was still dark, but there was just enough moonlight filtering through the windows to see the outline his silhouette. He was on his side facing away from her. She let her eyes linger on his form for just a moment before he began to stir.

 

Not wanting to be caught watching him, she turned the other way, ready to crawl out of the bed. She was just pushing the covers off of her, the cold air hitting her bare legs, when she felt him shift again, coming much closer this time. She froze as his arm came around her waist and he pulled her into him. His body molded around hers as he eased her back into the sheets. She felt his lips press against the back of her head as he gave her a sweet peck and let his nose nuzzle into her hair.

 

“It’s too early. Go back to sleep, love.”

 

His sleep addled voice was deep and velvety against her ear. The fluttering in her stomach had nothing to do with the alcohol. She should move. He was asleep and didn’t know what he was doing. He probably didn’t even realize that the woman he was cuddling up to wasn’t his maybe-ex-girlfriend.  

 

She should move. She tried to move, but the fingers on his right hand flexed above her stomach and his hold tightened. He had her in a vice grip and she wasn’t going anywhere, so she resigned to let herself enjoy being in his arms for the time being. She would wait until he moved and then she would slip out and go to sleep on the couch. But his grip didn’t loosen, and soon she was letting the warmth of his chest lull her back to sleep as well. She could give herself that. In the morning she would look for somewhere new to stay, but for now she could have this. God, she was a horrible person.

 

When her eyes fluttered open again, the room was bathed in morning sunlight. The extra few hours had done the trick; she was feeling considerably better than before. The pounding feeling in her head had subsided into a dull ache and her stomach was no longer churning. But there was still a hand resting on it.

 

She winced, realizing that she had fallen asleep instead of retreating into the living room. His arm tightened around her and he buried his face in her hair.

 

He managed a groggy “Morning.”

 

Her entire body tensed. It was too late to escape, and she felt him go completely still behind her. It was definitely too late. Any minute now he was going to realize his mistake, realize that he had been cuddling up to her instead of Milah. Any minute now he was going to jump out of the bed, horrified, and avoid her for the rest of the time they were stuck there. Any minute now, everything was going to fall apart.

 

“Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.” She couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out of her mouth repetitively.

 

Killian’s arm released her and he shifted his body backwards, away from hers.

 

“Emma?”

 

She was certain that he was going to yell at her as soon as he put it all together.

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

It was the only thing she could manage. And she was sorry. She’d taken advantage of him.

 

“Why are you sorry?” He didn’t sound angry, and she didn’t know if he was honestly confused, or if it was just the calm before the storm.

 

“For last night. I-” She couldn’t say anything more.

 

“Which part of last night are you apologizing for exactly?”

 

The mattress shifted again and she was certain that he was moving closer to her now instead of away. She still couldn’t bring herself to roll over to look at him. There was a perfect image of the way his blue eyes had looked at her when he had told her that she looked gorgeous, and she wasn’t ready to let that image be ruined.

 

“I don’t know. For any of it, for all of it.”

 

It was humiliating not knowing what else she may have done.

 

“Emma, how much of last night do you remember?” She felt a vibration behind her and puff of warm air flitter across her ear as he chuckled.

 

Emma thought back. There was a fuzzy memory of a fight at the pub, which in turn reminded her of the sleaze bag at the bar. A horrible decision in retrospect. She vaguely remembered yelling at Killian in the middle of the street, and then- Oh God . There had been kissing.

 

She groaned and tried to bury her face in her pillow, but his arm pulled her closer to him.

 

Too much. She remembered too much .

 

“Swan?”

 

There it was again, the fluttering feeling she got whenever he said her name that way.

 

She had two options. The first was to fake amnesia, to ignore everything that had happened the entire evening to save face. It was not as if she hadn’t been blackout drunk before. Before her father had died- before she’d had the weight of the world placed on her shoulders- she had been a party girl once, and while she wouldn’t have considered herself promiscuous, she wasn’t as innocent as her parents might have thought. Feigning ignorance wouldn’t be too difficult and it might help relieve whatever awkwardness was about to ensue.

 

The other option would be to confess that she remembered having attacked him while completely intoxicated, or at least remembering her tongue slipping it’s way into his mouth, which would inevitably force her to explain why. She would have to explain that over the course of twenty four hours she had become so physically aroused by him that, regardless of his obvious aversion to her, she hadn’t been able to hold herself back. That was the only explanation she could form in her head.

 

If she did come clean, maybe she could pass her appalling behavior off as nothing more than lust. The issue with that, of course, was that it wasn’t just a physical attraction, and she was terrified that he’d see through her flimsy excuse in an instant. God, she was pathetic. In less than a day, he had somehow managed to mean something to her. He wasn’t just the annoying guy on the plane anymore, he was a real person now, and she cared. She liked that he was well read, that he was passionate, that he was kind. She liked him .

 

“Bits and pieces?”

 

“You remember bits and pieces, or you think you remember bits a pieces?”

 

She groaned and pulled the comforter over her face so she wouldn’t have to look at him.

 

“I don’t want to say.”

 

She sounded like a petulant child and she knew it, but she also knew that the second she told him what little she remembered, he would run for the hills. She was actually rather surprised that he hadn’t done so already.

 

There was a light tug on the comforter. She tried to fight the pull, but Killian only strengthened his efforts and the comforter slid down to her chest. He was there, lying next to her with his head propped up with one hand, and was giving her the most earnest look she had ever seen. Silence and tension filled the room. There were only inches separating them, and she could feel her hand twitching with a desire to reach out and touch him.

 

“Why not?”

 

“It doesn’t matter.”

 

“Not this again.” There was irritation in his voice now. “Can you please just tell me whatever it is that’s bothering you?”

 

“Nothing is bothering me.”

 

She knew throwing the covers off of her and running out of the bed was contrary to her words, but she needed to increase the space between them.

 

“Like hell it isn’t. Why are you being so bloody stubborn?”

 

“I’m not!”

 

Both of their voices had risen to shouting levels.

 

“Then just tell me, Emma!”

 

Emma . That, the use of her first name instead of the endearing nickname, cut through her and she felt defeated.

 

“What do you want me to say?” She was trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. “Do you want me to tell you that I remember making a complete fool of myself last night? Do you want me to say that I drank too much and did a stupid thing?”

 

She watched him as he remained in the bed. He had one hand covering his face while the other was locked into a firm fist at his side. He was weary of her, and it was her own damn fault.

 

“I’m sorry Killian. I shouldn’t have-”

 

“It’s fine. I understand.”

 

She could tell that he was making a conscious effort to keep his voice calm and the least she could do before she left was make a formal apology.

 

“Still, I’m sorry for attacking you last night. I know that you’ve still got feelings for Milah and the last thing you needed was me and my crappy lowered inhibitions attacking you last night.”

 

 


 

 

 

“What do you want me to say? Do you want me to tell you that I remember making a complete fool of myself last night? Do you want me to say that I drank too much and did a stupid thing?”

 

He felt his stomach drop. That had been his biggest fear the night before, the reason he hadn’t taken things any further than kissing. He knew the alcohol coursing through her blood had affected her thought process, but he had hoped that she had meant what she had said.

 

“I’m sorry, Killian. I shouldn’t have-”

 

“It’s fine. I understand.”

 

He didn’t need her to continue. It was bad enough knowing that she regretted kissing him, probably even touching him, but he didn’t need to hear her say the words out loud. He wasn’t sure that he could handle it.

 

“Still, I’m sorry for attacking you last night. I know that you’ve still got feelings for Milah and the last thing you needed was me and my crappy lowered inhibitions attacking you last night.”

 

That threw him, and he felt a sense of deja vu from their argument outside of the bar.  

 

“Emma, stop. Just-” He felt a nervous itch beginning to form just behind his ear and fought the urge to scratch it. “Please, just tell me what you remember from last night.”

 

She wouldn’t even look at him and he could see her inching closer and closer to the door. He stood up and walked towards her, slowly, trying not to spook her. He came to a stop, inches away from her, and took her chin in his hand, pulling her head upwards to look at him.

 

“Please, Swan.”

 

There was a shift in her eyes and he saw the moment her resolved crumbled before her eyelids fluttered shut.

 

“I remember going to the bar, I vaguely remember shots, and then after that it’s fuzzy. There was a guy, and a fight, I think. And I’m pretty sure I attacked you with my mouth.”

 

She sounded weary and afraid and it killed him that she felt that way around him. He smiled at her hoping to ease her fear.

 

“Love, why did you drink so much?”

 

“Please, Killian.”

 

“Swan.” He felt her relax a bit so he moved his hand up to the side of her face and let his thumb brush back and forth over the apple of her cheek. “I want to know.”

 

He felt her tense ever so slightly again as she let out a heavy breath.

 

“I was jealous. That story came up on the screen and I saw the look on your face. You looked so broken, and sounded so angry when I tried to talk about it. That’s when I realized that even after everything she’s put you through, you still love her.”

 

She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her. Instead, he let his free hand grip her waist, pulling her back towards him.

 

“Emma-”

 

“And I just. I was sitting there mooning over a guy who wants nothing to do with me, a guy who is still in love with his girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend, so I thought if I drank enough it would make me numb or something.”

 

He couldn’t help the smile that broke out over his face. He knew that he needed to clarify the confusion over his reaction to the story, but all he could think about in that moment was that she had admitted to wanting him.

 

“Love, would it change anything for you if I told you that I was the one that attacked you with my  mouth?”

 

He watched as Emma’s brow furrowed and her eyes squinted. She had been fierce the first time he kissed her, and there had been an undeniable heat behind it. But this time, as he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers, it was tender. She hesitated at the contact, but he didn’t pull back. Instead, he took a step forward, so that their bodies were touching and it was enough to spur her forward.

 

Emma’s tongue swiped against his lower lip, begging for entrance, which he enthusiastically accepted. He could taste the hint of tequila that lingered on her breath, making him groan as he remembered how much stronger it had been the night before. The intensity of the kiss picked up, but Emma was still timid.

 

He finally pulled away, wanting to see her face, to make sure he hadn't pushed her into something that she wasn't comfortable with. Her eyes were darker, the green barely visible, and her cheeks were flushed.

 

"Emma, love, are you okay. Did I overstep?"

 

"No!" He words were almost frantic. "It's not- I'm just confused. What about Milah?"

 

"What about her?" He knew that they needed to have a conversation about her, about whatever was happening between them, but all he wanted to do was kiss her again. He wanted to brush his lips down her jawline and to suck on her pulse point, among other things.

 

"I saw how you looked at the screen. I want this - I do - but not if it's only because you're trying to use me as a distraction."

 

Her eyes were beginning to fill with tears, and it made him ache inside.

 

"Swan. That's not what this is. I haven't loved her for a long time, and whatever look you saw last night was anger more than anything. Maybe with a little bit of humiliation mixed in."

 

She was looking away from him again, but instead of trying to get her to face him, he pulled her into him until her head was resting on his chest. "Love, I've wanted you since the first moment I saw you. Even when I was too drunk to realize it. I've been trying to keep my distance because I wasn't sure if you shared my affections, and because you're due to be engaged."

 

He winced. The thought of her promising forever to another man had plagued him more than he wanted to admit, and the last thing he wanted to do was remind her of her near betrothal while he was making a romantic declaration to her.

 

"But last night you told me how you felt about me, and I lost myself. I kissed you first, and it took everything I had to remain a gentleman and not to take you in this very room and make you mine in everyway that I know how."

 

He heard her sniffle, and he worried that it had been too much for her.

 

"It's not romantic."

 

Of course. He had gone too far, and she obviously hadn't been swayed. He should have put more of an effort in to woo her rather just blurting out whatever popped into his head.

 

Sensing his confusion, she continued. "I mean between Neal and I. I don't feel anything for him. It's a business arrangement, nothing more."

 

Emma put her arms around him and gripped him tightly, as if she were worried that he might run. Not that he would though. He’d never run from her. She pulled back, just slightly so she could she his face. Her eyes were slightly red, and he could tell that she had been fighting off tears.

 

 


 

 

 

She leaned forward and kissed him again, this time with more passion. There was a fire ignited in her, and she was ready for it to devour her. She wanted him to devour her. She pushed on his chest, slowly guiding him backwards until his legs hit the bed and they both toppled over onto it. She made her way on top of him, straddling him, not even concerned that she was still wearing her dress from the night before. She leaned down and kept kissing him. God could that man kiss.

 

She heard him groan into her mouth, and it only made her want him more, knowing that he felt something back for her. Without removing her mouth from his, she let her fingers glide down to his waist as she felt for the bottom of his sleep shirt. She pulled up on it, and he had to lean forward into her so that she could remove it.

 

When the shirt was loose enough, she pulled back from him just long enough for her to yank his shirt over his head, giving her a full view of his body. She had been able to feel his muscles through his shirt as she had hugged him, and she knew how well he filled out his dark-wash jeans, but nothing could have prepared her for what she saw. He was glorious. He was lean and cut, and his chest was filled with dark hair that further heated her core. She stood up, moving further down, kissing his chest as she went. If his top half was any indication, she couldn't imagine what she would find beneath his waist.

 

Her fingers began tracing along the top of his boxers, and she actually felt herself lick her lips in anticipation. It had been a long time since she had shared a bed with a man, her last romp in the sheets being before her parents had passed. The stress from running the company had essentially frozen her libido, but one day with this man and the flood gates had been reopened and everything that she had been repressing was beginning to spill out before her. She didn't just want this, she needed it. She needed him.

 

Her fingers grazed the skin on his waist, tucking just below the elastic band, but before she could rid him of his boxers, his hands wrapped around hers, stopping her from undressing him. Had she misread him?

 

"Bloody hell." He sounded wrecked. "Lass, I can't believe I'm about to say this again, but we need to stop."

 

"What?" She wasn't sure her voice had ever been that high before.

 

"This," he waived his pointer finger back and forth between the two of them, "it means something. I don't want it to be just some roll around. You deserve better than that, and I want to give that to you. I want to take you out on a proper date, one that ends with us back here, relatively sober. When I take you in my arms, Emma, I’ll know that it's because you want me to and not because the alcohol wants it."

 

She smiled, despite the disappointment she felt at knowing that she was going to have to wait longer for the relief she wanted so badly. It was nice though, knowing that he truly was a gentleman. He wanted something more from her than just sex, and that alone made it worth the wait.

 

“So does that mean no wine?”

 

He laughed, a full belly laugh, and she found herself enjoying the sound, wanting to hear it more often. He pulled her back into him and he kissed her again, slowly this time.

 

“Two glasses. That’s it.” His voice was stern, but she could see a playfulness in his eyes. The same eyes that made her want to melt into him every time she saw him. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have plans to make, and a bracing cold shower to take.”

 

She rolled off of him and watched him as he made his way into the bathroom, giving her a cheeky brow raise as he went.

Chapter Text


 

 

He was an idiot. He had a head full of ideas of what he wanted to do with Emma, but as he used his phone to search restaurants and date night ideas, he realized that he had no idea what he was doing. If they had been back in New York or Los Angeles it would have been easy. He could have placed a few phone calls and easily secured a private dining area at the best restaurant in town, or he could have arranged for a private tour of a museum or art gallery. But he wasn't there, and he didn't know the first thing about Nuuk, and he couldn't read or speak the language.

 

He brought up websites in one window, and had a translator app open in another as he tried to form a plan for their evening. He certainly didn't want to return to the same bar, even if the food had been good, but he wasn't sure where else there was to go. He finally managed to stumble onto the tourist website for the city and compared the top attractions to a tripadvisor list that someone had posted. An idea started to form in his head and he could only hope that he was able to pull it off.

 

It would require making a trip into town to set everything up; trying to communicate what he wanted over the phone would likely turn into a circus. He hoped that if he could talk to people face to face, it might help bridge the communication barrier or, at the very least, someone might recognize him and try to help. It was one of the few times he would be okay with exploiting his fame.

 

It also meant that he needed to avoid Emma for a little while longer. Every time he'd caught sight of her that morning, he’d felt a stirring that had him nearly lunging for her. She was beautiful, and now that he knew that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her, keeping himself in check had become harder.

 

He dressed quickly, trying to find something warm and becoming more and more dismayed that his packing had been much more appropriate for a New York or London winter. He wasn't sure that Emma's outfits were any better, and for what he had planned, both of them needed to be warm. He'd need to find a store that carried a battery operated blanket. After a quick search on his phone, he was able to pull up a store that he was almost certain carried sporting gear. He could only hope that they carried the warming blanket in the camping section, or even hope that they had a camping section.

 

After he had dressed, he went downstairs looking for Emma to explain that he was going out for a bit. She hadn't been in the bedroom after he’d emerged from his cold shower - a fact for which he was grateful, as he had forgotten to take clothes in with him, and he wasn't sure if a medium sized towel would have been enough to keep him from trying something.

 

When he made his way downstairs, he looked for her in the living room first, expecting to find her curled up on the couch reading her horrible book. Neal - even the thought of that man's name left a sour taste in his mouth - had awful taste, and clearly wasn't worthy of Emma if he thought gifting Emma with such a repugnant book would help him weasel his way into his heart. There was no sign of Emma in the living room so he made his way into the kitchen.

 

The sight before him left his mouth agape. Emma was standing facing the stove top wearing nothing but the button up shirt he had worn the evening before. It was shorter than her dress had been, if that was even possible, showcasing even more of her slender legs. She hadn't even made an effort to button the shirt up all the way. She was a temptress.

 

"You are trying to kill me, aren't you?"

 

She looked at him over her shoulder and smiled slightly, while biting her bottom lip. He nearly growled at her for it, wanting to be the one tugging on her lips with his teeth.

 

"I rummaged around and found the stuff for hot cocoa. Would you like some?"

 

She looked so innocent, but he knew she was doing it on purpose, trying to drive him mad. And it was working. His strides were long and quick as he went to stand behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Her hair smelled of apples as he used his chin to brush it off of her neck so he could press his lips to the place where her neck and shoulder met. She leaned back into him and let out a small moan.

 

"I think I may be in the mood for something sweeter."

 

She giggled and it made his heart flutter. It was as if all of the tension from the last two days had finally melted away and they could finally just be themselves.

 

"I'm heading into town for a little bit, but I'll be back shortly. Is there anything you need?"

 

She tensed in his arms and he wondered what he had said that had upset her.

 

"Emma?"

 

"Um, just- maybe you could pick up some... you know...?"

 

He was completely confused.

 

"Swan, you're going to have to be more specific, love."

 

Her head fell forwards and he was fairly certain that she had winced, even though he couldn’t see her face.

 

"Con-"

 

Whatever she had said had been so low and muffled he could only make out part of it.

 

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

 

She sighed.

 

"Condoms."

 

Realization dawned on him. Neither of them had come particularly prepared for the turn of events they had found themselves him.

 

"Oh." He released one of the arms he had around her, finally scratching at the nervous itch behind his ear. "Yes, of course."

 

The tension was back, but not as thick as before. He wasn't sure what else to say so he gave her a peck on the cheek before turning to leave.

 

The ride into town was easier when he knew where he was going and didn’t have the added pressure of trying to impress Emma or the distraction of having her body up against his.The first stop he made was to the bar. He had realized during his date planning that, on top of making a scene in front of everyone, he had forgotten to pay for their meals and drinks. While no one said anything before they had left, he didn’t want to be the type of person who walked out on a bill.

 

The restaurant was just opening and only a few people were scattered around tables ordering their breakfasts. He found what he presumed to be the manager behind the bar stocking the wine cabinet. He explained the situation and moved to pull out his wallet but the manager told him not to worry about the bill. Apparently the guy, Jefferson, had a reputation of taking home highly intoxicated women and was always bragging about how he was an award winning photographer. The heavy set man even admitted that everyone had been excited to see him knocked around a bit - shocked, but excited nonetheless. Killian tried to pay again, but the manager refused, so he conceded on the condition that he could leave the waiter and bartender a very large tip. Luckily he was able to charge it to his card, but he made a mental note to get some of whatever they used for local currency for the rest of his plans.

 

After settling his debts with the bar, he headed over to the sport’s store. This was a crucial step since his entire plan centered around he and Emma being warm enough to actually enjoy each other's company. He prayed they had what he needed. The store was smaller than any of the sport’s stores in the states. Even in New York where space was a high commodity, a person could still find a store with a warehouse full of inventory. Admittedly when he had searched the store online he had only managed to find a facebook page with a few sporadic photographs, but he had still hoped for something larger.

 

He browsed the entire store isle by isle, but after making his way from the entrance to the backcorner and back to the entrance again with no luck, he realized he'd be forced to ask for help. It wasn't that he was averse to asking for help, but he still wasn't sure how far the communication barrier extended through the town and he wasn't even sure how to ask for what he wanted.

 

There were two people behind the counter at the front of the store. They were older, and, if he was to guess, he would have thought that they were husband and wife team running a family store. The last time he’d made a similar assumption though, he had been completely wrong and had made a complete ass of himself, all the while embarrassing a girl and her crush. Not something he wanted to repeat. He made his way over to the couple and attempted to make small talk. His words were greeted with uncomfortable silence.

 

Sighing to himself, he looked around the shop, trying to find a way to communicate what he wanted. Out of the corner of his eye, he located a fleece blanket. He grabbed it, as well as a pack of batteries from an endcap and made his way back up to the front. He set the blanket down on the corner and waved the batteries back and forth over it, hoping they would understand his meaning, but charades had never been his strong suit.

 

The man and woman looked at each other and back at him without ever changing their facial expressions. Both of them simply shook their heads at him, but he wasn't sure if it meant that they didn't carry what he was looking for, or if they just didn't know what it was he was asking for. It wasn't until someone walked into the store on their cell phone that he remembered having his own on him. After a few taps on the screen, he pulled up a picture of a heated blanket and showed it to the two people in front of him. The man nodded this time with a smile on his face, and walked to the far side of the counter, picking up a small box and bringing it back with him to show Killian. Feeling victorious, Killian let out a small laugh. He held up two fingers, indicating to the man that he would like another one. While the man went to grab a second blanket, Killian looked over the box trying to figure out which batteries he would need. He swapped out the other batteries for the ones shown on the box before walking back to return the blanket he had grabbed.

 

He quickly paid for his items, and left the store and the giggling workers behind. Now that he had the necessary equipment, he could continue with his plan. The first thing he would need to do was hire a driver for the evening. As much as he enjoyed the idea of having Emma hold onto him on the back of the snowmobile, he wanted both of them to be able to enjoy the evening without the cold wind hitting them in the face, or having to look at a GPS every two minutes in the dark. They would be going further away from town this time, and the last thing he wanted to do was get lost in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold.

 

After getting both a driver and a vehicle squared away, Killian made his way to the restaurant that he had picked out. Thanks to the translator app he had found, he was able to learn from the restaurant's website that the chef was from the UK, and that the reviews were pretty decent. If nothing else, at least he'd be able to talk to the chef and understand what it was he was ordering for them.

 

When he stepped inside, the hostess immediately recognized him and went straight for the chef, making things much simpler than Killian could have hoped for. The chef ushered him over to a table, and after a few minutes of discussing the menu, they had an entire meal planned out that would be ready by five that evening. As an extra thank you, Killian signed two napkins with small notes for the chef’s two daughters. Now all that was left was for Killian to get back to the house and the get ready. He looked at his watch; it was nearing one in the afternoon. He shot out a quick text message to his driver telling him what time the food would be ready for pick up.

 

He decided to make one last stop. Emma may have managed to find enough supplies to make cocoa, but there certainly wasn’t enough food in the house for them to make breakfast, and if the evening went as he hoped it would, neither of them would feel like moving more than the distance to the kitchen for food. He grabbed some eggs, bread, and juice. He almost grabbed what he thought was bacon, but the picture of a whale on the packaging gave him pause and he set it back down. He paid for all of his items and was almost back to the snowmobile when he remembered that he had forgotten the most important item of the evening, forcing him to head back to the store to buy the condoms Emma had requested.

 

After securing the shopping bag with the blankets, food, and - what he hoped wasn’t too presumptuous - a value pack of condoms to the back of the snowmobile, Killian headed home. He paused, catching himself on the mental use of the word home. He didn't live there, so he couldn't really call it that, but somehow knowing that he was heading back to Emma, it felt like home anyway. She felt like home, a feeling he hadn't felt since Liam passed. He grinned to himself as he remembered Liam once telling him that home wasn't a place, it was a feeling you got. Being around Emma certainly gave him that feeling and perhaps, Killian thought, she just might be his home. It was a frightening idea, that someone he had only just met had already come to mean so much to him, especially when he didn't even know her real name. He felt like he knew her though, recognized the kinship they shared, and that was enough to push the fear out of his mind. Emma was his home.

 

 


 

 

 

Killian had been gone most of the day, and while Emma missed his company, she was glad for the space he had given her. Nothing says romance more than watching a woman shave every inch of her body in anticipation of other events. It also gave her the time to get herself mentally prepared. She wanted him - she really did - but she was afraid at the same time. It had been a couple of years, and she was nervous that she wouldn't be as good as what he was used to, or that she wouldn't look as sexy as she had hoped.

 

Luckily, Ruby had seen to it that her suitcase was filled with sexy lace underwear, which meant Emma would have to send her something much better than a wine gift basket. She would need to arrange an entire vacation for Ruby, and perhaps for a friend depending on whatever Ruby's relationship status was by the time Emma returned to New York.

 

Emma took her time, lathering, shaving, and lotioning every bit of skin she could find. Looking in the mirror, she wondered if she should have taken Ruby up on her offer to take her spray tanning. At the time she had scoffed at Ruby, noting that it was December and no one should be that unnaturally dark for Christmas. She hadn't expected to seduce a man though, and the pale skin reflecting back at her from the mirror was taunting her. It was too late to do anything about it now; she would just have to make sure the lights were off as soon as possible.

 

As much as she tried to keep herself busy, her thoughts kept returning to her nerves. In college, Emma hadn't been completely adversed to the idea of a one night stand. It had been comforting knowing that she would never have to see the guy again. She hadn’t needed to put in effort to impress him, and she’d never cared about how experienced he was, or how she compared to his previous partners.

 

Killian was famous though, and could have his pick of women. And as dedicated as he had been to Milah in the beginning of their relationship, Killian had assured her that there was nothing left between them. Emma wasn't so completely naive as to think that their physical relationship had come to a complete stop when the romance had, and it wasn’t impossible that he had begun looking outside of the relationship to satisfy his urges long before he had drunkenly stumbled into her own life.  She couldn’t help but wonder how many of these situations he had found himself in. Did he pick up strange women often, just two ships passing in the night? What if she was awful? He would never tell her, that much she was sure of, but she was still terrified of embarrassing herself and disappointing him.

 

Emma was almost finished drying her hair when she was interrupted from her internal freak out by a rustling noise coming from the bedroom. She had completely missed Killian returning, and when she peeked her head out, she saw him closing the top drawer of the nightstand on his side of the bed. The thought of Killian having a side of the bed gave her heart a slight pickup. She liked the idea of coming home to him at night and curling up next to him on her side of the bed.

 

Her hair was still a curly mess, so she stayed hidden inside the bathroom until she was sure Killian had left the room. She made her way over to the nightstand so she could take a peek at whatever he had hidden away. What she found made her smile. It was the pack of condoms that she had asked him to pick up. But it wasn't just a normal package; not only had he purchased them in an extra large size, but he had purchased an economy sized pack.

 

She suddenly felt so silly for worrying. Obviously, however she performed, Killian seemed to be under the impression that it wouldn’t be a one-off. It helped her relax enough to finish getting ready. This time she chose a red lace sleeveless shift dress with matching red lace underwear.

 

Even with her calmed nerves, it took her three attempts to get her eyeliner on evenly without looking like a racoon. With everything in place, and her hair in a perfect chignon, she put on her high heels and headed down stairs. She found Killian in the kitchen singing a song that she didn’t quite recognize but the melody was very sweet and her heart melted at the scene. She knew she probably should have made her presence known, but she didn’t want him to stop, so she watched him move around the kitchen digging through drawers like he belonged there. He was dressed in dark wash jeans with a dress shirt and vest, and while he looked amazing, all Emma could think about was how much time it would take to remove the extra layers from him when they got back from whatever he had planned.

 

She took advantage of his head being buried in the refrigerator to sneak up to the island and take a seat on one of the stools. When he turned back around with a small champagne bottle in his hand, his eyes found her and a huge smile spread out across his face. He pulled the foil off of the neck of the bottle and released the cork. There was a small pop, followed by only the tiniest trickle of champagne down the side of the bottle.

 

“Sorry, they didn’t have a large selection of fine bottles.” He gave her a small wink as he poured one glass.

 

The shift between the two of them since the kiss had been incredible. The silence was filled with sexual tension instead of awkward dead-air. They didn’t speak as she drank from the glass of champagne he handed her, but they did shoot each other flirty looks, and Emma wasn’t ashamed to admit that she had added an extra layer of mascara just so she could bat her lashes at him.

 

She startled when the doorbell rang, but Killian came over and offered her his arm.

 

“Love, your chariot awaits.”

 

He was a dork through and through, but right now, he was her dork and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. She took his arm and he led her to the front door where he grabbed a bag before leading her out to a waiting jeep. There was a man standing just outside of the jeep. He nodded to Killian before climbing back into the driver’s seat. Killian opened one of the back doors and ushered Emma in, closing the door behind her. He ran around the vehicle and joined her on the other side, placing the bag on the floor between them.

 

Curiosity got the better of her and she tried to peek inside the bag, but Killian grabbed her hand before she could see the contents.

 

“Now, now, Swan. You wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise I worked so hard to plan, would you?”

 

He raised one eyebrow, challenging her to say something, but Emma remained quiet. The jeep smelled wonderful, but she couldn’t find the source of it. She was fairly certain that there was food somewhere in the vehicle, or at least she hoped that there was. If whatever he had planned included dinner, it would mean that they’d be knocking out two birds with one stone. Emma was appreciative of all of the effort that Killian seemed to have put into their date, but what she wanted more than anything was to get him back to the house and into their shared bed.

 

The drive to wherever they were going seemed to take forever, and all she could think about on their way there was how long it was going to take to get back. It didn’t help that about halfway into their journey Killian had asked her to blindfold herself to help keep the surprise. She had agreed, but as they’d continued to drive, she’d felt herself becoming more and more antsy, especially as Killian’s hand brushed up and down her leg.

 

The car came to a stop just before she was ready to explode, and Killian told her to wait in the car for a few minutes. She heard his car door close, and a different one open and close. The wait for him to return felt like it took almost as long as the drive, and even though she was still blindfolded, she was pretty sure the driver hadn’t left when Killian had. She was relieved when the door next to her opened and a chill filled the jeep. She felt a hand wrap around her own as Killian guided her out of the car.

 

Her heels sunk into the snow, making her reconsider her entire outfit. It had been selected with the sole intention of seducing Killian, not for a night outdoors. He walked just behind her, with both of his hands on her arms guiding her forwards. The walk was short though, about fifty steps before his hands tightened their grip forcing her to stop. She felt his face move closer and his nose nuzzled into her neck.

 

“You can remove the blindfold now, love.”

 

 


 

Emma's dress for the evening :) She really should buy Ruby like 400 bottles of wine in thanks.

 

Chapter Text

 


 

 

Killian couldn’t have been more pleased with how well everything had come together. The driver had successfully procured the dinner that Killian had ordered, along with the small bottle of wine Killian had asked to chef to add to the order. He had been able to smell the food all through the drive and his mouth was watering by the time they arrived. Of course, that could have just as easily been due to the nerves settling into the very fabric of his being.

 

Emma and he had struck an accord, and even though they hadn't attempted to describe whatever was happening to them, he knew that it could become something marvelous. As long as he didn't cock it up first, of course. He'd never attempted to woo a woman like Emma. In fact, the only woman he had every really chased after was Milah, and the women who normally threw themselves at him were easily impressed by fame and wealth. Emma, on the other hand, prefered to focus on scholarly pursuits, and he was worried that she'd see him as nothing more than a fraud.

 

The first step was creating the perfect date; that much was in his control at least. When the car pulled to a stop, Killian instructed Emma to remain in her seat so he could prepare the area. He had considered going out a few hours before their date to get everything ready, but hadn’t been sure what effect the weather would have on his set up, so he had decided to wait. He felt rushed now, though, knowing that he was forcing Emma to wait as well.

 

He placed a spare comforter from the hallway closet on the ground first, trying to block out the chill of the snow below. Next he pulled out the heated blankets and turned them up to the hottest setting so that they would be nice and toasty by the time he was ready for Emma to join him. The dinner had been stored on actual dishes, eliminating the need to plate all of the food. He even managed to stop shaking long enough the fiddle with the switches of the flameless candles he had purchased at the store.

 

All he needed now was Emma. Trekking back to the car, he hurried around to the opposite side and guided Emma out of her seat. His hands remained decidedly on her arms as to avoid the temptation of letting them wander all across her body. It helped that her footing was rather uneven given the heels she had picked for the evening. In retrospect, he probably should have warned her, but she looked stunning and he would have been remised to change a single thing about it.

 

As they came to the spot where Killian had laid out the food and blanket, he tightened his hands around her and came to a stop.

 

“You can remove the blindfold now, love.”

 

As soon as her eyes focused on the view, she gasped, and he could only hope that it was a positive gasp.

 

"Killian, this- it's amazing."

 

Everything around them was dark. He could just barely make out the silhouette of the mountains that emerged around them. Sheets and ribbons of green, purple, blue and pink danced across the sky. The bands of color exploded and moved through the air like a river, ebbing and flowing. It’s beauty nearly rivaled Emma’s. When Killian looked over to see Emma’s face as she watched the colors flash overhead, her expression was awestruck. The spot he had picked for the date, was remote and set away from all of the light pollution given off by the city, giving them the perfect view of the aurora borealis. He bent down to grab one of the heated blankets but stopped short of pulling it around her when he noticed her eyes were shining from fresh tears.

 

Panic.

 

“Emma, love. Did I do something wrong?”

 

Her eyes snapped to his and a smile spread across her face as both of her hands came to rest over his heart. He wondered if she could feel how fast it was beating through his chest.

 

“Not at all.”

 

She visibly relaxed and he wrapped her in the warm blanket. Her eyes widened for a moment in surprise but she quickly pulled tightly on the edges cocooning herself in. He grabbed the spare blanket and wrapped himself up as well.

 

 


 

 

 

There was a crackling sound coming from behind where they were standing and she swiveled on her heels. The jeep was slowly backing away and Emma looked to him quickly, trying to gauge his reaction. Killian looked back at her sheepishly.

 

“He’s just going down the road for a bit to give us some privacy. He’ll be back in about an hour or so.”

 

Emma couldn’t help but find him charming when he was devoid all of his arrogant bravado.

 

“Only an hour?” She felt her body moving closer to his.

 

“Eh. Well if you haven’t noticed, it’s rather cold outside.” He paused for a second and started scratching behind his ear with his pointer finger, something she noticed was becoming more enduring each time he did so. “And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure that you’d even enjoy it. I didn’t want you to be trapped out here for longer than necessary if you hated it.”

 

She continued to lean even closer towards him as he spoke, until her chest was pressed against his.

 

“Killian.”

 

His adam’s apple baubed as he swallowed.

 

“It’s perfect.”

 

She lifted up onto her tiptoes and pressed a chaste kiss to his cheek. There was a warmth building inside her that had nothing to do with the fiery passion his lips normally brought upon her. This was a spark igniting in her chest. No man had ever gone through so much effort for her before. The scenery in front of her started to blur as fresh tears welled up in her eyes.

 

“Swan,” he looked so timid now. “Are you sure love? If this isn’t to your liking we can just pack it all up and go back to the house.”

 

“It’s not that. I-” She paused to sniffle, only feeling slightly ridiculous for her overly emotional reaction. “It’s perfect.”

 

Emma tugged on the edges of his blanket as she slowly sat down, silently asking him to join her. As he did so, she quickly scooted in close to him. Killian grabbed a small bottle of wine from the bag and worked the cork out of the neck. Waiting until he was distracted enough not to watch her, she continued to speak, hoping that he’d be too distracted to see the emotion building in her face.

 

“This has actually always been on my bucket list, you know. I had planned to see them after I graduated high school. A few of us had a whole tripped planned out.”

 

She could see him watching her from the corner of her eye, so instead she looked upwards at the lights. If she looked into his eyes she’d break before she ever got the rest of the story out.

 

“The plane tickets, the hotel, everything was taken care of. But a week before we were supposed to leave, something came up and I never made it. At the time I thought I’d eventually get around to it, but then work became more important.”

 

Silence fell over them and she worried that she had ruined the mood. Killian said nothing, but poured her a glass of wine and motioned towards the food laid out. The scent was caught in the breeze and Emma was once again reminded of how delicious everything had smelled in the car on the way over. The two of them remained in companionable silence as they ate their food, save for a few moans from Emma each time she tried something new. She only noticed once she was halfway through that each time she verbalized her approval it elicited a smirk from him.

 

As she reached for the bottle of wine to pour the second glass of wine she had been promised, she noticed that he wasn’t joining in on the libations. She furrowed her brow at him, but before she could say anything he started scratching at the back of his head again.

 

“Ya, about that.”

 

He shifted his body so that he was slightly further away.

 

“I, uh- I probably should have mentioned this at dinner the other night, but I don’t drink.”

 

“But... that day on the plane?” She was completely confused.

 

“Wasn’t my finest hour, I’ll admit. Do you remember when you asked me why I was in England and I told you that I was visiting family?”

 

Emma nodded, too worried that any words she could manage to get out would only make her sound foolish.

 

“Well, I wasn’t entirely honest with you. I mean, I did visit my family in a fashion, but not in the way you would assume.”

 

There was a small crack in his voice and she instinctively scooted closer to him so that she could lay her hand over one of his arms.

 

“I go to England just before Thanksgiving every year to visit my brother’s grave. He died in a naval training accident years ago, so every year on the anniversary of his death I come to visit.”

 

A sadness filled her core, but quickly turned to confusion.

 

“But Thanksgiving is in November. Why were you still there?”

 

“Which brings me to the other reason I was in England. I know I mentioned it before, but I’m not sure I told you the true extent of how badly my drinking was affecting my life.”

 

His head fell and she could feel the shame rolling off of him.

 

“I couldn’t get work anymore after stumbling on to set one too many times drunk off my ass. Milah and I fought more and I would always run straight to the bottle to drown out all of my anger. My manager finally had enough and said that I had the choice of getting sober or losing everything, so to a little village in England I went. It’s an obscure rehabilitation center, well hidden for people who don’t want to be found there.”

 

Her heart broke knowing what was coming next.

 

“I had actually been sober for nearly two months on my own before I went there, but if felt like my world was crumbling in. I still couldn’t get a job, Milah was coming home drunk every night, and then the anniversary of my brother’s death was staring me in the face, and all I wanted to do was drink. I had come so far though, so I went to the rehabilitation center. I was exactly ninety days sober the morning of the flight, and then…”

 

His voice fell away but she knew how the sentence would have ended. And then the photograph of Milah cheating surfaced, and it had been one blow too many.

 

 


 

 

 

His voice fell away and he was sure that it had been too much. He was flawed, he knew that, but sitting across from the most perfect woman made him realize that it was more than that. He was broken, probably too broken to ever be fixed, and she deserved so much more. He couldn’t even meet her eyes, too worried at what he would see in them.

 

“For what it’s worth,” she said as her hand tightened on his forearm, “I think it shows great strength of character. It’s not easy to make such a significant change, and no one is so perfect that they’d succeed without any setbacks. You’re human, Killian. No one can fault you for that.”

 

His breath hitched as she leaned over to kiss him. It was quick, and he found himself chasing her lips when she broke away.

 

“My mom died. She died in a car accident and that’s why I never made the trip.”

 

“Emma, you don’t have to-” He was cut off.

 

“Shhh, it’s story time.”

 

The smile she gave him looked forced.

 

“It was about a week before finals and she died in a car accident on her way home from the office. The next few months are kind of a blur, but as soon as I started college I went a little wild, partying way too much. My grades were in the tank by the end of my sophomore year.”

 

His stomach started twisting as she continued the story, explaining how much she had disappointed her dad and how upset her mom would have been at her.

 

For two years she had drowned her grief in alcohol and, when the need arose or when she had had too much to drink, the occasional one night stand . Her father had worried that it had been his fault, and in his effort to remedy the situation, he had remarried a woman named Regina.

 

“Regina knew my parents in college, and she was the first one there to comfort my father after the funeral. She’d visit every couple of weeks to check in on us, and each time she’d linger longer and longer.”

 

Emma told him that when her father had remarried, he had hoped that Regina would be a familiar face that could provide a motherly presence in Emma’s life. Regina had been kind enough to her when her father was present, but her cruelty was unmatched when no one was around to witness it. By the time she had gone back for her junior year, she had changed everything about herself, focusing strictly on school.

 

“I wanted to make him proud of me, and I wanted to prove that I didn’t need Regina in my life to become something decent.” There was a pause. “The point I’m trying to make is that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes; we all fall down. The difference, though, is that not everyone is willing to get back up.”

 

She was continually amazing him. Not only was Emma a strong ferocious woman that was willing to sacrifice her own happiness, but she was also a wealth of wisdom. She had known pain in her life, and while his heart ached for her and he wished that she hadn’t gone through it, he couldn’t fault the universe for any of it. Not when it brought her to him.

 

“The lights are beautiful. Did you know that they would be visible tonight? I’ve read that it can be hit or miss.”

 

Her change of topic, sudden as it may have been, was a clear and welcome sign. He didn’t want to dwell on his past mistakes any longer either. It was enough that she now knew of them and understood. Not many women would have been able to overlook it so easily.

 

“No, but I hoped. I looked it up and and was told that this was the best time to see them, and that it was better if you were away from city lights, so I brought us out here.”

 

She didn’t say anything in return but a small contented sigh escaped her lips.

 

“You know, there are quite a few myths surrounding the lights.”

 

“It that so?”

 

“Yes. In fact, here in Greenland they used to believe that the lights were that of spirits dancing around in the sky.”

 

Technically the stories he had read referred to the spirits belonging to children who had died in childbirth, but he feared how that may affect the romantic mood that they had going.

 

“Hmmm. I’ve also heard that the Norse told great stories of how the lights were reflections coming from the shields of Valkyries, leading the way for fallen soldiers to reach Valhalla. My favorite though,” he deepened his voice while leaning in closer to her, “comes from Japan.”

 

“Oh, and what would that one be.”

 

“That children conceived under the lights will be blessed with good looks, brains, and great fortune.”

 

She turned her head to face him and he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

 

“You know the lights aren’t actually magic right? It’s just gas particles colliding with charged particles in the atmosphere. The different colors are based on which gas is involved.”

“Well that may all be good and well, but it’s not nearly as much fun.” He raised one eyebrow at her playfully.

“I ramble.” The words were spat out so quickly he wasn’t sure he had heard her right.

“What?”

“When I’m nervous. I ramble when I’m nervous.”

“Swan-”

“I like you, and it makes me nervous, so I ramble about science. It’s just what I do.”

 

That made his heart warm, something he didn’t even think was possible anymore. Very gently, he cupped her chin in his hand and guided her face so that she was looking at him again.

 

“I promise you that however nervous you are, I’m at least ten times more nervous around you.”

 

Her brow furrowed and she tried to pull back, but he held her close to him.

 

“You’re scared of me?”

 

Her voice was so small.

 

“No, love. I’m not scared of you, but I’m terrified I’m going to say or do something stupid and screw up any chance I have with you.”

 

He watched her eyes narrow on him, studying his face. Then suddenly, she surged forward and pressed her lips to his. This time her kiss wasn’t filled with fierce needy passion, but something more. It was soft and sweet, and there was a feeling to it that was so much more than the animalistic lust they had shared before. When she pulled back, she let her forehead rest against his.

 

“How long do we have before he comes back?”

 

Butterflies filled his stomach for the first time in years.

 

“Not nearly long enough for what I have planned. I want to worship you, Swan.”

 

Her eyes turned dark and she bit her bottom lip, filling his mind with mental images of what she would do once he sent her over the edge. Looking at the clock, he saw they had about ten more minutes before their driver returned, which was perfect, as the warming blankets were becoming less and less effective by the minute. They used the next couple of minutes to pack up the remainder of the food before wrapping themselves together to stare up at the sky while they still could.

 

 


 

 

 

It had been to most magical date she had ever been on, and she had longed for it to never end. There was something happening between them that was deeper than anything she had ever experienced before, and there was a four letter word running through her head. It was impossible though. They didn’t know each other well enough for her to be in love already, but she wasn’t sure how else to describe it.

 

The car ride back to house felt even longer than the trip out to the snowy field, but only in the most wonderful way. All of the nervous anxiety was gone, and she was able to curl into him. They sat in comfortable silence as the jeep plowed through the snow that was starting to fall. Every so often, Killian would place a kiss to the crown of her head or to her knuckles and she would melt even further into him.

 

When they made it back, Killian gave the man a large tip before following her into the house. They both slipped their shoes off in the entryway and Emma turned to lock the front door and turn off the front light. When she turned back around, Killian was waiting for her with his hand stretched out towards her. She took it, and he slowly guided her upstairs to the room they shared.

 

Gone was the animalist need from before. When they came together for the first time, it was slow and sweet. He whispered things in her ears that no had ever said to her before and she held onto it, trying to show him through actions instead of words that she felt the same way. That he was special.

 

They found that carnal drive again later that night though, worshiping each other passionately over and over before final collapsing from exhaustion, wrapped up in each other’s arms.

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

 

The last three months of sobriety had changed many things for Killian Jones, such as his sudden predilection for rising before the morning sun. He found it amazing how his body felt much more alert without the dwindling presence of alcohol from a night of debauchery slowing his movements and clouding his judgement.

 

It had been difficult at first. His body craved the poison, and in those first few days, he felt as if Hades himself had been calling for him, beckoning him to the underworld. Hallucinations of Liam begging him to join him in death hadn’t helped. Eventually he made it past the initial withdrawal stage, and the desire to die was replaced with madness. The tremors had made it nearly impossible to do anything. But that passed as well, and a calmness took the place of the madness.

 

Until the guilt set in. The problem with sobriety was that it gave one a lot of time to think, and for Killian Jones, those thoughts led him back to Milah, to the bar brawls, to his ruined career. Every dream was crushed, and he was lost and alone.

 

Somehow though, by the grace of God, a blonde enchantress had seen him worthy, even after he had told her of the darkest parts of him, and he couldn't help but wonder if she was his reward for overcoming his demons, or his punishment for his sins. She was everything he thought he’d never have, everything he didn’t deserve, and even now as she burrowed herself further into his side, she wasn’t his. Not really, and that left an ache larger than any left by Milah.

“Hey.” Her voice was like honey.

“Hey yourself.”

It earned him a contented sigh as her fingers brushed up and down his chest.

“That was-”

Before she could finish her sentence the phone on the bedside table started ringing.

Startled, he reached for it haphazardly, trying not to move and disturb her.

“To be continued.” He said as his fingers found the handheld. “Hello?”

The phone call was from the airline, telling him that the storm front had passed and the part for the plane was set to arrive that afternoon. The plane would take off the following morning at six, and they would need to be at the airport two hours prior to takeoff. Even though the security at the Nuuk airport wouldn’t be nearly as chaotic as it was in London or New York, there were well over five hundred passengers that would need to be inspected, and at least that many pieces of luggage that would need to be loaded back onto the plane. They offered him a ride but he refused, wanting to spend as much time out of the public eye as possible.

 

“Who was it?”

 

“The airline. The plane is almost finished and we’re to be there by four tomorrow morning.”

 

“Tomorrow?”

 

There was a melancholy tone in her voice.

 

“Aye.”

 

He longed to know why she was suddenly upset, but didn’t want to push her. A part of him hoped that she already missed him, that perhaps part of her wanted their rendezvous to be more than a weekend interlude.

 

“Tomorrow is Christmas.”

 

“And that’s bad because?”

 

He let the words linger, clearly confused by why she was sorrowful.

 

“I’m to be engaged tomorrow.”

 

It was if the gates of Niagara Falls had opened above his head, flooding through his heart and lungs, dousing whatever feeling of contentment he had held in that moment.

 

“I’m not ready. I wish we could just stay here - like this - forever.”

 

She burrowed even further into his side, but the warmth of her body only furthered served as a reminder that she belonged to someone else. He wasn’t ready either, and if he continued to dwell on it for much longer he was sure he’d find himself back in the bottom of a rum bottle.

 

“Well let’s not think of it. It’s as you said before, it’s just you and me here. Let’s just focus on the here and now.”

 

He leaned in and kissed her. There was something in the way she kissed him back, a frenzy as if every chase of their lips, their tongues, may have been their last.  Finally, needing air, he pulled back.

 

“How about we get up and make the most of our last day here.”

 

Giving him a small smile, she agreed, following his lead in getting dressed. They went about their usual morning routines - brushing their teeth, Emma putting in her contacts - only now they did so in unison.

 

Once they were ready, they set off into town. Killian had seen a store the day before that had given him an idea. Plus, he wanted to get some more food for the house so they could spend as much time together as possible without having to trek in and out of the cold for lunch or dinner. He pulled up to the bookstore first. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind initially, but as he guided Emma inside, he suddenly worried that the books inside might not be readable to either of them.

 

His worries were unwarranted, and both were delightfully surprised to find that there was a large selection of books published in English. It took a bit of browsing until he had found the book he was looking for, and then he picked another book for some light reading on the plane. He made his purchases and Emma joined him at the counter to pay for the two books she had selected as well.

 

Eventually they made their way to the grocery store where they picked up enough food to last them for the day, before heading back to the house with the intention of locking themselves away from the world for the rest of the day. Killian made one final call to the driver from the previous evening to hire him for the morning airport run, assuring the man a large tip for the inconvenient hour.

 

They worked together in tandem to make breakfast, neither bothering with plates. Instead they snuck bites of eggs and crisp bacon straight from the pan, while sneaking kisses from each other. After the breakfast had been consumed, both of them made their way to the couch with one of the books they had purchased. Killian had a copy of Jude the Obscure . It was a book had had started in primary school but never got around to finishing as the band drew most of his attention. He had enjoyed it, or at least he thought he remembered enjoying it so when it caught his eye at the bookstore, he couldn’t turn it down.

 

Emma had pulled out a book on the mythology of the northern lights, which made him smile with pride and caused his chest to fill with warmth. She was a vision, stretching out with her feet laying over his lap as she laid against the arms of the couch. He watched her biting her lip as she read, completely engrossed in it, making it much more difficult for him to concentrate on his own reading.

 

They sat in companionable silence for a while as he tried to focus on the page before him with no success. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore and he broke the silence.

 

“Were my stories not enlightening enough for you?” He teased.

 

She immediately blushed, sending an odd sense of pride through him.

 

“Not that your head could get any bigger, but I actually found it interesting. I never realized there were so many stories behind it. Did you know that the Inuit used to believe that the lights were the result of spirits playing with a walrus skull? I mean, how did they even come up with that?”

 

He had to stifle a laugh at her serious tone. He felt as if he was seeing a part of Emma that she normally kept closed away from the world, an honor to be certain.

 

“I’ve never heard that one but I’m not surprised.” She give him an indignant look and it only made him laugh harder. “Love, you have to realize that the lights have been around for hundreds of years, if not thousands. They weren’t scientifically advanced and I’m sure many of them were frightened by it.”

 

She hummed in agreement as she flipped to the next page. He went back to attempting to read, but her feet began toying with his upper thighs, grazing over his center slowly, purposefully. He was quickly losing the battle of wills.

 

“Swan,” he growled out as a playful warning.

 

“Yes?” She may have feigned ignorance but it was halfhearted at best.

 

“Minx.”

 

It was all he said before he jumped up and landed on top of her, tangling his tongue with hers. Her hands grappled with the hem of his shirt before he felt her tugging the fabric over his head. It didn’t take much encouragement on his part before he was doing the same with her top, revealing the swell of her perfect breast. His lips grazed over her jaw, down her throat until he hit her pulse point, He lingered, not caring if he left a mark, and judging by the contented noises coming from Emma, she didn’t mind much either.

 

Once he felt secure that he had left a mark deep enough to claim her as his, he continued downwards, using his teeth to pull the lace of her bra aside enough for him to reveal her pert nipple. Letting his tongue swirl over it for a bit, he finally grazed his teeth over the tip, biting down ever so slightly and eliciting a moan from her that was like none before it.

 

“Killian.” His name was a plea from her lips. One he couldn’t resist. He rose to meet her lips again, deepening the kiss as his hand grazed over her jeans, teasing the zipper lower and lower until he could slip his hand into her underwear. There was no lack of wanting from either of them, he discovered.

 

Not wasting another second, he tugged on her jeans, peeling them down her legs and ankles, followed swiftly by her underwear. His lips trailed over her skin as he moved closer to her core. He plunged one finger in, then another, stretching her out, trying to ease her along. After their night of lovemaking he was worried that she may be too sore, and the last thing he wanted was to cause her pain. Wanting nothing more than her pleasure, he let his tongue and fingers do all of the work, bringing her to climax and working her back down from it. Her breath was ragged as he crawled back up her body to lay next to her. Once she had regained her breath, she dove for his lips, kissing him within an inch of his life, seemingly unfazed by her own taste on his tongue.

 

Once breathing became an issue, they pulled away from each other, resting their foreheads together. His body began to melt into hers, but then she tensed.

 

“Was-” She left a heavy pause between her words. “Was it not good?”

 

His head snapped up to meet her eyeline.

 

“What?”

 

Her eyes flitted across the room, avoiding his own.

 

“I just- Last night. Was is not good?”

 

It caught him off guard.

 

“Emma.” He hoped the use of her first name would convey the seriousness of his thoughts. “Last night was wonderful. There isn’t a thing about it I would have changed.”

 

The truth was that it had been the best sex of his life, but he couldn’t tell her that for fear of scaring her. Everything was happening so fast and he wasn’t sure if her feelings for him were even half as strong as his for her.

 

“Then, why aren’t you...” She let the words trail off but he understood her meaning.

 

“Swan, it’s not that I don’t want to. Believe me. But we left a very important item upstairs and I didn’t want to leave and kill the mood.”

 

“Then don’t.”

 

He shook his head, mostly to himself.

 

“Swan?”

 

“Killian, I trust you. I’m on the pill, okay? And I trust you .”

 

An internal battle raged within him. Aside from Milah, Emma was the only woman he had been with in years, and while he knew he was clean thanks to quarterly health checks after Milah’s indiscretions, Emma’s words still rang heavy in his heart. No one had ever put so much faith in him, and that meant something. But when her hips bucked up into his, the battle was lost. She had won; she would always win. He shoved his pants down and thrusted into her. She met him move for move, clawing her nails into the skin of his back. Moaning and calling his name as her orgasm built again within her. He held back until she had found her own climax before thrusting a few more times, finding his own release.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

He was a sex God. Of that, she had no doubt. It’s not that Emma was overly experience, but she was experienced enough to know that no one had ever made her orgasm so hard that her body had turned to jello before. It was so good that she wasn’t even worried that his seed was spilling out of her onto the sofa. Instead, she stuffed a blanket underneath her to absorb anything, with the thought of either washing it later or just leaving some cash for a replacement and an apology note on the counter.

 

Killian was clearly spent, laying sloppy kisses along her collarbone from where he was resting beside her. In that moment, everything was perfect, and she wanted to stop time itself. There wasn’t a business to get back to, a fake fiance to get engaged to, no responsibilities. She was completely content.

 

“Mmm, penny for your thoughts, love.”

 

“I’m just happy.”

 

He planted a few more kisses along her neck before meeting her mouth.

 

“And what else?”

 

“You don’t want to know.”

 

She gave him her best smile, but she knew it wouldn’t be enough to fool him.

 

“Love, I want to know every part of you.”

 

She sighed giving in.

 

“I was just thinking about how nice it’s been here, just the two of us. No hostile business takeovers, or life changing decisions.”

 

“If I may, how exactly did Regina take charge of your parents company?”

 

“It’s a long story.”

 

Nudging her shoulder with his nose, he gave her a glance that she understood meant he had the time to listen.

 

“Well I told you about how Regina came to be my stepmother?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Well it really came about by accident I guess. When my parents formed the company, they were both broke. They had mountains of college and grad school debt, so they found shortcuts where they could, including their personal lawyer.”

 

She went on to explain that the lawyer they had hired had been fresh out of law school, and while he had filed all of the correct paperwork, he hadn’t used the best language in the contracts. In David’s will, it stated that if anything were to happen to him, his shares of the business would go to his wife, and if his wife had perished as well, everything would go to his next closest living relative.

 

“The key word being ‘wife’. I guess he didn’t realize it at the time, but the contract actually used the word ‘wife’, so even though he had meant for it to pass to my mother or myself, when he passed, it instead went to Regina.”

 

She continued to explain how Regina had been slowly dismantling the company little by little, hemorrhaging money, but had promised Emma that if she married Neal, earning the family more power and social status, she would leave the company alone.

 

“So why is she doing this?”

 

It was a valid question, one that Emma had contemplated for years. The only conclusion she could come up with was revenge. Regina felt as if life had slighted her while Emma’s parents had found love and happiness, on top of their success. It didn’t help that Regina’s own marriage had imploded after multiple failed attempts at having a child. She was barren and had pushed away her husband, trying to blame him instead.

 

“Honestly, I think she just hates me. I remind her of everything she never had. When my father passed away, the first thing she did was to sell my childhood home. It was a seaside cottage in this small town in Maine. Storybrooke. It’s a blink-and-you-might-miss-it type of place, but it was somewhere we could go to get away from the city. It was the only thing I had asked for, aside from keeping the company intact, and she sold it just to spite me.”

 

“Oh, love. I’m so sorry.”

 

The look in his eyes expressed his sorrow on her behalf. It was sincere grief.

 

“It’s okay. I had a friend buy it in his name. He then sold and transferred the deed to me with Regina never being the wiser.”

 

“So what did Regina say when she realized you had duped her?”

 

There was so much sincerity in his eyes as he listened to her story.

 

“Oh, no. She doesn’t know; no one does. It would just make life more miserable if she found out.”

 

“You’re bloody brilliant. Did you know that?”

 

Shrugging off the compliment, not feeling worthy of it, she asked him a question of her own.

 

“So what about you? Aside from the demon mistress, what awaits you when we get back to New York?”

 

She wanted to take the words back as soon as they were out of her mouth. She wasn’t ready to pop the happy bubble they had created for themselves. She wasn’t ready to return to reality. To a reality where he wasn’t the first face she saw every morning.

 

“Not much, really.”

 

He scratched behind his ear.

 

“And by ‘not much’ you mean…” She drew out the last word.

 

“Exactly that. I’ll do the Christmas thing with a few friends in New York and then I guess I’ll try to see if there’s anything I can do to salvage my career.”

 

She let her fingers tangle in the hair on his chest.

 

“Any projects in mind? That’s what they’re called right?”

 

He chuckled at her, assuring her that she had used to correct word.

 

“Um, well nothing is set, but there’s this one script I was reading back in London... But it would never happen.”

 

“Why not?”

 

She could see his cheeks coloring red as his eyes drifted lower towards the coffee table.

 

“It’s a dream role.”

 

“And?”

 

“It’s about a soldier and his fiance during the first World War. The man leaves to fight in the war to prove to his fiance’s father that he’s deserving of her hand in marriage. The story goes back and forth between them. The soldier goes through hell, fighting for his life when he’s stranded behind enemy lines. He’s captured, and tortured, and finally managed to escape, but loses one of his hands in the process. The fiance, for her part, waited and waited, but when the man became stranded, the army assumed he was dead and told her as much. She quickly married another man at the urging of her father, and when the soldier finally made it home, he found her with her husband and a new child. Everything he went through, it was all for nothing, and he basically drinks himself to death. It’s not a happy ending by any means, but there’s so much emotion that goes into playing the part, and it could change everything.”

 

“And you wouldn’t get it because...?”

 

“And that’s it. It’s a dream role, and everyone will be clamoring for it. With my reputation, I doubt I’d even get an audition, much less a consideration.”

 

“Don’t do that to yourself.”

 

It was heartbreaking for her to hear how little he thought of himself. She hadn’t known him as he was before, but she felt certain even during his darkest hours, the same man that was laying beside her rubbing his fingers up and down her back with all of the tenderness in the world must have always been in there.

 

It was then that she realized how much she had taken for granted in her life. Her parents had always shown her that she was loved and wanted, telling her how much better the world was for having her in it, even when she was acting like a petulant child. She couldn’t have imagined growing up without them, without their encouragement. She couldn’t have imagined growing up like Killian. Aside from Liam - who was long gone - he had never had anyone telling him that he was special, that he was worthy of anything.

 

“Killian, you’re a good man.”

 

She heard him inhale as if he were about to interrupt her so she put her hand up, not to be dissuaded from what she wanted to say.

 

“No, I need you to listen to me. You are a good man, and you can’t let your past define you. That guy that you were - you aren’t him anymore. You deserve so much more than to just lay down and take whatever crap life gives you.”

 

There were tears beginning to form in his eyes and he was visibly trying to hold them back.

 

“I want you to promise me that when we get back, you’ll audition for that role.”

 

He nodded his head solemnly. There was no conviction behind his promise.

 

“Hey,” she started as she brought up her hand to cup the side of his face. “I want you to look me in the eyes and promise me. And I don’t mean some meager half-assed attempt. Promise me that you’ll go for it with everything you have, because I have faith in you, and I need you to have some too.”

 

His eyes flickered briefly with something akin to hope.

 

“Aye, I promise, Emma.”

 

As soon as the words escaped his lips she surged forward, and kissed him with all of the passion she felt, hoping that some of her courage would transfer over to him.

 

“Good. And now that that’s out of the way, I think you have another promise that needs keeping.”

 

She watched as his face morphed into complete and utter confusion.

 

“Something about pillaging and plundering every inch of me.”

 

The cheeky smile returned and she barely had time to breathe before he lunged.

Chapter Text

 


 

 

 

Being with Emma brought with it a level of intimacy that he had never experienced before. It was as if their souls merged each time they came together, and he knew that he was in love with her. And there was a sorrow that came each time they pulled apart, untangling their limbs from each other. Emptiness.

 

The hollowness built as he thought about what would happen the next day. They would go to the airport and each go their separate ways. Ships passing in the night, as Emma had put it. It wasn’t enough, but then again, nothing would ever be enough now. He needed forever. There was just the issue of figuring how to get it.

 

After their latest round of lovemaking on the couch, Emma had dragged him into the shower. Not that ‘dragged’ was particularly the correct way to describe it; wild horses couldn’t have kept him from her at that point. Once they were fully sated and cleaned, both got dressed to avoid further temptation - although, her wearing only a pair of lace panties and one of his shirts didn’t do much to dull his labido.

 

It was Emma who had suggested that they start the fire back up and read in front of it. He had the sense that Emma didn’t let herself indulge in many things and she had explained that she was a workaholic with zero freetime. It was endearing that she wanted to spend her day cuddled up next to him with her nose in a book.

 

And that’s exactly what they did, but as time went by, he found his gaze was focused more on her than on the page in front of him. At some point she had taken out her contacts and donned a pair of thick black rimmed glasses instead, and on anyone else they would have looked silly, but on Emma they were almost sexy. She must had sensed him watching her.

 

“What?”

 

He was helpless against the smile forming on his face.

 

“I’m just memorizing this perfect moment.”

 

She blushed.

 

“Well take a picture. It’ll last longer.”

 

Giving him an exasperated look she returned to her book. The comment had meant to be sarcastic, but it gave him an idea. Carefully moving out from underneath her legs, he stood and moved behind the couch, where is jeans had been discarded so carelessly. Prying open the front pocket he pulled out his cell phone and immediately opened up his camera as he jumped over the back of the couch and flopped back down onto Emma’s lap.

 

The stern look on her face quickly melted into a heart-warming fit of laughter. For nearly half an hour they took turns making silly faces and in the end, it was a picture of Emma biting her lip, her back to his chest, as he nibbled on her earlobe that most captured their spirit. She was stunning, even without the piercing view of her emerald eyes hidden away behind her long eyelashes and closed lids.

 

He briefly considered setting it as his screensaver, but then thought better of it. Too many people had access to his phone in a day and he didn’t want people to see it. He was oddly protective of whatever it was that he and Emma were sharing. They were memories only meant to be shared between the two of them, so instead he filed it away in an album titled ‘Nuuk’, hidden away from prying eyes.

 

Killian placed the phone down and both of them went back to reading, still tangled up in each other. His memories hadn’t been wrong and even though his eyes continued to drift off to Emma, he still found himself enjoying his primary school assignment. He saw a lot of himself in the main character. The lead, a man named Jude Fawley spent his life working towards his aspirations of becoming a scholar, wanting to be something greater than he was. Killian had an idea of where the book was headed. They had briefly discussed it in one of his classes, and although he hadn't paid much attention, he knew it had a tragic ending. Jude died and no one cared. He worried if his life was following the same path. His eyes flickered to Emma.

 

She had made it clear at the airport that whatever they were, it was only temporary. Would she care if something happened to him?

 

He couldn’t think about it. There was too much sadness lingering around him and he needed to focus on something else.

 

“Well, love, what would you say to some dinner?”

 

They had skipped lunch but he still wasn’t particularly hungry, especially with the churning feeling now settling into his stomach. Certainly Emma would be hungry though. The hour was late and the sun had set three chapters before.

 

“Depends. Are you making me cook it?”

 

He chuckled despite his sorrow.

 

“No, love. Your blackened bacon this morning was more than enough of a culinary delight for one day.”

 

“Killian!” She blushed and whined his name.

 

He gave her a teasing wink. He had learned in their short time together that there were many things Emma excelled at, but cooking certainly wasn’t one of them.

 

“Swan, I love-” The words were on the tip of his tongue, so close to slipping out, but when he saw her tense he thought better of it. “I love that you you desire more from life that being the type of woman who only ever learned how to please her mate.”

 

It wasn’t a lie technically. Emma had grown up polished and proper, like some of the women he had encountered back in England. Their parents had sent them to finishing school with the sole purpose of proving that they were worthy of a well-to-do husband. More than once he had been approached by a woman attempted to ensnare him into marriage after he had appeared in his first big role, but he had been so entranced by Milah at the time, he had never given it consideration.

 

Watching Emma, Killian couldn’t help but think how how easily that could have been her. She was well educated, and it wouldn’t have been at all surprising if her parents had attempted to mould her into a trophy wife. But despite her mesmerizing beauty, she had been taught that her self-worth was dependent on so much more than society’s cultural norms for women, and he loved her all the more for it.

 

He quickly retreated into the kitchen, not wishing to see the relief in Emma’s face. As far as they had come, she was still just out of his grasp. ‘Just as well’ he thought to himself. He knew in his heart of heart that he wasn’t worthy of her, no matter how much he wished he was. With that thought, he pushed down all of his feelings, remember his book from earlier. If he pushed any further, the heartbreak would certainly kill him.

 

Instead, Killian whipped up two grilled cheese sandwiches with the leftover groceries they had.  She had mentioned in passing at the grocery store that it was her favorite meal, but she rarely was allowed to indulge in it any more. Without even thinking, he had placed all of the ingredients in the basket, only wanting to make her happy.

 

Once they were finished he heated up a small container of tomato soup that he found as the store as well and poured the soup into two small bowls. Bringing in their plates and bowls he sat back down on the couch, keeping a space between himself and Emma. Eventually he would need to distance himself from her emotionally, so he decided to start by distancing himself physically. It should have been the easier of the two, but the cold entered the space between them and lingered on his skin, making him miss her warmth.

 

“This is so good,” she moaned out.

 

“Aye, love. I’m glad you like it.”

 

If she noticed the change in his mood, she chose to ignore it, but perhaps he was hiding it better than he thought he was.

 

“When I was little, I was sick a lot. I was always in and out of the hospital, but everytime without fail, my father would promise to make me one as soon as I got out. It worked too. I guess it was a mind over matter thing.”

 

She had closed to gap between them as she spoke, placing her head against his shoulder. His arm went around her body and she sunk into him.

 

“That sounds lovely.”

 

A flood of questions began forming in his mind centered around what she had just told him, first and foremost whether or not she was okay. The thought of anything happening to her was too much, but it wasn’t his place to ask, and she didn’t elaborate any further on her end.

 

They ate the rest of the meal in companionable silence. The only thing filling it were a few soft sounds from Emma as she enjoyed her dinner, and the sly smiles she shared with him. When they were finished, Emma took both of their dishes into the kitchen, lightly rinsing them before loading them into the dishwasher.

 

Emma returned to the couch, but instead of joining him she grabbed his hand, interlacing their fingers and pulled him up to a standing position, brushing her lips against his. With a wagging of her eyebrows, something he assumed was meant to be an imitation of himself, however poorly executed, she was pulling him up the stairs towards their bedroom.

 

The bedroom he corrected himself. It wasn’t theirs, nothing was.

 

As soon as they entered the room, Emma’s arms wrapped around his neck, her hand toyed with the hair at the nape of his neck causing him to groan. She used it to deepen the kiss and he was lost in her. Hands started hastily disrobing both of them in a frantic frenzy. Their bodies worked in harmony finding their way to the bed. Working together in perfect syncopation, rising and falling together.

 

She was exquisite and he loved her.

 

“Don’t do it.”

 

“What?”

 

They had been basking in each other's warmth and he knew his request had come from nowhere.

 

“Don’t marry him.”

 

Her entire body tensed next to his and slowly she began to detach herself from him.

 

“Killian-”

 

“Swan. Please. You can’t marry him.”

 

“It’s not that simple. I told you, if I don’t Regina will destroy my parents company.”

 

“Then marry me instead!”

 

It was a desperate plea from a desperate man, but he would never take it back. He already knew that even forever wouldn’t be long enough with her. He did want to marry her, but it wasn’t how he expected the conversation to go when he began it.

 

“Whoa, whoa. Killian, we barely know each other.”

 

Her eyes were full of pure fear.

 

“And you hardly know him!”

 

The conversation was becoming more heated and they were practically yelling at eachother.

 

“Killian, please don’t do this.”

 

“Why not. You said Regina wanted you to marry someone for social standing. I’m not trying to be pompous here, but I am rather famous.”

 

“You’re an actor ! That’s not the social standing she’s looking for. You’d be a joke to her!”

 

“And is that what you think too?”

 

“No, but Killian-”

 

“I don’t bloody care about her! I care about you, Emma, and what you think. I’m in love with you, Emma!”

 

In all of the ways he had played out finally saying those words to her, never had he imagined screaming them at her during an argument.

 

“No. No, you’re not. You barely know me! You haven’t even broken up with your girlfriend yet. You’re just hurting and projecting your feelings onto me.”

 

“That’s a load of bollocks and you know it! I’m in love with every part of you! Even your stubbornness.”

 

“Killian. Please. Please don’t ask me to choose.”

 

“I’m not asking you to choose between me and your company. I’m asking for you to choose your own happiness over what you perceive to be your duty to your dead parents.”

 

It was a low blow, he knew it, but he needed her to realize that they were gone and she couldn’t spend the rest of her life trying to impress them.

 

“And what? You think that happiness is you?”

 

“I think it could be.”

 

There were tears streaming down her face.

 

“Emma, I have money. Together we could start a new company. You could have full say. Do you really think your parents would want you to be miserable for the rest of your life?”

 

“Killian, it’s all I have left of them. If I walk away I’ll have nothing, and you want me to throw away my last link to them because you give a great orgasm? Because that’s all we are. Great sex.” Her voice became more shrill as she continued. “I told you from the beginning this was a one time time. Something to do while we were stuck here but then everything would go back to normal.”

 

She paused, waiting for his rebuttal, but he had nothing.

 

“I’ve known you for three days, but I knew them my entire life. I won’t give them up for you!”

 

It was a knife to the heart. All of the dark thoughts were true. He wasn’t good enough. He never would be.

 

 


 

 

 

She watched as he grabbed his boxers and stormed out of the room. The echo from the slamming door was nearly earth shattering. They had been so happy not five minutes before, and now everything was crumbling to the ground. She hadn’t meant to be so harsh. A part of her wanted to fall into his arms when he proposed. She wanted to say yes, but she couldn’t.

 

Emma may not have cared about his background, but Regina certainly would have torn him to pieces, destroying what little self-confidence he had been holding onto. She couldn’t let that happen. And she hadn’t been lying, Regina never would have kept her end of the deal, because as far as their circle of friends was concerned, hollywood was a joke. They were pagan idols of false worship.

 

Still, it did nothing to quash the wretchedness she felt inside at having hurt him. In fact, the only thing holding her back was Nolan Industries. Killian had struck a cord. Of course her parents wouldn’t want her to be miserable, but wouldn’t she be just as miserable if she just walked away from everything they had struggled to build without a fight? And even if Killian did have money, it wasn’t nearly enough to compare with the billions that the company was worth. They’d never be able to build anything as grand, and she wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many people.

 

She waited for a while, hoping that he would return and that they could apologize to each other. Their time together was limited and she didn’t want to spend any more of it fighting. But he didn’t return, so she gave up and tried to sleep, knowing that she needed to be up by three at the latest.

 

Sleep eluded her though. She tossed and turned for the better part of an hour, feeling no more sleepy than before. Giving up, she made her way out of bed, turning on the bedside lamp next to her. Slowly but surely, she packed everything away in her bag, everything except for her tooth brush and one of the books she had purchased. It was intended to be a gift for Killian, but now it felt silly. She couldn’t keep it though; it was his, the way she wished she could have been his.

 

Digging into her purse, she located a black pen and flipped to the final page in the last chapter of the book. The words she wrote were shaky, but legible. Something was still missing, and while she couldn’t bring herself to write the words - it felt too cruel - she could at least express the sentiment. It was a quote she had found while browsing through a George Bernard Shaw biography at the bookstore and she hoped that Killian would understand the meaning of it.

 

All I know is that you made the autumn very happy, and that I shall always be fond of you for that.

 

She closed the book and buried it in the bottom of his suitcase before packing the rest of his belongings for him as well so he wouldn’t find her gift until he was at home. His home.

 

With nothing left to do, she made her way through the house looking for him. He wasn’t in the still frozen guest room, so she went downstairs. The lower floor was encased in darkness, something symbolic of how her heart felt. She finally found him curled up on the couch, the much-too-small-for-him couch.  

 

With as much gentleness as she could muster, she peeled back the blanket he was using and slipped onto the edge of the cushion next to him. Even in his sleep, his instinct was to wrap his arm around her waist and pull her further into him. He pushed himself as far back into the backboard cushions as possible, giving her more room.

 

“Missed you.”

 

His words were addled with sleep and she wasn’t sure if he was awake or not, but he said nothing else and his breathing evened back out. Feeling much calmer in his arms, she was able to finally fall asleep. Their apologies could wait until morning.

 

The screeching sounds that jerked her awake startled her so badly that she fell off the couch onto the hardwood floor with a grunt. It was as if a dwarf were being murdered and it took her an embarrassing long time to find the source of the noise. Killian’s phone. Sometime after the fight he had set an alarm for two thirty in the morning.

 

Emma hit the off button and turned to wake up Killian, only to find him already watching her. Neither of them said anything. Her apology was on the tip of her tongue, but she was too nervous with his piercing blue eyes looking back at her.

 

Instead both of them got up. Killian headed up the stairs to, she assumed, pack. While he was gone she poured two bowls of cereal, leaving his waiting for him. It didn’t take long before he bounded back down the stairs, fully dressed with both of their suitcases in tow. He set all of their luggage next to the front door and joined her in the kitchen, only nodding at her as he took the bowl she had left for him.

 

The silence drew on to an unbearable level. Unable to find words, Emma poured the milk from her bowl, shoved it in the dishwasher and ran upstairs to brush her teeth. She found the clothes she had laid out the evening before and changed out of the shirt she had pilfered from him. She briefly considered returning the shirt to him, but his scent still lingered in the fabric and she couldn’t bring herself to part with it.

 

Just as she was rolling up the shirt, the doorbell rang, signaling that it was time to leave for the airport. She slipped on her shoes and ran downstairs. Killian was loading his suitcase into the back of the jeep, and Emma took advantage of his lack of attention to shove his shirt into her carry-on. She grabbed the handle of her suitcases and started pulling them out the door, but Killian had returned and took them from her.

 

Always a gentleman .

 

The drive to the airport was quiet as well, with the only words uttered a thank you to the driver and payment from Killian. Killian unloaded all of their luggage as Emma found a cart. Killian again nodded in appreciation but said nothing.

 

As they stood in line to check in their bags and gather their tickets, they kept a measurable amount of distance between them. They moved with the line, gathered their boarding passes, and made their way into the waiting area. Slowly people began filtering in, filling up the seats around them. Still, neither of them spoke.

 

The announcer came over the intercom, telling them that first class passengers could now begin boarding. Emma stood, ready to grab her bag, but Killian already had a firm grasp on it. They were once again seated next to each other, but said nothing as the other passengers took their places. The flight attendant tried to flirt with him again as she brought them both a glass of champagne before takeoff. Killian, for his part, wasn’t having any of it, cutting her off with a curt thank you.

 

The silence felt like a vice on her heart. Tightening more and more as each moment passed by. Finally, after the plane was safely in the air and the seatbelt sign had been turned off, Emma took his hand and curled herself into his side as much as possible.

 

“I miss you already.” She whispered so softly that she wasn’t sure he had even heard her.

 

He had though. His entire body relaxed and his arm came around her, pulling her further against him. They fell asleep in each other's arms, not waking until a different flight attendant came over to shake them slightly, telling them they were about to land and needed to fasten their seatbelts again.

 

They pulled away from each other but kept their hands clasped together, even as Killian grabbed their carry-ons. Even with only one free hand, Killian was able to grab both bags. He lead them to the pick-up area so they could grab their check-in bags, keeping his arm around her as they waited for the first of the bags to drop down. She had folded herself into him and placed her hand on his chest, finding comfort in the beating of his heart below her palm.

 

When the first bag fell, his heart sped up, and she was fairly certain hers had as well, knowing how limited their time was. More bags began to appear, his first, and finally hers.

 

He grabbed her bag off of the conveyor belt with little effort this time, passing it over to her, all while never letting go of her hand. She wouldn't have let him though even if he had tried. She wasn’t ready for this to be over, so she had held onto whatever physical contact she could. Two more of her bags had appeared, ones that she hadn’t needed during their stay in Nuuk. Before she’d had realized that she and Killian would be staying together in a house, she had worried about having all three of her oversized bags in a shared hotel room so she left them behind at the airport knowing they’d be reloaded on the next flight.

 

Their walk to the arrivals area was over far too soon and Emma could feel tears forming in her eyes. She tried blinking them back, but she was fighting a losing battle.

 

Killian tensed as they made their way down the hallway towards the large open area where passengers would be welcomed into the loving arms of their family members. Both of them seemed to slow their pace as they approached the last turn, trying to delay the inevitable. His hand tightened around hers and he came to a sudden stop, pulling her back to face him. She could see that his eyes were wet with tears as well.

 

She had to hold back a choking sob, remembering how he had pleaded with her the night before, and she was so sure he was about to do it again, to beg her to stay with him, an impossibility. But he didn’t. Instead he pulled her to him and kissed her fiercely, and for a moment, it was as if the world was on fire and they were ready to let it consume them. His right hand tangled in her hair as his left slid behind her back, holding her tightly in place. Then it was over, and he rested his forehead against hers as they both gasped for air.

 

“He’ll try to break you, to turn you into something you’re not. Don’t let him Emma. Don’t let him make you a Zelda. Fight it. I can’t live in a world where you don’t exist.” His voice was broken, and every word put a new crack in Emma’s newly mended heart.

 

He gave her one last sweet kiss on the lips, and turned, leaving her forever. The fire had devoured them, and all that was left were ashes.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The arrivals terminal at JFK was pure madness. Along with the usual family members gathering to welcome home their loved ones, a crowd of paparazzi had formed near the doors and as Killian walked by, flashes lit up the space. Men pushed and shoved their way closer to him shouting questions at him about where he had been, and if he had spoken to Milah yet. One even asked if they had an open relationship.

 

Killian pushed past, refusing to answer any of them. Once again, Emma was thankful for the anonymity her parents had provided her with. She was able to wind her way around people until she was outside without a single soul knowing who she was. Well, except for one single soul waiting next to a black town car in the arrivals loading lane. Ruby.

 

“How did you know?”

 

She hadn’t expected anyone to come a collect her, but she certainly hadn’t expected Ruby to. She hadn’t told anyone of her original flight, and without signal she hadn’t been able to tell anyone that she had been stranded in Greenland for the past few days.

 

“I’m a damn good assistant. That’s how.”

 

Emma leveled her with a look; one that said they would be having a conversation about Ruby’s sleuthing skills one day, but that, for today at least, she was grateful for them. The driver of the town car came up beside both of them and began loading Emma’s luggage in the trunk of the car.

 

“Everyone’s been so worried about you. We haven’t heard from you in days.”

 

“It’s a long story, but right now I’m tired and I just want to go home.”

 

Along with Ruby’s phenomenal snooping skills, she had a way of pulling information out of people, and Emma was certain that if she wasn’t careful, she’d quickly end up having to explain the entire sordid affair that she had had with Killian, who Ruby would most likely recognize. She wasn’t ready to discuss it and relive the heartbreak yet. Maybe not ever.

 

The driver followed Emma to the backdoor of the vehicle and opened it so that Emma could slide in. Before she could do so though, shouting caught her attention and she turned back just in time to see Killian trying to force his way through a crowd into a black SUV.

 

Their eyes met for the briefest of moments and a dozen emotions passed between them. Longing for what would never be, joy for the time that was, and sorrow for what was lost. He blinked quickly, as if he was holding back the same tears she felt in her own eyes, but then he turned and the door behind him closed. The windows were too heavily tinted to see inside. He was gone. Really and truly gone.

 

Emma ducked into the car. She couldn’t let him see her cry, let him see her regret, because as much as she wanted for things to be different, it wasn’t possible and giving him any amount of hope would have been torture.

 

“Call Graham.”

 

Ruby had barely waited until the car had moved back into traffic before jumping back into work mode, which was unusual. Emma had expected her to immediately start grilling her on the wedding, or if she had met any men while away. Before Emma could question her though, she was met with a steely gaze from Ruby who was handing her a phone with Graham’s personal cell phone number already dialed in. All she needed to do was press send.

 

The phone began ringing.

 

“Ruby, what is so urgent-”

 

“Emma?” Graham sounded shocked and nearly breathless.

 

“Hey, ya, it’s me.”

 

Emma rolled her eyes at Ruby for her dramatics but was cut off by Graham.

 

“Emma, where have you been? Ruby and I have been trying to reach you for days now.”

 

“Sorry. Like I told Ruby, it’s a long story but I didn’t have any reception and there wasn’t any wifi.”

 

“Regina acted on the three day rule!”

 

Panic. Complete panic. Emma’s blood ran cold.

 

“What? How?”

 

She understood the ‘how’. It was in the contract of the three highest ranking executives that if there was a question as to the safety of one of the board members, a standing power of attorney could be activated after three days without contact. The stipulation had come to pass after Emma’s mother’s accident. For weeks she laid in a hospital bed unresponsive, and certain aspects of her job remained unhandled as no one had the authority to approve any of it. Well, no one in the right state of mind.

 

Once David had recovered from his grief, he met with Graham Humbert, the head of the legal department. Together they had compromised on the three day clause. And while Emma had been out of the loop for the better part of a week, no one should have feared for her safety, and no one should have evoked the clause.

 

“Regina, she said she hadn’t heard from you and asked if anyone else had. When we said no she immediately demanded it.”

 

“I was fine!”

 

“But Emma, no one knew that.” His Irish lilt increased with his exasperation. “I stalled as long as I could, but she was insistent and I still couldn’t get ahold of you. There was nothing more I could do.”

 

He was sincere, but it did nothing to ease the feeling in her stomach.

 

“And what did she do with it?”

 

The was a long pause, confirming her worst fears.

 

“Graham,” she hated how her voice was cracking like a small terrified child. “What did she do?”

 

“I’m so sorry, Emma, but she took it all. She signed over all of your interest in the company to herself. You’re essentially just a regular employee now.”

 

Emma didn’t say anything else. She just hung up the phone and handed it back to Ruby. Regina was now able to run the company without any resistance, and there was nothing Emma could do. Her only hope was to accept Neal’s proposal and plead with Regina not to shut down her department. She felt a single tear roll down her cheek.

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

There was a huff from Ruby.

 

“Fine.”

 

The town car pulled up to Emma’s building and the driver helped her remove all of her bags bringing them to the door of the building where her doorman assured her they would be delivered to her apartment shortly. She thanked him, grabbing her carry-on which had stored her own cell phone and charger. The battery should have been dead after five days without charging it but somehow there was still one bar left when she tried to power it up.

 

It began chiming immediately with missed calls and text messages. Once the elevator had reached the eighteenth floor both Emma and Ruby disembarked. She wasn’t sure why Ruby was still there as she hadn’t said anything since Emma’s phone call with Graham.

 

Everything in her apartment seemed to be in order, all of it just as she had left it except for the now dying orchid on her coffee table that the housekeeper had clearly neglected. Emma made her way into her bedroom with Ruby in tow. She set her bag down and started unloading the contents, plugging the phone into an outlet to charge so that she could have enough power to actually check all of the messages.

 

Ruby flopped down on the bed next to her bag.

 

“Okay, spill.”

 

“Spill what?”

 

“Emma,” she groaned out. “You were gone for almost two weeks, half of which you were out of reach. What happened?”

 

And so the inquisition began.

 

“It was nothing really. I tried to sneak home early so I could have a few days to myself before the dinner, and there was a mechanical error so we diverted to Greenland for a few days.”

 

Ruby gave her a wolfish grin, always able to pick up on the smallest of things.

 

“We?”

 

Emma sighed.

 

“Yes, we. All five hundred of us on the plane.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“What?”

 

Deflecting wasn’t helping.

 

“And what did ‘ we’ all do while stranded in the middle of nowhere?”

 

“‘ We didn’t do anything. I stayed in and read.”

 

Ruby nodded, seeming to buy it. It wasn’t a lie per say, she had stayed in and read throughout the weekend, she was just omitting the part about Killian.

 

“Wait a minute. You said Greenland?”

 

Emma nodded.

 

“Damn! I knew that was him at the airport. Did you get to meet him?”

 

“Who?” Emma did her best to feign ignorance.

 

“Um, Killian Jones.”

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“Ugh, you and your aversion to pop culture. He’s only been voted one of the top ten hottest men on the planet four years in a row now. He’s an actor. God what I wouldn’t have given to be stranded with that man. The things I would to to that body.”

 

Ruby let out a sigh, certainly lost in her own thoughts about Killian. Emma felt a pang of jealousy.

 

“So,” Ruby started as she came out of her daydream. “Are you excited about the big family dinner?”

 

She used finger quotations over the word family, knowing how much Emma disliked Regina, and that she wasn’t completely thrilled with the arrangement she had agreed upon.

 

“Well now you’re just being mean.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Emma Nolan.”

 

Emma walked to her nightstand, grabbing her phone from its resting place. Pulling up her message stream with Regina, she had to stroll through nearly fifty missed messages before finding the one she was looking for. Without saying anything, and with no ceremony she tossed the phone to Ruby as she began unloaded her bathroom essentials from her bag.

 

She was leaning into her shower stowing away her shampoo and conditioner when she heard Ruby’s scream.

 

“Oh my God. He’s proposing tonight ?”

 

She didn’t want to think about it, but she needed to talk it through with someone, vent her frustrations.

 

“Unfortunately.”

 

“Sweety, you know you don’t have to do this. I know Regina threw a wrench in everything, but still. This is forever, it’s not something you should rush into.”

 

She sounded just like Killian.

 

“I know, but I’m not rushing into it. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now, and as much as I absolutely despise the idea, I can’t think of another way around it.”

 

Ruby tilted her head.

 

“I’ve always known that your heart wasn’t in this, but I’ve never heard you vocalize it. What’s changed?”

 

Killian . Killian Jones had changed everything. He had shown her what it meant to be loved and respected. He had shown her that she could be happy without trying to mold herself to someone else’s expectation. He had imprinted on her heart, and no one would ever measure up.

 

“Just knowing that it’s actually here, I guess.”

 

Ruby stayed as Emma finished unpacking her carry on and helped her pick out an outfit for the dinner. She had tried to insist that Emma wear the red lace dress, stating that she knew Emma hadn't worn it yet and a dress like that deserved to be seen. Emma couldn’t do it though. She didn’t want to taint her memories of their night together with the dread of this evening in her memories. Even if she never wore the dress again, it could still hang in the back of her closet to remind her of him.

 

Instead, she settled on a gold dress that would fit the Christmas theme, which also had a high enough neckline to cover the mark that Killian had left the day before. Ruby stayed long enough to help Emma with her makeup and hair, saving Emma from the stress of trying to find a balance between enough and too much. The dinner would be formal, despite the only guests being Regina, Neal, Neal’s father Robert Gold, and herself. There was no need to go all out for a table of four in Gold’s extravagant apartment, she thought.

 

As Ruby was leaving, Emma heard the doorbell ring, and Ruby yelled back to her telling her that the rest of her luggage was waiting for her in the living room. Emma considered unpacking it, but one look at the alarm clock told her there wasn’t enough time. Luckily Ruby had thought far enough ahead while she was getting ready to call for a car to take her to the Upper East Side.

 

By the time she had dug out the matching purse, she was running dangerously close to being late, something Regina had chastised her for on numerous occasions. She almost forgot to grab the gifts she had already wrapped. It was odd. The city was unseasonably warm, and her apartment was devoid of all decorations. It didn’t feel like Christmas to her, but nonetheless, she had in her arms three small wrapped presents as she slid into the waiting car.

 

The drive from her Lower Manhattan building didn’t take long. Sometimes she resented how close she lived to all of the wealthy and elite playmakers of the city. It was a life she wanted nothing to do with, but with her crazy work schedule, she wanted an apartment that didn’t take an hour to drive to after work, so she chose a place eleven blocks away from her office.

 

When she arrived at Gold’s apartment, she was surprised to find that what Neal had described as a ‘comfortable living space’ was actually the full nine floors of his building. She was greeted at the door by a man in a gentleman’s suit. It angered her that neither Neal nor Gold could even bother to greet their own guests.

 

As she was ushered through the house up seven full flights of stairs, causing her to curse her shoe choice, Emma couldn’t help but notice the gold enveloping everything. Her guide for the evening noticed her taking in the house and informed her that the home was inspired by the Palace of Versailles and had been in the family since it was built.

 

Emma thought it was gotty, but complemented it anyway, not wanting to be rude. It was becoming more and more clear where Neal’s horrible taste came from. The ring it would seem was a demure choice if the apartment was any indication of the way Neal had been raised to appreciate things.

 

As she hit the top of the grand staircase, she heard Regina’s fake laugh ring out. The man led her into a large reception room, where a handful of people were gathered around talking about something that Emma was certain she would find dull.

 

“Ems!”

 

Neals voice boomed through the room as he walked over to her and kissed her. Their first kiss, one that should have been done in private was playing out in front of a room full of people and Emma felt trapped. She wanted nothing more than to push him off of her and run away, but with so many eyes upon them, she knew she had to play the role of doting girlfriend, so she kissed him back with what little enthusiasm she could muster. It wasn’t much, equalled only by how little she wanted him to kiss her, or even by how little she enjoyed it.

 

He smiled at her and winked, but it wasn’t nearly as endearing as Killian’s attempts, which had been more like an uncoordinated blinks.

 

Killian .

 

That needed to stop. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life comparing Neal to Killian. Not unless she wanted to be completely miserable until her dying day. She needed to put in some effort, try to make the best of a bad situation.

 

Neal grabbed her hand and yanked on it until she was following him back to the crowd.

 

“Ms. De Vil, Lady Tremaine, Mr. and Mrs. Balthazar, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Emma Nolan.”

 

So much for an intimate affair.

 

Emma had never met any of them personally, but she had heard their names before. They were the elite of the elite. Old money built on aristocracy and nepotism. With them backing Gold, he was certain to get his party's nomination, and very likely to win the election he had just announced his run for.

 

After all, that was the entire reason that Neal needed a wife. Senator Gold was running for President, the ultimate show of power. His platform was based on a family centered campaign, and he wanted to show voters a softer side of him, one that didn’t actually exist. He had recently remarried, and was grooming Neal to run for the senatorial seat that he would need to vacate soon. Their election strategist had informed them that if Neal truly wanted to endear himself to voters, he should find himself a proper and polished wife.

 

Emma wasn’t sure how Regina had managed to claw her way into Gold’s inner circle, but there was no way she was going to simply let it fall through her boney fingers. That’s how the agreement had been reached. Gold and Neal agreed that Emma was the perfect candidate for wife material. She would look beautiful on Neal’s arm, she was well educated, and they had already planned to use her tragic backstory as a spun story of triumph.

 

“Emma Nolan,” said one of the women. “Would you have anything to do with Nolan Industries?”

 

Emma nodded politely.

 

“Yes ma’am. My mother and father created the company after they graduated.”

 

Regina managed to cover her groan with a cough, but there was no mistaking the way she wanted to level Emma with her eyes at the mention of Emma’s mother.

 

“Ah, new money.” It was from the anorexic looking woman to Emma left.

 

Before the conversation could continue, a bell rang, signaling that dinner was ready to be served. Gold ushered all of the guests into the dining room on the other side of the floor. The table was filled with more gold and fancy silk linens.

 

Emma waited for the other’s to take their seat, not knowing what her place was in any of this. One empty chair remained next to Neal, who was already seated. She had to force herself to look past his poor manners.

 

The dinner was tense. She barely spoke, but no one noticed as they each tried to outdo one another with their stories, each trying to assert their dominance. Neal paid her no attention during the meal, and she found that she was grateful for it, not wanting to put any further effort into faking her affections for any more time than neccesary.

 

Around the fingerbowl service, the conversation shifted to Gold’s campaign. He was using the dinner to make a formal announcement of sorts for his campaign. Previously only a few people knew that he was seriously considering running, but now everything would become official. Emma viewed him as the antichrist. He was against every opinion that represented humanity. He believed that gay marriage was an abomination, that the military was highly over paid. He wanted women to maintain the household rather than an executive office. He wanted more tax breaks for the wealthy, while noting that if people really wanted to make something of themselves, they should attend better universities.

 

All of his guests nodded in agreement. The only person with enough sense to look ashamed of him was his wife, a young woman who until very recently curated for the New York Public Library. She had quit her job not long after becoming engaged to Robert Gold, a move which Emma was now certain that she had been pressured into doing.

 

Emma wondered if Neal would expect her to vacate her position as well. It was bad enough that they had already discussed how many children they would have and placed it in a written contract. None of it was the romantic situation that little girls dreamed of.

 

Emma bit her tongue though, remembering what was at stake.

 

Once the meal was finished, all of the guests were led upstairs to an outdoor balcony. The staircase was filled with more tapestries and antique oil paintings, just as the ones she had passed on her way up earlier. Eight floors and she had yet to see a Christmas tree or any decorations, making her feel foolish for even bothering to bring gifts.

 

As the doors to the balcony opened, a gust of wind hit her and she regretted not holding on to her winter jacket. In an attempt to warm herself up she ran her hands up and down her arms. She caught Neal’s eye, her discomfort in the cold obvious, but he made no move to offer her his jacket. Her heart ached for Killian. He would have offered her everything he had if he thought it would have made her happy.

 

She was brought out of her thoughts by a loud bang, followed by bright flashes lighting up the night sky.

 

“Do you like it? It was my idea and Regina said you would love it.”

 

She startled, not realizing how close Neal was to her.

 

“It’s lovely.”

 

It wasn’t.

 

Emma stood at the railing on the eighth floor terrace of Gold's ostentatious 5th Avenue apartment, watching the spectacle unfolding over Central Park. Thinking back through the evening, the dinner had been elegant, although that was to be expected with nearly unlimited funds to spend on caterers, wait staff, and decorators. Regina and Gold had spared no expense on the event - including the Christmas Fireworks show at what Emma could have only assumed was at the expense of her company. With the announcement of Robert Gold's impending presidential run earlier in the evening had come a variety of worst case scenarios for Emma to mentally contend with, all of which had chosen that moment to permeate into her brain. Everything from that point on was going to be filled with false promises and false lives. To the rest of the world she would have to project the image of the ultimate loving and supportive spouse.

 

The idea was suffocating enough before, but now every time she found herself glancing over in Neal's direction, all she could think about was how dull the color of his eyes was, even in the fraction of a second that they reflected the blue flames exploding in the night sky.

 

She knew what she had signed up for, she knew that this amounted to nothing more than a business transaction, at least for her, and that part she could handle. Perhaps she could grow to care for him in time. But for now, the eyes were all wrong and it felt like a dagger piercing her through the heart when he caught her watching him and winked in her direction.

 

And that was the moment he took a misinterpreted cue as the perfect time to pull out the diamond ring that had haunted her dreams. The wrong ring, the wrong eyes, the wrong man. But when he got down on his knee in front of everyone, she was helpless to say no.

 

“I know that our time together has been brief, but I knew as soon as I met you that you were special. I can’t think of anyone better to spend the rest of my life with. Emma Nolan, will you marry me?”

 

All of the air rushed out of her and her eyes began to well with tears.

 

“Yes.” Her voice was shaky.

 

Neal placed the ring on her finger. It was a bad fit and would need to be adjusted, something symbolic of their union. After some tugging, the ring was on her finger. Neal stood and wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting a spinning her around in front of everyone.

 

Applause broke out around them, and soon everyone was coming over to congratulate them. Most of them had mistaken Emma’s tears for ones of joy. The only one who knew the truth was Regina, who was standing back away from everyone. When Emma caught her gaze, Regina had a wicked grin in place, knowing that she had succeeded in ruining Emma’s life.

 

“This is wonderful, really.”

 

Regina’s grin had turned devious.

 

“Perhaps you two lovebirds should announce your engagement on some form of social media.”

 

It was Lady Tremaine who cut in next.

 

“Doesn’t that seem awfully drull? A proper announcement should be made in the Times.”

 

“And I would normally agree,” interrupted Regina. “But with Neal getting ready for run for a senate seat, he’ll need to target a younger group of voters.”

 

“I agree with Regina. Bae, why don’t you do as Regina has suggested.” Gold interjected.

 

“Bae?” It was a whisper.

 

“My first name, but I go by Neal.”

 

Emma sucked in a breath, realizing how very little she knew of the man she was now betrothed to. Neal made his way to stand behind her so that the fireworks show could be seen in the background. One of his arms snaked around her waist while the other brought Emma’s hand up in front of her chest, showcasing the large diamond monstrosity.

 

“Smile, you two!”

 

Emma felt nauseous as she plastered the biggest fake smile she could on her face and a flash and click went off on Neal’s phone. Regina handed it back to Neal, which he used to post the picture to every social media site he could think of with the caption:

 

She said yes! #Engaged #TheBigRevealWithEmmaAndNeal

 

In less than twenty four hours, Emma had lost the lost the love of her life, her company, and sold her soul to the devil.

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

 

Walking away after kissing her had been one of, if not the , most difficult thing Killian had ever done. All he wanted to do was flee the airport and hide out in his apartment for the rest of eternity. Unfortunately, there was an army of paparazzi blocking the path between him and a small measure of freedom.

 

They were relentless, placing their cameras directly in his face as they clicked their shutters. Lights blinded him from every direction. He was getting bounced around in a mob of arms and legs, pushing and shoving, trying to get the best shot. He was about twenty seconds away from considering the rolling suitcase behind him a lost cause when airport security finally interceded, helping to form a blockade of sorts for him to pass through.

 

He wasn’t surprised. Not really, anyway. It was rare enough for anyone he knew to meet him at the airport, and with it being Christmas Day, he was certain Smee was taking the day off to be with family. Still, it stung to know that he had no one that cared enough to came and collect him.

 

The driver stowed his luggage in the back of the vehicle while Killian continued to fight his way to the passenger side door. The airport security were doing their best, but between the paparazzi and the newly gathered fans vying for pictures and autographs, it was too much for four men to handle.

 

He finally made it to the door, but as he swung it open, a shimmer of gold caught in the corner of his eye and he turned to find Emma watching him. That was the moment he understood the true meaning of wearing your heart on your sleeve. Everything either of them had felt was mirrored in each other’s faces. The small smile she gave him screamed ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’. He searchered her face for any hint or regret. He only needed the smallest of indications that she might still want him and he’d be by her side, even if it meant leaping over the crowd surrounding him. There was nothing though. She schooled her features and he ducked into the car as quickly as possible, not wanting her to see the weakness he was feeling.

 

The SUV let out a squeal as the driver stomped on the gas trying to get away from everyone and Killian felt as if he could finally breathe again without a hundred pairs of eyes trying to analyse his every move. He pushed himself back into the seat, letting his shoulders drop and his eyes fall shut. He wasn’t sure what he would find when he returned to his Tribeca loft, so he took the thirty minute drive to steel himself.

 

Knowing Milah the way he did, he assumed the place would be ransacked at best. Milah’s taste had always bordered on pretentious, only seeking the most expensive and exclusive items she could find, and while the loft was technically under his name, for the past few years they had made it their home. The only reason Milah’s name wasn’t on the deed was because Smee, Robin, and Will had argued vehemently against it. They all knew of Milah’s wandering eye and had never thought she was good enough for him, but he had naively defended her.

 

Now he was grateful for their meddling, but the fact remained that many of the items in the house had been purchased by Killian at Milah’s behest, and she had unrestricted access to everything. He feared that he’d return home to an empty apartment. Not that he held an affinity for most of the items. They held too many memories of of Milah and the pain she brought him, completely overshadowing all of the good times. He intended to replace most of the furniture regardless of what he found, but there was a necklace that belonged to Liam as well as his mother’s wedding ring.They were irreplaceable, and after losing Emma earlier that day, he wasn’t sure that he would survive losing his last link to Liam and their mum.

 

It was that thought that sent his head spinning. He had been far too harsh on Emma before, not understanding how much her company must have really meant to her. She could buy new office furniture, name a new company, create something similar. She could probably even pilfer many of the staff members, but it would never be the same. She wouldn’t walk the hallways her mother and father had. She wouldn’t see their faces in her memory when she turned a corner. It wouldn’t have their souls, and he finally understood.

 

Even so, while he understood where Emma was coming from, he was fairly certain that he’d give up everything in a heartbeat if it meant being with her, even the family tokens. That wasn’t an option though, and that was all he had left. That and a photograph hidden deep within his phone.

 

Traffic was brutal as people dashed around the city trying to hit up as many parties as possible. Secretly, he was grateful for the extra time, not ready to face the beast. He had sent Milah a text message the evening before telling her that he wanted her out by the time he returned, so there was a certain amount of joy knowing that he wouldn’t need to see her right away.

 

Robin had promised to be there though with his wife and son, taking off one day from the adventure and recreation theme park they owned along with Will to help prepare a Christmas feast. There was a large amount of chocolate hidden away in one of Killian’s bags with Roland’s name on it, and he was excited to see the look on the little boy’s face when he found the Kinder eggs, a family favourite.

 

When the vehicle pulled up to the building, the driver moved to get out, but Killian stopped him. He was perfectly capable and willing to do things for himself, despite his reputation. He tipped the driver and yanked his suitcases out of the back. He usually travelled pretty lightly so he only had one large bag in addition to his carry-on.

 

He stood at the entrance to his building and took a deep breath. It wasn’t the nicest or tallest building in Manhattan, but it was in a prime location, and he owned the top two floors of the six story complex. There wasn’t a doorman like there was at Robin’s place, or a fancy entrance room like there was at Will’s, but it was secure and good enough. If Liam had been alive, he would have chastised him for wasting so much money on a place that was far too large for him.

 

More and more thoughts of his brother had been running through his mind over the last few days. Long ago, he had worried that Liam would have been ashamed of the man he had become, so he locked those thoughts away, deep in the back of his mind, but Emma had forced him to confront those fears once again. She had helped him see it from another angle. Yes, Liam would have been horrified to see the man Killian had become, but it wasn’t too late to make him proud of the man he was.

 

He was sober now, and ready to reclaim his life. Milah would soon be out of the picture for good. His home would be full of good friends, good food, and he’d make new, happier memories. Letting out a breath, and feeling lighter, he tapped out his security code and made his way inside through the lobby to the elevator. He inserted his key and pushed the number five to gain access to his loft, ready to eat.

 

What he hadn’t expected was to be greeted by Robin as soon as the elevator door opened. Before he could step off of the lift, Robin had pushed his way on, hitting the ‘door closed’ button as he did so.

 

“Why didn’t you warn me?” Robin’s shout was highly out of character.

 

“Warn you of what, exactly?”

 

“That you were together!”

 

“I- I- How’d you find out?”

 

They weren’t together. He knew that, but if someone had seen them together, taken a picture of them together, there was no telling how many people thought that the blonde siren he had spent the weekend with were something more. The same way he wished they were.

 

“What do you mean? She’s in there!”

 

His brain knew that it was too good to be true. He had left the airport before her and had driven straight to his place. Even if she had had an epiphany and left immediately after him, there was simply no way she could have beat him there. There was no way she could have gotten into the building, much less accessed the elevator to his loft.

 

His head knew that, but his heart had it’s own ideas as it began beating wildly in his chest screaming at the possibility. Perhaps her driver knew of a short cut, and if she had made it to the apartment, she could have easily slipped in with another tenant. He was ready to thank every God that ever existed that he had had the foresight to charge her phone enough to input all of his contact information. It wasn’t logical, but neither was love.

 

Killian thumbed the button to open the doors. When it didn’t immediately grant him access to his place, he began impatiently tapping it over and over until the doors gave way. Without sparing a glance back to Robin, he ran inside. Looking around, she wasn’t in the entry and the only people he found in the living room were his expected guests, who he noted looked slightly uncomfortable. He would have to explain, but when he heard a noise from the kitchen, he decided his friend’s discomfort could wait.

 

Skidding to a stop on the hardwood floors, he saw a slim figure tucked away behind the open refrigerator door. A wide grin spread on his face as he approached her, the taste of her kiss still fresh in his mind. Then the fridge door closed and his jaw fell, mouth agape.

 

“What the bloody hell are you doing here?”

 

His mood immediately shifted. Satan herself stood before him in all of her glory.

 

“Killy! You’re here.”

 

“Milah,” he growled out.

 

The devil moved towards him and held her hands out with a bright beaming smile, as if nothing had happened.

 

“Kil, look. I know I screwed up, but it wasn’t- It didn’t mean anything. I want to fix us. I want to make this right.”

 

If he hadn’t worked side by side with her, he may have actually believed the sincerity in her eyes, but he knew that of all of the ways his angry mind had thought to describe her, she was first and foremost a damn good actress.

 

“There’s nothing to fix.”

 

He would never hit a woman, but God did he want to right now. Not that Milah was a woman; she was a bloody demon in disguise.

 

“No, I’m not leaving.”

 

Killian started to turn on his heel, ready to grab anything and everything that belonged to her so he could remove every trace of her from his life, hoping that she might go with it, but she grabbed his arm before he could leave the room.

 

“What is it you always say? A man who isn’t willing to fight deserves what he gets. Well, I deserve this. I deserve a second chance!”

 

“A second chance? Try a ninth chance, Milah. And those are just the ones I know about. Your clunge has seen more action that your stunt double has!”

 

Her eyes widened and he realized what he had said. It was hardly a word he would have used piss drunk, much less sober but he had been so infuriated that he had lost his head. His chin was damp from spittle.

 

“You listen to me, Killian Jones. We’ve both made mistakes here, but you have no right to speak to me that way!”

 

It was a typical Milah move, to turn herself into the victim so he’d grovel for her forgiveness. He wouldn’t take the bait this time though. His thoughts flew to Emma, and how she’d tell him to take the high road, to overcome who he was.

 

His hand ran through his hair before falling to his face, where his fingers pinch the bridge of his nose.

 

“You’re right. That was out of line, for that I apologize. But make no mistake, I have no desire to continue whatever this ,” he gestured between them, “is.”

 

“Kil, it wasn’t my fault. He took me out to dinner under the pretense of discussing a role he wanted me for and then he got me drunk and took advantage of me. I didn’t want to be with him.”

 

How had she not won an Oscar yet?

 

His head fell back and he took a deep breath.

 

“It’s never your fault. There’s always an excuse with you, love.”

 

The endearment fell from his lips as a force of habit, but Milah’s blue eyes gleamed with a spark of hope.

 

“Kil-”

 

“This conversation is over. Please grab whatever you need and leave so I can continue my Christmas holiday in pleasant company.”

 

With that he turned, leaving the kitchen and bypassing his guest, and threw up a hand signaling for them to wait. Sliding the glass door open from the living room he slipped out onto his balcony and took out his phone to dial Smee.

 

The conversation went mostly as expected. Both men exchanged pleasant holiday greetings before moving into work mode. Killian felt slightly guilty, but he wanted to make sure that his name was thrown in for the movie role before it was too late, and he needed to talk to Smee instead of simply texting him to convey the importance of it. It wasn’t a whim; it was a promise that he needed to keep.

 

Smee assured him that he would do everything he could to get Killian an audition, but that Killian would need to do some things as well, including making up with Milah if only for the sake of the media.  Killian groaned, not wanting to concede, but Smee reminded him how well loved Milah was to the public and how manipulative she could be. It would be too easy for her to turn everything around on him.

 

The idea of staying with her, even for show, sickened him. It was made even worse when Smee informed him that they would need to continue living together, and that they had a public appearance scheduled together for New Years Eve, co-hosting a countdown show for a major cable network. It was not the fresh start to the new year that he was hoping for.

 

Killian understood Smee’s concerns, and agreed to play along with Milah, but only until the movie was cast, whether he got it on not. After ending the conversation, Killian went back into the living room to explain the situation to his friends. Robin and Will were livid on his behalf, and Marion took him in her arms, knowing how much pain he’s in. Her words were soft and should have been comforting, but it was not the voice he longed to hear.

 

The conversation with Milah was unpleasant at best. He felt like an injured animal and Milah was the predator, sensing the weakness, ready to pounce and maul him. In the end, they compromised, except he wasn’t sure if it could be considered a compromise when he got nothing that he wanted, and she somehow managed to get everything. They wouldn’t share a bedroom, but they would continue sharing the loft.

 

He wouldn’t need to make a formal announcement regarding their relationship as Milah felt it was best to simply sweep everything under the rug. They would make their public appearances together and act like a doting couple and hope that people would instinctively know that they’d chosen to move past the scandal.

 

Christmas dinner was horrible and awkward. Robin and Marion, who were initially in charge of cooking dinner, had both refused to feed Milah. It was childish, and while a small part of him cheered them on, he didn’t have the luxury of joining in, so he ordered food from the only place that was open and still delivering. The greasy egg rolls were the topping on the cake for how wretched his day had gone.

 

That morning, he thought walking away from Emma was the hardest thing he’d ever have to do in his life, but now, faced with the idea of spending time with Milah, he wasn’t sure. The only thing that kept him on his path was the promise he had made to Emma, one that he damn sure intended on keeping. The only bright spot of the evening had been young Roland. He was possibly the world’s happiest child and his smile and laughter were infectious.

 

Once dinner had been finished and all of the take out boxes had been disposed of, Robin and his family left, citing that is was far past Roland’s bedtime. For his part, the lad had made his best effort to stay awake, but had only made it long enough to break open his fortune cookie before passing out on the floor in front of the fireplace. It had felt strange having the fireplace on considering how oddly warm it was outside, but he was determined to salvage whatever he could from the day.

 

Milah had retreated upstairs to shower, leaving only Will behind.

 

“Okay, Jones. Let’s have it.”

 

Killian’s eyes darted to the glass of rum held tightly in Will’s hand. He could almost hear the golden nectar calling to him as Will began his interrogation. His fingers twitched at his side as he fought the urge.

 

“I’ve already told you. Smee has given me strict instructions. We’re not actually together again, you know.”

 

“Ya, you said that, mate. But I know ya better that anyone and you’ve never been one to knuckle under, now have you?”

 

“And just what is it you’re getting at, mate.”

 

He popped the final T, a sign of his obvious irritation. Will would have been a fool not to pick up on it.

 

“Oi. There’s no need to take that tone with me. I’m just say’n, you never listen to him, so either you’ve got another reason you’re puttin up with this sham, or you’re weaker than I thought. So which is it?”

 

“I assure you it’s not the latter, but that’s all you’re getting.”

 

Will nodded thoughtfully. He hadn’t been lying before. He and Killian had met at university, both working towards a theater degree. Will had been picked up by a popular Nottingham singer to star in one of his music videos. From there, his popularity rose and he was offered a role in an American adaptation of a fan favorite British comedy show. He wasn’t a huge movie star by any means, but he did well enough, and it was he who had convinced Killian to come to America after Liam’s death.

 

Will had introduced him to Robin in a show of ex-patriotism and soon enough Marion had joined their merry band. Robin was around less and less and he and Marion became serious, eventually marrying and having Roland. It was Will who stuck around in his darkest hours, and he knew he should be grateful and not try to alienate one of the few friends he had left in the world, but he was at the end of his rope.

 

Emma wasn’t a dirty secret, but he was highly protective of her, and he knew that if given all of the information, Will would likely deem Emma as just as evil as Milah. All he would hear was that she lead him on and threw him away, using him. He’d never understand that Emma at one point had been just as broken as Killian, but that she’d been strong enough to save herself. Will wouldn't understand that Emma was just as trapped as he was. He didn't know what it was like to face losing everything that had ever meant anything to you. He wouldn't understand the way Killian loved her after only a few days, and Killian couldn’t bear to let Will try to sully his memories,

 

"Ya, we'll see about that."

 

Will set the drink down on the coffee table and brushed past Killian towards the front door. He hailed the lift, waiting for it to arrive on the fifth floor. The doors opened and Will stepped in, finally turning back to Killian.

 

"I can't watch you do this again. You're like family to me, and I won't stand by while you continue to throw your life away."

 

With that, the elevator doors closed, and Killian was left standing alone, the ground below him crumbling to pieces and there was nothing he could do but watch it all fall apart. He made his way into the living room and his eyes immediately drifted to the tumbler left on the coffee table. It still beckoned to him, and while he had every intention of pouring it down the sink, when he picked it up, he couldn’t help but feel a longing for the way the crafted glass felt wrapped in his fingers. Even held to his side, he could smell the amber liquid, he could taste the way it melted around his tongue without taking even one sip.

 

It had been a horrible day, and no one would fault him for caving just this once. The glass was cold as he tilted it against his lips in anticipation of the relief the alcohol would bring him. One sip would lead to one glass, and to one bottle. It would help dull his emotions, help him forget his problems. It was the answer to everything, but as he tilted the tumbler ever so slightly more, he closed his eyes, and images rushed before him. Stumbling onto the plane, yelling at Emma. Even further back, nearly falling off of his balcony as he cursed the sky for everything that had ever happened to him. He could feel the bruises on his knuckles from the bar fights, the warmth of other men's blood on his fist.

 

He wanted nothing more than to forget. No one could fault him, not even Emma. She would forgive him for it afterwards, but first she'd tell him not to do it. She'd tell him to fight the darkness inside of him. She would tell him that he was worth something and that she believed in him.

 

But she wasn't there. She couldn't tell him any of those things because she left. He wasn't enough for her. He'd never been enough.

 

The rage built inside of him, as did the hatred and self loathing. The pain, and sorrow. All of it. Everything. The anger became too much as the war raged inside him, so much so that his hands tightened around the glass so hard that it cracked in his hand. The rum began dripping down to the gash that had formed across his palm, and it hurt. He focused on it, on the pain, trying to funnel everything he felt into it, to push out everything.

 

It wasn't enough. He wasn't enough.

 

The rum taunted him, running down his hand, his arm, everywhere but his mouth. He'd only need to tilt it just a bit more and everything would stop. He'd go numb. But that's not who she wanted him to be. Not who he wanted to be anymore. With what little strength and courage he had left, he threw the tumbler across the room. The shattering glass echoed out as it hit the wall. Pieces flew everywhere, and the remaining rum soaked the Bansky painting that Milah had simply had to have. It was fitting in a way. One of his demons ruining the other.

 

The noise must have drawn her out of her self imposed exile.

 

"What was that? Killian, your hand!"

 

He looked down to find blood running down his wrist dripping onto the wood floor. A laugh erupted from him, slightly maniacal and he wasn't completely sure that he wasn't losing his sanity.

 

"What's so funny?"

 

She actually managed to look concerned for him as she ran into the kitchen and reemerged with a damned dish towel.

 

"I was just thinking how brilliant it was that I never bought that hideous rug you wanted because it would be ruined now, just like everything else."

 

She sighed and furrowed her brow.

 

"How much?"

 

"How much what?"

 

"How much did you have to drink?"

 

The sound that escaped him was damn near a cackle. At first he wasn't even sure if it had come from him, but the utter confusion on Milah's face confirmed it.

 

"Not a drop. I'm completely sober and seeing clearly for the first time in years."

 

"You're angry," she started as she patted at his wound with the towel. "I know I've messed up. We both have. I should have talked to you, explained how alone I've felt over the past few months. You've been so distant, and I didn't know how to handle it, so when he showed me affection, showed me longing, I couldn't help myself. But Killian, I want this to work. I want us to work."

 

"I thought he got you drunk. That's what you said before."

 

"He did. I was drunk when I felt all of those things. Not in my right mind. Sweetheart, I meant what I said. I'm so sorry, and I can't bare the thought it losing you. I'll do whatever it takes."

 

He took the towel from her, wrapping it around his palm and wrist.

 

"I'm tired and I want to go to bed. Are you taking the master or the guest room?"

 

Judging by the victorious smile on her face, she had clearly misunderstood him.

 

"I'll sleep in the master."

 

"Then I'll take the guest room."

 

He only waited long enough to watch her jaw drop to the floor before he went back to the entryway to pick up his discarded luggage from earlier. Mindful of the blood soaking the rag in his hand, he carried the two bags upstairs into the smaller room on the opposite side of the floor. He left the larger one against the wall, and dug into his smaller carry on searching for his toothbrush and toothpaste as well as his shower stuff.

 

The shower helped him relax slightly, and it also helped to wash off the grime he had picked up from hours of traveling. When he stepped out of the shower, he put on his boxers, and then paused, remembering that he was using his guest room - which was ridiculous considering it was his place. The problem was, though, that the guest room hadn’t been fully refinished after Milah’s latest attempt at redecorating and there weren’t any curtains or blinds.

 

He walked out just far enough to reach his larger bag and make quick work of digging out a pair of sweatpants and a henley shirt, wondering slightly where his favorite t-shirt was, wondering if it had accidentally been left behind in Nuuk. He made a mental note to contact the owners of the rented space to check.

 

It was dark outside. A beautiful star filled night, but it paled in comparison to the gorgeous blue and green night skies he had experienced before. Deciding that the crisp night air would feel nice in the overly warm room, he opened the door leading to a small balcony, thankful that it didn’t overlook the one from the master room. As he opened the door though, a loud booming noise filled the room.

 

At first he wondered if it was gunshots, but as it continued at a consistent pace, he noticed the sky lighting up in brilliant colors in the distance and realized it was fireworks exploding from somewhere in the city. Considering the direction they seemed to come from, he’d guess it was near central park, and while he still often found himself surprised at American holiday traditions, he’d lived in the states long enough to know that fireworks weren’t a customary Christmas tradition. It must have been a special celebration for someone, and as crappy as his day had been, he couldn’t help but hope that somewhere out there, that whoever was celebrating was having a better day than him.

Chapter Text

 

 


 

 

 

After the party, Neal had tried to take Emma home to her apartment, expecting to solidify their deal in a more carnal way. The idea of having sex with him sickened her though. It wasn't that he was particularly disgusting, but when measured against Killian, Neal was found severely lacking. And while surprised at the brazenness with which he approached the situation, she knew that at some point, she would have to sleep with him. Part of the agreement included a minimum of two children, and she'd never been enough of a fool to believe in immaculate conception.

 

The problem though, was that if she tried hard enough, focused enough, she could still feel Killian’s touch ghosting over her body, She felt his tongue delving inside of her, his hips jutting against hers in perfect harmony, his warm breath against her skin. She could still vaguely smell his cologne on the t shirt she had pilfered from him.

 

In the weeks that had followed their parting, Emma had taken to wearing that shirt to bed every night. His scent had long faded away, and she ached for the loss. She missed him dearly. Neal had continued to make advances unto her. His kiss at the Christmas party had left her nauseous, and each one since had left her with grief and guilt, as if every press of Neal's lips against hers were a betrayal to Killian. They weren't together, so why did it feel as if she were cheating on him?

 

She'd also hated that her engagement to Neal had been announced so quickly. Not only was she suddenly in the limelight that she had spent her entire lifetime shying away from, but nothing of hers seemed to be off limits. Journalist were constantly trying to contact her for meetings under false pretenses of needing her company's services. People were following her around taking photos of her as she did her weekly grocery shopping, as if picking up tomatoes held some sort of entertainment value. Her picture was popping up on internet sites as people searched out the stores her clothes were from.

 

All of that was bad enough, but it wasn't the part she most dreaded. Three days after the announcement of their engagement, Senator Gold announced his official bid for presidency. With it came a whirlwind of media focus on her relationship with Neal, and there was no way anyone who watched the news could have missed that stupid, awful Christmas picture of them. There was no way Killian could have missed it, and it killed her, knowing that he was probably in pain. It was torture.

 

Had none of that been enough to destroy her, Regina had been in rare form since the engagement. Regina was well aware of the power she now held over Emma, lording it over her each time she wanted Emma to do something. Emma's days were spent completely overwhelmed with every task that Regina could think up, or making some sort of public appearance with Neal as to appear as a happily devoted couple, and each time he upped the show of physical affection, unconcerned with her level of discomfort. She had to remind Neal on more than one occasion that he and his father were both running a family values campaign. It had been the only saving grace as she reminded him how it would look if anyone saw one of them emerge from the other’s apartment after staying the evening.

 

It wasn't until three weeks after she returned that she finally had time to sort through all of the luggage she had returned from London with. The bags had remained on the floor of her large walk in closet since the bellman had brought them up, and she had found all of her essentials neatly stowed away in her carry on bag. With the sudden cancellation of a dinner with Neal so that he could meet with his campaign strategist, she finally had the time to catch up on unpacking.

 

She had four bags to unpack, and most of them contained clothing from the wedding week. With the multitude of bridal parties, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, private lunches, tea times, and hen parties - each of which requiring her to never repeat any articles of clothing - she had been packed to the brim. Only one of the suitcases had contained regular clothes for relaxation, and it was the only one she had chosen to uncheck while in Nuuk, leaving the other three to remain with the airline, trying to not to take up too much space on the transportation buses. Had she known at the time that Killian would have hired private transport, or that he would have planned dates, she probably would have taken at least another suitcase. Maybe even the one that contained the lingerie she had purchased while still in London.

 

It was better that way though, not having the lingering guilt each time she wore them in the presence of Neal, trying to mentally prepare herself for the wedding night. The reason she had purchased any of it in the first place; a show of good faith. But that was before Killian, before the amazing sex, before she knew how he could undress her with only his teeth. Before she knew his soul. And now, there she sat, toying with the edges of the gift he had left for her that she had only just now found.

 

Her eyes stung with longing as she ran her fingertips up and down the spine of the book, knowing that it was another thing he had touched, one of her last two links to the man that had stolen her heart. She flipped through the first couple of pages, taking in the title page; Pygmalion . She had seen the movie My Fair Lady , but had never read the play on which it was based. She was fairly certain that there was a message hidden within it's pages for her. His last words echoing through her head.

 

He’ll try to break you, to turn you into something you’re not.

 

As she hit the end of the book, she found his curly handwriting taking up a large part of the back cover. Her heart both leapt and fell as the sight of it.

 

“Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.”

 

My darling Emma. Please don’t ever mistake the disappointment in my heart for disappointment in you. You are the greatest soul that I have ever known, and I understand the burden upon you. You were never truly mine, you always belonged to something greater. I know this now, but please understand that from the moment we met, I was yours, forever and always.

 

All of my love,

 

Killian

 

At the time, when he had told her the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Emma had thought that he was comparing Fitzgerald’s relationship to that of his own. Milah had cheated on him and he had become a shell of his former self, just as Zelda had in the wake of her husband’s constant betrayals, and perhaps he had been referring to himself to a point, but he had been talking about her and Neal as well. She just hadn't understood it yet. They weren’t even married yet and she could already feel pieces of herself being stripped away.

 

With only an hour to spare before she needed to sleep, Emma started reading the first act. It was a more somber affair than she remembered from the movie, something that she preferred. Two men, Mr. Higgins and the Colonel find Eliza selling flowers. They go on to make a bet, that they can remodel Eliza through speech and finishing lessons and that everyone would believe her to be a woman of high breeding rather than the low class cockney girl that she was.

 

Audrey Hepburn had always been too beautiful a woman to play the part of a mundane character, incredibly flawed and overlooked by society, except in the scope of the world's rejection. She had never been able to emphasize with Eliza's character in the movie, with her endearing quirky personality traits. The literary version of her was much more somber and dejected. This version of Eliza was flawed and real, as was the depiction of Higgins and the colonel. It was easier to see them in her mind as Shaw had intended them, instead of a Hollywood adaptation modeled on comedy and romance.

 

With the first act finished, Emma looked at the clock, finding the hour late and the need for sleep great. She had an early morning meeting, and then a long lunch full of dress fittings with Regina. Emma had thumbed through a few bridal magazines, but each dress that she liked was immediately shot down by Regina. What Emma really wanted was to wear her mother’s old wedding dress, but she knew that Regina would never allow it. Her backup plan had been to go with something simple, yet delicate. She had been met with nothing but resistance though, as some media outlets were already dubbing the engagement the closest thing to a royal wedding that America would ever see, and Regina insisted that she wear something haute couture. The sketches that Emma had been shown were over-the-top and ridiculous, and the all looked so painful that her spleen hurt just thinking about trying them on.

 

As she drifted off to sleep, her thoughts wandered back to Killian, and how broken he was when they parted. They drifted back to the last three weeks as she had wondered daily if he'd ever be able to forgive her, or if he'd hate her for the rest of his life. But now, with his farewell words, she knew that he'd already made peace with their parting. It was a good thing, she knew that, yet a small portion of her heart wept for how quickly he had let her go. Did he still think of her the way she did of him, relentlessly? Had he really even loved her the way she had him if he had already let her go?

 

Tears fells to her pillowcase as she wept for what she had lost. That night, she dreamt of his blue eyes boring into hers. The way he tasted as their tongues danced together, the way his hand was warm against her hips. That night she told him she loved him, and apologized for not saying it sooner. That night she broke apart.

 

Morning came and Emma woke before her alarm had the chance to sound. She felt the sting of exhaustion. Her mind had taunted her in her sleep, teasing her with reminders of what she had walked away from. She picked up her phone to check the time only to find a message from Regina with instructions on when and where to meet for her fittings, reminding her to only drink water until after the fitting so she wouldn't be unnecessarily bloated, causing Emma to roll her eyes. A few weeks ago she would have rebelled and bought a bearclaw or two on her way into the office, but she felt the fire in her dimming and she couldn't be bothered to put up a fight.

 

The morning meetings had been dull. Her first had been with some board members. They had wanted to go over the numbers with her, urging her to cut back on the donations that her department handled. They were naturally greedy people. Regina had slowly phased out the original board members put in place by her parents, with money grubbing suits. They only cared about the bottom line, and while the amount of money and equipment she donated wasn't a small sum by any means, in was hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the company's worth. The tax write-off alone nearly made up for every penny given away, but all they saw was less money going into their pockets, not the faces of sick children and worried parents. It sickened her, but she held her ground, reminding them of the positive press that came with everything she did, which helped to bring in new clientele and new investors daily.

 

The second meeting had been a bit more secretive. She had ducked out right as the last board member had left the conference room, heading to a small non chain coffee shop a few blocks away, hoping for privacy. When she walked in, Graham was already waiting for her with a cup of her favorite drink; cocoa with a dash of cinnamon. She gave him a small hug, one that lingered a bit on his end. Graham had always been an incredibly sweet guy, and her father had hinted on more than one occasion that he thought the head of the legal department would be a good match for her. She had always brushed him off though, stating that she was too focused on her career and the company for distractions, but in truth she had worried that it would be awkward having to see him every day if it didn't work out.

 

They sat down and made a small amount of chitchat. His Irish lilt was normally calming to her, but ever since she had returned from London, from Nuuk, it had put her slightly on edge, reminding her too much of another accent that lingered in her mind.

 

The purpose of the meeting, and the reason she wanted privacy, was to see if anything could been done to retract Regina's recently acquired shares of the company. The ones that she had signed to herself on Emma's behalf while she was away, unable to do anything about it. They were trying to see if there was a way to invalidate the power of attorney, a loop hole of any sort, but so far Graham had come up with nothing. Unlike the poor sap that had drafted David's will, Graham was actually brilliant at his job, and it seemed all of the legal paperwork he had filed had been iron-clad. They sat for over an hour, leaving no metaphorical stone unturned with no luck. Emma was out of time and due for her fitting on the other side of town. With a shy smile and a small squeezing of her hand as she stood, Graham promised not to give up on her. She forced herself to return the smile, but in truth she was beginning to lose hope.

 

The building was in west Manhattan, which should have given her an indication of how posh the store would be, but nothing could have prepared her for what she found. She stepped into what amounted to a formal entry, but at the end opposite from the front door was an elaborate marble desk. Behind the desk was a woman with bright red hair who greeted her in a perky manner. Standing just behind the woman was a short stocky man wearing a black suit. If she had to guess, his sole purpose was to be intimidating, and while she had heard stories of bridezillas getting physical, she wasn't sure that any of that warranted what amounted to a club bouncer.

 

Emma approached the woman behind the desk who introduced herself as Ariel. She asked Emma for her name, followed by not one but two forms of picture identification. Emma scoffed at how ridiculous everything was, which only made the grumpy looking man puff up, ready for an altercation. Emma raised up her hands in surrender to the man, before digging into her wallet for her driver's license and her company badge. It wasn't a state issued ID, but it was the only other one she had on her.

 

After Ariel was satisfied that Emma was who she said she was, she pressed a button in the underside of her desk and Emma heard a door unlock. Ariel stood from her desk and motioned for Emma to follow her, opening a door that blended in with the wall to Emma's right, a door she never would have seen. As they made their way through the door, Emma was guided into a huge room filled with hundreds of dresses. Most were for the bride, but some were clearly meant for bridesmaids and family members.

 

She heard Regina's voice ringing out through the room, but it wasn't until she weaved her way between three racks of dresses that she found Regina, along with Ruby and who she assumed was another store employee.

 

"You're late." Regina sneered out.

 

"Sorry, I wasn't expecting Fort Knox security. I'm surprised I didn't get a TSA style pat down on the way in."

 

Regina shot daggers in her direction.

 

"Perhaps we should consider looking for a new assistant for you since your current one seems too inept to ensure you arrive on time."

 

Emma recognized it for the warning that it was. Regina wanted dominance over her and her threats were never idle. If Emma stepped out of line again, she would see to it that Ruby was fired and replaced by someone of her own choosing, just to show Emma that she was in control. Emma relented, not willing to lose one of the only two friendly faces left in the company.

 

Ariel had disappeared, presumably back to the front desk, leaving only one woman to help them. She was blonde and cheerful, introducing herself as Ella. Ella . As in Ella’s Enchantments ; she was the owner of the store. Emma slightly winced, realizing that she had already spoken ill of the store in front of it’s owner. Luckily she seemed unphased.

 

For the next two hours, Emma tried on dress after dress, none of them being her choice. Each gown weighed no less than fifty pounds and she felt like she would crumple under the weight of it. The symbolism of it all wasn’t lost on her. Aside from the weight, each dress has a different structural design to it. A family of four could live in most of them. They were all uncomfortable, a full size too small, but she knew it was Regina’s less than subtle way of telling her to lose weight.

 

It was the seventh dress that put Emma over the edge emotionally. It was strapless, but random triangles filled in the bodice, and sharp edges at every crease made her nervous that she’d cut herself and bleed on the snow white fabric. Ella told her that she looked just like Carrie Bradshaw, which meant nothing to her, but judging by the scoff that Regina let out, it was someone that was deemed below their station. Ruby, who had been silent up until that point, had laughed at the comment. Emma looked to her, but Ruby only mouthed a ‘tell you later.’

 

It was the thirteenth dress that Regina finally decided was ‘The One.’ Emma wasn’t sure if it was the dress or the unlucky number associated with the dress, but she was tired and ready to leave. Nothing about her wedding was ever going to be about her, so she decided that there was no use in arguing.

 

Regina excused herself to pay for the dress, making sure to flash a company credit card for Emma to see as she walked out the door. Once she was redressed again, she and Ruby made their way outside to the waiting town car that would take them back to work. On the drive, Ruby had managed to pull up a picture of the woman the owner had mentioned and Emma gasped when she saw what looked like a blue bird attached to her hair, as if she was running off to join the circus. But then it hit her. She was the woman on the screen, and everything about her life was becoming a circus. Ruby also enquired if Emma had seen the price of the dress, further informing her that it was more than a full year’s worth of Ruby’s salary.

 

Emma groaned, knowing that the money spent on the dress could fund at least two separate cardiac valve replacements for people in need. The women returned to the office and Emma drowned herself in work for the rest of the week.

 

The weekend was spent with Neal, Gold, and Regina at fundraising rallies. The money raised was pointless as Regina had already promised him whatever he needed. The rallies were really more of a chance for people to see her and Neal together, supporting her soon-to-be-father-in-law. Neal’s hands were constantly finding their way onto her body, and while she didn’t relish the physical contact, she no longer found it revolting. She was getting used to it, and a part of her wondered if she could do it, if she could learn to be happy.

 

The next week saw Emma immersing every free moment she had into her work, using reports and presentations as excuses for why she couldn’t go out with Neal and his father. Regina had made a snide comment but hadn’t pressed it any further. On that Friday morning, a box arrived on Emma desk filled with one hundred different wedding invitation options. She hadn’t even realized that a date and location had already been picked, but there it was, typed up in black and white, in one hundred different fonts a styles.

 

A sticky note on the top of the box informed her that a decision needed to be made by the end of the business day. She spent three hours pouring over them, making a neat pile of yeses, maybes, and definitely nots. With a decision finally made, she texted Regina with the number that had been tagged on the invitation.

 

EN: My first choice is number 63, followed by number 48 as a close second.

 

She hit send on the message and started clearing away the sample invitations, placing them neatly back in the box, before setting the box on the floor off to the side of her desk. She was pulling up her email, ready to reply to the twenty messages she had received in the last hour when her phone buzzed.

 

RMN: I had hoped that you would be capable of doing at least one thing correctly by yourself, but now I see that I’ve expected too much from you. Cleary sample 17 was the best choice and as time was of the essence - something you seem to have no grasp on - I’ve already ordered them.

 

With that, Emma told Ruby to cancel whatever else she had on her schedule for the day and dragged her downstairs, pulling her by her wrist. She hailed the first cab she saw and informed the driver to take them to the nearest bar. She drowned away her sorrow and frustrations in an expensive bottle of rum, the one that smelled like him on the first plane ride. The one that he said was always his favorite.

Chapter Text


 

 

 

The next two months had been nothing short of hell. For the first two weeks after he got home, Killian had avoided going out whenever possible, not wanting to deal with photographers or fans. His face was on the cover of every magazine, as well as on the television. ‘Millian’ was the number one worldwide trending topic for six days, followed closely by something called ‘TheBigReveal’ which he assumed referred to one of the home makeover shows that Will was always watching. His twitter blew up to the point where he just deleted the app from his phone to stop all of the notifications. Anyone of importance knew his phone number if they actually needed to contact him. The move did not go over well with Smee, who immediately ordered him to reinstall the app so as to be available to the fans.

 

He just wanted to fade away for a while, to disappear from existence. The problem though, was that as he was holding himself up in his house, Milah was doing the same, begging and pleading with him at every turn. The only solace he had was when he locked himself away each night. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.

 

The first morning after his return, he went to his dresser while Milah was busy and pulled out his brother’s ring, which he began to wear on a chain around his neck for courage. He also found his mother’s wedding ring, which he gave to Will for safekeeping. As if the world was hoping to taunt him further, he had also stumbled upon the engagement ring that had been hidden away in the back of the drawer, behind a bunch of his socks, but chose to leave it be, not wanting to deal with it. Slowly he had started pulling clothes out of the closet, moving them into the guest closet for easier access. It served to  provide him with an extra barrier; he didn’t want Milah’s eyes lingering on him as he changed in the master closet, and she refused to give him space otherwise. The ensuite was smaller in his new room, but he made do.

 

There had also been an incident on New Year’s Eve that left him seething with rage and with no outlet to release it. Before the adultery fiasco, Killian and Milah had both agreed to participate in a New Year’s Eve countdown show at Times Square. He had tried his best to get out of it, but Smee insisted that he not cancel, telling him that it would look bad, reminding him about the movie role.

 

He had gone into the evening with the determined mindset that this would be his last public appearance with her, and he had held onto it. Each time the camera had focused on him, Killian had reminded himself to be strong, and that it wouldn't be forever. They had bantered throughout the night, and he had been fairly certain that he was going to have at least one cracked tooth by the end of the night as he clenched his jaw each time they went to commercial, or to a new performance.

 

He had tried to keep busy, focusing on anything else when the two of them weren’t filming, which mostly consisted of him playing with his phone. He had answered tweets for his fans as they had come in, pointedly ignoring any of the ones referencing Milah, the affair, or randomly circulating rumors of their engagement. He had filtered through emails, and played games. During one particularly difficult segment, Killian and Milah had had to talk about the highlights of the year, including the number one movie of the past year, the one directed by Walsh Oz.

 

Killian had barely been able to stay awake through the movie when he had watched it at the premiere. The movie had been about a couple meeting for the first time and it followed three different paths from that first meeting. One ended in divorce, one ended in a death, and the third ended with them living happily ever after. Killian could hardly stomach discussing the movie, but when Milah made a side comment about how she believed that they actually lived the third story he had nearly choked on his own vomit. Milah had explained to the crowd that it was because, when she met Killian for the first time, she’d known then that they’d end up happily together, despite all of the ups and downs, and something to the nature of “and look at us now.” She had grabbed his hand and hugged him infront of everyone, forcing him to hug her back.

 

He had run off the stage the moment they had yelled clear, and had yanked his phone out of his pocket. He had needed to see her, to remind himself of the promise he had made, of why he was still putting up with all of Milah’s crap. When her blonde hair had lit up his screen, everything around him faded away. His breathing evened out and his heartbeat had slowed down. Even in just a photograph, she had the power to calm him, to still the stormy waters he was drowning in.

 

He must have been staring too long, because before he knew it, Milah had found him and yelled at him for disappearing, telling him he was needed back on stage. He had returned, feeling better than he had all evening, keeping the image of Emma fresh in his mind as they had rounded out the night and the final countdown until midnight had begun. He had heard the crowd cheering along, and had barely heard his own voice, but somewhere around the number seven, Milah had leaned in and whispered something in his ear. His jaw had tightened and his blood had run cold, and he hadn’t even tried to conceal his frustration.

 

“We have to kiss. It’s in the contract.”

 

The ball had dropped and Milah had wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down into her. Their lips had fused together and Milah tried to deepen the kiss, but he had remained strong. He may have been obligated to kiss her, but he had made no promise of letting her tongue down his throat.

 

When she had finally pulled back, he’d seen disappointment flash in her eyes, and even her fake smile faltered. The thousands of people in Times Square had been too busy in their own revelry to notice, but for the first time, Killian had truly stood up for himself, and no one would ever know it.

 

It had taken almost a full month after that for Smee to secure him an audition for the role he wanted. Killian had been on his best behavior, staying out of trouble, attending a charity event at the local children’s hospital, and working out, just in case he got the part. It was very physical and he wanted to show up ready, proving to casting directors that he was willing to put in the work. He had managed to stay sober the entire time as well, a miracle in his eyes considering that Milah was constantly around him.

 

He was learning to adapt to her presence. He didn’t enjoy spending time with her, but her voice no longer made him cringe each time she spoke. When he sat down in the living room to watch a movie, he didn’t feel like he had to run away if she came and sat down near him. As a result from an attempt by Milah to cuddle up to him one night, there had been a clear line drawn by him; Milah could sit with him in the room, she could even sit on the other side of the couch, but she couldn’t sit right next time him. They fell into a strained friendship of sorts. They would talk, but never about anything meaningful, and there was no physical contact. It was the best he could do, and something that he thought he could handle for the next few weeks.

 

***

 

On the evening leading up to, and the morning of the audition, Killian had never felt so nervous or sick at his stomach. He had thrown up three times that morning before he was even dressed. Smee was supposed to meet him at his loft and travel with him to the airport, but Smee had been running late and they met at Newark instead. After they boarded the plane, Smee explained that he was late because he was on the phone with the new director for the movie, a man named August Booth. August was relatively new, and Killian was worried that his inexperience wouldn’t translate well to the silver screen. He became even more worried when Smee told him that August had made some major changes to the overall story line, but he didn’t know what the changes were yet.

 

They landed in Los Angeles where a car was waiting for them at arrivals. The entire trip had been made much smoother by the lack of luggage. While the loft in New York may have only been his, there was a home in Hidden Valley, a gated community in Beverly Hills that belonged to both of them. He had everything he could need there, and the added benefit of the house being empty would have made the trip worth it regardless of how the audition went. There was a slight bit of guilt in the back of his mind for making Smee get a hotel, but Killian brushed it off with the same ease that he managed whenever he had to weave through the waiting photographers.

 

The car took them straight to the studio where security waved them through. His reputation may have been dirt low, but at least people still recognized him. He had expected that his audition would take place in one of the smaller studio lots. The last time he had had to audition for a role was when he had starred in his first movie with Milah. After that, the roles had been offered to him without effort. Then the offers had stopped, and he had been blocked from reading for roles, so the only reference he had was from before he was a household name.

 

The audition was held in an office conference room. Killian and Smee had been directed to sit at the table and told that someone would be with them shortly, and Killian was handed a bundle of papers with a section highlighted in yellow. He read over the highlighted section while they waited. It was nearly identical to the initial script he had been sent, with only one line changed, nothing too severe. He repeated the line over and over, committing the new one to memory.

 

“Sorry about the wait, guys.”

 

Killian turned back in his chair to find a curly hair man approaching him with a large grin on his face, something that took him by surprise. Both Will and Smee had warned him that everyone was going to try to intimidate him in a show of power. Killian looked over to find Smee’s eyes almost bugging out. It was unheard of for a director to greet them with an apology before they’d even started.

 

“Nothing to worry about, mate. It gave me a chance to look over the changes.”

 

Killian extended his hand and August took it, giving him a strong-handed shake.

 

“Noticed that, did you? Well, you’re already ahead of the other guy that read this morning.”

 

He shouldn’t have been surprised. He had meant what he said to Emma; it had been a dream role and he knew that anyone worth their salt would be throwing their proverbial hat in for the role. But it didn’t help to ease his nerves to know that someone had already auditioned that morning.

 

August took a seat across from him along with two other people, but he had no clue who either of them were and they didn’t speak.

 

“So as I’m sure your manager has informed you, there was a shake up at the studio, and without getting into all of the dirty details, the original director left and I’ve replaced him.”

 

Killian nodded along.

“When I first came on board a few weeks ago, I took a look at the script, and while it was good, it didn’t seem like it really lived up to it’s full potential so I’ve spent the last few weeks hidden away in my office re-writing it.”

 

You rewrote it?” Smee interrupted.

 

August shot them both an amused smile.

 

“How much do you know about me?” August asked.

 

The truth was that Killian knew nothing, but Smee spoke up.

 

“I know that you got your start in the indie circuit and that that movie you made about the modern day pirates garnered a lot of praise.”

 

“And would it shock you to know that I wrote, produced, and directed that movie, as well as all of the other indie films I’ve made?

 

Smee said nothing and August chuckled at his silence.

 

“I believe that to be good at one, you have to be good at the other. I can’t direct a script that I don’t believe in, so yes, I made changes. I know that I’m still the new kid, but before you write me off, remember that I’m taking a chance on your too, Mr. Jones.”

 

Killian felt his jaw drop. This guy was actually going to him the benefit of the doubt.

 

“Aye, and I appreciate it.”

 

“Okay then, let’s begin. This is Bella, one of my assistants.” August pointed to the blonde sitting next to him. “She’ll be reading Evie’s lines for today.”

 

August gave him a moment to get into character, and they ran through the lines in one shot. Killian bared his soul and felt raw afterwards. The scene they had chosen was from after the main character, Benjamin, returned from the war to find that his love had married another man and had a child. The interaction between them was brief as she pleaded with him to understand that she didn’t have a choice, that her father had forced her into marriage.

 

He drew from his time with Emma. As he sat at the table reading his lines, he watched as the room seemed to darken, and the blond hair across from him grew brighter, morphing into flowing golden locks. Before he realized what was happening, Emma was sitting in front of him, and every line he spoke was a plea to her to give him another chance. Every line was his anger at her for choosing someone else. Every line was his heart shattering into a million pieces.

 

When they were done and he came back to himself, he had one tear that had shed and run down his face onto the stack of papers and he was pretty sure he felt spittle on his chin. Everyone sat back, silent and in shock. He had gone too far into character. He had ruined his shot. August remained solemn after that, telling him that he would be in touch. Whatever easiness he had felt before the audition was gone as he had his other assistant escort Killian and Smee from the room back to the lobby.

 

Killian spent the next two days wallowing in self pity at the house. It was large and every time he went into a room, there was a mini bar taunting him with a fully stocked liquor assortment. If nothing else, his sober time had given him a chance to realize how bad his drinking had truly been, especially when he went into the master bathroom the first night to grab his toothbrush and toothpaste out of the medicine cabinet. The bottom two shelves were filled with mini bottles, because apparently he hadn’t even been able to brush his teeth without a celebratory drink.

 

He managed to persevere and avoid getting sucked into old habits. It had been difficult. After he had bollocked his audition, he had felt numb, and spent the rest of the evening faffing about, trying to find anything to occupy his time. The next day though, it had begun to set in. He woke with a sense of failure, and his fingers itched to seek out a long slender bottle of anything that would knock him on his ass for the rest of the day. He heard Emma’s voice in his head though, and pulled up the picture of the two of them curled up on the couch.

 

After that, he gathered every bottle he could find and poured each and every one down the sink. The local rubbish men would probably think that he had gone an extreme bender, and a part of him wondered if his trash would be featured on the news the next morning. He looked around the house for a book, or anything that would engage his mind, but there was nothing. A subtle reminder of how little purpose his life had held. Luckily, he had an old ipad still tucked away in his nightstand, and he was able to download a copy of Jude the Obscure , only having finished half of it while in Nuuk.

 

He had forgotten how much he loved reading. It reminded him of the better times, while allowing him to immerse himself in another world. It was an escape for him as a child, and even now as an adult.

 

The book had been utterly depressing though. The lead character, Jude, had managed to escape a loveless marriage in spirit if not legally, and was even able to find the love of his life. The woman, Sue, married another man though. Eventually she left her husband, and she and Jude formed a non physical relationship. After a time, Jude's wife returned, seeking a divorce from him while also dropping a metaphorical bomb in a baby shaped box. As it turned out, the ex-wife had become pregnant with Jude's child before she left him. The child remained with Jude, leaving Jude and Sue an odd little family. Eventually Jude and Sue had two more children, with a third child on the way.

 

As Jude and Sue never married, they were condemned by society, constantly having to move and never able to find steady income. Jude's son from his previous marriage came to believe that he and his siblings were far too much of a burden on the family. The son tragically murdered his siblings before killing himself, thinking that his father and Sue would be better off without them. Sue miscarried in her grief and everything after fell apart.

 

Sue believed that it was karmic retribution for leaving her ex-husband, and ended up returning to him to make amends. Jude remarried his ex-wife, but remained in love with Sue. In one final attempt to win Sue back, Jude braved a horrible winter's day, only to find that Sue was no longer the vibrant woman he had fallen in love with. She had allowed herself to become weathered by an unhappy life. Jude became seriously ill and passed away with no one left to mourn him.

 

When he turned the final page, he was left to think about the book’s meaning. Along the way, Jude had made poor choices, most centering around choosing the wrong woman who ended up leaving his life in ruins. In the end, Jude lost his entire family, his true love, and eventually even his own life. The worst part was that no one mourned his passing.

 

There were so many parallels to his own life in the book, and he couldn’t help but wonder if anyone would miss him if he were to die suddenly. The world as a whole certainly wouldn’t. They had been all but too happy to vilify him in the press. He had no family left to visit his headstone. Milah would likely be excited at the prospect of being able to play the grieving widow of sorts. The only person who would even possibly care was likely currently wrapped in the arms of someone else, and even then, he wasn’t sure if her feelings had ever extended anywhere beyond the simplest of affections. He thought back to that day on the couch. She had never used the word ‘love’, after all.

 

He needed to snap out of it. Dark thoughts led to dangerous roads, and he couldn’t be that man anymore. He wanted to be better. Better for Emma, better for Liam, better for himself. Instead, he focused his attentions on making a list of ways to improve his life. First and foremost now that he had completely screwed himself out of any chance at the role of Ben, he was going to finally make a clean break from Milah. That would mean sorting through their belongings in the house. As he looked around; he honestly couldn’t say that he wanted very much. None of the decor had been to his liking. He prefered old and rustic, while Milah had wanted only modern pieces in the house. At the time, he hadn’t put up a fight, only wanting her to be happy.

 

In the end it only made things simpler, he thought. He would only need to pack up his clothing, a few pictures, and the small awards he had managed to win. None of them were major awards in anyway, nothing worth bragging over, but they gave him pride anyway. They were small awards that real people had voted on, which made them special, even if no one had ever heard of them.

 

He didn’t have any boxes to begin packing with, and since he was supposed to fly back early the next morning, he simply took everything and placed it on the bed in one of the spare rooms. It was only as he did so that he began to wonder why they even had such a large house to begin with. It boasted seven guest rooms, each with beds and dressers, night stands, and vanities, but never once in the time they had lived there had anyone ever used the extra rooms. No one ever came to visit them for any length of time. The thought was almost as depressing as the book.

 

“Christ, Jones. Pull yourself together.” Apparently he had taken to talking to himself as well.

 

Killian went to bed that night weary and emotionally drained. Even in the world’s softest bed, encased in thousand dollar sheets, he couldn’t manage to fall asleep. Thoughts of all of his failings plagued him all night, and he couldn't have been more grateful that he had removed all of the temptations earlier, because he knew that in that state, he wouldn’t have been able to resist.

 

He woke early, earlier than necessary, but he wasn’t sure if it could really be considered waking up if he had only slept for a combined total of one hour. He met Smee at the airport again, this time without any paparazzi following him. He hoped that it was because the attention was finally dying down, but in reality, it was far more likely to be due to the early hour. Most of the cameramen would probably be sleeping in after having stayed out late trying to get the perfect shot of a drunk celebrity flashing their knickers or falling over on their faces. Four months ago, that would have been him.

 

Kilian asked Smee if he had heard anything about the role, even if it meant that it had gone to someone else, but Smee hadn’t heard anything. As the days went on, the chances were becoming slimmer and slimmer, and whatever small thread of hope he had held onto against all sanity finally snapped and he knew it was over. He hoped Emma wouldn’t be too disappointed in his failure, but then again, she probably wouldn’t even notice.

 

The flight was quick and uneventful. When they landed back at Newark, Smee immediately set out to having airport security clear a path for him. Smee had read an online article stating that Killian was coming back to Millah after realizing that no one else would take him, listing that he had had left LA that morning. Smee knew that people would jump on the story, even if it was complete crap. Smee’s preparedness was welcomed as he and Killian slipped through the gathered crowd. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when he had returned from Europe, but it was enough that it would have caused him issues had security not interceded.

 

The car took Killian home first. He had Smee part with a promise to call if he heard anything. Killian knew the call would never come though. When he made it back up to the loft, he let out a sigh of relief when he realized that Milah wasn’t home. He went into what was now his room to change into more comfortable clothing, noticing that his suitcase was still propped up against the wall, unopened. He made a mental note to go through it later that day, and made his way into the kitchen to grab some food.

 

It wasn’t until around seven that evening that Robin called, inviting Killian to a friendly game of soccer in the morning, that he remembered the suitcase. His cleats were still inside. Milah had just returned from who knows where and Killian had excused himself for the evening, locking the bedroom door behind him.

 

He set the suitcase on top of his bed and unzipped it. For his efforts, he was met with the musty smell of clothes that hadn’t been aired out in over a month. The clothes were a wrinkled mess and instead of trying to put them away, he starting throwing everything into the clothes hamper. He was halfway through when he noticed a small rectangle wrapped in paper and tied with a ribbon. He tore the wrapping paper off to reveal a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea .

 

He flipped through the pages to find a note from Emma on the last page, though he wouldn’t have needed it to know the gift was from her. There was no one else that knew his love of classic literature. He read the note, and placed his hand over the page, trying to feel something, anything, as if he could summon her through the ink.

 

All I know is that you made the autumn very happy, and that I shall always be fond of you for that.

 

He felt his eyes begin to water. He was well aware of that quote and it’s meaning. It was from a letter Shaw had written to Charlotte Payne-Townshend. Shaw had loved the woman, but he wanted her to go out into the world and experience life without him holding her back. He wanted her to discover herself. He loved her, and because of that love, he had set her free, just as Emma had done with him. She may not have said it, but he knew; she loved him. And that made the pain so much worse.

 

He let the weight of that settle into his bones as he flipped through the pages once more, revealing a small folded piece of paper. It contained another note in shaky handwriting.

 

Killian,

 

I know you, and I know how you see yourself. For some reason, you believe yourself to be a villain, unworthy of a happy ending, but the truth is that I only see a hero. I see a man that wants nothing more than to be able to redeem himself and live a better life. I know that you can do it, but I also know that it will be a struggle. You’ll have to fight your demons and at times it will feel as if the darkness is ready to consume you. But remember there is also light, and it cannot be snuffed out unless you let it. Fight! If not for me, then for yourself. I need to you to fight. No matter how bad the storm, there is always hope.

 

-Emma

 

And with that, he finally broke. The dam crumbled and he let out all of the pain he had been holding in, letting the silent sobs take over his body. He sat on the bed, rereading the note over and over.

 

He was broken from his thoughts when his cell phone went off. Smee’s name flashed across the screen and Killian’s heart dropped. Roles were offered during normal business hours. Whatever Smee wanted to tell him must have come from gossip, and he knew it wasn’t good news. Someone else had gotten the part.

 

He was frozen, unable to answer the call, and it went to voicemail. A moment later an alert popped up telling him that Smee had left a message. He sniffled and wiped his face, trying to hide all evidence of his breakdown from the empty room. Once ready, he listened to it.

 

“Killian! Call me immediately.”

 

Killian cursed Smee for not leaving a more detailed message. The man always sounded like he was about to run out of breathe, and Killian couldn’t tell by his tone if it was good or bad news, so he stuck to his initial assessment and set the phone down on the bed next to him. He was about to stand to take a shower when the phone rang again, Smee’s name once again lighting up the screen.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Killian. They loved you. You got the part!”

 

All of the air rushed from his lungs and he thought he was certainly dead, or hallucinating.

 

“What?”

 

“Ya, that August guy said your audition was raw and honest. He couldn’t stop talking about the emotion you displayed. He said he wanted to hire you on the spot but he was obligated to finish out the auditions he had scheduled. But Killian, the part is yours if you still want it.”

 

“Of course I bloody well want it,” he snarled out.

 

“There’s just one small issue.”

 

Of course there was. Great things didn’t happen to Killian Jones. He knew there had to have been some sort of catch.

 

He let out a deep exhale.

 

“What?”

 

Nothing.

 

“Smee?”

 

“Killian, the other lead, the female. I just found out she was cast before they changed directors.”

 

A knot formed in his stomach.

 

“It’s Milah. She’ll be playing your love interest.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

In the months that followed, Emma felt her grasp on reality slipping away. Everything felt like it was falling apart and she was trapped, like she was watching her life through someone else’s eyes, unable to do anything. She had been thrown overboard, drowning in the stormy seas, and no one was there to help her.

 

She had sat through meeting after meeting, trying to salvage whatever she could of her department. The latest meeting from that morning was to discuss cutting her yearly fiscal budget by half. The board members tried to rationalize that, since investors had been pulling out of the company and stocks were starting to drop, they needed to implement cost saving measures. They somehow failed to mention the new investors that had been popping up, all supporters of Gold’s presidential bid. She felt as if the company was slowly being bought out from the under the table, and she knew it would come with a price.

 

The first of which had been slashing her department, and Emma had no say in the matter. She was one board member among twelve others, and despite sharing a last name with the company, her opinions where met with nothing but hostility by the men who only served to stuff their own pocketbooks.

 

Accusations started flying that Emma was only in her position due to nepotism, and that she wasn't experienced enough. They overlooked her education and her high GPA, writing it off as a result of daddy's large checkbook, implying that he had bought her degree, the degree she had busted her ass for.

 

They cut twenty lower level positions as well, adding to the workload of the few remaining people. It meant that for the foreseeable future, she and Ruby would have to work overtime every night, even more so than they already had been. Ruby had started staying at Emma’s apartment instead of her own because she was too tired to make the trip home, and Emma had insisted that it was too dangerous for her to cross the East River into Williamsburg that late at night. Ruby had made no objections to the arrangement, but it hadn't been completely about her safety though. Emma had enjoyed having someone around to distract her from everything that was going wrong, someone who expected nothing from her. Ruby still went home on the weekends to check on her place, but for all intents and purposes, she now lived with Emma.

 

After the meeting from hell, the two women went to their now shared apartment and drank wine, reminiscing about their college days and all of the trouble they had gotten into. On more than one occasion, Ruby had referenced a story from their senior year without realizing that Emma hadn't actually been there. It served as a reminder of how much Emma's life had changed since her sophomore year. She and Ruby had remained friends and roommates through graduation, but they rarely interacted outside of their shared flat or even outside of the office. It was only recently that Ruby had started to feel more like a true friend again instead of just an acquaintance.

 

She had missed out on so much while building her career, a thought that had occupied her mind more times that she cared to admit lately. Killian had been right. She was miserable, and her parents wouldn't have wanted her to stay that way just to hold on to a memory of them. It was the only small shred of hope that she held onto that kept her going. That, and the knowledge that even if she lost her mind and ran, there was still no way to contact Killian. Leaving now would mean that everything had truly been for nothing.

 

Instead, she extended Neal and Gold an olive branch of sorts. She decided to give him a chance, hoping that if she got to know him better, she might finally be able to let go of Killian. To give her and Neal a real shot. It hadn’t been easy, but slowly she was able to overcome her feelings of guilt.

 

Saturday evenings now had become strictly reserved for Neal. Regina had been pressuring her to seem more affectionate in front of the cameras. Not an easy task considering what little she knew about him. They had started out small. Neal had suggested a standing lunch date one day a week so they could learn more about each other. During their lunches they discussed their backgrounds more in depth. She already knew that Neal had graduated from Brown University, but what she hadn't known was that that Neal had actually been kicked out of Columbia University after his junior year. He swore that it was a misunderstanding, but the school wanted to make an example of him, proving that the school couldn't be bought off by politicians.

 

When Emma had asked what exactly had happened, Neal had been evasive. It wasn't until after their lunch when she looked him up on the internet that she saw a story in the school's newspaper. The rumors were that Neal had created his own fencing company of sorts, using stolen property from his fellow students and professors.

 

The paper wrote that he had vehemently denied the charges and stated that his father had hired him the best lawyer they could find, but the evidence was overwhelming. He had been to all of the apartments, dorms, and houses that the stolen property had come from, and his fingerprints had been on a number of the recovered pieces. Neal had told the authorities that someone had set him up. In the end, no formal charges were ever filed, but the university had said he had violated a student code of ethics.

 

Emma wasn't sure what to think. Gold had quite a bit of money, and she had never gotten the vibe from him that he was above greasing palms, but she wasn't sure if she was ready to believe that she was engaged to a criminal mastermind either. The man she was slowly coming to know was well educated, funny, and at times sweet. She wasn't in love with him, but they had managed to form a friendship of sorts and she no longer dreaded having to spend time with him.

 

Their physical relationship had only changed marginally. In the beginning, it had started with hand holding. Emma had had to fight the urge to pull her hand away at first, but after getting used to him, his touch no longer made her skin crawl. Eventually they moved as far as kissing. Nothing passionate, nothing like the kisses she had shared with Killian, but then again, nothing ever would be.

 

Neal had even managed to slip her the tongue during one kiss. He had caught her off guard but they had been at a political rally with hundreds of supporters, and it would have looked bad if she had pulled back or shown the obvious shock that she had felt. So she had stood still as his mouth had attempted to devour hers, only telling him later when they were alone how little she had appreciated his actions. He promised not to do it again, and he kept his word until their four month anniversary. Emma had thought of scolding him again, but the truth was that she was just scared. Somehow letting him kiss her like that meant that she was relinquishing her last bit of hope that Killian would somehow find his way back into her life. She knew it had to happen at some point, but thinking it and doing it were two completely different beasts.

 

They continued to meet, and eventually lunches became dinners and drinks. They talked about their hopes and dreams, about their pasts, and even their parents. Neal's mother had disappeared when he was eleven. One day she had just decided that she was done being a wife and mother, and had packed up and left. Neal said he barely remembered her, but that for years, she had managed to strain the relationship he and his father shared. Neal took after his mother physically, and his father had spent most of Neal's childhood resentful of it. Gold sent him away to a boarding school when he was only thirteen, and the two didn't speak again until Neal went to college and declared a major in political science.

 

Neal told her that there had been a tipping point in the relationship with his father. Gold had remarried his current wife, and she had helped him see that he had been too hard on Neal, and Neal was able to forgive his father. When Gold had told Neal that he wanted to run for president, Neal had been completely on board, thinking that his father wanted him to work on the campaign trail. When Gold had suggested that Neal run for his vacated senate seat, Neal had felt like he finally had his father's respect, and he wanted to make him proud. That was why he had agreed to the marriage arrangement. He had even made Emma blush a little bit when he told her that it helped that she was so beautiful.

 

For as close as they seemed to have become, Neal still had his secrets. Whenever he got a phone call from his campaign consultant he would always leave the room. He told her that he didn't want to bore her with his work, but something in her gut told her that he was hiding something. He had no issue talking to his father, or other political figures in her company, but never Tamara. He had also changed the picture on his lock screen. The night of their engagement, he had set the picture of the two of them in front of the fireworks as his background, but over the past couple of weeks, he had set it to one of the bland stock photographs that came pre installed by apple.

 

Then there had also been his lack of pushing to spend the night with her. Even after she had asked him not to kiss her with such force, he had still attempted to bed her after each of their dates. He had always taken her back to her apartment, and usually he looked for an excuse to be invited up, but for the past two weeks, he had barely even said goodbye before he had found an excuse to dash off.

 

Now, it was the eleven month anniversary of their engagement, on a Friday, two days before their wedding, and Neal had taken her to one of the hottest and most exclusive restaurants in Soho. It was a French bistro, well known to people in his social circle. They had just sat down to look over the appetizer menu, the first of five courses customarily served at the restaurant, when Neal got a call from his assistant. He excused himself to take it, and it took every ounce of self control for Emma not to roll her eyes. Her frustrations were higher than normal thanks to her meeting earlier the previous afternoon, and Neal's inability to place his phone on silence had made her feel murderous.

 

He may have been born of ‘proper breeding’, as Regina put it, but he was completely void of all chivalry. He wasn't a gentleman. She furrowed her brow and closed her eyes. Killain. She had managed to think of him less lately, mostly through force. It hurt too much every time her memories flickered to him. And now, she couldn’t help but once again compare the man that she had left behind to the man she had promised forever. Killian had ruined her.

 

When Neal finally returned, her mood was nothing short of sour. The waiter came to the table and asked them if they had decided on their appetizers, and Neal quickly waived his hand in the air, cutting the man off, stating that he needed to be somewhere and they would be skipping the pre dinner spread. Emma felt her mouth drop at Neal's rudeness, to both her and the waiter. She tried to give the waiter an apologetic look, but Neal cut in ordering his meal, as well as one for Emma. She was flabbergasted, unable to form words. She had never had a man so forwardly dictate her food for her before, and she quickly found that she wasn't a fan.

 

When the food came, he nearly inhaled it, telling her that she needed to eat quickly as well. With a well placed scowl on Emma's part, Neal managed to look a bit sheepish and finally apologized. He told her that an emergency had come up at work, something he didn't want to bore her over the details with, and that he needed to get home so he could look over some emails and join a conference call. Emma looked at her watch. It was eight thirty in the evening on a Saturday; not exactly the time one would expect for an emergency, but she relented. She had heard stories of campaigns being derailed by even the most innocent of occurrences. A controversial website or the wrong celebrity showing support for a candidate could ruin everything before he even got his chance.

 

Emma finished her meal as quickly as she could without choking on it. Neal had even reached over and stolen a few scallops. When they were finished, Neal declined dessert and paid the check. As he stood to put his jacket back on, Emma caught a glance at the signed receipt and waited until he had turned away from the table to throw a few extra bills on the table. Even if Neal hadn't been a complete jerk to the waiter, she still wouldn’t have allowed for the man to receive such an embarrassingly low tip.

 

The car that they has used to drop them off hadn't been there to pick them up, which was no surprise to Emma considering that they had cut their meal time down tremendously by skipping four of the courses. Neal, however, had seemed quite surprised, and annoyed. There was a tiny bit of sad desperation in him as he hailed a cab for the two of them, giving the driver his address instead of hers. When she looked at him questioningly, he shrugged and asked if it would really be that big of a deal if they dropped him off first for once.

 

The truth was that Emma didn't care. She just wanted to do whatever would have them parting the fastest. The cab pulled up to Neal's apartment and he left, giving her a quick peck on the cheek before he dashed inside, without even paying for his portion of the fare. That time Emma did roll her eyes and the driver chuckled at the action. She gave him her address and he turned the car back around.

 

It wasn't until they pulled up outside her building and she scooted over to exit the cab door that she felt something in the seat. Neal had left his cell phone. She considered just taking it inside with her, but given the fact that he seemed to be facing a crisis, she worried that he would need the phone as soon as possible. With a sigh, she asked the cab to take her back to Neal's apartment. The driver had offered to wait for her, but she declined, paying the fair and leaving him a nice tip for his kindness.

 

The doorman immediately recognized her and let her in. Neal's apartment was on the top floor so Emma decided to take the elevator straight up to the entire floor sized apartment. He had given her an elevator key not long after they were engaged to make it easier for her to visit. Mainly, he just wanted the press to see that they were in fact serious enough for his key to reside on her key chain. Emma had found the idea ridiculous, wondering who in their right mind would notice one extra key on her key chain, but the next day she had seen a gossip article speculating that they were in the process of moving in together. It didn't exactly help his family value's theme in her opinion, but it had helped bring even more attention to both Neal and Gold's campaigns.

 

The elevator was one of the original lifts from the pre war era building, and it groaned and creaked each time she rode it, making her nervous. Each time it proved to function better than expected though, and when the doors slid open, Emma got a wide eyes view of Neal's assistant spreading her legs wide open. Emma gasped at the unexpected sight, and Neal nearly hit the ceiling as he jumped at the noise. Tamara's cursed at the discomfort of their hasty uncoupling, and Emma stood in silence, waiting for an explanation.

 

"Ems, what are you doing here?"

 

"I- You-" she stuttered out, autopilot forcing the words out on her behalf. "You left your cell in the cab and considering your emergency , I thought you might need it."

 

She held the phone out for him, still completely stupefied at the sight before her.

 

"Thanks. Was that it?"

 

Neal had the audacity to ignore the fact that Emma had just caught him in the throws of passion with another woman, and suddenly all she could see was red. Perhaps she didn't love him, but there had been an implied agreement between them of monogamy. The proof was sitting on her left ring finger.

 

" Was that it ? Are you kidding me, Neal? What the hell?"

 

Neal put his hands out in front of him in an attempt to placate her, which only angered her more.

 

"Whoa, Ems. I know this looks bad, but what did you seriously expect? I'm a man, and I have certain needs that you refused to see to."

 

"So you just stuck it in someone else instead?"

 

Neal huffed, and Tamara took the break in conversation to peel herself off of the couch and run into Neal's bedroom.

 

"Look, this is how it is in politics. Men are almost expected to have mistresses. You and I never specified that I would be completely faithful to you."

 

"This is how it is? So if I told you that I cheated on you, then what? Would you be okay with that?"

 

Neal barked out a laugh.

 

"Ems. You do understand that there's a difference between you and I, right? My career can survive a scandal on my part, but not the other way around."

 

"You can't be serious."

 

She wanted to cry in frustration, but she couldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had had such a large affect on her.

 

"How many times do I need to explain it? This is just how it is. My job is to go to work everyday and provide enough money to give you a life where you'll never want for anything. Your job is to be the woman. To look pretty in front of the camera and on my arm. To provide me with children. To make me look good."

 

"God, I'm such an idiot."

 

She turned back and summoned the elevator.

 

"Emma, where are you going?"

 

"Anywhere but here."

 

She felt his hand resting on top of her shoulder.

 

"You realize we have a deal right? You and me, we signed a contract. Regina and my father signed a contract. If you back out now, your company is forfeit."

 

The elevator doors opened and Emma stepped in. She couldn't respond. Her head was spinning and she could barely breathe. Everything had fallen apart and she silently hoped that the elevator would give way and she could fall to her death. It wasn't that she wanted to die, she just wanted to stop feeling, and the only other way she knew how to do that was alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

 

Emma almost stumbled out of the lobby in a daze. She wasn't thinking clearly, and when Neal's doorman flagged down a cab for her, the only place she could think to go wasn't her apartment. The cab ride took forever, and even with the late hour, traffic had been heavy. On the way to her destination, she spied a liquor store and asked the driver to pull over and wait for her. Fifteen minutes later she emerged from the store with a large paper bag filled with colorful glass bottles.

 

The cab drove about ten more blocks before she reached her destination. She paid once again, and made her way up the stairs leading to the brownstone. She kicked the door a few times since her arms were full with the weight of three bottles of wine, a bottle of tequila, and a bottle of rum. When the door cracked open, red streaked brunette hair greeted her.

 

"Emma?"

 

"I brought tequila."

 

Ruby didn't even bother asking what was wrong. Instead, she shuffled Emma into the kitchen and pulled out two shot glasses that Emma recognized from her party days. Ruby took the bag from her and laid the bottles out side by side on the counter.

 

Emma grabbed the bottle of tequila, twisted the top off and poured each of them a full shot. In retrospect, she should have bought some limes to go with it, but her befuddled brain hadn't thought that far ahead. She and Ruby each took their shot, grimacing at the burning sensation. Emma filled their glasses again and they repeated, but before Emma could grab the bottle again, Ruby stopped her.

 

"Okay, I'm always down for a game of who had the strongest liver, but maybe it would help if I knew why we were drinking ourselves into oblivion first."

 

"Neal," she croaked out."

 

"Ugh, what does he want you to do now?"

 

"It's not so much about ‘what’ he wants to do, as much as it is about ‘who’ he wanted to do. Or I guess, who he was already doing."

 

Emma didn't wait for Ruby to respond before filling and drinking yet another shot. With the combination of wine she had at dinner, and the relatively empty stomach, she could feel the alcohol already dulling her senses.

 

"Are you serious? Who?"

 

"His strategist."

 

"What the fuck? Jesus Christ!"

 

Ruby seemed genuinely shocked, which made Emma feel slightly better. At least she hadn't been the only one to miss the signs.

 

"What are you going to do?" Ruby still seemed to be processing the information.

 

"Doesn't matter."

 

Emma stood up from the stool she was seated on and nearly fell over as she reached out for the bottle of rum instead. Ruby opened another cabinet and pulled out two tumblers for herself and Emma. Emma poured a hearty helping for each of them before setting the bottle back down. Instead of sitting back down on her stool, she wandering into the living room and plopped down on the couch, nearly spilling the rum on herself. Ruby made her way behind Emma, but managed to sit on the opposite end of the couch with a little more grace.

 

"Killian was right. It's not worth it. I'm not marrying him."

 

Ruby's eyes narrowed.

 

"Wait? Who is Killian?"

 

Emma waived her arm in the air brushing off the question.

 

"Jones. He said that my parents never would have wanted me to be this miserable."

 

Ruby shrieked.

 

"Oh my God. Killian Jones ? The Killian Jones. Wait, when did you even-"

 

Ruby's eyes blew wide and Emma realized her mistake. Damn tequila.

 

"You met him in Greenland, didn't you?"

 

"Ruby."

 

Emma was caught, and if she hadn't been drowning in booze she would have been panicking. Luckily for her though, the alcohol had succeeded in serving its purpose. She was beginning to feel just the right amount of numbness."

 

"No. You don't get to do that. Tell me everything."

 

"There's nothing to tell. We were sitting next to each other on the plane and we just got to talking."

 

"Liar!" Ruby's voice was something resembling the high pitched nervousness of the teenage girls Killian had taken pictures with at the airport. "Emma Nolan. You may be a human lie detector, but you're a shit liar."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

The booze was definitely dulling her defense mechanisms.

 

"Emma, I love you, but you are one of the most closed off people I know. There's no way you sat down next to a guy and just started opening up to him. What really happened?"

 

Emma relented, telling her the entire sordid story, toning down parts where she could, but the implications remained. By the end, she was crying.

 

"God, Ruby. I didn't even like Neal and I'm still so angry and humiliated. I can't even imagine what it was like for Killian."

 

Ruby ignored that in favor of a different subject.

 

"Let me get this straight. Killian Jones asked you to marry him. He begged you to give him a chance, the only guy that has ever been able to break down your stupid walls, and you just walked away from him?"

 

"I didn't think I had a choice," Emma sobbed out. "I couldn't. I would have lost everything."

 

"Oh sweetie, but isn't that exactly what happened?"

 

Emma fell into Ruby, who hugged her tightly and let her cry until her eyes ran dry. Emma felt broken, and all she wanted was for Killian to walk through the door so she that could beg for his forgiveness. She wanted it to be his arms wrapped around her, his consolatory words whispered into her ear. She just wanted him.

 

Once she was done crying, Ruby suggested they watch something on tv to distract her from everything that had happened. They settled on a random music awards show. With the time difference between New York and Los Angeles, the stars were still walking down the red carpet. It was something that Emma hadn't let herself indulge in in years. She and Ruby critiqued the fashion and hair choices of the women and swooned over the men in their tuxedos.

 

It wasn't until a set of piercing blue eyes filled the screen that Emma felt her heart stop. He was just as gorgeous as she remembered, and when he spoke to the reporter, she felt as if he was speaking straight to her himself. Her reminiscing was cut short though when he was joined on screen by a blue eyed goddess.

 

"Who's that?"

 

"Oh, her," Ruby started. "That's Milah. His on-again, off-again girlfriend. I guess they're on again."

 

Emma heart sank into her stomach. Just as she thought to herself that life couldn't get any worse, the reporter pointed out a shiny new bauble on her all important finger. The reporter asked if they were engaged after all of these years, and Milah coyly answered that people would ‘just have to wait and see’ before gazing up at Killian with a longing look of love.

 

Emma barely made it to the toilet before she expelled out all of the contents in her stomach.

Chapter Text


 

 

 

Thanks to the last minute change in directors, as well as script changes, and filming location issues, by the time Killian had agreed to play the role of Benjamin Bradley, a naval lieutenant in the United States Navy, production had already been delayed by months. August was ready to jump straight into filming as soon as they got the greenlight, and had decided to film as much in chronological order as possible to keep continuity intact. Killian's character was going to hell and back to return to his love, and it meant undergoing many physical changes. Killian would have to lose weight for the role as his character had been starved in later scenes, and August understood how difficult it could be on an actor to have to shift back and forth between peak athletic form and the withered look he'd be sporting near the end of filming.

 

He had been smart to start his physical training before he had even auditioned for the role. Many of his early scenes required him to move about his ship with speed and agility, while also being able to lift heavy objects. Then there was the matter of an early on sex scene with Milah. August had pointed out that it set the tone for the entire movie. It was supposed to showcase the true love shared by the two characters, to show why Killian's character wanted to return home so badly, and both of them needed to be in top shape for the nudity on camera.

 

The scene was supposed to be a pivotal moment for the couple. It was their first time coming together.  Killian's character, Ben, had proposed to Evie the week before, but as the setting was in the early nineteen hundreds, it was customary for a proper man and woman to wait until marriage. Evie, Milah's character, had come from a very well-to-do family, and she had a reputation to protect, one that Ben didn't want to sully. He, like Killian, believed in good form. But the day after their engagement, he received notice that America had joined the war to help its allies, and his ship would be leaving at the end of the week. Evie had promised Ben that she would wait for him to the end of time, and just before he left, Evie said to hell with her reputation and they made love in a small barn at the edge of town.

 

Granted, Killian wasn't going to be showing nearly as much as Milah, but he was still uncomfortable with the entire situation. As if it wasn't bad enough going through the motions of such an intimate act in front of a camera, for a movie that would likely be seen by millions of moviegoers, it was an intimate action that he had done so many times before. One he swore he would never do again. Seeing Milah splayed out below him, her hair fanned across the jacket Ben had laid out as a pillow, it brought back memories. It brought back the pain, and Killian had to bite down all of his emotions to hide his hurt from the camera.

 

It had been made even worse by Milah's complete lack of inhibition. Unlike other love scenes that he had filmed before, his partner this time didn't hold back. When her hips bucked up she ground into him, and despite all of the frustration he felt towards her and all of the equipment he was wearing, he still found himself becoming aroused. He hated himself for it; it was as if he had lost a piece of his humanity. She shouldn't have the power to affect him that way anymore, but there was muscle memory involved.

 

A picture of Emma flashed through his mind, but he tucked it down, deep down. She deserved more than to be in his sullied thoughts as he mechanically dry humped another woman. Instead he thought back on all of the times he had been with Milah, before the shame and self-loathing. He knew the way her body fit against his, what it would do next, and his body simply reacted. Memories flooded his senses. The first time they were together, how she had looked at him as if he were actually more than a bartender turned actor.

 

No.

 

He couldn’t let his mind wander there either just because his body was weaker than his will. Still, as he followed August’s directions, and let his gaze meet Milah’s, he couldn’t help but notice the same look in her eyes from all those years before. And for just a minute, she wasn’t the woman that had cheated on him, the woman that had shattered his heart, or even the woman that had ruined his life. She was just Milah, the woman he had once been so infatuated with that he was willing to throw away everything for, and habit took over as he pushed and pulled against her until she cried out.

 

It was a bucket of water, completely sobering. August yelled cut and Killian wasted no time pushing off of Milah and throwing on a robe while he moved off of the set. He needed to be anywhere but near her . The experience had left him confused, and when his eye flickered towards her, he saw something in her face, something like hope.

 

Relief washed over him when August told them he had everything he needed for the scene. Setting up the next scene and getting the lighting right took hours and it gave him time to recollect himself in his trailer. He didn’t want Milah back, that much he had been sure of, but everything else was confusing still. He was still trying to sift through his muddled mind when there was a knock on his door. His initial reaction was to yell out for them to leave, worried of who might be on the other side, but when a distinctly male voice hollered back, he relaxed and invited Will in.

 

“Oi, mate. You look like hell.”

 

While Will may have been lacking in all regards of social grace, he was always blunt, which was one of his best character attributes in Killian’s mind. Will was fundamentally unable to hold back his opinions and people always knew where they stood with him.

 

“Well aren’t you a charmer? What are you even doing here?”

 

“Hey now, there’s no need for hostility. I had a meeting a few lots over and I thought I’d come and see how things were going.”

 

Killian hadn’t even moved from the couch he was stretched out on to offer Will a seat. Inside, his friend grabbed a chair from the kitchen area and planted it backwards across from Killian where he straddled it.

 

“So,” the word stretched from his mouth. “How is everything?”

 

Killian barked out a laugh as if were the silliest question he’d ever been asked. He had shot a nude scene with a woman he hated, managed to give himself an erection, and brought the spawn of satan to her release. He was doing just peachy.

 

“Everything is rainbows and unicorns, mate.”

 

Killian heaved himself up to a sitting position.

 

“Can I asked you something?”

 

Will stiffened at the question, and Killian could see the weariness in his eyes. He just nodded back to him.

 

“It’s about Milah.”

 

Killian watched as Will let out a huff and rolled his eyes in what Killian could only interpret as annoyance, but continued anyway.

 

“You’ve always been one of the most honest people I’ve ever known, to the point of brutality sometimes. So why did you never let on how much you hated Milah?”

 

“I don’t-,” Will was obviously thinking over his words as he continued. “I just want you to be happy.”

 

“You don’t have to pretend for my sake. You made your feelings well known at Christmas.”

 

“Alright, you want the truth? The horrible messy, no sugarcoating truth?”

 

Killian nodded.

 

“She’s evil incarnate, and for years I watched you morph yourself into something you thought would make her happy. And the whole bloody time she was stepping out on ya. And the worst part was that you let her. Robin and I tried to knock some sense into you, we really did, but you were being a blood git about it. You made it perfectly clear that if it came down to it, you’d choose her every time.”

 

Will had stood up from his seat and had starting pacing across the living room space instead.

 

“And I didn’t want to lose my best friend, not over something so stupid. So I held my tongue when I could. And the thing is, I was terrified that you’d end up with her, I still am if I’m being completely honest here. You deserve so much more than her, but even now, I’m scared that if I tell you how much I truly despise her, that as some point you’re going to take her back and that it’s going to ruin our friendship.”

 

Killian had never realized how much Will had been holding back. He had seen the shared looks between Will and Robin before, but he’d always assumed there was a bit of jealousy behind it, so he had ignored everything.

 

With that, he stood up and went into the back of his trailer where a small bed served as a place for him to sleep between scene blockings. Buried underneath the pillow was his cell phone, the one that contained his only physical reminder of Emma. The same one that he had kept tucked away, protected from the rest of the world.

 

“Hey, if you wanted me to leave you could have just said so. No need to storm off.”

 

He was back in the living room before Will had even made it to the door.

 

“I want to show you something, but first, I need you to promise that it stays between us.”

 

Will’s eyes narrowed at him and both men sat back down.

 

“Okay,” was the only response he got.

 

He tapped away in his phone navigating through all of the photo albums in his phone.

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” started Will. “If this is a sex tape of you two, then you can just throw that thing right out the door. I’d sooner gouge my own eyes out then watch such a thing.”

 

Killian rolled his eyes and held out is phone to Will anyway. Will’s eyes widened and something close to a whistle escaped his lips.

 

“Looks like someone’s been busy. Who is she and why haven’t we met her yet?”

 

“I met Emma on the plane home from London before Christmas. She was in the seat next to me and we ended up bunking together in Greenland for a few days.”

 

A pain flared through his chest. God he missed her.

 

“And?”

 

“And nothing. That was is. She said from the beginning that it was a one time thing. I didn’t even get her real name.”

 

“Bloody hell, Killian.” Will was exasperated. “How do you know she isn’t some crazy stalker. That she isn’t going to show up in a few months claiming you knocked her up so she can bleed you dry? You just got your life back in order.”

 

Killian ran his hand over his face.

 

“It’s not like that. She’s not like that. She doesn’t even know who I am.”

 

Will’s head tilted and he leveled Killian was a look of utter stupidity.

 

“Seriously? And you believed he?”

 

“Yes.”

 

It was the only thing he could say back.

 

“Well you can sure pick ‘em.”

 

Will tossed the phone back to him and Killian let his eyes fall on her face a little too long.

 

“Shit.” Will huffed out. “You’re in love wiv’ er’, aren’t ya?”

 

“It doesn’t matter. I’m never going to see her again.”

 

Killian let himself flop back down in the couch. Their fight from the night before they had left replayed in his head on a loop sometimes, and he always found himself wondering if there was anything he could have said or done differently. His number had been in her phone for months and she hadn’t reached out, and he knew that she never would. She was probably already married at this point, a repeating thought that haunted him constantly.

 

“If you’re so caught up on ‘er, why don’t you just put up her photo?”

 

“No!” It had nearly been a shout. “I can’t do that.”

 

“Oh, so everything stupid thing you’ve done, and this is gonna be the one that embarrasses you?’

 

“No, I can’t do it to her. As far as I know she got engaged a few hours after we landed back here in New York.”

 

For a moment, his thoughts fluttered back to the fireworks show that had gone off. He wondered if she could have heard them from wherever she was in the city. He imagined her and her fiancé standing under them, looking at her new ring, celebrating under a sea of lights. And even though the chances of her living close enough to see the display, close enough that she was only blocks from him in a city the size of New York were beyond slim, even the idea of it sickened him.

 

“Jesus Christ, Killian. You jump from being cheated on to being an adulterer?”

 

There was a modicum of truth in Will’s words, but he didn’t know the story, and being compared to Milah had his walls slamming up around him.

 

“It’s not like that. They aren’t in love.”

 

“Ya, cuz people who ain’t in love get married all the time,” Will interupted.

 

“Will you pull your head out of your arse for two bloody minutes and let me explain. It’s an arranged marriage. She hardly knew him at the time, and neither of them were in love with each other.”

 

“Then why is she with him and not you?”

 

It was a question he had asked himself daily and nightly, and the only answer he could ever come up with was that he just wasn’t good enough.

 

A silence extended between the two of them and Killian had been sure that someone was going to call him back to set before either of them said anything more, but then Will broke in.

 

“What else?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You didn’t just up and decided to tell me about blondie for no reason. So let’s have it. What else you got?”

 

Truth time.

 

“I-” He felt his finger slip onto a familiar spot behind his ear. “I had a love scene with Milah earlier, and it had... an effect on me. And now I’m confused.”

 

And I feel like I just cheated on Emma , he added in his head.

 

Will laughed, and the genuinity of it surprised him.

 

“And you’re worried that it means you still want her,” Will supplied. “Lemme ask you, did yer heart start racin’? Did it fill with the warmth of a thousand suns? Did it feel like you were makin’ love?”

 

“God, no.”

 

“So, what you’re telling me is that - as a man - you felt a stirring in yer undercarriage while laying on top of a naked woman? Oh the shame.”

 

There was a look of pure elation on Will’s face and things seemed to slide back into a comfortable place.

 

“You’re an igit, I’ll give you that much Killian Jones, but I don’t think it meant that you still love her. Not with the look I saw on your face as you moped over Blondie-”

 

“Emma,” Killian cut in.

 

“Whatever. The point is that you and Milah have history. She knows how to get you riled up, and it’s not surprising that she got ya all hot and bothered.”

 

It made sense in theory, but it did nothing to alleviate the guilt he felt.

 

“Look, Jones. It’s an awkward experience no matter who you’re with, and it’s happened to the best of us.”

 

Killian raised his brows at that. Will had never mentioned such a thing before.

 

“Anastasia.” He shrugged like it was nothing.

 

Before Killian could think of a smart retort, he heard a PA knock on his door and tell him that they were ready for him again. Will walked with him half way before turning to go back to one of the actor parking lots.

 

“Oh, and Jones.” Killian turned back. “You shouldn’t feel guilty when you’re not even together.”

 

Killian nodded.

 

It took almost four more months of filming before everything was complete. Many of the later scenes were filmed off of the coast of Italy near Malta. Killian was on a strict calorie diet at the time, and was constantly cranky as many of the crew members indulged in pasta and other Italian dishes. His other castmates were all struggling as well, which had been a bonding experience at first, but slowly morphed into everyone snapping at each other for even the most minor of infractions. Weather difficulties had caused ever further delays in production.

 

Killian’s character, Ben, had been on a naval destroyer when a German u-boat engaged them. The navy men had been unprepared due to the quick deployment, and were no match for the sneak attack. A few of the men were able to make it to a lifeboat, but they were sitting ducks in the middle of the ocean, and were eventually captured by German soldiers and taken to a prisoner camp. The Germans boasted on the radio about how all of the Americans had perished, and Ben worried for Evie, knowing that someone in a white uniform had probably already knocked on her door to inform her that he was dead. It was Ben’s love and desire to marry her that kept him going through his enterment.

 

The only perk to the entire thing was that Killian was over five thousand miles away from Milah and her constant advances. She had become slightly more aggressive in her attempts to woo him back, especially when alcohol was involved. He had been right when he thought he had seen hope in her that one day, and no matter what he said or did, she wouldn’t be dissuaded.

 

After he returned from Europe, he was miserable - had been after months of his starvation diet - and the moment he walked through the door to his apartment she attacked him, wearing nothing more than a red bow tie. He ended up staying at Robin’s that night, and again the next.

 

When he finally returned, Milah was fuming at him, but he had just assumed that it was because he had rejected her advances. He had been completely taken off guard when she confronted him.

 

“Who is she?” She shouted like a crazed woman.

 

“What? Who?”

 

He was genuinely confused. The last woman he had been with was Emma, and while he had been offered multiple temptations while filming, he had turned them all down. His promise to Emma was always at the forefront of his mind. He couldn’t let himself be distracted at the expense of what he had worked so hard for. And even nearly nine months later, he knew that he wasn’t ready to move on yet. No one would ever compare, so why even try? Instead, he buried himself in his work.

 

“You know who. That girl on your phone!”

 

“What?” He could feel the rage he had spent months tempering down rising to the surface. “You went through my phone?”

 

“Don’t you dare try to turn this around on me, Killian Jones. You may think she’s your dirty little secret, but I see you looking at that picture all the time. So who is she?”

 

Her question didn’t deserve a response, but he knew how she could be. He knew that she wouldn’t let it rest until she had an answer.

 

“Someone from my past. Does it matter? We aren’t together, and even if we were, it’s not exactly as if you’ve been an angel in all of this.”

 

He knew he was going to regret it the moment the words slipped from his lips. But his expectations of what would have come next were short of reality. Her face twisted, and her entire body slumped into a more relaxed position.

 

“Sweetheart,” he tensed at the undesired endearment. “I screwed up. I know that, I really do, and if I could take it back I would, but I can’t.”

 

She walked closer and set her hands on his waist. He wanted to move, to back away, but his body was frozen from anger.

 

“But we’ve come back from this before and we can do it again. I know we can, but that means you have to let her go. Killian, come back to me. Please my love. We’re meant to be together. I can feel it in my bones.”

 

He said nothing.

 

“What do you need,” she asked. “Do you need to fuck her? Would that make us even?”

 

It was such a crass description of what he and Emma had shared. He adopted a predatory stance as he leaned forward into Milah’s space ever so slightly.

 

“And what if I told you that I already did?”

Her eyes went wide with the realization. For the first time since the moment they had met, Killian had left her speechless. He didn’t wait for her to say anything. Instead he scraped his teeth over his lower lip and gave her a wink and he walked up to the room that was now his.

 

Everything had been incredibly tense after that. The last few weeks of filming had begun to wrap up. Killian’s character had come home to find that Milah’s character had married and had had a child, and that she obviously hadn’t waited on his proposal as promised. Ben had confronted Evie, called her every horrible name that had ever been created to describe a woman. He’d asked her if her new husband was able to satisfy her the way he had, throwing salt into the wound. Those scenes were easier for him to film. He drew on his hatred for Milah and his longing for Emma. He thought of Neal’s anonymous face placing kisses down her jaw, of Neal’s hands leaving bruises on Emma’s hip as he pushed into her. He wondered if Neal compared to him, if Neal could elicit the same moans and screams that he had.

 

It carried him forwards, helping him to cry without the aid of eyedrops. He felt like a madman as he acted out the scenes, reality and imagination beginning to blend so that he couldn’t tell them apart. He put his soul into every word he delivered, into every lingering look at Evie’s character as he walked away from her, giving one last glance through the window as the little girl played with her father in the living room. The child Ben would never have; the life Killian would never have.

 

That had been the final scene they had filmed together. The rest of the movie saw Ben delving into a life of alcoholism and gambling, leading to homelessness. Ultimately, Ben died alone, beaten in a back alley for the unpaid debts he owed to a very powerful man. It was only after he left the set that they filmed the final scene; the one where the audience learned that the little girl was named Hattie, after Ben’s mother. She was his daughter, a miracle resulting from their one night together, and Evie’s father had forced her to marry an investment banker to avoid the shame of being an unwed mother. She had resisted, of course, but when she had heard that Ben was dead, she’d given up and married the man. Evie brought Hattie to Ben’s grave. As the two of them stood in front of his tombstone, Evie told their daughter the story of how he had been a great man, but that he had been lost to the war. The perfect symbolism, as August had put it.

 

For the next two months, Killian tried to regain his figure. He had every fatty food he could get his hands on, including grilled cheese sandwiches from a place in lower Manhattan. Granny’s had always been a place that he had loved, but he rarely let himself indulge in any of the food there so he could stay lithe for movie roles. With nearly thirty pounds lost, he felt no guilt. Well, almost no guilt. As he dug into his second helping of what the owner called ‘the best grilled cheese in the city’, he couldn’t help but wish that Emma could have been there with him to enjoy it.

 

He also spent some of the time promoting the movie on radio shows and television. He continued to avoid questions about his life with Milah, focusing on the movie and what made it stand out from another war movie that was slated to be released around the same time.

 

Killian spent a lot of time with Will, getting out of the house so he could feel human again. They even spent a weekend with Robin at his adventureland resort, learning how to shoot bow and arrows, and how to scavenge in the woods for food and shelter. It wasn’t his favorite activity, but being around friends- without alcohol running through his veins - had given his life new meaning. The only thing missing was Emma.

 

The longing for her only became amplified when he stole away to visit Liam’s grave again. Normally he’d wait until later in the month, but with his work commitments, he had had to move up his trip. Standing in front of his brother’s headstone, he even apologized for not getting to be there on the day. Then again, he’d apologized for a lot more to Liam on that trip than just for the timing.

 

“Liam, I fear I may have let you down again. I feel like that’s all I ever do anymore. My life is a mess, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to pull myself together. I know how much you sacrificed for me, and I’m so ashamed. Even after all of this time, I still have days where I wished it was me in that grave instead of you. You were always the better person.

 

“Emma told me that I was fool for wanting to trade places with you. But that’s just one more thing I’ve messed up.

 

“You would have loved her, brother. She’s a spitfire, equal parts beauty and intelligence. Hell, if you were here, you probably would have stole her out from under me. You would have actually been worthy of her, unlike me. I don’t know what I was thinking, that someone like me might have ever been worthy of her. She’s everything I never realized I wanted, and for a few brief days, I believed in us. In the end though, I wasn’t enough, and now not only have I lost her, but I’ve unfortunately chained myself to Milah for the foreseeable future and I’m afraid I may never be rid of her.

 

“I wish you were here to help me, to guide me. I miss you, brother.”

 

The trip home had been cathartic. It had been the first time he’d allowed himself to say all of it aloud, and somehow he’d felt a slight release of pressure in his chest. It didn’t lessen the pain, but it helped to validate it.

 

Later in November, he and Milah had been booked to present at a music awards show in Los Angeles. The house was just as he had left it with most of his things stashed away in one of the rooms. Milah had been oddly quiet on the trip out there. He had been forced to sit next to her on the plane for the sake of appearances, but he broke away from her as soon as they had walked through the door, the charade finished. He locked himself away to get ready for the night.

 

Smee had arranged for a small crew to come over and help him pick out a tuxedo and stylize it perfectly with Milah’s dress without it looking as if they had tried to match. They did his hair and applied a thin layer of foundation and blush to the apple of his cheeks so he wouldn’t look washed out on the red carpet.

 

They drove together in a limo, and Killian managed to avoid looking at Milah or having any physical contact with her during the ride. When they stopped, a waiting attendant opened the door and helped him out followed by Milah. He didn’t wait for her before walking the carpet, knowing that the photographers would want individual pictures of each of them. When he made it closer to the end, he was greeted with a reporter from the EF network. She asked him basic questions about the movie he had been working on. The main reason he had agreed to present the award was so that he would have the chance to promote the film.

 

He was just about to walk off when he felt an arm wrap around his waist. Milah had pressed herself completely into his side, lifting her left hand to rest on the lapel of his jacket. He heard the reporter gasp before she reached out and grabbed Milah’s hand.

 

“Oh my God,” squealed the reporter. “Is that what I think it is? Are you guys finally getting hitched after all of these years?”

 

He felt as if he were having an out of body experience, watching the trainwreck unfold in front of him but unable to stop it. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, couldn’t even move.

 

“I don’t know. You’ll just have to wait and see,” came Milah’s response.

 

He saw her head shift out of the corner of his eye, and he knew immediately by the way that she looked at him what her game was. It was payback, and he was screwed.

Chapter Text


 

 

 

Seeing Milah on Killian’s arm had nearly crushed Emma. Her face had been familiar, but after eleven months, the only blue eyes she remembered where his. She had long forgotten about the face that had accompanied his on the television screens in the bar back in Nuuk, and she had refused to look either of them up on the internet in an effort to put it all beyond her.

 

Apparently he hadn’t forgotten about Milah though. For all of his declarations of love and begging and pleading, Emma had meant so little to him that he’d jumped back in bed with the she-devil. It had probably happened as soon as they had returned to New York. There had been a tiny part of her brain that had imagined him pinning away for her - the way her heart did for him, despite her protests - but all of those notions were shattered the moment she saw a large diamond ring on Ruby’s screen.

 

Her stomach turned and she had just barely made it to the bathroom before heaving into the toilet. Her skin felt sickly warm and flushed as she sunk down onto her knees and braced her arms on the lid. In that moment, she regretted every bit of alcohol in her system, while simultaneously craving more. She wanted the horrible sinking feeling to go away. She wanted to be numb. She wanted to forget him the way he had forgotten her.

 

Once she was satisfied that there was nothing left in her stomach, she rinsed her mouth with water from the sink, and patted her face with a wet washcloth. She rejoined Ruby in the living room, but she stopped short when she realized that Ruby was on the phone. She wasn’t sure who Ruby was speaking to, but it seemed like a heated conversation so she stayed back, not making her presence know.

 

“Are you drunk?”

 

She heard a barking laughter come through the phone, but Ruby continued.

 

“God, you’re just as bad as everyone else says. I don’t know what she sees in you. You and Milah really do deserve each other!”

 

Emma gasped at the realization of who was on the phone, even though it was impossible. Still, her heart leapt as Ruby turned around and caught her eye. She waited for anything, any sign from Ruby about what he was saying, but Ruby’s downturned grimace told her everything she needed to know.

 

Speakerphone, she mouthed silently.

 

Ruby shook her head, but Emma was adamant. She nearly tore out a lock of Ruby’s hair by accident when she grabbed the phone away and hit the speaker button.

 

“Tell your friend that she made a promise to a man and she can’t break it just because she wants to whore around with someone else, and if you ask me, she’s a bloody trollip. I feel sorry for the poor sod who gets stuck with her forever.”

 

Emma could hear the way his words slurred and when she took in a breath, she could have sworn that there was a lingering scent of his rum in the air. It wasn’t until she looked past Ruby into the kitchen that she realized that she had bought his favorite brand.

 

“Now if you’ll escusee me, please fuckoff and lose this number.”

 

The call ended, and Emma finally felt the numbness she had been seeking all night.

 

“Ems,” Ruby tried. “He’s drunk, he doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

 

Emma gave her the best smile she could muster, but the tears streaming down her face betrayed her. She held the phone to her chest and started weeping, something she hadn’t done since her father’s funeral. Ruby’s arms came around her and both of them sunk down onto the ground.

 

Ruby tried to whisper soothing words into Emma ears, but she couldn’t hear anything but the sound of her heart breaking into a hundred pieces.

 

She wasn’t sure how long they remained huddled against each other on Ruby’s worn linoleum tile, but as far as Emma was concerned, decades may as well have passed. Everything was gone, and it was all her fault. Of all of the emotions that came swirling back into her body, irrational anger won out. She kept putting her faith in all of the wrong people over and over again; her father for marrying Regina, that Regina would honor their agreement, that Neal would honor any version of wedding vows, and worst of all, that Killian had actually cared about her.

 

“Emma, what can I do?” Ruby whispered. “Do you want me to call him back?”

 

That was enough to snap Emma out of her trance.

 

“No! How did you even get ahold of him in the first place?”

 

“I was going through your phone to find information for the caterers, and flower stuff so I could start making cancellations and I came across his name while scrolling through for the other stuff.”

 

“And, what? You thought you’d just call him and tell him how pathetic I was and ask him to give me another chance?”

 

Emma knew it was a horrible thing to say, but the rational part of her brain hadn’t yet succeeded in regaining control, and the anger was the only thing she was able to cling to for any length of time.

 

“No,” came Ruby’s shrill cry. “Emma, you saw him on that screen. He looked miserable, and I thought that if he missed you even half as much as you obviously miss him that he’d jump at the chance to be with you again. I thought- Well I don’t know what I was thinking but I was trying to help.”

 

As she spoke, Ruby’s words took on a softer tone, and by the end, it was clear that she felt horrible for what she had done. Emma wasn’t ready to let the anger go, so instead she shifted it.

 

“No, I get it. I probably would have done the exact same thing for you, but it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want anything to do with me. He probably never did. I was just the girl that fell for his lines and was stupid enough to open up my legs for him.”

 

God she felt like such a fool for having believed him. He was an actor, of course he had played her.

 

“Ems, he was really drunk. I don’t think he even knew what we were talking about.”

 

“Not actually helpful.”

 

“I’m just saying maybe we should wait and try again tomorrow when he’s sober.”

 

“You mean if he’s sober, and no. He’s very honest when he’s like that so whatever he said, that’s how he really felt.”

 

“Okay, so we’ll just leave it alone then.”

 

It sounded good in theory, but Emma knew Ruby well enough to know that she never gave up that easily. Given the chance, Ruby would pester him nonstop, and that wasn’t what Emma wanted. She was already playing second best to Tamara, she couldn’t do that with Milah as well.

 

“How do I block his number?”

 

“What?”

 

Ruby’s eyes widened and Emma noticed how she shifted, obviously not having expected Emma to end the issue once and for all.

 

“How do I block him?” Emma scrolled over his contact info, wondering when he had found the time to put his information in there, or why he had even bothered for that matter. The wine, tequila, and rum that had managed to soak it’s way into her bloodstream made her fingers uncoordinated and it took her a few attempts to click on the ‘block this caller’ button. At one point she had accidently hit call again but was able to end the call before it connected.

 

“Nevermind, I found it.”

 

With another swipe or two Killian’s number had been blocked and deleted to prevent any further temptation for Ruby, or even herself.

 

“Okay then,” Ruby sighed, “would you like to give me the phone back so I can finish cancelling all of the wedding stuff?”

 

Emma thought on it. Sure, Neal was an awful person and she wanted little to do with him after everything she had seen, but at least he had been honest about his intentions. He would continue to see Tamara, which would, if nothing else, limit any physical interaction she would have to have with him. And perhaps it had been her fault, to a point. She had denied his attempts at affection on multiple occasions. If she had let her walls down, if she had let Killian go the moment she had landed in New York like she had meant to, if she had given Neal a chance, maybe she wouldn’t be in such a mess.

 

And if nothing else, after everything she had lost that night, she wasn’t going to let her parents company go too.

 

“The wedding is still on. Please fix anything with the cancellations you’ve already made.”

 

“Emma,” Ruby admonished. She could see confusion and judgement written all over Ruby’s face. The judgement was well deserved- she felt it for herself - but in the end, the means would be justified and that’s all that truly mattered anymore.

 

“Please, Ruby, just do as I say. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m tired.”

 

Emma tried to leave, but Ruby refused, telling her that it was late, and that she was in no shape to wonder around the city alone, so Emma relented. She found herself tucked into Ruby’s queen sized bed, and for the first time in nearly a year, Emma found herself in bed with someone. Granted, it wasn’t the same as having Killian’s skin against her own, feeling the lift and fall of each breath he took, or hearing the way his heart steadied out as he fell prey to the exhaustion of their love making, but Ruby’s presence was still warm and comforting.

 

And as much as Emma wanted to hate Killian, her sleep addled brain simply wouldn’t let her. She dreamed of him again that night, as she had done every night since she returned. The places changed, their clothing did as well, but it was always just them. Every night she fell in love with him all over as he held her, made her feel comfortable and safe. The dreams would always end the same, with the whispered words as she floated off to sleep next to him, even in the dream.

 

I love you .

 

But as with all dreams, she’d always awaken alone, feeling just that much more lost when she realized that his arms weren’t laid over her side, guiding her to press more deeply into his chest. There were only the phantom pains that came with the loss of his touch. Her back would feel of ice when his nose had brushed against it, his hands of pure fire where his fingers had once interacted with her, the press of his lips ghosting against hers. But he wasn’t there; he was never there.

 

When she awoke the next morning, nothing had changed. A momentary confusion clouded her vision as she took in the unfamiliar ceiling above her, the sounds of a train rattling a window nearby. Nothing was right. Nothing , she thought to herself. It wasn’t until she heard Ruby humming from another room that she remembered where she was, and why she was there.

 

Emma looked around. It was still dark outside, but with the end of the year quickly approaching, if felt as if it were always dark out. Fitting, considering her mood as of late. Finally finding a clock hanging from the far side of the wall, she saw that it was only six in the morning, and she wondered what could have possibly had Ruby up so early on a Saturday morning.

 

With all of the energy that her physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted body could muster, she pushed herself out of Ruby’s bed, only stumbling slightly as she did so. The floors were cold beneath her feet, and even with linoleum covering nearly every inch, they still somehow managed to creak under her weight, signaling her presence to Ruby.

 

She was on the phone, but it was anyone’s guess as to who was on the other end of the line. When Ruby turned around to look at Emma, a grimace filled her face, and Emma felt an odd sense of deja vu.  

 

Shaking it off, she waited for Ruby to end the call.

 

“Your royal highness summons you.”

 

Emma wasn’t sure exactly when the joke had begun, but it was a long-standing tradition to refer to Regina as the Evil Step Queen around the office. While only a few members of her original teamed remained, those who were loyal to Emma had never given up the taunting.

 

“I see. And what, pray tell, does she need to hold court about?” Emma teased back.

 

“Ugh.” Ruby seemed completely frustrated. “She wants you to come in this morning so they can do a full run through with your hair and makeup with the dress. Apparently you’ve been unkempt as of late and she won’t have you make a fool out of her or ‘her’ company.”

 

Emma sighed. Of course .

 

“That’s going to take hours! It’s my last free day. I thought I’d take in a museum this afternoon before the dinner.”

 

“Ya,” Ruby drew out. “That’s the other thing. Since you have the dinner at six, she wants you to come in at eleven so they can do the run through, and then get you cleaned up and ready for the dinner there. I guess Regina doesn’t trust you to pick out your own makeup.”

 

Emma groaned in frustration before throwing her head back.

 

“She’s been socializing with that De Vil woman a lot lately. They probably had a special lipstick made from the blood of puppies or something.”

 

Ruby laughed.

 

“Ha, I wouldn’t be surprised. But what do you say we really piss Regina off and stop at Granny’s on the way back to your apartment? We’ll eat the greasiest thing she has on the menu. That’ll show her.”

 

That managed to put a smile on Emma’s face again. Ruby let her borrow a top and some jeans so she wouldn’t be forced to traipse around the city still wearing her dress from the evening before with Neal. Emma had already made a mental note to burn the thing the next time she had the chance, or at the very least to donate it to the woman’s shelter. It probably wasn’t the type of dress anyone needed, but there was always the possibility of trading it to a second hand store for even more clothes.

 

Ruby started to call for a car for the two of them, but Emma stopped her. It was early still, and the stations would probably be mostly empty on a weekend morning, save for the drunkards still stumbling home, but Emma found that even if that were the case, she’d be in fine company.

 

It had been years since she had ridden the train. As a child, her parents had often taken her on the subway, but after she had managed to wander away from her parents and onto the wrong train when she was nine, her parents had decided it would be best to start taking a car to minimize the chances of losing her again. She hadn’t been afraid when the doors closed behind her, even as her parents shouted for someone to open the doors up again. Emma thought of it as an adventure, and she’d even made a friend from the whole ordeal. She’d kept up with the boy through high school, and part of college, seeing each other every few months for dinner and drinks as nothing more than friends. But when he’d moved to California to pursue a career in writing they’d lost touch.

 

Now, as an adult, she wanted the experience of an adventure one last time, like the one she shared with Killian. She wanted that brief feeling of being carefree; no responsibilities, no duty, no honor to uphold. Just the here and now.

 

Stepping up to the platform had been oddly invigorating, like she was breaking an unspoken rule. The ground beneath her rumbled as the train approached, the air warmed around her, and sound filled the void of silence that had lingered since she had finished dressing. She knew that Ruby wanted to speak with her about something, but based on the way Ruby hesitated each time her mouth opened, Emma wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear it. Some of the night before was still fuzzy. She remembered going to dinner, finding Tamara’s legs wrapped around Neal’s neck, and at some point she’d stopped off at Ruby’s. She had tasted a mix of tequila and something else when she had woken, but everything after the second shot was gone.

 

From the Marcy Ave. subway station near Ruby’s apartment, the girls only made it one stop before they were forced to trade lines at the Essex St. station. From there they took the line in two more stops. Emma had started walking towards another line exchange, but Ruby had assured her that it would be just as quick to walk to Granny’s from the Broadway-Lafayette St. station as it would have from the Astor Place station closer to Emma’s apartment.

 

Emma was grateful for the flat shoes that Ruby had given her. They looked brand new and Emma wondered if Ruby had even worn them yet. She had never seen her wear anything less than five inches, and was slightly surprised to see that Ruby even owned a pair of shoes without heels.

 

The walk to Granny’s had been on flat ground but knowing that she’d be wearing sky high heels for the next two days had caused her feet to cramp in just the anticipation of it. The little old lady that ran the small dinner was known to all as Granny, but for Ruby, she was actually her granny, or ‘grams’ as she sometimes had the two of them call her. Ruby’s parents had passed away when she was still a child and Granny had taken her in. When Ruby had turned sixteen, she had started working in the dinner as a waitress after school and on the weekends, saving all of her tips to help pay for college. It was one of the qualities Emma admired most about her. She knew the value of hard work, and it showed in everything she did, both in and out of work.

 

When they walked in, they were both greeted personally by Granny, who wasted no time in telling them both that they were all skin and bones and that she was going to whip up something that would put some fat on their bones. For Emma, that meant two of Granny’s famous bear claws, covered in cinnamon and dripping with a sugary glaze. It was enough to make her teeth fall out and the cinnamon dashed cocoa tasted like water after only three sips. It was wonderful. Granny had brought Ruby a heaping pile of bacon and eggs, part of the running joke of how given how much they both loved meat they must have been part wolf in another life.

 

Both of them devoured their meals, and Granny stopped by to chat as much as possible in between taking orders for the early morning customers that were starting to straggle in. At one point, she managed to show off some of the new decorations she had put up on the walls. Most of them were framed water paintings depicting fairy tales, but the one that stood above the cash register was the one that really caught Emma’s eye.

 

Next to the smiling face of Granny stood a pair of piercing blue eyes, eyes that rivaled the ocean. Ruby must have noticed her staring as a gasp slipped from her lips.

 

“Granny! How did you get a picture with him?”

 

Granny looked over to where both girls were staring and blushed slightly.

 

“Oh, the Jones boy?”

 

Ruby’s jaw dropped at the way her grandmother had referred to him, or that her grandmother even know who he was.

 

“He comes in here from time to time when he’s in town. Don’t tell anyone but he may have managed to charm my grilled cheese sandwich recipe out of me. I swear it’s those eyes, you just can’t say no to them.”

 

Before she could say anything else, a new customer walked in and Granny went to gather his drink order. Emma glanced back to the picture. Next to Granny’s plump and rosy figure he would have looked thin anyway, but in that picture, he looked almost gaunt. She wondered if he had looked that way at the awards show and she had just missed it, hidden behind the layers of his tuxedo.

 

The last time she had seen him, he’d been in amazing shape. She could still picture the way the muscles in his back flexed as she drew he nails across them. The way his arms flexed as he flipped the grilled cheese sandwiches in the pan. The way his eyes brightened as she ate hers and moaned with satisfaction.

 

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only memory of Killian that came back. The longer she stared at him, the more she tried to remember his voice, the more she got a sinking feeling that something was wrong. She closed her eyes, trying to focus, as snapshots of the night began to pop into her head. They were small at first, and out of order. Killian on the show, Milah on his arm, a ring on Milah’s finger, deleting someone from her phone, yelling. And then suddenly, everything came back with perfect clarity.

 

Ruby had called Killian and he had wanted nothing to do with her. He had called her horrible names even, and every good memory of him became tainted. But one confusing fact remained.

 

When Granny came back with two new mugs of hot cocoa, Emma stopped her.

 

“Hey Grams, why did he want that recipe?”

 

“I’m not sure that I should say.”

 

“Granny,” Ruby’s chastised.

 

“Fine. Fine. He didn’t say exactly, but something about a girl. That’s all he said though, so don’t you girls go gossiping about him. He’s had it hard enough as is, what with that crazy woman clinging to him for dear life. I’ve never met her but judging by his sour face the last time he was here, the girl is bonkers.”

 

There was a commotion from the kitchen and Granny was gone.

 

“Emma?” She could see the hopeful look on Ruby’s face, but Killian had made his intentions quite clear the night before. The sandwiches were likely for Milah, and the sour look was probably because he didn’t like being recognized in public. None of it had anything to do with her. Now, if she could just get her brain to explain it to her heart...

 

“It doesn’t change anything. You heard him last night, and I’m getting married tomorrow. Now, would you like to continue on this little adventure with me, or will I be facing my wicked stepmother alone?”

 

Ruby sighed and rolled her eyes, a horrible gesture that she had picked up from her.

 

“Fine, but only because Regina told me I had to be there to get my hair done too. Apparently red streaks clash with ‘class and sophistication’ or something like that.”

 

Eventually both girls finished their meals, although Emma had lost her appetite somewhere in the middle of their trip to Granny’s. It was still a bit of a hike to Emma’s apartment, although it was nothing compared to the walk that Emma made between her place and her office everyday. She blamed the shots she had taken the night before for her exhaustion as they clamored into the elevator leading the Emma’s front door. After breakfast, Emma showered and changed into something comfortable. There was no use in putting on makeup or trying to do anything with her hair other than to put it up in a ponytail at that point.

 

Regina still managed to find fault in her as they arrived at the penthouse loft in the Upper West Side apartment Regina had purchased after Emma’s father had passed. They had converted one of the living rooms into a full salon, complete with manicure and pedicure stations, hair basins for rinsing out Ruby’s hair dye, and a station for Emma’s hair to be curled.

 

The next six hours consisted of her being poked and prodded in every manner possible. Her hair had been washed, dried, straightened, and recurled within an inch of its life twice, and she was pretty sure that the make up that Regina had picked made her look like a streetwalker - at least it would at her eleven am church ceremony. Emma didn’t fight her though; all of the fight in her was gone now. Even Ruby had remained unusually silent throughout the process. The only one in the bridal party who did speak was Tamara, who both Neal and Regina had insisted be in the ceremony as a show of unity and devotion to Neal on Emma’s part.

 

They arrived at the restaurant twenty minutes late, a fact that Regina blamed on her and her unruly hair. Emma held her tongue and took her seat. The meal was hardly like anything Emma would have picked; most of the dishes were something Emma couldn’t even pronounce, much less identify. And it was expensive - one more thing she was certain the company was paying for. She wondered how many jobs had been lost to pay for the nearly seventy-five intimate guests gathered for her special night. None of which Emma had ever met before.

 

The only person Emma had been allowed to invite aside from Ruby was her childhood friend. Regina saw him as a man of the arts after she Googled his name and saw that he had in fact made a name for himself. His RSVP had come back with an unfortunate check mark next to the decline box, citing a work commitment.

 

When the dinner was over, the tables were moved back and the dining hall was converted into a dancing hall of sorts. People began mingling with each other, and Emma quickly lost track of three of the four people in the room she knew. Luckily Ruby remained at her side, even when approached by a very handsome man around her age. It hadn’t stopped her from getting his number, but she stayed by Emma’s side for the next two hours.

 

The two girls even managed to get in a dance or two as the night drew to a close. Guest started leaving, stopping by just long enough to congratulate her and wish her well. Some of them had noted Neal’s absence, and after a biting comment from Regina on how bad it looked that they hadn’t spent any time together that evening, Emma decided to look for him.

 

She searched the entire converted dance floor, as well as the entry way and the sidewalk out side trying to see if perhaps he had just needed some fresh air. It wasn’t until she returned from outside, that she heard noises coming from a closed coat closet. As she approached the door, the sounds morphed from muffled noises to moans.

 

Bracing herself for the worst, she slowly opened the door, only to find Neal holding Tamara up against one of the walls. Tamara’s arms were stretched out, grasping one of the hanger bars while her legs wrapped around Neal’s waist as he rutted into her. Emma closed the door behind her and walked straight back out, hailing the first cab she could find.

Chapter Text


 

 

 

 

She had caught him off guard with the ring, and with all of the people milling about, she had known that he would be unable to confront her, unable to make a scene. Even inside the building, they were still surrounded by cameras, musicians, and fans. It had been perfect on Milah’s part, completely devious.

 

The two of them sat side by side near the front of the auditorium, and every so often, Killian could see the cameras pan to them. After the first time, Milah had placed her hand over his thigh, making sure that her ring could be seen, as she leaned over to whisper in his ear for him to behave. He knew that one misstep would result in fire and brimstone.

 

After the third music act had taken the stage, Killian managed to spot Will just taking his seat in the same row across the aisle. He shot Killian a look of bewilderment and tried to mouth something, but with the raised noise level and people dancing around, he couldn’t understand him. Finally Will pulled his phone out and made a show out of sending a text message to Killian. The vibration in his pocket could barely be felt beyond the subwoofers surrounding the stage, and had he not known that it was coming, he would have completely missed it.

 

Making sure that no cameras were trained on him, he pulled the phone out of his pocket and held it just high enough so that he could read Will’s message.

 

WS: WTF. You proposed to her?

 

Killian was half way through texting a response when he felt Milah’s arm reach across him. She wrapped her hand around his phone, peeling it from his fingers and throwing it into her clutch. She gave him a wry grin as she did so, and Killian had to stop himself from rolling his eyes and ripping the purse out of her bony little fingers.

 

“Tsk tsk, Killian. We wouldn’t want to cause a scene in front of all of these people now, would we?”

 

His jaw clenched so tightly at her words that he worried for the safety of his teeth. The song ended and everyone in the crowd stood up and cheered, and Killian once again felt the cameras on him, forcing him to smile as Milah leaned into him.

 

He looked back to Will, who looked equal parts angry and confused. Killian shrugged, hoping that his friend would be smart enough to understand that it was a ruse, and Killian was simply a hostage onboard Milah’s crazy train, but Will only looked more indignant at the action, refusing to look at him for the rest of the night.

 

About half way though the show, an usher came to escort both of them to the backstage area so that they could prepare to present the award for best new artist of the year. It was the first awards show that Killian had ever been to that he hadn’t spent the entire time in his seat or in the bathroom with his trusty flask. The backstage area was a mess of activity, and many of the stagehands were running around like headless chickens, trying to get the new stages set up and lights in place.

 

He let himself wander off to watch a band he enjoyed be interviewed by a reporter from the EF network. It was a different reporter from before, but he recognized her all the same. It was the same face he had seen on the television that night in the bar with Emma. The reporter that covered the news of Milah’s infidelity, and would now likely be asking questions about their engagement later.

 

He should have discarded the ring the moment he had gotten back from Nuuk. And if he were really thinking about it, he should have chucked the ring into the East River the first time he had caught Milah in bed with another man. She had clearly been rifling around in his things, probably to see if there was any other proof of his time with Emma, and now that stupid ring was sitting on her finger for everyone to see.

 

He turned back, knowing that they would be needed soon, only to find Milah digging around in his phone.

 

“Now, now, love .” The endearment felt like ash in his mouth but he knew it was the one most likely to bother her after months of not using it. “You wouldn’t want to start our fake engagement off with suspicion and spying, now would you?”

 

He leaned over, grabbing the phone out of her hand, just as she had done before. The screen was open to the text message he was composing to Will, confirming his suspicion of what Milah had been snooping for, and as they gave them a countdown he finished off the message, hitting send and pocketing the phone just before entering the stage.

 

KJ: Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, and the Devil seems to have proposed to herself.

 

The lights were too bright and he couldn’t see anyone in the crowd. He was barely able to read the words on the teleprompter in front of him. He bantered with Milah as per the instruction on the screen, and when Milah announced the winner of the award, he took a few steps back, feeling like he was able to breath again. The reprieve was short lived though, as Milah joined him while the band gave their acceptance speeches.

 

Soon enough all of them were escorted from the stage. He heard the band whooping and hollering behind them at the excitement of winning their first award. He wondered what it would be like, to win an award that actually mattered. He had won his share of awards, but most of them were based on his looks. None of them shouted that he was a man of substance, that he was worth his salt in the acting community. But now he had a real chance. The movie was still at least a year away from it’s release date, but he had heard from more than one source that the movie would be a strong contender for an Oscar, something that would mean the world to him. Short of having Emma back, it would be the best thing that could possibly ever happen to him.

 

Lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t even realized that they had made their way back to the reporter, or that Milah was deep in conversation with the woman.

 

“Sweetheart!”

 

It sickened him how easily she could switch between personalities. And it further sickened him how he had never seen it before, how he had been so blinded by his misguided notions of love.

 

Milah ran over and pulled him back to where she had been standing, making sure that her ring could be seen throughout the interview. She was able to weave together an intricate story of how he had rented a boat and taken her out, proposing to her under the stars. It couldn’t have been further from the way he had originally intended to ask for her hand in marriage, another sign of how ill fitted they had always been for each other.

 

After their interview and another musical performance, they were both able to take their seats again. Killian was distracted for the rest of the show, thinking of his conversations with Emma, of how he had told her about his and Liam’s love of boats, of how they had spent time under the stars.

 

Thoughts of how he might have proposed to Emma drifted through his mind. He knew that she would have been content with something small and simple, but she deserved so much more. In a perfect world, he would have waited until their anniversary. It would have killed him to have waited that long, he was certain of it. Every fiber of his being would had buzzed with the desire to drop down on his knee every morning he woke next to her, but it would have been worth it to wait. He would have surprised her with tickets to Nuuk. She would have resisted at first, worried about taking time away from work, but eventually she would have agreed. He still had the phone number of the driver in his phone, and he would have paid any amount of money to the same chef to recreate their meal. He would have even made sure to rent the same house, broken window and all. It would have been perfect.

 

But with that came the gentle reminder that it would never actually happen. She was engaged or married, and he was still chained to Milah. Emma was probably happy with the guy, happier than Killian ever could have made her. He wondered if she was with child yet, but that only sickened him. The thought of another man’s body pressed against hers, of another man’s child growing inside of her. It all became too much. Everything was too much, and before he knew what was happening, he found himself standing alone on the balcony, at a hotel after party, holding a tumbler filled with three fingers worth of rum.

 

He felt a battle raging within him. The temptation was growing and after eleven months of sobriety, he was trying to will himself not to throw it all away. He wanted to tip the glass over, to let the contents spill to the ground below, but his hand wouldn’t obey him. Instead, the glass twisted in his fingers, taunting him to break his promise, a promise to a woman who had moved on long ago, a promise he was no longer obligated to keep.

 

Emma.

 

If she were there, she would have been so disappointed in him. Hoping to draw some strength from her, he used his free hand to retrieve his phone. There was a missed message from Will, but it could wait. What he needed now was to see Emma’s face, to remember why he was trying to hold on to his sanity, why he wasn’t letting the world consume him.

 

He clicked through the albums to the spot that had housed the photograph of the two of them together. He had looked at it so many times he knew exactly what buttons to hit without even looking at them. He was surprised that her face wasn’t somehow burnt into the screen, but as he swiped around, pushing the other photos back and forth, he couldn’t find it. The picture was missing. He quickly flicked to the recently deleted file, but it was empty. The last proof he had of his time with her, the last link to her was gone.

 

“Is there a problem, love?

 

Her voice was sickly sweet, the melody of victory ringing out.

 

“What have you done?”

 

She made her way to him, letting her fingers crawl up his chest until her hand was rested on the back of his neck.

 

“I did what needed to be done, Killian. You were struggling so I gave you a little push.”

 

He couldn’t breath. His lungs were on fire, burning him from the inside out.

 

“You had no right!”

 

“Me? You had no right to fuck her!”

 

Hysteria. It was the only word that could even come close to properly describing the way he felt, the noises that were falling from his mouth.

 

“And you had no right to fuck all of those men in our shared bed but you don’t seem too concerned with that right now! Glass houses, Milah.”

 

“I told you I was sorry, Killian! I told you that it wouldn’t happen again, but you couldn’t let her go, and I knew that we couldn’t be together until you did. Not really. And that’s all I want for us. I just want us to be fixed, to be like we used to. I love you!”

 

Everything came boiling to the surface. Every ounce of pain, humiliation, hatred, all of the emotions that had consumed him since the day he had met her washed over him, taking control of his body. He grabbed her and slammed her against the wall of the balcony, letting his body press into hers.

 

“Is this what you want? For me to take you up against this wall, for me to pretend that I give a bloody shite about you anymore? You want me to placate you in front of God and everyone, reciting meaning less vows, ignoring the way you turned me into the shell of a man, the fact that you ruined me?”

 

His hand had found its way to Milah’s neck, and for the first time ever in his life, he saw the look of fear in a woman’s eyes. He saw her fear of him.

 

“Do you want me to come inside of you, knowing that every time I do, it’ll be Emma’s face I think of? It’ll be her moans I hear, her nails scraping the skin on my back. It’ll be her, and her alone that I think of, that I desire.”

 

With that, he stood back and watched as Milah gasped for breath. He didn’t wait for her reply. He simply looked at the glass in his other hand. He’d already lost everything else that night. What was one more thing?

 

The rum burned as it trickled down his throat. The burn was comforting though, like a long lost friend finally coming home. He tilted the glass back, further and further, swallowing the entire contents in one gulp.

 

It wasn’t enough. He need more, more than the small crowded bar at the hotel could offer him.

 

Without telling anyone that he was leaving, he slipped off the balcony, back into the crowded room. Will was distracted, chatting up a young brunette, and Killian was able to disappear into one of the hotel’s elevators unnoticed. Cars were waiting in a line down the block, and he wasted no time sliding into the back seat of one, giving the driver the address of a shady little bar that he had remember from darker times.

 

For a town that built its empire by keeping secrets, there were few places in Los Angeles that allowed for anonymity any more. Everyone wanted to go to a place where they could be seen, only so they could later complain about their lack of privacy, but Killian had learned long ago where to go if you wanted to be lost.

 

The address he gave the driver wasn’t far from the hotel. It had been a staple of the city long before the area had transitions into something of glitz and glammer. Somehow, this place had maintained its seedy underbelly vibe, even with all of the changes around it.

 

The Echo Cave wasn’t the type of place that intrigued people as they passed by. There was no warm exterior beckoning people to it, and the clientele wasn’t the type to leave reviews on yelp. The floors were sticky, and as he walked inside, he felt the musk of long outlawed smoke hitting his face.

 

Three drinks in and he could feel the edges dulling. His thoughts became muddled and calmness started easing its way into his very soul. Thoughts of Milah vanished from his mind. He drank again, and then another, hoping that if he consumed enough, he might fade into oblivion.

 

Then his phone rang with an unfamiliar number. The caller ID read New York, and with his lowered inhibitions, he didn’t even consider sending it to voicemail.

 

“Jones.”

 

“Is this Killian Jones?”

 

He chuckled despite himself. Even three sheets to the wind he knew the ridiculousness of the situation.

 

“I think that’s what I bloody well said. Who is this?”

 

“You don’t know me, but my name is Ruby. I’m calling about my friend, Emma.”

 

A flicker of sobriety flashed within him briefly, but the sheer volume of rum that he had already consumed quickly regained its control over him.

 

“She- She’s getting married soon, and- she misses you.”

 

Time stood still.

 

“She doesn’t love him. He makes her miserable and all she wants is to be with you.”

 

Every word he had vanished from his mind.

 

“Killian?”

 

“Emma?”

 

He needed her to say it again.

 

“Yes, Emma Nolan. I’m sure that if you came here, if you came for her she’d call the wedding off though.”

 

“Wait, Emma who?”

 

“Nolan!”

 

A bloody trick. Of course it wasn’t her. He could see Milah laughing at him in the back of his mind.

 

Look at the poor sod. A love sick puppy, so easily fooled.

 

“Look, I don’t know if you think this is some sort of a joke, or if she put you up to this, but so help me God, if you ever call this number-”

 

He was so angry he couldn’t even finish his sentence. Milah had done a number of awful things in her time, but none so vile and repulsive as this.

 

“Wait, please. She needs you! You’re the only one that can save her.”

 

“I’m not fucking Obie Won here. I’m sorry your friend got herself into this mess, but I’m sure she could get out of it if she really wanted to.”

 

“Are you drunk?”

 

Killian let out  a barking laughter, as if it hadn’t been obvious enough. Milah had seen him tilt back that first glass. He was sure she knew what would come next. She’d witnessed it enough times, facilitated it enough times.

 

“I prefer the term dashing rapscallion. I take what I want and have no qualms about it. Surely you and your friend should have realized that by now.”

 

“God, you’re just as bad as everyone else says. I don’t know what she sees in you. You and Milah really do deserve each other!”

 

“Tell your friend that she made a promise to a man and she can’t break it just because she wants to whore around with someone else, and if you ask me, she’s a bloody trollip. I feel sorry for the poor sod who gets stuck with her forever.”

 

He had to take a deep breath, trying to regain himself to continue.

 

“Now if you’ll escusee me, please fuckoff and lose this number.”

 

He let his phone drop to the bar and signaled the bartender for a refill, and then another. He was only vaguely aware of the way his phone slid into the bartender's hand as his new drink arrived, or of the woman that approached him and sat in the seat to his left.

 

“Buy a lady a drink?”

 

The edges. Nothing was sharp enough. He blinked, but everything was hazy in front of him. A few more flutters of his eyelids did nothing to soothe the sting or help the focus. There was a familiarity there, a golden halo surrounding the space where her face should have been.

 

“Emma?”

 

He worried that his brain was beginning to turn into molten black lava, quickly cooling into sludge, to darkness and despair. He tried to match the fuzzy outline in front of him to the picture he had of her in his head, but it was off somehow. The woman was so similar, but there was something missing. Green, he thought.

 

“It’s Tink, but for the right price I can be anyone you want me to be.”

 

“Then I gather you’re hardly what one might consider a lady .”

 

“I suppose you’re right. But I consider myself more of a sin eater, and men who find themselves here in the Echo Cave are usually the type of men dripping with sins in need of confessing.”

 

The eyes were wrong, the voice was wrong, it was all wrong, but so was he. Seven drinks in and whatever self-control he had been holding on to was waning. He considered her. In a different lighting, and perhaps a drink or two more, she could be Emma - or at least close enough for the night, and in that moment, it was all he wanted. Her, the smell of her perfume, the glide of her tongue against his, the weight of her body on his. He wanted her, and his want was stronger than his will.

 

Another drink down and his ‘sins’ as she had called them spilled forth, the dam broken and the flood gates open.

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

Her hand came to rest on his thigh.

 

“And what could you possibly have to be sorry about?”

 

His lids were heavy, too heavy to keep open all the way. He couldn’t see her, but he felt the whisper of his words against the shell of his ear.

 

“I’m sorry for not being a better man for you.”

 

For all of the want, all of the burning desire, the self-loathing was all he could feel anymore.

 

“I’m sorry for breaking my promise to you.”

 

She didn’t say anything back, but he felt the warmth of her body press against his side, lifting him from his seat.

 

“Wait, please. I need you to forgive me.”

 

“All sins can be forgiven. Now how about we get out of here?”

 

“Emma?”

 

Her name was a whisper from his lips. A plea, that this was real, that she had truly forgiven him.

 

“Yes, now, let’s go.”

 

She tried to pull him up, but he could feel the heaviness of his own body. Together, they stumbled towards the door, all of his weight resting on her shoulders. His legs buckled in his inebriation.

 

“Whoa, whoa. Where do ya think yer goin?”

 

Killian’s lids drooped and he could feel himself falling out of consciousness, only awake long enough to feel his weight shift onto a much larger body, and then everything went black, even the image of his beloved angel.

 

***

 

His head was throbbing and his mouth felt like sandpaper. Slowly, he pried one eye open, then the other, but he found himself lost, not recognizing his surroundings, only aware that he was in a dimly lit room. His muscles were weak and his arms made of lead. His efforts to sit up were only met with his own groan.

 

He heard a door slowly creak open, footsteps cautiously approaching his bed. He racked his memory for anything from the night before, but everything was gone. Sounds of breathing filled the room, and he tried once again to open his eyes.

 

“Uncle Killy!”

 

Rolands shriek echoed through the room, piercing straight through his brain.

 

“Daddy and Uncle Will said I could wake you, but you’re already up!”

 

“Aye, I suppose I am.”

 

His voice was hoarse and his throat dry.

 

“You slept all day! Are you sick?”

 

“Yes, lad. He drank a magic elixir, but it was really just poison.”

 

Killian groaned again and Roland just giggled.

 

“Uncle Will! That tickles!”

 

The giggling continued and Killian was just able to make out the young boy squirming in Will’s arms.

 

“Hey lad, why don’t you run and tell your mum that Uncle Killy is awake now and see if maybe you can talk her into feeding us something for supper?”

 

“Okay!”

 

And with that he heard two little feet scuttle off.

 

“So,” started Will, “I thought you weren’t doing that kinda stuff any more.”

 

“It’s too early in the morning for this. If you want to acost me, you can do it later.”

 

Killian tugged on the comforter trying to pull it up over his head, but it was yanked back before he could do so.

 

“Early? You igit! Did you not hear me say it was nearly suppertime?”

 

That was enough to knock the daze out of his system. He sat up, looking around, still not sure where he was.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“Bloody hell, man. How much did you have to drink last night? You’re at mine.”

 

Killian rubbed his hand over his face, still unable to recall any of the events the night before.

 

“What happened?”

 

He felt the bed shift as Will’s body plopped down on the mattress next to him, making his stomach feel uneasy.

 

“Well that’s part of the mystery now innit?”

 

Killian tried to swallow but everything was still too dry.

 

“Look, alls I know is that we went to that party at the hotel and then you were gone. I looked all over for ya but you weren’t there. Then I got a call on me phone saying that you were flat on your ass drunk and needed someone to come and get‘cha. The bartender called me on account of being the most recent contact on your mobile.”

 

Bartender? Drunk? Fuck.

 

I don’t remember any of that.”

 

“When I got there you had yourself wrapped around some blonde girl and you two were heading for God only knows where. I figured you weren’t any any shape to share a space with Milah so I brought you back here. Robin and his merry band flew in early this morning to visit before they take the lad to Disney.”

 

Milah. Fleeting images of her rushed through his mind, but it wasn’t anything he could hold on to.

 

“Come on now, can’t sleep all day. I think you’ve managed all the beauty you’re gonna get.”

 

Will rolled over and stood from the bed. Killian forced himself to do the same, only feeling slightly sick as he did so. When they made their way into the kitchen, Marian was already finished making dinner, something Killian assumed she had been working on for some time in anticipation of him finally waking up. Robin gave him a knowing look but didn’t ask him about any of the evening before.

 

Most of the meal consisted of a very excited Roland telling them all of the things he was most excited about seeing at Disney. Apparently there was a ride that included a pirate ship, and Killian actually found himself interested in the theme park for the first time ever.

 

After dinner, Marian excused herself to help give Roland his bath, leaving the men to clean up the dishes. They worked as a well-oiled team. Robin washed, Killian dried, and Will put everything away as the homeowner and the only one who actually knew where everything went.

 

When the dishes were done, the three men retired to the back yard. Will’s house was modest by Hollywood standards, but still a marvel in Killian’s eyes. He had stayed there a few times before he’d found his own footing in acting. Bartending was never guaranteed money, and there would be lulls where he’d have to make a choice between affording food or rent. During those times Will would invite him to live in one of the guests rooms, but Killian’s pride stopped him from ever officially moving in, even if it meant moving into a shoebox of an apartment in a dodgy neighborhood.

 

Will had redecorated the interior of the house since the last time Killian had stayed there, explaining why he hadn’t recognized the room he was in, but the back patio remained the same. There was a large pool further into the yard, lit with color changing bulbs. The patio right off the main dwelling was filled with lounge chairs and tables. Will and Killian had spent many nights sitting out there, throwing back an entire of bottle of rum after another one of Milah’s indiscretions. Then the next morning he would slink out before Will could catch him and return to Milah.

 

Will took the chair facing the outdoor television he had turned on, hoping to find the score to a game he had missed during the awards show. He muted it though so it wouldn’t disturb their conversation. Killian and Robin both took chairs facing out towards the pool, and it didn’t take long before the questions began.

 

“So what really happened?” Will asked. “I knew you were annoyed at the show, but not enough to drink your weight in rum.”

 

Killian’s head fell back and he tried to remember once more. It was something akin to having a word on the tip of the tongue, just out of reach.

 

“Honestly, I can’t remember. There was the engagement, and all of the lovely little interviews about when we were going to get married and start having children-”

 

“Wait,” Robin interrupted. “Have I missed something? You two are now engaged.”

 

“Something like that,” Killian muttered.

 

“The nutter found the old ring he was gonna give her and slipped it on, tellin’ anyone who would listen that he had proposed,” Will supplied.

 

“And you didn’t correct her because?”

 

Robin’s question was one he had asked himself throughout the night. He already had the part, filming had wrapped, so why had he gone along with it? Again, flashes of Milah, of an argument flickered to the surface.

 

“Because of the movie. She’s vindictive, and the last thing I need is her finding a way to tank it before it ever has a chance to premier.”

 

“I’m surprised she hasn’t already sent you a hundred messages by now.”

 

That’s when Killian realized that he had no idea where his phone was, and while he didn’t care what Milah or anyone else had to say, he felt like it was important somehow. Like someone might need him. He dug his hands into the pocket of the wrinkled tuxedo pants he had slept in, but all he found was his wallet.

 

“Relax,” Will said, taking something out of his own pocket. “I’ve got it. I wanted to make sure you didn’t do anything regrettable so I held on to it for ya.”

 

He tossed the phone and Killian felt himself relax. There were a number of missed calls and text messages from Milah. All asking him where he was and that she wouldn’t give him up that easily.

 

A flicker.

 

You were struggling so I gave you a little push.

 

Milah. He fumbled through his phone, hoping that somehow it had just been a figment of his intoxicated mind, but there was nothing. The photo really was gone.

 

“Shit!”

 

“What?”

 

“Milah. She deleted the picture and had someone prank call me pretending to know Emma. That’s what started it all.”

 

All Will said was “Ah,” but Robin was still confused.

 

“What picture?”

 

“Emma,” Will replied.

 

“It doesn’t matter now. She’s gone, the picture’s gone-“

 

“No. Emma. On the telly.”

 

All three men turned towards the screen that Will had pointed at. The sound returned and Killian was left stunned. Images of Emma filled the screen. She was standing next to a man of roughly the same age. As the reporter spoke, everything began to click in Killian’s mind. The company’s name, Emma’s childhood illness.

 

“Emma Nolan, billionaire heiress of Nolan Industries, is set to wed Neal Gold at eleven tomorrow morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Miss Nolan’s fiancé is the son of Robert Gold. Some have speculated the presidential candidate has been grooming his son to run for his vacated senatorial seat. The two had a whirlwind romance before announcing their engagement last Christmas.”

 

The picture changed and a photograph of Emma in Neal’s arms holding up her engagement ring filled the entire scene. For anyone who didn’t know better, Emma had simply looked shocked, but Killian could see the sorrow in her eyes.

 

“Insiders say that no expense has been spared and that this will be the closest thing ever seen to a royal wedding here in the states. Many high-ranking dignitaries are anticipated to be in attendance. Nolan Industries has stood behind Robert Gold in his election campaign. In a statement from the company, it was said that he had their full support. In other news-”

 

The television had been muted again and Will just stared at Killian. He felt his heart speed up at the mention of her name, just at the sight of her, and it felt like his insides were going to burst.

 

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me that you were shacking up with one of the wealthiest women in the world?”

 

“Whoa,” interrupted Robin again, obviously unaware of anything that had happened.

 

“You were shacking up with Emma Nolan? When was this?”

 

“Last year,” Killian started by answering Robin first. “And I didn’t know. I told you we didn’t exchange last names. I just knew her as Emma Swan.”

 

His stomach was turned over in his belly. It had only just begun to sink in now that the initial shock had passed. Yes, Emma had been on the news, but only because she was to be married the next day. More memories started to come back to him.

 

You don’t know me, but my name is Ruby. I’m calling about my friend, Emma.

 

“Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!”

 

“What?”

 

Both Will and Robin cried out in unison, but Killian was too busy scrolling through his call log until he found an unknown number, from New York. The call had been real, and he had been a bloody fool. Without wasting anytime to explain any of it to his friends, Killian hit redial. The phone only rang once before telling him that the caller was unavailable and sending him to voicemail. He had blocked enough people to know what was happening, and even if he left a message, groveling for her to forgive him, she’d never get the alert.

 

I’m sure that if you came here, if you came for her she’d call the wedding off though.

 

He looked at his watch; it was ten in the evening for him, which meant that if he was able to catch a red eye out, he might make it in time to stop the wedding.

 

“Will, I need you to take me to the airport right now.”

 

“What? You’re goin’ after her? You know that’s mental, right? That guy’s running for office and she’s worth more money than God. Do you know what kind of security they’re going to have there? And what are you going to do? Say, ‘Hey, I’m here to confess my undying love to the bride and steal her away, please let me in?’”

 

“If I have to, yes.” There was a conviction in his voice that he had never heard before. If there was only one thing in his life that he had ever been sure of, it was that he was completely in love with Emma, and that he’d never forgive himself if he didn’t at least try.

 

Apparently that had been enough for Will. The three men jumped in Will’s truck and headed to LAX. Robin shot off a text message to Marian on the way explaining what was happening while Killian searched flight info. There were two seats left on the red-eye to New York, and he hoped that without the hassle of needing to check luggage that he might be able to make it just in time. Will wasted no time in getting him there, even running a red light or two.

 

Killian yelled a thank you as he tore out of the truck and ran inside to the ticket counter. There were only three people in front of him, but it seemed to take forever. He managed to get the very last ticket on the flight departing in twenty minutes. The ticket attendant told him that she wasn’t technically supposed to sell him a ticket so close to the departure time, but that she would make an exception for him if he signed his autograph on a pamphlet for her. He would be cutting it close, but with a direct flight there was still a chance.

 

The security line was fairly short and by the grace of the Gods he made it through without any additional scrutiny. He checked his ticket, locating the gate number and sprinted across the terminal as fast as he could, but when he got there, the door was already closed.

 

“Did I miss it?”

 

His chest felt like it was going to explode and he almost wheezed out the words.

 

“No sir,” the attendant chuckled. “We’re experiencing some slight delays due to some coyotes on one end of the runway. As soon as animal control takes care of it we’ll be able to take off.”

 

He let out a sigh of relief, thanking her. It wasn’t until he turned around and found one lone vacant seat that he realized that the gate lounge was still full. He had completely missed it in his panic before.

 

The slight delay however, turned into two hours. It was just before one that they were finally able to take off and he was losing all hope of making it in time. The last minute ticket that Killian had purchased had been a coach seat, something that he wasn’t accustomed to anymore. The last time he had flown anything but first class had been on his initial flight from London to Los Angeles. It had taken most of the money he had left from Liam’s military death pension after paying off all of their lingering debts. After he had arrived in LA, he hadn’t travelled again until he had landed his first role, and then the studio had paid for everything.

 

Uncomfortable would have been the kindest way to describe it. The seventh circle of hell would have been more appropriate though. The seats lacked legroom, and everyone was crammed together like cows for the slaughter. Most of the passengers had fallen asleep just after they made it in the air, and the few who remained awake seemed unaware of his presence, helping him to relax slightly.

 

The flight landed just fifteen minutes before the wedding service was set to begin. He could only pray that it would be lengthy, and that it would delay the vow exchange just long enough for him to make his grand declaration of love. Even if it meant making a complete fool of himself, she was worth it. The chance at having a life with her was worth it. He only hoped that her friend hadn’t been wrong.

 

Killian nearly knocked down several passengers as he attempted to exit the plane as quickly as possible. He was able to skip the baggage claim area, and ran through the rest of the airport until he found the arriving passengers area. He hailed down one of the waiting taxis and gave him the name of the church. The minutes dwindled. On a perfect day it would take fifteen minutes to get there, but it seemed that everyone in New York had come out to witness all of the famed socialites.

 

Killian finally gave up when they became stuck in bumper to bumper traffic about half a mile away from the cathedral, tossing a one hundred dollar bill at the driver. He was still wearing his shoes from the night before. They were stiff and pinched his feet with each step he took, but he pushed through the pain until he was standing in front of the massive building.

 

Will had been right. There was security everywhere, holding back tourists that had come out for even a glimpse of the bride and groom. Killian tried using his wrinkled tuxedo and celebrity status to his advantage, but the security guard denied him, stating that he wasn’t on the list. He tried another entrance but was met with the same disapproving sneer.

 

He looked at his watch. Eleven twenty. He was probably already too late. Why had he been such a fool? Why hadn’t he just asked to speak with Emma to see if it was really her?

 

He was ready to admit defeat as he sunk into the sidewalk at the side of the church. He closed his eyes, trying to think of any way he could possibly get inside, anyone he could possible call that might be in attendance, but there was nothing.

 

Nothing but the sound of a door creaking open nearby.

 

He opened his eyes and whipped his head back in time to see a figure in a lace cream dress and an oversized hat running down the street in the opposite direction from him. She jumped into a car, which sped off. It was curious, but more so was the fact that she had come from the church behind him.

 

Standing from his spot, he looked around, searching the outer perimeter. Hidden away was a small door. It blended into the rest of the stone on the wall, and if it hadn’t been ever so slightly cracked open, he never would have seen it. Giving a quick glance to either side to check for security, he slipped inside.

 

He was surprised to see people milling about. It meant that the ceremony was likely already over and they were just waiting for the formal wedding party to leave before moving to wherever the reception was to be held. He still had hope though. He had made it so far, and he wasn’t going to give up so easily. He knew from one of his scripts that just because vows had been said, nothing was formal until the marriage certificate was signed afterwards.

 

He made his way through the cathedral. Most of the guests were still seated, talking amongst themselves. A few even seemed annoyed and put out. There were others who were walking around. He didn’t see anyone who looked like they were from the groom or bridal parties though.

 

He stayed along the perimeter as he made his way to the other side of the church, closer to the main entrance, making sure to avoid anyone that looked like security. Just outside of the opening that would have fed the bride into the main hall was a set of rooms. He knocked on the first door but when no one answered, he moved to the next. He could hear voices on the other side, and before he could knock again, the door opened and a man emerged.

 

He heard a female voice from deeper in the room.

 

“They’re fixing the veil now. She’ll be out soon, I promise.”

 

“She’d better. I won’t be made a fool of.”

 

Killian recognized him from his picture with Emma. Neal Gold. Neal gave him an odd look.

 

“Who the hell are you?”

 

He was every bit the ponce Killian had always imagined him to be.

 

“He’s with me.” It was the same voice from before, a familiar one.

 

“Ya, whatever. Just tell her to hurry up.”

 

Neal brushed past Killian, knocking him with his shoulder as he did so. Shaking it off, he found a brunette in a cream robe standing in the doorway.

 

“Hi, I’m Kill-“

 

“I know who you are. We may not have met in person but we have had the displeasure of speaking before. What are you doing here?”

 

Ruby.

 

“The other night when you called, I thought it was a joke. I thought she was already lost to me and that someone had sought humor in my misery.”

 

He took a step forward, and it was mirrored by her own step backwards. He worried that he had overstepped, and after all of the horrible things he had said, he understood her hesitance. He deserved it, but then she took another step back and gestured for him to enter the room.

 

“Did you mean what you said?”

 

“What part?”

 

“The part about her still wanting me. If there’s even the slightest chance-”

 

She took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eyes.

 

“Oh, Killian, you’re already too late.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

 

 

 

She wasn’t actually certain of how she had arrived at her front door. Everything had been a bit of a haze after walking in on Neal and Tamara for the second time in as many days. It wasn’t the shock of his bare ass or Tamara’s disheveled dress that had upset it, not directly at least. It was more the realization of what was happening.

 

In theory she had known what the agreement entailed, her hand for her company, but the reality finally weighing down on her, settling into her core, was almost more than she could handle. Her future was forfeit, and whatever notions that she might have had that her marriage to Neal could be civil were gone. There would be no growth, only stagnation, and there was no turning back, nothing to turn back to.

 

What little control of the company she had to barter with was gone the moment she stepped on the plane from London. Her dreams had dissipated the moment she said yes on Gold’s balcony. Her freedom had been stripped the moment her father passed. And above all, her memories of Killian had been darkened the moment she had seen a ring on Milah’s finger.

 

Everything was gone, and all she could do was walk into her apartment, strip her clothing, settle under the covers and set her alarm. All she could do was accept her fate, but it was only after the tears had dried that sleep finally accepted her.

***

 

When she awoke in the morning it was still dark out, and she felt like the only one in the entire city who was in a peaceful state of rest. She looked out her window only to find deserted sidewalks. That was typical. New York may have been known to the world as the city that never slept, but in reality, when it came to the weekends, it was the city that slept until ten. She usually enjoyed the solitude of it, but with the wedding only a few hours away, it only served to remind her how alone she truly was.

 

Soon she would need to make her way to Regina’s where she would pick Regina up. Regina hadn’t said anything, but Emma had a gut feeling that she was going to get one final lecture. Regina would likely want to ensure that she didn’t flee at the last minute. From there the two of them would meet Ruby and Tamara. They would have her hair and makeup done alongside her bridesmaids in one of the reception rooms of the cathedral. All three of them would dress there as well to ensure that there wouldn’t be any unsightly photos of them. After Emma was caught yawning on Neal’s arm during a fundraising event for Gold, Regina had been even more adamant about preventing any further embarrassment.

 

For now though she had nothing but time. Thirty minutes with nothing to distract her from how wrong everything felt. She felt sick, and needed to focus on anything else. Then she spotted the book still on her nightstand. The one Killian had given her. She had read it in bits a pieces as time allowed her to, but she still had about twenty pages left in act five.

 

Up until that point, Eliza had been training to be a proper lady, working on her dialect, posture, and conversational skills. She had passed two tests, proving that the two men, Higgins and Pickering, had succeeded in transforming her. Something that the movie hadn’t point out that she found heartbreaking was how much Higgin’s actions and words had affected Eliza. In the movie, Audrey Hepburn portrayed the character as silly and humorous, but in truth the character was miserable. For as far as she had come, she would always be the uneducated, poor-mannered, cockney girl, nothing more than a flower girl.

 

Emma poured through the last pages, almost crying as she did so. Eliza was so hurt by everything, but she refused to break. And unlike the movie, where Eliza returned to Higgins after all he had done, the play version ended with him calling out orders to Eliza. Shaw left the play open to interpretation, and Emma formed her own version, one were Eliza ran off with the man who adored her, leaving the pain behind her.

 

It was the version she herself would never see, although, in reality she wasn’t sure if Neal or Regina was closer to the characterization of Higgins. Either way, she was becoming someone she no longer recognized, a person with no self respect, with neither the choice nor the courage to find her own happy ending. And then came the crushing blow that she may not even have a happy ending waiting for her.

 

Before she could reflect on it any further though, her phone buzzed with an alert that her car was waiting downstairs. She had been so engrossed in the book Killian had given her that she had lost all track of time. She messaged the driver that she would be a few more minutes as she brushed her teeth and threw on the first outfit she could find. Regina lived in the Upper West side of Manhattan, mostly made of people who were considered new money. Regina had purchased a large home right after Emma’s father passed. While there had been nothing wrong with her father’s place, it was modest and didn’t screen money the way Regina wanted it to.

 

Emma had argued at first for them to meet at her apartment, knowing how far going to Regina’s would take her out of the way from the cathedral, but much like the invitations, the dress, the cake, and the guestlist, Emma had been overruled. There was no use in fighting either.

 

The ride to Regina’s only took twenty minutes thanks to the empty streets, and when they called up, Regina didn’t even bother to offer to invite her up. Instead she waited for another fifteen minutes until her stepmother finally came outside and hopped in the car before they backtracked to the cathedral. Meanwhile, Regina went over everything with Emma one last time.

 

In an effort to rival the latest royal weddings, Regina had hired a carriage to take the couple from St. Patrick's cathedral, where they would be wed in front of fifteen hundred of their ‘closest’ friends, to the New York Public Library. Belle still had friends there and the main portion of the library had been converted into a wedding reception fairytale land. While at the reception, there would be a carefully constructed schedule, in which people would feast and drink. Neal and Emma would then give a speech about unity and some other crap. Emma hadn’t actually bothered to read the entire speech yet. To be truthful, she had barely made it beyond the first paragraph after multiple attempts.

 

When they arrived at the cathedral, they found a heavy line of security already forming. The head guard, a man the others referred to as ‘Tiny’- who was anything but - told Regina that they had done a full sweep of the building and that no one was currently inside. Emma wondered how much money Regina had thrown at the church in order for them to agree to hold a wedding in place of normal services, although she was certain that she didn’t want to know. The price of the dress had made her cringe, and she was sure that it wouldn't even come close to comparing.

 

Inside, the reception room was already buzzing with activity. Tables had been set out, each covered in makeup chosen the previous day to suit each person, including Regina as ‘mother’ of the bride.

 

Ruby and Tamara staggered in roughly ten minutes later and the team got straight to work. Each woman was given a couture robe to dress in so as to not mess their makeup or hair when they went to change later. The hair stylist were the first up, placing large heated rollers in each of the women’s hair so it could set throughout the morning. Next came the make-up artists. Ruby and Tamara had their makeup done first, saving Emma’s for closer to the wedding so it wouldn’t smudge.

 

Ruby and Tamara had been released to see to the final details, making sure that all of the aisle end caps had flowers on them, that the priest didn’t have any questions, and that Neal and his groomsmen were en route. It was just Emma and Regina left in the room getting ready.

 

Regina had already made her makeup artist cry with two hours left before the wedding, and was tittering dangerously close to doing the same to Emma’s hair stylist when they heard a tapping noise coming towards them.

 

Emma turned her head to find Gold standing in the doorway dressed in an old-style tuxedo, complete with a top hat and ornate gold leafed cane. His smile was more menacing than anything resembling comfort.

 

“Well, well, look at you, dearie.”

 

Emma smiled despite the discomfort she always felt in his presence.

 

“I don’t wish to keep you, Miss Nolan. I simply wanted to inquire as to whether or not you knew of my son’s whereabouts this morning.”

 

“I haven’t seen him, but I can call, if you’d like.”

 

Gold shifted the weight on his feet, obviously displeased with her answer.

 

“I’ve already tried that. I know that he’s already made it to the cathedral. I made sure of it myself, but the photographer needs him and he’s nowhere to be found so I thought perhaps he had been by to see you.”

 

“I’m sorry but he hasn’t.”

 

Gold turned and walked away without saying anymore, and Emma felt her muscles relax.

 

“Emma, go help him look.”

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

“You heard me. That man is going to be you father-in-law, and it would do you well to seek to be in his good graces. That is, if you don’t want the rest of your life to be completely miserable.”

 

Regina’s smirk made her almost as uneasy as Gold’s had, and she left - if for no other reason than to seek the reprieve that would accompany the alone time. She was still in her robe, with only half of her hair and makeup done. Luckily, there was still enough time that none of the guests would be arriving yet. She wandered about aimlessly at first, not actively seeking out Neal, but not necessary avoiding him either.

 

The cathedral had been completely transformed. There were so many flowers everywhere, the main hall looked like a greenhouse. They were sickly sweet in smell though, and all of them were blood red in color. Apparently Gold was catholic, as was Neal by default. They had practiced parts of the ceremony a few days before, but never the entire thing, and as she understood it, the ceremony would be long and filled with multiple prayers and blessings.

 

She just wanted the entire thing to be over with already. Her nerves were starting to get the best of her as she recited some of the passages that Regina had required her to memorize. Luckily, they were using the standard vows so she didn’t have to come up with anything pleasant to say about Neal. She didn’t even want to kiss him after they were pronounces man and wife. Standing before everyone in attendance, making false promises of loving, honoring, and cherishing was bad enough, nevermind lying in a house of God. Of course maybe then she’d at least be smited and the whole unpleasant thing would be over with.

 

As she stood near the altar, trying to decided how to best earn the wrath of God, Ruby approached her wondering why she wasn’t still getting ready. When Emma explained that she was sent to find Neal, Ruby rolled her eyes, but joined her in the search. They checked all of the rooms near the front of the cathedral, but they were all empty, as was the main hall.

 

It wasn’t until they made their way into the back of the cathedral that they ran onto Gold again, searching rooms as well. He informed then that he had checked all of the rooms except for the one in the far corner, and Emma could tell that his patience towards his son was waning.

 

Before they could make their way over to the room, the door opened and a very disheveled Tamara walked out, followed by Neal who was still zipping up his pants. When he saw Emma and Ruby he shrugged, not caring in the least that he had been caught yet again.

 

Emma hadn’t known what she had expected of him. She knew that monogamy was out of the question when it came to Neal, at least on his part, but something in her had thought that he could at least give her this one day, their wedding day. Yet there he was, fornicating with another woman in the back of a catholic cathedral.

 

She could tell the exact minute Neal caught sight of his father though. He eyes widened and his posture stiffened, standing up a little straighter than usual.

 

“Papa.”

 

Everything happened so quickly after that. Despite his age, Gold moved as spritely as a man of twenty as he barreled down on Neal, thrashing him with his cane. The first blow hit Neal in the calf, knocking him him to the floor. The second smashed into Neal’s side and Neal cried out.

 

Tamara stood helplessly to the side, out of the way of Gold’s new whipping toy. She cried out, but made no move to help Neal.

 

A third blow to Neal in the back, and although Emma hated him with ever fiber of her being, she couldn’t stand idly by and watch Gold beat his son. She reached forward and grabbed his arm as he brought his cane back to hit Neal again.

 

Gold turned, focusing all of his rage on her.

 

“Do not test me, girl.”

 

“I’m not, but look at him. He’s about to stand up in front of over a thousand of your friends and business associates. Do you really want to explain to everyone why he’s bruised and limping?”

 

Gold’s chest heaved with every angry breath he took.

 

“Get out,” he growled out.

 

Emma was taken off guard, not sure what she was supposed to do, but Gold turned away from her.

 

“You!” He poked at Tamara’s chest with the tip of his cane. “You have done more than enough damage, and if you value your life, you’ll leave and never see my son again.”

 

She didn’t even put up a fight as she ran, finding an emergency exit leading to what Emma guessed was a side street. She heard Tamara crying as she ran, but once the door closed behind her, she returned her focus to Gold and Neal. Ruby had been unusually quiet and when Emma looked at her, she could tell that Ruby was frightened.

 

Emma would have been lying to herself if she said she wasn’t as well, knowing that she was marrying into a family that resorted to domestic violence to solve their issues.

 

“Papa, I’m so sorry.”

 

She’d never heard Neal sound so small before. It was the voice of a child, and she wondered how many times it had happened before. He had told her stories of how awful his childhood had been, but he had never gone into details.

 

“Did you think you could make a fool of me?”

 

“No, Papa!”

 

“I’ve never expected much of you, boy, but I thought you weren’t foolish enough to air your indiscretions in such a public manner. What if that had been someone other than Miss Nolan, someone that mattered?”

 

Neal’s eyes shifted to her, a pleading look for salvation, but he’d gotten all of the saving she was going to give him already.

 

“You sicken me! Now go get yourself cleaned up and don’t let me see your face again until the ceremony.”

 

“Yes, Sir.”

 

Neal scurried away, heading towards what she thought she remembered being a bathroom.

 

“And you, Miss Nolan, I suggest you finish getting ready unless you mean to look like a street rat.”

 

Just as before, he walked away and Emma was left flabbergasted. Ruby seemed just as perplexed.

 

“Emma, you can’t seriously still be considering going through with this?”

 

“I don’t have a choice. Now come on, help me finish getting ready.”

 

The walk back was slow, neither of them in a hurry. Regina had just finished receiving her finishing touches as they entered the room. Emma sat back down and looked at the clock above the door. She had about forty minutes left, and Regina had just gone to start welcoming guests.

 

The team Regina had hired got back to work, curling Emma’s hair and pinning it up into an elaborate chignon. Her makeup artist continued where she had left off, touching up her eyeliner after placing her false lashes on. They felt equal in weight to the burden of having to marry Neal, and she could barely keep her eyes open. Regina had chosen a blood red lipstick to match the flowers, and Emma felt as if it made her look sickly. It was too drastic.

 

Everything was too drastic.

 

She felt her heart rate pick up as her breathing increased. Her hands started shaking, and a sense of doom settled in, taking hold of her from inside.

 

“Emma?”

 

“I- I can’t- breathe,” Emma wheezed out.

 

It wasn’t the first time it had happened, but it had been a while, and she had forgotten how much it sucked.

 

“Okay, sweetie. You’re having a panic attack. Remember what Dr. Hopper said?”

 

Emma shook her head. She couldn’t focus on remembering everything when it felt like death was summoning her.

 

“Ems, You need to put your head between your knees and focus on slowing your breathing.”

 

Emma leaned over, but it only made it harder for her to keep the tears at bay.

 

“I can’t!”

 

It took everything to get the words out, and Ruby looked at her with a mix of pity and understanding. She hated it.

 

“Yes, you can. You focus on something else. What calms you?”

 

Killian .

 

That wasn’t an option though.

 

“The ocean.”

 

“Okay, I can work with that. Imagine yourself on the beach, watching the waves roll in and back out. Can you see it?”

 

Emma nodded furiously.

 

“Ok, just keep watching those waves, and match your breathing to them. In and out, just like the waves.”

 

It helped, but only marginally. Emma still felt pressure clamping down in her chest over her heart.

 

Everything was falling apart. Neal had just fucked another woman and Emma was supposed to go up there in five minutes and promise before the world to love and honor him until death. She was supposed to seal her fate to his for eternity, and the idea of death coming for her was suddenly more appealing than ever.

 

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be. It wasn’t the epic love story her parents had told her about. It wasn’t the future she had planned as a little girl, draping one of her mother’s old doilies over her head as a pretend veil. It wasn’t even a business agreement anymore.

 

It was a sacrifice, a lamb to the slaughter.

 

“Hey, still with me here?”

 

Emma snapped out of her thoughts and looked at Ruby. She could still feel her hands shaking when they heard the processional music beginning.

 

“What do you want me to do?” Ruby asked, but for the first time in her life, Emma didn’t have any answers.

Chapter Text

 


 

 

She took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eyes.

 

“Oh, Killian, you’re already too late.”

 

The words hit him like a punch in the gut.

 

“What?”

 

His voice nearly broke and he felt his knees buckle, ready to give way. He was too late. Emma and Neal had already signed the marriage certificate and were officially man and wife. How could he have been so bloody stupid? If he had just listened to Ruby before, he could have been there in plenty of time. It was all his fault. He had been weak. Just another reminder of why he didn’t deserve her.

 

Ruby looked around, peeking her head out the main door again to make sure no one was approaching before tucking him further into the room. They were heading towards the room that Ruby had told Neal Emma was in, and without realizing it, Killian felt himself resisting. He couldn’t face her now.

 

Sensing his reluctance, Ruby turned on him.

 

“We don’t have much time. Come on.”

 

“I- I can’t.”

 

Ruby’s eyes narrowed on him.

 

“What do you mean you can’t? You came all this way.”

 

Everything was falling apart.

 

“That was before. But it’s too late. She’s already married and seeing her now... What good would it do either of us?”

 

“God, you guys really are two peas in a pod. Now, I told you, there isn’t much time and this conversation would be better with more privacy.”

 

His hand came up to rub across his face, his frustrations evident. Frustrations with Ruby for being so cryptic, with himself for taking so long to get there, and even with Emma for going through with it when it was obviously wrong. Yet he found himself following her anyway. As the door opened he braced himself.

 

But the room was empty. There was no sign of Emma ever having been there, and he was completely confused.

 

“What the hell is this? Is this a game? Are you trying to get back at me?”

 

He could feel all of his nerves fleeing his body as rage rushed in, filling the void. Yes, he had said horrible things in his drunken stupor, but he hadn’t meant it. He hadn’t meant to be as cruel as Ruby was being now.

 

Ruby’s hand shot out and clamped down over his mouth. She paused, listening towards the door for any noise.

 

“Keep your voice down!”

 

“What the hell is going on?” He may have been whispering now, but he was only seconds away from shouting again.

 

“She isn’t here. She ran, and I’m just trying to buy her more time!”

 

Stunned. It was the only word to describe how he felt.

 

“I’m sorry. Say that again.”

 

Ruby was much more relaxed as she repeated it.

 

“She had a panic attack and just started spouting nonsense. Something about how she couldn’t spend her life fetching slippers, and then something about a video game.”

 

Killian blanched.

 

“Ya, I don’t know. She was talking about that Zelda game that kids play, and how she didn’t want to be Zelda. She was talking a mile a minute and suddenly she just said she couldn’t go through with it.”

 

He couldn’t swallow. He couldn’t breath.

 

“So I gave her my dress and helped her sneak out one of the side doors. I’ve been trying to buy her time, but people are starting to get suspicious.”

 

She had listened to him, taking to heart his story about Fitzgerald, and Shaw’s play. She understood. She was by far the strongest woman he had ever met.

 

“What about the company?”

 

The look Ruby gave him told him everything he needed to know, and nearly broke his heart. Emma had walked away from everything, losing the last piece of her parents she had left.

 

He had so many questions, but the creaking of a door and the clicking of heels prevented him from asking any of them.

 

“What is the hold up, Miss Lucas?”

 

In the doorway stood a woman donning an all black lace dress. Her face was turned up, and he had a fairly good idea of who she was based on Emma’s description.

 

“There was a tear in her veil but it’s being mended and she’ll be out as soon as possible.”

 

Regina walked closer to Ruby, and even though she was shorter in stature than Emma’s friend, she still seemed to tower over the other brunette.

 

“Do you really think me that dense? I went to great lengths to ensure that everything was perfect today. Now, are you really so incompetent that you can’t get the three of you down that aisle?”

 

Killian had had enough, but just as he was about to say something, Regina spotted him.

 

“And who the hell are you? I know the guestlist like the back of my hand and you certainly weren’t on it.”

 

“Killian Jones, your majesty.”

 

He heard Ruby gasp behind him as he gave a slight bow, picking up on the fact that Emma had let him in on the joke they shared, but Regina only scrunched her face more.

 

“Like the actor? Why am I not surprised that she’d spend her time associating with someone so out of her station?”

 

“Wow. She really wasn’t exaggerating when she described you. What did she ever do to make you hate her so much?”

 

Regina glared daggers at him, but chose to return her attention to Ruby instead of taking his bait.

 

“You have two minutes and then I better see three of you coming down that aisle. And Mr. Jones, I expect that you know the way out, but if not I’d be more than happy to have security refresh your memory.”

 

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll be long gone by the time Emma emerges.”

 

Regina swiveled on her heel and left, not bothering to close the door again on her way out.

 

“So where did she go?”

 

“I have no idea. I gave her my dress and a hat so no one would recognize her and she slipped out a door on the other side of the building.”

 

Killian’s eyes widened in realization, only now noticing Ruby’s cream robe.

 

“Ruby, what color was her dress?”

 

He needed her to say it, needed her to confirm.

 

Cream.

 

Emma had been the woman he saw leaving the church, the one that showed him how to get in. Ironic , he thought to himself. But that also meant that she only had a twenty minute head start on him. If he could just figure out where she was, he could still get to her.

 

“Call her!”

 

Ruby furrowed her brows.

 

“My number is still blocked on her phone. I need you to call her and figure out where she is. Please, Ruby.”

 

She let out an exasperated sigh. Once he had everything sorted, he would need to make sure to properly apologize to her for his behavior, but right now his priority was getting to Emma. Ruby said nothing as she went back into the larger room and dug her phone out of her purse. He followed her, hoping that she’d let him speak to Emma, or that at the very least he’d get hear her voice while Ruby talked to her.

 

They waited, and he heard a ringing coming through Ruby’s phone, but it just continued to ring before going to voicemail. Ruby tried again, and as they listened quietly, Killian heard a soft buzzing noise coming from the other room. He bolted, only to find Emma’s phone face down on one of the tables in the room, placed on vibrate.

 

Both of them stood in silence, trying to figure out what to do next.

 

“Get a cab.”

 

“What?”

 

“Go now, get a cab and keep it waiting by the west wall of the cathedral. I’ll create a distraction and then slip out and meet you.”

 

He didn’t even question her. For someone that had spent so much of his life not trusting people after everything Milah had done, and all of the news stories printed about him, he was suddenly willing to put a lot of faith in a stranger. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was so desperate to get back to Emma, or if it was because Ruby was the person Emma trusted most, but he’d do whatever she asked.

 

Exiting the cathedral was much easier than entering it. He had briefly considered going out the front, but was worried that even though none of her guests seemed to know who he was, he was certain that at least a few in the gathered crowd would, and he didn’t need to draw any attention to himself. Instead, he slipped out the same way he had come, and walked two blocks over so he could hit a main street, making it easier to get a cab. As soon as he had one, he doubled back and waited at the west wall just as Ruby had instructed him.

 

When she emerged from the cathedral, she was wearing normal street clothes and was able to walk around without raising any suspicions. He slid over so that Ruby could get in the car and she spouted out an address that sounded like it was oddly close to where he lived.

 

“Where are we going?” he asked.

 

Ruby was digging around in the bottom of her bag when she pulled out an ID badge attached to a key.

 

“First we’re going to Emma’s apartment. The bags she packed for the honeymoon are already stowed away in a car, so wherever she’s going, she’ll need more clothes. I’m hoping we can get there and catch her before she leaves.”

 

His stomach was in knots as the cab slowed and came to a stop in front of a large building that he passed at least once a week on his way to Robin and Marian’s building. Before he knew it, he found himself laughing.

 

“What?”

 

“It’s just that- This whole time, for almost a year now, I’ve wondered where she was, wishing more than anything that I could find her and tell her that I love her again, and here she was the entire time, less than a mile away from me.”

 

Ruby nodded, but her expression remained melancholy as they made their way through Emma’s lobby, showing the front desk man the ID badge. She waited until they were alone in the elevator to speak again.

 

“You may have been closer to her than you knew, but you were even closer to your fiance. What would she say about you running off to express your undying love for someone else?”

 

“Oh, I’m certain that she would have plenty to say, but seeing as I never proposed to her, her opinion would be meaningless to me.”

 

Ruby watched him carefully as the elevator doors opened. He followed her to the end of the long hallway, pausing as she unlocked a door.

 

The apartment was exactly what he would have expected. It was full of light with windows throughout. The furniture was simple and minimal. He was reminded of what she had told him, money and fame meant nothing to her.

 

“But we both saw you on TV. There was definitely a ring and you two looked pretty cozy.”

 

“Don’t believe everything you see.”

 

Ruby cocked her head to the side studying him, looking for what he could only deem to be signs of deceit. There were none though, and they were wasting time.

 

“Swan?”

 

Ruby narrowed her eyes at him.

 

“Emma?” She called out instead.

 

He had let himself momentarily forget that Swan wasn’t her name at all. It was Nolan, which opened up a whole new set of questions in his mind. Granted, he had hardly known Emma before, only the bits and pieces she had allowed him to know, but what else had she purposefully kept hidden from him?

 

“Emma?”

 

His shouted pleas for her to answer were becoming more and more desperate as he and Ruby searched through her apartment. She was clearly not there, and he wondered if she had even returned after fleeing her wedding.

 

“Ruby, where would she have gone?”

 

“I don’t know. Just give me a minute to think.”

 

Ruby turned her head, looking around the room from her spot behind the bar in Emma’s kitchen. The open concept made everything except for the bedrooms easily visible from anywhere.

 

“Her suitcase is gone.”

 

They were getting nowhere.

 

“Yes, you already said as much. It’s in a car that she can’t get to.”

 

“No, Killian. Her favorite suitcase is missing. The one from when she was a kid. It was this ratty old bag and she had stickers all over it from everyplace she had ever visited. Regina wouldn’t let her pack it though. Said it looked like a vagabond’s bag, and that she might as well carry it on a stick.”

 

“You’re absolutely certain.”

 

Ruby nodded. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was progress. They knew for certain that Emma had been there. Ruby went to the intercom by the door and buzzed down to the front desk, asking the man if Emma had ordered a car and how long it had been since she had left. The man said that she had returned to the apartment about thirty minutes prior and that he hadn’t seen her leave, but that he had been called away twenty minutes prior to help one of the residents who had locked herself out of her apartment. Emma must have left in the five minutes he had been away from his post. Unfortunately that also meant that Emma had a fifteen to twenty minute head start on them, and they had no idea where she was going.

 

“This is useless. She has more money than God. She could be anywhere in the world and we’d never know it.”

 

Hope was dwindling.

 

“Wait!” Ruby ran into the living room and sat down in one of the chairs, digging an iPad out from between the cushions.

 

He groaned impatiently as she tapped away at the screen.

 

“You gave me an idea. I know Emma, and right now her first instinct is going to be to get out of the city, as far away as possible. Her passport was in her bag, so she can’t leave the country, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t fly somewhere.”

 

She continued to poke at the tablet.

 

“Great, so we’ve narrowed it down to five thousand miles. It still hopeless.”

 

“No, you don’t get it. I’m her assistant. I have access to all of her credit cards. I can track her spending and figure out where she is, or at least where she’s going. If she bought a plane ticket, I’ll be able to figure out where too.”

 

Ruby scrolled through statement after statement, taking a look at all of Emma’s credit cards, but when the corners of her mouth ticked down, he knew her search had been fruitless.

 

“So what now?”

 

“I- I don’t know.”

 

Ruby’s sunk into the chair and Killian, feeling restless, started checking the apartment again for any sign of where she could have gone. Soon enough, he found himself in her bedroom, sitting on the edge of her bed. It was odd. He had never been there before, but a strange feeling of belonging began to settle into his bones. It was if he was meant to be there.

 

Her bedroom was minimalistic, just like the rest of the house. Her bed sat against one of the walls. He assumed the door on the opposite side led to a bathroom or a closet. Next to the bed sat a nightstand on either side, but that was it. No television, no radio. Just a picture.

 

He stood up and walked closer to the framed portrait. In the background sat a blonde man and raven haired woman on a blanket in what appeared to be a park. It was the small blond child in the foreground that caught his attention. She looked so innocent, blowing bubbles from a small jar, her green eyes sparkling at the sight before her. Emma’s brilliant green eyes were still as mesmerizing as ever. Giving another glance to the two adults behind her - her parents - he could see where Emma got her looks from. Both of them were beautiful, and she was a perfect mixture of them.

 

There was so much love radiating from the photo. A perfect little family, something he wanted now more than anything, but only if it meant having it with Emma. His resolve strengthened, he turned again to look at the room, hoping for something, anything. Even just a brochure of somewhere would do. There was nothing, of course, nothing except a well-used book sitting on the edge of one of the nightstands.

 

The edges were frayed, and some pages had bent corners. Whether she had been marking passages that spoke to her, or just her place, it was clear that she had read it. He flipped through, stopping short when he saw the note he had written to her. He had meant what he had said. He had understood why she was doing it, and he had thought that he would be able to let her go, but his strength crumbled as the hope that she wanted him grew. At least he had kept one of his promises to her, although he wasn’t sure how that one would turn out yet.

 

After all of his efforts to appease Milah for the sake of the movie and his career, his anger had bested him. The darkness had taken over. He had let it consume him when he had pinned Milah to the wall, and while he had no qualms about finally standing up to her, he had regrets over the manner in which he had done so. He’d have to deal with that fallout later though, because in that minute, all he could think about was the smudge on the last page of the play, near the final line, opposite from his note.

 

"Oh, don’t bother. She’ll buy ‘em all right enough. Goodbye.”

 

It was the last thing Higgins had said. It had been in reference to the fight he had had with Eliza. He had been dismissive of her once more, even after she had declared that she had found someone who could finally love her and that she was leaving to be with him. Higgins had responded by telling her to buy him a sandwich, gloves, and a tie while she was out, making it clear how little he believed in or respected her.

 

What Ruby had said before came back to him. Emma didn’t want to fetch Neal’s slippers. Slippers had been the tipping point in the fight between Eliza and Higgins, and although their relationship had been nothing short of a master and servant, he felt certain that Neal had seen Emma in much the same light; a woman to serve and do his bidding. It angered him of course, but he came back to the smudge mark, from a single teardrop. She wouldn’t bring him his slippers anymore. Killian smiled for his brave and strong Emma.

 

Returning to the living room with no new clues on Emma’s whereabouts, but renewed in his hope, he found Ruby on the phone.

 

“I’m not asking if you’re harboring her, just if you’ve heard from her or know where she is!”

 

He could tell Ruby was frustrated.

 

“Because, Graham,” she shouted, “you’ve been in love with her for years, and even though she doesn’t know it, you’d do anything she asked!”

 

His teeth started hurting from how tight he was clenching his jaw. Hearing Ruby tell another man that she knew he was in love with Emma was hard enough, but the idea that Emma might be with him, that she had gone to him in her time of need irked him. It filled him with jealousy.

 

Ruby slammed the phone down, and dug the heels of her hands into her eyes.

 

“Is she with him?”

 

The words came out more strained than he had meant.

 

“Honestly, I don’t think so. Graham’s a puppy dog when it comes to her, following her around like she hung the stars and the moon, but Emma barely knows he exists outside of the office. I don’t think she’d even call him, but I’m grasping at straws here.”

 

Killian nodded and moved to sit beside Ruby on the couch she had switched to.

 

“I even tried one of her old childhood friends who lives out in California, but he said he hasn’t heard from her since before he got her wedding invitation. She’s a workaholic and doesn’t have many friends. I don’t even know where to look next.”

 

Killian placed his hand on her knee. The contact felt unnatural and forced for him, but she seemed unphased.

 

“It’s okay, I know you tried.”

 

Both of them sat back, letting silence fill the room.

 

“It’s like she just vanished.” Her words were almost a whisper, and he could tell she felt like a failure as much as he did. “Wherever she is, she doesn’t want anyone to know. She doesn’t want to be found.”

 

He chuckled. Although it wasn’t the outcome he wanted, he couldn’t help but agree. Emma had fallen off the face of the planet, and for all he knew, they’d never find her, never know where she went.

 

Something teased him at the back of his mind.

 

Oh, no. She doesn’t know; no one does.

 

“Bloody hell. I know where she is.”

 

He ignored the way she called after him as he ran out the door. He’d need a rental car.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Three hours. That’s how much of a head start Emma had by the time Killian was finally able to secure a rental car. He should have expected as much, but being from another country, one tended to forget about any holidays that weren’t ingrained into him as a child, Thanksgiving weekend among them.

 

The whole bloody city was against him. The first car hire place he had been to told him that all of their cars were out for the duration of the long weekend, with the first scheduled return set for the next day. After calling around, they said that one of their other sites had a car returned early and that they would hold it for him.

 

Like a madman on a mission, he dashed through the subway, hoping to get there faster without the gridlock of Sunday afternoon traffic. Feeling a bit like a schoolboy playing rugby, he bounced into people, moving them out of his way as needed. He barely made it onto the train car before the doors shut behind him. Five stops later he emerged and ran up the platform taking a left as his phone instructed him to. Unfortunately, there had been a misunderstanding and the car that was to have been held for him had just been rented.

 

He was beginning to feel defeated, but he wasn’t ready to give up. After another forty-five minutes of calling around, and finally throwing out his celebrity status over the phone, something he hated doing, he manage to locate a minivan that had been returned early. The very chatty reservation specialist told him that the family had gotten in a huge fight with their in-laws so they had returned early.

 

Not wanting to risk losing the vehicle again he gave her his credit card information over the phone - another thing he hated doing, but if it meant getting to Emma, he’d do anything.

 

The rental place technically wasn’t even in the same state. It took him forty minutes in a cab to get to the Newark Airport where the van was being held, already hired in his name. He nearly shouted at the man to hurry up as they inspected the car for prior damage before handing him the keys. As he started the monstrously oversized vehicle, he noticed that the fuel tank was only half way full, yet another time delay for him to deal with.

 

It took him the better part of his first hour on the road before the realization of what he had done hit him. He was in such a feverish panic to get to Emma that all common sense had flown from his head. The fuel tank indicator was getting lower, the battery on his phone was nearly dead after traveling the evening before, and he still had five more hours of driving ahead of him.

 

But it was in that moment, between pure determination and realization that it dawn on him what a complete and utter fool he had been. If there had been even an ounce of clarity in his head, he would have seen it sooner. His six hour drive could have been closer to a two hour trip if he had just realized that he could have flown into Portland or another surrounding airport and hired a car from there.

 

Letting his frustrations get the better of him he slammed his fists into the steering wheel of the still moving vehicle, finally pushing the center of the damn thing with all of his might. The roads were nearly deserted as the sun began setting and no one was around to question the elongated and completely unnecessary horn blaring coming from what could only be classified as a soccer mom vehicle - a bloody monstrous beast that shimmed at the mere prospect of going over 65 miles per hour.

 

Somewhere just around the two-hour mark, Killian pulled up at a petrol station in New Haven, Connecticut. He filled the gas tank before trudging into the dilapidated building. He had already been exhausted before he had even made it out of the city. He hadn’t slept on the plane, and once he had landed in New York, the adrenaline had kicked in giving him the push to keep going. When he’d missed her at her apartment, the frustration and anger towards himself had been enough to sustain him, but now... now he was running on fumes.

 

He wasn’t accustomed to driving for such long periods either. In Los Angeles, he usually only ventured as far out as the grocery or liquor store. Anything beyond that normally warranted the use of a driver, and even then a two-hour trip would still end in the same city it began in. It didn’t mean covering almost a hundred miles, with so many still to go.

 

As loathed as he was to waste anymore time than he already had, his body felt as though it were betraying him, moving in slow motion as it carried him into the restrooms at the back of the building. After taking care of what was needed, he washed his hands and splashed some water on his face, but it did little to perk him up, and what he saw looking back at him stunned him.

 

He had managed to gain back some of the weight he had lost during the movie with the help of the same nutritionist that helped him lose it in the first place. The nutritionist had put an emphasis on eating healthy and gaining the weight back slowly, making sure to put on muscle mass as well as body fat. Still though, he looked gaunt by his standards, and the dark circles until his eyes did little to hide how unwell he felt.

 

He was a fucking mess.

 

If he had any hope of wooing Emma back, he’d need all the help in the world, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

 

Killian exited the bathroom and gave himself a minute to wander from aisle to aisle, relishing the feeling of letting his legs stretch out a bit. Knowing that he still had four hours of travel ahead of him, he started loading his arms up with candy, chips, and drinks from the cooler, hoping that it would prevent him from needing to stop again until he had made it to Storybrooke.

 

He still didn’t know exactly where in the town she lived, but considering how small Emma had told him it was, he didn’t expect that it would take more than a few minutes of asking around, meaning it was a problem he could solve later.

 

As he checked out at the counter, the clerk eyed him in an effort to decide if Killian was who he thought he was, and he remembered the all-important coffee. He scuttled around until he found the dispenser and filled the largest cup they sold. The coffee was lukewarm at best but it would do. He returned to the counter to find all of his items tucked away into two small grocery bags, and just before paying he remembered his other conundrum.

 

The van was fairly nice as far as rentals went, but the main screen was cracked, making it impossible to use the touch screen navigation system, and the battery on his cell phone was dangerously low. Looking around the impulse buy section of the checkout, he managed to find a charging cord for his phone and added it to his purchases.

 

“You know, you kind of look like that guy from that movie that’s coming out soon. What’s it called? Shell Shocked?”

 

“Perhaps I am him.” Killian chuckled lightly as he said it.

 

“No, but good try.”

 

The clerk’s eyes widened as Killian handed him his credit card, obviously having read his name, but the poor boy seemed shell shocked himself. He didn’t say anything else - he just handed Killian’s credit card back to him and pushed the bags closer to his side of the counter.

 

Killian thanked him and left, bracing himself for the rest of his journey and praying that he knew Emma as well as he thought he did. Praying that he wasn’t wasting his time going up there for nothing.

 

After passing through Hartford and Worcester, he knew he wouldn’t be passing through any larger cities until he made it to Portland, and even then he wasn’t really sure what to expect. After having lived in New York City and LA, everything else seemed to pale by comparison.

 

It was a beautiful evening out. With very few cars on the highway adding to the light pollution, he was able to see a sky full of stars above him as he continued driving. About thirty minutes past Portland, Killian turned off of the main highway. The roads became more narrow and winding and he was forced to slow down so he wouldn’t crash.

 

It’s a blink-and-you-might-miss-it type of place.

 

He already felt as if he were in the middle of nowhere and he still had about twenty miles to go before he hit the town line according to his phone. It was getting late as well, and if the town were as small as he suspected, as small as Emma had described it, he worried that everything might already be closed for the evening and he be forced to sleep in the car for the night.

 

At least it’s got the room.

 

He almost ran straight into the sign welcoming people to town. Judging by the paint damage to one of the outside post, it looked like he wasn’t the only one that had come close to knocking the thing down. He continued on until he found himself in a little town just off the water.

 

It was quaint. Most of the buildings looked like small family owned businesses, and the streets were all deserted. Most of the lights in town seemed to be off, indicating that his fears were warranted, but as he made it almost a mile further into the little village, he found hope. There were two places right across from each other that appeared to be open. The first was a bed and breakfast, which at least meant he might be able to get a room for the night. The other was called The White Rabbit, which he assumed was a bar based on the rowdy sounds coming from inside.

 

The place smelled like some of the old pubs in London, with the slightly stale scent of old booze and body odor from too many sweaty bodies piling together in a small place. His nerves were beginning to kick in, and he had to consciously fight the urge to order a rum as he approached the bar area.

 

“What can I get you?”

 

A little bit a liquid courage was just what he needed, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to stop if he started, and then he risked his courage turning to self-loathing. Not his most attractive quality.

 

“Actually I’m looking for a friend. Do you know where Emma Swan lives?”

 

“Who?”

 

Habit.

 

“I mean Emma, Emma Nolan.”

 

“I’m sorry but I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

 

Killian couldn’t help but notice the defensive posture the man had adopted since the mention of Emma’s name.

 

“Are you certain? Is there anyone else here who might know her?” he asked.

 

“Look, I have no idea who she is.” The Bartender’s facial features sharpened. “Now either you can buy a drink or I can have you escorted out of here.”

 

Killian put his hands up in surrender, realizing that finding her wasn’t going to be nearly as easy as he had hoped. It was well past ten, and although he wanted nothing more than to find her, he knew it would be best to wait until morning. He could shower and get himself a bit more together. He was still wearing his tuxedo from two days before, and it could use some freshening up as well. In the morning he could poke around one of the stores for something more appropriate to wear and continue his search.

 

The bed and breakfast across the street was closer to something like an inn with an attached diner. It reminded him of Granny’s with it’s older style decorations. When he got to the counter, no one was there and he was forced to ring a bell. A grumpy little man emerged from a back office and asked him what he wanted.

 

Killian was halfway through making his room arrangements when he noticed that the man he now knew as Leroy was writing his information down in a ledger rather than into a computer like most places. Looking around, there wasn’t a computer to be found. He understood why Emma’s parents must have chosen that little town. It really was a place where they could just go to get away from everything.

 

He heard footsteps but made no motion to turn around until he heard a female’s voice behind him.

 

“Hey Leroy,” She stopped when she caught sight of him.

 

“Hey, Ashley. Are you done for the night?”

 

“I- Uh- Ya. Sorry.”

 

Killian had just caught the faint beginnings of blush forming on her cheeks when he turned back to look at Leroy, who was now handing him an old style skeleton key attached to a large tag with the number nine marked in the middle.

 

Killian turned to head in the direction Leroy had pointed to when the girl spoke up again.

 

“You’re Killian Jones. I can’t believe you’re here! Why are you here?”

 

He sighed, the fatigue slowing his mind and body equally.

 

“I’m here looking for someone.”

 

“Who? Maybe I can help?”

 

“I doubt it. I was assured by the barkeep across the street that no one here has ever heard of her.”

 

He started walking again but paused when he felt her fingers wrap around his wrist tentatively.

 

“Look, I’ve lived here my whole life. I know everyone that lives here. Who are you looking for?”

 

Internally groaning, he caved.

 

“Emma Nolan.”

 

She gasped and froze after her gaze shifted over to Leroy, who looked as equally unsettled by his questioning as the bartender had.

 

“There’s no one here by that name. I think you have the wrong place, brother.”

 

Killian’s head tilted as he considered the man. There was something odd about how dismissive each man had been. He turned back to the girl, whose grip was now much more firm.

 

“Lass, do you know who she is?”

 

“Um-“

 

“Ashley! Isn’t your shift up? I think it’s time for you to go home now.”

 

Killian looked at her pleadingly, and he saw the warring in her eyes as she shifted between him and the man behind the counter.

 

“Please. She told me her family owned a house here, and I know she still has it.”

 

“She- She told you that?”

 

Killian expected Leroy to shout at the girl again, but he didn’t.

 

“She told you about this place?”

 

“Yes. I need to find her. It’s important.”

 

“And how do we know you aren’t a reporter or something just trying to get a story?” Leroy asked gruffly.

 

“He loves her.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

 

Leroy watched him for a minute, trying to find whatever Ashley had seen. He must have found it because he spoke up with a slightly more relaxed tone this time.

 

“Look, that girl as been through a lot, more than her fair share of crap, and we’re all pretty protective of her here. People don’t know about this place, we make sure of that, so if she told you, I guess you must mean something to her.”

 

Leroy stepped forward and grabbed the key from Killian’s hand.

 

“Take the main road north for about a mile and then turn right just past the old pumpkin stand. Follow that road until it ends and you’ll find her house. The old Swan Cottage.

 

Swan Cottage . His Emma was a clever one.

 

He followed the instructions Leroy gave him, passing only eight houses on his drive there, but sure enough, the road dead-ended into a gravel driveway. The cottage was hardly what he had expected though. Where he imagined he would find a small stone dwelling, he actually found something closer to what he would have expected from the Hamptons. The beach house was closer to a mansion.

 

He parked the car in the driveway next to a beat up old brown truck and wondered if Leroy hadn’t been messing with him, sending him off to a stranger’s house in an effort to deter him. There were narrow wooden steps leading up to the porch and they creaked under his weight. He could only see one faint light on in the opposite end of the house, and when no one answered the doorbell after his third ring, he wondered again about Leroy’s help.

 

Had it not been for his desperation, he would have turned back to the inn to give the little dwarf a piece of his mind, but instead he did the stupid thing; he walked around to the back of the house, hoping no one would mistake him for an intruder. Around the side of the house, he found another set of stairs leading up to what appeared to be the main deck for the house.

 

He called out, trying to warn anyone who might have been out there that he was coming, but no one answered. The light inside the house was brighter now, and as he rounded the corner he saw her.

 

She looked so peaceful stretched out in a lounge chair facing the ocean. Her golden tresses were a mess as only half of her hair remained from the updo she must have had for the wedding, and she was still in Ruby’s dress.

 

He called out, softly, tentatively, but she didn’t respond. As he closed the distance, he realized her eyes were closed, and the rise and fall of her chest was a steady rhythm. He crouched down next to her, trying to decide if he should wake her or not, but when his hand settled on one of hers, he felt the cool smooth feeling of glass. He looked down to find a half full bottle of his favorite rum clutched in her hand. It was an oddly warming feeling to know that even though she had purposefully drunk herself into a stupor, she had chosen to do so with something she associated with him. As gently as possible, he pulled the bottle from her hand.

 

Even in this state she was still an angel, and he was remised to disturb her slumber. The cool breeze from the water though had caused a drop in the temperature, and he knew that she’d surely freeze if he left her there.

 

He brushed a loose strand of hair from her forehead, tucking it behind her ear as he kissed her temple, earning a soft hum from her. Trying his best not to jostle her, he placed one hand under her knees and the other under her back and lifted. One of the many sliding glass doors was still open, making it easier for him to carry her inside the house.

 

The door led to a large room, which he assumed was hers. The bag that Ruby had described was sitting on the floor by the bed. He moved to set Emma down in the bed, but she clung to him. He had to ease her arms from around his neck as he pulled the covers up to her chest.

 

“Don’t go.”

 

Her words were groggy and there was a slight slur. He had to check to make sure he hadn’t woken her, but her eyes remained closed. He brushed her hair off her face again and gave her a kiss to the cheek this time.

 

“It’s not fair,” she mumbled and he almost missed it.

 

He wasn’t sure if it was the drink or just delirium on his part.

 

“What’s not fair, love?”

 

“You’re always here with me in my dreams, and then I wake and you’re gone. I’m alone. Always.”

 

He watched a single tear fall from her closed eyes and his heart broke for her.

 

“Worry not, my love. I promise I’ll be here this time. I’ll always be here.”

 

“I should have told you,” she muttered, her words buried in sleep as she turned on her side and hugged her pillow.

 

He should have left it alone. She was as fatigued as he felt, and her lips looser from the rum. Asking her things now felt like a violation of her privacy, but his selfish curiosity won out.

 

“What should you have told me?”

 

“That I love you.”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

She woke in bits and pieces, the first of which began with her stomach. She had consumed far too much rum the night before, but after returning to her apartment, packing a bag, and running away to her childhood home, it just seemed like the most logical next step.

 

She nearly hadn’t even made it out of her building. She wasn’t sure how long Ruby would have been able to stall for, and she was worried that any number of people would be searching for her. Any number of people except for the only one she wanted. All of her luggage was already packed away in the trunk of the car that had been hired to take them from the reception to the airport.

 

Even if she had somehow been able to get her bags without anyone noticing, it wouldn’t have done her much good. The bags had been packed with clothes suitable for a warmer climate as they were supposed to go to Belize for their honeymoon. It wasn’t a destination that she would have picked, but then again none of it would have been what she had picked, so what was one more thing?

 

Instead she packed up her old suitcase. It had taken a beating over the years, but with each scratch and scuff came a new sticker of her latest destination to cover it up. The latest being from the Nuuk airport on her way out of town. She had packed the most random stuff in her hurry to get in and get out. She hadn’t been back to her house in Storybrooke in about a year, but she hoped that she had enough stuff there to last her through however long she’d be hiding out.

 

She also made sure not to chance running into anyone in the lobby. Instead she ducked into the underground parking lot to retrieve her father’s old truck. It had been the same vehicle he had learned to drive in on his parent’s farm, the same truck he had taught her in. It hadn’t been driven since he had passed away. Regina wanted to send it off to be turned into scrap metal, so Emma had intervened, buying it out from under her nose the same way she had the house. Her friend had helped her get the truck towed into the lot.

 

Praying against all the odds, she turned the key, but luck was against her, as were the principles of electricity. The battery was dead and she was about to panic when someone pulled into the garage to park his own car. When a little sweet-talking, the guy helped her jumpstart the truck, making her promise to drive it straight to an auto shop where she could get it replaced.

 

She waited until she was out of the city, until she was out of the state, and away from Regina, Neal, and Gold before she finally pulled into a mechanic shop. She had to wait about thirty minutes for them to finish with another client, but they were polite and helpful, getting her squared away as soon as possible. She drove across the street to fill up with gas and to grab some snacks, making sure to pay with cash.

 

The kid behind the counter was sweet, although a little standoffish. Soon enough she was back on the road. She had the route memorized from her childhood and was amazed at how much had changed, and how much hadn’t. There were new rest stops all along the way, more businesses built up over the years, but then there were also the same small town bakeries already closed up for the day, with the same faded signs out front.

 

The closer she got to the old cottage, the further she was away from the city and all of her worries. Emma felt like she could finally breathe again. The welcome sign for the town felt like it was calling directly to her. The old gouge in one of the posts was still there from her second driving lesson. A dog had run out in the road and she had swerved to miss it. Seeing it was always the closest thing she had ever felt to being home, but something was still missing.

 

It was almost eight by the time she arrived, and as it was the weekend, most of the shops were already closed, including the grocery store. The only thing she’d had to eat that day was a bag of chips and a candy bar, so she pulled into the old inn to order some food to go. Their grilled cheese sandwiches were nowhere near as good as Granny’s, but they weren’t too bad either.

 

Leroy was just starting his shift as she finished ordering, waving to her as he walked by. As she waited for her food, she wondered how Ruby was faring with the mess she had left behind. She had accidentally left her phone in her changing room when she had run from the church and couldn’t remember any of the phone numbers in her phone, even Ruby’s. She would have to send her an email once she got back to the house to let her know she was alive still.

 

Of course, that meant there would likely be a follow up telling her how much trouble she was in with Regina, and how the company was doing away with her department completely. There would have to be damage control, and as she wasn’t there to explain it, the story would be Neal’s to tell. He’d label her a coward, or something worse. The story would be all over the news, everyone would know.

 

She wondered if Killian had seen it yet, if he even cared. Thinking of it turned her stomach. She told the waitress that she would be back in a little bit, and she dashed across the street to Storybrooke’s one and only bar, The White Rabbit. The crowd was thick, but not nearly as packed as it would be later. There weren’t many things for young adults to do in a town that size, especially on a holiday weekend, and somehow it never failed that half of the town’s population manage to turn out for a drink.

 

“Emma Nolan, as I live and breath!”

 

Emma looked up to find her friend Aesop behind the bar.

 

“Hey stranger!”

 

Without prompting, he made her a drink, one of his own famous concoctions and it was amazing. He could have made a killing tending bar in a larger city like New York, but he preferred the quiet life the small town gave him.

 

“You look like you could use it. I saw the news before my shift started.”

 

Emma winced.

 

“Ya, probably not my finest moment.”

 

“Are you kidding? I cheered for you. Emma, I saw the pictures in his twitter account. You were obviously miserable.”

 

Leave it to him to notice something that so few others had. Ruby was the only other person that had mentioned it. Everyone else just told her what a handsome couple they made, and what beautiful babies they would make.

 

She didn’t even let herself taste the drink, as she downed the rest of it in one go.

 

Aesop nodded and gave her an impressed look.

 

“Another?”

 

She chuckled but declined. Her food would be ready soon and she was so tired. She just wanted to get back to her house and forget the day had ever happened. Aesop handed her a bottle of her favorite tequila, calling it a wedding present, which only made her laugh harder. Something about it felt wrong though, and even though it was poor manners, she asked him if she could trade out for a bottle of rum she saw sitting on the shelf behind him. Killian’s favorite bottle.

 

She made it to the house mostly intact before she felt whatever drink Aesop had given her start to buzz about in her body. The grilled cheese would only provide a marginal buffer, but it was better than nothing. When it was finished, she hauled her suitcase into the bedroom, not ready to open it yet, not ready to deal with anything yet.

 

She let her feet carry her to the sliding glass door in her room, slipping through it onto the back deck. It was a rare cloudless night and the stars were shining brightly, reminding her of the night she had spent under the green lights, while Killian had pointed out constellations to her after kissing her senseless. She missed him, and if she had thought to bring her phone, she’d have unblocked him and called him.

 

Ruby had watched her delete his number, but she hadn’t gone so far as to delete her call history list, and Killian’s phone number would have still been at the top of the list. She hadn’t though, and she couldn’t call him, for multiple reasons. Just because her marriage was off didn’t mean his was. She’d have been a fool to think he’d even give her a second thought after she walked away from him.

 

So she drank. She drank until she could barely hold the bottle up to her lips anymore. A chill set in the air, and she knew she should go inside, but she was too tired, too tired to move, too tired to care.

 

She’d dreamed of him every night since they had parted, so tonight shouldn’t have been any different, but somehow, it seemed more real. She swore that she could actually smell his cologne, feel his chest pressed against hers. She knew it wasn’t real though.

 

“Worry not, my love. I promise I’ll be here this time. I’ll always be here.”

 

“I should have told you.”

 

It was just a cruel trick conjured up by her mind, and when he promised to be there in the morning, it broke her heart, knowing that she’d wake alone yet again, and even though it wasn’t real, she decided to let herself go and say it for the first time.

 

“What should you have told me?”

 

“That I love you.”

 

He wasn’t real, and somehow that made it easier to say, even if her fantasy version of him wouldn’t say it back, wouldn’t mean it the way she had.

 

“I love you too, Swan. More than anything.”

 

She was right though. As she finally returned to the land of the living, she stretched out her hand to find the comforter and sheets still tucked away under the spare pillow, the spot where he would have laid cold. She wasn’t sure how she managed to get back into the house, or her bed, but she was sure her drunk brain had something to do with it.

 

It was a good thing too, because as she looked outside, she found that it was pouring rain. The ocean wasn’t even visible past the deck and she knew by the night's end ice would have formed on the ground.

 

She showered quickly, trying to wash the shame of the previous day from her body, and changed into a t-shirt, his t-shirt, and pair of shorts from the top of her suitcase before forcing herself towards the kitchen to see if there were any nonperishable items stashed away in the pantry. She needed to go to the store, but it was early and she was queasy from the rum still.

 

The last thing she expected as she walked through the house was the smell of bacon wafting down the hallway, or the gorgeous man standing at her stove transferring eggs from a pan to a plate.

 

“You’re here.”

 

Her chest burned and her eyes stung at the realization.

 

“I promised you I would be.”

 

“You’re here .

 

She ran to him and launched herself into his arms, not even caring that she was sobbing into his shirt. He held her tight, rubbing one hand up and down her back as the other cradled her head.

 

“Shhh, Swan. It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

It took a few minutes for her to recompose herself, but when she pulled back and saw the way his eyes darkened, she fused her mouth to his, and kissed him with a year's worth of yearning. She kissed him with all of the love she had felt.

 

Crap.

 

It had all been real, the conversation. She had told him that she loved him in the most unromantic way possible.

 

Double crap.

 

She had told an engaged man that she loved him.

 

While her heart told her to stay, her brain clamped down on the breaks and she broke the kiss, earning herself a groan from him.

 

“Emma, love, what’s wrong?”

 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”

 

He tilted his head letting his eyes search hers.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Killian, you’re engaged!”

 

She pulled her body away from his, immediately missing the warmth that came with the contact. He wasn’t having it though, as he stepped forward and placed both of his hands on her hips, letting his forehead rest against hers.

 

“Emma, the only woman I ever want to be with is you.”

 

She tilted her head so that she could see his eyes, to look for any deception.

 

“Milah and I were never engaged. We were never even together. My manager advised that I play along and pretend that we were still in a relationship. Making headlines would have ruined my chances at getting the movie, and then when we were filming I had to bide my time so I wouldn’t create bad publicity for the project.”

 

“You got it?”

 

She felt herself smile knowing he had achieved something so monumental.

 

“Yes, thanks to you.”

 

Butterflies.

 

“But Milah must have found the old ring still in my sock drawer, and she made that little announcement all on her own. It was the last straw for me though, and I ended it for good, letting her know that our little charade was over and that I only had eyes for you.”

 

He moved closer, and her hand somehow found its way to his chest.

 

“Emma, I’ve only ever wanted you. I love you .”

 

He closed his eyes, and she knew he wasn’t expecting her to say it back.

 

“I love you too.”

 

They surged.

 

Being with him again in that way, their bodies moving together in sync, falling over the edge together, that was her coming home. Finally.

 

Once they regained their senses, and their breathing had steadied out, Killian reminded her of the breakfast he had cooked her, telling her that he had slept on the couch, unsure of her feelings towards him still. Then he went out when he woke up to grab some food as there was nothing edible in the house.

 

Gentleman.

 

They ate and caught up on the last year. Killian pointed out that Emma was wearing his shirt, something that caused her to blush, but he assured her that it was a good thing. Emma told Killian about how Regina had systematically started tearing down the company, about Neal’s affair with Tamara, and finally about losing her sense of self. Killian had explained how he had used her as his muse when he had auditioned for the movie. It made her gut twist, knowing how badly she had hurt him when she had walked away. Something she never intended to do again.

 

He told her about the awards show and how he had let himself slip, giving up almost a year of sobriety, explaining the phone call from Ruby and how he had thought that Milah had been playing a prank. But then he had seen her on tv and had realized too late what had happened. There was also the adventure of trying to find her, causing her heart to swell knowing how much effort he had put into searching for her, knowing how much he truly loved her.

 

He had left out the part about having to rent a minivan, only explaining after she had seen it in the driveway and had worried that a reporter had found them. The conversation between them flowed so easily, like they hadn’t been apart for nearly a year, like she hadn’t thought of him everyday. She knew they’d both damaged each other, even inadvertently, and it would take time for the wounds to heal fully, but they were together now, and their hearts would heal each other. They had forever.

 

But then Killian’s phone rang, and her world turned upside down. She worried that it would be Milah begging him to come back, or his manager yelling at him to return and makeup with Milah. She hadn’t expected it to be Ruby frantically trying to reach her.

 

“Emma, have you checked your email today?”

 

“Well good afternoon to you too, sunshine.”

 

She heard Ruby almost growl at her, something she only did when she was serious.

 

“No, I meant to check it last night but I never got around to it.”

 

“Em. I don’t need to know that!”

 

“No, Ruby. That’s not what I meant.”

 

Emma chanced a glance at Killian and blushed when she saw him smiling at her.

 

“Emma, you need to check your email.”

 

Emma sighed. She hated when Ruby was cryptic with her instead of just explaining whatever it was that she needed to know. It took a few minutes for the computer to start up. It wasn’t an old desktop, but it wasn’t exactly new either and it hadn’t been run in ages.

 

When it finally booted up and connected to the internet, she pulled up her work email, expecting to find a dismissal notice, or even to have already been locked out of the system. There was nothing though, or at least nothing out of the ordinary.

 

“Ruby, I don’t see anything here.”

 

“Not your work email, your personal account.”

 

“Oh, hold on.”

 

She swapped over and found an urgent message waiting from Graham. When she opened it, she gasped and nearly dropped the phone. Her reaction was enough to catch Killian’s attention and he came to stand behind her reading over her shoulder. Emma swapped to speakerphone mode and set it down as she scanned through the email.

 

Graham had sent her a letter from his own personal account, detailing a small project he had been working on for the last year and a half. As soon as he had heard about Regina’s intentions to force Emma’s hand in marriage, he had felt he needed to do something to help Emma take back her future.

 

He had taken it upon himself to file a new patent on the valve and material that Emma’s father had created for her, citing improvements made. The patent was filed solely under Emma’s name, omitting any affiliation to the company on the paperwork. He knew that Regina never read over any of the paperwork he gave her, blindly signing anything he set in front of her, so he had slipped the new patent application in between some boring financial statements. She had signed it without realizing that she had just given up the most important piece of the company.

 

He had hoped for it all to be done before the wedding so he could save Emma from having to marry Neal, but he couldn’t say anything until it was all said and done, not wanting to chance Regina finding out and intervening.

 

The application had been approved the week before, but the notice hadn’t come in until that morning. Emma held the patent to the material used in ninety percent of the company’s products. She only hoped it didn’t come at the expense of Graham’s job.

 

“Emma? Emma, are you there?”

 

Emma had been so stunned she forgot Ruby was on the line. Killian looked equally as shocked.

 

“Ya, sorry. I’m here.”

 

“Ems, Robert Gold is here, and he wants to talk to you.”

 

Gold wasn’t a man to be trifled with, and she knew it. Whatever elation she had felt in the moments before was suddenly gone. The bottom had collapsed and she was free falling to her death.

 

“Okay.” Her voice was unsteady.

 

“Miss Nolan. It seems that you and your friends have been busy little bees.”

 

“I didn’t-

 

“That wasn’t a question, dearie. Perhaps it’s escaped your attention, but you and I had a deal, we even signed on it.”

 

Emma’s eyes closed, remembering the contract they had formed.

 

“You defaulted on your end, and your company is now mine. Regina signed over the deed already.”

 

“So then what do you want with me?”

 

“Well as it turns out, the company is suddenly worth significantly less than it was yesterday thanks to the little stunt you all pulled.”

 

Emma took a deep breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

“But I’m here to offer you another deal. You see, you may hold the patent, but I hold your family's company, and the name it was built on. If you come back and tell everyone that it was just nerves, but that you still love my son, if you marry him and give him an equal share of the patent, I’ll allow your parent’s company to remain untouched, including that little charitable department you’re so fond of.”

 

The air pierced her lungs and she thought the sudden rush might kill her. It was everything she had wanted in the beginning, for their legacy to remain, unsullied by Regina’s hand.

 

“You’d have full say in the operations. Neal would be considered a silent partner, and I’ve had a chat with him about his indiscretions and he’s assured me that it will never happen again.”

 

You’d have full say in the operations.

 

She turned back to Killian, trying to gauge his reaction. There was fear in his eyes and she could see the way they glossed over, but he smiled at her anyway.

 

“It’s okay, Swan. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.”

 

He was letting her go.

 

“Do we have a deal Miss Nolan?”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Lights flickered everywhere as he emerged from the limo. He had spent the better part of the day getting poked and prodded as he stylist team went to work picking out the right outfit for him. It was the first time he hadn’t needed to match Milah’s dress at one of these functions. He didn’t need to match anyone.

 

“Killian!” Multiple voices called out in unison and he looked over to find a crowd of women just beyond the barricade line. He waved to them and they started jumping and cheering even louder. He wished that he could greet them in a more proper manner, signing some autographs or posing for pictures, but there was a strict schedule to keep to, and any deviation could screw up the careful crafted red carpet line up.

 

The last time he had been on a red carpet had been at the release of the movie. He had been without a date then as well, but his team had been insistent at matching him to Milah as costars. Their parting had been less than amicable. When he had returned to Los Angeles he had found most of his stuff destroyed. His clothes had been burned in a fire pit in the backyard, and the framed movie posters from his movie premieres that had adorned the hallway leading to their theater room had been spray painted over, glass shattered all over the floor.

 

Luckily, the bulk of his belongings were in his loft in Tribeca, and he had immediately called Smee after putting Emma to bed that night he’d arrived in Storybrooke to make sure the locks had been changed, knowing that Milah hadn’t planned on going back to the city for a few days after the music show.

 

She had attempted to paint him as an abusive drunk to the media, but when it was discovered that she’d had a husband and small child back in her hometown, a family that she had abandoned after finding success, the fans had quickly turned on her. Her husband had declined to speak to reporters, but the paparazzi were able to turn up court documents that listed her as still married. The child, only eight years old, hadn’t seen his mother in years, and it sickened Killian to know that he had been with a woman like her.

 

It was one thing to believe she was just an adulterer, but to know that she was so vile as to turn her back on her own child because it cramped her glamorous lifestyle killed him. He hadn’t seen her since the premiere. The same blonde reporter from the EF network had vilified her on the spot and she hadn’t stayed for the after party. He wasn’t even sure if she had sat through the entire movie.

 

Everything had shifted for him after that. Offers for roles began to pour in and soon enough rumors were starting to circulate that he was going to get nominated for actor of the year. The rumors became truth, and not only was he nominated, but the movie and it’s soundtrack were both up for some of the most prestigious awards of the evening as well.

 

“Killian Jones, it’s been a while.”

 

He had been so lost in thought, he hadn’t even realized that he had made his way to the reporters’ section of the carpet. It was the same reporter that had interviewed him after the awards show. He’d finally manage to learn her name - Elsa - but Milah had dubbed her the Ice Queen the night that the news of her child had broken.

 

She’d called him in tears, and he’d only answered long enough to ask her not to call anymore. It was clear that she had been drinking and expected him to come to her rescue as he had so many times before. Milah had yelled that the Ice Queen was ruining her life and after some explanation, he turned on the telly to see Elsa ranting over what a horrible person she was.

 

“Yes, it has.”

 

Smee had told him to keep his answers short and to the point. After the fallout of everything with Milah, he felt as if he was being stalked by journalist and photographers, anyone hoping to get his side of the story. He wanted to try something new for a change though, and after discussing it with Smee, they had a plan in place. If Killian wanted to keep his personal life personal, he’d need to fade away. He’d still make movies, do promotions, and tv appearances, but outside of that, he was a nobody. He’d stopped drinking, stopped going out to celebrity hotspots, no longer gave anyone cause to care about him.

 

“So, you’re up for one of the top honors of the night. How are you feeling about it?”

 

“Honestly, I’m really stunned just to be nominated, and no matter what happens, that’s honor enough.”

 

She asked him a few more questions about the movie and he thought he might have been able to make it out of the interview reasonably unscathed, but then she asked the question that made his gut twist.

 

“So are you flying solo tonight, or is there a lucky lady out there in the crowd somewhere?”

 

“I think Will Scarlett might be milling about somewhere, but that’s as close as I have to a date tonight.”

 

Luckily it had been her final question and he hurried in to find his seat. Being one of the last to arrive meant that he’d have less time to socialize, and less time to face the temptation of the bar. Will was in the seat next to him with a date that Killian had never met before, who took most of his friend’s attention and left him far too much time to contemplate how lonely he was.

 

The show was long and boring, something he had come to expect. Many of his counterparts gave long-winded speeches about how they had struggled to find their muse, and all of it sounded horribly rehearsed and disingenuous. He hadn’t even wanted to attend the damn thing, but August, who was conveniently seated on his other side, had forced him to.

 

When it came time for the Director of the year award, no one was shocked to hear August’s name. Killian rose to his feet, hugging the man and applauding in sincere respect and admiration. August briefly touched on his time as a kid growing up poor in New York and how he had never in his wildest dreams thought he’d accomplish so much when he came from so little. He thanked his cast and crew for the faith they had had in him, and when he left the stage Killian started to feel tears building in his eyes.

 

By the time they finished the ‘In memoriam’ video for all of the theater members who had passed away the previous year, August had returned to his seat, asking Killian if he had his speech prepared. The faith everyone was putting in him was almost too much and he was terrified of letting everyone down when his name wasn’t called.

 

“Killian Jones, for Shell-Shocked.”

 

He hadn’t even processed his name being called before Will had yanked him out of his seat into a bone crushing embrace.

 

“Don’t question it, mate. You bloody well deserve this.”

 

It was hard to hear Will over the cheering. Hands were everywhere, patting him on the back, the shoulder. He turned to see August smiling at him with a shit-eating grin.

 

“Go! They’re waiting on you!”

 

Killian felt as if his knees were going to give out as he climbed the stage, thankful not to have tripped on his way up. The presenters hugged him and handed him the award before stepping to the side of the stage. He looked out over the crowd, stunned at the number of eyes watching him. His gaze found it’s way back to Will and August, back to the seat that should have been Emma’s, and he was overcome with emotion.

 

There had been a speech, carefully crafted with everyone that he had needed to properly thank, but he’d never actually anticipated winning. He hadn’t memorized it, and he refused to pull notecards out of his pocket to read, so instead he was just left with whatever words his heart held.

 

“This award, it’s something that actors spend their entire careers trying to achieve. It’s the ultimate compliment and I can’t express to you the shock and awe I feel holding it in my hands, knowing that it’s mine. But the thing is, I don’t feel like I deserve it.

 

“August Booth did such a wonderful job of creating a character that was so real, a character that was flawed, human, and dimensional, that it never felt like I was acting. I just saw so much of myself in him, that it never felt pretend.

 

“Benjamin Bradley was a guy who started out with so much hope for the future. He had a woman that he loved, a woman that he had planned on spending the rest of his life with. Then the war happened and he was torn from all of his dreams. When he came back from the war, he was a different man. He came home to find the woman he loved with another man, living the life that should have been his. He was incapable of dealing with the feeling of betrayal, and the PTSD he suffered haunted him well after the war. They called it being ‘Shell Shocked’ back then, but it doesn’t matter the name. How can a person get better when every sound, every smell reminds them of what they went through?

 

“As many of you have heard or read at some point through the years, my own personal life was a mess. I had suffered a great personal tragedy, and I put my trust and faith in all of the wrong people, disrespecting the few people who were truly on my side. Everything around me felt like it was crumbling apart and while I know that it can’t even come close to ever comparing to what real soldiers deal with, I was fighting a metaphorical war, battling demons. And every time I turned on the television, or looked at a magazine, I was right back there, in the hellhole of my own making. I was shell shocked.

 

“I had resigned myself to the idea that my life was worthless, and I took solace in the bottom of a bottle, hoping that it would numb the pain. I was lucky though. Unlike Benjamin, I had people in my corner telling me how stupid I was being, people who cared enough to stop me from letting me throw my life away.

 

“So tonight, I’m not going to give a speech about how thankful I am to have won this award. Instead I’m going to tell you how thankful I am for the people in my life, and to remind you how much a kind deed can mean to someone in need.”

 

He exited the stage and took his obligatory photos before returning to his seat. The actress of the year was a woman he had never met, but he’d managed to catch the movie and he believed her award was well deserved. He barely managed to get comfortable before they announced the movie of the year award.

 


 

“Mate, you have to come out celebrating with us!”

 

Will had brought his own little secret stash of celebration with him in the form of a well concealed flask. Killian was tired though, and all he wanted to do was go home and crawl into his own bed. It had been an incredibly long day already and he hadn’t been sleeping well, waking up multiple times during the night.

 

After all of the congratulation had been wished, and all of the goodbyes said, Killian got in the car that had been hired for him and the driver started to head home. He thought back on all of the changes over the past year. When Emma had gotten the call offering her company back for her hand in marriage, he hadn’t known what to expect, and his entire life changed that night.

 

He had checked his phone a few times since he had won his award, half expecting to see a message from Emma, congratulating him or something encouraging, but the only messages he received were from friends and colleagues. He couldn’t fault her, she was busy now with more important things for her to attend to, but it still tugged at his gut.

 

And it didn’t help that now he had to go back to his house alone, to a cold, empty bed. The house he’d shared with Milah had sold months ago, or so his real estate agent had told him. In the meantime, he’d purchased a new home in a different neighborhood. It was still a gated community, but the house held no memories of pain or betrayal. It was his fresh-start.

 

The car pulled up to the house where all of the lights were off, save for the front porch lights. He thanked the man and tipped him before climbing out and placing his keys in the front door to unlock the deadbolt.

 

There was a muffled sound coming from the living room and around the corner he could see the room flickering back and forth between being bathed in color and the dim darkness. He hadn’t remembered turning the television on earlier, but as he had been the only one in the house, he must have.

 

Clicking the off switch and tossing the remote to the side, he made his way upstairs. Everything was as he’d left it, but as he trudged to his bedroom, he noticed a light on in one of the rooms. It was dim, as if only coming from a closet, but the light shone out from under the door. The door to a room he was slowly getting around to decorating.

 

Carefully, he cracked the door open as softly as he could. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but when they did, he saw it. A mound of blonde hair peeking out from around the back of an old well-worn rocking chair. The same rocking chair that Emma’s parents had used to soothe her to sleep as a baby. The corners of his mouth tugged up at the sight and he tiptoed around, cautious not to make any noise and wake the newest member of their family resting on her chest.

 

Just as he had the night he’d found her on the back deck of her parents home, he let his fingertips sweep over her forehead to brush the hair from her face. She stirred at the motion, slowly peeling her eyes open.

 

“Hey,” she said sleepily.

 

“Hey yourself. I didn’t expect you here.”

 

She smiled at him.

 

That night, she had hung up the phone with Robert Gold, and she had walked up to him, kissing him softly on the lips. Killian had been certain that she was going to accept his offer. He knew what her parents meant to her, and the company by extension. He’d even given her his blessing. Instead though, she asked him to marry her.

 

He’d been confused at first, but she had asked again and he’d have been a fool to refuse her. She had told him that she had finally understood. The company wasn’t important anymore. It had represented a memory, one that could never be taken from her. They had gone to the Storybrooke town hall and married the next day. Killian had worn his wrinkled tuxedo, and Emma had donned her mother’s old wedding dress, which had been tucked away in a closet. She had said it was fitting. Eventually he even managed to get his mother’s wedding ring back from Will so it could find it’s rightful place on Emma’s finger.

 

They had managed to keep the betrothal a secret. The people of the town had become nearly as protective of him and they were of her. And while their marriage certificate was a matter of public record, they knew that if no one knew what to look for, or where to look, their secret would remain safe. It had been the same when their daughter had been born. Killian had insisted on her birth taking place at a larger hospital in New York, but Emma had been adamant that the hospital in Storybrooke would be just fine and it would keep the existence of their little one under wraps as well, so he had caved.

 

It had taken two months to pry Emma away long enough for a honeymoon. As the sole holder of the patent, she had managed to build a new company. Killian had offered her whatever money he had, but she had declined, partly because she worried that any business links between them would lead to the revelation of their relationship, but also because she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it on her own.

 

She was a success. The new company was much smaller than her parents’ one had been, but she said she preferred it that way. For her, it wasn’t about the money, and less people that were involved meant less people dictating salaries and fighting over the amount of donations being offered.

 

Nolan Industries had crumbled soon after. Without the ability to create the valve the company was built on, investors jumped ship. Stocks plummeted, and the company went bankrupt. For the first few months, Regina and Gold had worked together to cook the books, trying to salvage the business to bring in more money for his campaign, but once Graham had realized what was happening, he had turned both them and the ledgers into the authorities. Regina had tried to fire him for the patent, but there had been no proof that he had done it on purpose instead of by accident. The last Killian had heard, both Regina and Gold were awaiting trial for fraud and tampering, among other charges.

 

Their honeymoon had been magical. Killian had gone to great lengths to recreate their trip to Nuuk, with the exception of the plane malfunction. He had rented the same house, paying twice as much as before since the owners were currently residing there again. He’d even managed to talk the chef into recreating their picnic and the same driver into getting them. The heating blankets he had purchased had still been in a hallway closet where he had left them. The only difference that time was that he had told the driver to wait two hours before retrieving them.

 

They ate and laughed, reminiscing over everything that had happened over their year apart, and Killian was certain that he’d never part from her again. Eventually they made love, wrapped in the warming blankets under the northern lights, and their daughter was everything the myths said she would be: blessed with good looks, brains, and great fortune.

 

Granted, the little one was barely a week old, but the looks and good fortune were evident already. She was the spitting image of Emma, and as far as the fortune, she had Emma for a mother.

 

“I know you said to stay and rest, but I couldn’t just sit there knowing how important tonight was for you, so the little one and I hopped on the first plane we could. I meant to watch, but she was fussy all night and after feeding her I guess we both fell asleep.”

 

His life was perfect.

 

“Want to know a secret?” He asked her.

 

Her eyes widened and she nodded, still careful of the sleeping baby in her arms. He held up the award still clutched in his left hand and she beamed at him.

 

“We swept the awards.”

 

She lunged forward, not caring if she woke the small bundle, and kissed him with all of the love she had shown him throughout the year. When she pulled back she whispered that she loved him, and he said it back.

 

Carefully he lifted the little girl from Emma, who stood and stretched out her back.

 

“Why don’t you head to bed and I’ll be there shortly.”

 

Emma placed a chaste kiss on his cheek and walked to the room across the hall.

 

“And you, my little Poppet, I love you too, more than you’ll ever know.”

 

She cooed in her sleep as Killian laid her down in her crib, making sure the baby monitor was able to see her. They still needed to get some more furniture for the room. He hadn’t expected to be in that house with the baby yet as they spent most of their time living in Storybrooke, but the crib and rocking chair would do for now.

 

Slipping from the room, he made his way into his bedroom, where Emma was already fast asleep, exhausted from taking care of the little one. His little Poppet liked to wake up every two hours, and while they took turns collecting her from her room and changing her diapers, she still needed Emma for meal times, leaving both of them with little sleep. It was a worthy sacrifice though when she looked up at him with his blue eyes.

 

He and Emma had discussed going back to England at the end of the month, but he told her it could wait. He wanted to be certain that his little one would be able to make the trip so he could formally introduce his family to Liam, even if it were only in spirit. Liam would understand.

 

The last thing he did before he crawled into the bed to snuggle up with Emma was to find his statue a new home. There was a bookshelf on the far side of the room that housed things of sentimental value to them both. A photograph of Emma with her parents as a child, her parents’ name plates from their old offices. Emma had found Liam’s old naval identity tags still on a chain. She had had them framed for Killian and they had sat on the shelf as well, next to the picture of them on the couch in Nuuk. The photograph he had thought lost forever, before Emma had introduced him to the cloud.

 

There was an empty space on the other side of the picture that he had briefly considered using as a home for the award, but then he thought of his daughter, and how he’d rather have one of her newborn photos there as soon as they were ready. Instead, he moved the picture of him and Emma slightly forward, leaving enough room for his statue to rest behind it. After all, nothing he could ever win would compare to winning the heart of Emma Jones, and nothing would ever be more important than his family.